Vegan

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

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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.

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