Tag Archives: allergies

Gluten Free Bakers Series part 1 – Bakes Just 4 U

Coeliac disease has not in the slightest bit curbed my love of cake – both baking it myself and sampling the culinary delights of others.

Gluten free baking can be a bit hit and miss though. I applaud the efforts of a lot of establishments that are trying to offer something for coeliacs, but there are a lot of well-intentioned mistakes. I was in a bakery the other day where they offered me a yummy looking chocolate and almond torte, but then proceeded to use the same cake slice to get it out as they’d just used to handle a gluten-containing cake. Epic fail.

With a gluten free only bakery though, no such worry. I’ve selected three to sample and to review on the blog over the next couple of months, so wherever you are in the UK, you should never be far from a decent gluten free cake!

I heard about Bakes Just 4 U on the Coeliacs in the UK Facebook group. A member posted a picture of a gluten free French fancy, and I just HAD to have one. I used to have a bit of a weakness for Mr Kipling fondant fancies, back in the days BC (Before Coeliac). Yes, I know they are mostly sugar with a bit of flavouring and colouring for good measure, but they really are good. So I was curious to see what these were like.

I chose the strawberry ones, and here they are in all their glory.

BJ4U Fondant 1

Of course, this neat little pile in the box didn’t last long…..and it wasn’t long before I cut into the mini battenberg slabs as well. Another childhood favourite that coeliac disease has robbed me of, so when I saw battenburg on the list, that was straight in my shopping cart. I also chose these items as I wouldn’t usually bake them myself, due to the fiddly processes involved, which are time consuming, and difficult when you only have a small kitchen.

fondant and battenburg cut

The French fancies were nice for a novelty. I liked that they didn’t quite look perfect, because it gave them a hand-made quality that you would never get with Mr Kipling! The sponge was fantastic – moist, with a good kick of vanilla, but the icing was not particularly pleasant. I don’t know if it was the flavouring in the fondant, but there was an almost alcoholic aftertaste to it. The buttercream filling was nice, but I could have done with a little more of it to balance the sponge and the icing. I am aware from watching Bake Off however just how difficult these little beauties are, so overall, I think these were a good job, considering they are gluten free.

The battenburg, however is a triumph of gluten free culinary art. Fantastic sponge texture and taste, marzipan not too thick, and enough jam filling for it to be satisfyingly moist. This I would definitely buy (and happily eat) again. It would be fantastic for a gluten free afternoon tea. Even my non-coeliac partner agreed this was a fine slab of cake, and that he would not have known that it was gluten free if he hadn’t been told.

Battenburg

The cakes were good value, at £6 for 6 of the mini slabs and £4.50 for a pack of 6 fondant fancies. You do have to pay for postage on top, unless you are lucky enough to live in Nottingham and be able to get them from there, but if you are willing to pay the premium to get some cake landing on your doorstep, it’s a pretty welcome surprise to find it there when you come home from work.

I would definitely order again from this bakery, and there is plenty more to try!

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After the fray

I published an article on Monday on the Guardian Comment is Free, on my personal take on the new allergy laws. As a coeliac, it’s something I welcome, as I said in the article. But boy, was there some backlash. One chef even emailed me personally with a link to his blog where he had trashed me and my piece (yep, I know – creepy) and then proceeded to make derogatory comments on Twitter. I do regret that my article didn’t provide enough clarity that my mention of Michel Roux Jr. (as opposed to Albert, who did sign the Telegraph letter) was due to a BBC Food and Drink feature that I’d written about on this blog last year. I saw the Telegraph letter as a continuation of the same dismissive attitude towards those with allergies and illnesses, which is why I made the link.

However, with hindsight, I can see that neither I nor the editors made that clear enough (particularly with the inclusion of a massive photo of Michel Roux Jr!) and I left myself open to accusations of being sloppy or not checking facts. Even when I’d done my “below the line” response and the Guardian had amended the article to mention Albert, rather than Michel, some people just couldn’t let it go. I’m not going to expose the person in question – it’s not my style to trash individuals on a public forum, I’ll leave that to those who don’t have any journalistic ethics. But it has taught me something about resilience, and it has certainly taught me to try and look at what I write with a more dispassionate eye.

Sometimes, as a writer you can get so caught up in things, particularly when you’re passionate about your subject and it affects you personally, that you forget to look at your work with a reader’s eye. As an editor, I’m used to doing this, but it’s harder to do it with your own work.

Now I’ve been on the sharp end, I’m more inclined to be sympathetic with other journalists. We’re human (something I wonder if those people who leave the nastier, more personal comments and tweets actually remember) and we do make mistakes, we don’t always get it right. That’s why having a world below the line is a good thing – it keeps us accountable.

I do engage below the line, because I think it’s part of the deal nowadays, a journalist can’t pretend to know everything and be the last word. I think I’ve got a bit more sympathy with the industry now as well, mainly from reading some of the more reasonable comments and accounts from chefs, servers and restauranteurs and hearing their side.

Yes, I think that some of the celebrity chefs who signed that letter are still being rather precious over it, but I can’t deny that for the ordinary restaurant owner, the new regs might be a bit scary. Nobody wants to get sued, and the vast majority of decent professionals would not want to make someone ill. Although I do think there are still some deniers out there who would happily sneak flour in the food of someone who asks for gluten free, just to prove a point, and that’s why this debate needs to be had. It’s not a bad thing that it’s all coming out in the open – better that than ongoing seething resentment on the part of chefs and diners alike.