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!

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!

Please note that this post contains associate links, which help us fund this website.  Thank you.

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.

 

Wizard Rye Bread Wands

Allergy Big is heavily into Harry Potter at the moment.  This has given us an excuse to bring back one of his old packed lunch favourites : Rye Bread Sticks.  Here is a link to our original recipe; I hope you can see that our bread stick making technique has improved a bit!  It was fun making twisted bread sticks so they looked like wands.

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.

New Year Carrot Cake

If you have made a New Year’s resolution to eat more healthily then this is the recipe for you.

Ingredients

550g Free From Fairy self raising flour

225g maple syrup

275ml water

350g carrots, grated

175g sultanas

1 tbsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4.
  2. Sift the flour.  Combine the liquids, then stir into the flour mixture.
  3. Fold in the remaining ingredients, then pour into a lightly-oiled/lined cake tin.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool.20171201_132300

I removed a portion of the cake for Allergy Dad to eat without topping.  I used Betty Crocker Cream Cheese style frosting on the top with a sprinkling of cinnamon, which completely ruined the point of a healthy cake.  It’s the thought that counts, though…

 

14 Vegan, Gluten Free Treats to make before New Year

 

All these recipes are gluten free and vegan.  Perfect for treating yourself before the New Year’s Resolutions start!

  1. Gingerbread
  2. Jam Buns
  3. Chocolate Bark
  4. Banana Bread
  5. Chestnut and Cocoa Teabread
  6. Treasure Biscuits
  7. Chocolate Cake
  8. Rhubarb, Apple and Ginger Crumble
  9. Pineapple Upside Down Cake
  10. Jujube Energy Treats
  11. Fossil Biscuits
  12. Free Nut Butter Cookies
  13. Ombre Cheesecake
  14. Chestnut Shortbread

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.

20171217_111056

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.

20171217_115258

The Free From Fairy Flours

Firstly thanks to fellow Allergy Mum, Helen, for sharing this company with me.  The Free From Fairy makes wholegrain, gluten-free, wheat-free, and, crucially for us, rice-free flour blends.  Whoop!  I was eager to try this.  The plain flour blend contains teff, sorghum and buckwheat flours, and tapioca and potato starch.  We already knew that the boys can tolerate teff, buckwheat, tapioca and potato so sorghum was the only dicey ingredient.  For this reason, I wanted to start simple with a basic bread recipe using just water (350ml), yeast (2 tsp), olive oil (6tbsp), xanthan gum (1 1/2 tsp), salt (1tsp), and, of course, Free From Fairy plain flour (450g).  Inspired by the recipe on the side of the packet, which we sadly couldn’t follow exactly as it contained Allergy Brother allergens, I made a tear and share bread.  I hadn’t thought to do this before and the boys enjoyed the novelty of sharing food with us.

The first test is always “did anyone react to the food?” and I am very pleased to report that no one did.  The second test was flavour and texture.  The bread was soft inside with a good crust.  The teff flour gave the flour blend a pleasant, sour dough flavour.  This wasn’t as overpowering as just using teff flour on its own, which is a bit of an acquired taste.  As a final test, I left one piece of bread for the next day to try at breakfast to see how it saves.  It was edible, but definitely not as enjoyable as the evening before so I don’t think I could use it to make sandwiches for the boys to take to school.  Nonetheless, this was a good product that I was pleased to be introduced to.  I have some plans to test the flours in sweet baking as well soon so I shall report back further!