Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (gluten-free)

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November.  Oh November.

I am the first person to agree with L.M. Montgomery: October entices me with the promises of sweater weather and changing leaves, of apples and pumpkins and all the activities heralding my favorite season.  I love the Fall.  November, however, always seems to show the first signs of the long gray winter, peeking out between the colorful foliage.  Drizzling rain, a biting cold wind, and bare branches begin to remind us that we are in for the long haul of winter.  I do love the idea of winter, too.  I like snow and I especially like the thought of piles of blankets, bright fireplaces and stoves, and the sense of not having to go anywhere.  Unfortunately, most of winter I do have to go somewhere, and wherever that somewhere might be is definitely going to be through the cold and ice.  Even so, I am trying to treat November fairly.  Most of the time, it is just as glorious as October.  Plus, it contains Thanksgiving.  Definitely a good month.

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In the meantime, I am halfway through my first class of grad school.  I just signed up for two classes for next semester (as full of a course load as I will ever take alongside my full-time job).  I am really happy to be back in the classroom environment!  It’s also been wonderful to be learning things that I can actively compare to my company, so I have a real-life example for all the theory and concepts.  I have been working to get my hustle back–I have settled into a very routine life that allowed for more apathy than I liked.  Fortunately, all of these assignments have been the kick that I needed to find a better balance.  Isn’t it funny that the more we have to do, (usually) the better we are at actually getting it all done?  This was the last piece to push myself back into a state of productivity, though I still have to chant a few girlpower! mantras before I can tackle vacuuming… Another result of my class is that I discovered that I read faster and with much more focus while on the treadmill, instead of lying on my couch!  Studying and exercising?  Possibly my greatest multi-tasking achievement.

Unfortunately, I’ve been knocked off track a little, by catching an awful cold last week.  After a few miserable days, most of my symptoms have cleared up, though I still have a fair amount of chest congestion.  Given my history of allergies and asthma, this is exactly where I expected the cold to settle.  But I am definitely tired of coughing and wheezing.  It also saps just enough of my energy, that I haven’t been able to get up and move in the mornings.  I was looking for to daylight savings time to bring back some early morning light for my workout ventures, but my cold has mostly kept me couchbound.  My reading for school has suffered as well (perhaps the only downfall of that multi-tasking achievement).  Dealing with the cold symptoms over the weekend made the thought of early morning breakfast-making seem a gargantuan task.  And the idea of warm muffins, already-made when I woke up during the week, was all too appealing.  So I pulled overripe bananas from my freezer and set to work on this ultra-comforting recipe.

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Banana chocolate chip muffins were one of our staples in my childhood.  This simple recipe used up overripe bananas, a common occurrence in our house.  And the hearty addition of whole wheat flour balanced the fruit’s natural sweetness and bumped these muffins ahead in the race of healthy recipes.  And they tasted amazing!  I’m certain those were all pluses for my mother.  She made these muffins pretty often, and most of our friends ate a few over the course of our school years.  In fact, one of our childhood friends had a notorious hatred for bananas.  We always carefully avoided telling Z what was in these muffins and he ate them happily.  His mother got this recipe from my mother and continue to make the muffins for him until he finally saw her making the batter when he was a teenager.  Now he won’t eat them!

This is one of those recipes that so clearly recalls my childhood, I knew I needed to make it gluten-free.  Thankfully, it was a pretty simple accomplishment!  The banana keeps the muffins soft and lightly sweet and eliminates the need for any xanthan gum or guar gum as binders.  In order to emulate the heartiness from the whole wheat flour, I’ve used brown rice and sorghum flour, along with a touch of buckwheat flour to darken the batter as I remember the whole wheat flour doing in the original recipe.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Serves: 12-15 | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. mashed, ripe bananas (about 2)
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 2/3 c. + 2 Tbsp. brown rice flour*
  • 3 Tbsp. buckwheat flour*
  • 1/3 c. sweet white sorghum flour*
  • 1/3 c. +2 Tbsp. tapioca starch*
  • 3 Tbsp. sweet rice flour*
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • optional: 1 c. chopped walnuts

*Or, you can use 2 cups (280 g) of a gluten-free All-Purpose/”Cup for Cup” substitute

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners and llightly oil the liners liners.  Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Once uniformly mixed, add the egg and mix until the egg is just incorporated.  In a separate bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt).  In a small bowl, combine mashed bananas with milk.  With the mixer on low, add the dry mixture to the egg-butter-sugar mix.  Mix on low until combined.  Add in the banana-milk mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts, if using.  Scoop into greased liners, at least three quarters full.  The batter will rise a moderate amount during baking.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.


Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up!

Well, I had hoped to get  jumpstart on my newest project, My Grandmother’s Recipe Box, and bring you the first of the recipes.  However, the day after I lasted posted, my oven did not heat up.  I tried a few times of turning it off and on, but I did not want to fiddle too much since we have a gas oven and our gas lines (while the stovetop control is wonderful) pretty much have me existing in a mild state of terror.  I grew up with electric coils, and while I know modern gas lines are very safe and secure, I still worry almost constantly.   So, I waited for the boys to come home and shoved my rapidly-rising, unbaked bread dough into the fridge.  They came home and fiddled some more with no luck, but were pretty sure that the oven wasn’t turning on at all (no sound or smell of gas), so I stopped hyperventilating about a gas leak.  And, even more lucky, our stovetop was still working.  But, that did mean we had to submit a request with our rental company and it took a week for the repair to come.  Needless to say, there was no baking down this week, and it seems like all of my grandmothers’ recipes require some time in the oven.  Instead, the crockpot came out twice, and I did a lot of sautéing (and lugged the over-risen bread dough to my mother’s to bake).  Thankfully, all is working perfectly, just in time to make one of my more ambitious projects: the latest Snickers-bar-inspired dessert for M’s birthday tomorrow.  That will, in some form, make it onto the blog quite soon, I am already suspicious that the recipe I tried did not turn out as I planned.  I am hoping that the addition of caramel-peanut filling and salted caramel frosting will help to perk up a sub-par cake.

In the meantime, I am taking a quick break, as I wait for my butter to come to room temperature, to round up my recipes that might find a place on your Thanksgiving table.  I am traveling up to visit family, so, aside from serving as a gluten-free consultant and helping wherever I can, I will be taking the easier role of ‘guest’ for this holiday.  Several others seem to be starting their recipe round-ups as well, so , if you are beginning to plan out your feast, take a few minutes to look through some of my favorite recipes.

gnocchi closeButternut Squash Gnocchi have the familiar flavors of the holidays, but are a more unusual way to add that squash flavor.

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This Quinoa and Wild Rice Stuffing is chock full of apples, squash, sausage and herbs, and a nice change from traditional bread stuffings.

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My Knockoff Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing is quite close to the real deal, and the combination of white bread and cornbread makes for  a truly flavorful dish.

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How about some French Bread?  Perfect as a base to cube for traditional stuffing, or to slice as is for the table.

popovers

Popovers are always first in line on our table at any occasion.

Peach-berry Pie

I am all about my pies at Thanksgiving.  My family rotates between some combination of Pumpkin, Apple, and Strawberry-Rhubarb.  Use the Best Gluten-Free Pie Crust for a fool-proof pie.

pots de creme side

Chocolate-Coffee Pots De Creme are surprisingly simple, but make for an elegant end to the evening.

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These Pumpkin Scones makes the perfect breakfast on a busy Thanksgiving morning.  Make ahead and freeze, then thaw for a delicious start to a hectic day!

 


Catching up with Almond Flour Scones

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It has been over a month since I last posted, in spite of my best intentions.  My summer camp, as mentioned, ate up a considerable portion of each day.  With our move, M and I are further away from this job, so that meant that we were up by 5:30am every morning to walk Punc, pack lunches, and get ready to leave the house by 6:30.  We usually didn’t get home until 5:00 or 5:30pm, and by then, quite truthfully, it took all of my remaining energy to put together some semblance of dinner, then shower, and sleep.  On the very first day of camp, I came home and simply couldn’t move for four hours.  I adore my job, especially the summers, but it takes constant energy.  After twelve hours of acting, blocking, stretching, singing, dancing, planning, memorizing, and leading; it was an achievement to keep my eyes open until 10:00pm.

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We have one week left, but I can confidently say that this summer was the best one yet.  We had truly outstanding staff and equally outstanding students.  I have spoken about teaching before, touching briefly on how inspiring my students are to me, and how teenage culture is played out before me only a few years after I left it, myself.  I always feel as though I learn as much from my students as they (hopefully) do from me, and this year, as always, I had several particularly inspiring students.  I will not go into details–the privacy of my students is the most important thing–but I can say that, a physically exhausting as camp has been, I know after a few days of proper sleep, all of this inspiration will have me refreshed and ready to dive into our fall classes.

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I did manage to have a few adventures in the kitchen, mostly inspired by our farmer’s market finds.  I hope to share those adventures soon–just one more week of camp (and my birthday) to get through before the schedule returns to normal!

With all of my early mornings, filled with harried lunch-packing (though I tried my best to pack the night before, so much of our sliced veggies and fruits or sandwiches, etc would have suffered from sitting overnight, leaving me with some prep every morning) and even quicker breakfasts, it was important for me to find something quick, portable, and protein-packed.  Our camp has a nut-free policy, but I rely so much on the handy protein of nut products that I often found myself searching to pack them into my breakfasts, and then thoroughly washing my hands upon arrival.  These scones, with their tantalizing mix of whole-grain flours and almond meal, were the perfect fit for my breakfast bill.  The scones are exceedingly flexible in terms of add-ins–I made another batch of white-chocolate blueberry scones, as well as cherry pecan, using the same recipe.  Those eluded photographs, but I do have my first batch of blueberry lemon spice scones to show off.  These scones freeze beautifully.  I was able to grab a few, microwave for ten seconds for a quick thaw, and then carry them to eat in the car on the way into work.  These scones are easily vegan.
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Almond Flour Scones

Serves: 8 | Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 10-15 minutes

  • 1 1/4 c. almond meal
  • 3/4 c. oat flour, teff flour, or additional almond meal (and any mixture therein of the three)
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch (or potato starch)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp. boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp. flax seed (ground)
  • 2 Tbsp. milk of choice
  • 2 Tbsp. honey or agave (granulated sugar may be used, but you must add an additional Tbsp of milk)
  • dash salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or citrus juice, for citrus scones)
  • up to 1 Tbsp spices or zest of choice, optional
  • up to 1 c. of add-ins (dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, fresh fruit, etc), optional*

*If only one type of add-in, I usually ended up using only 1/2-3/4 c.  If using two types, I used up to 1/2 c. of each.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Combine boiling water and ground flax seed in a small bowl, stir together well and allow to rest, thicken, and gel for several minutes.  Combine almond meal, flours, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and any spices (if using) in a large bowl, stir until thoroughly mixed.  Combine milk, vanilla/juice, and honey and any zest (if using) in small bowl.   Add liquids, plus the gelled flax mixture, to the dry mix and stir until fully incorporated.  Stir in choices of add-ins*.

*For the scones pictured, I stir 1 tsp of cinnamon into the dry mixture, 2 tsp. of lemon zest and 1 tsp of lemon juice into the milk and honey mixture, and 3/4 c. of dried blueberries into the dough.

Dump the dough onto the lined baking sheet and shaped into 1 large or 2 small round circle(s).  Cut each circle into eight triangles, but do not separate the triangles.  Bake for 9-12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from oven, recut at the lines, but, again, do not separate scones.  Allow to cool.  Store in a tightly sealed container on the counter for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to one month.

If you would like glaze the scones, wait until completely cool, then mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar (with up to 1 tsp. spices) with 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 2 Tbsp. water or citrus juice.  Drizzle over cooled scones and allow to harden.

 

 


Gluten-Free Yogurt Soufflés for Busy Times

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My life is on the verge of that particular “busy” that only comes with summer camps.  I have mentioned that I am on the administrative and teaching staff for a small arts company.  So all of the processing, planning, and scheduling of 600+ students and a 40+ teaching team over a 7-week span falls to me and my four other cohorts.  This is my first time being so involved with the prep and pre-planning needed for camp, so it has certainly been a huge learning curve to overcome in order to work effectively.  I am quite excited for camp to start, but we just have to wade through all of the paperwork to actually get to camp.  Alongside the endless loads of laundry and meal planning that I am attempting, since I know I will hardly have time for such things after the camp starts.

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Not too long ago, I faced one of my fears in order to whip up a delicious, beautiful breakfast.

Do you remember my shortlist of dishes and cooking practices in the kitchen that intimidate me?  If not, here’s the list again:

  • Kale chips
  • Deep frying
  • Soufflés
  • Homemade stock
  • Making sushi
  • Butchering Breaking Down*
  • Risotto

*I’ve amended butchering to Breaking Down, because I did mean the practice of taking apart a chicken or other larger piece of meat…not the actual killing of the animal…

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If you did remember, you know that I have already tried my hand at making my own kale chips and risotto from scratch, successfully.  So naturally, buoyed by my cooking-success-streak, I’d try something new: soufflés.   In all actuality, I came across a photo on Pinterest that was too irresistible.  And that is exactly how I found myself doctoring up gluten-free yogurt soufflés for breakfast on a Sunday morning.  Just as promised, these soufflés are beautiful, delicate bites of cheesecake-reminiscent heaven.  I filled my ramekins to the rim, so that the souffles were still substantial, even after they had fallen.  The promised cheesecake texture is spot-on.  The yogurt adds a touch of tang, but, if you are looking for a smoother flavor, vanilla-flavored greek yogurt would be a great option as well.  This is actually a very simple dish with a lot of “wow” factor–perfect for when you are hosting breakfast and brunch (or dished up after dinner as dessert!)

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I topped these with some macerated raspberries and slivered almonds.  Next time, I plan on upping the lemon flavor even more.

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Gluten-Free Greek Yogurt Soufflés

Adapted from Baking Bites

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

  • 1 c. greek yogurt, plain
  • 3 eggs, room temperature and divided yolks and whites
  • 2 Tbsp. white rice flour
  • 1 Tbsp. tapioca starch (or potato starch)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 c. sugar (granulated)
  • additional butter & sugar for ramekins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease inside of ramekins (bottom and sides, all the way up to the rim) with butter.  Ad a spoonful of sugar to the ramekin, turning and tapping until the sugar has coated the buttered surface.  In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.  Slowly add in sugar, beating mixture at medium-high, until the mixture doubles in size, all sugar has been incorporated, and the mixture forms soft peaks.  (Soft peaks are when the mixture lifts, than gently folds in a little point when you pull the whisk straight up out of the mixture.)  In large bowl, stir together yogurt and egg whites until thoroughly combined.  Mix in flour, salt, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.  Gently stir in about 1/4 of the egg white mixture.  Carefully and gently fold in the remainder of the egg white mixture until fully incorporated.  Divide into ramekins.  Lightly tap ramekins on counter to release any air bubbles.  Place filled ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until the tops begin to brown.  Do not open the oven during baking time.  Serve immediately.

The soufflés, as mentioned, should rise beautifully.  Even if they begin to fall, if you filled the ramekins to the rim, it will still make a lovely dish.

 

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Homemade Holidays #3: Triple-Ginger-Bread Cookies

Here is the second cookies recipe from last year to make it into the baking spree this year.  These soft, gingerbread cookies were an absolute fluke.  But a glorious fluke, for sure.  They are the ones that M requested specifically, a slightly cake-y cookie that is (again) not-too-sweet, even with the frosting.  The frosting adds just enough sugar and moisture to these cookies, but feel free to try them without it if you feel so inclined.  I also tried to save time and not roll these cookies in loose sugar before baking, but they look much more unfinished without the hint of sparkle from the coating.

The dough for these cookies doesn’t look “right”.  It seems too sticky, to loose.  But trust me, it’ll be okay.  Cover the top with saran wrap and leave the dough overnight in fridge.  After a night of chilling, it will be much easier to work with and will come together just fine.  Believe in the dough!

Gingerbread Cookies

  • 2  1/4 c.  White Rice Flour
  • 1  1/2 c.Tapioca Starch
  • 2  tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground (dry) ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, finely minced.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Whisk together all dry ingredients in medium bowl.  Cream butter and sugar in large bowl.  Add molasses, then fresh ginger, then eggs, one at a time; taking the time to fully incorporate each addition. Slowly add in dry ingredient mix, again, taking time to fully incorporate each portion of dry ingredients.  Fold in crystallized ginger.  Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll dough into 1″- 2″ balls and roll in loose granulated sugar until completely coated.  Press onto cookie sheet with palm to flatten slightly.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, until cookies are turning golden and tops are cracking.  Remove from oven and use the bottom of a solid spatula to re-flatten to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Allow to cool for five minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar with 2-4 Tbsp milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract to make frosting.  The frosting should be soft enough to puddle after it is spread on top of the cooled cookies, but thick enough not to drip down the edges.  It should dry stiff, but not too hard, on top of the cookies.

Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on size of cookies.


Homemade Holidays #2: Spicy Almond Slices

Somewhere in the midst of the madness that is my life at the holidays (Children’s holiday shows are a serious business), I had an evening of utter abandon and made six dozen cookies.  Should I really  be so surprised, after last year?  Anyways, I did, thankfully, make all of these sweets before my 8-performances-in-48-hours-weekend that brought on a nasty virus.  I’m still trying to shake this sickness and trying to churn out all of my holiday posts and recipes within the next couple of days, because M and I are leaving for the UK on Sunday!  AH!

Confession: I haven’t packed at all.  I do have a list of what needs to be packed…that is a step in the right direction, isn’t it?  Packing for a wedding/meeting the entire family/traveling all up and down the country is hard enough, but when it has to be done with bulky, warm winter clothes, it is even worse.  I’m hoping I can stay under 51 lbs for my one free checked bag!  Hahaha.  (But seriously, I’m taking 5 pairs of shoes!  While I have a lot at home, I have never been a crazy packer… until now, I suppose).  Sometime (probably Friday) I will force myself to sit down, sort things out and pack away, but, in the meantime, I can procrastinate by sharing my Christmas recipes with you, right!

These Spicy Almond Slices were posted with last year’s batch of Christmas cookies, but as one of the two repeat recipes who made the cut in this year’s mad-dash baking spree, I thought they deserved they’re own post with pictures.  These cookies are a wonderful break from the normal deluge of Christmas cookies: crisp, crunchy, and not-too-sweet.  They are also the perfect icebox cookie.  Simply double-wrap after forming the unbaked dough into a log and store in your freezer for up to six months.  I bake them straight from frozen (you may have to add a minute or two to the baking time, keep an eye on them).  Though it does seem like a lot of spices (well, the normal amount to me, which can seem a little extreme), the cinnamon and nutmeg and clove come through as a warm undertones, supporting the nuttiness of the double almond flavor.  And, as a special bonus, this recipe is pretty easy to halve or to double!

Spicy Almond Slice Cookies

I used almond flour in these cookies to up the nut flavor.  You can replace the almond flour with an additional 3/4 c. + 1 Tbsp of the GF Flour blend.

  • 1 c. (112 g.) almond flour
  • 1 1/2 c + 1 Tsbp White Rice Flour
  • 1 c. Tapioca Flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 c. butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 2 c. sliced almonds.

In  medium bowl, whisk almond flour with GF flour blend.  In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, vanilla, nutmeg, salt, eggs, and 2 cups of flour mix until well-mixed.  With wooden spoon, stir in remaining 1 1/2 (+ 1 Tsbp) flour and sliced almonds.  Dough will be very stiff, use hands to mix if necessary.

Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into 10″x3″x1″ log, wrap each in wax paper or plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut brick into 1/4″ slices.  Place slices 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes until browned around edges.  Cool on wire rack.  Store tightly covered.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.


Revisiting Snickers Pie

Well, around this time last year (actually, to the day, I’ve just noticed) I posted a recipe for Snickers Pie that I made for a ‘special friend’…blahblahblah.  You guessed it.  The special friend was M, and, having only just started dating, we were caught in a strange trap of how much to share, with whom, and when.  Anyways, clearly that’s worked out pretty well: here we are a year later and I’m bringing you another Snickers Pie with tips, tricks, and a warning label (and minimally better photos).

I made this year’s pie almost exactly like last year’s.  I did substitute ground up Annie’s Snickerdoodle Bunny Cookies for the graham crackers (I’ve tried the new Snickerdoodle and Gingersnap flavors, both are wonderful!).  Because the cookies themselves were flavored, I excluded the brown sugar and the cinnamon in my graham cracker crust, and dropped the melted butter down to 3-4 Tablespoons to accommodate for that.  This crust was awesome!  It shined through, even against the chocolate, caramel, and peanuts.  Annie’s cookies will be my new go-to for cookie-crumb crusts.

I also very nearly burnt the caramel sauce (it cooked up to about 5-10 degrees hotter than the recipe recommended).  After I tasted a smidge of cooled caramel, I was worried.  It had the distinctive burnt, bitter edge.  I didn’t have time to make more caramel and was rather upset, but M insisted that paired with the chocolate and run through with peanuts, it would be fine.  He was right.  The nearly-burnt caramel helped to cut through the sweetness of this pie.  I wouldn’t recommend purposefully trying to reach this point of near-burning caramel, unless you have a lot of experience with the substance.  Non-burnt caramel is equally delicious, and a better participant in this sugar-riot of a recipe.

Now for the warning:  now that I have perfected my original recipe, I hereby give this warning: This pie is extremely rich and very sweet.  This is a tiny-sliver for a serving type of dessert, with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on the side to help cut through the sugar.  I sliced far too big of slices the first round, and though we gamely and happily ate all of our servings, M and I fought off sugar comas all the way through Skyfall.

I still love the idea of this pie…if it can actually be called that.  Pie is the best term I can think of, as it is filling in a pie shell.  I make it in a spring-form pan, so, uncut, it looks like a chocolate-topped cheesecake.  In all reality, it is a giant candy bar.  But, if Pecan Pie is consider pie, I think this should be as well.

Snicker-themed desserts are a likely theme for M’s birthday, at least until he requests  something different.  But I think that next year, I will have to cut this pie with another layer.  I was considering adding a layer of nougat (minus the almonds) like an actual snickers bar, but I think it still might be near too much sugar.  We’ve found that dairy cuts through the sugar very well, right now, I think my best bet would be to put a layer of cheesecake (or chocolate cheesecake) under the caramel-peanut layer (and probably make a half-batch of that recipe).  It would help to vary the flavors, and the tang of cheesecake is very welcome here.

Even so, this decadent pie is still our to enjoy.  We’re careful to eat only thin slices, if only to keep ourselves alert and functioning for the hour after eating. I’m wondering if we’ll finish it by Thanksgiving, and the influx of desserts that come with that holiday.  But for now, if you feel the need for a dangerously decadent dessert, follow the link below to my earlier post with the full recipe.  The only tweaks I made were mentioned above, and either crust pairs wonderfully with the candy filling!

SNICKERS PIE RECIPE (link to my earlier post)


Better Than ___________ Cupcakes

When I was in the prime of my childhood (i.e. grades K-7 when it was still fun to play outside all day, every day), there were 37 children living in our cul-de-sac.  Not the block, not the sprawling network of a ‘neighborhood’, but the 19-house stub of a street.  It tumbled out 37 bodies under the age of 15 every Saturday morning.  Nowadays, with my–ahem–broader view of the world and especially of the area where I live, I realize how lucky we were to have our house on that street.  We were two turns away from the busiest street to the north, with a generous network of neighborhood to the south.  A similar cul-de-sac was across the street, and, of course, our ended in a wide circle that we were never tempted to stray from.  Parents in the neighborhood drew a line: “Don’t go past the corner”.  And 99% of the time, we didn’t.  My mother got a large, old copper whistle to call us home for dinner.  The shrill notes stretched just long enough to reach our ears at the top of the street.

There was more than enough to do on our little street.  Summer evenings turned our circular end of the street into a milling sea of bicycles, without a care for traffic.  One lucky summer, an ice cream truck came every other night for two weeks straight.  We climbed trees, built forts, collected seed pods. Endless hours were spent on our trampoline, in the neighbor’s clubhouse, and playing some sort of jumping game most akin to reverse limbo with more dangerous results.  Whoever jumps over the stick held at the highest place, wins.  The losers are those who catch the stick with an ankle and careen face-first into the ground.

We thought it was fun.

While the children of the cul-de-sac whiled away our hours in constant contact, the adults were friendly, but didn’t push the neighborly relationship much beyond sidewalk conversations as they collected their progeny, and the occasional stroll-and-chat through a neighbor’s yard sale.  (It does make me laugh, as the new generation on the street have young, 10-and-under children, and the parents seem much more social than our parents ever did.)  Once, we decided to try to change that.  I must have been on the older end of the spectrum, and all of the kids decided that we wanted a barbecue.  We made flyers and stuck them in everyone’s mailboxes after pleading with our parents.  Feeling especially kind, we even put flyers in those houses of families without children (in our tiny world, I doubt we’d ever met some of those households).  And then we got to planning, pre-facebook.  We took polls as to who would bring what kind of food, who could drag their grill down into the street.

And there, in our family’s own search for picnic food, we found a recipe on the back of a Carnation sweetened, condensed milk can.  Or perhaps a box of cake mix.  All the same, the title was alluring (Better Than Anything Cake) and the ingredient list was even more so (anything containing toffee with always get my vote).  This was pre-gluten-free, and the height of my childhood meant the hieght of my mother’s quick-fix dishes.  The recipe was simple enough.

Mix up a batch of chocolate cake (preferably Devil’s Food) according to package directions.

Bake the cake in a sheet pan (I chose cupcakes for portability).

Poke holes throughout the top of the cake with the handle of a spoon (or a fork, for cupcakes).

Pour one can of sweetened, condensed milk and one bottle of caramel sauce all over the top.

Let sit overnight so the sauces can be fully absorbed into the cake.

Spread top with one tub of Cool Whip and sprinkle with one bag of Heath toffee bits.

The ultimate 90’s recipe.  Quick, easy, all prepackaged, no measuring required.  And let me tell you, it was delicious.  This was serve-with-a-spoon cake.  It couldn’t stand up to being sliced, so soaked with caramel, but that wasn’t too much of a problem.  Needless to say, we took home a pan and some crumbs at the end of the night.  I’m positive that someone at the barbecue let my mother in on the other name for this cake: Better Than Sex Cake.  Either way, years later as I began to stumble through the world of online recipes, when I encountered “Better Than Sex Cake”, I knew what it was.  I’ve seen it with a variety of names (Better Than Sex Cake, Almost Better Than Sex Cake, Better Than Almost Anything Cake…), take your pick.  The ingredient list and the assembly have always been the same.

Recently, when a friend and I planned dinner while compiling a lesson plan, I was charged with dessert.  It had to be easy to make  the morning off, be transportable, and delicious for those eating gluten-free or not.  And, I had a bag of Gluten-Free chocolate cake mix wallowing in my pantry.  Cupcakes.  Cupcakes were a must.  The dessert would have to survive coming to work with me, a stint in the work fridge, and the drive to my friends. Cupcakes offered the portion-ability and portability that would be perfect.  I didn’t quite prep well for this recipe.  At the grocery store, I grabbed some cream cheese, heavy cream, and whipped cream, deciding to figure out frosting later.  I grabbed the toffee, we had the caramel and condensed milk at home.  I forgot cupcake liners.

By lucky chance, M’s mum had huge cupcake liners at home.  It worried me since they fit strangely in our muffin tin, but this turned into a stroke of pure luck.  With these cupcakes, the taller the liner, the better.  I scaled back the condensed milk and the caramel (only used about 6 Tablespoons of each), since I didn’t have the time for these to soak up the sauce overnight.  If you are able to give these cupcakes the time to rest, I highly recommend it.

I also did not want to take a chance with pure whipping cream as frosting.  Inevitably, in our long journey, it would melt.  Ultimately, I ended up compromising with a whipped cream cheese frosting I’ve seen on a few sites that is phenomenal and entirely stable.  In my cream-cheese-loving-opinion, this frosting only makes these cupcakes better, but for you BTSCake purists, perhaps investigate whipping cream stabilizers?  I’ve never used them before.  Either way, with very little effort, you can have delicious  cupcakes that people will be talking about all week (my co-workers can attest to that!)  You don’t even have to share our little secret about the cake mix…

Better Than ____________ Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

  • 1 package gluten free chocolate cake mix + ingredients listed on package for making cupcakes (or use your favorite homemade chocolate cake recipe, prepared to batter stage)
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • 6-8 Tbsp (or more) sweetened condensed milk (low-fat/non-fat is fine)
  • 6-8 Tbsp (or more) prepared caramel syrup/sauce
  • 1 cup Heath toffee bits

For the Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz (1 package) cream cream (low-fat is fine, non-fat is not)
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Pinch of salt

Prepare your cake batter as directed on the package, or according to your usual recipe, adding the tablespoon of brown sugar with the dry ingredients or with the other sugars in recipe.  Once the batter is thoroughly mixed, stir in chocolate chips by hand.  Spoon into cupcake liners and bake according to directions for cupcakes.

Remove cupcakes from oven and allow to cool.  Meanwhile, mix caramel syrup and sweetened, condensed milk.  Poke a dozen or so holes into the top of cooled cupcakes with a fork or a toothpick.  Drizzle a spoonful or so over each cupcake (more of the syrup mixture can be added depending on how much time you can allow the cupcakes to set.  Up to a tablespoon per cake if they can sit overnight).  Allow cupcakes to set as long as possible: at least one hour and up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Make your frosting: in medium bowl, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form (watch carefully at end to see that you do not over-whip the cream.  If you see it starting to separate, stop!  The next stage after stiff peaks is butter!).  In large bowl, combine softened cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Beat until smooth.  Fold in whipped cream.  Remove cupcakes from fridge, sprinkle with toffee bits.  Spoon frosting into piping bag, or a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and pipe onto cooled, set cupcakes (or simply spread with a knife).  Top with additional toffee bits.


French Bread

This was my snack today.  🙂

Look at those air pockets.  And the thick, chewy crust.

And how perfectly it sits next to brie and grapes…

And I’m unashamedly, really, really proud of myself!

I have had a love-hate relationship with French bread and baguettes since becoming gluten-free.  As in, I love French bread.  And I hate that, on top of being made out of finicky dough, you need a special pan to bake it in.  (The same thing goes for donuts.  There are so many donut recipes out there and I cannot convince myself to invest in a donut pan.  What else could you possibly use it for?)  And so, I passed up recipe after recipe of French bread while I pined hopelessly for Against the Grain Gourmet’s baguettes.  Their crisp, crunchy crust and soft, chewy, eggy interior is unbelievably delicious!  I would highly recommend them for anyone…however those of you who are not on the post-graduate budget might have an easier time following that recommendation.   While eating the bread might be happily done, their price tag is a little hard to swallow.  But every once in a while, I couldn’t hold out any longer and I’d run down to MOM’s and buy a pack of two.  And spend the next blissful day or two eating all sorts of sandwiches, bruschettas, or just gobbling down buttered slices.

Needless to say, my french-bread-pan-less state was a serious problem.  Then, yesterday, when I was home (for Punc’s very first puppy class!), I was flipping through my cookbooks in hope of finding a quick new recipe to try when I stopped to read through Bette Hagman’s French Bread recipe.  And, lo’ and behold, there was the only trick I needed!   A tricky so simple, I was a little embarassed to have not thought of it myself.  “If you do not have a french bread pan, simpled form the tube out of doubled, heavy duty aluminum foil.”  Duh.  Bette, you’ve earned my love twice-over, between this and your pie crust recipe!

And, bonus points, her bread flour mix was made up of 3 ingredients.  4 for whole grain.  And, the french bread only needed a 15 minute rising before jumping straight into the oven.  I was sold, easily.  I combined the dry ingredients, then mixed in the wet batch, and set about constructed my make-shift bread pans during the 3 minute mixing time.  My foil was wide and long enough that I folded once lengthwise and once width-wise before shaping my half-tube around a vinegar bottle.  I made a second tube and set them together on a jelly-roll pan.  I had enough space to wedge a regular 9×5″ bread pan in beside them to keep them sturdy.  This, I fill with about 1 cup of water, just to keep the heat distributed easily.

By now my dough was mixed and ready to rise.  In a snap, they were ready for the oven.

I was quite proud of myself when I pulled the steaming, fragrant loaves from the oven a little over an hour later, and happily explained my trick when my mother came downstairs.  She looked from me to the foil molds, and then back and said: “You know we have french bread pans, right?”  And then she pulled not one, but two double french bread pans from the depths of the cabinet.  (On a side note, I didn’t even know that said cabinet went back as far as it did.)  This is my life, folks.  One, I’ll discover all of the cookery treasures that she has hoarded since my birth.

But anyways.  Real bread pan or aluminum foil form, this french bread was incredible!

I’ve fiddled with the flours and the yeast a little from Bette’s original recipe.  Here’s my spin for delicious bread:

French Bread

Adapted from Bette Hagman’s recipe.

Makes 1 long (14-18 in) baguette, or two short (8-12 in) baguettes

  • 1 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp White Rice Flour
  • 1/4 cup Tapioca Starch
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp quick-rising yeast
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a french bread pan.  If you do not have a french bread pan, just take a long sheet of aluminum foil, fold it in half lengthwise and again widthwise, then shape into a half-tubular-type shape.  Crimp edges as needed until it fits on your baking sheet.  You are trying to make a mold like a french bread pan.  For reference, here is what my actual pan looks like:

Make each ‘half-tube’ out of a separate piece of foil,  I made two, and set them on a jelly roll pan.  I had just enough room left over, that if I wedged a 9×5″ bread pan beside them, they were supported enough to not slide around.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, starches, xanthan gum, sugar, salt and yeast (dry ingredients) until thoroughly combined.  Add warm water, egg whites, and vinegar, mix on low until thoroughly combined.  Turn the mixer up to high speed* and beat the dough for 3 minutes.  Scoop dough into french bread pan, leaving several inches from the edge on each side.  Smooth top with a wet spatula, and, if desired, slice three diagonal, 1/4″ deep slash into the top.  Cover dough and allow to rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.

After rising, transfer pan to 400 degree F oven and bake for 1 hour.  Then turn down the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 15 more minutes.  This bread will not slice until its cool, but if you can’t resist the warm, steamy bread, feel free to tear off pieces.

Go make your own.  I promise, its so easy!  Because once you try it, you can have an excuse to eat this 6 times a day:


Christmas Cookie Round-up

So I missed the sense of posting these recipes before the holidays so that you could also make them.  My deepest apologies, as these recipes were quite successful in my book.  For my first year (truly) tackling holiday baking sans gluten, I couldn’t be more thankful that each of the seven recipes I made panned out.  I’ll admit I was  little nervous and more than a little crazy.  At the end of it all, I made 25 dozen cookies!  I might scale things down a little next year.  But I’m putting all of these up now (with unfortunately scant pictures, they were all gifted away or eaten before I remembered to take individual pictures of them) so that you and I can file them away for next year, or for that Tuesday in June when an insatiable craving for wintry flavors overtakes you.

First round of baking (clockwise from top right): Lemon Tea Cookies; Frosted Gingerbread Cookies; Turtle Cookies; Lemon Bars (the Tea Cookies reformed); Almond slices; Chocolate-Peppermint Biscotti; Gingerbread, Turtle & Lemon cookie overflow.  The ‘Twix’ bars and macaroons didn’t even make it into the photo!

My common sense lasted long enough to decide to use the same basic flour mix

  • 2 parts white rice flour
  • 1 part tapioca starch
  • 1/2 tsp xanthum gum per cup

 for almost all of the cookies.  Mix up a large batch of the blend now, it’ll be much easier than trying for the math come mixing time!  For the almond slices, I punched up the flavor by adding almond meal, and the Twix bars and Coconut macaroons used minimal-to-no flour.  But for all of the others, this is the blend I used.  But enough chatter.  Onto the (multitude of) recipes!

Lemon Tea Cookies

I adapted Food.com’s recipe, making them gluten-free and upping the lemon factor.  There is no such thing as too much lemon!

Cookies:

  • -1 2/3 c. (233 g.) GF flour blend  (or: 78g/about 2/3 c. tapioca starch, 156g/about 1 c. white rice flour, 3/4 tsp xanthum gum)
  • -1 cup butter, softened
  • -1/3 c. powdered/confectioner’s sugar
  • -1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • -2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • -few drops pure lemon extract

Filling:-2/3 c. granulated sugar

  • -4 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • -3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • -1 Tbsp. butter
  • -1 tsp. cornstarch
  • -1/4 tsp. salt
  • -1 extra-large egg, beaten

In large bowl, beat butter, powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in flour blend until dough forms. The dough will be crumbly.  Feel free to toss aside your spoon and mix with your hands until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Shape dough into 1″ balls.  Place balls 2″ apart on cookie sheet and use your thumb to make indentations into each cookie. Bake 8-10 minutes until golden.  I’ve found that gluten-free thumbprint cookies often puff up their indentations.  Take a tablespoon or teaspoon measuring spoon (whichever size is more appropriate) and repress the indentation when cookies are removed from the oven.  Allow cookies to cool completely on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack.  The cookies will be very delicate.

In a saucepan, combine all filling ingredients and stir constantly over low heat, for about 20-25 minutes, until thickened.  Cool about 15 minutes.  Spoon filling into cookie wells, dust with additional powdered sugar.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Variation: To make Lemon Bars: press refrigerated dough into a 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, until golden.  Make filling as instructed and pour over cooked crust.  Cook layered bar in 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes, until edges of filling begin to brown.  Cool, dust with powdered sugar.

 

Gingerbread Cookies

I’ll be honest: I intended for these to be Shauna’s Soft Molasses Cookies, without any modifications.  But somehow, between my kitchen-scale-less math, my 1.5-ing the recipe’s amount, and my own tendency to play, they turned out much like gingerbread, dense and chewy, and showcased far more ginger than molasses.  This is the recipe I worked most heavily with by weight, which warranted a lot of math, but it is much easier with my new kitchen scale!  I’ve included the approximate cup breakdown as best as I can.

  • -2 3/4 c. + 1 Tbsp (400g.) GF Flour blend (1 1/2 c. + 3 Tbsp White Rice Flour, 1 c. + 2 Tbsp Tapioca Starch, 1 1/2 tsp. xanthum gum)-1 tsp. salt
  • -1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • -1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • -2 tsp. ground (dry) ginger
  • -1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • -2 sticks of butter, softened
  • -1/2 c. white sugar
  • -1/2 c. molasses
  • -2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, finely minced.
  • -2 eggs
  • -1/4 c. crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Whisk together all dry ingredients in medium bowl.  Cream butter and sugar in large bowl.  Add molasses, then fresh ginger, then eggs, one at a time; taking the time to fully incorporate each addition. Slowly add in dry ingredient mix, again, taking time to fully incorporate each portion of dry ingredients.  Fold in crystallized ginger.  Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll dough into 1″- 2″ balls, then press onto cookie sheet with palm to slightly flatten.  Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar with 2-4 Tbsp milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract to make frosting.  The frosting should be soft enough to puddle after it is spread on top of the cooled cookies, but thick enough not to drip down the edges.  It should dry stiff, but not too hard, on top of the cookies.

Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on size of cookies.

These almond cookies are an old family recipe, one of those yearly constants whose smell and taste scream “Christmas”.  Spicy and nutty, they were also the very first adaptation I tried after discovering I had to give up gluten.  These are great freezer cookies-make a batch, wrap into logs, and freeze one to slice and bake when unexpected company arrives.  Add a few minutes to the bake time, and you can even bake the cookies without thawing.

Spicy Almond Slice Cookies

I used almond flour in these cookies to up the nut flavor.  You can replace the almond flour with an additional 3/4 c. + 1 Tbsp of the GF Flour blend.

  • -1 c. (112 g.) almond flour
  • -2 1/2 c. + 1 Tbsp. (350 g.) GF Flour blend (or: 1 1/2 c + 1 Tsbp White Rice Flour, 1 c. Tapioca Flour, 1 tsp xanthum gum)-1 c. butter, softened
  • -1 c. granulated sugar
  • -3/4 c. brown sugar
  • -1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • -3/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • -1 tsp. baking soda
  • -1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • -1/2 tsp salt
  • -2 extra large eggs
  • -2 c. sliced almonds.

In  medium bowl, whisk almond flour with GF flour blend.  In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, vanilla, nutmeg, salt, eggs, and 2 cups of flour mix until well-mixed.  With wooden spoon, stir in remaining 1 1/2 (+ 1 Tsbp) flour and sliced almonds.  Dough will be very stiff, use hands to mix if necessary.

Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into 10″x3″x1″ log, wrap each in wax paper or plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut brick into 1/4″ slices.  Place slices 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes until browned around edges.  Cool on wire rack.  Store tightly covered.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

In addition to copious amounts of math, I undertook the imposing task of my first batch of biscotti, without a proper pan and gluten-free at that.  I turned to Nicole at Gluten-free On A Shoestring for the know-how.

Chocolate-Peppermint Biscotti

I adapted these from Nicole’s Dairy-free Chocolate Almond Biscotti.  I knew I wanted a mint element for one type of cookie, as it is such a quintessential ‘winter-taste’ for me.  The chocolate drizzle and white-chocolate-based peppermint bits nix the dairy-free factor, but the cookies themselves are still dairy-free.

  • -1 1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp (196 g.) GF Flour mix
  • -1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • -1 tsp. baking powder
  • -1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • -1/2 tsp. salt
  • -1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • -3 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • -3 Tbsp. canola oil
  • -1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • -1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
  • -3/4 c. chocolate chips (I found a mix of peppermint chips and dark chocolate chips that worked perfectly)
  • -2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  In large bowl, mix all dry ingredients except chips and cornstarch.  Add eggs, oil, peppermint extract, and vanilla, mix for several minutes until batter is smooth.  In small separate bowl, combine chocolate chips and cornstarch.  Stir to coat.  Add mixture to batter and stir until well combined.

Pour dough into a biscotti pan (preferred) or into a greased 9×13 pan. Shake the pan to even out dough, and smack bottom on countertop to release air bubbles.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm(ish).  Turn down heat to 300 degrees F and remove pan.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run knife around edges to release loaf.  Allow to cool completely in pan, then turn out onto cutting board.  If baked in biscotti pan, slice crosswise about 3/4″-1″ thick.  If using 9×13″ pan, slice loaf in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into 1″ slices.  Place slices two inches apart and return to oven.  Bake about 20 minutes until dry and crunchy.  Allow to cool entirely.

Melt 1/2 c. chocolate chips.  Stir in 1 tsp. canola oil and 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract (optional).  Drizzle over cooled biscotti. (I tried the dipping method like fancy coffee shops, but it was messy and not as pretty.  Sprinkle with peppermint bits or crushed peppermint candies.  Allow to cool.  Store tightly covered.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

I’ve actually never made these turtle cookies with regular flour, but my tweaking the gluten-free version has improved with each time I make them.  I’ve also made nut-free batches, without rolling the cookies in anything, but, if you can eat them, nothing beats this delicious chocolate-caramel-pecan combo.

Turtle Cookies

Adapted from Bree’s recipe.

  • -1 egg
  • -1/2 cup butter, softened
  • -2/3 cup sugar
  • -2 tablespoons milk
  • -1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • -1 cup GF flour blend (2/3 c. White Rice Flour, 1/3 cup Tapioca Starch, 1/2 tsp. Xanthum gum)
  • -1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • -1/4 teaspoon salt
  • -1 1/4 finely chopped pecans
  • -16 caramels
  • -3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • -1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • -1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Separate the egg.  Reserve both parts.  Cream together butter and sugar in large bowl.  Whisk together flour blend, salt, and cocoa powder in separate bowl.  Beat vanilla, egg yolk, and milk into butter and sugar mixture.  Stir in flour mixture until just combined.  Cover and chill for 2 hours, up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  While oven is heating, roll dough into 1″ balls.  Whip reserved egg white until frothy.  Place pecans in separate bowl.  Dip dough balls into egg white and then roll in pecans.  Place 2″ apart on baking sheet and use thumb or tablespoon measure to press indentation into center of cookie.  Bake about 10-12 minutes until set.  Repress wells in cookies if necessary.  Cool on wire rack set on parchment paper.

Melt caramels and cream together in microwave or double boiler, stirring frequently.  Fill cookie wells with liquid caramel, let cool.

Melt chocolate chips with vegetable oil in microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until fully melted and mixed.  Use a fork to drizzle chocolate over cooled, filled cookies.  Let set.  Makes 2 dozen cookies.

These “Twix” bars are another classic in my house.  Originally only made at Christmas, over the years, we have been more successful at convincing my mother to make it more often, until we were finally able to make them ourselves.  These are incredibly easy cookies, and cheap, for folks who can eat gluten.  Gluten-free prices make it a little more costly, but this recipe is also very forgiving to substitutions.

“Twix” Bars

Feel free to play with the components of this recipe.  The cracker base provides a wonderful salty-sweet combination, and the graham-cracker caramel has a more distinctive taste, but, if you have a reliable recipe for sturdy caramel, feel free to use it in place of the caramel.  Nut allergy?  Swap in some soy butter, or make a simple ganache in place of the chocolate-peanutbutter top.

  • -2 boxes table crackers (find some similar to Saltines or Club crackers, preferably squared or rectangular)
  • -1 c. graham cracker crumbs (buy a box of GF grahams or make your own to crush up)
  • -3/4 c. brown sugar
  • -1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • -1/3 c. milk
  • -1/2 c. butter
  • -1 c. chocolate chips
  • -2/3 c. peanut butter

Line a buttered 9×13 pan with table crackers, breaking into pieces as necessary to fill bottom.  Heat graham cracker crumbs, sugars, milk, and butter in a saucepan, stirring frequently.  Bring mixture to a boil, boil for 5 minutes, or until thickened.  Pour over crackers, spread to corners if necessary.  Put on another layer of crackers.  Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter until liquid.  Spread over crackers.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Cut into bars and refrigerate for another hour, until set.  Serve chilled.

Makes 2 dozen bars.

I made coconut macaroons from a basic recipe; one I’ve seen all over the web.

Coconut Macaroons

There is such a minimal amount of flour in this recipe, you can use any kind.  I had some coconut flour on hand, and love the thought of purer flavors, so that is what I used.

  • -1 (16 oz) bag flaked coconut
  • -1 (14 oz) can condensed milk (I used fat free without any problems)-1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • -2 Tbsp. coconut flour
  • -1/4 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.  Mix coconut flakes and flour in bowl.  Add condensed milk and vanilla extract, stirring until all coconut is coated.  Dropped by rounded tablespoons onto greased baking sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet immediately with thin spatula (cookies will stick if allowed to cool on baking sheet) and transfer to wire rack covered with wax paper.  Allow to cool.  Melt chocolate chips and drizzle over cookies.  Store tightly covered.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies.