Is Prosecco gluten free and vegan?

I am developing our spring and summer cake ranges at the moment. After the success of our gin and tonic cakes, it seemed like a good idea to try another favourite drink in cake form. Prosecco is a delicious and much-loved Italian white wine, which seems perfect for a spring cake.

Let’s start with the good news. Is Prosecco gluten free? I would never say that all Prosecco is 100% gluten free, but I think it is fair to say, it is pretty much gluten free. Obviously, wines aren’t fermented from gluten-containing ingredients, like beer or whisky are, but there are possible sources of gluten contamination. For example, some wine barrels are sealed with a gluten-containing paste. It is possible that this gluten could contaminate the wine inside. However, Prosecco is produced using the Charmat-Martinotti method, which uses steel tanks, rather than casks or fermenting in the bottle. This means Prosecco is cheaper to produce, and removes the potential gluten source of the cask sealant. Hooray!

Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Is Prosecco vegan? Maybe. The Charmat-Matinotti method requires clarification of the Prosecco, after the second fermentation. This process is called fining. A fining agent is added to the wine to bond with suspended particles, such as grape fragments, and even soluble substances, such as tannins. Some fining agents are of animal origin: egg whites, casein from milk, gelatin, and isinglass from the swim bladders of fish (as an aside, how did anyone discover this? “Well, Gianni, we’ve tried tiger spleen and armadillo kidney, but it’s not clarifying the wine. Let’s give it one last go with a goldfish swim bladder and see what happens.”) Wines made using animal-origin fining agents may be a concern to vegans. The good news is that there are non-animal alternatives made from minerals, for example bentonite clay or activated charcoal. The only way to know is to check the brand of Prosecco you are buying. Luckily, the fantastic website, Barnivore, has already done the hard work for you. You can be sure that we will check the brands we use to make sure that they are vegan.

Is Prosecco gluten free and vegan? Very probably, and maybe!

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What the food is Xanthan Gum?

I recently had a complete baking fail.  I had a terrible migraine, but it was Cake Friday!  I knew the Allergy Brothers would be disappointed if I didn’t make them their Friday afternoon chocolate cake.  Unfortunately, in my bleary-eyed state, I reached for the Xanthan Gum packet rather than the baking powder packet; in my defence, they are the same shape.  Even more unfortunately, I noticed that the cake mixture had a very strange texture, but my overwhelmed brain couldn’t work out why so I baked it anyway.  The Allergy Brothers were not impressed to discover that I had basically cooked them a large, round, brown-coloured piece of chewing gum.  It was beyond horrible.  It did make me wonder “what is Xanthan gum?” though!  This is what I found out.

Is Xanthan gum a natural product?

No, Xanthan gum is a food additive, that is produced by fermenting a carbohydrate (a substance that contains sugar) with Xanthomonas campestris bacteria, then processing it.

Why is Xanthan gum used in food products?

Xanthan gum is often used to replace the effects of gluten in gluten-free baking.  Gluten is stretchy and gives gluten-containing baked goods a nice, airy texture.

Xanthan gum can also be used to add thickness, keep textures from changing, and hold ingredients in place.

Is Xanthan gum safe to eat?

It seems so.  Both animal and human studies  suggest that the worst side effects seem to be a bit of wind and laxative effects.  However, infants under the age of one year should not be given formula thickened with Xanthan-gum based products because of an increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

Can Xanthan gum cause allergic reactions?

Potentially in those who are hypersensitive to their allergens.  Xanthan gum is a product of a reaction involving a carbohydrate.  Whether the Xanthan gum causes a reaction, therefore depends on what that starting carbohydrate is.  It could be corn, wheat, soya, etc.  Unfortunately, this won’t be marked on the packet.  If you think you are reacting to Xanthan gum then it might be worth contacting the manufacturer to find out what carbohydrate substrate they use.  If they use your allergen, then it might be worth trying a different manufacturer, who may use a different starter carbohydrate.

Is Xanthan gum vegan?

Again, it depends on the starter carbohydrate.  If the starter carbohydrate is corn, wheat or soya then yes, the Xanthan gum is vegan.  If the starter carbohydrate is lactose (made from dairy whey), then it might not meet your definition of vegan.  The only way to find out is to contact the manufacturer.

 

Happy Birthday, Allergy Dad! (Vegan, GF)

I think it is fair to say that cake decorating is not my forté.  This always presents a bit of a problem because lots of cake decorating cheats have wheat, rice flour or coconut oil in their ingredients so the Allergy Brothers can’t eat them.

Allergy Dad is a big fan of the colour black.  He has an entirely monochromatic wardrobe.  I did think about making a cake with activated charcoal as an ingredient.  Unfortunately, I discovered that activated charcoal can decrease the effectiveness of medication by absorbing it.  This would be a bad idea for the whole family!

I was really pleased to find these edible black rose cake decorations online.  They are vegan, gluten free and Allergy Brother friendly.  I would definitely use this seller – Simply Toppers – again.  The roses looked beautiful, and I was amazed that they had packed them so carefully that they arrived in perfect condition.  In fact, Simply Toppers sell lots of other really nice cupcake decorations so I will probably be cheating by using their products again.
I used our regular chocolate cake recipe and Allergy Dad was able to have a cake he deserved, but that the Allergy Brothers could still eat.  Happy Birthday, Allergy Dad!

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Peanut butter and Chocolate Cookies (Vegan, GF)

Allergy Big’s favourite sandwich filling is peanut butter with Dutch chocolate breakfast sprinkles.  These cookies are the biscuit equivalent.  If you need a nut free recipe, then follow this link to biscuits made with Free Nut Butter.

Ingredients

  • 90g peanut butter
  • 40g sugar
  • 75g corn flour
  • 75g gram flour
  • 30g margarine
  • 60g chocolate chips (I had to make my own by chopping up Kinnerton chocolate bars)

Method

  1. Grease a baking sheet with margarine or line it with baking parchment.  Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Cream the peanut butter, margarine and sugar together.
  3. Stir in the flours and chocolate chips, and work together to form a soft dough.
  4. Take ping pong ball sized pieces of dough, and squash them flat into cookie shapes.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they are browning on the top.
  6. Leave to cool before removing from the baking sheet.

 

Fossil Biscuits

Updated recipe for improved clarity!

The dinosaurs went stomping all over our biscuits (and we learnt about how fossil tracks are formed). Idea stolen from Okido magazine.

Ingredients

  • 180g margarine
  • 120g sugar
  • 150g corn flour
  • 150g gram flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Also required – toy dinosaurs, toy insects, or similar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar together.
  3. Stir in flours and vanilla essence, and work together to form a soft dough.
  4. Roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes.
  5. Now make your fossils!  Either have your dinosaurs stomp all over the biscuits leaving footprints, or press your insects into the top of the biscuits to leave their mark.  Remember to remove the plastic toys before baking.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.  You could read about how dinosaur footprint fossils are formed here or you could watch these videos (Footprints reveal dinosaur chase or More detailed video for older children and adults about how fossil tracks are used in research) while you wait.
  7. Leave to cool before removing from baking sheet.