Gluten free baking

Orange and almond cake


Last week I had sandwiches for lunch on two successive days and was reminded very quickly that I have a sensitivity to wheat. The bread was delicious (hence the successive days) but within minutes of my first bite I felt my nose feeling stuffy and my chest wheezy.

I decided that this past weekend I would attempt gluten free baking but had not really given any thought to what flours to use. A stop for coffee before a visit to the supermarket led me to an Orange and Almond cake recipe in a Good Taste magazine. The recipe was simple enough, but there was no source indicated.

I ended up buying almond flour, hazelnut flour and coconut flour and had a stock of ripe citrus fruits ready to be used. My first cake was an Orange and Almond cake adapted from the recipe I saw in the Good Taste magazine, and traced all the way back to a New York Times article that credits the recipe to Claudia Roden, from her book ‘Everything tastes better outside’.

The second was a Bittersweet citrus semolina and almond cake that includes orange, ruby grapefruit and lemon. Not gluten free, but it was a start.

My next task (should have been my first) was to unpack my Flavor Flours recipe book by Alice Medrich. A few months ago I was friended on Twitter by Alice Medrich and had no idea who she was. A few days later I saw her recipe featured on Food52 and nearly off my chair. A James Beard award winning baker whose most recent book was a delight of gluten free recipes!

It seemed like the answer to all my prayers since I had no idea where to begin to start my gluten free baking journey! Rather late than never.


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  • Reply
    September 22, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    As salamu alaikum Razena, can’t believe I only just discovered your blog now, I’m in love! I have been wanting to venture into cleaner desserts for a while now, however sometimes I get intimidated by the long list of ingredients, it seems like a science sometimes! Your bakes look beautiful maa sha Allah, inspired me to get going!

    • Reply
      September 28, 2015 at 1:00 am

      Wa alaykum asalaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

      Necessity is the mother of invention as the saying goes. I discovered a while back that I have a gluten sensitivity and that eating gluten actually seems to exacerbate the symptoms of my Rheumatoid arthritis. Although I try to stay off it, I do sometimes have a naan with curry or brioche with breakfast or a cookie with tea, and inevitably I will feel my immune system response within minutes. Alhamdulillah it’s limited to nasal congestion or perhaps a bit of wheezing and no coeliac like symptoms.

      A few months ago one of my cousins asked what recipe I had that was sugar free and fat free and I realized that I had none. I offered up the apple in my fruit bowl 🙁 .When I returned to Dubai after Eid at home in Cape Town, I realized that I had not actually enjoyed any of the summer fruits and I wanted to do a few recipes with the lovely berries and stone fruits available. And that’s how it started…

      I find that I prefer desserts with less sugar, less fat, less starch and in shaa ALLAH I will try to do more of those or try to make versions of my favorite desserts that are still lush but less diabolical. For my own health and those of my readers.

      From my own experience, I think that sometimes we resist change, even though we think we want it. I’ve known for a while about my gluten sensitivity but until recently had either avoided wheat products completely or had it now and then. I had never actually made an effort to investigate alternatives for myself. Primarily because I find commercially produced gluten free items disgusting and supposedly ‘healthy’ products to be loaded with hidden sugars.

      In shaa ALLAH I will start with some of the recipes in my Flavor Flours baking book and Salad lunches soon.

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