Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Cookies - Chocodiles

For most of us, the whole point of baked goods is comfort.  We associate a lot of specific items with a particular feeling or time or place.  Which sort of sums up the phenomenon of Christmas cookies, I think.  Most families, mine included, have a number off cookies and goodies that only really come out at the holidays.
If you're a regular reader, you'll have figured out that I get most of my baking mojo from Mom.  Magnify that by several powers of magnitude at Christmas.  Mom makes insane numbers of cookies at Christmas.  Remember the Schwann's ice cream tubs?  She'd fill multiple tubs with cookies and candies when we went to visit my grandparents.  Among the "core collection" (and we'll get to some of the others later) were her Chocodiles.
Mom made them at other times of the year, but I still associate them with Christmas.  They're easy, they're tasty, and they store well.  Now, Mom mentioned at one point that it was an old Pillsbury recipe that she had "tweaked."  I did finally find the old recipe, and Mom's version is quite a bit different.  So, here I give you the gluten-free version of Mom's Chocodiles (only loosely related to the vintage Pillsbury version).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/2 c. creamy peanut butter + 1/3 c. peanut butter, divided
1 c. butter
2 c. brown sugar
2 c. GF AP Flour OR my Fancy Flour Blend OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch

1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 12oz. pkg semisweet chocolate chips
3 c. gluten-free Rice Krispies
Cream together butter, 1/2 c. peanut butter, and brown sugar.
In another bowl, sift together flour(s), baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum.
Gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, beating well until a dry, crumbly batter comes together.  This is a very dense, shortbread-like batter.  If you're going to use a hand mixer, it needs to have a lot of power.  This dough is likely to burn out the motor on a low-end discount model - you've been warned!  It is more than possible to bring it together by hand (especially with the help of a burly assistant) or with a stand mixer.
Now pour the entire bowl of crust mixture into a 9"x13" pan.  You don't need to grease the pan, as there is enough fat in the crust that it is in no danger of sticking.  Really.  Trust me.
Gently distribute the crust mixture evenly across the bottom of the pan - then tamp it down firmly into place with your hands.  It doesn't need to be perfectly even - just packed down well.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set and golden.  Remove and set aside to cool.
Near the end of the cooking time, place the chocolate chips and remaining 1/3 c. of peanut butter in a medium saucepan and place over medium-low heat.  Measure out the Rice Krispies and set aside.
Stir the chips and peanut butter until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in Rice Krispies.  Spread this mixture over the crust (which is now out of the oven, but still warm) and smooth into a relatively even layer.
Let cool completely, until chocolate is set.  Cut into 24 bars and serve.
There is a slight tendency for the crust and topping to separate, but nobody usually minds.  This is also less of an issue as the bars become completely cool.  They can be stored in the refrigerator if your kitchen is particularly warm.
I'm a big fan of the sweet/salty combo - and these bars hit that spot delightfully.  Make some for your holiday gifts, brew a nice pot of coffee..  and nobody will even notice that they're gluten-free.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chocolate Bread Pudding Muffins

It's Muffin Monday again, and as always, I invite you to visit Baker Street for the original recipe for Bread Pudding Muffins.  Because this time I've tinkered significantly.  So below, you'll find the recipe for Chocolate Bread Pudding Muffins with Cinnamon M&M's.
 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place paper liners in the wells of two 12-cup muffin pans.  Place each on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper to aid clean up.

7 c. cubed gluten-free bread
3/4 c. whipping cream
1-1/4 c. milk
4 eggs
2/3 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp millet flour
3 Tbsp white rice flour
1 Tbsp sweet rice flour
2 Tbsp tapioca starch
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 c. cinnamon M&M's plus more for tops

In a large mixing bowl, combine milk and cream and warm in microwave.  Stir in 5 c. bread cubes and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.  Stir and press with a wooden spoon to break up bread cubes.
In a smaller bowl, beat eggs, melted butter, vanilla, and brown sugar together until well combined.  Stir into bread cube mixture.
In another bowl, combine flours, xanthan gum, cinnamon, baking powder, and cocoa.  Whisk lightly to blend.
Stir dry ingredients into bread cube and milk mixture until thoroughly combined, then add reserved bread cubes and mix until coated.  Add M&M's and chips, stirring as little as possible - batter is VERY wet and M&M coatings will start to dissolve.
Working quickly, fill muffin cups to brim.  (I didn't, and I ought to have - but I was unsure how these would bake up.)  Sprinkle a few extra M&M's on top.

Bake for 30 minutes, until set. Cool for 5 minutes in pan before removing. If desired, dust with powdered sugar.

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, November 26, 2011

Christmas Morning Muffins

In avoidance of the usual hustle and bustle of the busiest shopping day of the year, I spent quite a bit of today in the kitchen.  I was in a holiday mood, so I thought I'd try to come up with something that will be appropriate for breakfast Christmas morning.
These are light, fluffy, sweet muffins.  In two variations!  The candy cane muffins are pictured above.

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

1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 egg
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. milk
3/4 c. egg nog
1/2 c. Heath Brickle Bits or Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Bits
Sparkle sugar for sprinklingPreheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.  (Keep in mind that using any candy mix-in or chip will tend to cause your muffins to stick to the wrappers.  If this bothers you, forgo the wrappers and use nonstick cooking spray.)
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and xanthan gum.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg, oil, milk, egg nog, and vanilla.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture.  Stir until just combined.  Stir in the brickle bits or peppermint bits.
Use a 2 oz. disher or fill each paper liner 3/4 full of batter.  Sprinkle sparkle sugar on top and bake for 20 minutes until set and just slightly golden.
Both versions are tasty - but I think the peppermint ones may be MY new favorite muffin.
They're so light and airy, it's pretty easy to have two.  Or three.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Book Review, Nov 25

This week, lets take a look at a slightly older book, Babycakes.  Another result of my trolling the local library (which has a blissfully extensive lending system linked together over several counties), this book is another that is not currently in my personal collection.
Like the Flying Aprons book, this is another collection of recipes born of a brick-and-mortar gluten-free and vegan bakery.

It's a lovely book, with lots of color, glossy pages, and pretty pictures.  For all that, some of the fonts chosen are difficult to read, and it's not a comfortable browsing book.  It is an exciting book to look at, with lots of intriguing recipes to try.  This book has more sidenotes and extensive head notes, which give it more character and interest.  It's introductory material on choosing and using ingredients and equipment is also more developed.  Chapters follow that cover muffins, biscuits and scones, teacakes, cookies and brownies, cupcakes and frostings, cakes and crumbles, pies and cobblers, and drinks.

Those recipes that I tried were well written, and easy to execute if you've got even a little bit of kitchen experience.  The results are typical for vegan/gluten-free.  On a personal level, I'd just as soon NOT bother with the vegan part, as I find the results less than ideal.  The overt flavor of coconut oil is off-putting in many instances.  I didn't even have the option to try out many of the frosting recipes, as I could not locate soy milk powder anywhere locally.  The "drinks" chapter, which includes a mere 5 recipes - for lemonade, Babyberry, a vanilla shake, an Arnold Palmer, and hot chocolate - was completely superfluous.

Again, if you're used to gluten-free baking, but not vegan baking, you're going to have to add a string of new ingredients to your pantry.  And, as this book bills it's recipes as mostly sugar-free as well, a number of alternative sweeteners.

At this point, I'm going to take a brief moment to be cranky about the "sugar-free" thing.  These recipes are NOT "sugar-free" by any chemist's definition.  The closest I would grant would be "refined white sugar free".  Both agave nectar and evaporated cane juice are still sugars.  Somewhat chemically distinct from straight sucrose, but sugars nonetheless and able to stimulate an insulin response.  To me, this is more than a little misleading and I'm a bit surprised that the "sugar-free" bit made it on to the cover.

Of the two books, I preferred the Flying Apron Baking Book, but in truth, I own neither and don't have any burning desire to.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mother was the ultimate Domestic Goddess - well, still is.  Though she works enough these days that she might not do quite as many crazy things around the house, there are some habits that she keeps.  For instance, there is always (always!) a container of chocolate chip cookies in the freezer, even if the container isn't a coffee can anymore.  It was such a tradition, so habitual, that my cousin Paul sidled up to me at my sister's graduation open house.  There was food aplenty, and a cake sitting out for the taking.  But Paul asked in a low voice:
"Does your mother still have chocolate chip cookies around?"
"Yep," I said.
"In a coffee can, in the freezer?"
"Oh, good!"
Nothing else on the buffet held a candle to Mom's cookies.  This version is as close as I've gotten with a gluten-free recipe.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. GF AP flour or Fancy Flour Blend OR
1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp millet flour
1 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch

1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream together butter, shortening, and sugars.  Beat in egg and vanilla extract.
In another bowl, sift together flour, xanthan gum, salt, and soda.  Add gradually to the egg mixture, with the mixer set on low.  
Add chips and stir briefly on low.
Drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet by teaspoonfuls.  I like my disher for this.  And, if I'm REALLY feeling lazy, parchment paper saves on clean-up.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  If cookies are prone to spread too much, place the dough in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes and chill cookie sheets between batches.
They're not (quite) Mom's...  but they'll do for the moment.  Time for me to go put them in the freezer.  If I can find a coffee can, that is...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rocky Road Muffins!

We now return you to Muffin Monday, courtesy of the fabulous Baker Street.  This weeks' installment is Rocky Road Muffins.  Please visit Baker Street for the original recipe.  I give you my own, gluten-free version, below.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place paper liners in 12 muffin cups.

2 c. GF AP Flour, Fancy Flour Blend OR:
1/2 c. millet flour
3/4 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
75 g milk chocolate chips
1/2 c. Heath Brickle Chips
60 g mini marshmallows
2/3 brown sugar
3/4 + 3 Tbsp milk
2 eggs
5 Tbsp butter, melted

In a small bowl, combine chips and brickle bits. Reserve 1/3 of the mixture to top muffins.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, cocoa powder, marshmallows, and remaining 2/3 of chocolate chip mixture.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, milk, and melted butter.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the egg mixture, and whisk until combined. Place into muffin cups with a 2 oz. disher. Sprinkle with reserved brickle/chocolate chip mixture. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
These were, again, a big hit.  Though my little one was inclined to chew the chocolate chips off the tops and leave the rest of the muffin, they still seemed to be a big hit.  I do wish I could figure out how to keep the marshmallows from sort of "disappearing" once the muffins cool.

Frost on the Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

My eldest is enrolled in an Autism class in the local school system.  As a part of this program, they have lately been doing a "Fun Food Friday," and this week was their "Thanksgiving Feast."  Somewhat to my surprise, she apparently loved the pumpkin pie.  Now, at my house, we're not terribly fond of traditional pumpkin pie.  Thus,  I went on a hunt for a chiffon pie recipe that I made around 10 years ago.  My faulty memory recorded it as being called "Frost on the Pumpkin Pie" - but a search for that turned up various iterations of a recipe that involved purchased frosting.  Not what I was looking for at all.  Below follows the version I came up with from memory - more or less.
I recall that the original may have had a crumb crust, but I had no gluten-free cookies on hand, so I went with a standard blind baked pie crust.  I used this recipe for mine.  Next, things get a little... different.

4 egg yolks
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. milk
1 1/4 c. pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice - commercial or homemade
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 c. whipping cream, divided
2 Tbsp vanilla sugar (or plain granulated sugar)In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together egg yolks, brown sugar, milk, pumpkin puree, spices, and salt.

In a small bowl, combine water and vanilla.  Sprinkle gelatin powder over the top and allow to bloom.  Set aside.
Continue to cook the pumpkin custard mixture until in begins to boil and thickens slightly.  Remove from heat and stir 2-3 minutes until cooled a little.  Pour about 3/4 c. of hot mixture into bowl containing gelatine mixture.  Whisk until gelatin is dissolved, then stir back into custard in saucepan.  Pour the mixture into bowl and place in the refrigerator.  Stir occasionally until mixture is cooled and starts to take on an egg white-like consistency.
Remove the mixture from the refrigerator and set aside.  (This process can be speeded by putting the bowl containing the pumpkin mixture into an icewater bath and stirring constantly until the correct consistency is reached.  Either way, be careful not to overchill the mixture or it will set and will not combine with the cream correctly.)
In a chilled bowl, whip 1 c. of the whipping cream until it holds its shape
Whisk about 1/4 of the cream into the pumpkin gelatin mixture to lighten it.
Then gently fold in the rest of cream, being careful not to deflate it by overworking.
Pour the resulting mixture into the pie shell and refrigerate.
Once the pie is chilled, whip the remaining 1 c. of cream to soft peaks.  Sprinkle the 2 Tbsp of vanilla sugar (Plain sugar is fine, if you don't have vanilla sugar.  I put "used" vanilla beans into a canister with sugar and make my own, so it's always handy.) onto the cream and continue whipping until the cream holds its shape.  Spread on top of the pumpkin filling.
The result is lighter than a baked custard pumpkin pie, but retains the traditional flavor.  I suspect it will be a Thanksgiving tradition here from now on - judging from the way dessert plates have been scraped clean.
Like this pie?
  Come join Love the Pie with TidyMom  sponsored by Cherokee USALe CreusetWilton,Bags by Bloom and  Harvard Common Press

This post is also a part of the #squashlove blog hop. Hop along!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Book Review, Nov 18

This week, I'm going to consider Elana Amsterdam's Gluten-free Cupcakes.  This is, again, not a book in my personal collection, but one that I borrowed from the library.  I often do this to evaluate a book and determine whether or not I want a copy of my very own.
This book consists of a brief forward with a description of the author's motivation - and passion for cupcakes, a breakdown of the ingredients she favors, and 50 cupcake recipes that use almond and coconut flour plus accompanying frostings.

Those cupcakes I tried from this book came out well, though there was often some notable grittiness in those recipes that called for more coconut flour.  In a few, it was objectionable enough that my daughters both rejected them out of hand on a textural basis.

What the title does NOT mention is that all of the recipes use alternative sweeteners, usually agave nectar, and also grapeseed oil, rather than butter or vegetable oil.  Most are also dairy-free.  While I applaud the author for providing recipes for that subset of people who require not only gluten-free but also dairy-free and/or vegan recipes, I wasn't impressed.  I'm also unsure why only coconut flour and almond flour were considered for use in them.  The resulting recipes are "one step farther" from traditional baked goods than cupcakes made with other flours and containing butter, sugar, and other typical ingredients.  These recipes, on the other hand, are prohibitively expensive due to their ingredient lists and of less acceptable finished quality.

The frostings are no different.  I've always found pure shortening-based frostings to be bland and oversweet, and these are no exception.  Whether or not using Sweetex would improve matters, I'm unsure.  And, to be frank, I'd just as soon pull out another book and make a genuine buttercream.

If you're vegan or dairy-free, or wish to be entirely grain-free, this might be a useful book.  If you're looking for gluten-free cupcakes that are indistinguishable from their wheat flour counterparts - pass this one by.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cinnamon Chip Bundt Cake

It's National Bundt Day!
And I'm a little late, with this, but I'm finally getting it up.
Now, I got a little goody recently.  One of my co-workers brought in a box of cooking bric-a-brac that a friend wanted to get rid of.  Amidst the elderly, bent aluminum pans, broken salad tongs, and other bits, was this:

An original Bundt pan from the 1960's.  With the "Tunnel of Fudge" recipe prined both on the pan liner, and on the back of the box:
Too much fun, right?  So, I decided to make a simple little cake to test drive the thing.  I give you...

Cinnamon Chip Bundt Cake

And I note, too, that this is really good with dried cherries.  Chop 3/4 c. dried cherries, and allow them to soak in a little orange juice for an hour.  Drain and stir into the batter instead of the cinnamon chips.

1/2 cup + 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 c. brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 c. Fancy Flour Blend, GF AP flour of your choice, OR
1/2 c. millet flour
3/4 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp Tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp milk
1 c. cinnamon chips


2 Tbsp salted butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a bundt pan and dust lightly with sweet rice flour.
In a bowl, sift together flours, salt, soda, cinnamon and xanthan gum.
In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions.  Beat in almond extract.
Incorporate the flour mixture and milk in alternating additions.  Beat until just smooth.  Stir in chips.  Pour into pan, smooth, and bake for an hour to an hour and 10 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out done.
Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a heat-proof plate.  While cake cools, make icing.
In a saucepan, melt butter and stir in brown sugar.  Cook over low heat until smooth.  Stir in half of powdered sugar, and stir briskly until incorporated.  Add vanilla and 1 Tbsp milk, stirring until smooth.  Add the remaining sugar and stir until smooth again.  Add enough milk to reach drizzling consistency.  Spoon over warm cake.
This is a simple, wonderful cake.  My little one even climbed into Daddy's lap to share.
A casein-free version would be pretty easy to make, by substituting a dairy-free margarine for the butter and soy, rice, or almond milk for the milk.  Almond milk would be pretty good!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Snickerdoodle Muffins

Due to some commitments elsewhere on my part this weekend, I couldn't participate in Baker Street's Muffin Monday.  But the girls still need their lunchbox goodies, and well, I still need something to share!

I give you, Snickerdoodle Muffins:
They're really nothing but a simple sweet muffin with a cinnamon sugar topping.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line one 12-cup muffin pan with paper wrappers or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2 c. Fancy Baking Blend, other AP GF flour blend, or:
1/3 c. Millet Flour
3/4 c. White Rice Flour
1/4 c. Sweet Rice Flour
2/3 c. Tapioca starch

1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 egg
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 c. + 2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cinnamon Sugar Sprinkle
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Sift together flour, sugar, xanthan gum, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg, butter, milk, and vanilla.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids.  Whisk together until combined.
 Fill muffin cups 2/3 full or use a 2 oz disher to portion batter.  

Combine sugar and cinnamon for sprinkle, and top each muffin with about a tsp. of cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes or until set and golden.
Simple, but well received.  And, having no icing or other frou-frou, they travel VERY well.
They're also pretty muffins, being very white in the center, and delightfully crinkled on top.