Gluten-Free

Gluten-Dairy-Free Maple Vanilla Scones

In her memoire “My Life In France”, Julia Child shares a little tidbit where she served something barely edible to a luncheon guest, then smiled as they ate it, never once apologizing for her botched experiment.

I think about that a lot, on days like today.

Not that this experiment was botched – in fact, I’m rather pleased with the results and will have no problem serving them with breakfast to my roommate and boyfriend tomorrow morning.  Today was just example of how maybe sometimes I need to be a little more organized in my playpen and a little less… um… dusty. Continue reading

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding

It’s freezing in New York City.  By the time this is posted, the snow will be falling once again and NYC will have gotten more snow in January than any January in history.

Which is why this weekend I’ll be grabbing the ingredients for this warm and filling dessert that I made up last year while similarly freezing in Cincinnati.  It’s not too sweet, and a delicious dairy-free alternative to that gorgeous pudding that too often stares at me from behind the windows at Italian and Portuguese restaurants, eying me up and down as I sip my espresso.

Health notes: This recipe contains coconut milk (with medium-chained fatty acids, it’s very anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-viral, and helps build strong bones), and cinnamon (which helps to regulate blood sugar, has been shown to help arthritis symptoms and has a whole load of other health properties).

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup long grain or basmati rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk with 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 additional cups coconut milk
  • golden raisins / sultanas (about 1/2 cup but to taste)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ground cinnamon to taste
  • fresh nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • your favorite sweetener to taste

Directions:

  • Cook the rice in your favorite form (stove top, pressure cooker, rice cooker etc.) with the 1 cup coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups water and raisins until all liquids are absorbed, the rice is soft and the raisins are plumped.
  • Add the extra 1 1/2 cups coconut milk, cinnamon stick, lemon rind, and vanilla and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • When the liquid has reduced by half, add about 2 tablespoons of sweetener, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and about 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and taste.  Add more sweetener as desired.
  • Simmer until the liquid is absorbed to almost an oatmeal-like consistency.  Any further and it will dry out before being served.
  • Serve warm or chilled, with additional cinnamon on top or with sprinkled raisins or coconut.

Lavender Tea Cookies

I’m playing around with different gluten-free mixes and wanted to check out another from 1-2-3 Gluten Free (I reviewed their Pan Bar Mix).  So I’m testing their “Roll-out & Cut Sugar Cookies”, which are free of gluten, wheat, dairy, caseins, peanuts, tree-nuts, corn, egg and soy!  The mix does contain sugar, so be careful if you’re diabetic, hypoglycemic, or generally avoid white sugar.  Other than that, it’s a basic mix of rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch and the necessary xantham gum and baking powder.

To make it extra special for my gluten-dairy-free-British colleague Dale I added adding some delicate dried lavender to make a tea-tasty cookie.

I had attempted to bake the cookies two different ways – first by rolling and cutting out as the mix suggests, then by rolling the dough with my hands into a ball and pressing flat, crisscrossing with a fork (with the intention to see if this may make a suitable snickerdoodle dough).  But my dough was too dry to roll out, and crumbled on my pastry board.  So I rolled about 1 tablespoon of dough with my hands and flattened it a tiny bit, placing 12 cookies about 2 inches apart on a thin baking sheet.

The result: Well, these cookies are very sweet to me.  But I like my pastries just-sweet, so this is probably good news for other bakers out there.  They do taste remarkably close to regular sugar cookies, even despite the lack of butter.  Mine are much thicker than what this recipe is intended for (rolling them thin and cutting them can make 40-100 cookies, my batch yielded 36), but the texture is great – soft and slightly crumbly.  The essence of lavender is perfect (I’d say 1/4 cup or less…).  Overall, I’m a little disappointed I couldn’t roll them out, but think it’s a great standard cookie mix.  And they’d make a great snickerdoodle by adding 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the mix and rolling in cinnamon before baking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box 1-2-3 Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Mix
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup dried edible lavender (you can get this at most bulk food / tea stores.  Any lavender you’d use for tea is appropriate for baking)

Directions:

  1. In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, cream shortening until smooth, about 3 minutes
  2. Add 1/2 cup of the flour mixture and blend thoroughly.
  3. Add egg and egg yolk, and beat until incorporated
  4. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until you can make a solid dough-ball.
  5. Add the lavender and mix quickly until evenly dispersed (I tasted a bit of my mix to make sure I had the light flavor and scent I desired)
  6. Divide dough into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour until firm
  7. When dough is ready, preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  8. Using 1 tablespoon portions, roll dough into a ball and flatten slightly.  Place on baking tray 2 inches apart and bake for about 13 minutes (I discovered that putting them in the middle of the oven made the bottoms brown but not the tops, so I moved the second round to the top third of the oven)
  9. Let cool slightly and transfer to wire rack

1-2-3 Gluten-Free Baking Mixes

Occasionally, very occasionally, I indulge myself in a boxed mix of something gluten-free.  One night during a run of a play in Cincinnati I was CRAVING something sweet and stuck in the theatre all day without so much as applesauce to appease the pangs.  Later that night during my 11pm run to the grocery store, a box of 1-2-3 Gluten Free “Pan Bars” just happened to end up in my cart… oops!

The next morning, before another two-show day, I whipped the mix together with a few eggs and oil, and the 3/4 a cup of pumpkin that the box recommended.  Not to succumb completely to a packaged product, I spiced it up à la Dusty Baker with some cinnamon and freshly grated ginger.  Spread into a 9×11 pan, popped into the oven for a half hour, cooled for another half, sliced and covered and it was on its way to hungry actors and stage crew.

Now a good amount of actors are foodies – I’ve never met such a quantity of people through a profession who share my obsession with Saveur magazine and who sympathize with my insane desire to own my own chickens enough to send me email links to urban  “hen houses” (I WILL have my own eggs from the happy hens who live on my roof in my future apartment in New York City… that I will own…near my Dusty Bakery).

So I decided to see if there would be any adverse reaction to NOT telling people that they were gluten-free.  I set the pan out, headed to my little dressing room and waited.  Voices inquired about what they were, cursed me for bringing in another baked goods (actors are obviously always watching their waistline – which is why most things I bring in are relatively healthy anyway!), and then hailed them for their deliciousness!

And when I tried them, I wholeheartedly agreed!  They were moist, light and fluffy.   And one particular friend, who had said he wasn’t interested in any way in trying something gluten-free, declared them delicious and stuck to his opinion after I unveiled my bit of trickery. Score for the gluten-free-ers!

I was also thrilled to tell the group that the boxed flour was delightfully simple – which is why I gave in and bought it to begin with (most boxed mixes have WAY too much stuff in them for me).

Ingredients in the mix:

Sugar
Rice Flour
Tapioca Flour
Potato Starch
Aluminum-free, corn-free baking powder
Salt
Xanthan Gum

So the only things I would have changed if making this from scratch myself was the white sugar and the potato starch (I would have experimented with tapioca starch or arrowroot to exclude any trace of nightshade vegetable).  And the ingredients are free from gluten, wheat, dairy, casein, peanut, tree nut, corn, egg and soy!  The recipe could easily be made with applesauce, carrot or zucchini instead of pumpkin, and chickpeas instead of eggs to make egg-free (there’s a recipe for this on the inside of the box).

So, needless to say, I am VERY supportive of this brand from my one experience.  The blend doesn’t contain too much sugar or additives, and produces a light and fluffy cake.  I was extra excited to learn that this company hails out of Cleveland – only a few hours from where I’m typing right now!

Thanks, Kimberlee, for this wonderful product!

Visit 1-2-3 Gluten Free

Vegan Chocolate Fudge Cake – The Easiest Recipe Ever!

Adding a can of pumpkin to a boxed chocolate cake mix.  A gluten-peanut-dairy-soy-free chocolate cake mix?

Success!

I can say without a doubt that this is the easiest recipe for a vegan fudge chocolate cake EVER!  The pumpkin obliterated the dry, crumbly issue I had last weekend with the gf cakes, and the denseness and moistness balanced out the dark semi-sweetness of the chocolate.  My host commented on how you couldn’t taste pumpkin specifically, but that it added a vanilla finish instead.

I served the cake on a dish of coffee vanilla sauce, also vegan, and with a few fresh blueberries.  While one desserter noted that the sauce tasted like something you would get at a vegan restaurant, another said it was the coffee that hit them first and then the texture.  Not a bad pairing for the cake, but I’m going to find a better one.

Conclusion to this experiment?  I will, with confidence and excitement, use a can of pumpkin and a boxed allergy-free cake mix to make a cake for those with food sensitivities and food snobs alike.

Oh, and our hosts created a phenomenal dinner for us – short ribs that literally fell of the bone, beet and goat cheese salad, cheese and cured meats that were divine, and more bottles of Prosecco and red wine than I care to admit.

Not a bad Friday night for this tired, dusty baker.

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Allergy-Free Chocolate Cake

…That is, unless you’re allergic to chocolate.

This afternoon your Dusty Baker got on the subway with four bags and a good book.  About 30 minutes later I realized I was express-ing my way past any station I could transfer at and was headed to the Bronx.

It was a long trip home to making this chocolate cake, I tell ya.

Luckily, the book was really good and I’m NYC savy enough to figure out a way to not go the 100 blocks back in the opposite direction to transfer, but rather did a little schlepping and got my ingredients home.  A can of organic pumpkin and a box of gluten-free chocolate cake mix from Gluten-Free Dreams, to be exact.

I read on a vegan blog that you can substitute the oil and eggs in a cake recipe with a can of pumpkin.   Why not throw this into the mix of my boxed gluten-free cake mix experimentation?

As with the Betty Crocker and Glutino mixes I used last week, this mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen is made primarily with rice flour, potato starch, sugar and xantham gum.  Not my personal favorite mix of ingredients.  Allergy-free, yes.  Healthy alternatives, not really.  But I remind myself of the purpose of the experiment – is baking gluten/allergy-free now just as easy as traditional recipes? – and soldier on.

Into the bowl goes one box of allergy-free chocolate cake mix, one can of organic pumpkin and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. I mix until everything is absorbed, and then throw in 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (if you’re allergic to nuts, obviously substitute with cow, soy or rice milk).

The mix is thicker than a traditional cake batter, but with confidence I lump it into a 9″ greased cake pan and into the 350 degree preheated oven.  29 minutes later, the toothpick comes out clean.  15 minutes later, it’s successfully flipped over and onto my carrying plate.

I’ll let you know what the peanut-eating-gallery thinks.

Vegan Coffee Vanilla Sauce

I’m bringing a vegan chocolate cake to a dinner party tonight,  And to go along with a cake, one needs a frosting or a sauce, right?

Last weekend I made a gluten-free chocolate/vanilla layercake with a traditional buttercream frosting for a friend’s birthday.  It was way sweet, and full of, obviously, butter.  And since the cake was vegan, logic follows that I shouldn’t just dump some animal by-product frosting on top, right?

In a pastry class I took a few years ago I learned how to make chocolate mousse out of silken tofu.  Figuring the texture was the first thing to worry about with a vegan sauce, I grabbed a container of the stuff from Whole Foods and figured I’d improv the rest.

Okay, here’s the list of what eventually made it into my new food processor.  It took a bit of trial-and-error-and-trial-more.

  • 1 package silken tofu, drained
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, the insides only
  • 1 tablespoon of wild clover honey
  • 2 tablespoons of palm sugar
  • 1 rounded tablespoon instant coffee granules

A mess of ingredients, right?  I mean, palm sugar and maple syrup and honey?

Originally I had meant to make a maple vanilla sauce.  But I only had about 2 teaspoons of syrup left.  Not wanting to use the dreaded agave, I thought maybe palm sugar would suffice.  Nope.  Adding more vanilla to the original teaspoon?  Well, it was something.   Adding honey for sweetness?  A bit better.  But the darned thing still tasted like tofu!

(By the way, I totally just swore and then edited myself.  It was a frustrating scenario but even when things are dusty, one must retain her propriety, right?)

So the sauce wouldn’t be a maple vanilla sauce.  I was determined not to melt chocolate and throw it in.  Then, brilliance struck (while Sigur Ros was playing, as often happens in my kitchen, for some reason.  Icelandic magic, maybe).

Coffee brings out the richness in chocolate and the depth of vanilla.  Would it save the sauce?

It did!! I now have a mildly sweet and richly complex sauce to drizzle over the chocolate cake.  For friends who, by the way, have no food allergies or special dietary requests.  I will probably reel from the amount of sugar in what I’ll be sampling – I just hope it’s enough for their taste buds to do a happy-dance.

Boxed Gluten-Free Cake Mix – Taste Test

My how the world has changed in the 17 years I’ve been gluten-free. Back in those days a girl couldn’t get a cookie or a decent piece of bread, let alone make a cake from a Betty Crocker gluten-free mix. This absence perpetuated the need for me to learn how to bake for myself, as it has for thousands upon thousands of us.

But now we have the gift of being able to make a cake just as swiftly as our glutenous counterparts through several brands of cake-in-a-box. And a new friend’s birthday party this weekend gave me the opportunity to test a few brands out.

I chose to use both Betty Crocker’s Devil’s Food and Glutino’s Gluten-Free Pantry Old Fashioned Cake and Cookie Mix, since both only make one round cake and a bit of chocolate and vanilla layered in one cake never hurt anyone.

I must confess, I had my doubts. Both mixes use rice as their only flour, and sugar bulks up the flavor content. The mixes felt grainy between my fingers, and the vanilla one sort of went flying in the air when I poured it into the bowl.  Here’s the nutritional content of both:

For the Betty Crocker chocolate layer:

  • one cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk rather than the one cup water in the recipe.
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not in recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons of instant coffee (not in recipe)

I baked it according to the instructions at 350 degrees for 43 minutes in a lightly greased 9″ round pan, and cooled it for about 15 minutes in the pan before inverting it to a cooling rack.

For the Gluten-Free Pantry Vanilla layer:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

And baked it for 28 minutes in a lightly greased 9″ round pan, and cooled it for 15 minutes before inverting it onto a cooling rack.

The frosting:

I made Williams-Sonoma’s Quick Buttercream Frosting, using unsweetened almond milk instead of cow’s milk.

The result:

The cake went over far better at the party than I had expected, and many were shocked to find it was gluten-free.  I was told it was actually a bit denser than a normal boxed cake, which people seemed to prefer.  The payoff for this was that I thought it was a bit dry.  No one could tell the difference between the two brands, neither being particularly more or less sweet than the other.

I was particularly shocked that it wasn’t grainy, but think the cakes would have benefited from the addition of another flour such as amaranth to both moisten and naturally sweeten.  While I could respect that they tasted like traditional boxed cake mixes, I’d still rather make my own cakes from scratch so that I could use more natural forms of sweetener and bulk up the flavor content with a few different flours.  But I was impressed.

Several people said they’d pick up the brands to make for an event where a gluten-free guest was in attendance, knowing that other guests would still enjoy it.

Two thumbs up.  That’s really all I have to say about that.    In a pinch, these cakes are nutcrackers.

Coming up, one more boxed cake-test using canned pumpkin instead of the butter/eggs to make a vegan version!

Gluten-Dairy-Free Blueberry Cornbread

In general, I can be a bit of a dusty snob when it comes to using gluten-free flour mixes instead of blending my own flours.  The same blends don’t work as well for piecrusts as they do for pancakes, for example.  But when I’m in the throws of entertaining and trying to impress with a delicious and usually ambitious brunch, I’m all for breaking out a shortcut or two.

So when marketing I threw in a Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornbread Mix into the basket along with the sun-dried tomatoes and thick-cut bacon to make for some friends at my family’s house in Connecticut.

This easy and delicious gluten-free cornbread is perfect for a late summer or early autumn morning breakfast.  I had it done from start to finish in 40 minutes – with plenty of time to whip up a frittata and breakfast potatoes.  As I retype this recipe I can almost smell the changing of the seasons in the air, the warm sun on our backs as we celebrated on the porch, knowing that summer was coming to an end.

Ingredients (all at room temperature please)

  • 1 package of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornbread Mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit. Or 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 pints blueberries, rinsed, sorted and patted dry
  • 1/3 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and generously grease an 8.5 x 11inch pan (a 9×9 also works)
  • Place entire bag of cornbread mix in the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment and add the eggs, milk and butter.
  • Mix on low for about 30 seconds until just incorporated, then increase to high for another 30 seconds.
  • Remove from the mixer and gently fold in the nuts.
  • Fold in about ¾ of the blueberries, being gentle not to break their skins.
  • Gently pour the batter into the pan and smooth out the top.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining blueberries
  • Bake for 28 minutes or until firm to the touch.

** Substitutions: You can easily make this recipe completely dairy-free by substituting the butter with Earth Balance butter flavored vegetable blend, and replace the eggs with powdered egg replacer.  Soy, skim cow or rice milk can be used instead of almond milk – just use an unsweetened milk so as not to alter the sweetness of the bread.

Blueberry on FoodistaBlueberry

Gluten-Free Easy Banana Nut Muffin Recipe

I don’t normally bake with bananas.  My mother has a delectable recipe for banana bread, but these deliciously sweet fruits have been forbidden since hypoglycemia reared its ugly head.

But sometimes opportunity is the mother of invention, and I inherited four very ripe bananas from a friend with little time to utilize them.  The same person who passed them on was also a bit under the weather.  Time to get baking!

One thing I love about making muffins is how you can just sort of throw in whatever you have around to make them as simple or complex as your mood is flowing.  I had some pecans around that were ready for toasting and was trying to use the rest of my agave syrup (I won’t be baking with it soon – more to come on that).  Tossing stuff into a bowl with gusto, I’ve got a decent recipe going here.  The challenge was using the agave syrup instead of sugar: in most muffin recipes, sugar and butter are beaten until fluffy so that the moisture of the banana doesn’t soup the batter.  But with agave, which is liquid, there is no such dry and sweet combination.  So I added cormeal, increased the amount of baking soda to give it a little extra lift, and threw in the pecans that I had toasted ever so slightly for some texture.

The result?  They came out light and fluffy while still being dense, and the cornmeal gave them a scrumptious, ever-so-slightly crumbly texture that I love.  The amount of sweetness was perfect for me.

Because I was staying with friends at the time I made these get-better muffins, my full flour-arsenal wasn’t at my fingertips, so I used Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour mix.  In a recipe with this complexity, it blended just dandily.

As always with my recipes, you can always substitute the butter with butter flavored Earth Balance and the eggs with powdered egg replacer to make them vegan, gluten-free banana bread muffins.  They may lack a little heft, but they’ll still be delicious.

Ingredients:

Yields one loaf or 16 muffins

  • 2 cups gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Baking Mix)
  • ½ cup ground cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp xantham gum
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (8 tbsps) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup light agave syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • ½ cup toasted pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Grease and flour (preferably with rice flour, as it’s grainy and helps the bread release) a loaf pan or muffin tins
  • If you have raw nuts, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them while the oven preheats.  Check on them regularly to make sure they don’t burn – this should take no longer than 10 minutes and they’ll brown quickly once brought to heat.
  • In a small bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda, xantham gum and salt
  • In a large bowl, beat butter with a hand mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes
  • Add agave syrup and beat to combine
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat to incorporate
  • With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in mashed bananas
  • Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine
  • Fold in toasted nuts
  • Bake for 1 hour for a loaf pan or 18 minutes for muffins
  • Cool completely before removing from pan
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