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.