Baked Ricotta Cheesecake, with Variations – Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Baked Ricotta Cheesecake - Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Does everyone from Australia remember the Cheesecake Shop? Apparently it’s still around. My parents always used to buy cakes from them – they made way more than just cheesecakes and everything was delicious. As you can see, my sweet tooth developed early and it’s tough to keep it in check!

My favourite cheesecake was easily their ricotta cheesecake stuffed with sultanas. I’m not sure whether it was the ricotta or the sultanas that drew me to this cake – or the combination of both. Sadly, the Mordialloc shop stopped making ricotta cheesecake at some point in my early teens and I was devastated… but I eventually put aside my grief and moved on to my custard tart obsession.

A couple of months ago, my friend Chath made a batch of miniature cheesecakes and they got me thinking about the ricotta cheesecakes I’d loved so much growing up. Of course, since I would be hard put to find a gluten free/fructose friendly ricotta cheesecake in the supermarket - not to mention the fact that I like baking – I decided I would make my own.

I got my inspiration from a few sources; Chath’s cheesecakes linked above (they are delicious), this classic baked cheesecake from Donna Hay and Alton Brown’s method of water-bath baking cheesecakes from his show, Good Eats. A couple of trials and errors later, I give you my ricotta cheesecake with variations. It is lightly sweetened and combines the best of both the ricotta and cream cheeses for a rich cheesecake that is the perfect balance of fluffy and creamy.

Notes:

  1. Ricotta and cream cheese are not low in lactose, so this recipe isn’t suitable for those who malabsorb lactose.
  2. The eggs I used were 50 g each.
  3. Pure maple syrup does not have additives in it that may increase the level of FODMAPs present, thus should be safe.
  4. Fresh lemon juice is generally better tolerated than lemon juice concentrate. If you use the concentrate, only use 20 ml.
  5. Pure vanilla extract is low FODMAP.

Ricotta Cheesecake

Makes 1 x 9″ cake or 2 x 6″ cakes. You may not need all the base mixture for the single 9″ cake.

Crust

  • 110 g almond flour/meal (or nut of choice)
  • 135 g gluten free plain flour
  • 30 g brown sugar
  • 20 g dextrose or castor sugar
  • 120 g butter, chilled and chopped
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp. cold water

Filling

  • 275 g ricotta cheese
  • 115 g cream cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup dextrose or castor sugar
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 30 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. potato starch
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Variations

  • Layer the blind baked crust with stewed fruits and dust the top with icing sugar after it has baked.
  • Sprinkle fresh or frozen berries on the blind baked crust and dust the top with icing sugar after it has baked.
  • Stir a tolerable amount of dried fruit through the filling before pouring it into the crust then bake it and dust the top with icing sugar afterward.
  • Bake the mixture plain and pour passion fruit pulp or a mixed berry sauce over the top.
  • Bake the mixture plain and dust the top with icing sugar after it has baked.

Pre-heat your oven to 150 C/300 F.

Grease and line either one 9″ cake tin (normal or spring form) or two 6″ tins completely. Using baking paper, line the sides first and then press the circle for the base in gently, sealing up the gaps.

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In a food processor or by hand, thoroughly combine the ingredients for the crust. It should be a smooth, malleable mixture and not dry and crumbly. Press it evenly over the lined cake tin base and up the sides as high as possible, as it will slide down a little when baking. Cover the crust mix with baking paper and pie weights (to help even and quick cooking) and blind bake for 15 minutes or until it becomes lightly golden. Let the crust come back to room temperature.

Pre blind baking

Pre blind baking

Post blind baking

Post blind baking – the cracks are my fault, I forgot to set the oven timer and it cooked for 5 minutes too long

By hand or in a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, blend the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, eggs, maple syrup, dextrose, lemon zest and vanilla extract together. A stand mixer will give a smoother end product and makes life a lot easier.

Meanwhile, mix the potato starch and lemon juice together to create a smooth paste. This step is important, because if you mix the potato starch into the mixture as a powder it may cause your baked cheesecakes to become gritty, which is not a texture we want to associate with this dessert.

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This is where the variations come in – choose your variation and then fill the cooled crust to about 5 mm shy of the top with the cheese batter, covering any fruits you decided to add in. In the photos below, I filled the crusts to 5 mm below the cracks caused by me overcooking them.

Variation - baked plain

Variation – baked plain

Variation - baked with fruit on the crust

Variation – baked with fruit on the crust

Place the cake tin in a large baking dish and place that dish in the oven. Pour the boiling water into the baking dish so that it surrounds the cake tin up to 3/4 height – this water bath technique allows the cheesecakes to bake slowly and evenly while providing steam to prevent them from drying out, thus eliminating those unsightly cracks from the surfaces that can form as they cool. If you have used a spring form tin, this will not work as the water will leak in. Instead of a water bath, place an oven safe bowl full of boiling water on the shelf under the baking cheesecake to help steam it. 

Baking:

  • 6″ cake – 45 minutes at 150 C/300 F and then turn the oven off. Open the oven door for 60 seconds before closing it again and set the timer for 45 minutes more, after which you can remove the baking tray with cake tins from the oven and then take the tins out of the water bath.
  • 9″ cake – 60 minutes at 150 C/300 F and then turn the oven off. Open the oven door for 60 seconds before closing it again and set the timer for 60 minutes more, after which you can remove the baking tray with cake tins from the oven and then take the tins out of the water bath.

Let the baked cheesecake cool completely before refrigerating it in an airtight container for at least 4 hours to finish the setting process. Do NOT remove it from the tin before it has cooled completely, or this will happen:

Cheesecake. Nailed it.

Store in the fridge for 3-4 days, max. If you do not store it in an airtight container, your fridge may dry out the surface and a skin will develop.

Serve your variation of choice with extra fresh fruit, vanilla bean ice cream or whipped cream to cut the richness if necessary.

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Invert Sugars, Fructan Chain Length and the Monash University Low FODMAP App

monash-med-logo

Morning all! About a month ago I said that I was going to email the Monash University researchers with a list of questions and I did, it just took a while to get all the responses, as I asked a few follow up questions and they are understandably very busy! Well, here are the answers.

Please note that the researcher has asked me to paraphrase some of her answers, as they are purely speculating on some things at this point, so she wasn’t happy with their thoughts on potential causes being published. I feel that it is a reasonable request, as there is so much confusion out there regarding FODMAPs that any “if’s and maybe’s” added into the mix would just make the situation worse.

My questions will be in italics, followed by the paraphrased answers in normal text:

Invert sugar

What exactly is invert sugar and why is it unsafe for a low FODMAP diet? Theoretically, invert sugar can be 1:1 fructose/glucose, yet many people still have issues with it. We have discussed on the FM VIC Facebook group how invert sugar can be made (either naturally, as in honey – which is still fructose > glucose as a separate issue, or chemically – heating sugar with an acid, such as in making jam or golden syrup) and we can’t figure out why people seem to be reacting to invert sugar when it’s listed as an ingredient on a packet but can tolerate jams and golden syrup etc. These are our thoughts; as you can see, we’ve come up with many hypotheses but do not have the expertise to narrow them down.

  • The process of separating fructose and glucose – to prevent crystallisation – means that fructose can no longer use the glucose co-transport method of absorption in the small intestine.
  • There is something involved in the process of intentionally making invert sugar that causes it to become problematic, rather than invert sugar simply being a by-product of heating sucrose in the presence of an acid.
  • The initial proportion of fructose to glucose in the substance turned into an invert sugar plays a role; i.e. it’s not always sucrose as a reactant.
  • Enzymatic vs heat/acid breakdown of sucrose to fructose and glucose plays a role.
  • The sheer amount of invert sugar that may be added to a packet food, compared to a teaspoon or two of jam or golden syrup on your toast, could be an issue. 
  • The separation of sucrose into fructose and glucose before the small intestine (i.e. in a saucepan or a factory), where it would otherwise be digested in situ by sucrase (or invertase?) means that the fructose and glucose aren’t close enough together in the lumen to make co-transport possible?

We do not have any data specifically looking at invert sugars, therefore we can also only speculate. As we know that excess fructose is problematic, perhaps the ratio of fructose and glucose is not always 1:1 in invert sugars. If glucose and fructose are consumed together – then we would expect that they would be able to be absorbed as a combined unit. However if these pathways are saturated – then the excess glucose will not assist (as all the pathways have been used up).

Are there any plans to test or study invert sugars? 

Not that I am currently aware of.

Does the chain length of a fructan/FOS molecule affect our body’s ability to tolerate it?

With regards to fructans and chain length, I’ve read an article abstract that hints that the chain length of oligosaccharides may play a role in our ability to tolerate them. In the FM VIC Facebook group, we have hypothesised that longer chain lengths are less problematic with regards to fermentation, as they take longer for the bacteria to digest and hence may pass through the colon before too much gas etc can be produced. Would it be wrong to hypothesise that spelt and rye are better tolerated than wheat amongst fructose malabsorbers because their fructans are longer? I have come across many people that can tolerate spelt and rye (even when not pre-fermented as in sourdough), compared to wheat – myself included.

There is no published data on the differences in chain lengths of fructans showing a real affect in IBS patients.I therefore cannot give you a confident answer either way. To date it is only speculation but that may change, as data in the future may indeed explain it. Note that the total FODMAP content is important to consider. Rye bread has significantly higher fructan content compared to wheat breads. Therefore Spelt sourdough is the most suitable option. We also don’t know if the fructan chain length is affected by processing, seasonal changes etc. Therefore one rye bread may be different to the next.

With regards to the fructans in rye, do you have any idea why, given the greater amount of fructans present, it seems to be better tolerated than wheat? I ask this because a few rye recipes have been passed around the FM support group on Facebook, some people say they can tolerate a slice or two of 100% rye bread every few days but most people cannot tolerate wheat, so we were wondering why this was, given rye should fill up the “FODMAP bucket” sooner than wheat based on fructan concentration alone.

As this has not been extensively studied, we cannot say for sure. There are many patients who can tolerate small quantities of wheat – so we would encourage everyone to continue to challenge with wheat to test tolerance.

A general question on the FODMAP App

When is the next app update scheduled and will it contain information on coffee/tea/chocolate (the updates from late last year) and individual flours?

We are working on the next update of the app. However, due to having to change over to iOS7 it has been delayed. We hope the next update will be released in a few months time. For now, the best way to get tea/coffee information is from our website http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/research/updates.html.

Thanks for that. Is there any chance of getting the FODMAP app on a smart phone platform other than Apple or Android? It’s a long shot but worth asking.

No, at this stage there is no plan to make the app available on platforms other than Apple or android. The iOS7 apple upgrade has resulted in a delay in any new app updates being released.


I would like to thank the researchers at Monash University on behalf of myself and everyone in the FODMAP community, both for taking the time out of their busy days to answer the questions that we pose to them, as well as for their hard work, which has been life changing for many of us. Cheers guys, much appreciated.

Also, if you would like me to paraphrase my answers any further, please let me know and I will happily do so.

 

Oregano, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Spelt Focaccia – FODMAP & Fructose Friendly for Some

Oregano, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Spelt Focaccia - FODMAPs and Fructose Friendly for Some

Who doesn’t love a focaccia?

When I first started my science degree (pre-FM diagnosis), my Mum informed me that I needed to learn to take care of myself and that part of that was to make my own lunches from now on. Say WHAT?! I had to be an adult? Initially, my dad took pity on me and made some awesome sandwiches with Mama’s (his mum) homemade bread; I think that making a “school lunch” was such a novelty for him that he even had fun. Well, it turns out that Mama’s little bread maker couldn’t keep up with the increased demand – more like the doubled fruit in the fruit loaf that she also made for Dad – and it carked it not long after. Nice work, Dad!

What was I going to do? I’d gone from Wonder White bread to fresh, thick cut deliciousness and I didn’t want to go back. I hit on focaccia bread as a good solution and went from there… for about 4 more months until my FM diagnosis meant no more wheat for me. It was a good run while it lasted.

I haven’t had focaccia since then (2006)… until now. It took a few attempts but I’ve finally perfected a spelt focaccia loaf. All is right with the world.

This focaccia has a light oregano flavour, combined with a crispiness from the olive oil and a delicate sea salt finish. Evgeny and I might have finished one in a day. Whoops.

Notes:

  1. Spelt (Triticum aestivum subsp. spelta) is an ancient form of wheat that hasn’t been tinkered with and contains gluten that is said to be more readily digestible (due to it being more water-soluble than that in modern day wheat), so is potentially better tolerated by many who react to normal wheat. More information here.
  2. Like rye, spelt flour is generally better tolerated than wheat flour among fructose malabsorbers. Also like rye, spelt does still contain fructans and is not tolerated by everyone on a low FODMAP diet. For this reason, I would recommend trialling a small piece before you go all out and scoff the loaf.
  3. Spelt is NOT gluten free. The gluten it contains is different than that in wheat. If you have coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity then spelt is not safe for you, regardless of the different fructans. There is some evidence that completely fermenting wheat will degrade gluten such that it is safe for gluten sensitive people, however not enough research has been done yet to say so definitively.

Oregano, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Spelt Focaccia

Makes one 12 inch/30 cm focaccia.

  • 250 g spelt flour
  • 125 ml/g filtered water
  • 50 g + 1 tbsp. olive oil – and more for oiling the pan
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. activated yeast
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-2 tsp. sea salt

Place your mixing bowl on a set of scales and weigh in the spelt flour, water and olive oil. Add in the rest of the ingredients (except for the sea salt) and, using the dough hook, knead on a low speed for 2 minutes until everything has combined. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it sit for 10 minutes.

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Now, knead on a medium speed for a further 7-10 minutes before the dough is left to rise. Alton Brown has a really nifty trick – he boils water and pours it into a baking dish placed on the bottom rack of the oven. Put your mixing bowl with dough in the oven and close the door, leaving the oven OFF. The warmth and humidity will help the dough rise; this normally takes 1-2 hours, just keep an eye on it.

If you want to start this the night before, cover it with a slightly damp tea towel and leave it in the fridge overnight before continuing on the next day. If you do this, the dough should double in size overnight but if it hasn’t, just leave it in a warm spot (or use AB’s oven trick) until it has doubled from its original size.

Pre rise

Pre rise

Post rise

Post rise

Once the dough has doubled in size, knead it gently on a lightly floured bench for a couple of minutes and then dump it into a well oiled cast iron pan (or your pan of choice). Press the dough softly to gradually spread out over the base of the pan – it should end up approx. 3 cm thick and it doesn’t have to reach the very edges of the pan. Let the pan sit in a warm (neither hot nor cold) location for about an hour and let it rise some more but it won’t rise much.

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Pre-heat your oven to 230 C/450 F – this is important, bread must go into a piping hot oven to help a crust form. Meanwhile, if you like your focaccia to have the dimples in it, just press your fingers in and make evenly spread holes. I like mine to remain a little fluffier, so I don’t do this. Finally, sprinkle the sea salt over the top of the unbaked focaccia.

Bake for 30 minutes. The focaccia should be a light golden brown colour and it will smell amazing. One important thing to remember is that there will be residual cooking after you remove it from the oven, so if it looks completely done just out of the oven, it will be over done by the time it’s cooled.

Enjoy fresh as is, pair it with a hearty soup, or use it as a sandwich bread once cooled.

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Chocolate Chia Seed Puddings – FODMAP/Fructose Friendly, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan & Paleo

Chocolate Chia Seed Puddings - Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly and Gluten Free

A few months ago I shared with you my recipe for Coconut Chia Seed Puddings. They are my go-to for a pre-made, nutritious breakfast or snack that I can take with me on the go. How could I possibly top that?

Uhh, duh. CHOCOLATE!

As if there was any other way?! This variation on the original recipe is just as simple and delicious but has the added benefit of tasting like a chocolate mousse – making it perfect to serve as a healthy dessert. Or dessert for breakfast… I don’t judge.

Notes:

  1. Chia seeds are low FODMAP but high fibre. They are safe for FM but can trigger separate IBS issues. Read here for a full article about chia seeds and fructose malabsorption.
  2. Cacao powder is a contentious issue. Due to it being unprocessed – and thus more nutritious than cocoa powder – it contains nutrients which some with sensitive guts react to. If in doubt, use unsweetened cocoa powder.
  3. Coconut cream – full fat tastes better but fatty foods can be an IBS trigger (separate to FM). I would recommend full fat for nutrition and taste/texture but if you have to use light coconut cream, as I did until a few months ago, it will still taste good.

Chocolate Chia Seed Puddings

  • 400 ml tin of full fat or light coconut cream
  • 1/3-1/2 cup chia seeds – add more for a firmer pudding
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder or cacao powder – depending on tolerance
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Berries/fruits of your choice to top.

Whip the coconut cream (this will only work with full cream) for a good few minutes, until it lightens up. Add in the maple syrup, vanilla extract and cocoa powder and continue to whip until combined.

Add in the chia seeds and stir through gently, then share the mixture evenly between 4 ramekins/jars and place (covered) in the fridge to set for at least 2-3 hours. The chia seeds need time to develop a mucilaginous lining, which aids digestion and of course turns the mixture into a pudding.

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The Great Cake Tin Bake Off – Stainless Steel vs. Non Stick

Has anyone else ever gone to buy bake ware, looked at the immense range of options and been utterly overwhelmed? Yeah, me too. There are so many different materials you can bake with (not to mention the variety of styles of cake pans, pie dishes, tart/quiche tins etc) at a range of prices and not all of them are necessarily good to use.

Aluminium has been linked (inconclusively) with neurotoxicity that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and is known to compete with calcium for absorption; so given my family history of both Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis, this isn’t something I want to play with. In Australia, at least, I had never even come across aluminium cookware, unless it was the core of the base of a sauce pan or fry pan, surrounded by stainless steel. In the US, it’s quite common to get anodized aluminium cookware, such as cake tins and biscuit trays (cookie sheets for you Americans :) ). The first time I saw an aluminium cake tin over here, I was a little shocked; I remembered quite clearly learning about the potential health risks associated with aluminium in my year 8 science class – complete with picture of the Mad Hatter – and couldn’t understand why something that is even remotely likely to cause such serious health issues is still used to bake. I know it’s a great heat conductor and lends itself to evenly baked cakes but shouldn’t health come first?

PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), a chemical used in the process of manufacturing the non-stick Teflon coating, has also been associated with health issues (though not conclusively), such as increased rates of certain cancers in lab animals and humans – though only one (polymer fume fever) has been directly linked. How many of us have heard that as soon as the lining has been scratched, we need to throw the pan/tin/whatever away so as not to ingest any of the chemicals? Over-heating the pans, which is surprisingly easy to do, can also cause noxious fumes to be released, and while these are not considered dangerous the long-term effects of regularly breathing in these fumes isn’t known. I’m not very comfortable with using something that is 1) that flimsy and needs regular replacement, 2) could have unseen scratches or patches of heat related decomposition that could flake little bits of the chemical into your food and 3) isn’t rated up to the highest oven temperatures I might bake bread at.

When we first moved to Seattle and stocked up our kitchen, I just bought the general supermarket cake tins (non-stick ones) – because we were both tired of spending so much money on home goods and because I hadn’t used anything else before. I baked with these tins for a couple of years and last year it came to me: we have always said how terrible non-stick fry pans are, so why am I using a non-stick cake tin? A cheap one, too, so the surface is probably even weaker.

I spent some time researching cookware and of course read what I already knew – aluminium is the best heat conductor and is recommended for baking. A cast iron cake pan would be amazing but very hard to come by and even more expensive… those things are heavy. You can also get glass bake ware but a cake pan is over $20 and I like my cook ware to be a little more versatile – I can’t freeze something in glass and send it straight into the oven, as I would before blind-baking pastry or a crumb base. I ended up choosing a stainless steel cake tin for both price and functional reasons but I was a little nervous about how it would perform.

The first time I used it, I made a double batch of my fructose friendly and gluten free banana cake and made the first half into muffins. Not wanting to overload the oven, I filled both the muffin pan and the stainless steel cake tin and cooked the muffins first, as they’d be done in 20 minutes. After baking the muffins I popped the full cake straight into the oven and what resulted was a dense little cake. I was disappointed. After thinking about it, though, I couldn’t blame the stainless steel tin – not yet. I had let it sit for 20 minutes while the muffins baked, so it would have lost some air from being beaten. I needed to find out how much of this was due to it sitting out before cooking and how much was due to the cake tin, so I decided to have a bake off. The results left me pleasantly surprised.

The Bake Off

One of the first things I learnt in my physiotherapy degree was KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. So that’s what I did.

Aim: To discover whether a stainless steel cake tin performs worse than, the same as, or better than a non-stick coated steel tin.

Method: Using the same cake recipe to keep things consistent, I made a double batch and transferred half into a greased and lined non-stick coated heavy steel tin and the other half into a greased and lined stainless steel tin. The oven was pre-heated to 180 C/350 F. I placed them both on the bottom rack, closed the door and set the timer for 50 minutes.

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Results:

While Baking

  • The non-stick cake rose much faster than the stainless steel cake and I was becoming concerned, even at 40 minutes.
  • After 50 minutes, neither cake was done – they were testing clean with a skewer but still felt a bit too soft.
  • At 55 minutes, the non-stick cake was done and I removed it from the oven.
  • At about 62 minutes the stainless steel cake was done and I removed it from the oven.

Cool Down

  • Both cakes had risen to about the same level while baking but after sitting out for 15 minutes, when it was time to turn them onto a cooling rack, the non-stick cake had collapsed to being quite flat, whereas the stainless steel cake had retained its dome.

Eating

  • Stainless Steel Cake – fluffy, very soft and moist. Taste was the same as always… delicious.
  • Non-stick Cake – not quite as fluffy (but only just), soft but noticeably drier than the stainless steel cake. Taste was still delicious.

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Not From A Packet Mix

Discussion: Stainless steel is not the best conductor of heat or electricity available today (due to it being an alloy – impurities reduce conductivity – and based on iron, rather than a more conductive metal like copper or aluminium), however this does not mean it cannot reach the same temperatures as other metals – it just takes a bit longer. My neighbour also wondered if the highly polished surface of the stainless steel cake tin reflected heat away from the cake (as the story goes with tin foil), rather than absorbing it into the metal; this is a good point and one which I hadn’t even considered, as my mind was heading off down the path of thermal conductivity.

If a material is lower on the thermal conductivity table – see link above, non-stick coating over heavy steel = approx. 43 W/(m.K), stainless steel = 16 W/(m.K) – it can be assumed it is more of a thermal insulator. Now, stainless steel is by no means a true thermal insulator (think more like bricks, wool and sand – things with trapped air pockets) but it stands to reason that it might have a fraction more insulating properties than the non-stick steel cake tin. Perhaps this slightly reduced rate of heat increase and loss played a role in the increased height retention and moisture within the stainless steel cake – in the photo above you cannot see moisture but you can see that the photos of the cake slices are zoomed in equally from the same angle and the stainless steel slice has clearly retained its dome, where as the non-stick slice has collapsed a little in the middle.

A reader, Cari, brought to my attention another reason that the non-stick cake might have risen very quickly and collapsed as it cooled, while the stainless steel cake did not. The non-stick lining has a lower coefficient of friction than the stainless steel tin – this means that the cake batter in the non-stick tin had less friction (grip) impeding its rise upwards, so it rose much faster than the batter in the stainless steel tin, which had to overcome a greater amount of friction. This worked against the non-stick cake as it cooled, though, as there was nothing for the cake to grip on to to prevent collapse, whereas the stainless steel cake could hold on to the sides of its tin to help retain its height.

Conclusion: For the price – $8, so about double that of the generic non-stick pan – the stainless steel cake tin performed better, albeit with a slightly longer cooking time. I am going to buy another so that I have two and might eventually invest in their muffin tins (I’m not too worried about our non-stick muffin tins as I always use patty pans).

What materials do you like to cook with? I’d love some thoughts and recommendations.

Cranberry, Orange and Chia Seed Muffins – FODMAP/Fructose Friendly, Dairy Free, Gluten Free & Grain Free

Cranberry, Orange & Chia Seed Muffins

Maybe two years ago Evgeny and I went on a low carb/grain free diet for 6 months and we felt good. We had extra energy, my skin cleared up and we even lost some weight but then slipped back into our old habits – I of course remained fructose friendly. A little while ago we were talking about how good we felt back then and we decided to give it another shot; this time, however, we can eat rice occasionally.

The main reason we reverted to old habits was not because we didn’t feel good – quite the opposite – but because the diet was too restrictive for us to maintain all the time and as soon as we had one treat, another one crept in and before we knew it we were eating carbs/grains full time again. Whoops! This time our emphasis is on unprocessed, rather than grains. We’re buying ingredients, rather than foods, as the saying goes. It’s much easier to stay on track and eat meals that don’t get boring and they’re probably definitely much better for us than the pre-packaged low carb desserts that we bought last time.

Aside from that, I don’t really like diets that encourage extremes – either all low/non fat, or super low carb etc. Balance is the key to health and while I do agree we rely too much on grains for today’s diet – I used to have porridge for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner until I was diagnosed with FM – I’m sure that having a bowl of rice or a slice of FODMAP friendly bread on the weekend isn’t going to ruin all my good work. Besides, I enjoy baking and sharing the goodies that come out of the oven. It’s relaxing!

After a month of this diet – and feeling great, I might add – I think we will be able to maintain this long term. The one thing we miss, though, is a sweet treat during the week. Now I know it’s not good to have dessert every night but occasionally we need more than a banana or orange after dinner and these grain free muffins really hit the spot. As added insurance against splurging, I recommend freezing these so you can’t just guts them all at once.

I adapted this recipe from Delicious As It Looks, a fantastic website with FODMAP friendly recipes that I highly recommend visiting. The muffins are light, fluffy and delicately sweetened and inspired by the orange and poppy seed muffins I fell in love with at Melbourne Uni.

Notes:

  1. Cranberries are low FODMAP. Dried cranberries are tolerated by some fructose malabsorbers in small amounts – there should only be 5-6 dried cranberries per muffin and the dextrose (if you use it) will reduce the fructose load further. Also ensure your cranberries weren’t dried or mixed with any fruit juices or sugars that are not low FODMAP.
  2. Orange is low FODMAP, as is a little fresh squeezed juice. Bottled juice, however, is highly concentrated and very sugary, so has a higher fructose load.
  3. Almonds are low FODMAP in servings of 10 nuts. If you are concerned about the FOS/GOS of almonds in this recipe then you can sub in some buckwheat flour or my gluten free plain flour – just remember it will no longer be grain free.

Cranberry, Orange and Chia Seed Muffins

Makes 10 x 1/4 cup muffins.

  • 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup dextrose or 1/4 cup castor sugar – or more to your taste
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange (washed!)
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries – depending on tolerance. If you’re unsure, stick to the 1/4 cup initially.
  • 1/8 cup chia seeds
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Note that you will reduce the heat to 300 F/150 C just before baking.

In a large bowl, cream the coconut oil and sugar together for 2-3 minutes, until they become smooth. Add in the eggs and OJ and continue mixing until combined.

Meanwhile, add the almond meal, chia seeds, orange zest, dried cranberries and salt together in a separate bowl and mix together roughly. When the wet ingredients are thoroughly combined, add in the dry ingredients little by little until you have a smooth mixture. Now combine the baking powder and white wine vinegar in a ramekin and mix quickly – it will foam. Pour it into the batter and keep mixing til combined.

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Spoon the mixture out between greased or lined muffin pans, reduce the oven’s heat to 300 F/150 C and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a centre muffin tests clean (with a skewer).

They won’t brown like a normal wheat – or even gluten free – muffin will, they stay a lighter white-ish yellow colour. This is normal, don’t leave them in the oven to brown, as they will just go dry and hard due to over-cooking.

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Let them sit for 10-15 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack to come to room temperature. Most importantly, enjoy!

These freeze well or keep in the pantry in an airtight container for a week.

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Butter Chicken – FODMAP/Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Butter Chicken - Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

When Ev’s little brother was staying with us over his summer school holidays (our winter), both he and Ev became a tad obsessed with butter chicken. They even had a song for it. I can understand why, it is delicious but unfortunately it does take a little planning to get this meal made as the chicken has to marinate overnight and the sauce is better if made ahead of time, as well.

Back in my pre-FM days, a jar of Pataks would have satisfied my butter chicken, or any Indian food cravings but the simmer sauces you buy at the supermarket – as always – are chock full of onion and thus unsuitable for most with FM. As if that wasn’t enough reason to make your own sauce, the pre-made sauces are really quite bland compared to a homemade sauce; not so here, I can only describe this dish as “vibrant.”

The original recipe is from a great YouTube channel called Eat East Indian. I highly recommend it if you are comfortable tinkering with recipes to FODMAP-ify them, as they have some delicious creations. I have made their recipe FODMAP friendly for all of you to try, with some other alterations as well – but of course I credit them with the amazing original recipe.

Just a note – I made a double batch below, so that’s why the amounts look so much bigger.

Notes:

  1. Garam masala can contain onion or garlic powder – it’s only a fraction of the 1/2 tsp. called for in this recipe so it might be tolerated by some. Use your own judgement and omit it if necessary.
  2. An onion is called for in the original recipe. I have replaced this with a pinch of asafoetida powder and 1/2 a cup of green chives but you could go back to the original version if you can tolerate onion.
  3. I included carrot and celery in this recipe for some added nutrition. Evgeny, if you’re reading this, don’t complain because you had no clue. :P
  4. Make sure your asafoetida powder is cut with rice flour and not wheat (to prevent clumping) if you’re very sensitive to fructans or a coeliac.
  5. Butter isn’t high in lactose, as lactose is water soluble and most of it goes into buttermilk instead of the butter – however you could replace some or all of it with coconut butter.
  6. The cream and plain yoghurt can be replaced with lactose free versions if required.

Butter Chicken

Serves 4.

Part 1

  • 500 g chicken, diced into 2 cm cubes
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup plain yoghurt – optional

Combine the spices with the plain yoghurt (lactose free or normal) and then mix through the chicken pieces. Place everything in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 1 hour – overnight is best. If you want the spice flavours to come through more strongly at the end, or if you cannot get LF yoghurt, omit the yoghurt.

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Part 2

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch asafoetida powder
  • 1 celery stick, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic – to infuse butter
  • 1 tbsp. ginger, minced
  • 250 g /8.8 oz diced tomatoes – fresh or tinned

Prepare all your ingredients for part 2 beforehand; this makes the actual cooking process as simple as possible.

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Gently melt the butter over a low heat and add in the cumin seeds and asafoetida powder; simmer until fragrant, then add the diced carrots, celery, garlic and ginger and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. The carrots need to soften before they are blended. If you chose to include a diced onion, add it in with the carrots etc.

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Next, add in the tomatoes and cook for a further 3 minutes. Pick out the garlic cloves and spoon the contents of your pot into a blender (or use your immersion blender and then set the paste aside in a bowl – but there’s no way I’m doing that in my Le Creuset!) and puree the vegetables. The paste will be used as the sauce later on. This step can be done on the same day as part 3 but the flavours can really mingle if you make it ahead of time, such as the night before when you start your chicken marinating.

Part 3

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar or dextrose
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup diced green chives
  • 1/3 cup double cream – LF variety or normal
  • 1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala – if tolerated
  • Coriander leaves (cilantro) to garnish

Seal your pot and fry the bay leaves and ground cloves until fragrant. Take your chicken pieces that have been marinating – the longer, the better – and add them in; sear until fully sealed. Remove the bay leaves and pour in the paste. Mix well, then add in the salt, turmeric, paprika, brown sugar, cinnamon and chives and simmer for 30 minutes.

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Pour in the double cream and cook over a medium heat for 5 more minutes before adding in the fenugreek seeds, black pepper and garam masala; simmer for 10 minutes and it’s finished. Some recipes might call for a drop or two of red food colouring but really, I think it’s bright enough as it is and why add in something that is completely unnecessary if it’s only going to make it a little brighter?

If you are not serving it straight away, keep it on a low heat until it’s required.

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Serve with white rice and a garnish of coriander leaves (cilantro). You can serve the sauce and rice in separate dishes or create individual bowls – separately is more traditional but you can do whatever you’d like.

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It makes a delicious lunch if you store it in individual dishes that you can either refrigerate or freeze and take to work/school/wherever for the week.

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