Tips and tricks
Here’s a collection of tips and tricks that I’ve discovered, particularly when baking gluten-free items, but can also be applicable to lots of other things:
Celery: I tend to cut up a bunch of celery at a time into stalks, but found it went really limp, really quickly. Wrapping the cut celery in aluminium foil and keeping in the fridge seems to keep the celery nice and crunchy – even for up to 2 weeks.
Cream (dairy-free substitute): Now that I’m having to be more careful with dairy-products I’ve been on the lookout for a good substitute for cream. Whether whipped cream or heavy cream, try using tinned coconut milk. For a whipped cream substitute, refrigerate the tin overnight. When taking the tin out of the refrigerator, try not to shake it very much as when you open it, you will find a layer of cream-like milk on top with the liquid at the bottom. Scrape off the cream and use the liquid in smoothies or other ideas.
Baking paper: Make sure you have a good quality baking paper when baking cookies, slices, cakes, etc. I have learnt that aluminium foil brushed with oil or butter doesn’t work, the same with just parchment paper. Nothing worse than doing all the hard work with baking something yummy and then not being able to get the paper off the bottom!
Softened / Melted Butter: I get really impatient waiting for butter to soften to room temperature, so I often microwave the butter just prior to using it. However, I’ve noticed that if I’m making cookies, they usually spread out way too far. If you chill the dough for 20-30 mins prior to cooking then the cookies retain more of their shape. Another option is grating the butter … this works quite well too, and you don’t get the spreading issue.
Muesli / granola slices: Can easily be turned into muesli or granola if the slice doesn’t hold together when baked. Very yummy with milk and/or yoghurt, so it’s a win/win situation
Mini-pie crusts: If you’re interested in making a number of mini-pies instead of 1 big pie (using this recipe), after you have oiled the muffin tin, cut up some baking paper into 2cm strips and lay in each muffin cup, ensuring there’s part of the paper sticking out at one side. When you put the crust in the muffin tin and bake it, removing is simply by pulling on the baking paper (gently!) and the mini-pie comes up really easily.
Gluten-free pie crusts: These are generally more crumbly than their gluten-ous counterparts and can make rolling out quite challenging. What I’ve found to work reasonably well is to place the dough on a piece of cling-wrap, then another piece of cling-wrap on top of the dough. This way it doesn’t stick to the counter-top, or to the rolling pin. But be careful, you need to make sure you don’t put too much dough in at a time, or it will roll out to outside of the cling-wrap and crumble away as well as possibly stick to the rolling pin (even if you have floured every possible surface!)
Gluten-free pizza crusts: Pizza crusts need a different type of flour when baking from scratch – all-purpose (or plain) flour just doesn’t work. And it’s even worse when you try to make it gluten-free. I recommend buying proper gluten-free bread/pizza flour to make the crusts.
Poached eggs: For a no-fail poached egg, try this. Fill a small saucepan about 3/4 with water, and place on stove-top to boil. Once boiled, swirl the water slightly to create a mini-vortex, then carefully drop in eggs (probably no more than 2 at a time). Turn the heat off, put the lid on and leave for 3-4 mins, depending on how done you like your eggs.
Gluten-free pasta: To avoid the ‘glugginess’ typical of gluten-free pasta, once it has cooked to the required tenderness, drain and rinse with cold water. This will prevent over-cooking and tastes almost like the ‘real’ pasta.