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.

Everyday Bread

Bread – one of life’s simplest pleasures – requires no long-winded introduction. It has its place as a staple in various forms through most cultures, be it a French baguette, India’s naan or Ethiopia’s injera. I can think of no other food that is so humble. It rarely takes a leading role, but would be sorely missed if absent. Consider it for moment: hamburgers without a bun, panzanella sans the croutons, or roast beef with no side of Yorkshire Pudding!

However, for the Celiac or gluten intolerant it can become a swift and crashing reality, at least at first.

I have spent the last three years searching, testing, substituting, trying and trying some more to find a suitable gluten free bread. The worst recipes yeilded flavorless bricks destined for the trash; the best recipes were decent fresh from the oven, but, within hours, turned to a dry, crumbly mess. This irked me to my core. I was also continually perplexed by the odd and, what seemed to me, uneccessary additions to make gluten free bread “work”: vinegar, eggs, yogurt, baking powder? I am a firm believer that good bread requires little other than flour, yeast, water and a touch of sugar, to perhaps feed the yeast.

At last someone proved my hypothesis for me.

This brings me to today’s post: my favorite homemade bread recipe, ideal for tearing and dipping in olive oil, building sandwiches, or toasting with a smear of jam for afternoon tea. So good, you’ll forget it’s gluten free.

Sincerely, you might shed a tear.  I know I did.

MARK ENGELBERG’S MULTI-GRAIN BREAD
from Aprovechar’s post “Bread for the First Time in a Long Time”

I have googled this Mr. Engelberg with nary a result other than this recipe. I have no idea who this gentleman is, but he is surely a saint, for this bread is delicious: pliable, pleasantly chewy, perfectly moist and it stays this way for days; not to mention the flavor: subtle whole grain complexity with a pleasantly sour tang from the yeast. Please do study the perfectly irregular air holes, the crispy outer crust. Most cherishing of all, this bread is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free and vegan.

I bake the suggested two loaves at a time, feel free to halve the ingredients, if you wish. I store one loaf in an air tight container at room temperature and freeze the other for future use.

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups millet flour
1/2 cup teff flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup potato starch (not potato flour!)
1 cup cornstarch (or more potato starch)
1 cup tapioca flour
4 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons active dry yeast (not instant)

Wet Ingredients:
4 teaspoons olive oil
3  1/4 cups warm (not hot) water

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the dry ingredients: millet flour through yeast.  Add the wet ingredients
  • Using the paddle attachment, add the wet ingredients (water and olive oil) and beat until thoroughly mixed, scraping down the sides if necesary. There’s no gluten, so you can’t over do it.
  • Evenly distribute the dough between two oiled loaf pans.
  • Allow dough to rise until doubled in size or until it climbs a little over the edge of the pans, 30-60 minutes. Here are three ways to do this:

Option 1: Set loaves, covered, in any warm location.
Option 2: Preheat your oven to 200 degrees while mixing the dough, turn the oven off and allow the bread to rise in the warmed oven.
Option 3: Per Sally at Aprovechar, heat a glass of water in your microwave until it boils. Set the glass to the back and enclose the loaves in the steamy microwave to rise.

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Once risen, bake both loaves for 10 minutes then cover with foil and bake an additional 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool 10 minutes or so before removing from the pan.  This slices better once completely cool.  However, I never have the patience to wait that long before digging into it.

 

*** TROUBLESHOOTING OR SUBSTITUTIONS ***
If you have any trouble with this recipe or have questions about ingredient substitutions click over to Aprovechar’s original post and read through her comment section.  She has over 250 comments regarding troubleshooting and substitutions.  I make her recipe exactly as written and I’ve never had any trouble with it, so I can’t speak from experience about using any ingredients other than those listed above.

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.

Herbes de Provence Roasted Chicken

The more I cook the more I am convinced that technique is my greatest ally. Quality ingredients like responsibly raised meat and sustainable, organic produce are also critical, but I would argue that a $15 organic chicken is no good if you can’t cook it well. A pie crust doesn’t turn out tender and flaky if your butter isn’t cold, and the freshest, straight-from-the-farm egg whites are superfluous in an Angel Food Cake if they are not properly whipped.

Technique is what we have lost in the last few generations. Our great grandmothers couldn’t just run out and grab a DiGiorno nor could they turn to a Duncan Hines box mix. No, they were taught the basics of technique: how to roast, how to braise, how to bake, ratios.  Technique.  When you know the HOW (like how to roast a chicken), the WHAT (what to season the chicken with) is only limited by your imagination.

Roasting birds has always been hit or miss for me, usually the latter. The technique outlined below is flawless. There is no need for a meat thermometer, no brining or marinating overnight, no trussing. There are three critical items to note: bird size (3 1/2 – 4 lbs.), remove the backbone, follow the temperature/cooking time as directed.

SPATCHCOCKED-ROASTED CHICKEN
Technique adapted from a wonderfull blog Food.People.Want., who adapted it from Jacques Pepin’s More Fast Food My Way

The first strategy behind this approach is akin to pounding meat with a meat mallot.  Don’t worry, you won’t be taking a mallot to the chicken, rather by removing the backbone you create a flatter bird that cooks evenly.

The other clever approach is to begin cooking  the chicken on the stovetop.  Have you ever roasted a turkey and ended up with sandy, dry breast meat and underdone dark meat?  That’s because dark meat takes a little longer to cook through.  By placing the bird in a pan and searing  the dark meat (bottom) on the stovetop via direct heat you give it a head start on cooking.  Then you transfer the chicken to the oven for indirect heat, which allows for the dark meat to finish at the same time as the white meat.  You end up with a perfectly moist roasted chicken.

(1) 3 1/2 – 4 pound chicken, preferably organic
1 tablespoon softened butter, ghee, or 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried herbs, your choice or a handful of fresh herbs, your choice
1 teaspoon coarse salt or sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Using sturdy kitchen shears, cut the backbone out of the chicken by laying the bird on its breast and cutting just along either side of its spine. Alternatively, if using a knife, set the bird on it’s bottom and slice straight down along each side of the back bone.

The bird should open much like a book at this point. Lay the chicken cut-side down and in one firm press crack the breastbone (you will hear a little crack) to create an even flatter bird.  Cut slits halfway through both sides of the joints connecting the drumstick to the thigh and cut through the joints of the shoulder under the wing, which will also help encourage even cooking.

Season the chicken as you see fit. This time I smothered mine with a tablespoon of clarified butter and rubbed in a generous teaspoon or two of Herbes de Provence along with a little salt and pepper.

Once the meat is seasoned to your liking, heat a large cast iron skillet or metal pan large enough for the bird over medium high heat until a droplet of water sizzles on the surface. Place the chicken cavity (cut) side down in the pan and cook for 5 minutes. This is also when I arranged my medley of cut veggies around the chicken.

Transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking and bake 30-35 minutes until the skin is golden brown and crispy.

Remove pan from the oven and allow the bird to rest 5 minutes before transferring to a cutting board to rest 5 minutes more.  Cut into pieces and serve.

Summer Strawberry Tart {gluten-free}

Strawberry Tart {gluten-free}Strawberry Tart {gluten-free}

At last Spring has sprung. The snow is melting. Our daytime high is reaching the mid-fifties.

Ahhhhh.

We had fresh strawberries for dessert with friends the other night (thank you, Andrea!) and they were some of the best I can remember. Turns out they were $1 per pound at my grocery, too. So, I snatched up 5 pounds with this very tart in mind. I stumbled upon this recipe years ago in Martha Stewart’s Living magazine and it’s been burning a hole in my overflowing recipe to-do file ever since.

Much to Adam’s annoyance, I didn’t get started until 9:00 pm last night and didn’t finish until 11:15 pm.  Such working hours can put a strain on any relationship, especially when you live in a 500 SF studio apartment. Needless to say there was grumbling and growling from the general direction of our bedroom when I removed the tart from the oven, set it to cool, etc, etc.  I’m happy to report that serving the tart for breakfast, no less on a ho-hum Thursday morning, smoothed things over quickly.

So, my marriage is fine and the tart?  Well, the tart is quite good. Labor intensive, but worth it. I will definitely make this again.

STRAWBERRY TART
Adapted from Martha Stewart

I decreased the sugar content by half because I thought my berries were plenty sweet on their own and I hate when fruit desserts are ruined with too much sugar.  However, next time I will use the full amount of sugar called for because this filling should be sweet, almost like jam, but with more texture.  The crust is buttery and not too rich and I just feel that the full amount of sugar would have balanced things out nicely.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t adjust a thing.

Pate Brisee (tart dough/crust)

  • 3/4 cup sorghum flour *
  • 2/3 cup white or brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup potato starch (not flour!)
  • 1/3 cup tapioca or arrowroot starch
  • 1/3 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 15 tablespoons clarified butter (0r regular butter, or Spectrum organic shortening) chilled and cut into small pieces **
  • 1/4 cup ice water

Pulse flours, sugar, salt in food processor. Add clarified butter pieces and pulse a few times until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running add water until dough just comes together.

Alternatively, mix flours, sugar, and salt with whisk. Cut in butter using two knives or a pastry cutter until mix resembles coarse meal (butter is the size of peas). Add water and mix with a spatula or spoon until dough just comes together.

Divide dough in half, wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour (when I’m in a rush, I’ll freeze the dough for 10 minutes or so to speed up the process).

Strawberry Tart

  • 3 pounds strawberries (about 8 cups), hulled and sliced
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • 1 batch of Pate Brisee (above)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • turbinado or sanding sugar for dusting

Soak strawberries and sugar for 1 hour.  Drain off liquid and discard (or keep!  it makes a great simple syrup for iced tea!). Add cornstarch to berries and stir.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out half of dough on lightly floured surface to approximately 10″ in diameter, or approximately 1″ overhang.  Gently lay dough in 9″ removable bottom tart pan, gently press dough into sides. Prick the bottom with a fork.  Pour strawberry mixture over dough. Refrigerate to keep dough firm.

Roll out second half of dough on lightly floured surface to approximately 10″ round. Remove tart from refrigerator and carefully lay the top layer of dough over the filling and press edges to seal.

Using a paring knife, make decorative slits in tart top. Mix oil and water and brush the top of the dough. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Place tart on baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees and continue to bake an additional 30-35 minutes until top is brown and filling is bubbling. Cover with foil if to begins to brown too quickly.  Remove from oven and cool completely before serving.

* If you’re not gluten-free simply substitute the mix of flours with 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
** If you’re not casein-free substitute real butter for the ghee or shortening.