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Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Brownies… they were a bit dry but that can be fixed!

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What smells like roasted corn?

Umm, nothing dear!

It was a spur of the moment quick bread.  I didn’t note the size of pan required for the recipe, and I modified the original to include sour cream and a little olive oil since the last egg in the fridge mysteriously disappeared.  The roasted scent was from the globs of dough burning on the bottom of the oven.  More was on the way from the seething undersized loaf pan on the top rack.  A cookie sheet on the lower rack was pushed in as I grabbed the closest utensil to scrape the rapidly hardening expulsions.  My heart sunk, was the whole thing ruined?

I left the darn thing in the oven to finish baking, hoping my late night dessert would survive.  Every door and window was open in an attempt to evacuate the billows of smoke coming from the oven floor.   With all the commotion in the kitchen I was surprised no one came out to investigate!

Happily, the loaf finished baking.  It’s not the prettiest lemon poppy seed cake/loaf but it could be one of the tastiest.

 

I shared the first slice with Hubby.  And saved the rest for breakfast.

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf

Adapted from The Great Holiday Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

This original recipe was a cranberry nut quick bread.  I changed the flavour using lemon zest, juice, and poppy seeds.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 4 Tbsp poppy seeds

Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately, adding the poppy seeds to the wet bowl.  Make a well in the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients.  Mix by hand until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moist.  It will look dry and clumpy, that’s OK!

Spoon the batter into two 5 x 4 inch loaf pans or into muffin tins.  Be sure that the pans or tins are half full or your oven will end up like mine.

Bake at 350ºF for about 50 – 60 minutes.

You might want a cookie sheet under that.  You can thank me later.

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I bought a used copy of the cookbook written by Erin McKenna, owner of Babycakes in New York City.  It’s aptly named Babycakes:Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About BakeryThere were several pages dog-eared by the previous owner, I wonder if they tried all the recipes they marked for later.  There are plenty of beautiful glossy photos to drool over as you decide which recipe to try first.

My first attempt was the Lemon Poppyseed Tea Cake (shown above), and I broke Erin’s first rule: I didn’t follow all of the directions.  And the cream cheese frosting/glaze was made with xylitol (a sugar alcohol) instead of leaving the cake bare.  The cake was very moist, with a good amount of sweetness to counter the tart lemon zest and juice.  If I didn’t tell you it was gluten and sugar-free you wouldn’t have noticed.  That’s what Erin McKenna strives to achieve in each recipe in her book and at her bakery.  Her shop is on my to-see list if I ever get to visit NYC!

The second recipe was an adaptation of the Cherry Cobbler.  The filling was rhubarb and Granny Smith apple instead of cherries.  I was planning to make a pie but this seemed like it would work with the spelt flour lattice topping.  I didn’t have evaporated cane juice and used brown sugar instead.  I should have baked this a little longer as the underside of the crust became soaked with the juices of the fruit and turned into a sticky mush.  Best to bake and serve immediately, as with any pie or crumble.  I liked the flavor of the spelt topping though, it had a light nutty flavor and reminded me of oatmeal.  Paired with the cinnamon-apple-rhubarb filling this could be eaten for breakfast or dessert, heck anytime!

Next up: Chocolate Cake!  I made the same rookie mistake of baking this fella a little longer than I should have.  As soon as the middle is set you should take it out of the oven.  The original recipe calls for a crumb topping to be added half way through baking.  Instead I left the cake alone and added roasted cherries that I washed, seeded and quartered.  That’s a great thing I learned from this cook book: roast your fruit to amplify their natural flavors so less sweetener is required.  Then I made a vanilla cream sauce to top it all off.  This is my version of a black forest cake.  A splash of Kirsch over the cake would have made it closer to the real thing, but it was tasty nonetheless.

Last on my first round of tests were the Double Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Oh the chocolate!  I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips for this recipe.  A couple of notes: regular sugar was used instead of evaporated sugar cane in the same measurement called for, I added 1/4 cup rice flour and a little more Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free all-purpose flour to absorb the oil.  They still came out on the oily side but I guess they will stay moist longer that way, I’m not a fan of greasy cookies though.  The cookies are tender (I didn’t over bake them, yay!) and very delicate with a brownie-like texture in the middle.  With a bit of engineering, these will be perfect doppelgängers to gluten-laden cookies.

My overall conclusions about gluten-free/vegan/sugar-free baking from this book are these; use lower temperatures and the least amount of time possible, buy the best ingredients possible on your budget (and shop around, Sprouts puts GF baking stuff on sale %25 off, try on-line at Amazon.com or BobsRedMill.com) and most importantly READ the recipes first.  With entrepreneurs like Erin blazing the trails of alternative baking and better access to the squirrely ingredients necessary for vegan baking, it’s easy to make the switch.  Whether you cannot tolerate gluten anymore, want to cut down on refined white sugar, or for the animal lover in you – this is a great book to help you on your journey!

*

This review was solely out of my own curiosity and wanting to share my thoughts on the book.   Recipes were respectfully omitted to honor the copyrights of the author.

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My mistake was being lazy and using a can of strawberry frosting.

A CAN!  My bad, I know.

The cupcake themselves are delicious though!  The recipe belongs to Candace Nelson of the famous cupcake shop, Sprinkles Cupcakes,  who shared this on Martha Stewart.

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Remember that roasted fig and strawberry jam I made?  Well, I saved some for a rainy day and found this recipe for homemade fig newtons.  It’s raining, pouring actually, so I took to the kitchen to try out the recipe.  It needs a bit more flour, but the flavour and texture is very similar to the real McCoy.  The strawberries were few in comparison to the figs, but the hint of red-cheeked berries is there in the background.  Next time I will add more strawberry, maybe half and half!

Viva la fig!

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The early summer days have yielded figs galore.  I’m lucky enough to have received two different types of figs from family and friends this week.  What am I to do with so many figs?

Fig Cake

Adapted from Open-Faced Plum Cake, Martha Stewart

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 14 large black figs, halved
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Grease two round cake pans (8-inch or 9-inch diameter) and set aside.

Cream 6 tablespoons of the butter with 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat in the egg and then the milk.  The mixture may look a little curdled, it will be fine.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.  Add this mixture to the wet ingredients.  Gradually increase the mixing speed to make a smooth batter.

Divide the batter between the two greased pans and smooth it out to cover the bottom of the pans.  Lay the fig halves on top of the batter in a pretty pattern.

Mix the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the figs and cake batter.  Dot the fig halves with the remaining butter.

Bake until the edges are golden and the cake has puffed around the figs.  Serve warm with coffee or tea.

The kids loved this cake and polished off their first slice before I had a chance to eat mine!  They both had a second piece before we headed to the park to enjoy a brief reprise from the 100 degree weather.

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A double batch of chocolate chip cookies to share with the kids and friends.  The right type of cookie sheet makes a huge difference in how these darlins turn out.  My old single layer sheet pan made the edges brown faster than the double layer pans.  The trick is to slightly under bake, just until the middle is set, then let them hang out on the pan on your wire racks.  They keep cooking as the pans cool.  Every oven is different, and the amount of batter used will affect the baking time too.

Try a test batch of three cookies of all the same size scoop.  Preferably, weigh the scoops on a kitchen scale (I’m dying to find a good deal on a digital scale!) Put the dough along the edges and bake for the minimum amount of time described in the recipe.  I watch the first pan like a hawk, then “calibrate” my baking time according to the test batch.  When you use different pans this theory will no longer apply.

Lesson for today: buy more of the same cookie sheets when I find them on sale, don’t stop at three!

Chocolate Chip Cookies will be available through my bakery for Mother’s Day.  If you’re in the area check out the upcoming sale!

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Delicious things do come in small packages.  Take these dainty bread pudding cups for instance.

Apple Pear Pudding Cups

Makes 1 dozen

  • 1/2 loaf sliced bread, cubed
  • 1/2 can (about 1/2 cup) sweet condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 large pear
  • 2 braeburn apples
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • pinch sea salt

Peel and dice the pear and apples.  Toss with cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl.  Mix in the bread cubes.

Combine the eggs, milk, condensed milk, salt, and vanilla in another bowl.  Pour over the apples and pear and bread.  Toss until well distributed, don’t worry if the bread disappears.  It’s more of a structural component anyways.

Fill muffin cups, preferably silicone for easy removal, and bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes.  Let the cups cool slightly and firm up before popping them out of the muffin cups.

Serving size portions of warm, soft apple/pear bread pudding should be accompanied by ice cream and dulce de leche (see plating above).  And yes, that is a chip in my ceramic knife!  I wish everyone was a little more careful in the kitchen.

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Update: I tweeked the recipe a little more, enjoy!

I made these raspberry bars for a friend to make her feel better.  Who wouldn’t smile at this?

Since neither of us can eat tree nuts, and gluten-free oats are not always gluten-free, I modified the original recipe to the following:

Crumb:

  • 1  cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (toasted)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups quinoa flakes
  • 3 Tbsp cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2/3 c coconut oil

Filling:

  • 3 cup frozen raspberries (two bags organic frozen raspberries), thawed and drained
  • 1-2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Toast the shredded coconut as the oven warms up, just until lightly golden, about 5-10 minutes.  Set the berries to drain in a colander (save the juice to make fruit syrup for your waffles!  Also good added to seltzer or ginger ale.).  Line a square (preferably metal) 8×8″ pan with parchment paper, this will make it super easy to get the bars out later.

Combine the dry ingredients of the crumb mixture with a whisk.  Add about 1/2 cup of the coconut oil and work it into the flours and spices.   Using your hands, rub and mash the mixture until it resembles a coarse damp sand.  Add a tablespoon of the coconut oil at a time until you like the texture of the crumb.

Pat about 2/3rds of the crumb into the pan.  You want it to stick together but hold yourself back from compressing the bottom layer too much.

Take the raspberries to a bowl, keep the juices collected in a clean jar in your fridge until you can make something with it.  Don’t waste anything!  Stir in the other filling ingredients.  Spread the berry filling evenly over the bottom crust in the pan.

(option: add a bit more cinnamon to the remaining crumb mixture and some honey)  Lightly sprinkle the remaining crumb on top of the filling.  Bake for 30 – 45 minutes (it will depend on the type of pan and your oven).

Let it cool completely before removing it from the pan, you can put the whole pan in the fridge to cool the pan before picking up the parchment ends to remove the bars.  Cut into squares or bars and keep refrigerated up to 3 days (if they last that long!).  Best served the day you make them.

Chef’s Notes: With the quantities of quinoa and coconut listed in this version, it seemed like there wasn’t enough of the crumb to go around.  Next time, I will use 2 cups of quinoa flakes and 2/3 cup shredded coconut.  The toasted bits of coconut give hints of a nutty flavor and crunch that is missing due to the absent oats.

Pepper was eyeing herself a raspberry bar too.

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I was outside enjoying a day of unseasonably warm weather with the kids.  Little Sister spied her other costume for Halloween hanging in the closet.  She pointed and twinkled on her toes, giving me the “Mama, I want!” command.  It wasn’t long before she pulled her Hello Kitty rain boots on and tromped out the back door in to the sunlight and cool grass.  Well, our yard is mostly weeds right now, but it’s a beautiful emerald green and a break from the drought stricken brown turf.

I’ve had a used food processor on Kitchen Toy Island for almost a year.  It has been sitting there wondering when it would be of service.  The recipe for Fairy Cakes in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat instructs you to use a processor to make baking that much easier.  She notes that these cupcakes are what she whips up in a hurry for parties for her children.  We were not having a party but Little Sister’s outfit reminded me of the Fairy Cakes. You can make this recipe even if you haven’t gone to a fancy pastry school.

Fairy Cakes

Adapted from How to Eat by Nigella Lawson

Makes 10-12 regular cupcakes, or 24 mini cupcakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • (optional) food coloring, I used rose petal for the mini fairy cakes

Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF for regular size cupcakes, 350ºF for mini cupcakes.

Add everything but the milk to a food processor and pulse until combined.  Add the milk and pulse until it is smooth.  Evenly distribute the batter to the tins.  You can use paper liners or butter the tins.

Bake the regular size for 15 minutes or the mini size for 12-15 minutes at the specified temperatures.  A toothpick should come out clean either way.

Vanilla Fairy Cake with Chocolate Frosting

I baked the regular size cakes a bit too long and they were dry, I kept a better watch on the minis.  Next time I will add some yogurt or sour cream, or cinnamon apple sauce for more moisture.

Remove the cakes to a cooling rack as soon as they come out of the oven.  Wait for the cakes to cool completely before frosting them.  Feel free to perform quality assurance tests while they cool.

Mini Pink Fairy Cakes with Chocolate Frosting

Refridgerationless Frosting

I found this via search and modified it

Makes 2 cups of frosting, plenty for 2 dozen regular cupcakes, or 4 dozen mini cupcakes.

  • 1 cup shortening (Crisco)
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy creamer (Coffee Mate)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 16 oz confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup water (or coffee if using cocoa)
  • (optional) 2 Tbsp Dutch cocoa powder

Start with a little water (or coffee) at first and add up to 1/2 cup until you reach the consistency you desire.   Blend in a food processor or with a handheld mixer until fluffy.  Instead of cocoa you could add food coloring for matching frosting to the cake color.

The great thing about this frosting it that you won’t have to worry about keeping those frosted fairy cakes in the fridge while you wait for party guests to arrive.  I kept the cakes in an air-tight container for two days and the frosting didn’t change in taste or texture.  Mind you, using Crisco as a base does not give you the best “mouth feeling” or flavor, I suggest cutting it with butter or find a way to flavor the frosting (imitation butter, almond extract, Jell-O?)  I used cocoa and coffee since they were available at the time.  I was tempted to try adding strawberry Jell-O powder to the mix, that would give it flavor and color!

More experiments needed.  If any of you reading this have a better, more natural, way to make this sort of frosting please tell me in the comments below!

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