Sunday, December 6, 2009

GF Baking: Holiday Edition

Readers, it was ON. The test of Chris' grandmother's recipe adapted by his mother for Christmas cookies, that is. (Got all that?)

Chris announced that this year, we were going to have a holiday cookie decorating party. I was excited - I'd heard about these parties but Chris never had one in the time I knew him. I assumed that he would do regular cookies and I would just help people decorate and we'd defumigate the kitchen from gluten after the fact - but no, Chris was determined to see if we could make yet another adaptation of the cherished family recipe, this time to make it GF.

Chris emailed his sister and took down the recipe; we set out to get shortening and enough Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Flour for the test. This one, I must say, was all in Chris' court. All I did was eat. And later, decorate.

So, the first batch was made, here are some pics:
Raw are on the right, cooked on the left.

The first batch was quite tasty; Chris decided that it needed a midge more sugar. These cookies are the icebox or refrigerator style - you make the batter the day before, chill it, then roll it out. (I was impressed he has a very fancy blue rolling pin and everything for it!) The Bob's flour turned out to work fine in this case, Chris found the dough to handle quite well. The only tweak that he made for the later batch was to add a little more sugar (we'll list the full recipe at the end).

The cookies were also kept for the decorating party. They were put in a location where I couldn't get to them and eat them all. Which was a real risk. (They are tasty and crunchy!)

Then, it was ON. It was party minus 2 days and Chris made a triple cookie batch.

Party minus one day, Chris did the epic rolling/cutting/baking. I think we ended up with 200 cookies???

Party day. Chris made the icing and broke out the jimmies, sprinkles, decorating sugar and food coloring. The piping bags were filled and made ready. The big tureen full of mulled wine was set to heat.

And then the people came. We made them decorate, and eat, and leave with cookies. We still had a lot left over, which will be dispensed at various occasions until they are gone or eaten.

It was a rousing success - definitely do it again in a future year, YAY!

Chris's Grandmother's Molasses Cookie Recipe Adapted by his Mother to be a Gingerbread Cookie Recipe, and then by Chris to be a GF Gingerbread Cookie Recipe:

Yields approx 2 dozen cookies

3/4 c. shortening
1 1/8 c. sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. molasses
2 1/4 c. Bob's Red Mill GF All Purpose Baking Flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Cream sugar and shortening. Add beaten egg and molasses. Mix all dry ingredients separately and whisk together; add in batches to wet ingredients. Chill overnight. (This batter will be extremely sticky and hard after chilling.) Chilling overnight is essential.

Heat oven to 350.

Remove a portion from the fridge, warm and knead in floured hands (about 1 cup at a time of batter). Roll to 1/8 " thickness on floured surface. Cut shapes as desired, using a flexible metal spatula to help move the cookies to a baking sheet (Chris had good results with using a parchment covered baking sheet).

Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Cool on racks.


1 1/2 c confectioner's sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 egg white
1/4 tsp vanilla

Beat all ingredients together. Will take food coloring, cocoa, etc., good for piping.


2 tsp fruit juice (lemon, orange)
1 c. confectioner's sugar

Mix together.

So long, Java Green

I was in the downtown area recently and decided to eat at Java Green. I ordered a wheat free curry tofu/rice noodle dish, sounds good right?? I was really disappointed. I have not had such a bad meal in a long time. The noodles were not seasoned at all, not even with salt. The tofu was the best thing about the dish, but that is not saying a lot. And the 'curry' sauce was cold and blanketed potatoes and edamame (edamame?) in an undifferentiated mess. Yuck.

I wrote an earlier blog about Java Green that was more favorably inclined...but in thinking about both meals I must say that they were not good and the price charged for the food was far out of keeping with the quality, flavor and presentation. I now advise to skip it entirely.

I won't be eating at Java Green anytime soon again. Too bad, because they bother to offer and post wheat free options...but it's just not good and too expensive!

Gf Baking: Macaroon, come home soon

I have loved almond macaroons (the non-coconut variety, thank you very much) ever since the first one I ate, way way before I had my celiac diagnosis. So this month I was eager to finally try the recipe for Almond Macaroons during the GF baking blitz that seems to be happening around the house. Plus, I finally had some good homemade Almond Paste to work with, which is a main ingredient in the recipe.

The dough is quick to put together; and it is true, a spare 12 cookies are the yield of the batter. I used up the last of my trusty parchment in the attempt. When making this again I would recommend taking the almond paste out of the fridge a few hours before you need it, as mine was a bit hard to work with from the cold.

The verdict was simple and unanimous on this one. I gave Chris a cookie as soon as they had cooled enough to remove. He ate it. He said, "more". There you go. "Best macaroon since Paris" I got. Hoo-ah!

This one's a keeper. (Again, thanks to Martha.)

Almond Macaroons

Lunch at NMAI

I recently had lunch with a friend who works on the Mall. She suggested we meet at the Mitsitam Cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian. I figured the menu to be fairly corn-centric, plus I'd heard that it was good; besides which, I'd never been. I gladly accepted.

Even though it was just before Thanksgiving, Mitsitam was still bustling. After meeting my friend, she showed me the lay of the land: there are a number of food stations, each of which features selections based on a different regional cuisine. I started looking around to get a sense of what I could safely eat. Imagine my surprise when the cafeteria marked clearly not only vegetarian items, but also which were gluten free! No way!!! I was ecstatic - and the South American counter served me up a tasty and varied meal which included yucca fries, quinoa salad, and corn cheese cakes.

Lunch was tasty and the conversation dandy. I determined to come back to this spot, and sometime soon!

Mitsitam Cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian

Monday, November 16, 2009

GF Baking Bonanza: cookies and crisps and pound cakes, oh my!

For some reason, this week I was seized by the urge to bake. I have not really baked anything in about 5 years or more, so this was both pleasurable and novel. Having recently been given a copy of the NYC Babycakes cookbook from sis-in-law Megan, I may have been inspired by the glossy pages of too-good-looking-to-be-true baked goodies. I began stocking the larder with the ingredients required for some of those recipes, but also turned to my recipe collection for some treats which could probably translate well to a GF adaptation, emboldened by my earlier success with the pumpkin muffins.

I have not yet ended up baking anything from Babycakes cookbook, largely because I have not yet found a good local source for coconut oil, which is the stand in for butter in virtually all the recipes I'm interested in trying. So to the recipe book it was.

I actually have two recipe 'books', which are blue binders of clippings of all types of vegetarian recipes from the past 15 years or so. Needless to say, the 'dessert' book has not seen too much use so it was that one I hauled down to examine. I zeroed in on a few things to make: amaretti crisps, almond pound cake (yes, I have a major thing for almonds), sesame cookies and lemon pound cake. In all cases I substituted flour one-for-one with Bob's Red Mill GF Baking Flour plus a pinch of Xanthan Gum. I was able to find the links for these online and have included ghem below.

Here's what happened:

Almond Polenta Pound Cake

Almonds and corn, two of my favorite substances, together in a delicious baked confection? Bring it on! I eyed this recipe hopefully because it already had corn as an ingredient, and not too much flour. So, I got ready to make it, when I looked more carefully at the Almond Paste I'd picked up at Whole Foods....wheat paste? You've got to be kidding me! AAAUGH! I did not look at the ingredients before leaving the store and had to return the little log of almond paste because it most definitely contained gluten, bummer. (Apparently not all brands are made with gluten so read carefully, you may be in luck.)

So before I could proceed with the Almond Pound Cake, I had to detour and figure out the almond paste situation. I found a recipe online and it seems to have worked out well.

But first, a side trip for Almond Paste
I got the blanched almonds, egg white, confectioner's sugar and almond extract together, and the almond paste went together in a snap in the big food processor. I still have more to make something else with. I don't know if it's any more economical than buying almond paste, but a lot safer in that you know what is in it and where the ingredients came from!

now, back to the Almond Polenta Pound Cake
OK, I will confess that the recipe and putting-together of this cake was overly complex. Why so many separate bowls/piles of ingredients? Why not the simplicity of the Lemon Pound Cake? At any rate, I persisted. The first surprise was that there was way more batter than to fill a 9x5 pan (I filled two 8x4s). The big disappointment was that all the polenta sank to the bottom of the cake as it baked, so we were left with something in three layers - a cakelike fluffy top layer, a dense middle layer (where most of the almond paste stuck?) and a grainy bottom layer where the polenta went to live. Sigh. I was slightly crushed, I really wanted this one to work out. I may try it again as the flavor itself was good though. No photo of this one sorry.

Amaretti Crisps
Again with the almonds! This cookie is an italian classic. It starts out quite like the almond paste recipe, except that the almonds and confectioner's sugar are folded into beaten egg whites (rather than the unaltered egg white). I was most pleased with how these came out. I might experiment next time with a slightly lower oven temp, as they got a tad browner than I might ideally like. Chris liked these too. (NB: I did not pipe the cookies, but just dropped them from a spoon. That seemed to work OK but piping might be more elegant.) Bonus? These are easy and quick to put together (seemed to work well to toast the sesame seeds ahead of time, I whirred those together with the sugar one evening and then actually made the cookies the following morning).

Sesame Cookies
I like sesame a lot too, and had never gotten around to trying the non GF version of this recipe. I figured I'd give it a go as it had only one cup of flour in the recipe. The results were OK - the Amaretti Crisps were way better, but these were still good enough to eat. They ended up being rather doughy instead of crisp. Part of this I solved by making the cookies smaller in the later baking batches, but still, a reasonable experiment that won't be repeated. No photo of these.

Lemon Pound Cake
Finally, a real winner in the cake department after the disappointment of the Almond Polenta pound cake. This made a lovely light batter and a very tasty cake. We even brought it to brunch at our friends' house, they asked to keep the leftover pieces, they liked it so much. Delicious as a snack or with coffee. The real specialness of this cake and the POW lemon flavor comes from the glaze which is drizzed all over the cake top after it comes out of the oven. Yum. Oh - notwithstanding the notice about not rising, I found that my cake did.

What's next? Possibly a reprise of the Almond Polenta Pound cake, definitely a foray to french almond macaroons...stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


We enjoyed an impromptu visit from our friend Heather this past weekend. We thought she would just be staying with us for an afternoon visit, but after consulting the Amtrak schedule, she opted for a morning train instead, and we got to enjoy her company over dinner. Chris suggested that we check out the new gastropub in the hood, ChurchKey.

I'm always game to go out for a bite, and have gotten used to toughing it out, GF-culinary-wise, at places where I can eat only a green salad. I anticipated ChurchKey was going to be one of these as we scanned the online menu at home. Brewpubs are not always known to be friendly to celiacs. Nonetheless, off we went.

The interior space (upstairs) is quite nicely done, with a feature point of a large window with lovely late afternoon light streaming in. We sat and scanned the menu. Heather could tell I was bracing myself for a salad kind of a meal, when all of a sudden, we spied something we hadn't seen online (turns out we did not read carefully enough!): "the above flatbreads can be made gluten free"! No way! Our nice server explained that there was a chickpea crust option. I ordered the grafton cheddar & broccoli flatbread, cheerfully ponying up the extra $2 for the GF option, and washed it down with a hard cider by Harpoon. How cool is that??

Everyone else fared well too. My dining companions liked their non-GF flatbreads (Heather actually preferred the flavor of the chickpea crust to her version) and quaffed some fine crafted brews. We heart this place and will definitely return.

So, ChurchKey is friendly, for GF and non-GF alike. I should also mention I saw 4 GF beers on the list when we were there, so you won't be thirsty if you have a yen for a brew. Sorry to not write more about it - I'm not a beer fan myself so I was happy to try one of 5-6 ciders on the menu.

ChurchKey DC website and their menu available online.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

GF pumpkin muffins (cupcakes)

My neighbor recently knocked and asked to borrow some vanilla - she was baking something with friends. We gave her the vanilla and were pleasantly surprised a little later when she knocked again with the finished treat - pumpkin cupcakes. They were cute and smelled good, and were full of gluten. Chris enjoyed them. I enjoyed looking at them.

But I got the fever.

I went hunting for a pumpkin muffin recipe and made a shopping trip, stopping at Home Rule for a muffin pan and paper liners, then Whole Foods for Libby pumpkin mix (naturally gluten free proclaimed the label) and a few other necessities.

I made the recipe pretty much as directed, reducing the sugar to 1 cup (I was planning on making a frosting), putting in the whole 15 oz can of pumpkin, and omitting the cinnamon/sugar topping. I used Bob's Red Mill GF Flour one-for-one in place of regular flour. Finding I was out of pumpkin pie spice (and so was Whole Foods), I found a handy substitution engine for it on the Land O'Lakes website.

Baking, cooling...testing, icing...the result? Quite yummy I must say. I got an unsolicited and sincere "hey this is good" from Chris. I enjoyed both iced and non iced versions. They are moist and light; delicious without icing or with.

The icing is a simple confectioner's sugar, vanilla, dot of butter, milk deal. Tinker until you have the consistency you want.

Go forth and make these. Enjoy. Repeat!

Recipe here:

Pumpkin carving courtesy of Chris.