FODMAP Friendly Christmas Recipe – Spiced Gingerbread Cake (also Gluten Free & Dairy Free)

Spiced Gingerbread Cake - FODMAP friendly, gluten free and dairy free - Copy (2)

Christmas is fast approaching – the last time I checked, it was the start of November and I was still comfortably in my mid-twenties. I’m now what most people would call “mid to late” twenties and it’s scaring the hell out of me! Where does the time go – and can I rewind it please? While I sit here and panic not-so-silently, I’ll take the opportunity to share a new recipe for a cake that is a combination of my two favourite Christmas desserts: gingerbread and plum pudding. I don’t think you could get a more Christmas appropriate low FODMAP recipe, if you tried.

But first of all, merry Christmas! Or rather the all encompassing term I heard a couple of years ago: Happy Chrismakwanzakah!

Secondly, I am a HUGE fan of fruit cakes and puddings – I absolutely love them. If there were Beliebers for fruit cakes, I’d be right at the front, wearing a t-shirt and screaming my heart out… but, by some cruel twist of fate (damn you, GLUT-5 fructose transporters), if I was to have a slice now, I’d probably have to down a glass of glucose syrup afterwards to ward off any reactions – which is not a healthy thing to do.

As for gingerbread, it’s quite easily made gluten free and low FODMAP, the instructions for which can be found here.

For me, Christmas is all about food and family. It’s just a pity that so many traditional Christmas desserts aren’t easily adaptable to a low FODMAP diet, as they rely so heavily on fruits higher in fermentable carbohydrates. It’s also especially hard being literally half way around the world from the rest of my family at this time of year but it’s alright… I never cook alone. Or eat alone. Or unwrap my presents without an audience, because every dog knows that the rustling of paper and plastic equals treats.

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Obviously, a proper plum pudding/Christmas pudding/cake would not be FODMAP friendly. In fact, I don’t know if even the best chef in the world could turn a recipe that asked for ONE KILOGRAM of dried fruit per cake into a low FODMAP recipe. Seriously – challenge issued to anyone out there. Jamie Oliver? Stephanie Alexander? Helloooooooooo?

I made this spiced gingerbread cake for Christmas 2014 at a friend’s house. After the flop that was the gingerbread house I had made the year earlier (apparently nobody else liked gingerbread), I decided to tone down the ginger and amp up the other spices, to give it a more well-rounded Christmas taste. In all seriousness, I also wanted to challenge myself a little last year, knowing that my Friendsmas hosts were going all out to make the meal Nat-friendly (thanks Kendal and Raymond, much appreciated), so I decided to add in just a little dried fruit to this cake, in the spirit of festiveness and, really, because whiskey and sultanas need no explanation.

FODMAP Notes

  1. Whiskey is low FODMAP in 30 ml servings.
  2. Sultanas (aka raisins for those in the USA) are tricky. Grapes are low FODMAP in quite generous servings but the drying process means that the amount of sugar per volume of the grape (now sultana) increases. Monash University lists sultanas (very similar to raisins) as high FODMAP even in 1 tbsp. serves. The 1/4 cup of sultanas called for in this recipe, when divided by 12 (the number of servings it makes), means you will get 1 tsp. of sultanas per slice. As a safety measure, the added dextrose should help to balance out the concentrated sucrose but you can always leave them out if you are on elimination or know you react/for peace of mind.
  3. Dried cranberries are a low FODMAP alternative to sultanas, they are safe in 1 tbsp. serves and contain moderate amounts of fructans in 2 tbsp. serves.
  4. Coconut oil contains no carbohydrates, so is low FODMAP.
  5. All the sweeteners used are FODMAP friendly, the dextrose should balance out the extra fructose from the brown sugar (minute amounts) and the extra sucrose from the sultanas.
  6. Make sure your vanilla extract contains no high FODMAP additives.
  7. Use your favourite gluten free plain flour blend, or a self raising blend and omit the baking powder. Spelt flour is low FODMAP enough for some fructose malabsorbers but not for all – it is also NOT gluten free, as it is an ancient variety of wheat. Use what you feel comfortable with, as this cake batter performs equally well with either flour.
  8. Chia seeds are low FODMAP but still a great source of fibre and other nutrients. They work well as a xanthan gum replacement, for those sensitive to gums. If you only have xanthan gum, feel free to use that.
  9. The spices are all low FODMAP.
  10. Coconut milk (watered down coconut cream) is low FODMAP in 1/4 cup servings, which would be adhered to unless you ate 1/5 of this cake in a sitting.
  11. If you are still in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet, don’t include the optional sultanas/raisins or whiskey.

Spiced Gingerbread Cake

Serves 12-14.

Cake

  • 3/4 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or rice malt syrup
  • 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 2 tbsp. dextrose
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 500 g gluten free plain flour or spelt flour (not gluten free, omit chia or xanthan gum)
  • 1 tbsp. chia meal or 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 3 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • Zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • Optional: 1/4 cup sultanas or up to 1/2 cup of dried cranberries soaked in 1/8 cup whiskey for 4 hours

Royal Icing

  • 1 egg white
  • 1-1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Decorations

  • Nonpareils (the edible silver balls)
  • Strawberries or fruit of choice

At least four hours before you plan to make the cake, start soaking the sultanas or dried cranberries in whiskey. This is an optional step, you can omit the sultanas if they trigger your IBS, or swap in the dried cranberries.

Preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F and grease your bundt pan, grease and line your 20 cm/9 in cake tin, or line your 12-hole muffin tin with patty pans.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, add in the coconut oil, maple syrup, castor sugar, dextrose and brown sugar and beat for 1 minute at a low speed, followed by 2 minutes on high. Stop, add in the eggs and vanilla extract, then continue to mix for another minute at a medium speed. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sieve the flour of your choice, chia meal (if using gluten free flour), ground spices and salt and roughly mix them together.

Get the coconut milk ready and then alternate adding thirds of the dry mix and the milk and mixing, until everything is used. If you feel the batter is too runny, don’t use all the milk – coconut milks don’t have a uniform consistency, unfortunately, so yours may be different than mine.

Mix the freshly squeezed orange juice, white wine vinegar and baking powder together and quickly pour it into the cake batter, then mix on high for 30 seconds. Next, add in orange zest and the optional sultanas/dried cranberries and whiskey and mix through until combined. Pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake according to the instructions below.

Baking instructions:

  • Bundt pan – bake at 180 C/350 F for 45-50 minutes, or until cake tests clean with a skewer. Remove from the oven and let come to room temperature.
  • Round tin – bake at 180 C/350 F for 50-60 minutes, or until cake tests clean with a skewer. Remove from the oven and let come to room temperature.
  • Muffin tin – makes 12, bake at 180 C/350 F for 15-18 minutes, or until a centre muffin tests clean with a skewer. Remove from the oven and let come to room temperature.

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Once the cake has cooled, flip it out onto your serving dish of choice and make the royal icing.

Beat the egg white until it forms a soft peak (it will look like sea-foam), then slowly add in the sieved icing sugar, until the batter just begins to form stiff peaks. If you add in too much, the icing will be quite stiff and harder to spread – this quality is great when you want to pipe fine details, like on gingerbread biscuits but not when you want to spread the icing easily over an entire cake.

When your icing is ready, immediately ice your cake and sprinkle with the nonpareils, or decorations of your choice. Royal icing dries very quickly when exposed to air, so it becomes rough, harder to spread and less sticky for your decorations. It will keep well for up to one week in an airtight container in the fridge.

This cake can be made a day or two in advance, just ice it no earlier than the night before you want to serve it. Enjoy this cake with freshly made warm vanilla bean custard, vanilla ice cream, lactose free yoghurt or fresh FODMAP friendly fruit. Merry Christmas!

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Warm Salmon Salad, Dressed in a Lemon, Ginger and Soy Sauce – Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Warm Salmon Salad Dressed in Lemon, Ginger and Soy Sauce - Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free 1

Firstly, I apologise for the dodgy photos in this post; my camera’s battery had run out and I used my phone, which isn’t great for indoor photos.

Secondly, have I mentioned how spoilt we are for salmon in the Pacific Northwest? It’s crazy good. In Melbourne, you’re lucky to get lightly ripped off when you buy Atlantic salmon, which is really just farmed salmon that’s never even sniffed the Atlantic Ocean… side note to any ichthyologists out there, can fish smell? In Seattle, Atlantic doesn’t even factor into our choice of salmon, it’s the bottom of the barrel. At your local supermarket you can get whole Chinook, Coho and Sockeye (my personal fav) when they’re in season for about a third of what we pay for Atlantic back home; when they’re out of season, they’re still only about half the price. There are more varieties, of course, if you go to specialty fish markets.

Guess what July is? The middle of Sockeye salmon season.

Notes:

  1. The green tips of leek are low FODMAP.
  2. Zucchini is low FODMAP in servings of 1/2 cup.
  3. Cherry tomatoes are low FODMAP in servings of 1/2 cup.
  4. Mushrooms contain mannitol, so if you malabsorb mannitol then swap them out for more zucchini.
  5. Spinach is low FODMAP in servings of 1 cup.
  6. Lemon, ginger and soy sauce are all low FODMAP. Use gluten free soy sauce if you are a coeliac/sensitive to gluten.

Warm Salmon Salad

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 cm of ginger root, minced finely
  • Juice of half a lemon, plus a little from the other half

Salad

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic infused olive oil
  • 225 g/8 oz salmon fillet – I like sockeye
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup green leek tips, finely sliced
  • 1 large zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 button mushrooms, finely sliced

Seal your pan with the olive oil and pan fry the salmon fillets over a med-high heat; it should take about 4 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the second, though this will depend on the thickness of the fillets. Once for each side, drizzle with the “little bit” of lemon juice from the second half of the lemon.

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Meanwhile, lay out washed baby spinach on a serving dish. Saute the leek tips, zucchini, cherry toms and button mushrooms in the garlic infused olive oil until tender (not over cooked) and remove from the heat.

By this time, the salmon should almost be done. Turn down the heat to low and cut the salmon into bite-sized chunks and stir through the sauce ingredients. Once the sizzling has stopped, stir through the sauteed veggies.

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Layer the warm salmon and veggies over a bed of fresh baby spinach (you could wilt the spinach if you like but I prefer it fresh) and serve with white rice. The white rice takes 30 minutes to cook (without a rice cooker, I couldn’t tell you how long it would take with one), so make sure you get it going before you start cooking the salmon and veggies, as they only take 10 minutes once they’re on the heat.

Oh and the most important part – enjoy!

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FODMAP Friendly Christmas Recipe – Gingerbread House & Biscuits

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One of my favourite things about Christmas – apart from friends and family – is getting to play with food.

Not in the way your Mum always told you off for but by being creative. I’m not a talented creative person like some of my friends are but I like to dabble in sewing and one day I will finish that scarf I started to knit… So yeah, an excuse to make something pretty with a deadline means I get to play but also will get it done. Win, win.

Gingerbread is one of my favourite things – combining ginger, golden syrup and biscuits = the best thing ever. Since I’ve been doing my best to cut down on sugary baked goods, I haven’t baked much over the last couple of months except when required to for an event but it’s Christmas so whatever – screw the diet for the next two weeks and I’ll deal with the aftermath later 🙂 We’re dog-sitting two extra dogs at the moment, so I’m going on my fair share of dog walks, anyway.

Notes:

  1. Gingerbread recipes tend to use one or a combination of different syrups – golden syrup, maple syrup, treacle, molasses or even corn syrup (mostly from American websites that I’ve seen). Pure maple syrup is hard to find and quite expensive in Australia but treacle and golden syrup are easy to get – people tend to tolerate these quite differently, though, so I am listing them as possibilities and you can use whichever you know is safe for you.
  2. Gluten free flours are expensive, so if you are not cooking for a coeliac then I recommend making the recipe in halves – half GF and half normal flour. This will save you some money and, if you use the normal flour as the walls of the house, it will give the structure added strength.
  3. If you can’t tolerate wheat because of the fructans but you can still have gluten, I would recommend using gluten powder, rather than xanthan gum, to really add some strength – this is more important if you are making a house, rather than gingerbread biscuits. I would try 1/2 a cup of gluten powder to replace the same amount of flour and work from there. Possibly a combination of xanthan gum and gluten might be best but I haven’t tried this.
  4. If you have any cracks in the slabs of gingerbread that you cut, just use royal icing or melted chocolate to either stick them back together or as a reinforcement along the inside face of the slab.
  5. Royal icing involves uncooked egg whites, so if you are making this for a pregnant woman or an immuno-compromised person, I would stick to melting dark or milk chocolate for assembling the joins of a house. Other sources recommend using meringue powder in this situation but having never used it, I don’t know what the ingredients are and how fructose friendly they would be.
  6. If you malabsorb lactose, then I would stick to the royal icing, rather than the chocolate… unless a lactose free chocolate exists that can melt well – I honestly haven’t ever looked into it.

Gingerbread

Adapted from Ruby M. Brown’s Cakes, Muffins and Loaves to suit my tastes and be a little more fructose friendly.

  • 250 g unsalted butter/coconut butter, softened
  • 175 g castor sugar (or 200 g dextrose)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup golden syrup
  • 700 g GF plain flour
  • 1-2 tsp. xanthan gum (add in 1, then the second if consistency isn’t correct) – alternatively, substitute 1/2 cup of GF flour for 1/2 cup of gluten powder
  • 11/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 pinch salt

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add in the eggs, vanilla and syrup of your choice. Mix until well combined and smooth. Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and then gradually add them in, alternating with mixing, until the batter is complete. This will be much stiffer than a cake batter, more like a cookie dough but not quite.

To make your life easier, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before rolling it out.

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To make biscuits

Preheat your oven to 190 C/375 F. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured bench until it is approx 1 cm thick and then cut with a knife or cookie cutters. Place them on a lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and firm yet soft on top – if you bake them until they are hard on top then they will be like rocks once they have cooled.

To make a house

Preheat your oven to 190 C/375 F and lay out baking paper on the bench (if your biscuit tray has raised edges like mine does) or if you have a completely flat baking sheet, just lay the baking paper on that. Spread a column of the batter along the length of the tray and place wax paper on top, then roll it out to make it as rectangular as possible. Believe me, the more accurate you are with this, the more of the end product you can work with to cut out the walls and roof pieces later on.

You can see from this picture that I didn’t do a particularly good job of it and I had to make another half batch to make the front and back walls.

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Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and firm-ish in the middle – a little bit of softness is okay, as it will continue to harden while cooling – but you don’t want it to be completely hard while baking or it will be a crumbly rock once cooled. Have paper cut outs of your house pieces ready to go, because it is easier to cut without cracks forming when it is fresh from the oven and still retains some softness.

Let the pieces cool for a day to harden completely, otherwise they might crack while you are trying to assemble the house. Other shapes to try could be a Christmas tree or a bell shape, with four pieces.

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Royal Icing

The following gave me plenty of icing to construct and decorate my house, however the rule of thumb is 1 egg white to 1 cup of icing sugar.

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract – optional
  • 2 cups of icing sugar (or 3 3/4 cups icing sugar, 1/4 cup dextrose)
  • Food colouring of choice – optional

Softly beat the egg whites and vanilla extract in the bowl of your stand mixer and then add in the icing sugar gradually until the mixture becomes smooth and shiny. Beat it on a high speed for at least 5 minutes, until the mixture is able to form stiff peaks. Transfer it to an icing bag (or a zip lock bag with the corner snipped off) to pipe the icing accurately. It stores well in an air tight container for 1-2 days, after which I find it is too hard to use anymore. If you just need to leave it on the bench for an hour or so, cover it in a damp cloth to help it retain its moisture, as it forms a crust and hardens when it is exposed to air.

Softly beaten eggs.

Softly beaten eggs.

Royal icing.

Royal icing – you can see the stiff peak that has formed.

Assembling a gingerbread house

  • Gingerbread shapes
  • Royal icing
  • A large, flat platter to build the house on
  • 2 sets of hands, preferably

Pick one side wall and one end wall and pipe icing onto the base of each piece and also the corner that will meet. It makes life so much easier if there is one person to pipe icing and another to hold the pieces in place until the icing has set but it’s not crucial.

Continue to construct the house. You should start with a side wall and the rear facing wall and then let them dry completely. Next, ice and stick the bottom and adjoining side of the front panel and hold it in place until the icing has set. Make sure the joins are all at right angles, so that all the pieces fit together as they should. Finally, ice and stick the remaining side wall in place and let the walls completely dry for a couple of hours before contemplating sticking the roof pieces in place – houses can collapse.

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I mentioned in the notes section that you can reinforce pieces with either royal icing or melted chocolate allowed to set – this can be quite useful for the inside faces of the roof pieces, as they will have quite a bit of downward force going across them eventually, both from gravity and all the lollies you will be decorating it with. Now, as I was doing this to a roof piece that had a visible crack running through it from moving while still warm and soft (my bad), I carelessly wiped the spatula away from me and pulled the piece in two… whoops. I glued it back together with the icing and threw in a couple of wooden skewers cut to size for good measure. This roof isn’t going to collapse on my watch.

Whoops. This is why you should be careful.

Whoops. This is why you should be careful.

Reinforced roof piece

Reinforced roof piece.

Once the walls are dry and you have reinforced any possible cracks (and let that dry as well), pipe icing along the tops of the wall pieces and lay the roof slabs down. The shallower the angle of your roof, the less likely they will be to slip down before the icing dries.

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Once more, let this dry completely before you use the remaining icing to decorate and stick on the lollies of your choice. The photos I’m posting are of the last two houses I made – in Australia Christmas 2010 and in Seattle Christmas 2013. You can see the difference in lolly varieties in the two countries and also an improvement in my icing skills, although they still leave much to be desired.

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Melbourne – Christmas 2010

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Melbourne – Christmas 2010

Seattle - Christmas 2013

Seattle – Christmas 2013

Finally, demolish the house. The best part of all!

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What do you do when you’ve over-dosed on FRUCTOSE?

What do you do when you’ve been “fructosed?” (to modify a term from Coeliacs forums, “glutened.”)

I have a few prongs to my attack against possible fructose episodes, although how well they work depends on how much I ingested and what I ingested. For example, nothing can stop apples from having their way with my gut. Nothing.

The best thing is to prevent these situations to begin with but sometimes it can’t be helped. Ingredients are read incorrectly or waiters look at you in a confused manner when you try and explain your situation. I had someone at Muffin Break look at me like I was an idiot when I asked whether the gluten free muffins had any apple puree in them, regardless of whether they were listed as apple flavoured. Luckily the manager was there but still.

Try to reduce your FRUCTOSE LOAD

To reduce your fructose load, try and increase the glucose present in your small intestine to aid with co-transport, thus limiting how much excess fructose makes it to your colon and the waiting bacterial colonies.

  • Glucose powder
  • Glucose tablets

Sprinkle powder on your food if you know you are eating excess fructose (doesn’t work for fructans or large amounts of excess fructose) or have a stash of tablets to have if you realise after the fact. Once cramps start, however, the fructose has passed out of the small intestine – where the glucose would have helped – and has been fermented by bacteria in the colon.

Analgesics

Pain killers are not something that I have always used. About a year ago, however, I was in such a bad state while in NYC with friends that I had to give in. Apparently I went green, all I know is my head was spinning and I had to hold on to something, never mind the cramps I was having. That is what apple does to me.

  • Paracetamol (Panadol in Australia)
  • Ibuprofen (Nurofen in Australia, Advil in the USA)

Obviously, I’m not a pharmacist. Please follow any directions on the tablets you can find over the counter.

Soothing Teas

Ginger and mint both have soothing properties. Ginger especially is known to help with diarrhoea and nausea.

But all in all, even a Ceylon tea like Dilmah has helped me out. I think the warmth just helps to sooth stressing guts.

Infused Water

Working on the principles that ginger and mint have soothing properties, I will sometimes make a lime, mint and ginger infused water that I put in the fridge for 20 minutes before drinking.

  • 1/2 lime, sliced
  • 3 cm ginger roots, sliced
  • 10-15 mint leaves

Mash the mint and ginger in a mortar and pestle for 30 seconds or so to release more of their nutrients. Place everything in a jug/drink bottle and fill with water. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or add ice cubes.

The cold helps to refresh me when I’m feeling sick and the lime/mint flavours are very invigorating. I don’t own a specific infuser but this method seems to work well enough for me.

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Does anyone out there have any other methods they’d like to share? Considering I’m currently testing sorbitols out, I might need them in the coming days!