Review by "I AM THE GFB" - April 28th 2016
Last month, I wrote to Make It Gluten Free, a relatively new company who – as you can guess by the name – offer a range of fabulous gluten free foods. More specifically, they encourage you to ‘Make It…’ with their mouth-watering range of ‘…Gluten Free’ kits! Encouraged by Glenn at Make It Gluten Free HQ to choose two or three contrasting mixes to try, I was instantly faced with a dilemma.
Two brands are marketed via the website, both hailing from America, both intent on allowing gluten free-ers the same ‘quick mix’ privileges as the non-gluten intolerant. 1-2-3 Gluten Free and Simple Mills enable you to create brownies, muffins, cakes, waffles, cookies, pizza dough, pancakes, breads… a vast choice of appealing ‘convenience bakes’, catering for all preferences!
Want to find out more? Of course you do! You can visit the main site here
If you, like I, are restrained by a budget (and waistline!) and have difficulty choosing, ask yourself the following:
* Do you like almond flour?
* Is your diet restricted by types and quantities of sugar?
* For how many people are you catering?
The reason I start with these, though you will discover so many more considerations upon visiting the site, is the Simple Mills kits are all almond flour based, whereas the 1-2-3 Gluten Free range uses different flours. Simple Mills ‘sweet’ kits contain coconut sugar, whereas 1-2-3 Gluten Free ‘sweet’ kits contain more typical sugars (e.g. brown sugar). Simple Mills kits are perfect for up to four people, whereas the 1-2-3 Gluten Free boxes all advertise they make ‘up to 2 x more than most brands’. Lots to consider isn’t there? Fortunately, these don’t break the piggy bank, meaning you can start with one from each brand if you like, then gradually discover what works for you.
Bustling A typical afternoon at Neal’s Yard Salad Bar
Why corn bread?
Whilst in London, my partner and I frequently ambled contently into town, wending and weaving our way via whichever streets we fancied, stopping for the odd Starbucks and rejoicing in the endless variety of live music along the way. It was on one of our summer ambles, after stopping near Bond Street to watch the most spine-shiveringly beautiful steel pan performers, we strolled on to the heart of Covent Garden, specifically Neal’s Yard. In the very centre lay a bustling open-front café with brightly coloured hexagonal benches immediately outside, in the middle of the narrow courtyard street. The simple counter setup displayed twelve or so sweet and savoury breads, all gluten free, some made from rice, some made from corn.
The flavour and texture of my first freshly baked, warm, muffin-style filled bread shall forever sit at the forefront of my memory. I bought three, chorizo and cheese being the first to tempt my senses with its incredible aroma and lightly oiled, crisp crust. Crunch! From the little Bread for One oozed the most magical flavour. Light and fluffy within, half inch cubes of ‘just cooked’ chorizo sat at the core, accompanied by a little mild cheese and the main event, the bread itself. I can tell you about them all – chicken and sweetcorn followed, then a rice based tomato bread, also warm from the oven – but words cannot do justice. Just before leaving London last year, having left this part of our whirlwind tour until last, we were truly devastated to discover the wondrous café had gone.
What we sense and what we eat evokes the most vivid memories, launching our mind’s eye back to a situation, conversation or the most obscure of details at the speed of light. I will forever love corn bread because of that first, most powerful encounter six years ago.
What’s in the box?
Micah’s mouthwatering southern style Corn Bread baking mix consists largely of cornmeal, corn starch and corn flour. There is enough to make around 16 pieces of bread.
In addition to a box of this, you need eggs, buttermilk, milk (or milk substitute) and butter. That’s it! Actually, it’s not; apparently you might need 38g sugar. It’s an optional ingredient. I cannot imagine there is any cause for its addition.
This is from 1-2-3 Gluten Free, therefore makes more than enough corn bread for our family of 2 (plus Beagle, but she is definitely not allowed this!). With this in mind, alongside my intention to experiment a little, I divide the dry mix into two equal batches.
To make the first batch, I follow the ingredients listing and method exactly, omitting the sugar. It’s worth mentioning the only dairy milk we drink is skimmed milk so this’ll be a low fat bread.
Freshest eggs from (l-r) Hetty, Geraldine and Lily
Our Hetty has laid a beautiful egg specially for the occasion. I can honestly say the difference between ‘shop’ eggs and those from our roaming, happy hens is staggering. Lining the smaller of my loaf tins – a little deeper than I could do with – in goes the golden mix at 185c fan (215c minus 20c for fan minus another 10c for our temperamental range oven). The cooking time of 20 minutes should be exactly the same for half the batch as the tin is half the size, therefore the depth of the bread would be the same had I made the lot and baked in a tin of twice the surface area.
Riiiiiiiing! The timer goes off and out comes the bread. It smells gorgeous! Hmm… my next batch has to go in a shallower tin as the raised sides of this one have caused an enthusiastic rise in the centre, similar to that of a rustic madeira cake!
The flavour is absolutely superb, just like that of the Neal’s Yard bread. Oh wow! I actually can’t stop eating. It’s grainy, hearty, with a warming goodness that cannot be matched by other types of bread. It is basic, bright yellow in colour with a most perfect crust. I LOVE it!
Making it again
Not one to make do with anything less than perfection, I get straight on with round two. I just need to get the height perfect. What to do…? I search for the perfect vessel. Aha! I’ll divide the second half into two lots and bake in my small round cake tins, which should be of an ideal depth!
As I loved the simplicity of the plain bread, one tin shall contain the same, sugar omitted again. However, this time, I will not be using buttermilk as there is not any in the fridge, meaning I will be trying to mimic the curdling by doing as the footnote suggests, adding 5ml lemon juice to 80ml milk and letting it stand (half the quantities listed as using half the pack). Exciting!
Whilst awaiting the magic buttermilk process, I finely chop a red chilli and loosely tear a couple of slices of chorizo. Heating a dribble of chilli oil, I flash fry the two together in a pan to release the oils of the chorizo and maintain the crunch of the chilli. Two minutes later, I leave it to cool.
Fascinated by the fake buttermilk, which has sat curdling in a jug for 25 minutes, I prepare the batter in no time at all then pour half into one tin and almost fill the other tin, stopping a cm or so from the top. Evenly spooning over the chorizo and chilli mix, I whip out the Microplane and cover with finely grated vintage cheddar. This has to be good! Finally, on goes the remainder of the mix, ever so gently, to maintain what I hope will be an element of surprise and a pretty pattern when cut!
Is it any good?
It is wonderful!
As you can see from my photographs, both breads turned out just as I hoped. The depth of these round tins, filled almost to the top, enabled a more even rise and they look so pretty!
Both breads taste superb, though I could have been more generous with the cheese. In terms of what it’ll do to your waistline, you will be pleased to know the little bursts of chorizo, chilli and cheddar will do no harm as they are just that, little bursts. More cheese = more fat, which doesn’t work for me. Also, I love the charm of corn bread in its natural state so why mask its beautiful simplicity?
There absolutely will be a next time, with three varieties of bread to cater for all tastes! I managed to refrain from eating a segment of each to test whether they last, which they do, though leaving dry crumbs after two days. To refresh, moisten slightly, wrap in foil, put in the oven on a low temperature for a few minutes and spread with a little butter.
I am really impressed with this bread. It brings with it high hopes for other kits from the same range.