Sunday, October 30, 2011

Marble Streusel Muffins

It's Muffin Monday again!  As always, visit Baker Street 29 for the original recipe!

Below is my version:

2 c. Gluten-free AP flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. milk
2 eggs
3/4 c. water
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with wrappers. Combine flour, xanthan gum, sugar, soda, and salt. In another bowl, cream together peanut butter and cream cheese, then beat in egg and milk. Take a 1/2 c. flour mixture and beat into peanut butter mixture.

Add cocoa to remaining flour mixture. In another bowl, beat together second egg, oil, water, and vanilla. Stir into cocoa mixture.

Fill muffin cups with both batters. (About 2/3 chocolate and 1/3 peanut butter).

Make streusel:

Stir together 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp peanut butter. Beat in 1/4 c. sugar and 1/3 c. GF AP flour until crumbly.

Sprinkle cupcakes with streusel and bake for 20 minutes.

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gingerbread Muffins

I really have a memory like a sieve, some days.  Like today.  I made muffins and it wasn't until they were nearly cool that I remembered that my youngest cannot bring anything in HER lunch that contains peanuts or peanut butter because other students have allergies.  Whoops.

So I stepped BACK into the kitchen and grabbed my little 1920's copy of "Brer Rabbit's Modern Recipes for the Modern Hostess."  And decided that Gingerbread Muffins were just the ticket.  No "in progress" photos today, but here are the muffins:
And the book is in the background.

Gingerbread Muffins - GF/CF

Yield: 16-20 muffins

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. shortening
1 egg
1 c. light molasses
3 1/2 c. Fancy Flour Blend OR GF AP flour OR
3/4 c. millet flour
3/4 c. tapioca starch
1-1/4 c. white rice flour
1/2 + 2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
2 Tbsp potato starch

2-1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1-1/2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
scant 1 c. hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 muffin pans with paper wrappers.  Cream together shortening and sugar.  Beat in egg and molasses.  In another bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to molasses mixture.  Beat well.  Fill muffin cups 1/2-2/3 full (a 2 oz. disher is just about right).  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tops are dry and start to crack just a bit.
Now I'm wondering if it's possible to make a hard sauce icing.  But I'm betting they won't last long enough for me to bother.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chicken Rustlers?

There are days when my husband and I are so in sync with each other that we need no words.  And then there are...  other days.  Yesterday was one of the...  other kind.
A little history:  We have three chickens in a small coop in the backyard.  (It's actually based on Heather Bullard's Chez Poulet, though not nearly so over-the-top fancy.  Mine was built before Heather started selling actual plans.)  They're nearly 4 years old - one Barred Rock, one Silver Spangled Hamburg, and one Golden Penciled Hamburg.  Only the Rock is currently laying any eggs.
Last night, I got home from work, grabbed a bite to eat, walked the eldest through her homework, and chivied both girls into the tub.  As I ran back and forth around the house, I noticed that the outside lights were on in the back of the house and the back door was unlocked.  So I corrected both.  A few short moments later that was a loud pounding on the door.  I opened it to find my (very annoyed) husband.
"Why in the *@#&$^ did you turn the lights off on me?"
Whoops, hadn't known he was out there.  A few minutes later he came in, laughing.
"For a little while there, I thought we'd been hit by Chicken Rustlers!"

I tell you the tale now, as he told it to me...

First, John closed the door on the front of the main coop, to shut the chickens in for the night.  As usual, once it had gotten dark they had gone inside of their own accord to roost.  Then, he went around to the other side and opened the door on the back of the nest boxes to check for eggs.  No eggs.  That's a little bit odd, as there is usually an egg.
But then again, it's fall.  As the daylight hours decrease, so does egg production.  He shrugged, and looked through the boxes at the chickens.  Well, chicken.  Only one of the girls was on the roost bar!  Concerned, he went around to the side of the coop and opened up the main door that gives access to clean out the coop and change feed and water.  Still only one girl on the roost bar!
Now, it was entirely possible that he had not noticed the other two girls outside the coop in their little yard when he closed the little chicken door.   He went back around to check.  At which point, naturally, I turned out the lights on him.  Several minutes pass while he rectified that problem and also grabbed a flashlight and went back to check.  Nope, no chickens.
It was at this point that John actually began to worry that we'd been struck by Chicken Rustlers.  Very bad Chicken Rustlers, who had seized two elderly hens that don't lay eggs.  One final time, he opened up the main coop and checked.  For the first time... he looked up.  And there, sleeping peacefully, were the Hamburgs.
Apparently there are no Chicken Rustlers in our neck of the woods.  Or at least they're smart enough to actually steal useful chickens.
I'll post updates this spring on the Chicken situation, as I intend to get some French Marans chicks.   Hopefully the rustlers won't steal them, either.

Friday Book Review

This week, we'll examine another of my collection that dates from the very first days of my adopting a gluten-free lifestyle for my daughters.  Gluten-Free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America, by Richard J. Coppedge, Jr., C.M.B.

The opening chapters of this book deliver an absolute wealth of information regarding adopting a gluten-free lifestyle.  Everything from the biologic basis of gluten-intolerance to a description of various flours is discussed.  It's clear that Chef Coppedge has taken on the challenge of a gluten-free pastry kitchen and embraced it and the community that require it.  Many helpful tips are provided to ensure success, often specifically pointing out things that will differ from standard baking practices.
And then we hit the "flour blends."   Chef Coppedge has designed 5 separate blends of flours from a very "weak" cake flour-type blend up through a strong, high protein blend.  Unfortunately, some of these flour blends require fairly large amounts of pricey ingredients to make a relatively small amount of flour.  Both albumen powder and whey powder are expensive and can be difficult to obtain.  But that in and of itself does not cause me TOO much pause.  After all, xanthan gum can be expensive, and the entire gluten-free lifestyle requires a commitment to spend more for similar products than a normal family would.
It's clear that Chef Coppedge approached the problem with the goal of creating products that are as close to their gluten-containing counterparts as it was within his power to create.  And as a CIA Pastry Chef, those powers are pretty impressive.  You can probably hear the "but" coming.  "But" - successful use of this book require the reader to mix up all five of Chef Coppedge's flour blends.  And then use one, two or three of the blends in each recipe, with or without straight gluten-free flours of various kinds.  
I've tried a fair number of the recipes in this book and had them all come out very well.  Though I can't say that I find my success to be substantially better than with other gluten-free recipes.  The real fly in the ointment is that this book asks you for a commitment to Chef Coppedge's blends and methods.  Either you keep all 5 blends mixed up and ready to go - probably at the expense of pantry space to keep many other gluten-free products, or you look it over and decide that it's not worth the effort.  Once I ran out of one of the blends, I started reaching for other books.  A few months later I dumped out two more of the blends and re-purposed their canisters for other things.  
I like the book.  It's full of good information and the recipes work well.  But in the end, it's methodology is overly-complex and prone to cramp the style of anybody who wants to use other recipes or develop their own.  If you want ONE gluten-free baking book to use exclusively - there is no better choice on the bookshelf that I've encountered.  If you want a book to add to a collection and to use as a springboard to learning to convert recipes for gluten-free usage, this book would not be at the top of my list.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

GF/CF Halloween Cupcakes

My oldest daughter is on a gluten-free diet, and one of her classmates is on a gluten-free/casein free diet.  So, being infected by helium hand, I agreed to make cupcakes for their class.
Since I was doing some major adapting anyway, I grabbed one of my favorite books to adapt FROM.  This is a 1942 Baker's Chocolate recipe book that includes hints and tips on baking in spite of rationing of eggs, butter, and sugar.  All of the recipes work with plain shortening and offer an adaptation for less sugar by using honey or corn syrup.
As I was already making these gluten AND casein free, I opted to use the full sugar recipe.  I also discovered that I was out of unsweetened baking chocolate.  So I used an old trick Mom taught me:  Replace each square of chocolate in the recipe with 1 Tbsp of shortening or butter and 3 Tbsp of cocoa powder.  This can be melted in a saucepan, but in this case I just let the boiling water called for in the original recipe do the job.

Quick Red Devil's Food Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake pan with paper wrappers

2 1/2 c. Fancy Flour Blend or other GF All Purpose flour OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch
1/4 c. + 3 Tbsp sweet rice flour
1 Tbsp potato starch

Sift the flour into a bowl.

1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. xanthan gum
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp sugar

1/4 c. shortening
3/4 c. cocoa
3/4 c. boiling water

1/2 c. shortening
2 tsp. vinegar + enough soy milk to make 1/2 c.
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Take the sifted flour blend, and sift together three times with the soda, salt, xanthan gum, and sugar.

Place 1/4 c. shortening and cocoa in a heatproof bowl.  Pour boiling water over cocoa and shortening and whisk until smooth.  Set aside to cool.
Cream shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and beat well.  Add chocolate mixture, and beat again.  Add another 1/3 of dry ingredients, beating until combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated.  Add remaining dry ingredients and beat to combine.  Add soy milk mixture and vanilla, beat on low till combined, then turn up to medium and beat for two minutes.
With a 2 oz disher, distribute batter into 24 cupcake wrappers and bake about 20-25 minutes until glossy and a toothpick inserted comes out dry.
Place on a wire rack and cool complete.

Frosting Fun

These cupcakes have two frostings.  It's easier to get to black frosting without using so much food coloring to affect the taste if you start with chocolate.

Black Frosting

1/2 c. dairy-free soy margarine
3/4 c. cocoa
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
soy milk

Cream margarine, and then beat in cocoa.  Add some of the sugar and beat well, and beat in vanilla.  Then alternate small amounts of soy milk (no more than a Tbsp at a time) and powdered sugar until all sugar is incorporated and frosting is at a pipe-able consistency.  Add black food coloring until a deep charcoal is reached.  It will darken with time.

Orange Frosting

2 Tbsp dairy-free soy margarine
6 Tbsp shortening
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract
soy milk

Cream together margarine and shortening.  Beat in about 1/4 of the sugar, then the almond.  Alternate soymilk, 1 Tbsp at a time, and powdered sugar until all of the sugar is incorporated and a pipe-able consistency is reached.  To get orange (when I don't have that color), I started by tinting the frosting a strong yellow.
I then added red, one drop at a time, until I reached a nice orange.  It took two drops.  The complicated part is loading a large pastry bag (at least 16") with orange frosting on one side and chocolate on the other.  Try hard not to muddle the colors.  A long spatula helps with this.
Then pipe the swirls on the cupcakes and sprinkle on decorations of your choice.
Now, normally I just use plain white wrappers, as they're obtainable at Gordon Food Service by the 500 count box for around $4.  But I happened across these adorable little Halloween wrappers at Michael's and had to grab them.  The little silhouette with houses, trees, moons, etc.
Hopefully the kids will enjoy them!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Return of the Whipped Cream Cake!!!

I adore Halloween and all the decorations, goodies, and the whole spirit of the thing.  More, I love all the adorable baked goods that are themed to the season.  All of which has been distracting me from some much needed retooling of one of the recipes I've recently discovered.  Whipped Cream Cake appears in a 1925 cookbook, An American Woman's Cookbook, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer.  I posted about it once before, but while it tasted good, the gluten-free conversion had some textural issues.  I adore this cake both for its delightful flavor and the unusual recipe.  It has no butter, and no oil, and bases it's tender crumb on the whipping cream.  Too much fun!
Then, whilst surfing around, I found these adorable Vampire Cupcakes, by Nicole Weston.  Inspiration struck!  There was no reason not to be able to do both!

Return of the Whipped Cream Cake!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 2 9" round baking pans, place a parchment paper round in each one, grease the paper, then dust with sweet rice flour.
1 3/4 cups whipping cream
2 c. sugar
4 eggs + 1 egg white
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
3 tsp. xanthan gum
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

I've said it before, and I will reiterate.  Mise. En. Place.  
Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl.  Measure the sugar into another bowl.  Place the whipping cream into the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and whip until it holds it's shape.
While that's whipping, beat the eggs and white with a hand mixer until light and frothy.  Pour in the eggs and continue to beat until large, foamy bubbles appear.
Add the sugar and flavorings, then beat until combined.  Turn mixer on low and gradually add the dry ingredients, again beating until combined.  Divide the batter between the two pans.
Smooth with a spatula and place on the center rack of oven.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry.  (My cakes were not completely even in size - I should have used a scale.  So one wasn't QUITE done enough when I pulled them and fell a little in the center.  No big - more room for filling!!!)

Blood (er... Raspberry Filling)

2 10-oz containers frozen raspberries in sugar
1/4 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
tiny bit of xanthan gum

Place the raspberries in a saucepan and heat until thoroughly broken down.  Pass through a sieve to remove seeds.  Reserve 2 Tbsp of the resultant juice.  Return the rest to the saucepan.  In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch (if you use fresh or unsweetened frozen raspberries, adjust sugar to taste).  Whisk this mixture into the raspberry juice and cook until thickened and bubbly.  Set aside to cool.
To the reserved juice add a tiny bit of xanthan gum - less than an 1/8th of a tsp. - and whisk together.  Set aside to thicken.


Now, the frosting for this cake is my new favorite:  Brave Tart's German Buttercream.  It's fabulous, divine, and much easier for me to manage when I may have a little one in the kitchen with me than trying to get a sugar syrup to exactly 238 degrees.  So go visit her site and make a batch, then come back.  Actually, a half batch is plenty for this cake.  (Warning:  do not make my mistake and get lazy.  I didn't want to defrost MORE unsalted butter, so I used ONE stick of salted with the 3 sticks of unsalted.  To me, this resulted in a product that bordered on unpalatability.  When she says unsalted, listen.)  


Place one layer on your plate, and very thinly coat it with a little buttercream.  Then pipe a "dam" around the edge to hold the filling.
Pour in the cooled raspberry filling.  Chill the cake for 15 minutes or so to let both filling and frosting firm up.  Don't skip this step or all the filling will squish out when you place the second layer on top.  Take the second layer and very thinly coat one surface with more buttercream.  Place this layer, frosting side down, on top of the filled layer.  One of the very nicest things about this cake is that it has a smooth crust and is fairly firm and tolerant of handling.  Really.  Be gentle, but it will be OK.  Coat the entire cake thoroughly with buttercream.  Then (taking a leaf from Nicole Weston's blog) make pairs of holes with a skewer to look like fang marks.  Place them as desired on the surface of the cake.  Pour the reserved raspberry juice mixture into a zipper bag and trim one small corner out of it.  Use this to pipe the juice into the holes and dribble it onto the cake.
I was going to try to get one more picture of the cake with more slices out of it - but I was too slow on the draw and it was gone.  You can see where my bottom layer had fallen slightly, as it was a bit underbaked.  But overall this cake itself is light and tender with a richness of flavor imparted by the cream.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cinnamon Vanilla Cupcakes with Pumpkin Caramel

This is one of those recipes that's been finding it's way into my head in fits and starts.  And, in fact, the first time I made them for the post, I suffered a total cake failure.  I nearly gave up and ran with it, on the grounds that the girls I work with aren't that fussy and would have eaten them anyway.  Then, driving back from the grocery store with more eggs, I had an epiphany about how to fix it.  Which worked fairly well.

The end result is a cinnamon cupcake, with pumpkin caramel filling and a vanilla buttercream.
Fall-themed, and very tasty.  Let's start with the cake.  It's a riff on Billy's Bakery Vanilla Vanilla cupcakes, which were featured on Martha Stewart.  I'm fairly sure they're on her website as well, though I can't currently find them.  Here's my version:

Cinnamon Vanilla Cupcakes

1/4 c. coconut flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
2 c. vanilla sugar (plain sugar is fine, I just like the extra oomph)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c. butter, cut into Tbsp-sized pieces
1 c. milk
4 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cupcake pans with paper wrappers.  Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and stir to combine. Add the butter and mix until butter is in small, flour-covered pieces.  In a medium bowl whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla.  Pour the liquids into the butter-flour mixture and mix on low till combined.  Then turn the mixer up to medium and beat for 3 minutes.  

Fill the cupcake wrappers no more than about 1/2-2/3 full (a scant scoop from a 2 oz disher works pretty well).  Bake for 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden.  If your oven is too small to fit two pans on one shelf, you'll need to switch them half way through.
Cool completely.  

Once cool, core the cupcakes.  I used a small biscuit/cookie cutter.  The same size I use to cut holes in raised donuts.
Now, make the caramel.  Warning:  This makes a huge vat of caramel, much more than is required for the cupcakes.  You can allow the rest to set in a foil-lined buttered dish and cut into candies or otherwise get creative.  Or you can try to downsize the recipe.  It's currently based on the fact that it uses a can of sweetened condensed milk.  And I hate having partial cans around.  Whereas I use the caramel, usually.


1 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1 1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 c. butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. canned pumpkin puree
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients except vanilla.  Cook and stir till combined, turn heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly.  Bring mixture to a boil and cook until it reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly.  Stir in vanilla.
Fill the cupcakes.  (I found that my little tiny disher - 1 tsp, maybe? - did the job perfectly).  Now, take those cupcake cores and trim them so that you can replace the little hats.  Like so:
Forgive the cupcakes - they were from the first, failed batch.  But you get the idea.
I've tried out a lot of buttercreams in my day.  Swiss, Italian, French, American.  Some have been more successful than others, but I still move forward in my search for the perfect buttercream.  The German Buttercream from BraveTart comes pretty darned close.  I made a 1/2 batch, and found that I had plenty to frost all 24 cupcakes with some left over.
The combination of cupcake, caramel, and buttercream is pretty intense.  And pretty good!  I also suspect that allowing my youngest daughter to partake will require a bath afterward.  But really, could you look at this and resist?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Citrus Coconut (Flour) Muffins

Welcome to Muffin Monday, courtesy of Baker Street.  The original recipe can be found on THAT blog, so go take a peek:

Now that you're back, I'll give you my (gluten-free) version, pictured here in front of my daughter's lunch bag, the eventual receptacle for them:
The first thing I noticed when I read through the recipe, was that I don't have access to self-rising gluten-free flour.  I know there are some out there, but I don't have any and don't have a ready source for them. I used the following blend:
1/4 c. coconut flour
2 1/4 c. of my Fancy Flour Blend
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

The rest of the recipe I followed fairly closely.  It did require an extra 2 Tbsp of milk to reach the right batter consistency.  

I didn't feel like I could just leave the coconut out entirely, so I chose to replace it with something else.  To keep a tropical flavor profile and satisfy my sweet-loving children, I used two rings of candied pineapple, cut into small bits and stirred into the batter.

Here's my complete version of the recipe:

Flour Blend above
1 c. superfine sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp. orange zest
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 large egg
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp milk
1/4 c. candied pineapple, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake pan with paper wrappers.  Sift dry ingredients into a bowl.  Cut in the butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  In another bowl combine lemon and orange zest, egg, and milk.  Whisk thoroughly.  

Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Stir in pineapple gently.  Divide into the wrappers and bake for about 25 minutes, until slightly golden.

This isn't a picture-heavy post, but here's one photo (I apologize for the blurriness, but it was getting late and the light wasn't so good) of the muffins-in-progress.  At this point, the butter has been rubbed into the flour blend, the wet ingredients are combined, and the chopped candied pineapple is visible in the front.

Once I'd gotten my muffins out of the oven, I decided that without the coconut on top, they DID look a little plain.  So, being Dutch and not prone to waste anything, I opted to juice the lemon and orange and use that juice to make a powdered sugar glaze to drizzle over the top.

The glaze was made from 1-1/2 c. powdered sugar and 3-1/2 Tbsp of the mixed juice.  More or less juice may be require to reach a good drizzling consistency.
Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.

Halloween Monster Cookies

Out on my morning shopping run the other day, I stopped short, transfixed by an unfamiliar M&M's package.  Candy Corn M&M's?  Well, that's new!  So, always a sucker for novelty, I bought a bag.

I got them home, took them out and opened them up.  As it turns out, Candy Corn M&M's are white chocolate in candy corn-colored shells.  They were a bit overly sweet to eat out of hand much.

Now what was I going to do with them?  Then I remembered a recent post on one of my favorite blogs, The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle.  In this instance, she had made Halloween themed monster cookies using colored M&M's and candy corn.  Inspiration struck!
I used a combination of the Candy Corn M&M's, Kraft Caramel Bits, and chocolate chips in MY version.  The balance of salty/sweet/chocolate came out just right, I think.

Here's my variation on the classic:

1/2 c. butter, softened
2 c. packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 oz jar creamy peanut butter
4 1/2 c. gluten-free quick cooking oats
3/4 c. Candy Corn M&M's
3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. Kraft Caramel bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl (or a stand mixer) cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, beating well.  Beat in vanilla, baking powder, and salt, then add peanut butter.  Continue to beat mixture 2 minutes until smooth and creamy.  Add oats and mix on low until thoroughly combined.  Stir in candies and chips by hand, very gently.  Using a 2 oz disher, place 6 scoops of dough on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 12 minutes, until set and slightly golden.  Don't let them get crispy!  Remove from oven and cool on sheet 3-4 minutes before transfering to a wire rack to cool completely.  (The two baking sheets allow you to have one in the oven and one cooling at any given time).  

This batch of cookies was a big hit with the girls.  They're appropriately colored for the season, and full of stuff kids like.  A note on the oats:  Even gluten-free oats can be a problem for some celiacs.  Consult your physician before consuming oats if you are unsure whether you can tolerate them.

It's been a busy baking weekend for me, but at least there are lots of lunchbox treats for the girls for the upcoming week!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fabulous Fancy Baking Blend Flour

Now I've said before that no one blend can "do it all," and I still believe that's absolutely true.  But I do find that THIS one seems to fill the bill for most light baked goods.  Cakes, cookies, muffins, and delicate pastries come out well with this mix AND there is some protein and fiber in it as well.  It's not as nutritious as whole grains would be, but it does give an excellent texture and flavor:

2 c. millet flour
4 c. superfine white rice flour
1 c. sweet rice flour
2 c. tapioca flour
½ c. potato starch

You'll note that there is no xanthan gum or salt in this mix.  That's because different uses require different amounts of these two adjuncts, so I've left it to the baker to determine what's most appropriate for a given recipe.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Book Review - Episode 2

One of the worst bits of putting my daughters on a gluten-free diet was the sudden loss of  doughnuts.  They love doughnuts.  In fact, last week when the Wee Princess was headed to the local orchard on a school field trip, the biggest issue was the fact that the other kids would be getting doughnuts.  So I had to pull out on of my cookbooks to make her some to take along so she wouldn't feel left out.  Since it's out already then, today we'll take a look at Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home, by Lara Ferroni.  Now, note that this is not a "gluten-free" cookbook, per se.  But Lara gives a nod to the trend by including a basic recipe for a few types of gluten-free doughnuts, as well as a flour mix tailored for doughnuts.  And it does, indeed, work quite a bit better than my usual flour mix in these recipes.

It's clear that Lara spent some time not just perfecting her recipes, but making sure that most of them, at least, would translate well to a gluten-free version.  She also includes a few vegan recipes, though the bulk of the book is less adaptable to vegan baking than to gluten-free baking.

The selections run the gamut from old-fashioned sour cream doughnuts to cultural favorites like sopapillas to clever riffs like the Margarita doughnut.  The book is laid out to first cover the basics of doughnut making, then expand into the doughs necessary for different types.  Her picarones, a type of winter squash fritter from Peru, are on my list to try.  Lara gives instructions for frying in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, but anybody who really wants to make full use of the book will give at least a little thought toward getting a deep fryer.  The ability to more closely control the oil temperature afforded by a good fryer with at least a 4 qt oil capacity makes all of the fried recipes in the book more successful - I've tried it both ways.

After the doughnut types, Lara goes on to share some glazes.  And then gets down to the best part of the book.  She calls it "flavors" - and here she takes her basic recipes and endlessly spins them into delights like "S'mores," "Creme Brulee," and "Chai."

I've tried quite a few of the recipes presented, and have yet to have one fail as long as I used Lara's flour blend.  This probably rates as one of my favorite "single topic" cookbooks.  It has made the transition with me into a gluten-free lifestyle better than most of my other cookbooks.  Truly, "Doughnuts" deserves a spot on the bookshelf of any gluten-free kitchen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Small Gift

I invite you to download and print these treat labels made from vintage Halloween cards to use in your baking this season.  Please remember to set your printer NOT to "fit to page" as these labels have almost no margin.
Enjoy them and Happy Hallowe'en!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Caramel Apple Muffins

It's a bright, sunny fall weekend, and so I'm going to share the recipe I stirred up for my daughters.  These will tuck easily into their lunchboxes for next week - to their evident delight.  If they last that long, as the husband has already eaten two.  Yield: 12-16 muffins.

1/2 c. millet
3/4 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. Baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1-3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 egg
1/4 c. oil
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp milk
1 c. chopped apple  (about 2 small or one large.  I fed my little one a couple quarters while baking, so...)
3/4 c. Kraft caramel bits
Coarse sanding sugar, if desired

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare a cupcake pan.  (You'll notice wrappers in the picture.  Next time, I will use NO papers, and nonstick cooking spray.  Sometimes the caramel sticks to the paper.)  

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

In a second bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, and milk.

Peel and core and chop the apple.  Place it in a little lemon juice and water to prevent browning while you work.  So now we're right about here:
Now, make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the egg mixture, and whisk just to combine.  Then stir in the apples and caramel bits:
Fill the wells in the cupcake pans around 2/3 full.  The batter is filled with apples and caramel bits, which don't rise, so you can be a little more generous than usual here:
Sprinkle with sanding sugar, if you wish.  It's a nice little added crunch.  Then bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden:
Cool for a few minutes in the pan, then take out and cool completely on a wire rack.  They're a pretty muffin, and very tasty.

Enjoy this little taste of fall!  

And please check out the #applelove compilation of recipes.  Hosted by some great food bloggers, including EA Stewart.  Go check out the fab GF Apple Oatmeal Crisp Recipe!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Book Review - Episode 1

You Won't Believe It's Gluten-Free!, by Roben Ryberg:

I'm going to start a (I hope) weekly gluten-free cookbook review, and thought I'd begin at the beginning:  The first gluten-free cookbook my mother bought for me when I initially put my daughters on a gluten-free diet trial. You can tell by the cover that it's seen some hard use in the kitchen, and hence, I can say a few things about it.

As an introduction to a gluten-free lifestyle, this book serves fairly well.  Roben starts with an introduction to gluten-free cooking and description of her preferred ingredients.  While I've come to disagree with a lot of her opinions on these, that IS opinion, after all.  It must also be noted that the book was published in 2008, and the introduction of gluten-free products since that time can best be described as a torrent!

The book is organized by chapters that cover appetizers, meat dishes, fish dishes, and many varieties of baked goods.  This makes it useful when you want to make something specific.  Roben has gone the extra mile, often providing multiple variations on a dish using various flours - something exceedingly helpful when accommodating multiple sensitivities.  She also provides honest head notes to clue the reader in to those recipes that might have an unexpected appearance or performance.

Outside of the baking chapters, many of the recipes are for things that are gluten-free by their very nature (apple sauce, poached pears, Cornish hens, cucumber salad).  While they are, in fact, gluten-free, they are inherently no different from recipes in a standard cookbook.  It does serve to have a full complement of recipes in one collection so that no assessment of whether a given recipe from a standard cookbook is or is not gluten-free.  But it also makes the cookbook look somewhat more in depth than it is, in a way.

Most of the recipes work quite well - or at least as promised in the headnotes.  I find myself reaching for this book less and less as I get more adept at converting recipes, but it's still filled with useful tidbits.  What it doesn't have are any pictures at all, or any sort of narrative.  Now, that isn't it's purpose - which is to provide an entire diet's worth of recipes for those with a gluten sensitivity.  But I'm a cookbook addict - most of the time.  And I can wrap myself in a chair with an appropriately attractive, warmly written tome.

All in all, I would characterize this book as informational, but not inspirational.  It is more a part of my "cooking reference" collection than one of the cookbooks a treasure for the pure joy of being a foodie.  Buy it, refer to it - but you really can't cuddle up to it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Delightful Giveaway

Now, if you know me, you know that I adore "Where Women Cook," and I'm also a fan of "Where Women Create."  I'm always delighted when I can pick up an issue at Costco - the 30% discount on magazines makes a big difference.  Or I just save my pennies and pick up an issue when the Husband isn't looking.  You could even say that appearing in the pages of "Where Women Cook" is something of a pipe dream of mine.  (Of course, this would require a new kitchen to be photographed in.....)

So my little heart skipped a beat this morning at the new giveaway, here:

A year's subscription to EACH magazine, plus a goody bag with all kinds of other fun stuff.  And I point you at it at risk of decreasing the odds that I can get my hot little hands on it.

Of course, it's also true that I may  have used up my store of luck for the near future, anyway.  Yesterday I won a free pass to Cookbook Camp with Maggie Green of Green Apron.  This was a result of having listened to a teleseminar with Maggie, which I highly recommend.

At this point, life is good.  Anticipate more recipes and a book review up coming!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I'm pretty excited to have found Abby Dodge's #baketogether.  And especially so since the Rock-tober recipe that she presented is right up my alley.  Go take a peek at her website for her Classic Spiced Sour Cream Coffee Cake.  Now, part of the fun of #baketogether is putting your own spin on the recipe.  This is great for me, because I have to convert the recipes to a gluten-free version anyway.  The original recipe is on Abby's site, and here are my modifications:

For the streusel, I used 1/2 c. of white rice flour and 1/4 c. of sweet rice flour to replace the AP flour.  My streusel was a little dry, and I think if I were to do it again, I'd increase the melted butter by another tablespoon.  Other than that, I used Abby's directions.

To make the cake gluten free, I replaced the AP flour with the following mixture:

1/2 c. amaranth flour
1/2 c. sweet rice flour
1/4 c. tapioca starch
1/4 c. potato starch
3/4 c. white rice flour
1 tsp.  xanthan gum

What?  You think a 4 ounce package of cinnamon is excessive?  Ha.  That'll last me 6 months.  Tops.

I also increased the baking soda to 1-1/2 tsp, as gluten free baked goods sometimes need a bit of extra oomph.

Then I got creative.
I replaced the sour cream with a 6 oz. container of vanilla Greek yogurt and 1/2 c. of canned pumpkin.   I beat the pumpkin into the butter/sugar/egg mixture, and folded in the yogurt as instructed for the sour cream.  I also increased the vanilla extract to 1 tablespoon - in part because I was using a homemade vanilla extract and it's a little young, and in part because I wanted to embrace the whole "pumpkin pie" vibe.

You can see a bit of what I mean about the streusel being slightly dry.  I also pulled it out just a smidgen too early, as it was just a little underdone in the middle.  But still tasty, on a warm fall afternoon:
Both of my children devoured their pieces, and even my husband remarked that it didn't TASTE gluten free.  I'd call that a Score! all the way around.  Thanks, Abby!!