As I’ve experimented with gluten free, dairy free baking I’ve come across a whole world of amazing ingredients, many of which I’d never heard of before, so I thought it might be useful to provide a bit of info about these ingredients; what they are? why I use them? Where you can get them from? etc So here goes! This is work in progress so if you want me to add anything to it just let me know – I’ll be adding ingredients as I go along! 🙂
For most of the ingredients you can click on the highlighted words and it will link you to a site to buy them from.
Agave Nectar/ Syrup – Agave nectar is a natural sweetner made from the Agave palm. It’s used as a sweetner by people trying to follow a low or no sugar diet and avoiding refined sugars and artificial sweetners. It’s excellent natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. It is completely pure, organic, unrefined and free from any processing chemicals. It is lower in calories than sugar and 25% sweeter so less is required to gain similar sweetness to sugar. It also has a lower gylcaemic index than sugar. For vegans it’s a great alternative to honey as well. It can be used in baking, or drizzled on cereals or in tea etc. There is a light and a dark type – it’s just a matter of preference to be honest. In most baking I prefer the light version, but the dark one is useful for things like gingerbread, dark cakes or over fruit and nuts etc. There has been some controversy recently over Agave as the quality and fructose content can vary quite a lot, if this worries you then you might prefer to use sweet freedom (see below). If you do go for Agave I would recommend one of two brands – either the Biona Agave or the Groovy Food Agave.
Chia seeds are the seeds of the Chia plant, Salvia hispanica, which is actually part of the mint family of plants and is native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. The seeds are an important food crop in central and southern america but have only recently become availabe in Europe.
The seeds are small and resemble poppy seeds. They are rich in omega-3- fatty acids and high in protein and fibre. They also contain good amounts of the essential minerals phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium and sodium. The combination of soluble and insoluble fibre make these an excellent food to be eating to keep you digestive system happy and because of the way they absorb water they’re also great at helping you feel full. They can be eaten raw – I like them sprinkled on yoghurt or muesli, or incorporated into protein balls, or sprinkled over salads. But the clever little chia seed also has another fantastic use, and that’s as an egg-replacer in baking. The basic rule of thumb is 1 tbsp chia seeds soaked in 3 tbsp water to replace each egg in the recipe.
The chia absorbs the water and becomes gelatinous so it’s great for replacing egg in recipe that uses eggs as a binding agent (e.g. muffins). You can even make a feature of them like I have in my lemon chia muffin recipe. You can buy them here
Pure Protein Powder – This stuff is amazing! I was always a bit dubious of protein powders, aren’t they for body builders, not for “normal” people like me? Well actually we could probably all do with upping the amount of protein in our diets, especially those of us who are active, and this is my go to for that. Plus it tastes divine! It’s dairy free and gluten free and has a yummy vanilla flavour. I use it in my chocolate pud truffles which were featured on Pure Form Fitness Kitchen blog. I also use it in smoothies and in my porridge for a warming comfort breakfast. You can buy it here.
Sweet Freedom – This is another natural sweetner which is an alternative to processed, refined sugars, articifical sweetners and honey. This is made from fruit (apples, grapes and carob), it’s all natural with nothing added. It has a lower fructose content than Agave and other sugars (only 25% fructose) which means it’s particularly suitable for diabetics or those trying to control their insulin levels. It also has a lower glycaemic index than Agave. What I love most about this is that it is made in the UK (Agave is imported from Mexico), so it’s a must sounder choice if you care about where your produce comes from. It can be used in the same way Agave is, though you may find you need a little less in recipes as it tends to be sweeter tasting. Like Agave it’s available in a light and dark version which is simply a matter of taste preference. You can buy it from elements for life here or from amazon here