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In light of current research on gluten and its effects on the body (outside of the coeliac aversion to gluten), we have put together some information on gluten-reduced baking techniques.

Firstly, what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale (cross between wheat and rye), kamut and spelt (ancient forms of wheat). Oats are usually put in this category because they may contain cross contamination with wheat. The gluten protein is responsible for the glue-like elasticity that is present in batters and doughs.

Why are people choosing to avoid gluten?

People suffering from wheat allergies, coeliac disease, gluten intolerance / sensitivity are affected by the protein in a way that stimulates an allergic response, causing uncomfortable symptoms and reduced optimal health.

Wheat allergy – is one of the rarer common food allergies, whose symptoms include exercise / aspirin induced anaphylaxis as well as skin rashes.

Coeliac disease – is a genetic autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, and progressively destroys the nutrient-absorbing villi in your small intestine. Gluten exacerbates this response in coeliac patients. This chronic digestive disorder leads to the malabsorption of minerals and nutrients. Coeliac disease has wide-ranging effects across all organs and joints.

Gluten intolerance/ sensitivity – is reactivity to consuming gluten. Although it poses less severe symptoms when compared to coeliac disease; these symptoms include bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhoea, muscular disturbances and bone or joint pain.

“Gluten sensitivity” represents a completely different condition from coeliac disease, and most of the people who suffer from gluten sensitivity will never develop coeliac. Research into gluten sensitivity is evolving rapidly and the differences between these two conditions stems from differing immune system responses.

It has been noted that gluten is not only responsible for allergic reactions, but has been known to “provoke” a number of diseases (according to a review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine), such as osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anaemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten has also been linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage).  It has also been linked to autism.

Gluten free baking techniques

Gluten free grains include rice, maize/corn (polenta /maizina), quinoa, millet, buckwheat, oats, and sorghum. These grains can be made into flour and are useful to replace gluten flour in baking. Many people who struggle to process wheat find that spelt is acceptable. Also, there is trend toward using almond meal/ nut flours and coconut flours as well as bean/ legume flours in baking (as grain alternatives).

Gluten free Grain flours Other Gluten free Flours Gluten free Starches Corn flour Coconut flour Tapioca/ cassava flour Rice flour Almond/ Hazelnut flour Potato starch (not flour!) Millet flour Chickpea flour Arrowroot flour Sorghum flour Buckwheat flour Corn starch Oat flour Bean (garbanzo/ flava) flour

Often the final baked product (when using gluten free flour) may have a denser texture due to the reduced presence of elastic proteins that stretch to allow aeration of the baked goods.  The texture may be gummier and the mixture may require more cooking time/ added moisture and fibre. Gluten free baking seems to be about trial and error – whether the chosen flour is right for your recipe – one will have to find out?

If baking with gluten free flours (rather than altering a current recipe), look for gluten-free recipe alternatives (at least these recipes have been tried and tested)! There are also recipes for Gluten-Free Flour blends that can be found online, this blend can be used to substitute gluten flour in a favourite recipe. Alternatively look out for gluten free pancake or muffin mixes, and then use these as a flour substitute, since they have already been blended to give a good baked texture.

Once your gluten-free goodies are baked, try our range of Non-Wheat/ Non-Gluten cake decorations (Ready to Roll Fondant, Cake Confetti, and Cake Crystals, Stationery for Cakes, Heavenly Hearts, Chocolate Popping Candy, Chocolate Hearts and Buttons, Shimmer, Writing icing, Soft centred pearls, Soft silver “bling” balls).

 

In the spirit of molecular gastronomy, we have created a dose of fizzing, popping and titillating chocolate cake bars. Have your guests eyes popping with joy when they discover what’s hidden in this yummy chocolate slice.

You can add chocolate popping candy to any dessert, although mainly as a topping, or incorporated into a cool mousse/ jelly/ frosting/ ganache, since popping candy will melt if it’s heated. Popping candy is very sensitive to air – that is why ours is coated in chocolate – to preserve the precious “pop”. In this recipe we used it as a topping.

Ingredients:

190g Butter 1 1/5 cups (300ml) Castor Sugar 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract 4 eggs (separate yolk from egg white) ¾ cup Self-Raising Flour 1/3 cup Cocoa ¾ cup Plain Yoghurt 1 Tbs. Espresso / strongly brewed Coffee

 

Start by creaming the butter, sugar and vanilla in an mixer. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sifted flour, cocoa and yoghurt and stir in the coffee. Beat the egg whites separately until stiff, and gently fold into the mixture. Spread the mixture into a silicone cake mould or small tray (25cm). Bake in at 180°C for approx. 40 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean.

Mocha Frosting

120g Dark Chocolate 2 tsp. Espresso / strong brewed Coffee 120g Butter (softened) Icing Sugar – to taste, approx. 2 Tbs.

Heat the chocolate and coffee in a double boiler (bain-marie) and stir until melted.  Remove from the heat, and beat in the butter (small amount at a time). Add the icing sugar and mix well. Allow the frosting to cool and thicken. Spread over the cooled chocolate slices.

Decorate with Chocolate Popping Candy. The recipe makes approx. 16 squares.

 

We have been quietly observing this trend of gourmet doughnuts, and have decided to plunge into the world of endless flavours and possibilities. Mini doughnuts are great for high tea; children’s parties and breakfast feasts.

We found a magical new piece of equipment – the mini doughnut maker. Although we used this genius doughnutter, it is possible to use a doughnut baking tray / silicone moulds. Now to choose a recipe? Banana and chocolate are a match made in heaven. Full stop. Here is the recipe we used.

Ingredients

2 small Bananas (mashed) 1/2 cup (170g tub) Fat Free Plain Yoghurt 1/2 cup Sugar 2 Eggs (lightly beaten) 2 Tbs. Butter (melted) 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract 2 cups Self-Raising Flour 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder (a little extra baking powder adds fluffiness) pinch of Salt 1/2 cup dark / milk Chocolate Chips

Mix mashed banana with the sugar and yoghurt. Blitz the mixture in a food processor/blender if you want a smooth texture. Mix in the melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the batter and mix until just combined. Do not over mix! Fold in the chocolate chips.

Place a teaspoon of batter into the wells of the hot doughnut maker and close the lid; cook for a few minutes till the doughnut maker’s lid pops up/ doughnuts are golden brown.

Drop the hot mini doughnuts into cinnamon and sugar / drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cake confetti and chocolate hearts. The texture is between flapjacks and doughnuts, and are delicious when warm. We used these doughnut-morsels to create a doughnut birthday cake tower, fit for a mini queen (also see “Princess”).

FYI: This recipe is lower in fat due to the addition of fat free yoghurt! Yay!

With Father’s Day around the corner, we thought we would craft a few cake pops inspired by our Dads.

The first batch was too wet and didn’t form balls properly, so we discarded it – what a waste of good cake and icing. The second batch was delicious but messy and had tempers flaring in frustration. Then, we had our experienced friend Yolandi Heyneke of Love Life Cupcakes (a cake pop baking whizz) show us how to make cake pops the fool-proof way.  Yolandi made some awesome suit & tie cake pops, moustache shaped cake pops and original chocolate cake pops dipped in white or milk chocolate.

Yolandi’s top tips:

Use any type of cake (even shop bought sponge) and cream cheese instead of frosting. It makes them smoother! Crumble the cake with a grater or food processor. The amount of cream cheese to add is not an exact science, Yolandi knows it’s right when the consistency is the same as play dough. For the professional touch – weigh the balls of mixture to make perfectly sized pops (perfect size is 25 – 27g).

 The balls are then cooled (not frozen) – just pop them in the freezer (for 15min) or fridge (for 1 – 2 hrs) to firm up.  If they are frozen, the dipped chocolate will crack once they start defrosting. When melting the chocolate in the microwave keep the microwave on low/defrost (or melt chocolate in a double-boiler to prevent burning). Stir the chocolate frequently to prevent overheating. The chocolate should be melted but not hot. Add a few pieces of extra un-melted chocolate if it’s too hot in order to cool it down. When the balls are firm and you have your chocolate ready, dip the tip of the Cake Pop Stick in the chocolate and insert it into the balls. Dip the balls in chocolate; they should be completely covered, and then roll the stick around in your hand to let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. You will note when it starts to firm up and you can then push the stick into a polystyrene block or empty egg box to dry completely. When using sprinkles, let the excess chocolate drip off and just before putting them in the polystyrene block, sprinkle the balls. (Don’t let any sprinkles fall into your choc dipping bowl). We used our Blue and Green Nicoletta Cake Crystals as well as Nicoletta Pearl Drops  and Blue & White Ready to Roll Fondant to make the shirts and ties.

Once you get the hang of doing the balls, you can also make different shapes by using cookie cutters or moulds. These moustache cake pops are fun, not fuzzy!

Cake Pops require patience and practice. Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. Your dad will appreciate the taste more than the look anyway!

Nicoletta and her Mom have used this recipe for all sorts of birthday cakes, Neapolitan cakes, cupcakes and tray bakes. Her family know it as the “1-2-3 cake” and are happily sharing this no-flop recipe with everyone:

250g butter (room temp.) 1 cup milk 2 cups sugar 4 eggs (room temp.) 1 tsp. vanilla extract 3 cups flour 1½ tsp. baking powder

Cream the sugar and butter in an electric beater until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating till the eggs are incorporated after each addition. Mix in the milk and flavouring. Add the sifted cake flour and baking powder and mix well (scrape the bottom to make sure it’s all mixed together). Spoon the batter into a tray and bake at 180°c for 20 minutes, or until golden and the cake tester/knife comes out clean.

Allow to cool while you prepare your fluffy buttercream frosting:

185g butter (room temperature, and cut into cubes, do not heat! It’s called “butter-cream” for a reason people, don’t be afraid) 200g icing sugar (icing sugar loves to be sieved) 1 Tbs. Milk 1 Tbs. Vanilla essence / ½ Tbs. Vanilla extract a pinch of salt

Whip butter in a mixer till it becomes very pale & very creamy, the more you beat, the creamier it gets. Add the remaining ingredients and mix slowly. Frost your cake and cut into squares, decorate using Soft Pearls and Flower Icing Shapes.

Oh sweet ‘n crunchy, melt in the mouth meringues, with your peaks so white and sugary… This recipe is used by the real Nicoletta and is a favourite treat for dinner parties and celebrations.

How to make the easiest little meringues – you will need:

4 x egg whites (carefully separated) Pinch of salt 1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar 1 cup castor sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence Cake Confetti for decoration

Beat the egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until stiff (be careful not to overbeat!). Add castor sugar by the spoonful, beating well after each addition; add vanilla before the last two spoonful’s of sugar.

Shape meringues on the baking mat (we used our fabulous silicone macaron mat, and disposable piping bags to pipe perfect peaks). Sprinkle with edible decorations.

Preheat oven to 110C, Bake for 1 hour or until meringues are dry. Serve with ice-cream and lemon curd / strawberries and cream.

A firm favourite – these no-bake and easy to make chocolate biscuit squares (that rhymed..) make great party guests, and love to hang out with tea and coffee.

This recipe will take 15 minutes to assemble and looks sparkly with the addition of edible shimmer and silver bling. Ready, set, go….

500g butter 1 cup cocoa powder 1kg icing sugar 2 eggs (lightly beaten) 1 Tbs. Vanilla essence 1 packet Marie biscuits & 1 packet of Tennis biscuits (crushed) Shimmer and silver “Bling” Balls for decoration

Melt the butter (on the stove or in a microwave), mix in the cocoa and icing sugar in a very large bowl (don’t worry about sieving – the mixture becomes thick enough to mix out all lumps). Stir in the eggs and mix until smooth and glossy.

Add the crushed biscuits and mix into the glorious chocolate gloop until well covered. At this stage add other optional extras – glacé cherries/ rice crispie cereal/ mini marshmallows/ nuts.

Spoon out onto a pan and flatten the mixture with a spatula. (This mixture can be spooned into any container to set – asses how high you would like your squares to be and adjust by pouring into a wider lipped container). Decorate with sprinkles at will.

Refrigerate for 2-4 hours or till set, cut into squares and keep in an airtight container.

These beauties were made using an “old family” condensed milk cookie recipe – delish. Although they do come with a warning… you will want to eat them all.

Cuddle up on the couch with these babies, it’s going to be a long winter….. The recipe makes 30 fist size BUTTERY cookies comfortably.

Condensed Milk Cookies

500g butter

1 tin condensed milk

375g sugar/ castor sugar

750g cake flour

4 tsp. baking powder

1 Tbs. vanilla extract

pinch of salt

Beat the butter and sugar till creamy. Add condensed milk and beat well. Add the sifted cake flour, salt, baking powder and flavouring. Roll batter into balls, place on lined baking tray. Press balls down and stamp with your cookie stamp. Bake at 170C for 8 minutes, or until golden.

We can’t do without one of these in our kitchen. With 3 varieties to tickle your taste buds – I LOVE YOU, EAT ME and HOME MADE. What a sweet idea when covering cupcakes / cookies with fondant!! or stamping your embossed message onto cookies.

Although the thought of vegan baking can boggle the mind, there are many recipes have been designed to avoid the use of eggs, butter, milk and other animal derived ingredients.

Here is how vegans replace animal by-product ingredients in their favourite recipes:

Eggs are used as a binding agent, to keep in moisture, and give texture. Use ¼ cup of soya yogurt/ mashed banana (note: leaves a banana flavour)/ apple sauce, or alternatively 1 Tbs. ground flaxseed in 3 Tbs. water, to replace one egg.

Exchanges can be made from cow’s milk to soya milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and almond/hazelnut milk. In place of buttermilk use 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar to curdle 1 cup of soya milk.

Oils and fats are used to bind, and add moisture and flavour to baked goods. Vegetable oils/ vegetarian margarine/ coconut oil can replace butter.

In place of honey as a sweetener, try maple syrup, agave nectar/ golden syrup.

Avoid colourings or decorations that contain cochineal or shellac (insect derived ingredients). This list below contains our retail range of packaged products that are suitable for Vegans (as seen on the header).

Vegan Products Sea Theme Cake Confetti Yellow Fondant Food Colouring Markers Butterflies Cake Confetti Green Fondant Flower Power Icing Shapes Flowers Cake Confetti White Fondant Primary Writing Icing Alphabet Cake Confetti Black Fondant Silver Shimmer Dinosaur Cake Confetti Heavenly Hearts Wafers Gold Shimmer Stack O’ Hearts Wafers Love Notes Wafers Stack O’ Discs Wafers Handbag icing shape Daisy icing shapes Blossom icing shapes

It’s World Diabetes Day today. At Nicoletta we take the well being of our fans very seriously (this is why we are constantly working to ensure that the ingredients in our products are as “clean” as possible). These products represent some “sugar free” products that our diabetic fans might add to their “yummy goodies” to make them exceedingly special.

Our edible shimmer powders (in silver and gold) will add sparkle to your creations, without containing sugar. In fact, this product has no calories at all!

Nicoletta wafer products do not contain any sugar and are made from wheat / potato starch and beetroot juice. Wafers available from Nicoletta include Heavenly Hearts (mini heart wafers), Love Notes (large heart wafers), Stack O’ Hearts, and Stack O’ Discs as well as the popular Edible Paper Pack – ideal for making those personalised edible greeting cards and special messages “that will self destruct” by eating!

Our Stationery for Cakes food colouring markers are also free from sugar, and are a perfect way to write a yummy note on loved ones food (i.e. any smooth, dry, hard edible surface).

We hope that all our diabetic/ pre-diabetic friends will feel comforted that some sugar free cake decorations are ready for them to use.