Here at Expat Living, we’re happy having VICTORIA YIM as an editorial intern – not only for her hard work and enthusiasm, but for the delicious cakes and cookies she’s forever bringing in for morning tea. They’re gluten-free cakes, too – for a very good reason.
When I was 14, my mother took me to see a naturopath, who told me I was never to eat gluten again. I had a gluten intolerance, otherwise known as coeliac disease. In short, this amounts to a high sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
Gluten intolerance is an autoimmune disease, whereby the body identifies gluten as harmful. It can cause damage to the small intestines and, potentially, malnutrition and osteoporosis. Blood tests and intestinal biopsies are usually employed to test for coeliac disease.
Health-related risks aside, eating a gluten-free (GF) diet proved something akin to torture. Initially, colleagues and acquaintances deemed me “difficult” on account of my special requests and requirements. Fortunately, everyone seems more accommodating about GF diets now.
Another issue with eating gluten-free foods is getting accustomed to new tastes and textures. I’m a cake-aholic, but GF cakes are often dense, gritty and even bland. Because of this, I started baking my own and documenting the journey on my blog (https://vickys.wordpress.com/).
GF baking will always be a challenge as gluten provides the characteristic stretch in breads and cakes, which no single GF grain can replicate. To mimic wheat flour, I like to use various flour blends. It works well.
I now take custom orders for those who are on a GF diet, or anyone who enjoys a sweet and delicious treat.
Asian-Inspired Sticky Date Pud
This is my favourite GF and dairy-free sticky date pudding. GF flour blends can be bought from most supermarkets, along with gula melaka (palm sugar), five-spice powder and tamarind paste. This dessert is best served warm, drenched in caramel with a side of dairy-free ice-cream.
Ingredients (serves 10)
220g dates, pitted
1 cup water + ¼ cup water
1½ cup GF flour blend
¼ cup buckwheat flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
cup canola oil
¼ cup gula melaka
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon five-spice powder
2 large eggs
• In a medium-sized covered saucepan, bring dates and one cup of water to boil for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and mash into a thick paste. Add ¼ cup water and baking soda. Mix well.
Let cool to room temperature.
• Preheat oven to 180˚C, fan-forced. Grease an 8-inch round baking tin.
• Sift flours and baking powder in a bowl.
• In a separate bowl, machine-whisk the gula melaka, brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy
(three minutes on high). Thoroughly blend in the oil.
• Tip the flour mixture into the egg mix in two lots, mixing well after each.
• Add date mixture and whisk until fully combined.
• Pour into baking tin and reduce oven to 170˚C.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until inserted skewer comes out clean.
THE TOPPING – tamarind coconut caramel
200ml coconut cream, room temperature
¼ cup gula melaka
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon non-dairy butter
2 teaspoons tamarind paste (optional)
• In a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat, dissolve first 4 ingredients, stirring constantly.
• Bring to a rapid boil for 5 minutes; be careful – it may splatter. Do not agitate the mixture.
• Remove from heat and allow bubbles to settle before whisking in the tamarind paste.
• Strain to remove tamarind seeds and leave to cool until ready to use with the pudding.