Tag Archives: dessert

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

Punch Yo Mama Kentucky Apple Pie – Take One

“Bourbon Bacon Molasses Apple Pie”.

Until today, nothing would come up in a search engine with those five beautiful words strung together.

Now, this is not a healthy pie.  Nor a medicinal pie, except in that it may have magical qualities when trying to lure lovers or tame unruly children.  It blends those delirious tongue-teasers of savory and sweet, the unsuspected crunch of candied bacon embedded in folds of apples both sweet and tart.  A blend of spicy and soothing cinnamon and a dash of fresh nutmeg fuse them together and they sleep contented in a flaky, free-0f-the-demon-gluten crust.  This pie is work, but so worth it.

In making this recipe I combined techniques I’d learned from other kitchen explorations – par-baking apples, candying bacon, blending healthy flours for a gluten-free crust – and am very pleased with the first incarnation.  But this recipe still has further to go; it’s delicious on day one but the bacon sags into an unappetizing texture if you keep eating it on successive days (but if it’s more than you and a roommate trying to wipe it out of existence and you can eat it in one go, bake on).  The bourbon gives a delightfully oak-y slight to the senses, but hasn’t packed a wallop yet.

If you’re looking for a comforting, complex apple pie recipe with a twist, check this recipe out.  It’s fuller-bodied than your traditional American pie, and the flavors round themselves out very well.

This recipe requires three steps: 1. Candying bacon. 2. Preparing your apples. 3. Preparing and filling crust.  Refer to my BAKING BASICS posts for recipes on both filling and a variety of pie crusts.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons GOOD Kentucky bourbon (I used Blantons, one of my favorites)
  • 3 tablespoons organic blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar plus more as desired
  • six strips very thin bacon (from a butcher)
  • About 18 apples, prepared (CLICK HERE for page on apple pie filling)
  • Unbaked pie crust, enough for bottom and top.

Directions: Bourbon Blackstrap Bacon

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lay a baking rack over a cookie sheet with high rims and spray the rack with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Heat small saucepan over medium/low heat.  Once hot, pour in 2 tablespoons bourbon and heat until it just gets bubbly.
  • Add 2 tablespoons molasses and stir with spatula until the mixture starts to bubble and expand.
  • Add 1/2 cup light brown sugar, mixing in, and bring to heat until the mixture expands again.
  • Turn off heat and let cool slightly.
  • Prepare to get sticky: using your hands, rub each piece of bacon in the bourbon mixture until coated.  By the 3rd or 4th piece the sugar mixture will be cooling and drying out a bit – don’t worry! Just drudge it as much as you can to coat the bacon.
  • Coat entirely with extra brown sugar until completely covered.
  • Lay on sprayed rack and bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until bacon is crispy.  Set aside and cool completely.

Directions: Apple Filling. On EACH tray sprinkle:

  • For this recipe, I used 2 kinds of cinnamon, 1 very spicy and one mild and sweet. I love cinnamon, so I used 2 tsps. of each.  Vary this to your tastes.
  • Sprinkle on each trap 1/4 tsp of ground cloves and 1 tablespoon sugar, preferably something light like palm sugar over regular white sugar.
  • Toss the apples thoroughly.
  • Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the apples are slightly softened.
  • Remove from heat and let cool.

Directions:  Let’s Fill This Thing

  • Use a deep-dish 9″ pie plate (my favorite pie dish is my Emile Henry 9″. It’s wonderfully deep and the ceramic bakes to perfection) and fill it with your bottom crust.
  • Layer the apples in and pack them tightly – the apple should be piled into a very hefty dome.
  • In a small dish, combine remaining tablespoon bourbon and molasses, and drizzle completely over the top of the apples.
  • Place second crust on top, and pinch to close.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, covering the edges halfway through baking so they don’t burn.

This pie is best eaten the same day it’s made, but should be cooled completely before cutting if using a gluten-free crust (they crumble very easily).

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