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She has been gluten-free for 12 years after being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.
"Out of pure frustration I got my apron on and began re-creating all the things I missed eating."
She then posted them on her blog and began to share them on social media and quickly accumulated followers.
Excell says instead of a bucket list of things to do before she dies, she has a bucket list of 100 things she wishes were gluten-free.
Being gluten-free made her realise that when you are told you cannot eat something you only crave it more.
She thought those 100 things were off the menu for good, but has
since discovered that is not true. By visiting gluten-free bakeries around the world and creating her own recipes she has worked out anything can be made gluten-free.
"Nothing needs to taste any different or look any worse. Nor do you need tons of strange unobtainable ingredients or a top-secret blend of gluten-free flour."
She has since made all 100 of her bucket-list foods gluten-free with "zero compromise".
Her recipe book, How to Make Anything Gluten Free, is a list of all the things she once thought she could only dream of eating.
"Now I can make them any time I want."
She includes handy lists explaining different types of flours and other ingredients she uses in the book as well as equipment.
The book starts with a chapter called "essentials" and then moves on to breads, breakfasts and brunch (waffles, breakfast bars) starters and snacks (samosas, spring rolls), "fakeaways"(KFC, pizza, beer battered fish and chips), home comforts (chicken pie, spaghetti carbonara), baking (birthday cake, cheese scones) and desserts (cheesecake, churros).
This versatile, buttery pastry can be used for either sweet or savoury pies by altering the sugar as needed.
Makes enough to line a 23cm pie dish
Takes 15 minutes + 25 minutes chilling
200g (1½ cups) gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1tsp xanthan gum
100g (scant ½ cup) very cold butter, cut into 1cm cubes
30g (2½ Tbsp caster (superfine) sugar, if making a sweet pastry case
1 large egg, beaten
3-5 tsp cold water
In a large mixing bowl, mix together your flour and xanthan gum.
Make sure your butter is really cold: if not, put it into the fridge or freezer until nicely chilled, then add to the bowl and mix it into the flour.
Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour to form a breadcrumb-like consistency. Make sure your hands are cool as we want to avoid the butter getting warm! Stir in your sugar, if making sweet pastry. Add in your beaten egg and, using a knife, carefully cut it into the mixture. You don’t want it to come together just yet, so don’t use your hands to push it together even if it feels like you could.
Add the cold water a teaspoon at a time, using your knife to cut it in. The mixture will start to really come together at this point. I find that, at around three teaspoons, it’s about the right consistency to push together into a ball with my hands. It should be a little sticky to touch but not unmanageable.
Wrap the dough in cling film (plastic wrap) and leave to chill in the fridge for around 25 minutes before using. You can freeze this pastry for up to two months; defrost fully before using.
Tip: Chill! Using cold water, cold butter and chilling the dough makes your gluten-free pastry stronger and more workable. Making any type of pastry on an incredibly hot day isn’t advisable, as the warmer your dough is, the more fragile it will become.
Prep time 1 hour
Dairy free: Use dairy free milk and cheese and cream alternative
Low Fodmap: use lactose-free cream / milk
1 quantity of gluten-free shortcrust pastry chilled for 25 minutes
gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour for dusting
120ml (½ cup) milk
200ml (generous ¾ cup) double (heavy) cream
200g smoked streaky bacon, grilled or fried, then diced
100g extra mature Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper
Once your shortcrust pastry is prepared, you’re only five simple ingredients away from a quiche like no other. With beautifully buttery pastry filled with smoky bacon and a creamy, cheesy egg filling, you’ll have to fight the muggles away from this one!
Remove your pastry from the fridge. If it feels really firm, leave it out at room temperature briefly. Don’t handle your dough excessively as this will warm it up and make it more fragile.
Lightly flour your rolling pin.
On a sheet of non-stick baking parchment, roll out the dough to a large circle, 2mm thick. Transfer the pastry to a 23cm fluted tart tin (pan), by supporting the pastry as you gently invert it into the tin, with equal overhang on all sides. Peel off the baking parchment.
Next, use your fingers to carefully ease the pastry into place so that it neatly lines the tin. Lift the overhanging pastry and, using your thumb, squash 2mm of pastry back into the tin. This will result in slightly thicker sides, which will prevent your pastry case from shrinking when baked. Allow the remaining overhang to do its thing — we’ll trim it after chilling it.
Lightly prick the base of the pastry case with a fork and place in the fridge for 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 180degC fan/200degC and place a large baking tray in the oven to heat up.
After chilling, use a rolling pin to roll over the top of the tin, removing the pastry overhang. Loosely line the base of the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans (or uncooked rice if you don’t have any). Place the tin on to the heated baking tray in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the baking parchment and baking beans, then bake for a further five minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large jug, beat together the milk, cream and eggs, then season generously with salt and pepper. Remove the pastry case and baking tray from the oven and work quickly from this point so the baking tray doesn’t lose its heat.
Spread the crispy bacon and three-quarters of your grated cheese evenly across the base of the pastry case. Pour the egg mixture into the pastry case, then top with your reserved cheese. Carefully place back in the oven (ensuring you don’t spill any!), still on the hot baking tray, and cook for 30 minutes. Once cooked, it should look lovely and golden brown on top, a little risen and not "jiggly".
Allow to cool for five minutes before removing from the tin and serving warm with a rocket (arugula) salad.
Tip: If you don’t have time to make your own pastry, use store-bought gluten-free pastry instead.
I decided to combine my two favourite desserts for this one: an apple pie and an apple crumble. And I’m so glad I did! With buttery pastry, tons of sticky, thinly sliced apple, topped with a crispy, crunchy, crumble topping, this pie is almost too good to share.
Prep time 1 hour
Dairy free — use a hard dairy-free butter alternative
1 quantity of gluten-free shortcrust pastry, chilled for 25 minutes
gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting
For the filling
80g (6½ Tbsp) light brown sugar
15g (1 Tbsp) butter
600g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced into short 5mm slices
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
For the crumble topping
85g (7 Tbsp) light brown sugar
100g (¾ cup) gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
85g (generous ⅓ cup) butter, melted and cooled
Remove your chilled pastry from the fridge. If it feels really firm when you take it out, leave it out at room temperature briefly before rolling it. Don’t handle your dough excessively as this will warm it up and make it more fragile.
Lightly flour your rolling pin. On a sheet of non-stick baking parchment, roll out the pastry into a large circle, 3mm. Transfer to a 23cm fluted tart tin (pan), by supporting the pastry as you gently invert it into the tin, with equal overhang on all sides. Peel off the baking parchment.
Next, use your fingers to carefully ease the pastry into place so that it neatly lines the tin. Lift the overhanging pastry and, using your thumb, squash 2mm of pastry back into the tin. This will result in slightly thicker sides, which will prevent your pastry case from shrinking when baked. Allow the overhang to do its thing — we’ll trim the overhang after chilling it.
Lightly prick the base of the pastry case with a fork, then place it in the fridge for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180degC fan / 200degC and place a baking tray inside to heat up.
After chilling, use a rolling pin to roll over the top of the tin, removing the overhang and flattening down the pastry. Loosely line the base of the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans (or uncooked rice if you don’t have any). Bake in the oven on the heated tray for 15 minutes, then remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to fully cool.
Next, prepare your crumble topping. In a bowl, mix your sugar, flour, vanilla and cooled melted butter together until well combined, then chill in the fridge until needed.
To prepare the pie filling
Place a large saucepan over a low heat and add your brown sugar and butter. Allow to fully melt before adding your apples, cinnamon and lemon juice. Mix to coat the apples and gently simmer until some of the juices begin to appear. Sift in your cornflour and immediately mix to ensure it doesn’t go lumpy. Continue to cook your apples until the juices thicken and the apples are ever so slightly softened. You don’t want them to be mushy! Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
To construct the pie, spoon your apple filling into the pastry case. There shouldn’t be any thin juices, just the thickened juices as a result of the cornflour. Sprinkle chunks of the chilled crumble all over the top of the apples. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the crumble top is golden.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or my quick thick custard.
Tip: If you don’t have time to make your own pastry, use store-bought gluten-free pastry instead.
Crusty white sandwich loaf
For years, I believed that gluten-free bread always had to taste worse than "real" bread. But after trying bread at some of the game-changing gluten-free bakeries in Barcelona, I realised that anything was possible! With a wonderful crusty exterior and an exceptionally soft and springy middle, I finally made a loaf that I can honestly say doesn’t taste gluten-free at all.
Makes 1 loaf
Takes 1 hour 10 minutes + 30-45 minutes proving
475ml (scant 2 cups) warm water
10g active dried yeast (ensure gluten-free)
25g (2 Tbsp) caster (superfine) sugar
180g (scant 1½ cups) gluten-free rice flour
190g (scant 1½ cups) gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp xanthan gum
25g psyllium husk powder (ensure gluten-free)
2 tsp cider vinegar
80g egg white (about 2 large eggs)
butter or oil, for greasing
In a jug (pitcher), stir together your warm water, yeast and sugar. Allow to stand for 10 minutes until nice and frothy.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add both flours, the xanthan gum, psyllium husk powder and salt. Mix together until well combined, then add your vinegar, egg white and frothy yeast mixture to the dry ingredients.
Either in a stand mixer fitted with a beater attachment or using an electric hand whisk, mix on a high speed for 3-5 minutes until well combined. It should look like a very thick, sticky batter. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes — this bread batter is very wet, and resting it is super important.
Lightly grease a bread tin (pan), about 26×12cm and line with non-stick baking parchment.
Pour your rested mixture into the lined tin, ensuring that it’s nicely smoothed out and level. Loosely cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and leave to prove in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, until noticeably risen. Proving can take longer on a cold day, so keep an eye on your loaf!
Preheat your oven to 240degC fan/260degC (or as hot as your oven will go if it doesn’t reach these temperatures). Place a large roasting dish at the bottom of the oven and boil a kettle.
Dust the top of your loaf with a little flour and slash the top of the dough three times using a sharp knife. Place in the preheated oven and immediately add a mug’s worth of boiling water to the roasting dish. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 200degC fan/220degC and bake for another 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from the oven. Carefully remove from the tin and tap the base to check that it feels and sounds hollow — if so, then it’s done. Place on to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.
Tip: If you want an even crustier crust, once the loaf is cooked, remove it from the tin and allow it to cool in the warm (switched off) oven with the door open.