Category Archives: Gluten-free

The Backstage Baker ON STAGE!

decoratedThe cake on the prop table decorated with fresh strawberries and fat free, sugar free Greek yogurt.  Mmmmmm.

Sometimes, there are things asked of stage manager that are far outside their job description . . .

Now, as mentioned in a recent post, the Backstage Baker is stage managing “Time and the Conways” for the Roundabout.  They just started previews at the American Airlines Theater and I hear it’s a smash.  (So get those tickets now, because this is a limited run that closes on November 26.)

This show offered James a baking challenge and believe it or not, it’s not the first time he’s been called on to create something edible to appear onstage eight times a week. (The last time was for a blueberry pie that Dianne Wiest made and baked onstage in the play  “Memory House” back in 2005. Here’s the review where the pie features prominently.)

But back to “Time and the Conways.”  It so happened that one of the actors was staged to devour a mini-bundt cake, but no one wants to consume a sugar-filled, gluten-based cake eight times a week.

Backstage Baker to the rescue!  Late one night, right the middle of technical rehearsals, he got home and started experimenting.  Could a pancake batter of eggs and banana be turned into a cake?  Would it even be edible?  Would it hold the bundt shape and look like an elegant confection worthy of the Conways? More importantly, would the actor be able to eat it with gusto?  Into the wee hours, he baked.  The cakes auditioned the next day and were a hit!   Now you can see them on stage eight times a week at The American Airlines Theatre.

Matthew and cake
Matthew James Thomas (who plays Robin Conway) about to do the taste test.

Matthew tasting cake
It passed the first audition… now to the call back, on stage and in front of the director.

It’s hired!  Now, should you ever find yourself in this situation, here’s the recipe:

Robin Conway’s Gluten Free, Sugar Free Mini Bundt Cakes

Ingredients:

1 really ripe banana mashed
2 eggs separated
1 Tablespoon Coconut Flour
1 /2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Separate eggs and whip whites until soft peaks form. Mix bananas and egg yolks together, add flour. Mix well. Add cinnamon and vanilla, then stir gently into whites until incorporated.
Pour into two mini-bundt pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes until set.
Cool in pan 5 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack.

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Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

Cookies

Gaaah!  James posted this photo on Facebook last week, and people were clamoring for the recipe:

“Seems like there was a lot of interest in this recipe so here it is. You don’t taste the chick pea at all and they are REALLY delicious. I will be making them again.

Giving credit where credit is due I found this recipe from an email from Pinterest. It took me to the site of Texanerin.com”

Hmm, the phrase “You don’t taste the chick peas at all” strikes fear into my heart, especially in connection with cookies.  But since it’s from James and we trust him, here’s the recipe.  I’m still trying to get up the courage to make them.

UPDATE 9/3/2017:  I made them and you know what?   They really are good!  You absolutely would not know they contained the dreaded chickpea.  (Dreaded only because chickpeas have no place in a cookie.  Yes, I’m judgey that way.)  I would recommend NOT pressing the balls down to look like cookies because they do not have a cookie crispness at all and you will be disappointed.  They really should look like dough balls because that is what they are!

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups roasted and salted peanuts (or 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of all-natural peanut butter)*
1- 15.5 Ounce can of chickpeas, well-rinsed, drained and patted dry with a paper towel
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey (agave or maple syrup for vegan)
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (use vegan and dairy-free chocolate chips, if desired)

Method:
Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Put the peanuts in a food processor (a blender will NOT work). Process for one minute then scrape down sides. Continue processing and scraping at one minute intervals. In four minutes, you should have delicious, amazing peanut butter. NOTE:  At the 2 minute, 30 second mark or so, the peanut butter will be extremely thick. Do NOT be tempted to add oil or liquid, just keep processing.  You can also use store bought natural peanut butter (1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons).

Leave 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons in the food processor (store any remaining in the refrigerator). Add all the other ingredients except for the chocolate chips  and process until very smooth. Make sure to scrape the sides and the top to get the little chunks of chickpeas and process again until they’re combined.

Add the chocolate chips and stir them in. The mixture will be very thick and sticky. At this point, I put the bowl of dough in the freezer to firm up the dough.

With wet hands, form into 1 1/2″ balls. Place onto a Silpat- or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. If you want them to look more like regular cookies, press down slightly on the balls. They don’t rise much.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake. The dough balls will still be very soft when you take them out of the oven. They will not set like normal cookies. The bottom of the cookies will brown. Cool on wire racks.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the fridge) for up to 1 week.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

*1.  If you opt for not making the peanut butter do NOT use regular peanut butter! The cookies will come out too oily. You MUST use natural peanut butter.

2.  If you need grain-free baking powder, you can use 1 part cream of tartar + 1 part baking soda + 2 parts arrowroot.

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.