Category Archives: Gluten-free

Cheesecake-stuffed Strawberry Bites

Strawberries

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, our Backstage Baker offers up this scrumptious recipe.  In fact, it’s so easy, it’s almost hard to call it a recipe!

But first, don’t forget to watch the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11, 2017 — Indecent is nominated for Best Play, Best Director (Rebecca Taichman) and Best Lighting (Christopher Akerlind.)  Just for fun, here’s a link to a post on The Skriker, a show that Chris lit at the Public many moons ago.

Also, don’t forget that James’ previous show Jitney is also nominated for several Tony Awards this season!  You have to wonder if he sprinkles magic dust on his shows, right?  Maybe it’s just all the baking . . .

But back to these cheesecake-stuffed strawberry bites!  This is a super easy dessert to throw together. Great for parties and week end celebrations. And now strawberries are in season, it’s the perfect time to make them.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberry Bites

Ingredients:

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, then hulled and cored
Almond cookies crushed (or for a more traditional taste use crushed graham crackers)
Half cup dark chocolate pieces melted

Method:

Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract together in a bowl until smooth; spoon into a piping bag or a resealabe bag with a corner snipped.
Fill cavities of cored strawberries with the cream cheese mixture. Dip filled side of strawberries in the crushed graham crackers to coat. Drizzle with dark chocolate.

KAtrina LenkKatrina Lenk and Adina Verson try the Stuffed Strawberries (Katrina will also star in next season’s THE BAND’S VISIT)

Tom Nelis
Tom Nelis (left) enjoying the wine while discussing his role with understudy Ben Cherry (center) as understudy Eleanor Reissa looks on.

Indecent Lemony Almond Macaroons

Lemony ALmond Macaroons

Okay, so macaroons can’t really be indecent as they are thoroughly inanimate objects, but James made these for the pre-opening Wine and Unwind of Indecent last Sunday, so I thought the title was apt.  (FYI, Indecent, Paula Vogel’s play, opens at the Cort Theater on Tuesday, April 18.  Check it out here.)  These are also suitable for Passover.  I think.

Indecent Lemony Almond Macaroons

Ingredients:

1- 14-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large egg whites
3-4 ounces dark chocolate

Method:

Heat oven to 325 F. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, almonds, sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Mix in the egg whites.

Drop mounds of the mixture (each equal to 2 tablespoons) onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart.

Bake, switching the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges begin to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Or bake one pan at a time. Cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Melt chocolate by boiling water in a pot and then putting chocolate in a stainless steel bowl and placing the bowl over the boiling water.  Stir frequently until almost completely melted, then remove pot from water and stir until smooth.

Dip cooled macaroons in the chocolate and place on waxed paper (Or be green and place them on the parchment paper they were baked on!!!) Drizzle remaining chocolate over the tops of the macaroons.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Chocolate Covered Apricots Dusted with Ancho Chili

I’ve been meaning to post this for weeks . . . This is one of those super simple recipes that only has a few ingredients and doesn’t require baking!  Plus, it’s vegan and gluten-free.  What’s not to love?

From the Backstage Baker:  “We had so many cakes and cookies for Jitney’s opening, that I was trying to think of something else to do for WINE AND UNWIND. I took dried apricots and dipped them in dark chocolate, sprinkling the final product with ground Ancho Chile powder for a little heat. They were yummy and a big hit with the cast and crew. Try them for your next party.”

It almost seems silly to put this recipe format, but for those of you (me!) that are a little anal retentive, here it is:

Ingredients:
20 Turkish-style apricots
2 40z bar of dark chocolate (65% cacao and up)
Ancho chili powder

Method:

Place a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet.

Chop chocolate bars into small pieces, place in microwave-safe bowl.  Melt carefully in 30 second bursts, stirring between each burst.  When it is almost (but not quite!) all melted, remove from microwave and stir until smooth.

Dip apricots halfway into chocolate and put on wax paper.

When chocolate has hardened slightly, shake a bit of ancho chili powder on each apricot.

Pour yourself a glass of a bold red (the Jitney cast enjoyed a nice California Cabernet Sauvignon) and savor the flavors.

 

Nirvana Bars (Gluten-free)

Nirvana Bars
These may well have been the biggest hit at any Wine and Unwind ever.

Leslie Odom Jr
Leslie Odom, Jr. (Aaron Burr) enjoying Nirvana

These bars are so simple to make, and are gluten-free AND can easily be made dairy-free/vegan as well.  They’re win win win for any gathering.   Just don’t try to reduce coconut milk and sugar yourself because this is what happens:

Nirvana Oops!

Actually, the photo doesn’t do the tragedy credit — James tried to make the first batch vegan, but didn’t have any sweetened condensed coconut milk on hand.  So ever the problem solver, he tried reducing coconut milk and sugar down into a thick, syrupy vegan dulce de leche sort of thing.  But it was late and after about an hour and a half of cooking and stirring, he just poured it on the crust.  Only a few middle pieces didn’t burn!  I only share this so that you know that even the Backstage Baker has his share of baking tragedies.  Luckily, he lives in New York City and can get anything at anytime — yes, even sweetened condensed coconut milk at 2am — so he was able to make a fresh batch.

Thayne
Ensemble member Thayne Jasperson helping himself to a piece, with Daveed Diggs, who plays Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, in the background opening champagne.

Nirvana Bars

(inspired by The Gluten Free Goddess)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter or vegan buttery stick, such as Earth Balance
1 1/2 cups gluten-free chocolate cookies, processed into crumbs  (I used Tate’s)
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark, your choice)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped roasted almonds
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (if you want to make this vegan, substitute coconut sweetened condensed milk here.  But DO NOT try to reduce regular coconut milk and sugar because it won’t work!)

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2.  Place the butter in a 9×13-inch baking pan and set it in the oven until the butter is melted. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly.

3.  Toss the cookie crumbs in the buttered pan until they are completely coated with butter.  Press them into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Pour the condensed milk on top of the cookie layer. Then add a layer of chocolate chips, a layer of coconut, a layer of almonds. Using the back of a spatula, press the mixture firmly into the pan.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 to 25 minutes, until set.

5.  Cool completely on a wire rack. Chill thoroughly before cutting.  James drizzled chocolate over the top for an extra festive fillip.

Makes 15 to 20 bars.

Wine and Unwind — Raspberry Almond Bars

Image

I love this picture of James’ prop preset list — it’s American history boiled down into just a few, iconic things.  Puts it all into perspective one can grasp, doesn’t it?  (I also love that James laminates his preset list and physically checks off each item EVERY NIGHT.   Young stage managers take note and learn from a master!)

“All the Way” is winding down — last chance to see it is Sunday, June 29 so get your tickets now (if you can!)

For last week’s Wine and Unwind, James made one of my personal favorites — Raspberry-White Chocolate Almond Bars.  They manage to be decadent AND chocolate-free (it’s almost unimaginable that such a thing is possible.)  But their creamy sweetness is perfectly offset by the notes of raspberry and almond.  And the nutty crunch is exactly right — ooh, I may just have to make a batch right now!

 

Raspberry Almond Bars 2

Raspberry-White Chocolate Almond Bars

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 package (10 – 12oz) white chocolate chips
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
*1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/4 cup sliced almonds

*For a gluten-free option, substitute the following for the 1 cup of all-purpose flour:
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Method:

1.  In medium saucepan, melt butter.  Remove from heat and add 1 cup of chips.  DO NOT STIR.

2.  In a small bowl, beat eggs until foamy.  Gradually add sugar.  Stir in almond extract and gently add butter/chip mixture.

3.  Combine flour and salt.  Add to egg mixture and stir just until combined.  Spread half of mixture in a greased, 9″ x 9″ pan.  Bake at 325* for 15 – 20 minutes (if you are making the gluten-free option, you may need to bake it longer.)

4.  While the crust is baking, heat jam in a small saucepan over low heat.  Spread jam over finished crust.  Stir remaining chips into batter and drop by tablespoons over jam layer.  Sprinkle with slice almonds and bake for 30 – 35 more minutes (again, you might need to bake it longer for the gluten-free version.)  You’ll know it’s ready when you stick a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean.

5.  Cool on wire rack.  Wait to cut into bars until completely cool, otherwise it will fall to pieces and you’ll just have to shovel it all up with a fork.  Oops.

Secret Ingredient Brownies

TTK5Lest you think James has abandoned baking for (gah!) supermarket treats, just know that he has been swamped with rehearsals and tech and rehearsals and previews and rehearsals and . . .  Well, you get the picture.  Opening a Broadway show is a very time-consuming endeavor, and  A Time to Kill  is a big one with lots of pyrotechnics, a turntable and lots of light cues.  (Check out the Broadway trailer here.) Anyway, between it all, James has been practically living at the John Golden Theatre.  So he’s had little time for baking.  (Hopefully, after A Time to Kill  opens on October 20, James will be able to share some more recipes!)

But before all the madness with tech and rehearsals and previews began, James created the following recipe for the Company’s last Wine and Unwind in the rehearsal space.  There are a number of cast members who are gluten-free and/or vegan, which is quite the challenge.   But our Backstage Baker is not to be denied — he is all-inclusive!   Herewith, then, is a divine brownie recipe made with — drum roll please —  BLACK BEANS!!

Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups black beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well)
2 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder- dutch or regular
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave (Honey will work, but not for strict vegans.)
2 nunaturals stevia packs or 2 tbsp sugar (or omit and increase maple syrup to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup vegan chocolate chips* (not optional. Omit at your own risk.)
Optional: more chips, for presentation

*  Enjoy Life is a good brand of vegan chips.

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan.

2. Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Really blend well. (A blender can work if you absolutely must, but the texture—and even the taste—will be much better in a food processor.)   No seriously, keep blending.  Stir in the chips, then pour mixture into pan.  Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top.

3.  Bake the black bean brownies for 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. Makes 9-12 brownies.

TTK3

The happy cast getting ready to enjoy James’ treat!!

The Backstage Baker celebrates the 4th of July

I Love AmericaJames, our intrepid Backstage Baker himself, left the Big City to come upstate to celebrate the 4th of July with me.  We ate home-smoked brisket and ribs and collaborated on a 4th of July cake that was loosely based on a Taste of Home recipe I’d found, called a “Poke Cake.”  The idea of it is that you poke holes in your vanilla cakes, then pour a blueberry or strawberry Jello mixture over the top.  The Jello is suppposed to drip down into the holes and the sliced cake will be a lovely Red, White and Blue to celebrate our Nation’s birth.

Well, I baked a gluten-free vanilla cake and, I don’t know, maybe that affected the color and or drippiness.  Or maybe I just didn’t make my cake holes big enough or large enough.  Because unlike the cheery picture on the Taste of Home site that featured perfect red and blue drip lines traversing a blindingly white cake, mine ended up kind of yellow beige, with pastel smudges of pink and purple.

4th of July Cake2

But James saved the day, whipping the cream to perfection, sugaring it with confectioner’s sugar just so, icing the cake with the cream and decorating it with a star made of blueberries and strawberries.  What’s not to like??

BB ices a cake

4th of July “Poke Cake”
(Loosely based on a Taste of Home recipe you can find here🙂

Ingredients:

For cake:
1 package vanilla cake mix

For strawberry drips:
1 cup strawberries, chopped  (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons strawberry Jello

For blueberry drips
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons Berry Blue Jello

Frosting:
2 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

1.  Bake cake according to directions on package.  Remove from pans to cool completely, then put cakes back into pans for Jello drip steps.

2.  In a small saucepan, combine strawberries, water and sugar.  Simmer until strawberries are soft, then strain into a small bowl. Add Jello to mixture and stir until dissolved.   Repeat this process with the blueberries.

3.  Using a wooden skewer, poke holes in top of cakes (to 1″ of edge).  Go all the way through, and try to enlarge the holes a bit with the skewers.  Pour the strawberry mixture over one cake, the blueberry over the other.  Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

4.  Just before serving, whip the cream until it stands in peaks.  Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and beat just a little more.  You want your cream to be as stiff as possible, but stop before you turn it into butter!

5.  Carefully remove one cake from its pan and place on serving platter.  (You can put strips of wax paper underneath to help keep the platter clean.)  Cover top with whipped cream, then place second cake on top.  Cover top and sides with cream.  Decorate with fruit.

BB slices a cake