Raspberry-Oat Bars {gluten-free}

We’ve been enjoying these raspberry oat bars a lot the last few months. They helped get us through Winter’s dearth of fresh fruit. They are arguably the perfect balance between health food and decadent dessert, with a not-too-rich pecan shortbread base that doubles as a streusel topping and a thick layer of raspberry preserves in between.

GLUTEN-FREE RASPBERRY OAT BARS
Adapted from Karen Demasco’s The Craft of Baking *

The first time I made these bars, the cookie base came out a little thicker than I prefer.  So, I’ve since scaled the dough portion of the recipe back by a quarter, which also creates a slightly higher ratio of preserves to dough. Just the way I like it.

Also, my first batch was a little salty.  I read later that Demasco uses a particular brand of kosher salt in her baking.  So, if using table salt or sea salt, it is necessary to decrease the salt by close to half, which I’ve noted below.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (for vegans: Spectrum organic shortening or Earth Balance margarine)
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour (for GF: 1/3 C. sorghum flour, 1/3 C. + 1 Tbl. brown rice flour, 3 Tbl. potato starch and 3 Tbl. tapioca flour, 1/8 tsp. xanthan gum)
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal (for GF: use gluten-free oats)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup good quality raspberry preserves **

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil an 8 inch square, metal baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • Melt butter in saucepan or glass bowl in microwave.
  • Toast pecans on baking sheet in oven 5 minutes, cool.
  • In a large bowl mix together the flour, xanthan gum, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt and baking soda.  Stir in the gluten-free oats and chopped pecans. Pour in the melted butter and mix until well combined.
  • Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom the oiled pan, until firmly and evenly packed.
  • Spread the raspberry preserves over the dough (an offset spatula like pictured above is perfect for this step). Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of dough evenly over the preserves.
  • Bake until golden brown about 40 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature.
  • For easier cutting, transfer the cooled pan to the freezer for 20 minutes to harden. Remove bars from freezer, then from pan and cut into 2″ squares.

** I made these once with Smucker’s strawberry jam and the results were very disappointing.  The jam layer turned a funny brown color and became very wet.  I suspect it was either the high fructose corn syrup in Smucker’s, or the fact that I substituted strawberry for raspberry, but either way, from now on I’ll stick to a true, high quality raspberry preserve WITHOUT high fructose corn syrup.  You tend to get what you pay for with a pricier preserve.

Plum Crumble with Crystallized Ginger {gluten-free, vegan}

We attended a very popular music festival last weekend.  There were bands galore.  Surprisingly, I had even heard of many of them and I am notoriously out-of-the-music-loop.  However, despite the amount of fun I was supposed to be having, I couldn’t help but wish, every few minutes or so, that I was back home, snuggled up under the soft light of a lamp, finishing Anna Karenina, with a cup of tea and a few warm bites of this crumble.

Try the crumble and then perhaps in a small way you can empathize with my feelings of dissent.

The tart plum skins, when left intact, melt into the rest of the dish to create a warm, strikingly crimson-colored pudding. Finely-diced candied ginger lends a soft hum of spice, all of this beneath a crumbly, almost-cookie top.

PLUM CRUMBLE WITH CRYSTALLIZED GINGER
Adapted from Marian Burros

I scaled back the amount of crystalized ginger to my tastes from 2 heaping tablespoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons. If you quite like ginger go all the way; otherwise, I would recommend the moderate approach.

Look for firm plums, not too ripe, but not rock hard, either. Also, the recipe calls for Italian prune plums. They are rather small and oval. The first time I made this I was able to find exactly that variety. However, since then, I’ve simply substituted a more everyday type easily found in stores, the round ones with skin almost as dark as an eggplant. The results were just as good.

Prep the plums:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown or white rice flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 scant tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
12 purple Italian or prune plums, cut in half and pitted, or 6 regular dark purple plums, quartered and pitted

For the crumbly top:
1/3 cup sorghum flour (or brown rice flour)
1/3 cup white rice flour
3 tablespoons potato starch
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted clarified butter, melted (or butter, or Spectrum organic shortening)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the plums, beginning with the brown sugar through the ground ginger. Add the sliced plums to the bowl and using your hands, stir to coat. Place the plums in an ungreased 9″ pie pan or 8″ square baking dish. Sprinkle the candied ginger over the plums. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl mix the remaining dry ingredients for the crumble topping. Pour in the melted oil and using your fingers mix and shape to form little crumbs and clumps. Scatter handfuls over the plums so that they are thoroughly coated and covered.
  • Bake 35 to 45 minutes, or longer, until the top is a nice golden brown and the plum filling is tender.

Blueberry Cardamom Breakfast Cake {gluten-free, vegan}

This cake is a year-round staple for us.  It is full of whole grains, dotted with plump blueberries and sweetened just right for a breakfast dish. My favorite part is the crunchy raw sugar top, and of course, the spicy warmth of the cardamom.

BLUEBERRY CARDAMOM BREAKFAST CAKE
When it comes to vegan baking, especially cakes, I always err on the side of a dryer batter than a wetter one. A cake with too much moisture results in a sunken gooey mess which is impossible to salvage.

I love the rumpled irregular surface of this cake. It looks so old-fashioned and rustic, the lumps only add to its charm.

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour (for GF use – 3/4 cup millet flour, 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup sorghum flour (or more brown rice flour), 1/2 cup tapioca starch, 1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 mashed ripe banana (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup butter or ghee, at room temperature (for vegans substitute – coconut oil, Spectrum organic shortening or vegan margarine)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup warm water or milk of choice (rice, almond, cow)

Additions:

  • 10 ounces fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon or more raw or turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil a 9″ round cake pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. In a stand mixer combine the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined.

Fold in thawed and drained blueberries. Scrape batter (which will be quite thick) into the oiled pan. Sprinkle top of cake evenly with 1 tablespoon raw or turbinado sugar.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes until firm to the touch and a tooth pick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cover the cake with aluminum foil if it begins to brown too quickly (40 minute mark for me).

* If you’re not gluten free omit the xanthan gum and substitute 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour for the gluten free flours, but I would highly recommend at least keeping the millet flour, because it really lends a unique and complimentary flavor.  If you go that route you only need 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting {gluten-free, vegan}

Cupcakes aren’t usually my first pick for dessert. Most often I hanker for fruit filled pastries and the like, but every now and then a girl just wants something cloying, decadent and over the top. Cupcakes fit the bill swimmingly.

VANILLA CUPCAKES WITH CHOCOLATE FROSTING {GLUTEN-FREE, VEGAN}
This cupcake recipe itself is a great find. The batter rises beautifully to create perfectly domed, lightly sweetened vanilla cakes. If you don’t have any dietary restrictions these are still great cupcakes!  Especially when you’re out of eggs.  Just substitute 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour for the gluten free flours and omit the xanthan gum.

Dry Ingredients:
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/3 cup potato starch
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:
3/4 cups rice, soy or almond milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with liners.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flours through salt.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients: milk through vanilla.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until thoroughly incorporated. Divide the batter evenly amongst the muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 full.
  5. Bake 350 degrees 20-22 minutes until lighly browned and springy to the touch.  You can also use a toothpick to test for doneness.  Don’t overcook or the cupcakes will be tough and chewy.

Chocolate Frosting:
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup vegan margarine or Spectrum organic shortening (or about 5 tablespoons room temperature coconut oil)
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

Using a stand mixer beat the first five ingredients together until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary.

Strawberry Buckwheat Thumbprint Cookies {gluten-free, vegan}

Buckwheat, despite containing the word “wheat”, is actually gluten-free.  It is native to Asia and the key ingredient in soba noodles and sundry other prepartions like French galletes, and Russian blinis. This psuedo-grain is often referred to Kasha here in the states. It imparts a subtle woodsy flavor to baked goods that I absolutely love.  Another feature to note is that buckwheat is related to rhubarb…which got me thinking, if rhubarb and strawberries are such a dynamic duo, wouldn’t buckwheat and strawberries make a great pair, too?

The verdict?  The little ruby colored gems did not disappoint.

STRAWBERRY-BUCKWHEAT THUMBPRINT COOKIES
The buckwheat shortbread would make lovely cookies on their own. The addition of strawberry jam just makes them extra special. Do use good jam; in an effort to finish up random ingredients in our fridge, I went with a weird low-sugar jelly for half the cookies and then some Knott’s Berry Farm jam on the other half. The cookies with Knott’s jam were far tastier!

This recipe makes about 1 dozen cookies using a round tablespoon measure for the dough. I used a round 1/2 teaspoon to make the even sized craters for the filling or you can use your thumb, hence “thumbprints”. Also, my filling shrank some while cooking. So, I simply heated a little more fruit spread in the microwave for 30 seconds and re-filled the craters before the cookies cooled completely. This worked well and the filling set perfectly.

Dry Ingredients:

1/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour*
2 tablespoons white or brown rice flour, or more sorghum flour
2 tablespoons potato starch (not potato flour!)
1 tablespoon tapioca or arrowroot starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

Wet Ingredients:

7 tablespoons Spectrum organic shortening (or 4 tablespoons coconut oil)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. In a bowl whisk together the dry ingredients
  2. Using a stand mixer beat the wet ingredients until just combined.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until a dough just comes together.
  4. Measure out tablespoons of dough and gently roll into balls. Arrange 1 1/2″ apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using your thumb or a round 1/2 teaspoon create indentions in the center or each dough ball. Fill each indention with jam. Refrigerate dough 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Bake 15 – 20 minutes until edges of cookies just begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, refilling any craters with additional jam if necessary.

* If you’re not gluten free, simply replace all the gluten free flours except the buckwheat with about 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour.