This is hopefully the first in a series of posts highlighting small New Zealand businesses that sell great gluten free products nationwide. For this post, I interviewed the lovely Clare from Fudge and James. Hop over to the Fudge and James website if you’d like to order some of their delicious-looking goodies for yourself or head over to my Instagram page if you’d like to enter a giveaway to win a pack of their biscotti and a pack of their cookies (full details in the Instagram post).
But for now, welcome to Clare!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and about Fudge and James?
I’m a mum of 2 boys (8 months and 2 years) from the UK and have lived in NZ for 7 years. I started Fudge & James when I was on maternity leave with my oldest as I was going a bit stir crazy. It started off making biscotti with regular wheat flour but after 2 weeks of selling at markets I was diagnosed with coeliac disease (completely unexpectedly) so I decided to learn how to bake gluten free and Fudge & James- Gluten Free artisan bakers was born.
Where do you get inspiration for your delicious looking bakes?
I love food and have always had a major sweet tooth. I read lots of food blogs and love to curl up with a recipe book and a cup of tea and watching shows like Masterchef or the great British bake off. I’ve also travelled quite a lot especially in Europe and I love the relationship Europeans have with cakes and pastries. Coffee and cake or pastry in Europe seems to be part of every day life and not something they feel guilty about enjoying. I love a strong black coffee or espresso with something sweet, the bitterness of the coffee just cuts through the sugar. Biscotti is the perfect addition to every cup of coffee in my opinion.
From reading your blog on the Fudge and James website, it sounds like your baking process is similar to mine – read a bunch of recipes and then follow none as you experiment to come up with something delicious! I know a lot of people are more comfortable following recipes and that gluten free baking is very intimidating, especially when one first starts out – what advice would you give to someone new to gluten free baking?
Same advice as with any type of cooking or baking really and that is to try and understand the role that each ingredient plays in the recipe. So if Xanthan gum, for example, is added, find out why? What does that ingredient do to the recipe, what flavours and textures does it create in the finished dish. Google is your friend. Once you start to understand what each ingredient does in a dish you can begin to adapt recipes to what you have on hand or what flavours you like. Personally I never add an ingredient without knowing why I’m adding it. When I’m doing recipe development, it does take a lot of trial and error to get the best result, especially with gluten free baking. I always say I don’t mind when something goes wrong as long as I can work out why it went wrong. The most frustrating thing is when a recipe fails and I can’t work out what I did wrong. Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often any more.
You were actually diagnosed with coeliac disease a couple of months after I was, so we’re both about the same coeliac age! What advice would you give to someone who has recently received that diagnosis, based on your own experience?
First of all, it’s OK for it to be a big deal to cut out gluten. It was a huge deal for me as I was an avid baker and bread lover. If you’re someone with a passion for food it can seem as though a huge part of life has been taken away from you so take time to mourn that.
Then once you start to experiment you will find that almost everything can be made gluten free and once you get used to things you honestly won’t miss it too much any more. And if I can say that then anyone can!
For me, the hardest part is the social side and not being able to eat at parties, buffets and not being able to choose anything you want from menus etc. I really miss being able to go out to eat with friends and not have to ask lots of questions about how the food is prepared. You can feel very self-conscious and worry that the food will be cross contaminated BUT it really is a small price to pay for feeling so much better living gluten free. I didn’t think I had symptoms or reactions to gluten but when I cut it out I realised I had tonnes of symptoms like fatigue, malnourishment and chronic IBS that I had just lived with and thought were normal. Being free of those things is so liberating it is worth the extra precautions you have to take in social situations with food.
And finally, a bit of fun with some quick-fire questions…
Starter or dessert?
Dessert every time!
Cheese or chocolate?
Baking with the kids or baking without the kids?
Baking with the kids or baking without the kids? At the moment, as much as I’m enjoying introducing my oldest to baking, he is still a bit too young to be able to do much more than make a mess so without kids is more relaxing but I’m sure that will change as they get older.
Favourite biscotti flavour ever?
It’s got to be our salted caramel biscotti. Thet go so well with coffee, hot chocolate, ice cream or on the side of any dessert. Once you open the bag you wont be able to stop!
Thank you so much Clare!
If you would like to see a business featured here, please drop me a note via the contact form at the bottom of my about page!
All images in this post are © Fudge and James