Tag Archives: Gluten-free

Wine and Unwind — Raspberry Almond Bars

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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.

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

Gluten-free Good Friday Cookies

James gave me this recipe a while ago, and then they were titled “Black Friday Cookies” to be whipped up and enjoyed the day after Thanksgiving.  No idea why!  But since I’m interspersing our cheesecake recipes with gluten-free ones (for health!), and since Good Friday is coming up, I thought I’d just change the name slightly to be timely.  (Yeah, I know, that’s a bit of a stretch.)GF Chocolate Cookies

Now, the more I experiment with gluten-free baking, the more I understand the importance of reading labels and ingredient quality.  Take this recipe for example — there’s no flour at all in it, but lots of confectioners’ sugar. That should be gluten-free, but I’ve learned that since corn is increasingly being used for bio-fuels, and since we had such a bad corn growing summer last year, corn prices have gone up.  Therefore, some companies are substituting wheat starch for corn starch in their confectioners’ sugar.  Obviously, this would not be gluten-free then. The only solution, then, is to read your labels religiously.  Who knew that ingredients changed?  (I’m sure that this is second nature to those of you who suffer from food allergies, or have been gluten-free for a while, but it is an epiphany for me.)

That said, do not be afraid — this recipe only has six ingredients.  You can afford to take the time (and spend the money!) to make sure each one is of superior quality.  Spend a little extra on good vanilla, high quality cocoa powder and chocolate chips.  You’ll taste the difference!

Gluten-free Good Friday Cookies

Ingredients:

3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (make sure they’re gluten-free!)

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (or silpat mats). If you use parchment paper, give it a light swoosh of nonstick spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together powdered sugar with cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in egg whites (start with just two) and vanilla extract, then beat just until the batter is moistened. You’re looking for a brownie-like, thick and fudgy consistency. If it seems too thick, add another egg white — then a 4th one if it still seems too thick. Gently stir in chocolate chips.

3. Spoon batter onto the prepared baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds per cookie sheet. I like to use a small spring-release cookie scoop. Bake about 14 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto wire racks. Let cookies cool completely before you attempt to remove them from the mat or the parchment. They’re delicate, so gently peeling the paper away from the cookie works best.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Gluten-free Coconut Blondies

BlondiesOkay, so James has never made these for a show, a Wine and Unwind, or even just as a simple dessert after a casual meal.  However, I have no doubt he WILL make them when faced with a gluten-intolerant cast in the future!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been experimenting in the world of gluten-free baking and this recipe is mostly my own design.  I’d had a remarkable gluten-free blondie at my local coffee shop and wanted to try and recreate it.  Oh, sure, I Googled “gluten-free blondies” and found many, many recipes.  And I bought a packet of Bob’s Red Mill fava & garbanzo flour  (I know, ick, right?) that had a recipe on the back for blondies, but there was just too much extra stuff in it (no coconut, though.)

So I made up this recipe, with a little from here and a little from there.  The kiddies can’t get enough of these bars!

Just a couple of notes:  I’ve found that it’s a great idea to weigh your gluten-free flours for absolute accuracy, so I have given you the exact weights to shoot for.  There is little room for error in gluten-free baking.  This sounds all sorts of off-putting but really it’s not (if you just happen to have a postage scale that likes the metric system.)

I also recommend bringing your eggs (and shortening) to room temperature before starting.  I know this is something you’re supposed to do with any type of baking, gluten-free or not, but I am a lazy, lazy baker and take tons of shortcuts.  I’ve never bothered with this niggly little step in regular baking.  No can do in the world without gluten.  Trust me on this.  You’ll be glad you did.

Last, I think this recipe lends itself to being veganized very easily.  I’ve indicated the substitutions at the end of the ingredients list.  I’ve never actually tried the vegan version though, so if anyone does, please let me know how it turns out.

And really last, don’t be intimidated by this series of notes and reminders and dictums (dicta?).  You can probably ignore them all and the blondies will still come out fine.  But then again, if you’re going to go to the trouble of whisking together 4 different kinds of flour, you don’t want to end up with a doorstop instead of a treat!

Gluten-free Coconut Blondies

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (100 grams) coconut flour
3/4 cup (100 grams) brown rice flour
1/4 cup (25 grams) tapioca flour (aka tapioca starch)
1/4 cup (25 grams) garbanzo & fava bean flour mix
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
*1/3 cup butter
*2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
*1 cup chocolate chips
*Simple subs to make this vegan:
Use soy margarine instead of butter; use 2 tablespoons flax meal whisked with 6 tablespoons warm water for eggs;  use vegan chocolate chips.

Method:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Grease an 9 x9 inch baking pan with shortening. Set aside.

3.  Mix coconut powder, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, chickpea flour, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt together until blended.

4.  Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.  mix in eggs

5.  Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until blended. Add nuts and toasted coconut and mix just until blended. Spoon into prepared baking pan, top with reserved toasted coconut and pop in the oven for 30 minutes or until top looks dry and edges have separated from the pan.

6.  Cool in pan for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto a rack — allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes approximately 16 blondies.

Gluten-free Orange Cake

As promised, I’m going to intersperse the Cheesecake Bake-off recipes with some gluten-free ones. James is often called upon to make gluten- and allergen-free goodies, and has taken up the challenge masterfully.  (He has a gluten-free, vegan chocolate cake that is to die for.)  But today’s recipe is a simple introduction to the world of gluten-free baking.

I’ve just started experimenting with gluten-free baking myself and have been surprised to discover how complicated it is.  You just can’t swap out wheat flour cup for cup with, say, rice flour.   Most gluten-free bakers have a unique flour blend they’ve developed that includes several different flours carefully balanced, measured and whisked.  (BTW, there are an amazing number of flours to use other than wheat.  Who knew?)  When you first start out, though, there’s a much higher risk of ending up with a hockey puck of a cake or a loaf.  I’ve found that this is mostly due to the fact that there’s a whole new world of textures to get used to during the mixing process — bread dough is more like a batter, and cake batter is more like a dough.  Cookie dough seems the same, but it often spreads more than you expect.  Gluten provides needed structure to baked goods, and baking without it, while eminently possible, is challenging.

That said, the recipe below couldn’t be easier and more foolproof.  James has made it for the last several shows he’s been on, mostly recently for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”  It’s light and Springlike, too, perfect for Easter!

Gluten-free Orange Cake

Ingredients:

*1 organic orange
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups rice flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

For Glaze:

1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon flavoring (vanilla or fior di sicilia)

Method:

1.  Roughly chop the orange (rind and all) in food processor until fine.  *This is why you want an organic orange, because conventional oranges are often sprayed with artificial colors and food grade waxes.  Blech!

2.  Add the eggs, oil, and sugar.   Process until smooth.

3.  Transfer to a bowl and add the flour and baking powder. Do not over mix.

4.  Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 60 mins at 350*

(Note:  I’ve substituted 1 lemon for the orange and added 2 tablespoons of poppy seed for a divine gluten-free take on lemon poppyseed cake!)

(Second note:  You can also bake these in mini-muffin pans for a Springtime tea party offering.)