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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Injera 1

Adventures in the kitchen don’t always turn out as you expect or hope. Such was the case with my first attempt at injera, the tangy fermented Ethiopian flatbread.

Wild yeast from the air took up residence in my batter as it was supposed to.

Bubbles formed, the batter poofed up, and it smelled tangy and fermented as it was supposed to.

It held together and cooked on the skillet till bubbles appeared all over its surface as they were supposed to.

But it ended up oddly stretchy and doughy. Almost—but not quite—edible. Too much sweet rice flour. Alas! I go back to the recipe, tweak here tuck there, and try again. Next time will be better.

This is how beautiful recipes are born: through trial, error, and the washing of dishes and ovens. It’s why I love the kitchen. Every recipe is a new map to follow and you never know quite where it’ll lead you. Injera took me back to the Yeasted Bread Road. I’ve made two batches of sourdough English muffins in the last two days. One nearly worked. And my sourdough starter makes divine sourdough pancakes. My best discovery in the last week is that sourdough pancakes, when made without sugar, fried in olive oil, and dusted in sea salt, become a convincing quick skillet focaccia bread.

Who would have thought that focaccia could be a 15 minute process?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Z Pickles

I’m late to the #pickleparty, but that’s okay.

Friends gave us some zucchinis from their garden the other day and I’ve been dying to do something fun with them. When I realized today was #pickleparty, I knew it was time for the zucchini to shine.

I’ve never pickled zucchini before. So I made this up, basing it on Gluten-free Girl’s recipe for carrot pickles. That’s kind of similar to zucchini, right?

I don’t usually post a recipe here that I haven’t tasted yet. These zucchini pickles might not be as delicious as I think they are. Alas, it’ll be a few days before I can taste them it's #pickleparty now. So I break one of my rules and post it here. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Now? I wait.

[update] These pickles turned out pretty darn good!

Z Pickles
Makes 2 half pint jars

5oz zucchini slices, in crinkles if you like
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup white wine vinegar
1 ½ cup water
1 Tbls salt
1 tsp black peppercorns
½ tsp whole mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
3 allspice berries
2 dried tart cherries
1 tsp lemon juice

Boil your jars in your canning pot at least 10 minutes.

Combine all but the zucchini slices in a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a small simmer to hold hot while you get your jars ready. Remove your hot jars from the canning water and stuff with zucchini slices, about 2 ½ ounces per jar. Pour canning liquid over the zucchini up to ¼ inch from the top. Spoon in some of the whole spices. Put 1 dried cherry in each jar. Make sure zucchini slices are completely submerged.

Screw your lids down tight, then back them off ever so slightly. Process 20 minutes. Remove from water and wait for the pop to tell you your canning has been successful. If the lids are sealed tight (no give in the center), you can keep them unrefrigerated. If not, just keep in the refrigerator and eat within about 1 month.

Wait at least 3 days to open Z Pickles.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Oh goodness

I have a lot to do lately: life is good.

I meant to post this week about my gluten-free chocolate madeleines, but I lost my madeleine pan last time I moved and I want to make this recipe just once more before I show it to you. It's nearly perfect.

Then I meant to post this week about the campari syrup I used when I canned Rainier cherries and how they're a little like maraschinos and a lot like a late summer evening. But work at the coffee warehouse went late and I haven't written the method yet.

Now my cousin and his girlfriend are in town from Texas and I intend to make all manner of deliciousness this week and weekend. Alas, this does not include a blog entry with a recipe! Instead, consider this a preview of good things to come.

Good Gluten-free Things in my kitchen's future:

Sourdough English Muffins
Blueberry Lemon Madeleines
Blueberry Lime Tart
Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cake