Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hummus Deviled Eggs

I don’t like mayonnaise.

Aioli isn’t bad. There are all sorts of amazing things you can do with a good homemade aioli. But store-bought mayonnaise and I stare suspiciously across the kitchen at one another and we’re seldom on eating terms.

A number of years ago, after a particularly ugly stare-down with the mayo jar, I decided deviled eggs didn’t need the stuff and used homemade hummus instead. Now there’s hardly a holiday without some request or excuse to make Hummus Deviled Eggs. I’ll tolerate the mayonnaise jar, but tahini and chickpeas forever retain places of honor in my kitchen.

Make the hummus first, up to 2 days ahead. I’ve included the quantities for a full batch of hummus, though to use all of it you’d have to hard boil at least 18 eggs. Use some of the hummus for the eggs, then keep the rest for a quick healthy snack or dip for vegetables or crackers. These make an excellent New Year's hors d'oeuvre.

Hummus Deviled Eggs
Makes 24

1 can (15oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp salt, to taste
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup cold water
Dash good dark olive oil
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
12 eggs, hardboiled
Fresh parsley, washed, and finely chopped for garnish (about 1/4 cup)
Smoked paprika for garnish (optional)

Put rinsed chickpeas into a food processor, along with garlic and salt. Pour tahini onto chickpeas in a separate area from the garlic. Add half the lemon juice. Turn on the food processor and add remaining lemon juice and the water gradually as it grinds.

While it is still grinding, pour in a small dash of olive oil (no more than 2-3 tsp). Run it for at least 5 minutes; you want it to be very smooth. Add coriander and cumin. Stop it periodically to scrape sides down, taste, adjust for salt, lemon juice, etc. When it tastes perfect, stop blending. Scoop out about half the hummus and put it in the fridge (this is extra). Leave the rest in the food processor.

Carefully peel hardboiled eggs, slice them in half neatly lengthwise, and reserve yolks to a bowl on one side. Arrange whites together on a platter.

Blend about 8 hardboiled yolk halves (4 whole yolks) into hummus. Taste. Add more yolk halves if needed, but be careful to keep it from going too yellow or tasting too rich. Add more salt if needed. If yolks make hummus too dry, add more water or a dash more olive oil.

When the hummus and egg yolks are blended and tasting delicious, scoop hummus into a pastry bag with a large decorating tip. Pump hummus into egg white halves, being careful to fill the hollows well. Do not overfill; you want these to be easy to pick up.

After all eggs are filled with hummus, finish by tossing chopped parsley over all eggs as garnish. You want a good scattering, so it looks festive, but not as covered as a mossy forest floor. Alternatively, you may use smoked paprika as a garnish.

These keep overnight wrapped carefully in plastic, but they are best made within a couple hours of serving. Be careful to keep plastic from touching the eggs or they’ll smear and look messy when the plastic is removed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dodee Cookies

My great great grandmother, Dodee, would sit out on the porch and drink a beer with my grandfather. She taught my grandmother how to cook meat and kept a sharp wooden three-pronged fork for turning pork chops, which she’d serve with homemade applesauce and sauerkraut. Around her memory hover little unsubstantiated tales involving occasional cigars and outright profanity. She was the best of all idealized grandmothers and even if the facts are a little stretched, her character remains a family legend of love.

I think we would’ve gotten along swimmingly.

Dodee’s cookies are a Christmas tradition for my family. The holiday isn’t right until these emerge golden from the oven, topped with their shining maraschino jewels. I don’t know how long her recipe took to perfect. It probably suffered pinches and prods in her kitchen for years until she honed it into flawlessness. My gluten-free version took ten Decembers.

When a cookie is mostly butter, the slightest tweak to gluten-free flours and starches shakes the recipe to its core. These cookies have been responsible for more oven cleanups than any other recipe I’ve ever created or converted. Now I can’t stop smiling as I write this, having eaten four perfect Dodee cookies that each hold the flavor I remember from way back in my gluten-filled childhood.

I like to think I know a part of Dodee through her cookies. It’s been a long decade of baking chats with her as I change starches, add or subtract ingredients, and strive towards her cookie’s simple genius. This is a flavor meant for sharing.

Happy Baking!

Dodee Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

1 stick real butter or vegan butter (1/2 cup)
85g brown sugar
50g sweet rice flour
45g amaranth flour
55g tapioca starch
raw pecans or maraschino or amarena cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cream together butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in flours until dough forms and everything is well-mixed. Scoop out about 1 tsp of dough at a time and roll it into balls. Arrange on cookie sheet about 1-2 inches apart. Press a fork into each ball just once, then top with either a pecan piece or half a cherry.

Bake about 10-12 minutes, until cookies are golden and just beginning to brown on the edges. Cool at least 5 minutes before removing from sheet. Cookies will be soft when just baked, but will become crunchy as they cool. Cookies with cherries will turn soft again the next day. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Note: Using vegan butter in these cookies works, though their edges will be feathery instead of smooth.

Grammie and me, during a past holiday season

Wednesday, November 30, 2011



Everyone always thinks about the sassy little man who prances around in fairy tales, running from the baker or little old lady. They forget about the walls of the witch’s house. That thin crispy cookie couldn’t hold up a roof if his raisin-dotted buttons depended on it.

Fairy tale houses require thick molasses-dark slabs of hearty sweet cake. Dense, moist, and soaked with rich vanilla glaze, it’ll keep the deep woods lonely outside and your holiday fire burning bright against the night as you savor each bite. Even if the mini cakes are cute as a gingerbread man’s buttons.

Step into a vegan gluten-free fairy tale with me this holiday season. We shall feast.

Hot Frosted Gingerbread
Makes 2 dozen mini cakes

100g (½ cup) white sugar
50g sweet rice flour
30g sorghum flour
50g brown rice flour
20g potato flour
60g tapioca starch
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup canola oil
½ cup strong coffee
1/3 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ Tbls apple cider vinegar
Grated fresh ginger (1-inch long, 1.5-inch wide)

55g (½ cup) powdered sugar
1 Tbls coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 mini muffin tins with coconut oil, canola oil, or vegetable shortening. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together sugar, flours, baking soda, ground ginger, and salt. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, combine oil, coffee, molasses, vanilla, vinegar, and grated fresh ginger.  Stir wet into dry until thoroughly mixed and molasses is fully incorporated. Quickly spoon into prepared tins and pop into the hot oven.

Bake about 15-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. While they bake, stir together glaze and set aside. When gingerbread is done, remove from oven and immediately drizzle 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Grammie's Apple Cake

My grandmother died yesterday.

She spent the last 10 years grieving for my grandfather in a constant state of Alzheimer’s-induced confusion. This is her release.

But I miss her.

Grammie loved to bake. Even these past few years, she still hovered in the kitchen, lost but trying to help. Maybe she thought she could bake her way back: muffin crumbs illuminating for her the path of lost memories. It was a hard thing to keep her fingers from my batter. Sometimes, on good days, she could sit on her stool and lick the spoon with that wicked mischievous grin lighting her face. I think on those days she remembered what it was like to be young.

I remember baking muffins in her kitchen, green with the forest’s morning light, with the blue jays yakking beyond the window and the soap that smelled like sap. She always produced an extra wooden spoon for me to lick while she filled the tin.

She taught me a lot about baking in that kitchen. We made applesauce every autumn while Granddad pressed apples on the cedar deck just outside. Her sweet tooth sugared the sauce as if she were making apple candy, not a topping for oatmeal or side for pork chops. On Thanksgiving, we always made two types of pie: pumpkin and mincemeat. I learned how to roll the crusts round enough and how to fudge it when they came out oblong. She’d charge me with beating the pumpkin filling while she put the final touches on the mincemeat. Yams, turkey, cranberries, and green beans can wait. You make dessert first.

Her apple cake starred at many family gatherings. Though the original recipe came from a magazine, she made this cake her own through years of use. When I found I couldn’t eat gluten, her apple cake was one of the first recipes I tried to replicate. That delicate crispy top and dense moist body eluded me for years. Just a couple of weeks ago, I finally perfected it.

This is my eulogy for her, the last of my grandparents. She loved people through her baking and never grew too tired to make cookies with her granddaughter. Here is her apple cake made safe from gluten. Bake. Share with your friends and family. Love. There is always time for dessert.

Grammie’s Apple Cake
Makes 9x9-inch pan

65g (1/2 cup) brown rice or sorghum flour
40g (1/3 cup) sweet rice flour
30g (4 Tbls) tapioca starch
60g (1/2 cup) gluten-free quick or rolled oats
200g (1 cup) brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp molasses
2 cups skinned and chopped apple

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil and flour a 9x9-inch glass pan.

In a large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Mash out any brown sugar or baking soda lumps. Toss chopped apple with dry ingredients then set aside.

In a separate bowl or measuring cup, beat egg into oil with vanilla extract and molasses. Stir into dry ingredients, mixing just until everything is saturated. Batter will be very thick. Spread out evenly in prepared pan and bake 45-50 minutes. Cool before cutting.

At my wedding: Aunt Charlotte, Grammie, Uncle Stan, Mom

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Apple Spice Cookies

I have a lot of apples.

My father-in-law brought me an entire box full of Liberties and Spartans, all harvested from his backyard trees, and declared I should use what I could and bring the rest back to him when we pressed apple cider (see last week’s post). Well, my week turned busier than I anticipated and I hadn’t touched the apples by the time he wanted to press. So I emptied a drawer in my fridge, lined it with a bag, and piled in a reasonable amount of apples.

Now I have a drawer full of possibilities.

I made apple cake three times and finally have it perfected. You’ll see that recipe soon. Then I wondered how apple cookies would taste and the flour really started flying.

You see, these cookies were meant for the Food52 cookbook release party at Delancey in Seattle last night. (Which was excellent—filled with friendly home cooks eager to talk ratios and spices.)

I always do this: start off making a tried-and-true recipe for an event, then detour off into playful creativity. Sometimes the experiments don’t work and I go empty-handed. Fortunately, these emerged from the oven chewy, moist, and delicious.

Fresh apple is the secret to these cookies. It releases its stores of moisture into the cookies as they bake, locking in the soft chewy texture for days. They’re actually better the next day, after they’ve had time to absorb the spices. Not unlike apple cake, in fact; though easier to serve at a potluck!

Apple Spice Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

1 stick vegan or real butter
100g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g (1 cup) quick cooking gluten-free oats
60g (1/2 cup) brown rice or sorghum flour
60g (1/2 cup) sweet rice flour
15g (2 Tbls) tapioca starch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 - 3/4 cup apple, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried currants

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla until creamy texture forms. Add oats, flours, baking soda, and spices. Mix thoroughly. Fold in apple and currants until they’re uniformly distributed throughout the dough.

Spoon out onto parchment about 1 Tbls at a time, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. You can freeze the dough at this step and store the frozen cookie dough to be baked off later. Bake about 12-15 minutes, until cookies are browned and edges are just beginning to look dry. Cool at least 5 minutes before removing from tray.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ginger Apple Cider

Last weekend, I pressed apples with my father-in-law. He’s devoted to his apple trees and the whole family benefits. Fresh apple cider featured prominently at the annual Halloween party and we all look forward to the cork cheerfully popping off his homemade hard apple cider in a few months.

His apples are a taste of history itself. Roxbury Russet, Ashmead’s Kernel, Liberty, and Spartan all nestle happily in the backyard orchard. I’ve never see these varieties outside of his yard. They’re uncommon to find grown in commercial orchards because their appearance makes them less likely to sell. It’s interesting how much of the apple’s history was written by its outside appearance. (Read The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan, if you’re curious.)

Oh, and his cider press? It’ll top your head with a mob cap and drop you in colonial Boston if you look at it askance.

Apples and cider hark back to the American frontier, when families came together for the harvest and stayed to celebrate its finish with a mug of the best. I suppose that’s what I love so much about cider: it brings people together and encourages conversation. Put down the iphones and computers for a moment to sip and talk. Laugh with each other. The work for today is done. Laugh.

Ginger Apple Cider
Makes enough for everyone

In a large pot, heat a gallon or so fresh apple cider over medium heat. As it warms, add a lemon sliced into rounds, as much fresh ginger as you think you can handle (skinned and sliced), 10-15 allspice berries, 5 black peppercorns, 5 whole cloves, 4 crushed pods green cardamom, and 1 cup (or more) orange juice. Hold it at a near simmer for a half hour, then keep it warm on low as you ladle it into mugs for your guests. Drink it plain or add a splash of brandy on those chilly nights.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Caramel Sauce

I first saw Cheese1227's recipe last year on Food52: Salted Pumpkin Caramels. Doesn’t it just glow with the possibilities of autumn? Every year, my parents-in-law throw a huge Halloween party and this year I’m going to bring these caramels. The only problem is the cream. I can’t eat it and neither will the vegans.

Coconut milk to the rescue! At least, that’s what I was thinking a few days ago.

I made this recipe, substituting a heavy-fat coconut milk for the cream, then proceeded to cook it without a candy thermometer. I have the most spectacular pumpkin caramel sauce, but not firmly set caramels.

May I recommend that when a recipe asks you to use a candy thermometer, you follow their instructions? The author usually knows what they’re talking about.

I have since acquired a candy thermometer and I’ll be trying this again. In the meantime, that spectacular pumpkin caramel sauce is excellent on Coconut Bliss Vanilla island ice cream. It also makes a delicious dip for apples, fresh from the tree, in the center of a circle of friends playing board games.

That’s what autumn’s all about anyway: circling up with friends for toasty snacks and games.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Apple Harvest

It’s amazing what you can glean from an apple.

Every time I peel a Gravenstein, its scent reminds me of my grandparent’s Bonny Doon house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. With the cupboard full of spam and the rocking chairs in front of the wood stove. The cedar and lightly mildewy scents on the back deck. The damp early morning grass and the bluejays who'd call you out to confront you about the state of the weather and their trees.

Apples in Bonny Doon started outside with Granddad, a ladder, and his applepicker stick. He’d fastened an old tin can onto the end of a long pole and would lift the can high, nestle a likely apple into it, and give it a lift and twist. The apples plucked neatly into the can to be lowered and set in the bucket. Granddad was an engineer. He ran the cider press on the back deck, cranking buckets of apples through the old wooden contraption and serving us more mugs of fresh apple juice than was strictly wise to drink.

Grammie ruled the Apple Kitchen. I helped her peel bowls upon bowls as we mounded them into homemade pie crusts and stirred enough sugar into the applesauce to make it dessert. We drank her hot instant flavored coffee, sitting on stools, racing to see who could make the longest single peel.

I still hate to break the peel’s journey around an apple. It’s like tearing a roadmap.

Apple Harvest Salad
Serves 10-12

1 small butternut squash (2-3lb)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp ground chipotle
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
9 apples, preferably Braeburn or Gravenstein
2 1/2 cup pecans
1/2 - 3/4 cup dried currants (to preference)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Halve butternut squash, scoop out seeds, skin, and chop into 1-inch cubes. Arrange on a baking sheet, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and roast in hot oven until tender (about 20 - 30 minutes).

In a large bowl, make the dressing by combining olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chipotle, salt, ginger, and allspice. Set aside.

While squash is roasting, spread pecans out on baking sheet and toast them in the same oven until fragrant. Keep an eye on them; they'll be done in about 5 - 8 minutes. Toss hot roasted pecans directly into dressing and listen to the delightful sizzle (this will cook off some of the vinegar so it doesn't get too strong).

Cut apples into quarters, remove the cores, and slice lengthwise into moderately thin slices (about 1/8-inch). Add apple slices and toss into dressing as you go to prevent them from discoloring. Toss in currants with the apples.

When butternut squash is tender, remove from oven and let it rest about 10 minutes. Toss it in with the rest of the salad and serve warm or cold, depending on preference. This salad will be best if you allow the apples, nuts, and spices to cure together at least 20 minutes while the squash is roasting.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Taste PCC & Avec Baking

I attended Taste PCC in Issaquah a few weeks ago. It’s a fun little fair where local vendors who sell their products at PCC Natural Markets can hand out samples directly to customers. I came for work (we ran the Tony’s Coffees &Teas booth), but I took a little time out in the day to chat with vendors and taste some new gluten-free products. Here are the two products you shouldn’t miss.

5/5 Spoons
 These deserve some attention. Wheat-, gluten-, and soy-free, many of the flavors are also dairy-free. I’ve never had a nutrition bar that is so well-suited to my dietary needs and tastes so delicious! They’re relatively high in protein and prove an ideal airplane travel meal. You know: the food stash those of us with allergies generally bring along on our travels. Add it to your list.

Avec Baking Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
5/5 Spoons
This is one of the best gluten-free all-purpose flour mixes I’ve tried. Denise Cooley, the creator, explained to me herself that she uses freshly ground flours from a mill in Bellingham, WA, and how this makes a huge difference in the flavor and function of the mix. It tastes wonderful, plus it includes whole grains such as sorghum and brown rice.

It passed my Fannie Farmer Biscuit Challenge. One of my favorite cookbooks is The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book, published in 1896 by Fannie Merritt Farmer. I love seeing how recipes used to function closer to their original form. There are over 56,700,000 Google results for “biscuits,” but Fannie has only 3. They’re simple recipes—a great starting place for gluten-free experimentation. Making her biscuits gluten-free requires a truly stellar gluten-free flour mix. I change very little about the recipe, but use the weight equivalent of gluten-free mix where the recipe calls for regular flour. (I also sub vegan butter for the butter and lard, and replace the milk with soymilk and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar to curdle it like buttermilk.) Only King Arthur Flour’s gluten-free mix passed it before. And I like the biscuits from Avec Baking’s mix better.

On the back of the Avec Baking mix, you’ll find a recipe for focaccia bread. This recipe includes xanthan and guar gums, but these are optional. You don’t need the gums, just some ground flaxseed. I’ve included the original Avec Baking focaccia recipe below, along with my own variation. I made it twice in a week and still can’t seem to keep it around more than a day. My husband, who digests gluten just fine, snatches it up the minute it emerges from the oven. Delicious.

Avec Baking Focaccia Bread
Makes 1 9x11-inch pan

1 ¼ tsp yeast
1 ½ cups Avec Baking Gluten Free Flour mix
½ tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp guar gum
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
½ tsp good salt
¼ cup apple juice
½ cup water less 2 Tbls
2 large eggs + 1 egg white
2 Tbls olive oil
½ tsp cider vinegar

2 Tbls olive oil, 1 12 tsp dried rosemary, sprinkle of good salt, kalamata olives cut in half. Optional: sprinkle of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Prepare a 9x11 baking dish with a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkling of Avec Baking Gluten Free Flour Mix and set aside. Put eggs and egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whisk attachment. Begin on low and whip the eggs. As the eggs start to break down, slowly increase the speed up to high and continue for 3-5 minutes or until the eggs double in volume and become frothy and pale yellow. While the eggs are whisking, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and the remaining wet ingredients into another bowl. Once the eggs are done, turn mixer down to low and incorporate your wet and dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated and no lumps remain. Turn dough out to prepared pan. Using an offset spatula spread the dough evenly. The dough will be sticky so work quickly as to not lose the air you have work to incorporate. Cover with aluminum foil and let rise for about 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 400F while dough is rising. Once dough has risen, remove foil and sprinkle with toppings. If using olives, place them gently on the surface without pressing them in too firmly. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack and enjoy!

Beyond Celery Variation on Avec’s Focaccia
Makes 1 9x11-inch pan

1 ¼ tsp yeast
190g (1 ½ cups) Avec Baking Gluten Free Flour mix
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried rosemary
Slightly less than ¾ cup water
2 tsp brown sugar
2 eggs
1 egg white
2 Tbls olive oil
½ tsp cider vinegar
2 Tbls ground golden flaxseed

Follow directions as above, stirring the ground flaxseed and brown sugar into the wet ingredients. I find plastic wrap works better than aluminum foil when the dough is rising.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to Starter Zucchini Sourdough Rolls

A good starter is the opening chapter to a book, the story of how bread came to sit on your table. It’s one of the oldest kitchen tales, full of science, yes, but also a hefty measure of whimsy. You’re building an edible net to catch wild yeast from the air—what isn’t rather fey about that?

A gluten-free sourdough starter just has to rewrite the magic a little.

I’ve been making “experiments” in the kitchen since I was two years old—old enough to be up to my elbows in bread dough alongside my mother. When my gluten allergy kicked in years later, sourdough seemed a lovely mirage on a horizon I’d never touch again. Regardless, I’ve been walking towards it ever since. This year, I finally set foot in its field once again. This year, we’re working on my own terms.

It’s a good idea to read this recipe through all the way before you jump in. Remember: there’s science behind the whimsy and science likes its methods to be followed. The first time I tried this starter, I sealed the plastic bag completely and it raised one of the shelves in my cupboard with its gasses, knocking over cans and jars alike. The second time I tried this, I filled the jars too full and my husband got that worried note in his voice as he asked what was growing over the refrigerator shelves. It’s okay to be rusty.

These Zucchini Sourdough Rolls belong between summer and autumn. Use up the last of your late summer zucchini surplus and curl up to a warm roll as evenings grow chilly. Make a batch of Tomato Jam and lather it on. Enjoy the quiet way these rolls fill every corner of your kitchen with their scent, a secret whispered to an ever-earlier sunset.

Gluten-free Sourdough Starter
Makes enough for 2-4 quart jars

.8oz active dry yeast
12oz water at 100 degrees Fahrenheit
115g sweet rice flour
115g millet flour
110g brown rice flour
110g amaranth flour
1 yellow onion, skinned and cut in half

Heat 12oz water to 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a thermometer to measure it with, the water should be warm if touched to the inside of your wrist, but shouldn’t feel much warmer than your skin. If it burns, it’s too hot. You must be very careful about the temperature of your water because if it’s too hot, it’ll kill the yeast and your starter will never live.

Dissolve yeast in warmed water and set aside to proof. After a few minutes, it should form bubbles and foam up. If it does nothing, throw it out and get new yeast.

Sift together all flours in a large bowl. Whisk in water and yeast mixture until all flour pockets are incorporated. Either pour into a clean new bowl or a gallon plastic bag. Push onion halves partway into starter. Cover loosely with plastic or a towel, or partially close the plastic bag. Set in a corner of your kitchen where it won’t be disturbed and leave it for 24 hours. I use a dark cupboard by the stove, so it stays somewhat warm. Do not completely seal bag or tightly wrap your bowl! You want to leave room for the gasses to escape.

After 24 hours, bring out the starter and remove onion halves. Wash glass quart jars very well. Scoop starter into jars, filling about 1/3 full. Leave plenty of room for the starter to grow because it’s going to do just that. At this point, you have a choice. Fill 2 jars and throw the rest away. Or, fill 4 jars and keep it all. Keep in mind that every time you feed your starter it will grow. This quickly becomes a losing battle if you try to use all of it every time, so either get used to some waste or find a lot of friends who want your endless supply of gluten-free starter. (I’ve found that I don’t like to use the first leftover from the starter for recipes; it’s a little young and needs a week or so to develop its perfect sourdough flavors.)

Cover the mouths of your jars loosely with plastic wrap and let them sit out on the counter for 2-4 hours. This gives them some time to grow and also to pull wild yeast from the air. Wild yeast will change the flavor profile of your starter, so it’s nice to set it out to catch some wild yeast every few weeks. After the starter has set for a couple of hours (and grown considerably), wrap the mouths tightly and store them in the fridge. You may notice your starter separating a little while it’s stored in the fridge. This is normal, but you want to pour off the water from the top before using. Don’t mix it in. It’s a good idea to use and feed the starter at least once a week. You can feed it every day if you prefer. Take care of it and it’ll last you a lifetime.

Feed your starter with 1 part flour, 1 part water. My recipe below is broken down into the flour mix I use specifically for my starter.

Starter Food

50g sweet rice flour
50g brown rice flour
50g amaranth flour
50g millet flour
1 ½ cup water at 100 degrees Fahrenheit

Sift flours together. Whisk in warm water until thoroughly mixed. Whisk in your starter, divide among clean jars, leave out for wild yeast, and store in the fridge. Repeat at least once a week for a healthy starter.

Zucchini Sourdough Rolls
Makes 10-12 muffin size

40g (1/3 cup) tapioca starch
60g (1/2 cup) gluten-free oat or quinoa flour
30g (1/4 cup) gluten-free rolled oats
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ¼ tsp sea salt
2 tsp brown sugar
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
45g (1/4 cup) flaxseeds, ground
1 cup loosely packed grated zucchini
250g (1 cup) gluten-free sourdough starter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Sift together flours, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar into a large bowl. Add oats and set aside. Measure olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice together. Stir in ground flaxseeds until the oil is thick and gooey.

Add grated zucchini to flours and toss to coat. Stir in oil mixture, slowly adding sourdough starter as you go. When everything is incorporated, scoop batter into prepared muffin tin. Fill either ¾ full or all the way to the top, depending on how large you want your rolls.

Bake at 375F for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm with butter, honey, maple syrup, or tomato jam.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And the winner is…

The WINNER of our Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery giveaway is Jazmin, with her goat cheese, leeks, pine nuts and dabs of fig jam pizza topping! This sounds like a cheese plate with the surprising addition of leeks. I don’t often see leeks on pizza, but for this they work. Their oniony side plays up the pine nuts and goat cheese while their sweet side kisses the fig jam. It’s both creative and skillfully arranged.

Congratulations, Jazmin! Please send me an email (syronai [at] gmail.com) with your full name and mailing address. I’ll pass it along to Rudi’s Gluten-free Bakery and they will mail you your prizes.

Thank you to everyone who posted their creative pizza toppings. You’ve all got some great ideas and I can’t wait to try some of them on my next gluten-free pizza.

Toppings of particular note:
-          Tuna and banana (kairanie)
-          Provolone cheese, sweet onions, pear, prosciutto, walnuts, arugula, sherry vinegar, black pepper (Birdy)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rudi's Hot Dog Rolls & Hamburger Buns

4/5 spoons

4/5 spoons

September begins the slow slide into autumn, as apples ripen, tomatoes burst their seams, and peppermint plants make their play for garden domination. There’s an evening chill in the air and the scent of small wood fires replaces the blue smoke of barbeques.

But I don’t want to put the barbeque away just yet and the beautiful Gravenstein apples on my counter will wait another week as I ponder their destiny. Summer lingers in Seattle.

My husband’s birthday was yesterday and I promised him bacon-wrapped hot dogs. You won’t find meat featured on this site very often, but here they are, nestled in Rudi’s Gluten-Free Multigrain Hot Dog Rolls in all their greasy glory.

Rudi’s hot dog rolls and hamburger buns are spot-on. Hearty and full of multigrain flavor, these gluten-free goods hold up to piled-on toppings for dinner or quietly accept simple melted cheese as an afternoon snack. I love the chewy texture—it’s exactly what you’d hope for in a multigrain bun, never mind that it happens to be gluten-free. The only drawback to these rolls and buns is they seem a little on the dry side. That’s easily fixed by microwaving instead of toasting, though, and you’ll hardly miss the toasting. Give it a little brush over the grill’s flames. That’s what I did and they were delicious.

Note the buns and rolls both contain xanthan gum, a drawback for me, but this fortunately doesn’t affect everyone.

Interested in trying Rudi’s products yourself? I’m hosting a CONTEST with a free giveaway for one winner. The winner will receive two FREE loaf coupons and two Rudi’s sandwich boxes! To enter, please comment on this or my Pizza Crusts post with your most creative and delicious pizza topping. What pizza really makes your taste buds sing? Contest ENDS Tuesday, September 20, 2011, at 9pm Seattle (Pacific) time. I will judge the winner on the creative and skillful pairing of their flavor combinations.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pizza Crusts

Rudi's pizza crust, topped with fresh peaches, basil, chevre, lemon zest, and drizzles of honey and olive oil.

Who doesn’t love pizza? It’s the one thing every newly gluten-free person bemoans: “But then I can’t have pizza!” Fortunately, there are a lot of options for gluten-free pizza nowadays.

I remember even five years ago how difficult it was to find good gluten-free pizza without making it myself. I prefer making pizza from scratch, but it isn’t always the easiest thing to throw together at the whim of a craving.

There are two particular companies that make excellent premade gluten-free pizza crusts: Udi’s Gluten Free Foods and Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery. I’ve used Udi’s pizza crusts for about a year. Rudi’s recently developed their own gluten-free pizza crust and sent me a sample, so I decided it was time for a comparison review. Rudi’s was also kind enough to send me samples of their hot dog and hamburger buns so you can expect reviews of those soon.

And no, Udi’s and Rudi’s are not related companies, despite the similarity between their names. I’ve been watching their tug-of-war over the gluten-free bread market for awhile. Their products are similar and they seem to be taking cues from each other as they develop better and better recipes. It’s a bit like a game of Jenga—which company will create the best gluten-free products and which will collapse the tower trying? Gluten-free consumers are the true winners in this contest. Both companies make spectacular products. (I already made it clear in this review a few months ago that I prefer Rudi’s Multigrain Bread to Udi’s counterpart.)

Interested in trying Rudi’s products yourself? I’m hosting a CONTEST with a prize for one winner. The winner will receive two FREE loaf coupons and two Rudi’s sandwich boxes! To enter, please comment on this post with your most creative and delicious pizza topping. What pizza really makes your taste buds sing? Contest ENDS Tuesday, September 20, 2011, at 9pm Seattle (Pacific) time. I will judge the winner on the creative and skillful pairing of their flavor combinations.

4/5 spoons
Overall, an excellent, easy to use frozen pizza crust with good flavor.

  • Bakes up crispy on the bottom with an appealing chewy, bready texture.
  • Browns beautifully, especially when rubbed with a bit of olive oil before topping and baking.
  • Holds together well, even when piled with extra toppings.

  • Mild flavor doesn’t interfere with the rest of your pizza, though it doesn't enhance it either. I’d look for a more robust, yeasty flavor, if they were to improve the crust.
  • Contains xanthan gum, which bothers some people’s digestion.

3/5 spoons
Overall, a good frozen pizza crust: easy to use, decent flavor, quick to prepare. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up Rudis Pizza Crusts in a pinch. But I'd love it if Rudi's would make a multigrain crust; therein lies their true bread genius.

  • Bakes up crispy all over with some slight chewiness where the toppings sit.
  • It’s a bit more like a cracker than it is a pizza crust; that texture may appeal more to lovers of very thin crust pizzas.
  • Holds together well.

  • Mild flavor, a bit too salty for my taste.
  • Contains guar and xanthan gums, which bother some people’s digestion.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I’ve been making these brownies a long time. I cut my gluten-free teeth on them 9 years ago; they were my first true gluten-free baking success. (I mean, really, what’s life without gluten-free brownies?)

There are a number of reasons why this recipe didn’t make it onto my blog years ago, but the main one is I find brownies boring. They’re brownies! Delicious, quick, and simple? Yes. But exotic, adventurous, and challenging? No.

I know. I like to make things difficult. I like adventures. I may not have the finances to travel in foreign lands and taste their cultural delicacies, but I will always have a passport to my kitchen.

My brownies have one truly adventurous quality: they map out a new flavor with every batch. You can use any type of jam in these—or none at all if you’re a chocolate purist. I used my homemade blueberry maple jam in the latest batch. Cherry, blackberry, and strawberry have all enjoyed their turn. Lemon curd. Cream cheese. Orange frosting. Peanut butter. All delicious. Fresh raspberries are gold, when well-dried first. (Too much liquid from fresh fruit will mess with the batter’s ability to bake properly.) Dried blueberries create little bursting pockets of flavor. Your possibilities are endless.

Next I plan to try fresh basil: maybe a basil-infused ganache or sweet almond pesto. Mmm.

Makes 1 9x9-inch pan

¼ cup (30g) brown rice, sorghum, or amaranth flour
¼ cup (40g) sweet rice flour
2 Tbls (15g) tapioca starch
½ cup (45g) Dutch process baking cocoa
1 cup (185g) vanilla or plain white sugar
3oz chopped Theo chocolate bar or about ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup canola oil
1 Tbls molasses
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbls seedless raspberry jam (or other fruit jam)
½ tsp warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a glass pan (8x8 or 9x9 inch).

In a medium bowl, sift together flours, starch, baking cocoa, and sugar. Blend until all the baking cocoa is incorporated and the mixture appears uniform. You may need to break up a few baking cocoa lumps. Add the chopped chocolate and set aside.

In a separate bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, combine oil, molasses, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat until well-mixed and set aside.

In a small dish, mix together raspberry jam with the warm water until the jam is slightly runny. Set aside.

Combine the egg mixture with the dry ingredients, stirring until all dry pockets are gone and batter is very gooey. Add 2-3 teaspoons of raspberry sauce to the batter and mix in well.
Pour batter into greased glass pan. Spread with the back of your spoon until even.

Take remaining raspberry sauce and dribble onto the top of the batter, making 3-4 rows evenly spaced across the surface. Run a butter knife down the center of each raspberry row, poking it down into the batter. Then use the knife to draw lines across the raspberry rows at least four or five times, making a wave-like pattern.

Bake 35-40 minutes, or until brownies just begin to pull away from the edge of the pan and look solid. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes before cutting. Cut the whole pan into squares before chilling or the chocolate chunks sometimes make that difficult later.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Blackberry Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Gluten-free vegan dark chocolate cupcakes frosted in blackberry cashew cream, laced with a bit of white chocolate ganache. One of my good friends is getting married next month and I’m making the cupcakes for the gluten-free and vegan guests.

What fun, right?

I love to bring out my pastry bag, mound up the frosting, and dream of the day I’ll have a café and make my living once more in the kitchen. This is where every bad day or frustration grows into dried cherry oatmeal cookies, blueberry lemon madeleines, jerk-roasted carrots, berbere lentils, sunset shepherd’s pies, and dark chocolate cupcakes. This is where I belong.

Cocoa butter is an amazing ingredient. During our weekend in Vancouver, B.C. a few weeks ago, I found pure cocoa butter in a grocery store. I’m a sucker for untried ingredients. It jumped from my cupboard a couple days ago and worked its way into my first attempt at vegan white chocolate ganache. Not bad. It mixed well with the frosting, but I know it could be better. I’ll be working on this again soon.

The blackberry cashew cream frosting makes these dark chocolate cupcakes stand up straighter, as proud of their royal purple caps as a child is of her berry-stained picking fingers. Does it replace butter cream frosting? Well, no. But no one will miss it.

The trick to this frosting is to blend the cashews till they’re completely smooth. Don’t stop too soon the way I did with my first batch. You want cream, and the fat in the cashews will give it to you if you’re patient. Turn on the food processor and dream a little. Hum a tune. Conjure up the smiles you’ll see when your friends taste these cupcakes.

Build your café on a magical little corner of the city.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes*
Makes 12 cupcakes or 1 9” round

50g sweet rice flour
80g brown rice flour
20g potato flour
60g tapioca starch
50g baking cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
150g cane sugar or vanilla sugar
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup coffee or coconut milk
¾ cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp molasses
1 ½ Tbls apple cider vinegar
12 whole fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin tin with coconut oil.

In a large bowl, sift together flours, cocoa, baking soda, sea salt, and sugar. Mix well and break up any clumps of cocoa. In a separate measuring cup or bowl, beat together oil, coffee, water, vanilla, molasses, and apple cider vinegar. Thoroughly and quickly mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about ¾ full. Push a single whole blackberry down into the center of each cupcake so just the top of it is visible. Bake immediately, about 25 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes before removing from tin. Chill in refrigerator at least ½ hour before frosting with Blackberry Cashew Cream Frosting.

*Recipe inspired by Moosewood Restaurant's Vegan Chocolate Cake

Blackberry Cashew Cream Frosting
Makes about 3 cups

2 cups raw unsalted cashews
½ cup high-fat coconut milk
½ cup vanilla sugar
24 blackberries
¼ cup maple syrup

Arrange cashews in a deep bowl and fill the bowl with water till about 2 inches above the surface of the cashews. Soak 3 hours or more.

Drain water from cashews and put them in a food processor or blender. Pulse 5-6 times to break up the cashews, then push all the pieces back down towards the blades. Stir together coconut milk, vanilla sugar, and maple syrup. While blending on medium speed, pour this mixture in a steady stream into the cashews. Stop once midway through to push cashew pieces back down towards the blades. When all the liquid is gone, add the blackberries while the food processor continues to run. Keep blending, stopping every now and then to push larger pieces back down, about 5-10 minutes. You want the cream to be silky smooth without any bits of nuts detectable in the texture.

Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pushing it onto the surface of the frosting. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before using.