Christmas Tree Tear-and-Share Bread

This is a really simple, but effective idea.  You need to start with bread dough made from approximately 400g of flour.  I used Orgran Pizza and Pastry Multimix.  The Free From Fairy’s bread dough recipe would work too.  Of course, you lucky gluten eaters could just use wheat flour dough!

Take your bread dough and split it into two.  Take one half and split it into two pieces.  Then split each of those pieces into three smaller balls.  You should now have one big ball of dough and six little balls of dough.

Take two of the little balls.  They are going to be the trunk of the Christmas tree.  I used the bread dough as it was.  If you can eat cheese then topping those two rolls with cheese would give a nice, brown trunk.  Put these dough balls on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Now, you need to make the “baubles”.  Take three of the small balls and colour them by mixing in a red ingredient.  I used Pepperami to decorate these rolls.  If you can eat tomato then adding sun-dried tomato paste to the balls will give them a much stronger colour.  Put these three “baubles” to one side.

You should have the big ball of dough and one small ball of dough left.  Squish these together and colour these green by kneading in spinach.  I used 80g of frozen chopped spinach.  I defrosted this and squeezed the moisture out of the spinach before adding it to the dough.  You now need to split the big ball of green dough into seven small balls.  I did this by roughly separating the dough into two.  I split the “bigger half” into four small balls, and the “smaller half” into three small balls.

Now, you have seven green dough balls and three red dough balls.  Lay these out on top of the trunk in a 4 ball, 3 ball, 2 ball, 1 ball triangle shape.

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Finally, bake the Christmas tree as per your dough recipe.  I baked my tear-and-share bread at 200°C/400°F for 15 minutes.

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Morrison’s Free From Mince Pies

Gluten free and very nearly vegan mince pies

Ingredients – Mincemeat (45%) (sugar, apple puree, raisins, sultana, glucose syrup, currants, vegetable oils (palm, sunflower), glucose-fructose syrup, orange peel, spices, rice flour, acidity regulators (acetic acid, citric acid), lemon peel, dill, treacle, orange oil, preservative (sulphur dioxide)), Brown rice flour, Tapioca starch, Sugar, Vegetable oils (palm, rapeseed), Water, Ground almonds, Dextrose, Salt, Thickener (xanthan gum), Cornflour, Colour (plain caramel), Emulsifier (mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids).

May contain egg, other nuts and peanuts.

This was a pretty good find for a supermarket own brand.  If it wasn’t for that pesky “may contain egg” then these would be vegan as well as wheat free, gluten free and milk free.  The pastry was crisp, and the filling was plentiful and full of flavour.  My only complaint was that these were a little dry, although that’s a problem with mince pies in general, so they benefitted from being accompanied with something moist.  I went with Alpro Soya single cream.

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Advent Update

The Allergy Brothers are loving their Playmobil advent calendars and their picture advent calendars, which is fantastic.  I have finally cracked this after 6 years!  (I am a slow learner!)  I talked about all the different types of advent calendars that we have tried here.

I recently read about Reverse Advent Calendars.  The idea is that, instead of getting every day of December, you give an item of food.  I have often wondered how we would manage if we needed to rely on food banks; I can’t imagine that there would be very much food that the boys could eat available.

We live on the North Essex coast in the UK.  A few years ago, there were very high tides and storms; our house was at serious risk of flooding.  We had a few hours to prepare and move the most important items to the top floor of our house.  It was interesting what became essential.  I moved the boys’ medical records, their prescription medications, our photograph albums, our passports, and a stockpile of their food.  Since then, I have always wondered/worried what would happen if it became difficult for us to get the foods that the boys need.  This year I am preparing a free from foods reverse advent calendar for a local food bank.  I hope it makes someone’s life a little easier at a difficult point.  It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas…

 

Costa Mince Tart

On the first day of December, Costa sold to me,

A mince pie that was vegan and gluten free!

INGREDIENTS- Mincemeat (53%) (Sugar, Apple Puree, Raisins (Raisins, Sunflower Oil), Sultanas (Sultanas, Sunflower Oil), Glucose Syrup, Currants (Currants, Sunflower Oil), Candied Mixed Peel (Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Orange Peel, Sugar, Lemon Peel, Acidity Regulator: E330; Preservative: Sulphur Dioxide), Vegetable Suet (Palm Oil, Rice Flour, Sunflower Oil), Mixed Spice, Acidity Regulator: E260; Cinnamon, Treacle, Orange Oil), Pastry (46%) (Tapioca Starch, Rice Flour, Vegetable Margarine (Palm Oil, Rapeseed Oil, Water, Emulsifier:E471), Sugar, Brown Sugar, Ground Almonds, Water, Salt, Stabiliser: E415), Sugar Dusting (1%) (Dextrose, Cornflour, Palm Oil).

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Luckily, Costa make better mince tarts than I write song lyrics.  This was a very satisfying product.  The pastry was crisp.  There was a generous layer of fruit-packed mincemeat.  Usually, gluten free products are a bit puny and small, but this was an 80g beast of a mince tart.  A very good start to the holiday season.

Advent Calendars with Allergies

When I was a child, advent calendars meant poorly printed pieces of cardboard with small, tricky doors.  Towards the end of my childhood, chocolate advent calendars became a thing, but my Mum wasn’t impressed by this commercialisation of Christmas.  Goodness only knows what she thinks this year as we seem to have hit peak Advent Calendar.

Unfortunately, the Allergy Brothers aren’t able to take advantage of the more extreme advent calendars this year: Greggs bakery advent calendar (too gluteny), the various gin/wine/beer advent calendars (too underage), the Asda cheese advent calendar (too dairy), nor the Snaffling Pig pork scratching advent calendar (actually Allergy Little would probably love this as pork scratchings are basically a hybrid of his two favourite foods – crisps and Pepperami – so he needs to be kept away from this as long as possible for the good of his health).

We can’t even take advantage of the widely available Moo Free advent calendar, which is dairy free, gluten free, soya free, and vegan, but contains rice (an Allergy Brother allergen, no really!).  In the past we have tried the Hotel Chocolate dark chocolate advent calendar.  It is vegan and gluten free, but contains soya lecithin.  It is also good quality chocolate, which the Allergy Brothers found too much.  Two years ago, I even tried making my own chocolate coins as an advent calendar, which was a very bad idea.

This year, I think we have advent sorted.  I need to get over my childish obsession with chocolate advent calendars.  We have lovely traditional picture advent calendars provided by family friend, J, and I have finally accepted that a toy advent calendar might be the way to go.  Obviously, I can’t reveal exactly the type (click here to see what we chose), but I think it will have lots of play value beyond the Christmas season.  There are a lot to choose from with all the main toy manufacturers producing them: Lego, Megabloks, Schleich, Playmobil, Disney, Paw Patrol, etc.   I did balk at the price, but I reasoned that the Allergy Brothers miss out on lots of food treats throughout the year, and I could deduct it from Santa’s budget.  So it turns out that the answer to advent calendars with allergies might not be food at all, although the Diptyque calendar might be a step too far.