Baking for the Cause

{gluten-free, vegan} Dark Chocolate Lace Cookies

Every year I say I’m not gonna do any baking events during the holidays.

And then every year I do a few anyway. Because, like today, sometimes you can’t say “no” to making something sweet for a good cause. Continue reading

Divine Gluten-Free Cocoa Brownies (aka the easiest brownies you will ever make!)

Divine Gluten-Free Brownies - TheDustyBaker

Saturday was the New York City Bake Sale benefiting Share Our Strength’s NO KID HUNGRY. It’s a beautiful cause, chaired by chefs Marc Murphy and Alex Guarnaschelli and supported by a whole host of chefs, restaurant owners and mixologists…. and little bakers and bloggers like those who gathered together.

The weather was gorgeous on Saturday, and I trekked the 95 minutes down to Brooklyn (damn you, A train!) to drop off my goods. Honestly, I wasn’t quite up to it and have been having a series of symptom flares, so I didn’t stay long. And because of such flairs and a bit of burnout, and because honestly making things look crafty and cute is pretty far down on my list of priorities, my items were not nearly as beautiful as most of the offerings there. I am astounded by how talented and devoted bloggers are. They truly inspire me. While I only stayed a few minutes to meet the Divine folk, check out the glorious offerings (which I couldn’t buy because sugar is not my friend right now, symptom-wise), and grab a drink before heading back to the C train (damn you!), I was so happy to have been a part of this. Lillian of Sweets by Lillianah and Ken of Hungry Rabbit did a stellar job organizing and executing this event, which raised over $3,000 for the charity!

Continue reading

Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip and Banana Scones (gluten free)

Thank you to Alejandra Ramos of Always Order Dessert for this photo

Thank you to Alejandra Ramos of Always Order Dessert for this photo

Last Sunday I had the loveliest afternoon. My photographer Brent had gotten married the night before, and after I snuck out from the fabulous party flowing with really good Prosecco, dangerously good mescal and bacon wrapped figs / ribs / pickled veggies and charcuterie that was to die for, I came home to Lil Sis on my couch. She had driven the 10 hours up from North Carolina to bake with me on Sunday, because after a weekend of revelry that capped off a long week there was no way I could haul my loot downtown and bake 180 gluten-free scones by myself.

I am so thankful she came with me, and so psyched for what we did.

We joined 7 other bakers/bloggers, pastry chef Stephen Collucci and chocolatier Mehdi Chellaoui at the Sweet Sensations benefit for C-CAP, which helps at-risk kids find scholarships and placement in the culinary world.

Continue reading

Gluten-Free Goat Cheese, Chive and Walnut Scones

I love scones. Ever since I started dating this guy named Ruark and spent holidays at his parent’s house, they’ve intrigued me. I’d sit drinking tea in the kitchen while his dad, Kevin, worked butter and flour together, the air filling with sweetness while everyone else slowly woke. By the time the fluffy pastries were cooling on the counter, we’d be on our third cup with everyone gathered at the table. I could not eat the scones, but I inherited Kevin’s base recipe, which I’ve adapted over the years in numerous ways.

In the next three posts, I’ll be sharing three new scone recipes I brought in miniature form to a benefit for C-CAP, an organization that works with public schools across the country to prepare at-risk high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Continue reading

Classic Butter Cutout Cookies (gluten free) – the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

I’m gonna get a sentimental for a moment.

I have a very clear memory of my first Christmas with Lyme Disease, when I was 12 or 13 years old.  I was upstairs in my room, having been excused from the dinner table.  It was a cold winter.  I was in a lot of pain.  I hadn’t eaten much food, because I could barely digest anything at that point.  I had been carried upstairs, as I had lost almost my entire ability to walk.  I could hear laughter, and smell delicious things, and I felt very alone and very sad.  I cried, all bundled in bed, and listened to Windham Hill Artist’s A Winter Solstice, which my mother would play to comfort me.  The song “Gift” has always stuck with me – a gentle bit of comfort when feeling ill and lonely.

I pulled out of that bout of Lyme, and two others, and walked again.  My ability to move from point A to point B is something I will never take for granted, and a reason I so fully love walking in the 60-mile Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure.

Changing my diet is what healed me.  Yes, I’ve taken a lot of antibiotics in my 18 years of battling Lyme.  But every time I’ve gone through treatment it has not been until I’ve worked with a nutritionist of some sort and been put on a strict diet with lots of supplements and vitamin drips that I’ve seen results.

As a child it was obviously hard.  There weren’t cookbooks and blogs on gluten or dairy free baking.  There was one alternative for gluten free bread, and it was horrid.  Rice Dream was no substitute for ice cream, and the only offering.  Whole Foods did not exist, at least not in Connecticut.  There was almost no “alternative baking”.  It was a huge adjustment for my parents.

So this holiday season I’ve found myself overwhelmed with joy, gratitude and a feeling of community.  In one weekend I participated in three cookie swaps.

The first, the NY Cookie Swap organized by Three Many Cooks for Bloggers Without Borders, benefited Cookies for Kids Cancers.  Obviously any way I can help other children fight their illnesses, I’m in.  I remember how hard it was for my parents, seeing me sick as a child, a college student and as a full adult, and how my father sometimes tears up to this day, knowing I will never be as free of illness as he wishes I could be.  On a crisp Sunday afternoon dozens of bloggers met for some barbecue, margaritas and cookie swapping.  It was a joy to put faces and voices to the blog names I’ve seen all over the web.  And there was an entire table set aside for gluten-free cookies.  Awesome.  (Getting misty-eyed).

My monthly Burwell General Store Swap went up that Sunday as well.  Every month I join a group of 25 or so bloggers in adapting a recipe to our heart’s content.  Mine, of course, are gluten free.  I love this group of talented home and professional chefs.  For the NY and Burwell swaps I made Mesquite Gingerbread Men (recipe soon) and Chocolate Almond Biscotti, the recipe of which was chosen for FoodBuzz’s Top 9!

And then there’s this: the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, which required me to ship out 1 dozen cookies each to 3 bloggers I had been paired with – all gluten-free eaters.  In return I’d get three dozen different cookies as well! Awesome, no?

I am so very thankful for my ability to walk, my ability to eat what some see as a limited but I see as an incredible diverse and dynamic scope of food.  And I’m so thankful to have grown with a community of those who need to eat the same way, who pool information and resources, and to be able to teach some of what I have learned in my 18 years of living this way.

While I look back on that first Lyme Christmas as a blue one, the only blue snowflakes that are falling for me now are the ones I’m dunking in my almond milk.

Thanks to Three Many Cooks for the NY Cookie Swap and Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen for organizing the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

I don’t have pictures of the beautiful gluten free cookies I received in the swap because as soon as they came in they were either in my mouth or on a plate and out the door with a collection of others.  They were so delicious and looked so nice alongside others that I had made for gifting, and, well, I’ve seen myself on camera lately and I have to WATCH MY COOKIES.

Julie from Swim… Bike… Running on Empty sent some deliciously moist gluten, corn and dairy free vegan pumpkin bites that were laced with nuts and chocolate as well.  The perfect soft cakey-cookie.  Check out her blog for healthy living tips including balancing all these cookies with exercise (which some of us need to incorporate more, note to self).  Follow her Tweets, people!

Maria from Gluten-Free Girl in Chicago‘s White Sugar Cookies with Pecans reintroduced me to the love of dipping cookies in milk.  Don’t know why, but I’m as excited about this practice as if I’d just discovered the combo myself.  Her crisp, delicate cookies were made with Earth Balance Coconut Spread (which I’d never heard of) and Better Batter All Purpose Flour.  So two new things for the DB.  I’m making them asap.  Since I have a big thing of almond milk waiting for me in the fridge.  Also check her out on Twitter.

Lastly, Clean Eating Chelsey’s Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies were just the perfect way to round out this trio.  I loved how they weren’t that sweet.  I find a huge difference between gluten-free and/or vegan eaters: we generally use less sugar. When adapting some recipes I’ll think something is WAY too sweet and my regular eating friends will disagree.  So these soft, chewy cookies (also perfect in almond milk) with big chunks of vegan chocolate and a strong coconut oil flavor were divine.  Follow her on Twitter too.

Classic Butter Snowflake Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen large snowflake cookies

Ingredients:

Adapted from the Classic Sugar Cookies by Saveur

  • 3 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 cups arrowroot or tapioca flour
  • 1 cup quinoa or millet flour
  • 3 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (3 sticks), soft
  • 2 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 Tbsp Meringue / Egg White Powder
  • 1/2-1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or almond, cinnamon etc.)
  • Gel food coloring
  • Colored sanding sugar and edible glitter

Method: Cookies

Whisk the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes (especially when using organic sugars or sucanat, you need to mix longer as they don’t break down or dissolve very well).  Add the eggs, one a time, beating thoroughly between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.

Slowly add the flour, and mix until the dough just pulls together and the flour is blended in.

Divide in four, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill for 45 minutes or until a bit firmer.

When ready to cut and bake, preheat oven to 325°.  On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick.  Cut with 3 inch snowflake cookie cutters (or cutters of choice, of course).  Bake for 15 minutes or until just brown at edges.  Cool for 5 minutes on sheet before removing to cooling racks.  Cool completely before icing.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Note: It’s easier to re-roll gluten-free cookies than regular cookies because you don’t have the presence of the gluten protein to make them tougher.  However, the softer the dough gets, the less crisp and crumbly it will be.

Method: Royal Icing

To make the icing, place sifted powdered sugar and meringue / egg white powder in bowl of standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  Add 1/2 cup of warm water and mix on medium low to incorporate.  If it is very dry, add a bit more water.  Increase speed to high and beat until glossy and stiff, about 6 minutes.

Now, some people freak out with royal icing.  I find it fun.  Because if you need thinner icing for piping a trillion cookies smoothly, just add warm water a teaspoon at a time until you get to the consistency you want.  Mix gel food colorings in a desired amount in small bowls.  This mixture makes about 3 cups, which is plenty for this batch of cookies.

Have fun with icing tips to pipe thick frosting on the snowflakes, and immediately sprinkle with shimmery sanding sugar or edible glitter as you go.

50 Nonprofits to be Grateful for This Thanksgiving

50 Nonprofits to be Thankful For This Thanksgiving

I am thankful for…

My family – they’re such good people with huge hearts, and a bale full of fun.

My friends – like family, known for so long, and a bucket full of laughs.

My dog Mitra – she’s the bees knees (do bees have knees?).

This blog / selling my first article to my favorite food mag / working for my new favorite gluten free food mag / filming the DB cooking show / working with some stellar people.

My apartment and my roomate.

Seeing the hard work of my talented friends come into fruition as we work our tushes off.

People in my life who give back generously.

Click on the image above to a list of 50 incredible Nonprofits you can give back to this holiday season.

Happy, Happy Holidays.

Wishing you much peace, love and a sweet, sweet life.

– Dusty Jacqueline

Delectable Trail Mix Cookies for Breast Cancer (gluten-free!)

That gorgeous lady on the left is Barbara Jo Kirshbaum.

I met Barbara Jo years ago while walking one of my Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cures, 60 mile walks that take place around the country raising money and awareness for the battle against breast cancer.

Barbara Jo is a marvel.  She started walking in 1998, and since then has raised OVER A MILLION DOLLARS For the Avon and Komen organizations.  As Team California, Barbara Jo and her late husband, Dr. Bob, could be seen at several events yearly.  Their bright pink signs toting slogans such as “You’re Beautiful” and “Just Keep Walking” dotted the miles.  Dr. Bob would be standing on street corners next to their rented car throughout the entire weekend, smiling, clapping and giving hugs as needed.  Barbara Jo would be walking away, a cape of ribbons imprinted with the names of those she was walking for on her back. I’ve seen her over the years in many walks, and she’s been such an inspiration and source of support as I’ve dealt with my on and off health and my changing ability to complete my goal of walking every city the Komen organization organizes.

Here are her stats by the end of her 2010 walking season:

  • Raised $126,247 for 2010
  • Total since 1998:  $1,259,017
  • Completed 119 long distance walks in the fight against breast cancer
  • Completed 5869 official miles
  • Walked 11,738,000 steps
  • Walked a total of 300 days (about 3000 hours)

On my Twin Cities walk this year, I found out that Dr. Bob passed away last year.  My heart broke a little bit when I heard the news, as I’d been walking for miles in excitement to see him and Barbara Jo, their coming foretold by those Team California signs.  The Komen and Avon walkers lost a foot soldier in our fight to make sure that breast cancer is no longer a life threatening illness, and I thank Dr. Bob and Barbara Jo with all my heart for their work over the years, and for Barbara Jo continuing to walk after Bob’s passing.  I did a little tribute to Bob in my Frosting for the Cause post, and was grateful for a way to mark his passing in words and by making something sweet for others.

I ate too many of these today...

This weekend the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer comes to NYC, as does Barbara Jo, now with her son-in-law Chris putting up those bright pink signs.  I’m excited to be out there first thing tomorrow morning, about 40 blocks from my apartment, cheering along the walkers on the first few miles of their journey.  Later in the day my sister and I will join them with more cheering and homemade trail mix cookies – part of my promise in making a cookie for every $10 donated to my own walk this year (this will bring my total to about 140 out of 400… still a long way to go!).

So these cookies are what I made for the walkers: a not-too-sweet trail mix cookie that’s gluten and dairy free, and packed with extra fiber and protein.  Such cookies are endlessly versatile – alter the amount of chocolate, nuts and fruit as you see fit, or the kind of additions you want to begin with.  The base cookie is soft and sweet, undetectably gluten-free, and ready for a bit of dusty fun.

Thank you so much to all the women and men walking, crewing and staffing the Avon walk this weekend.  These events are incredibly eye-opening for those who see thousands walking in pink, exhausting themselves and committing to raise a large amount of money for a necessary cause.

Can’t wait to get out there and tell you how truly amazing you are.

Gluten and dairy free Trail Mix cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup millet flour
  • 1/4 almond meal / flour
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseeds meal
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup butter flavored Earth Balance
  • 1 cup beet sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup vegan dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds, optional

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats (totally worth the $).
  • In a medium bowl, whisk all dry ingredients.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a large bowl) beat Earth Balance on high heat until fluffy.
  • Add beet sugar and cream until the mixture lifts and gets pale.
  • Add eggs and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes (beating the eggs gives a little lift and body to the coming flours).
  • Add vanilla and mix in.
  • Add all the flour, turn speed down to low, and mix until just combined.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips, raisins and nuts.
  • Fold in the oats a cup at a time until distributed evenly.
  • Drop in rounded tablespoons onto mats.
  • Put in upper and lower third of oven and bake for 9 minutes.
  • Rotate the trays (switch upper and lower) to ensure even baking and bake for 9-11 more minutes, or until lightly browned at edges.
  • Cool a few minutes on trays before removing to cooling rack.

Gluten-Free Churros – a Family Holiday Recipe

Gluten-Free Churros

A few hours before posting this I had a huge panic moment: I’m still not quite sure how it happened, but while cleaning out unneeded photos from my hard drive collection I accidentally erased ALL OF THEM!!  These are the only two that survived as they’d already been dragged onto the desktop.  It was frustrating, to say the least.

I spend way too much time on little machines and it’s oddly refreshing sometimes to have them revolt against me.  It reminds me of what I love most about what I do: Words. Food. Art.  Not computers, DSLRs and smartphones. Simple, old-school.

Which is what this recipe is: simple and old-school.

My father is from Portugal, and my favorite recipes are ones that I’ve learned from my Tia or inherited through my Avo, my grandmother.  When I was 13 or so I remember walking into the garage at her house in Povacao (a small town on the island of Sao Miguel in the Acores) to see her plucking a chicken, with several others hanging from a rafter.  I also remember a sweet, dense bread she’d bake in a brick oven in that garage.  And fried sardines, spicy orange beans and creamy kale soup that she made magically with rustic cookware in her old kitchen.

One of my favorite family recipes, and one that was reserved for the holidays, are malasadas – a yeasted fried dough that she’d bring over, all puffy and risen, in a big bowl to whichever family was hosting.  As kids, we’d be given a ball of the dough to stretch out for ourselves.  After a quick fry (always stove-top, none of us had a deep fryer), we’d toss them in a paper bag of sugar and devour them warm.

My avo died last summer, and this is how I ended her eulogy which, of course, was a lot about food:

Avo loved to take care of all of us, and loved how we take care of each other.  As I learn how to make more and more of the foods that I remember coming from her, I thank her with all my heart for teaching us how to make a home, and bring a family to a table, to have faith that god loves us, and say those two precious words that I’ll never forget…

“Come, querida.”  Eat, darling.

I miss her the most when I’m in my kitchen.

A few years ago my Tia taught me several versions of the malasadas recipe.  It’s now one of my standards, and my favorite at-party trick.

This is how they usually look:

Malasadas

Light, fluffy, chewy and lemony, they’re little bites of heaven, especially when served warm and slathered with homemade jam.

The only problem I have with them – they’re not gluten-free!  Which means I haven’t eaten one in a long time.

So, finally, with a little nudging from FoodBuzz and Frigidaire’s Talk Turkey Campaign, I figured there’s no better time like the present.

I adapted my family recipe with gluten-free flours and the knowledge that gluten-free donuts  don’t always whip up with the same texture as their glutenous counterparts.  Instead of stretching and frying the dough, I was planning on piping it into churros.  See, I live in Washington Heights in New York City, which has an incredibly high Latino population.  And I love my neighborhood.  As I walk my dog around the area, down by the Hudson River during sunset and through Riverside Park, I inevitably run into neighbors who have now become friends.  We let our dogs romp, catch up on city news and almost inevitably talk about food: what we’ve made for dinner or to where our sweet teeth have taken us.

So this season I’ll be whipping up a few batches of these as my holiday gift: the perfect combination of my Portuguese heritage and my Latino location.

I created this post as part of Frigidaire’s Talk Turkey Campaign. Share your own recipes and tips at Frigidaire’s Make Time for Change site. For every recipe or tip that’s shared, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save The Children’s U.S. Programs, which creates lasting change for children in need! Join me!

Happy Beginning of the Holidays!

– Jacqueline

Lemony, spicey and chewey! Perfect with a good espresso.

Notes about gluten-free churro-making love: because of the lack of gluten, you don’t need to worry about how long you knead the dough as there’s no gluten to develop.  The dough isn’t also necessarily going to rise as high as it would normally.  Don’t fret!  This dough shouldn’t be sticky, and should easily be scooped into a pastry bag. 

You also don’t want to fry them until golden – thirty seconds or so does the trick to keep them nice and light inside. I usually fry about 10 at a time, and just as I pipe the last one in the first one’s ready to come out.

Because I wanted to see which flavor combination I like the most in the sugar tossing, I added spices progressively.  This step you can suit to your taste – my favorite ended up being the all-four combo.

And they’re best eaten fresh – though a quick warming later makes them perfect for coffee dunking.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups gluten-free cake flour (my blend is HERE with xanthan gum)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 packets of yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp lemon oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp of strong cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Large bottle of pure vegetable or canola oil

Method:

  • In a small bow, combine yeast and warm water, stirring with a fork to dissolve.  Set aside to sit and let get all foamy and homey-smelling.
  • In a Pyrex measuring cup or small bowl, combine butter and milk and microwave until butter is melted and milk is warm.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the breadhook, place flour and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, lemon oil, lemon zest, eggs and milk mixture.
  • Start mixer on low and progressively increase speed until the ingredients combine.
  • Turn off mixer, add yeast mixture, and slowly increase speed until at medium/high (6 on a Kitchenaid).
  • Mix until the dough is thoroughly combined, and pulls away from the side of the mixer in light air bubbles, about five minutes.
  • Place about 1 Tbsp of oil in a large bowl.  Move dough to bowl, tossing in oil to coat.
  • Cover with thick towels and place in a warm spot.
  • Let rise for about an hour, punch down to release air, and let sit to rise again, about another hour.
  • In a large heavy-bottom pot (I used a 7 quart Creuset dutch oven), heat oil on medium/high heat.
  • Pour sugar in a doubled small paper lunch bag (or use a large paper grocery bag).
  • Move dough to pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
  • Pipe dough directly into hot oil, snipping ends with kitchen scissors.
  • Fry for about 30 seconds (it should take about 30 seconds for you to pipe 10 churros in, and then you can start removing them one by one), then toss into the paper bag.
  • Toss in sugar and remove to a plate.
  • Add cinnamon to paper bag, and repeat frying and tossing a batch.
  • Add ginger, repeat.
  • Add nutmeg, repeat.
  • Serve warm to people you love, maybe with strong espresso or a glass of red table wine.


The Girl Effect

Shumi, 19, Bangladesh

“I would tell the girls of the world, whatever you do, even if it’s small, you will see a brighter future.  I would tell big companies and big people, if they could help a poor person like me, that person can do good in the world.”

I grew up in a strong family in an upper-middle class town in suburban Connecticut.  Girls there competed in academics, sports, the arts – we were taught to fight for the brightest future we could dream for ourselves.  We were taught to respect our minds, our bodies, and what we had to give back to the world at large. 

I also went to college with strong, fascinating women who have dedicated their lives to their varying fields, to creating safe and prosperous homes for their own families, and to contributing to the communities they choose to live in.

Not that I don’t have incredible male role models in my life as well, but in my generation I’ve noted an incredibly passionate energy in women, specifically, who use their own success to educate and lift up others.   

For the past few years I’ve kept my eyes on micro-loan programs that empower women to receive an education and open their own businesses, increasing the income of their families and communities by putting other women to work in their various fields.  By and large these programs see incredible results – loans are paid back directly and reinvested in others in their community.   The resounding effect is that neighboring women are educated in how to independently earn and invest their income, and the community as a whole sees a point of prosperous growth rather than generational stagnation.

According to The Girl Effect, women receive less than 2 cents of every dollar of aid relief given.  In cultures where women have no political voice and live solely reliant on their male relatives – especially when they’re illiterate and completely unaware of their rights – it often only takes one woman to start providing for herself to open the floodgate for other women to do the same.

Shumi is one such young woman.  She resisted pressure in her native Bangladesh to marry and opened a salon, employing other women and building her business independently.  In turn, she heads the local girls’ center, teaching that small steps can make a huge impact.

By supporting organizations such as The Girl Effect – Global Giving, we can provide basic means of survival that snowball into helping communities climb out of poverty: 

Giving access to identification papers – a simple thing that many girls lack – means that child-labor and marriage laws can be questioned when needed.  Educating a girl to read makes her infinitely more likely to be able to work and understand her political rights and protections, especially those guarding her from unwanted marriage and pregnancy. 

Educating a girl on the transmittal of HIV gives her the ability to avoid contracting it.  And as girls are statistically more likely to reinvest their aid money and income into their communities, they deserve to be given more than 2 cents of their dollar in aid relief.

This post is part of a yearly global blogging campaign to spread the word about The Girl Effect.  Please watch a few of the videos below, and head to The Girl Effect to learn more and find out how you can give your support.  If you’re a blogger yourself, check out Wise Living to find out how you can join in the campaign.

I’ve made my donation – will you please make yours?

Holiday In a Hand Pie!

Holiday in a Hand Pie

Runner Up: Best Pie (Judges Choice)

Winner: Most Creative Pie (Audience Choice)

at the

Great American Pie-Off!

Pie and dogs make me happy.  The connection?  The other night I told a friend I don’t think I could date anyone who doesn’t like dogs.  Especially since my dog is particularly awesome.  And as I sit here eating leftover turkey and stuffing from this recipe, I’ve decided the same goes with pie.  You don’t like pie, no date with this little dusty baker.  Also, if you’re a vegetarian I just don’t see how it could work out between us.

Moving on.

This weekend was pretty incredible, and I’ve got the tired eyes, slight headache and absence of writing wit to show for it.

Saturday I participated in the Great American Pie-Off, a fundraising event for the New York Theatre Experiment‘s Lift Every Voice program, which brings artists together with NYC Teens to build nurturing creative environments and foster self-expression.  In one of those glorious friend-of-a-friend things I heard about the event a few weeks ago and was asked to participate.  Baking for a good cause?!?! Um, sign me up, lady!

Now pie is pretty much my favorite dessert.  I make it yearly for my gluten-free birthday indulgence (this year was Blueberry Fig), when I’m particularly blue (My Broken Heart in a Pie was quite messy) and when I just need to throw a bunch of good things in a pastry (Bourbon Molasses Apple Pie with Candied Bacon pretty much rocked my world).

For this event I wanted to do something savory, and keep it in line with the way I prefer to bake: gluten-free, minimal (if any) dairy and naturally sweetened.  And as the weather began to change and I started daydreaming about holiday baking, Thanksgiving dinner came to mind.  Particularly the awesome sandwich made the day after, where turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and baked pumpkin gets layered between bread.  Could I get them all into a pie?  I’d give it the old college try and see what happened.

Oh, and I decided to make hand pies instead of one big one.  Why?  I have no clue.  But once I got the idea into my head I couldn’t shake it, so creating a flavorful and durable crust was a must.

After a few Goldilocksian crust creations (one was too buttery and flakey, perfect for a sweet pie but neither savory nor strong; the other had too high a content of cornmeal and so fell apart) and some different wrapping techniques (true empanada hand pie style or shaped in oversized muffin tins?!), I had my pie. And, yes, Goldilocksian is a word.  Now.

Setting up my little "tastes"

It wasn’t until setting up my little gluten-free pasties that I questioned my choice: all around me were incredibly sweet, luscious looking pies of varying deliciousness.  To one side was a pumpkin pie with bacon and candied pecans.  To the other was a chipotle pecan pie with homemade ice cream.

I don’t have a competitive bone in my body.  Friends often send me casting notices for food reality shows and my manager is looking into food hosting for me.  And while I obviously geek out about food with anyone who will listen, I would generally WANT someone else to win if I felt their creations beat the frosting outta mine.  And, well, I’m a dusty baker.  Messy.  Often swapping ingredients or proportions if I’ve just happened to run out of something.  Alton Brown I am not.  Food reality competition show thingy – not gonna happen.  My skills aren’t that badass.

Hawking my hand pies like a London lass circa Sweeney Todd

But as the tiny space filled I relaxed into what I love and the reason I was there: delicious things baked for a cause.  While I took in the pies around me (that obviously I couldn’t taste), I appreciated more and more the only one I could.  And as I started to describe it to tasters, I fell back in love with my little pies.  The gluten-free crust was made with a combination of quinoa, millet and brown rice flours and arrowroot starch with a little palm sugar, Vietnamese cinnamon and nutmeg.  I had decided to use Earth Balance instead of butter because I found during my empanada days that it helps bind the savory crust together best while still giving a butter flavor that a good shortening lacks.  I used no white sugar to sweeten any aspect, choosing maple syrup and honey for their delicious darker flavors.

Now, these are meant to eat hot, with your hands.  I had to serve the room temperature in little bites.  So a lot of my worry was making sure that everyone got every aspect of the pie and not too much crust (handpies were created so that you had the thick part of the crust literally as a handle, which you threw away once you ate all the filling).   A few of the pies had been baked the day before and suffered some stiffening from being in the fridge.  Perfect, they were not.

Breaking down the pie to the judges

Being a novice to the whole competition thing I was unaware that we actually had to present our pies to the judges.  Johnny Iuzzini (Top Chef: Just Desserts judge and Executive Pastry Chef at Jean-Georges), Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff (owners of NYC favorite Big Gay Ice Cream Truck) and Jordana Rothman (editor of Time Out NY’s Food and Drinks and overall awesome food writer) obviously know their way around a recipe.

I didn’t expect to enjoy discussing it so much.  As I talked I realized I actually knew what I was talking about.  In deciding to start this blog almost a year ago and take a few months off from auditioning to start transitioning into food more directly, I’ve had to look more specifically at my ingredients and figure out how best to share them.  When baking for charitable organizations I’ve had to keep costs in mind and how long it takes me to make certain things (400 pipes cookies for the Susan G. Komen / Frosting for the Cause became a series of various cookies, with less hand cramping).  The other day the guys at the office I was squatting in  said they’d actually pay for my Morning Jolt Cookies: the same guys that raised their eyebrows when hearing that they were gluten and dairy free.  18 years of eating alternatively and now, here I was, talking about flours.  With food people of whom my knowledge is comparatively at about .5%. 

I did feel an affection for my bin of refrigerated alternative flours in that moment.

And I think it’s time I start branching out myself.  It’s been a long time since I used red wine and mesquite flours, specifically.  Just ordered them again.  Expect recipes soon.

Until then, here’s a Holiday in a Hand Pie.

Special thanks to Allyson and Steve for getting me involved, NY Theatre Experiment for doing what they do so well, Kym at FreeSpiritEater for the awesome event photos (she took all the live ones and has an incredibly sweet, supportive, enthusiastic energy) and to the judges for being such rockstars. 

Stuffing, baked pumpkin, baked turkey and cranberry sauce

Pumpkin

Pumpkin:

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Quarter and remove pulp from a small pumpkin (mine was about a pound).
  • Place in deep baking dish and pour on about 1/4 cup of maple syrup.  Use a pastry brush to make sure it coats completely.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes uncovered or until the edges of the pumpkin start to brown.
  • Allow to cool, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

Pre-baked.

Stuffing: Ingredients

  • 5 cups of cubed gluten-free bread
  • 1/4 cup ground walnuts, pecans or almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (either unsweetened or sweetened with fruit juice)
  • 1 Tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
  • 2 tsp dried Herbes de Provence
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp groundcinnamon (preferably Vietnamese or Indonesian)
  • Baked.

    1 1/2 cup leeks, whites and greens chopped thinly

  • Swirl of olive oil
  • 2 cups turkey or chicken broth / stock

Stuffing: Directions

When I normally make stuffing for Thanksgiving I’ll toast up the bread all crusty-like, use my own stock, pile in butter and roasted vegetables and chestnuts and all.  But this had to be rather simple and just serve its purpose. I left it a little drier than I would normally as well, so that it wouldn’t literally mush the pie when filled.

  • In a dutch oven, bring a healthy swirl of olive oil up to a low heat.  Add the leeks and let sweat until soft (keep it on low and wait it out – don’t brown them).
  • Toss the dry ingredients together in a baking dish and stir in leeks.
  • Add enough broth / stock to moisten the bread but not enough that it sits in the dish.
  • Throw in the oven (uncovered) and bake alongside pumpkin until the bread is soft but slightly toasted at the edges.

Cranberry Sauce

OK, I didn’t make cranberry sauce from scratch, as I couldn’t find cranberries in the shops I went to and wasn’t going to kill myself to find them.  So I just doctored up some whole-berry cranberry sauce with the zest of one lemon, about 1 Tbsp of red wine vinegar and 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice.  Done.

Not just for Thanksgiving...

Turkey:

Instead of baking a whole darned turkey I used 2 large wings and 4 breast cutlets.  I spread them out in my largest Creuset, melted about 2 Tbsp of unsalted butter, whipped in about 1 Tbsp of my awesome Greek olive oil (thanks to a friend who sends it over in 25 gallon jugs), and poured that on top.  Then I stole about 1/4 cup of my roommates chilled Sancere white wine and threw that in too, along with kosher salt and cracked tricolore peppercorns.  Baked at 300° for 35 minutes they were perfect.  Juicy and slightly underdone to finish in the pie.  I then used my fingers to shred them.  Made me miss my grandmother, for some reason.  Maybe because one of my first, favorite, food memories of her is finding her in her garage, plucking chickens that she then baked to perfection.  Love you Avo.

Ingredients: Dough

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 1 cup tapioca starch
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Vietnamese cinnamon*
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg**
  • 4 Tbsp palm sugar
  • 20 Tbsp Earth Balance Butter or unsalted butter, cubed
  • Up to 1 cup ice-cold water
  • About 2 Tbsp ground cornmeal

*I love Vietnamese cinnamon because it’s sharper and more fragrant than others, with a darker tone.  If you have a more generic grocery store cinnamon (which I have and use too), just add another half teaspoon or more to taste.  In general, having several kinds of cinnamon on hand is fun.

**Oh, and a jar of whole nutmegs will last forever and give you so much more pop if you grate it directly with a microplane than using pre-ground.  Obviously all spices are better pre-ground.  Little thing that makes a great difference.

Directions: Dough

  • In a food processor, whip all flours, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar together to combine.
  • Add the cubed Earth Balance and pulse to combine until the butter is wrapped in flour in little pea-sized clumps.
  • Slowly add the water, bit by bit, until the dough just comes together into a ball but is not wet.
  • Roll out directly on a floured pastry board (I used millet to roll as it’s not as bitter as quinoa and less grainy than rice).

This amount of dough made me 6 large hand-pies and one VERY large empanada.  Because there’s no gluten you don’t have to worry about over-working, but you may want to pop it in the fridge between rolling / filling so that the earth balances doesn’t soften too completely.  This dough doesn’t require rolling between wax paper yay).

Warm, crusty deliciousness

Assemblage:

  • Roll dough out to about 1/8 thick.
  • If using muffin tins to shape, find a good cereal bowl to press into the dough to create large round circles.
  • Press into pans, making sure dough is pulled slightly away from the tins on top.
  • Sprinkle with ground cornmeal.
  • Layer the four ingredients so that all quarters of the crust contain a little of everything, using the cranberry sauce throughout as a bit of a moist binder.  Leave a bit of room- about 1/2 inch –  at the top so that you can press the top layer in to seal.
  • Use a 3″ cookie cutter to create a round for the top.  Or just cut with a pastry knife.  Whatever ya got.  Press onto bottom filling and seal completely with fingers.  Do not cut vents in the top crust – this pie needs the moisture to stay inside and help keep it steamy.
  • Wash with egg, milk or water (I used egg whites) and sprinkle with cornmeal.  If desired, use a cookie cutter or press to make a little decorative shape on top.  I was going to press some leaves but time ran away with me and a tiny heart was all I had nearby.
  • Bake at 400° for about 25 minutes or until the crust is brown slightly.
  • If planning on eating hot, let cool in pans for about 7 minutes (yes 7) before popping out of the pan.  I found a miniature frosting spatula very helpful.

Serve with a little apple sauce if desired.  Eat outside, preferably.  With your hands.

 

%d bloggers like this: