Thursday, 22 November 2012

Gluten free panettone

There is one item of Christmas food  that I have really missed since I went onto a gluten free diet and that is panettone.  I first ate panettone when I was living in Italy in 1970.  It started to appear around the beginning of Advent and was popular at all times of the day.  It became particularly significant for me because that Christmas it was only thing the Australian friend I was with and I had in the way of Christmas food.  We had a 'great adventure' travelling from Turin to Rome in a Fiat cinquecento with no heating and a radiator that kept boiling.  We went through the Appenines in the dark in a blizzard, not on the autoroutes (to save toll charges as we were all broke) and this year on my holiday I was eagerly trying to see if I could recognise any of the places we passed through.  I didn't, which is hardly surprising but after forty years I did sort out the geography.  In 1970 we finally arrived in Rome at 2 am on Christmas morning and ended up in a pensione near the station.  Next day we woke up at lunchtime and set off to find something to eat.  What we did not realise was that in Italy everyone ate on Christmas Eve and by the afternoon of 25th December this part of Christmas was over (the second part is Epiphany) and all the restaurants were closed.  So we went back to the pensione and ate the panettone one of my students had given me as a Christmas present.  We did not have a knife so we cut it with a stainless steel tailcomb. (Those were the days of much back-combing).

Cutting the panettone with a stainless steel tailcomb became a family tradition which we kept up for a long time but in the end there were no tailcombs around and we started to cut it normally.

Gluten free Christmas baking is not difficult: cake, mince pies and pudding are easy but panettone is much more of a problem so I just had to give it up.  However, this year I am determined to have it.  Thanks to the internet I found several recipes.  In the end I opted for one by an American but like most recipes it assumed you had a stand food mixer e.g. a Kenwood Chef, in which to make it.  I have only ever owned a food processor so it began to look as though I would have to have a Kenwood Chef as a Christmas present.  Just one problem: we have no bench space left for one or space to store the attachments.  So I looked in my Magimix cookbook and it claimed you could make bread although obviously it does not have a variable speed motor which means you cannot beat the dough/batter for ten minutes as recommended in the recipe I used.

Today was the day to do a trial run.  I decided that if it did not work, it did not work.  Gluten free bread will not rise much and you have to add eggs to it to make it stick together.  This recipe is really heavy on the eggs as it has four plus a yolk.  You end up with a sort of batter which you then put straight in the tin and leave for an hour to see what happens!

It did rise a bit but I forgot to take a photo before it went in the oven.  It also cooked perfectly so I think I can say it was a success.

It is a bit more cakey in texture than the ones you buy in the supermarket and I am a bit concerned that as there are only two of us, we will not be able to eat it all up quickly enough.  However, I then remembered that panetone bread and butter pudding is quite a trendy dish.

Now I need to try making bread in the Magimix.  The bread I have been buying for the last two years is now only available sliced.  The slices are very thin and collapse if you try to use them for toasted sandwiches or if you freeze the bread.   My husband is a keen bread maker but gave up when I went gluten free as it is hardly worth making bread for one person.  Obviously making bread this way is not the same as traditionally kneading it but I intend to have a go using the recipe on the back of the Doves' flour packet.  It would mean that I can have unsliced bread which I much prefer.


Like a number of other people in the Contemporary Quilt group, I am making bookwraps for the tombola at next year's Festival of Quilts.  I have made quite a few book covers in the past but I began this project by thinking that it would be good to have something I could make by hand while I was on holiday.  So I put together two small collages that could be Kanta stitched and took them to Italy.  Of course I had no time to work on them then but I have now finished them.  They are both supposed to be A6 size which is about as small as you can go.  The first one is fine.

However, I have a problem with the second one.  I decided to give it a binding rather than satin-stitching it, and lo and behold when I had finished it I could not fit the book in it because of where the seams are!

A pity as it looks quite nice otherwise.  I will have to see if I can find anything really tiny to go in it.  As everything I make will have to be posted I am generally not planning to include books in mine because of the postage.

I am now a bit bored with Kanta stitching so, like Margaret Ramsay lI have dug out various leftovers from previous projects and propose to use them as the basis of the next few.  Like most quilters I was taught early on never to throw anything away but there comes a point at which stuff needs to be used.  So far I have found:

Some pieces of dyed and/or printed fabric.  Most of these will have to have strips added to them.

Two pieces I made when teaching myself to use a soldering iron.

I had a nice time stitching these and added beads to the second one.  I fear they may be a bit too 'raised' for book covers but I will see.  Then I found a plastic envelope with  left over embellishments.

Some of these were made on workshops I did with Jenny Rolfe who also taught me to make book covers.  There is more than one way of doing book covers and I intend to use both Jenny's method and the method being promoted for the tombola project.  http:

I know I have various other leftovers: blocks, a couple of Mola blocks that did not work etc. etc. so I have plenty to keep me going.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Visit to Totnes

Last Friday I went to Totnes in Devon to see the exhibition by South West Textile Group. This is a group of professional textile artists living and practising in the west of England.  They represent a wide range of textile art including felt, embroidery, weaving and quilting.  The only person I knew with work in the exhibition was Alicia Merrett. I particularly enjoyed seeing how she used fabric by Heidi Stoll Weber /which I know she buys rather than dyeing her own.

I had completely forgotten that now my sister lives in Totnes it is quite simple to jump on a train and go there for the day.  We will draw a veil over the return journey when the train ran very late, apart from saying that I was fine as I had a fiendishly difficult map jigsaw puzzle on my iPad that kept me totally absorbed.  It was mostly the Pacific Ocean with tiny islands and the coast of Chile but when I got to the end I found there was a piece missing so it did not give me a gold cup for completing it!  My husband thinks it is hilarious that an electronic jigsaw should have a piece missing but I did hunt everywhere for it and even went back the next day to see where it had left me.  It appeared to be telling me that I had finished it.

I did not dare take any photos at the exhibition because of copyright issues but I am sure it will soon appear on the group's website. The theme was Colours of the Rainbow so lots of bright colours but I was really inspired by some of the pieces.  It was also interesting to see people using different fabrics and textures.  A couple of people had dyed African braid.  I first saw this braid in an exhibition at the Festival of Quilts a couple of years ago and bought some which I am about to use.  I have had to hide it from the cats because it smells - I seem to remember that it was cured in urine.  Mine is in 'natural dye' colours but I think these artists had bought white and then dyed it.  I had a catalogue but can no longer find it.  I also liked the way in which some exhibits were made up of small pieces that were then grouped in different ways.  Lots of ideas there for those of us who prefer to work small.

Totnes is a great town with lots of things going on. We went up to Dartington Hall  and had lunch in the bar.  Although I had been to the Dartington shopping village I had never been to the Hall.  It has wonderful gardens which we did not go round because it was a very gloomy day but I appreciated seeing the remains of the autumn colours.

I liked the white stems in this one - I think they would make good stitching lines.

We do not really get autumn down here because everything is so windblown.

I also  did not realise that there is a famous modernist house on the Dartington campus.  High Cross House  was built in the 1930s for the headmaster of Dartington Trust school and it has now been taken over by the National Trust.  For those of us who grew up with modernist architecture and furnishings it is wonderful.  My sister says they studied it when she was in architecture school..  In the house there was an exhibition of paintings by a Devon painter I had never heard of: Martin Procter  The paintings really fitted into the architecture but they also were quite inspiring for textile people.  I came home and Googled him and found all the paintings were on his website.