Brownie Cookies

Bake Your Love
Bake Your Love

Brownie Cookies… Did you know that you can actually make brownie cookies? Brownie bites, but more elegant.

And did you know The Adventuresome Kitchen’s Chocolate Lover’s TDF (to die for) Brownie Mix makes great cut-out (brownie) cookies? It does indeed!

We design our mixes to be as versatile as possible- because some days you want something a little more elegant than a simple brownie…something a bit more lovey-dovey.

Our Brownie Cookies recipe is also a perfect way to stretch the Adventuresome Kitchen’s gluten free brownie mix to accommodate a classroom full of sugar fiends ready to let out for a long weekend. There’s a reason the Valentine’s parties are at the end of the day!

See the recipe below for how to make these delicious bites, and if you need a last minute sweet for your sweet- click here and use code AWESOME6 until midnight tonight (2/12/15) for a crazy discount…

Why? Because I Love You!!

Baking Chocolate Cookies

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Breakfast Bread Pudding – A New Year’s Tradition

le petite arbre de NoelHappy New Year!! Do you have traditions for welcoming the New Year? Apparently we do, and it’s called Breakfast Bread Pudding. I’ve never been big on family traditions- mostly out of necessity, choosing the adventurous route of new activities and experiences based on our schedule and location… Somehow though, one snuck up on us.

I didn’t even realize it until the other day, when we were making our New Year’s plans with the Kitchen Divas in Training. Suddenly my oldest, who is at the age where she lives in an adult body but is still very much a young girl, burst into tears.

“NO! She emphatically cried. We ALWAYS have Breakfast Bread Pudding and watch the Rose Parade. We HAVE to do that!” I was a little surprised at her outburst of emotion, but mostly I was touched by how important this simple routine is to her. So just like that we have a tradition. Never again will I suggest New Year’s activities that don’t include Breakfast Bread Pudding and the Rose Parade.

Gluten Free Breakfast Bread PuddingThankfully, this is incredibly easy to make- less than 15 minutes of prep. You just need enough room in your fridge to let it sit overnight- ready to pop into the oven when you’re ready. Like many of our Adventuresome Kitchen recipes- our Breakfast Bread Pudding is designed to be played with. Change up the fruit or the bread, use eggnog instead of heavy cream (very tasty), or add some pumpkin.. See what magic you can make in your kitchen.

We’ll post our Breakfast Bread Pudding recipe below, but you can see the original blog post here– there’s an interesting commentary about settling for crappy food because we think we have no choice…still an issue 4 years after the original post.

However you welcome the New Year in your home, we wish you much laughter and many culinary adventures in 2015- in the kitchen and beyond!

Cheers & Happy Adventuring

Have you ‘Liked’ our Facebook Page? Post a picture of your Breakfast Bread Pudding and any changes you made!

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Gluten Free Pumpkin Pear Crisp

Pumpkin Pear Crisp- Not Just for the Holidays!
Pumpkin Pear Crisp- Not Just for the Holidays!

So I saw this cubed pumpkin in the store the other day and my imagination ran wild. Why not do a take on apple crisp but with pumpkin? Well here you are…pumpkin pear crisp!

We tried this first with apples and pears- which you can do, but ultimately settled on the pumpkin-pear combination. To complete the holiday spin on this dish- although it’s so good, you really should consider it anytime you can get pumpkin- we added dried cranberries and pecans.

Crisps are so easy and are a perfect canvas to experiment with flavor combinations- You have apples on hand and don’t want to go to the store? Use them, or a combination of apples & pears. Don’t like cranberries? Add figs, or candied orange peels. Hate nutmeg? Add ginger.. Add fresh ginger, or cloves, or, coconut…. you get the idea- make our recipe as is, or use it as a jumping off point and come up with your own cool twist on our recipe. The important thing is to go play in your kitchen. And if you can, make it a group event- grab someone to cook with you!

Oh yeah- one more thing… I don’t know about you, but I am *way* too busy these days to spend hours peeling fruit.  So I just don’t do it. If you prefer skinless fruit- good on you- and your dish will be finer for it. Just don’t feel like you have to peel it to make this recipe sing.

We’ll be bringing this to our neighborhood’s progressive dinner. And I guarantee you- no one’s going to know it’s gluten free!

Cheers & Happy Eating!

Have you ‘Liked’ our Facebook Page? Please do so, and if you make this recipe, post a pic of your pumpkin pear crisp, and any modifications you made! We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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The Best Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes..ever..

The Best Gluten Free Chocolate CupcakesIt’s National Cupcake Day!! Get yourself to the kitchen and make yourself a batch of the best gluten free chocolate cupcakes ever!

The history of the cupcake goes back to at least 1913. It differentiated itself from the pound cake recipe (a lb of sugar, butter, flour, eggs) with the following formula: 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 4 eggs, a heaping tablespoon of baking powder and a cup of milk… Cupcake vs. Poundcake…so simple, when you think about it..

Our recipe was originally conceived several years ago for the elder Kitchen Diva In Training’s 9th birthday. But, it’s so good we decided to repost today- we keep coming back to this recipe- sometimes making modifications like adding a teaspoon or two of chipotle powder, or a tablespoon of cinnamon, or even a bit of espresso powder.

We like this recipe because it has the following qualities: A slightly crispy top, a spongy but not too dry middle, light and fluffy, and of course….very chocolate-y…. making these the best gluten free chocolate cupcakes- ever!

The Ultimate Gluten-Free Chocolate CupcakesGluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key to this recipe is the buttermilk. Buttermilk, when reacting with baking soda and the acid from chocolate, undergoes this nice chemical reaction that adds air bubbles to the batter. I’ve also found that setting a hot (400 degrees) oven for the first five minutes, then turning it down for the rest of the baking helps too. The high heat helps encourage the lift and sets the structure so that the cupcakes don’t collapse.

Really, I don’t think you need to wait for a birthday to make these- think of something to celebrate and enjoy these tonight! Oh yeah- and give these to your gluten-full friends and see what they think! I guarantee they’ll be stunned…and happy!

* Have you ‘Liked’ our Facebook Page? Post a picture of your gluten free chocolate (or otherwise) concoctions there and we’ll share your pics!

 

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Gluten Free Chocolate Maple Bourbon Balls

Boozey Bourbon BallsPicture this: You get a last minute invite to a party- like *seriously* last  minute… “Hey, we’re having a party…in an hour…can you come?? And bring something??”  Or, your mother’s long-lost second cousin fourteen-times-removed calls you because she’s ‘just passing through’ and wants to stop by- in 25 minutes… Or, you’re Christmassed out, and are supposed to bring something- anything– to the Christmas dinner feast, and you’re out of time and ideas…

Have no fear!!! These delicious chocolate maple bourbon balls are just thing. They are lightning fast to put together- seriously- my friend Elke posted a pic of her version of these last night, and less than 20 minutes later I was in confection heaven. The original recipe as shared with me called for rum not bourbon, white karo not maple syrup, and traditional (ie gluten-bomb) ‘nilla wafers.

I just happened to have one half cup of bourbon left in the bottle, and prefer using maple syrup to karo most days. Instead of ‘nilla wafers, I used 3 boxes of Schär gluten free vanilla wafers- these are the skinny rectangles with the waffle tops and frosting in between…LOVED them as a kid- SO happy to have GF versions available now…

The best thing about this recipe? You get to play with your food and lick your fingers!! We thought about calling them Booze Balls, or Boozey Bourbon Balls, but really, as long as you call them delicious I’m okay! ;0

Wishing you and yours Happy Holidays and Much Good Food!

Happy Eating!

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Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie & Cranberry Pear Salad – 2 Easy Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes

Easy Make-Ahead Thanksgiving RecipesFor those of you who are working right up until the Holidays- I sympathize. For those of you who work retail, hospital shifts, night jobs, or more than one job- I really sympathize.

If you’re a working foodie- this time of year can be really tough to channel your inner Kitchen Diva, work, be attentive to family and friends, and take care of yourself… I know. I’m right there in the trenches with you this year… Happily, sales of my GF Pie Crust are out of control…I’m excited…but that also leaves little time for much else..blogging? Recipe development? Photography? Housecleaning??!!!?? Thankfully (or not-so-thankfully, depending on how you look at it) a malfunctioning mixer and a delay in an ingredient order left me with time to catch up on some much needed kitchen activity.

I am not hosting dinner this year..But, I still intend to eat well with a few friends and play in someone else’s kitchen. What’s on our menu? Easy stuff. Stuff I’m making tomorrow with the Kitchen Divas in Training so I can sleep in on Turkey Day and loll about in my pajamas taking in the Macy’s Parade with the girls while sipping a mimosa and enjoying a gluten-free scone! So what’s on the dinner menu??

  • Duck Confit (already made, you can check out the pics on our Facebook Page)
  • Smoked Chicken Liver Pate w/ Gluten Free Baguettes
  • Baby potatoes roasted in duck fat and truffle salt (pop in the oven at 400 and cook stirring occasionally until done)
  • Fresh Cranberry Pear Salad (Recipe Below- only 20 min to make and seriously delicious)
  • Roasted Brussels (Check out our Adventuresome Kitchen Recipe with Mint Sauce)
  • Roast Duck or Goose (we’re channeling our Pilgrim roots and dispensing with the Turkey (but I’m not making that!!)
  • Gluten Free Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie (Easy, No Bake, and all the Pumpkin Pie Flavors you love- Recipe Below)

Now that might seem pretty ambitious to some of you- but here’s the deal: With the exception of the baguettes which are a little more involved, everything else listed above is 10-15 minutes of prep and into the oven, or can be completely made in 20 minutes or less… My kind of food these days.. All of it can be made now or on Thanksgiving and still taste great.  My point? Even if you’re crazy busy this year and the thought of cooking makes you want to take a nap…pick one or two fast, easy recipes and eat well. Your tastebuds will be the first to Thank you!!

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Chickpea Salad (Garbanzo Bean Salad)

garbanzo bean salad

For many of us, the month of July is filled with celebrations. Canada Day (1st of July), Independence Day (4th of July),  or Bastille Day (July 14th) are just a few that come to mind. With celebrations including afternoon picnics, evening fireworks, and long hours in the hot summer sun, this is a perfect recipe for foodborne illness. So- what to bring to a picnic that won’t spoil or melt, and that will taste good warm or cold?

You could bring a summer pie. Gluten-Free pie is always a great option, especially when they’re packed full of fresh fruit. Check out these combinations here and here.

Gluten Free Maple Glazed Peach Tart

Or you could try out this colorful & delicious Chick-Pea Salad. This recipe is super easy and packed full of antioxidants. And, like most salads, the potential for variations is endless. There’s nothing in here that will spoil, and it tastes great both lightly warmed, or right from the fridge. A winning combination for an outdoor party. This recipe size is perfect for a complete meal for 4 people with leftovers, or to bring to a party. You can probably get 16-20 party sized servings

Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad

4 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained

1 large sweet potato, diced into cubes

1 large red onion, diced

1 pint of cherry tomatoes- the bigger ones sliced in 1/2

1 bag, or several bunches of spinach, de-stemmed if necessary, and sliced in large pieces

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil + extra for cooking

3 tbs red wine vinegar

1 tbs dried rosemary

1 tbs herbes de provence

salt to taste

gluten free chickpea saladDirections

Dice the sweet potato and onion. Place on a large cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and cook in a 350 degree oven until softened- about 30 minutes.

Drain chickpeas and place in a large bowl. For those of you who prefer to cook dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) soak 2 cups dried beans in water for 2 hours. Then cook over medium heat in salted water until softened- about an hour.

Add tomatoes. When the sweet potato onion combo has finished cooking, add to the bowl.

Place a large pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot add about 1tbs extra virgin olive oil and give the pan a little shake. Add the spinach and lightly saute until the greens are barely wilted- about 2 minutes. Add to the bowl.

Using a large spoon, gently toss all the ingredients together.

Drizzle the 2 tbs olive oil, and the red wine vinegar over the salad and gently mix again.

Sprinkle the rosemary and herbes de provence, and any salt you’d like to add over the salad and mix one last time.

Enjoy!

 

 

Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin PieIt’s Pi-Day! Pie Day….3/14 What better way to celebrate than with a gluten free chocolate pumpkin pie?

3.14 Pi… I was never great at geometry. And although I forget the exact formula to find the area of a circle, I do remember pi. However, I much prefer contemplating this circle of chocolate pumpkin pie perfection invented by none other than my oldest Kitchen Diva in Training. She has not yet engaged in the geometry struggle. I hope that when she does my negative feelings don’t rub off on her. And, if she struggles- I hope she remembers the joy she found in filling the area of this circle with something that brought a smile to our faces.

Make a pie today. Make several.. Roll out your dough and contemplate how many bites it will take to fill the tummies of those you love. That’s my kind of geometry.

The Kitchen Diva in Training with her creation
The Kitchen Diva in Training with her creation

 

Can’t get enough of Strawberry- Rhubarb? Try this pie

Berry Pies more your thing? Try these

Or if a twist on Apple Pie is what you prefer, try this.

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Chocolate Pumpkin Pie -makes 1 pie

This pie, based on my Oma’s pumpkin pie and redesigned by my daughter, is dense, creamy, and VERY easy to make. My kind of pie.

Ingredients

Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Pie1 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

2 TBS Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1/2 cup of small chocolate chips

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups pumpkin (this is slightly less than 1 can- if you like a super-pumpkinny flavor, use the whole can)

3/4 cup milk (we used 2%, but you could use a fatter milk, or even non-dairy)

Directions

Place all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until thoroughly incorporated. We used our stand mixer.  Pour into an unbaked (gluten free )piecrust and bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 50-55 minutes.

Gluten Free Pierogies

Gluten Free PierogiesNine and a half years ago, Mr. Kitchen Diva and I landed here in the midwest on a new adventure with nothing but our two kitties, a Ryder Truck full of mostly college-type furniture, and the apple of our eye- our eldest Kitchen Diva in Training. We had moved here for a job I took that among other things didn’t allow us to leave town during the holidays. That first year, far from friends and family, we were pretty lonely. But into our lives walked a Christmas Angel of sorts.

A fellow singer and adventurous chef took us under her wing and said “Let us be your family here!” She invited us for Christmas Dinner and didn’t bat an eyelash when I somewhat timidly mentioned my issue with gluten. In fact, she promptly set about making sure there was plenty on the menu I could enjoy. The twist in this story comes because everything on the menu was Polish. Kansas City has a very strong Polish heritage and community, and my dear friend and her husband both grew up in the heart of this community.

That Christmas, we were introduced to the delicious aromas and tastes of galumpkies, Traditional Polish Borschtborscht, and kapusto- all naturally gluten-free. We also tasted pierogies for the first time- yes, even me. My friend called a few days before Christmas saying she’d found a GF recipe for pierogies and would I like to come see how they’re made? Quite frankly, I was blown away.

Even after years of being GF, there are times when it still feels very awkward to disclose my dietary needs. There’s so much emotion tied up in food. Double that around the holidays. To this day, that simple act of hospitality has informed how I set my own table.

Treasured Polish Recipes for AmericansA few days before Christmas, the mini Kitchen Diva in Training (who was just more than two) and I arrived; aprons, rolling pins, and GF flours in hand to consult the grandmother’s Polish cookbook, and compare with a GF dough recipe we thought might work. A beautiful friendship was born in that warm kitchen 9 years ago. One that has sustained us, and led to many ensuing meals of Polish deliciousness. The pierogies? Not bad. Honestly, I didn’t care. I was so amazed someone cared enough to cook something special for me. We decided there was room for improvement, and over the years we’ve attempted to create Gluten-Free Pierogies off and on. A few years ago, Conte’s Pasta came out with their own version of Gluten-Free Pierogies. We started using them namely for the sake of time. Pierogies of any kind are an undertaking. We agreed there was still room for improvement.

Gluten Free Pierogi filled with potato-onion- cream cheese-green chile-bacon-chive filling.
Gluten Free Pierogi filled with potato-onion- cream cheese-green chile-bacon-chive filling.

Fast forward to this year, when for some crazy reason it seemed like I had gobs and gobs of time before Christmas. So I volunteered to tackle and improve our Gluten-Free Pierogies and bring them for Christmas Dinner. The traditional filling for Pierogies is a mixture of potatoes, onions and melted (usually cream) cheese. I got all ambitious and decided to improve upon this by adding green chiles, chives, and bacon. I even peeled the potatoes! Sadly, the filling was so delicious we gobbled it up while we were making and rolling the dough for the other fillings, and only made about 4!

We also made two additional fillings. The first blended crimini and black-trumpet mushrooms, onions, sour cream, rosemary & nutmeg. The second- butternut squash, onion, cream cheese, and sage.

According to the Polish Kitchen Diva, the dough we finally settled on ‘tastes like it should’. I don’t think there could be higher praise. Be warned- this dough is very delicate, and at times can fall apart. I found that a little water helped fix the cracks, and that in spite of the delicacy in rolling out the dough, it held up nicely through the boiling and frying steps.

On this Twelfth Night of Christmas, as we celebrate the end of a season and remember the gifts of the Magi- I invite you to remember those unbidden, seemingly small gifts you may have received from friend or stranger. The best gifts are usually not material. Rather they are acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and hospitality. May we all have the grace to receive such gifts, and the boldness to pay them forward.

Gluten Free Pierogies-makes 2-3 doz depending on the size

IngredientsGluten Free Pierogies

1 cup sorghum flour

1 cup millet flour

1 cup corn starch

1 cup potato starch

1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1/2 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 stick salted butter (if using unsalted, increase salt to 1tsp)

1 cup sour cream (full-fat)

ingredients for the filling are up to you

Directions

Gluten Free Pierogi doughBefore starting, have your filling ready to go, and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Allow all the dough ingredients up to room temperature- it’s important to let the butter get very soft.

Place dry ingredients in a stand mixer, or if working with a 1/2 batch, in a food processor. I actually prefer to make my dough in the food processor, so I work in 1/2 batches.

Give the dry ingredients a whirl or a few pulses so that they are sufficiently mixed together.

Mix the eggs and sour cream, and softened butter together. It should have a smooth consistency.  Add this to the dough. Mix or begin to pulse.  As soon as the dough has come together, pull it from the mixer/food processor and place on a large piece of floured (with cornstarch or tapioca starch) parchment. Break off a chunk of dough, and sprinkle with additional cornstarch (or tapioca starch). Knead gently, reflour, and roll to 1/8th inch thick.

Using a biscuit cutter, make circles in the dough and remove the scraps. Gluten Free PierogiesPlace a generous tablespoon of the filling in each center and gently fold the dough in half. Using wet fingers, press the dough together so that the edges are slightly scalloped. You can also use a fork to get a different look.

Note: This dough is very fragile and more prone to breakage. Overfilling will definitely lead to breakage. However, it’s easy to squish the dough back together again- they just won’t look as pretty.

Place 3-4 pierogies in the boiling water and cook for 5-6 minutes. They will begin to float to the top as they near readiness. Use a spider or slotted spoon to remove them from the water and gently shake them to remove excess water.

Gluten Free Pierogies boiling

 

If you are planning to fry and eat right away: Preheat a medium saute pan while the pierogies are boiling. Place a dab of butter in the pan (I am generous with my dabs, but the amount is up to you. You could even use Olive Oil).  Once the butter has foamed, place the boiled/shaken pierogies in the pan and fry on each side until they start to turn a nice golden brown. How long you cook is really up to you. I like the color of a longer-cooked pierogi, some prefer them gently warmed through and not golden brown.

If you are saving for later use: you may place the boiled pierogies in a storage container (I used a stainless steel mixing bowl) and place a little butter on them. The heat from the pierogies will melt the butter, and help prevent sticking when you’re ready to fry them. Seal. I have read that pierogies will last over a week in the fridge, and even longer if you choose to freeze them. Mine have never stuck around that long!

Ideas for fillings Mushroom filling for Gluten Free Pierogies

Potatoes, cheese, onion (traditional)

Sweet potato or butternut squash and onion

broccoli and cheese

sausage and onion, or sausage and kraut

mushroom and shallot

blueberries, cream cheese and lemon zest (dessert, obviously, sprinkle these with powdered sugar before serving)

apples, butter, cinnamon

You get the idea- PLAY!

Gluten Free Biscochitos (Bizcochitos)

Christmas LuminariasFeliz Navidad! Joyeux Noel! Happy Christmas! Traditions and flavors of New Mexico are a constant part of our lives- especially at Christmas. And what would the Christmas season be without a gluten free Biscochito? Sometimes spelled “Bizcochito”, these anise and cinnamon flavored cookies came to New Mexico as early as the 16th century, likely brought there by the Spanish conquistadors. These cookies are among my favorites to make during the holidays. They are light, flakey, flavorful, and not too sweet. Traditionally made with lard, I have modified my recipe to use vegetable shortening. They are still light, flakey, and utterly delicious. They are also dairy-free, so if the people in your life are both gluten-free and dairy-free (many of mine are) this cookie is sure to please everyone. They melt in your mouth and have none of the ‘gluten-free’ texture that typically marks many baked goods. They are also fun to make- the Kitchen Divas in Training enjoy squishing the diamond points together. Wherever you find yourself this Holiday- may you experience love, light, joy, and gluten-free deliciousness!

Gluten Free Biscochitos (Bizcochitos)-about 5 doz

Ingredients Gluten-Free Biscochitos (Bizcochitos)

1 lb vegetable shortening (4 sticks) or 1 lb lard

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

3 tsp anise seeds

2 cups sorghum flour

2 cups cornstarch

1 cup millet flour

1 cup sweet rice flour

1 tsp xanthan gum

1 tbs baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup brandy, cognac or bourbon

For Sprinkles:

1/4 cup white sugar

1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Set out eggs and allow them to come to room temperature. In a medium bowl mix all dry ingredients and set aside. In a stand mixer, or other large bowl, cream shortening, sugar, and anise until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat until smooth. Add a little flour and mix. Then a little brandy. Keep alternating flour and brandy until everything is mixed together. The dough will be very stiff. Separate the dough into 3 large balls. Flatten, wrap in parchment or plastic wrap and chill for one hour.

Making a gluten-free biscochitoWhen you are ready to bake the cookies, take out one package, break off a chunk of dough and roll it out on a piece of floured parchment paper (I use cornstarch).There should be enough oil in the dough that it won’t stick to your rolling pin. If you find the dough sticking, smooth cornstarch over your rolling pin, or lightly sprinkle a bit of cornstarch on the dough- it will get incorporated, but will help with any stickiness you may encounter. Roll dough to about 1/4″ thickness. With a knife, cut squares out of the dough- biscochitos are traditionally shaped into diamonds or fleur-de-lis. Make a cut in the corner of each square. Be sure to only go part-way towards the center, or you will cut your cookie in half! This will leave four triangle-ish sides.  Pinch the corners of each triangle together, pushing towards the middle. This bunches the cookie up and helps create the light, flakey texture. Don’t worry about perfection! This is a very forgiving cookie, and the shapes are pretty hard to mess up. Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon/sugar mixture just prior to sticking in the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-11 minutes. They will not look done when you pull them out, but will harden as they cool. If you leave them in longer than 11 minutes, they will be too dry.

Gluten Free Sponge Cake w/ Rose Water & Mandarin Orange Filling

Well Hello Again!! It’s Royal Wedding Week, and while many of you are scurrying around making last minute egg and bunny preparations, my eye’s been on a certain Princess-to-Be whose pending nuptials are just around the corner.

We have been very busy around here over the last few weeks. Mother Nature waits for no one, and in between the rain, snow, and generally yucky weather we’ve been having this spring, the Kitchen Divas in Training and I suspended regular schooling for a week to put in a square-foot garden. It’s amazing how much practical learning can be packed into one backyard kitchen garden project! When I debriefed the experience with the girls, here’s just some of what they said they learned:

Geometry, volume, money management, reading, chemistry, patience, ‘that it’s hard to co-operate sometimes’, flexibility when your project goes wrong, ‘bossy’ leadership vs. ‘real’ leadership (don’t you love that?!?), that big projects take longer and cost more money than you think, a sense of humor makes the hard work more fun, delayed gratification, that sometimes you just have to stop and play (I’ll admit- it was me who had to learn that!) the list goes on, but you get the idea…. what a rich experience for all of us! Future lessons will include the enjoyment and preparation of our food (arguably the best part- right?) and then preserving the bounty of the harvest- so keep your eyes peeled in future months for posts regarding pickling, freezing and other types of preserving!

When the rains began again, I found myself digging in a box of old photos for a picture that my grandmother took of me holding a badly decorated ‘wedding’ cake in front of the TV, where Prince Charles and the new Princess Di were in a carriage leaving St. Paul’s Cathedral. I was 10 years old. (Alas, the picture was not to be found.) I’d like to say that my cake decorating ability has improved significantly in 30 years time, but it hasn’t. So I compensate with whipped cream and flowers.

Now, if you’re a true Anglophile, you know the proper wedding cake for an event such as this is a fruit cake. Not the nasty stuff we all received in red tins from various grandparents, aunts, and uncles in the day, but real fruitcake. Such as soon t0 be Princess Kate- or is it Lady?- will be having next Friday. Now, I know absolutely nothing about the proper making of a fruitcake, but Fiona at Life on Nanchang Lu has an incredible fruitcake recipe that’s been a part of her family for some time. While I haven’t attempted a GF version, one look at her picture is enough to make a fruitcake lover out of anybody.

Thinking of the Royal Wedding Cake naturally got me thinking of my own wedding some years ago. My wedding cake was the last gluten-bomb I enjoyed. Six weeks later I was handed my life-changing celiac diagnosis. But, I do remember my cakes fondly- an antique rose cake and a mandarin orange cake. Both high on flavor, but low on fuss and frosting. So this week I set out to create a gluten-free hybrid of what I remember enjoying on my big day.

There are two places I go when I need to convert a recipe, The Joy of Cooking, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. First, the technical cooking information is very comprehensive, so it helps me figure out the cooking chemistry. Second, who needs anything else? You’ve seen the picture of my beat-up Joy in a previous post, and my Mastering is quickly taking on the same look. This time, Julia did not disappoint. I converted her recipe for a basic butter spongecake with a handful of tweaks and only one hiccup. First go-round I was supervising the Kitchen Divas in Training in a chemistry lab, and as soon as I turned around from popping my fluffy cakes in the oven I noticed this: (melted butter sitting on the counter)

Which resulted in this:(funky looking cake)

In case you’re looking at these pictures a bit mystified- let me explain. Spongecakes get their sponginess from eggwhites whipped into stiff peaks. This provides structure, air bubbles,  and even a bit of elasticity to a gluten-free pastry. This is key for the pastry to not have that tell-tale ‘gluten-free’ texture. But, fat has a role to play too. Think of the egg whites as very excited children on a sugar high. They get all huge and out of control and then- phfszzzzz- they collapse. Adding fat to your spongecake is like insisting your child eat a turkey sandwich prior to the candy. It keeps everything manageable, and results in a cake that looks like this: (normal looking cake)

Much better, yes? More stable and cake-like. With the addition of the fat- in this case melted butter- the batter also behaved more like regular batter. It flowed nicely, and spread easily in the pan.

Now, if you look closely at both versions of the cake, you’ll see that the first cake- while not as attractive, does have a little more volume- this is because the eggs expanded unhampered by the fat. I would absolutely consider this recipe without the use of fat if I were spreading it on a sheet and making a buche de noel. The texture was very nice and definitely spongy- but too spongy for what I wanted for this cake.

The second cake is a bit denser, but ended up having a lovely crumb, and worked well with the mandarin orange curd I made. While I used rose water to flavor the cake this time, this is a very basic recipe that could easily take on any flavoring you desired. There will definitely be different incarnations of this in my future.

As for the decorating- in this life I will never win any awards for a beautiful cake. I content myself with simple frosting or whipped cream. The girls had the idea of picking the violets and the mint- both are rampant in our yard at the moment, and since we don’t use chemicals in our yard- they’re also edible. So in the mist and drizzle this afternoon, we ran in and out of the kitchen collecting pretty edibles and decorating a cake fit for a princess…or two!

Gluten Free Sponge Cake w/ Rose Water &  Mandarin Orange Filling

Makes 2 8-inch rounds

Ingredients

4 tbs ghee or grapeseed oil (ghee is clarified butter)

2/3 cup sugar

4 egg yolks

2 tsp rose water (or other extract or flavoring of your choice)

6 egg whites

generous pinch of salt

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

2 tbs sugar

1/4 cup tapioca starch

1/4 cup sorghum flour

1/4 cup white rice flour (could also use brown)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch cake plans and flour using sorghum flour. Melt the ghee and set aside. You want this tepid- but not yet solidifying again- it should be clear. Sift flours into a small bowl. Sifting here is important because it’s adding air to the mix.

If possible, use a stand mixer and a hand mixer for this next section- you can have the yolks mixing in the stand mixer while you whip the whites. If you don’t have both; do the yolks first, then whip the whites.

Place yolks in the bottom of the stand mixing bowl. For optimum leavening, have all ingredients at room temperature, or about 70 degrees if you’re in a hot climate. In a separate bowl place the egg whites. Turn the stand mixer on medium high and begin to whip the yolks. After about 20 seconds add the rose water and gradually pour in 2/3 cup of sugar. Mix until the eggs are fluffy and very pale yellow and make ‘the ribbon’. See this post for an explanation of ‘the ribbon’.

Begin to whip the egg whites with a hand mixer on the lowest setting. When the eggs start to get a bit foamy add the salt and cream of tartar. When the whites reach the ‘soft peak’ stage, add the 2 tbs of sugar, and beat until the peaks are just stiff. Remember, at the stiff peak stage the whites are glossy and stand up when you scoop them with the beaters. The tops may flop over a bit- that’s ok. If your whites become dull and uneven you’ve overwhipped. I’ve read this can be remedied by adding another egg white, but I’ve never tried it myself.

Scoop 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture and begin to fold them together. Next, sift (yes, this is the second time you’ve sifted) 1/3 of the flour mixture into the yolk mixture. Then add another 1/4 of the eggwhites and fold, followed by another 1/3rd of the flour, continuing to fold.  Add another 1/4 of the egg whites, fold, and sift the last of the flour. Fold again, and finish by folding the last of the eggwhites into the batter. Pour 1/2 of the butter mixture into the batter and fold. The butter will drop straight to the bottom of the bowl, so it’s important to fold from the very bottom up. Fold in the last part of the butter and pour into the pans.

Cook in the lower third of the oven for about 25 minutes. The color should be golden and a cake stick should come out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the side of the pan and flip over onto a cake rack to cool. It may take a little effort to get the cake out, but gravity will win- just be patient and don’t force it.

While the cake is cooling, make the filling.

Mandarin Orange Curd

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

zest of 2 clementines

1/2 cup clementine or orange juice- strained (about 3 clementines)

8 tbs butter, cut into 1 tbs segments

Directions

Place egg yolks, sugar and zest in a medium saucepan and whisk briefly until yolks have just started to lighten (be carefeul not to over-whisk as this results in grainy curd)

Add orange juice and butter. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until butter has melted and mixture has thickened. This will be a little runnier than lemon curd, but will thicken in the refrigerator if left overnight.

To Assemble Cake

When the cake has cooled and you are ready to assemble, place one layer on a tray or large plate. Using a bread knife, gently remove the crusty top part of the cake- this facilitates the absorption of the filling. Scoop the filling into the center of the cake and using a spatula spread outward within 1/2-3/4 inch from the side. The weight of the top layer will push the filling all the way to the sides.

Next, use a bread knife to remove the crusty top part of the second layer. Gently flip this exposed side down onto the filling and using your hands, gently center the cake. Place in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to allow the filling to firm up. While the cake is chilling, make your frosting or whipped cream.

For this recipe, I used 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 tsp of rose water, and 4 tbs sugar. Beat on high in a cold bowl until cream makes soft peaks. If you over beat the cream it will turn to butter. Spread evenly around the top and sides of the cake. Decorate as you wish. Edible flowers are always lovely!




Gluten Free Lemon Cake

This just in: The Online Bakesale for Japan raised $8269 dollars. That will turn into over 80,o00 worth of food at Second Harvest in Japan! Many thanks to my fellow bloggers who donated such beautiful food, and to the generous people who participated in the auction.

Welcome to the April edition of the Burwell General Store recipe swap! This month’s subject was a crazy cake recipe that provided the perfect opportunity to talk about kitchen chemistry- something anyone who bakes may understand intuitively, but that is really helpful to understand more deeply- especially if you’re baking gluten-free.

To recap: Christianna, the fabulous blogger at Burwell General Store found an old cookbook and several months ago invited a group of folks to take one recipe each month and put their own twist on it. I joined the group last month, and it’s been fun to get to know my fellow bloggers, as well as challenge myself in the kitchen. And this month’s cake, was certainly that! Here is the original recipe:

Wacky cake indeed! What excited me about the Wacky cake was that it only used baking soda and vinegar for leavening. No egg, no baking powder- only these two magical ingredients. What is so special about these two ingredients you may ask? Step into my kitchen lab and I will show you!

The Kitchen Divas in Training are now schooling at home, and for science, we are currently studying chemistry. I am as excited as they are about this, because I chickened out of high school chemistry, and in the past year as I have delved more deeply into gluten-free baking, I’ve found myself wishing I understood chemistry better than I do… If you’re curious about chemistry, or have kids who are curious- I highly recommend this series of books– even if they go to traditional school. They’re informative and fun. I personally like all the smiley faces on the different atoms!

So what goes on with vinegar and baking soda when you bake? Well, this:

Cool huh? Baking soda- a base, is reacting with vinegar- an acid. A rather explosive combination.. Add sugar, and the result is amplified. On a molecular level the vinegar and baking soda atoms are switching partners- that’s what’s creating the bubbles.. And, in the kitchen- what happens when you add this to flour and oil, and pop it into a hot oven? Puffy cake!! well…. most of the time, as our kitchen experiments showed.

For this challenge we hypothesized that a cake made with lemon would have a similar lift as the chocolate cake. Chocolate is also considered an acid, and can help increase the amount of bubbles in an acid-base reaction. Honey is also considered an acid- as is an egg…the addition of any of these ingredients can help facilitate the proper reaction to ensure a puffy cake… For our cake, we went with lemon and honey. I had a beautiful jar of the palest yellow acacia honey from our trip to Paris that I had been saving for something special, and since it seemed like sunshine in a bottle, we thought it would be the perfect compliment to the Meyer lemons we picked up.

Now, like all good experimenters, we decided we needed a control. So while one young scientist worked on the experimental recipe, the other created the original Wacky Cake recipe, using the same gluten-free flours as the experimental recipe.

Here’s some of what we learned:

While the acid-base reaction helps give batter a lift, gluten-free chemistry is slightly more delicate. In addition to making sure you have the right proportion of acid to base, you also have to have the right combination of gluten-free flours. Otherwise you end up with gummy cake that tastes like the tapioca balls at the bottom of a bubble tea, like this picture to the left. Notice that the chocolate control cake is puffier. That’s because the chocolate provided additional acid for the reaction.

The shape of the cooking vessel makes a big difference. This recipe calls for mixing the cake in the pan it’s baked in. All well and good, but it’s hard to get the flour wet in the corners. We had the bright idea- well I did at least- of cooking the cake in a stainless steel bowl- the one it was mixed in. I had visions of a rounded lemony puffy cake, not unlike those enormous muffin tins used to make barbie cakes or Easter egg cakes. Not only did we end up cooking cake number two for an hour, but the middle was still uncooked, and upon removing it from the bowl, it looked like this:

The third time was the charm, however. The flours were adjusted properly, we’d gone back to a square baking vessel (more surface to heat the batter), and we’d adjusted the lemon/acid content to where we got a decent lift in the cake!

In conclusion, we learned a lot in our little experiment, including that I rely very heavily on eggs to act as a binder and a lifting agent in some form. To achieve lift using only an acid-base reaction is possible, but easier in a chocolate cake than a citrus cake. Our gluten free lemon cake has a great moisture content- due in large part to the honey, and it has a nice crumb. It’s sweet, but not too sweet- and I’ll be having a slice with my morning coffee. No doubt the Kitchen Divas in Training will be asking for a slice with their breakfast as well!

Be sure to stop by the Burwell General Store Recipe Swap Page to get a run down of all the participating bloggers. Links to their sites are there, and you will enjoy the delicious variety of cake offered this month!

Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

makes 1 9×9 cake

Ingredients

3/4 cup tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour)

3/4 cup brown rice flour  

1/4 cup almond meal

4 tbs sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

zest from 2 lemons

5 tbs melted butter

1 cup cold water

1/2 cup honey

3 tbs lemon juice

Directions

In the pan you are baking in, place all the dry ingredients and stir with a fork to fully mix. Using a 2 cup measuring cup, combine water, honey and lemon juice. Stir until honey has dissolved. Next, make a hole in the center and add the melted butter. While stirring, add the remaining liquid. You will see bubbles start to form as the baking soda and lemon juice begin to react. Combine ingredients and place in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes. Turn to 350 and cook an additional 20 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Gluten-Free Orange Almond Tea Cake; A Tea Party and a Cause

Happy Spring! My daffodils decided to get in on the celebration by blooming yesterday. Today is an auspicious day, not only because spring is finally here, but it is also the one-year anniversary of my blog! What better way to celebrate a blog anniversary than with a party? And, since we’re in the party spirit, why not have a tea-party for an awesome cause?

Foodbuzz in conjunction with Kelly Confidential is hosting an online tea part to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. By simply clicking over to the Kelly Confidential site, you can help raise even more money for Ovarian Cancer Research.  And, this Friday, Foodbuzz will take over the daily Top 9 to feature only tea party posts (oooh maybe you’ll see me!).  Foodbuzz will also donate $50 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for every tea party recipe created by a Featured Publisher before March 23rd!  That’s worth getting out my great-great-grandmother’s china! This fancy antique china has been passed down to the women in my family since the 1800’s! And now, you can enjoy it too- with a lovely gluten-free orange almond tea cake.

Having tea forces us to stop, slow down, and breathe. I think it helps us remember the truly important things in life- food and relationships. The girls and I will often stop for tea mid-morning, or mid-afternoon- basically at those times when our brains are too filled with facts to think anymore. And the conversations that always develop out of those breaks are little gifts.

While many snacks go well with tea, I like tea cakes because they’re sweet, but not too sweet. They satisfy my need to nosh, without giving me a sugar high or overfilling my tummy and spoiling the next meal. The orange and almond in this cake make a lovely combination, and the sponginess of the cake is achieved by incorporating whipped egg whites. This is a great technique to use to get good volume and texture in gluten-free baked goods. If you don’t have oranges on hand, lemons would be good too- just substitute vanilla extract for almond extract. This batter is light enough, you could also put it in a greased madeleine pan and make little madeleines. Then they’d be the perfect finger food!

Do you have a favorite tea experience? When I was in college my grandparents took me to high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, Canada. That was an experience! Our celebratory tea party was a little more reserved, but just as fun. Wherever you are this week, why not take time out for a little tea and conversation? There’s always something to celebrate!

My heartfelt hanks to everyone who has stopped by my site in the past year, left a comment, or a note of encouragement. I have grown so much as a chef, writer, photographer (still LOTS to learn there!), kitchen control freak, and parent! I look forward to another year of adventure in the kitchen and in life!

Gluten Free Orange Almond Tea Cakes

Makes 12-14

Ingredients

4 eggs, separated

2/3 cup + 1 tbs sugar

zest of one orange

juice from one orange, about 1/3 cup

4 oz salted butter, melted and allowed to cool (one stick)

¾ cup almond flour (also called almond meal)

¼ cup tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour)

¼ cup sorghum flour

¼ tsp cream of tartar

¼ tsp almond extract

Directions

 

Preheat oven to 350. Separate eggs and set the whites aside. Sift the tapioca and sorghum together and set aside. Melt the butter and set aside. Using a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer) beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed for several minutes until mixture is pale yellow, and forms ‘the ribbon’

The ribbon is a baking term used to describe batter that when scooped up and allowed to run back into the bowl forms a ribbon as it sits on the surface of the batter before being re-absorbed.

Add the orange juice, zest, and almond extract,  and continue beating another moment. Add the almond flour and continue to beat until it’s incorporated. Add the sorghum/tapioca mixture and set aside.

Next, add the cream of tartar to the egg whites. Using clean beaters, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Sprinkle on the remaining tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat into stiff peaks.

Pour the melted butter into the orange/almond mixture, leaving the milky bits that have sunk to the bottom of the pan or bowl. This is the milk protein and isn’t needed for this recipe- you will have about 2 tbs of ‘butter’ still left in your container, but it will be milky looking.

Using a spatula, fold the butter into the batter. When it’s fully incorporated, stir in ¼ of the egg whites. When the egg whites have been fully mixed, gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins and bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool briefly in the muffin tins, and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

 

Roasted Carrot Soup

Just a quick pictoral of our Thanksgiving meal, and a few links to some fun blogs. As many of you who are food bloggers know, if you’re working all the time developing your own recipes, it’s hard to find time to play in the kitchen with other people’s creations. And, if you’re like me, your in-box is filled with some pretty tempting recipes! So for Thanksgiving this year, my friend and I picked out a few tempting recipes to add to our own and came up with a pretty fun tasting meal with paired wines… We started off with a pan-roasted carrot soup. If you have the time to pan roast your vegetables prior to turning them to soup, it’s so worth it, as the flavors deepen and marry. This was paired with champagne, and the contrast between the smooth rich soup, and the sharp bubbly champagne was a real treat!  Whatever you ate for Thanksgiving, I hope it was delicious,  that your tastebuds were in heaven, and that your tummy was full!

Thanksgiving Morning started off with warm strawberry scones compliments of Jacob’s Kitchen. I converted to gluten-free of course, and the result was pretty tasty.. The kitchen divas in training were licking their fingers and asking for more.

 

Then it was on to the main event- an afternoon of cooking, wine, laughter and much food. My friend and I decided on a multi-course tasting meal so that we wouldn’t get too stuffed. It was a leisurely and fun way to spend the afternoon.

First up: pan roasted carrot soup with creme fraiche. Recipe below.

 

 

Next up: Scallops Two Ways. We chose a fun recipe with peas and cilantro from Michael Toa via a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers Chef Dennis at More than A Mountful and a very unusual, yet very delicious preparation of scallops poached in herb infused rioja from another of my favorite bloggers, Lazaro from Lazaro Cooks. This pairing really stumped the sommeliers, who looked at me like I had eight heads when I said that I was poaching scallops in rioja- but don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it- it was delicious, and worked well with the riesling we poured with it.

Next came an earthy chestnut tagliatelli with mushrooms sauteed in a brown butter sage sauce. This was adapted from a guest post that Pattie from Bramasole provided to More than a Mountfull. I’m particularly happy with this, as it was my first attempt in 12 years at gluten-free pasta. This was a much more successful endeavor than my last attempt. So much so, that I’m inspired to try making other kinds of pasta.. The dark brown color in this dish comes from the rice bran I added to my gluten free flour mix.

To cleanse our palates before the main course, we created mini goat cheese souffles and served them on a bed of arugula with a simple lemon juice vinaigrette and pomegranate pips. Served with Sauvignon Blanc, this was indeed the perfect palate cleanser! Recipe will be forthcoming!

 

And for the main event: Roasted turkey breast with pancetta and sour cherry glaze, my gluten-free stuffing from my guest post at Lindsey Evenson’s blog Fresh Air+Fresh Food, and pan roasted butternut squash, also with a sour cherry glaze. The glaze was simple and one I’ll use again on other meats:

 

 

 

1 quart tart cherry juice

3 tbs sugar

1/4 cup Honey Wild Turkey (this is delicious, almost like cognac!)

1 sprig rosemary

leaves from 3 sprigs sage

1 teaspoons white peppercorns.

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let reduce by half.

After all that food, dessert was simple- homemade ginger ice cream with crumble topping……

And now- for the carrot soup recipe! Enjoy, and may this kick-off to the Holiday Season be the first of many delicious meals you share at your table!

Pan Roasted Carrot Soup

8 Servings

Ingredients

2 lbs carrots

1 large red onion

2 medium shallots

2 cups chopped apples

5 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup champagne

1 cup milk

Spice Mix

1 tbs poultry seasoning

1  1/2 tbs cumin

1/2 tbs salt

1/2 tbs pepper

1 tsp oregano

olive oil

creme fraiche

parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Scrub the carrots, chop the onion into large segments, peel the shallots, and place all three ingredients onto a large cookie sheet. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle entire spice mix over the cookie sheet. Cook until carrots are fork tender, about 1 hour.

Remove to a large stock pot, and add chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. In a smaller pan, place chopped apples and champagne. Simmer until apples are softened, and add to the soup mixture. Add the milk, and puree with an immersion blender. For a super smooth texture, place a portion of the soup in a food processor and run for 2-3 minutes. Keep doing this until the soup is as smooth as you’d like.

For presentation, garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche and sprinkle with a little fresh parsley.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

A Happy Thanksgiving to all of you residing in the US! I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday. It is important to me to take time out and name everything that I am grateful for- I try and do this throughout the year, but I just love that Thanksgiving is a day that invites us to be intentional about gratitude. I won’t haul out my list here- but suffice it to say that I approach this year’s table with a very full heart.

Then there’s the food….Ooh la la, the food! This year, my friend and I concocted a 6-course tasting menu with paired wines. Our favorite course? Roasted Carrot Soup. It’s been awhile since I’ve put one of these together, and it’s been so fun! Enjoy this recipe for gluten free chocolate pumpkin pie– created by one of the Kitchen Divas in Training.

In the meantime, last Sunday, my first ever guest post went live- just as I was posting my Gluten Free Buche de Noel…. So just in case you missed it- please follow the link over to a wonderful blog, hosted by Lindsey Evenson! Fresh Air+Fresh Food is a great blog that brings together delicious recipes, insight and wisdom about juggling all that life offers, and all with a great sense of humor. Lindsey is one of those writers whose boundless energy just shines through every post! It was a privilege for me to write a post about Gluten Free Thanksgiving for her.

Wherever you are today, whoever you’re with- may your day be filled with excellent food and unexpected delight!

Gluten Free Buche de Noel

I’ve been working on a gluten free Buche de Noel for some time now. And once again, my trusty Joy of Cooking (mine is the 1997 edition, given to me as a wedding shower gift) yielded up a recipe that I could convert to gluten-free. I’ve pretty much given up on using gluten-free recipes from allergy magazines and the like, as they turn out too heavy, pasty, grainy, tasteless, etc.. for my taste.

Now many people dismiss The Joy as being outdated and boring, but as you can see from the picture here, this is my cooking bible in the kitchen. My favorite pages are covered with food splashes and notes scrawled in the margins. It’s what I’ve continually reached for over the years to remember how long to cook rice, make measurement conversions, find ingredient substitutions, learn about flavor profiles, the history/traditions behind a certain dish, and figure out how long to cook a cut of meat. It’s got information on everything from pies to stocks and sauces. In fact, I’ve donated many of my other cookbooks because I simply don’t use them and find I can use the space on my shelf for other items. And yes, if I was stuck on a desert island and could only have five things, I would take my Joy, along with red wine, my favorite chef’s knife, garlic, and a pregnant goat.

But I digress. My first gluten free Buche de Noel was a total disaster. Chocolatey, yes…edible, no….But I’ve finally landed on a sponge that is really quite lovely- slightly dry, and well..spongey. La Tartine Gourmand, (If you haven’t read her blog, you should- great recipes, and exquisite photos) who periodically posts gluten-free recipes, has a nice write up about buches. I really appreciate reading that in France, there’s not just one way to present a buche. I think that often in this country we get caught up in the ‘right way’ to present something, when in reality, there are a myriad of different options for creating a dish. Traditionally, we think a (gluten free) Buche de Noel isn’t a buche unless it’s filled with buttercream and topped with marzipan mushrooms. That simply isn’t the case. And I for one am grateful.

I haven’t yet mastered the art of making buttercream- maybe some of you decorating geniuses who read this can give me a step by step tutorial over the phone, because my buttercream is sitting in the fridge a hardened, grainy mess. *sigh* So, in going with my strengths, I went with flavored whip cream filling. It makes for a softer buche, as the heavier fillings help the log hold its round shape. But, should you fill it the way I did, you’ll find the taste to be equally satisfying. A buche demands company, so why not celebrate the fruit of your labors with a few friends, a beverage of your choice, and a few hours of good company? Cheers!

A Quick Update: My FIRST EVER guest post is now live at Lindsey Evenson’s Fresh Air + Fresh Food If you’ve never been to her site, you should hop on over and check things out! Not only for the delicious, gluten-free Thanksgiving Recipes in my post, but because Lindsey has some great recipes, life advice, and most importantly- a great sense of humor!

Gluten-Free Buche de Noel

Makes one rolled log (10-12 slices)

Chocolate Sponge Cake

Ingredients  

1/4 cup potato starch

1/4 cup tapioca starch (also called Tapioca Flour)

1/4 cup unsweetened chocolate powder

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1/4 cup milk

2 tbs butter

3/4 cup sugar

5 large eggs

Directions

Bring eggs up to room temperature by sitting on the counter, or by placing eggs in a bowl of warm water. Preheat oven to 350. Grease the sides of a half sheet jelly roll, and place parchment on the bottom. In a small bowl, mix together the potato starch, tapioca starch, chocolate and xanthan gum. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat butter and milk until butter is melted. Remove from heat.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (a hand mixer is ok, but this part will take 10-15 minutes) place the eggs and sugar. Whisk on medium for 3-4 minutes. The eggs should triple in size, be very pale yellow, and fluffy and creamy. When you lift the whisk from the mixture the batter should fall from the whisk in a ribbon, stay momentarily on the surface and then get reabsorbed.

Take the dry ingredients and pour 1/3 of them into a sieve, and sprinkle the flour over the egg mixture. Gently fold in. Do this 2 more times, gently folding the dry ingredients each time. While you are doing this, reheat the milk and butter mixture until it is steaming, but not boiling. Pour the hot milk in last, all at once, and fold gently until well combined. Turn sponge onto the jelly roll, spread evenly and bake for 8-10 minutes- until sponge springs back when lightly pressed, and a toothpick comes out clean. You will also see the sponge pulling away from the sides. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then, place a second piece of parchment over the top of the cake, and flip the cake onto the new parchment. Gently peel the top (what used to be the bottom) parchment off the sponge and allow to cool.  There are differing opinions here as to what to do. Some say to roll the sponge, refrigerate, in roll form and then unwind to add the filling. Others say to completely cool, add filling, then cool. I did the latter- I think either would work.

While the sponge is cooling, you can work on your fillings. Here are mine- feel free to use fillings and ingredients that inspire you!


Buche Filling 

Ingredients

1 10 oz bag of frozen cherries

1 cup  + 4 tbs sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

1/2 cup red wine (preferably a wine rich in fruity/jammy notes like a zin)

2 cups heavy whipping cream

4 tsp almond extract

1 cup slivered almonds

Directions

Mix cornstarch with 1 cup of sugar. Add to a medium sauce pan along with the cherries and red wine. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Mixture should thicken slightly as it cools.

In your stand mixer bowl, or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream, almond extract, and remaining sugar. When cream has formed stiff peaks, remove half the cream to a second bowl- this will be your topping.

Take mixture from saucepan and using a pastry brush (silicone works best) brush the liquid onto the cooled spongecake. It’s ok if a few of the cherries end up on the cake. Take the remainder of the liquid and cherries and fold into one bowl of the whipped cream mixture- turning it pink. Using a wide spatula, start at one of the short ends of the sponge cake and leaving a one-inch perimeter on the long sides, smooth about a half-inch of filling across the cake. Leave a 2-3 inch space at the other short end of the cake. This will get naturally filled in as you roll the cake.

This next part is a little tricky, and I found it goes better with a second person helping you. With the short end of the sponge cake (the one with the one inch filling-free space) facing you, pull up on the parchment below, and pull the sponge over on itself. The middle may want to bulge out, and it helps if a second person can help tuck the middle part under. Once you’ve accomplished this, keep rolling gently, trying to keep a tight roll without breaking the cake. When you’ve gotten to the end, roll the log so that the free edge is on the bottom. You’ll notice that the filling should have squeezed through most of the empty space around the edges. With a serrated knife, cut each of the ends at an angle. You can enjoy these now, or use them to create a ‘branch’ which you can then cover with your topping. Some people will refrigerate the buche at this point to allow the filling to set up. I recommend doing this with a heavier filling like buttercream or marzipan. If you do this, keep the parchment securely around your buche log, as it can help the log set in its new position.

When you’re ready, you can cover with powdered sugar, buttercream, or like I did, with the remaining almond flavored whipped cream and slivers of almonds.





Butternut Apple Soup w/ Chicken Feet Stock

Happy Halloween!!! There’s nothing like stirring a bubbling cauldron of chicken feet a la Macbeth to put you in the mood for Halloween!  A month ago two friends and I got together to make chicken feet stock, and since then I’ve been anxiously waiting to post this. While the stock yielded from chicken feet is rich in collagen, velvety, and full of flavor, the process of making it is not for the faint of heart. It’s a bit creepy actually, and should really be undertaken in the company of friends. We thoroughly enjoyed creeping ourselves out, and the flavor and texture the stock added to the soup was well worth the effort.  Enjoy the pictures, and may you have a tasty Halloween!! Mwua ha ha ha!!!!!!

 

 

Chicken Feet Stock

Yields about 1 quart of stock for every pound of chicken feet  (just say chicken feet….. it will make you laugh)

Ingredients

chicken feet

water

Optional: onion, herbs, garlic (we did not use these, but you could use traditional stock ingredients)

Directions

Chicken feet usually come frozen, you can check with your local butcher, or local farmer to get some. Thaw the chicken feet and place in a large stockpot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Ladle the feet out, and place in a bowl of cold water (we kept this second bowl in the sink) Look below- they look astonishingly like old lady fingers….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, place a few chicken feet back in a pot of simmering (not a rolling boil) water. Just put in a few at a time- you don’t want to cook them- you’re scalding them so that the outer layer of skin will peel off. Let the feet simmer about 30 seconds to a minute and remove with tongs. Place on an old kitchen towel.  Take a pair of kitchen scissors and snip off the tip of the ‘finger’ to remove the nail bed. (This really does start to feel like a reenactment of the third act of Macbeth!) You can see in the picture below right that the fingernail part has been removed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, you can begin peeling away the outer layer of skin. In the same picture you can see the tender skin being exposed. While one of my friends was bold enough to just peel, I actually found it easier to peel with a kitchen towel. The feet can get a little sticky, and if you try this, you may find it easier to use a towel. Place the peels onto a separate towel, or a piece of parchment that you can then throw out…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place the peeled chicken feet into your crock-pot or whatever receptacle you’re using to make stock. When all the feet have been peeled, cover completely with water and simmer gently (a boil will make cloudy stock) for a minimum of 48 hours. Replenish water as needed. The longer cook time is because the collagen takes a very long time to break down. When the stock has finished, ladle out the bones and cartilage. Then, slowly pour through a strainer into glass jars. As this is a thick stock, you may want to strain through a finer sieve or muslin cloth a second time. Refrigerate, or pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Enjoy in your favorite soup, sauce, polenta, or risotto.

Butternut Apple Soup

Serves 4-6 people with leftovers

Ingredients

2 medium sized butternut squash- or 2 lbs of diced butternut if you’re not roasting it yourself

1 small onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, diced

2 cups diced apple (about 3 apples)to avoid browning, squeeze a little lemon over the apple slices

4 cups chicken stock (use chicken feet stock for extra velvety texture)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions 

Slice butternuts in half lengthwise, remove seeds, prick with a fork, and brush lightly with olive oil. Place in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until meat is soft. Scoop out into a bowl. (If you don’t have fresh butternut, feel free to use to packages of frozen butternut squash- about 20 oz total) This should yield around 3-4 cups total.

While the squash is cooking. Dice the onions, garlic and apples. If you’re cooking with little helpers, invite your little ones to chop the apples. My youngest is getting quite proficient with her little knife- she uses a wide, rounded cheese spreader with a serrated edge- it works perfectly for chopping cheese and fruit!

In your soup pot, warm 2-3 tbs of olive oil, and add the onion and garlic. Stir gently until onion is translucent.

Add the apples, butternut and chicken stock. Allow to come to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, until the apple slices can be mashed with a fork. Ladle part of the soup into a food processor (fill only about halfway) and puree for 2-3 minutes. The longer the puree time, the smoother the soup. Repeat until all soup has been pureed. This is really about esthetics- if you prefer a chunkier soup, then skip this step and enjoy the soup as is!

Garnish with apple slices, and baby arugula.

For a different yet equally delicious butternut squash soup- check out this Coconut Curry Chowder from a previous post!

Happy Halloween, may your treats be delicious!!

 


Gluten Free Bread Pudding – Brunch Recipe

“This is so much better than I was preparing myself for- it tastes like a real cookie” said a lady tearing up as she bit into a sugar cookie at my class the other night. I hear this a lot, and while it makes me happy that she’s learned she doesn’t need to resign herself to a life of boring, cardboard textured, tasteless food, her statement does make me sad.

Gluten-free reality is this: The bread is generally dry, grainy, crumbly, often very dense, and has no flavor. With a very few exceptions, it has to be toasted before using for a sandwich. Cookies tend to by dry, crumbly, and grainy. Brownies and Cakes tend to be dense, gummy or rubbery, and grainy. And, if you’re a celiac foodie with a developed palate and a passion for food, you know well “The Look” you get when you disclose that you must avoid gluten to fellow foodies or to the manager at the really nice restaurant you’re dying to experience. “The Look” that says ‘oh, so sorry…. why are you even attempting to eat here? Of course, we will accommodate you, but don’t expect our best food or our signature dish. How can the chef possibly create a work of art without flour?’

And so we settle. We condition ourselves to expect less, practice zen mantras of being satisfied with what we can enjoy, and shut out the feelings of longing when our dinner companions order bisques, sauces, tortes, tiramisus, breads, muffins, croissants, brioches, biscottis, pancakes, waffles, french toast, sandwiches, wraps, pastas, and meats cleverly browned to perfection with a dusting of flour.

I can’t tell you how sick I am of vanilla ice cream with fresh fruit, and flourless chocolate cake.

I’ve learned through a lot of trial and error in my kitchen that it doesn’t have to be that way. I could make you a french onion soup that would have you moaning in your seat-and yes- it would be gluten-free. In fact, I could make one with regular flour, and I bet you couldn’t tell the difference. All this to say that the student in my class shouldn’t have to settle for eating crappy tasting, crappy textured food. Life is too short to eat bad food.

Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood. I don’t expect fancy restaurants to be exclusively gluten-free. But, is it asking too much for the world’s talented culinary artists to exhibit a little imagination and challenge their culinary comfort zone every once in awhile? I refuse to choose between excellent food and gluten-free food. So I keep returning to the kitchen, challenging myself and remembering smiles like I saw the other night.

The class I taught was in preparation for the upcoming holiday season- a keenly challenging time for gluten-free people. I demonstrated the sugar cookies, the pie crust (filled with pumpkin- recipe to come in a future post), and a holiday morning favorite- breakfast bread pudding-first introduced to me by one of my Aunts. I’ve tweaked it a bit from the original. It’s exceptionally easy, and very delicious- even if it’s not Thanksgiving or Christmas morning. It’s also a recipe that screams for creativity. I’ve made it with different fruits, different cheeses, different breads, or using eggnogg instead of half and half. I encourage you to use this recipe as a base and come up with your own unique and flavorful combination of ingredients. As always- enjoy your time in the kitchen, and Happy Eating!

Gluten Free Bread Pudding- Brunch Recipe

12-16 servings

Ingredients

12 slices gluten-free bread

2 8oz pkgs cream cheese or other soft cheese

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 cups blueberries or other fruit (can be fresh or frozen)

1 cup half ‘n half, or milk if you prefer a lighter pudding

12 eggs (or 1/2 egg beaters and 6 eggs)

 

Directions

Tear the bread into 1-2 inch pieces and set aside. Cube the cream cheese and set aside. In a separate bowl thoroughly whisk syrup, eggs, and cream.

Grease a 9×13 pan, or 2 smaller pans. Place half of the bread pieces on the bottom. Add the fruit, distributing evenly. Next, add the cream cheese, also distributing evenly. Spread the rest of the bread on top. Pour the liquid over the mixture and press down with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula. Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator overnight. The mixture needs to set up for a minimum of 4 hours.

When you are ready, bake covered at 350 for 1/2 hour, then uncover and bake an additional 1/2 hour until puffy and golden brown. If you are making this in a ceramic or glass dish, place the pudding in the oven when you turn the oven on. You may need to cook a few extra minutes, but putting the dish in a cold oven will prevent it from cracking.

 

 

** This recipe is designed for flexibility. Use whatever ingredients you have on hand, or those ingredients that make your tastebuds excited. You could use cinnamon raisin bread, different fruit, a nut/sugar combination, or even add a little bourbon or rum to your liquid mixture. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Have fun and enjoy what you create!

 

 

 

Best Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

I know it’s not anywhere near Valentine’s Day, but here’s the deal: I have one box of heart-shaped cookie cutters. Lovingly sent to me as a wedding shower gift from my Aunt Robin. Right after I got married I learned I had celiac, so there was no baking Christmas cutout cookies that year, or any other year since then. In fact, I didn’t even attempt Christmas confectionaries of any kind until I had children. The mountains we will climb for the sake of our kids….

Now, I’ve been baking like a madwoman over the past several days because I’m teaching a gluten-free cooking class later this month and I volunteered to bring a gluten-free cutout cookie with me. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking, except that I was pretty sure I could come up with one, given my satisfaction with my gluten-free pie crust. There’s not much difference (well there is, but they also have stuff in common) between the pie-crust and a cookie that needs to be rolled. They both need to have a solid fat, a binder, and the dough has to be sturdy enough to stand up to repeated handling. For me that means a portion of the flour mix has to contain a high-protein flour like almond meal- my preferred choice.

I was very happy with my first batch and gave out samples to all my gluten-bomb eating friends, including a former pastry chef, and another friend who’s a formidable baker in the kitchen. After a little tweaking (3 batches and 10 dozen cookies!), I am happy to say I need to go out and purchase some cookie cutters! The cookie is slightly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and tastes and feels just like a sugar cookie should. I used almond extract in mine to compliment the almond meal, but you could use vanilla, or any other extract that suits your fancy. An added bonus of the almond meal is that there are enough oils present that you don’t need extra cornstarch or tapioca starch when you roll the cookies. I still roll the batter out on parchment, but it needs no help. I do, however, add a tiny bit of tapioca starch to the spatula before I move the raw cookies to the cookie sheet. This helps the spatula not stick to the cookie.

I did not frost mine. Usually I leave the frosting to my kitchen-divas-in-training, and after they’d eaten their fill of cookies, they decided they preferred riding their bikes! After all this sugar- I think my next post may have to be something a little savory!! Enjoy the cookies!

Best Gluten Free Sugar Cookies  

makes about 3 1/2 doz

Ingredients

1 cup tapioca starch

1 cup millet flour

2/3 cup almond meal

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

4 oz (8 tbs) butter (I used salted butter. If you use unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp of salt to the dry ingredients)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tbs + 1 tsp heavy cream (you could also try non dairy if you need to)

1/2 tsp almond extract (or vanilla, or another flavor you like)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375. Allow butter to soften in the bowl of your stand mixer (you can do this by hand, but it might give your upper arms a workout) In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. On a low setting, cream the butter until slightly fluffy. Add sugar and continue to mix. (If the engine starts whining, turn it up a notch) When the butter and sugar are mixed and looking fluffy, add the egg. Allow the egg to become fully incorporated, then add the heavy cream and almond extract. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides, and add 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on again and when the flour is thoroughly mixed in, stop and add 1/2 of the remaining dry ingredients. Mix again, scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary, and add the last of the dry ingredients. When the flour is mixed in, turn the mixer up a few notches and let the batter come together (for about 6 seconds). Scrape any batter from the paddle, and bring the bowl to your work surface. Divide the dough into thirds. The dough will be soft, and may start to have a shine- this is from the almond oil. You should be able to mold it with your hands.

On a piece of parchment paper, roll the dough to between 1/8-1/4 inch thick. The thinner the cookies are, the browner they will turn during cooking. My pastry-chef friend Susan tells me that a perfect sugar cookie is light on top, and just barely turning golden brown on the bottom edges of the cookie. Cut out with your favorite shape and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. I tried the first batch with my sil-pat and wasn’t as happy with the results. For this cookie, parchment seems to work best. Bake at 375 for 8 minutes. Allow to cool- if you can wait that long!