Tag Archives: dairy-free

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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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.

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

Corn-and-Dairy-Free Apple Pie

 

Dusty Dan - the Brother

My brother Dan’s friend Matt’s fiance Marissa can’t eat corn or dairy.  Dan is spending New Year’s Eve with them and some friends in Vermont.  I owe Dan a baking session as part of his Christmas gift.  On a snowy, cold evening in Washington Heights at the late hour of 11pm, we head into my kitchen to develop a recipe for a corn-and-dairy-free apple pie all the revelers will enjoy.

I must admit, I’m a little concerned about this assignment.  Butter is the one thing I can count on in baking when my sugar and flour sources are limited.  I completely avoid milk, cream, cheese and the like, but the minimal presence of protein in butter somehow makes it easy enough for me to digest without too much disturbance.  Especially clarified butter, where more protein has been removed.  So no matter the flour combination or inclusion/lack thereof of sweetener, I’ve always been able to rely on butter to add complexity and flavor.

Technically, butter also acts as the fat that binds the flour together in a crust.

Now, while I generally don’t use corn flour or products when I bake, I also haven’t been particularly attentive to it being in products I use.  So when Dan said Melissa uses Smart Balance Light as her “butter”, I stick to it.  I’m a bit confused about it’s being made with canola oil, which I assume is from corn.  Or if there’s a specific reason she doesn’t use Crisco shortening, which is made from palm and soybean oils.

After some quick googling I realize that canola isn’t made from corn but from rapeseed – who knew?!?

These are all questions to ask her at another time when we make “Melissa’s Apple Pie Take Two”.

For now, here’s how this basically plays out:  I use regular flour so that the gluten binds and develops the pie dough.  Other than replacing the butter with the Smart Balance and only using 1 tablespoon of water, we make the Williams-Sonoma Basic Pie Crust.  I also use white sugar in the dough and the filling, which I don’t usually do.  I figure this pie needs to be a gentle step for those who don’t have food allergies.

So – this pie is NOT gluten-free nor sugar-free.  Not a particularly alternative recipe, it just lacks corn and dairy together.  For tips on making the best of your apple pie, check out my posts on Apple Pie Filling and The Best Basic Pie Crust.

Ingredients: Apples

  • 12-16 hard, ripe apples, of three different varieties.
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, two varieties if possible (one sweet, one spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably ground fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions: Apples

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Peel, core and slice your apples, and spread them equally on two rimmed cookie sheets.
  • Sprinkle 1/4 cup white sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon cloves on EACH of the sheets.
  • Mix with your hands until all apples are coated.
  • Bake for about 15-20 minutes while you prepare your crust, turning the apples once, until softened.
  • Remove from oven and let cool before filling.

Ingredients: Crust

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 16 tablespoons cold Smart Balance Lite
  • 1 tablespoon ice cold water
  • 1 egg (for washing on top)

Directions: Crust

  • Fix a standing mixer with a paddle attachment and pour in flour, sugar and salt.  Whisk together.
  • Add the Smart Balance in little chunks and start mixer on low.  Mix until the dough just starts to pull together.
  • Add the 1 tablespoon ice water and mix until the dough forms a ball, being careful not to over mix.
  • Separate dough into two balls, flatten into disks, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until a bit harder.

Directions: Assembling and Baking the Pie

  • Turn the oven down to 375 degrees when the apples are done baking.

  • Flour your workspace and rolling pin, and place one disk of dough in the center (an option is rolling between two pieces of parchment paper).
  • Start rolling from the center out, in one direction, to stretch dough.  Because we used Lite Smart Balance, which I assume means the water content is higher and fat content lower, this dough has much more of an elastic pull and a bit more oil to it.  Rolling away from the center in one direction with a good amount of weight seems to help it extend.
  • Gently place the crust into the plate.
  • Fill with apples, pressing down slightly and roll the top crust.
  • Place the top crust gently on the filled pie and crimp edges with a fork.  This won’t crimp as easily as other crusts, but as long as the edges are together, the filling will steam nicely.
  • Wash the crust with the egg, slightly beaten, and dust with sugar.
  • Bake on a cookie sheet or “pizza” stone for 40 minutes at 350 degrees or until apples are fully tender and crust lightly browned, covering edge of crust halfway through with tin foil or a pie lip.
  • Cool before serving and, if you can wait, don’t eat until the next day! Enjoy!


Notes:  This crust doesn’t taste like much on its own.  But paired with lots of apples sweetened with white sugar and scented with cinnamon and nutmeg, it’s a hearty compliment.  The crust softened the day after it was baked, and continued softening so that it was still tasty (I’m told) days later, and somewhat even more so.

Devouring the Delicious Monster

Monstera Deliciosa - The Delicious Monster Fruit!

Hello, meet Monstera Deliciosa, a delicious food of the fruit variety that is easy to prepare and delectable to eat!

I was shocked at meeting this fruit at my favorite local healthy-foods store, Integral Yoga Natural Foods.  Tucked away by mangoes and strawberries was this very phallic, scaly, alien-like fruit that completely weirded me out… so of course I had to try it!  Ends up Monstera Deliciosa is incredibly delicious.  I just wanted to get that out of the way… in case you really don’t trust the name… and are doubting purchasing this radical food.

About Monstera Deliciosa:

Alternate names: Ceriman, Swiss Cheese Plant (or just Cheese Plant), Fruit Salad Plant, Monster fruit, Monsterio Delicio, Monstereo, Mexican Breadfruit, Monstera, split-leaf philodendron, Locust and Wild Honey, Windowleaf and Delicious Monster.

Origin: Mexico and Central America

Interesting Facts: This plant is most common as a leafy decorative plant and grows naturally in moist, warm climates, suffering with any frost.  The fruit doesn’t usually grow indoors, but rather in the wild where the plant will hide from the sun in order to find the shade of a tree on which to plant itself and grow upwards towards the light.  The fruit is actually an ‘unripened flower spike’ (source one) that takes at least a year to mature fully before harvesting.

Health Benefits / Warnings: Don’t be afraid by the following: because of its high content of oxalic acid, the unripened fruit can be toxic, causing itching, swelling and asphyxiation.  But if you’ve bought the fruit rather than hacked it off a tree yourself, you’re good.  The mature fruit contains a small amount of oxalic acid, which is common in a few other fruits and may cause a slight itchiness in the mouth and tongue if you’re sensitive to certain allergens.  I am very sensitive to certain allergens and found myself surprisingly fine with this fruit!  Health wise, Monstera Deliciosa has a good amount of vitamin C and is a natural energy booster due to the rush of natural sugar and water content.

Observations: The first observation my roommate and I made was that the flesh smells amazing! Like a really strong Jolly Rancher or an entire fruit salad concentrated into a small kernel.  The fruit itself is soft and a bit slimy, but that only makes it more delicious as it melts in your mouth.  The taste is a combination of pineapple and banana, a surprising delight of both sweet and a tad tart in one bite.

How do you serve and eat Delicious Monster? I was happy just to eat it alone with a spoon, but throwing it over icecream, yogurt or cereal would be an appropriate plan, as would sticking it in a smoothie or baking it into a crepe.

How Do You Prepare Delicious Monster?

  1. Place the fruit in a paper bag or upright in a glass, stem side on top.  Let it ripen naturally – which takes 2-4 days depending on the age of the fruit and the humidity.
  2. When the scales have started to peel off, gently remove remaining scales with your fingers, revealing the soft white flesh underneath.  Warning: this may remind you of skinning an iguana or a nightmare you had as a child after watching an alien movie.  Keep in mind, the fruit coming to you is named Delicious Monster for a reason!
  3. Using a thin knife, remove the now delicate and somewhat slimy scales from the hard and inedible core.
  4. Mix into a smoothie, sprinkle on yogurt or cereal, or eat raw for an unbelievably delicious treat!

Step One: Place the whole fruit upright in a glass or in a paper bag to ripen, stem side up

Step Two: Fruit is allowed to ripen naturally and the scales fall off

Step Three: Peel away the green scales to reveal the white flesh underneath

Step Four: Cut the flesh away from the core

Interesting links / sources: University of Connecticut, Tropical Fruit Photo Archive

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