Maple-Sunbutter Cookies {gluten-free, nut-free, vegan}

Maple-Sunbutter Cookies {gluten-free,vegan}

I had a recent taste-bud epiphany.  Desperate for a snack, and having already raided my cupboards only to find stale tortilla chips, I settled upon the sad slice of cinnamon-raisin bread languishing away in the back of the freezer.

It became toast.  Because toasting improves everything.  I topped it with a few smears of sunflower seed butter.  Then, because this wasn’t interesting enough, I added a generous drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

Strangely, the combination was good.  The flavors pushed all those savory-salty-sweet buttons like a good peanut butter cookie. Thus the idea for this recipe was born.

Winter Daybreak

MAPLE-SUNBUTTER COOKIES
I’ve tried this recipe with all sorts of gluten free flours, oils, and, at times, I have even veered from my original plan by substituting other sweeteners.  However, maple syrup was my muse, and I just kept coming back to her.

The choice of oil seemed to make less of a difference.  I give a couple of options below.  If you opt for coconut oil, be sure it is melted.  Like butter, it solidifies at cooler temps and will seize up into little chunks when it meets a cold substance (like refrigerated maple syrup!).

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup sorghum flour (or brown rice flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

Wet Ingredients:
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (I used grade A, but I bet grade B would be even better)
3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil (melted), olive oil, or organic canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.  Add the dry mix to the wet mix and stir until evenly moistened.  Allow the dough to rest a minute or two.
  • Using a tablespoon, drop the dough onto the cookie sheet and give each mound a gentle press to barely flatten into disks.
  • Bake 9-11 minutes, depending on your cookie personality: soft vs crumbly.

Yield: About 1 dozen

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Quinoa Flour {gluten-free, vegan}

It has been a very long while since I’ve posted anything here. Please excuse the dust. However, I have a wonderful reason for my time away…

Our sweet son, Cecil!

This time last year he was still growing in my belly. I was elated, engrossed, and understandably monomaniacal about it all. Hence, the reason for my absence around these parts.

Then, in early January, he arrived.  We’ve never known such love.

He’s almost eight months old now(!) and fantastic, such a delight. And this new role, the wonderful chaos of it all, has nearly become second nature. For me, that means there is time to not only make dessert, but occasionally take a photograph, as well.

So, what better way to celebrate and begin anew than with a cake?

This recipe has been a long time coming. I have been tweaking it for a couple of years, tinkering away with the combination of whole grain flours, the ratio of liquids, different sweeteners, etc. I think I finally have it dialed in.

First, I love this cake’s thrift and convenience. Since the ingredient list consists of pantry goods, you can make it on a whim, no dashing out to the store for some last-minute perishable. I like to think this is the kind of cake our great-grandmothers would have made, perhaps when times were lean, but there was still reason to celebrate.

You’ll find no butter, milk, or eggs, a rare feat for any cake. Instead we have just the right amount of vinegar, oil, and water, a wet slurry that when combined with a bit of baking soda creates some sort of miraculous leavening concoction. Aside from being vegan, the cake is gluten-free, too. I’d rather not dwell too long on what’s missing, though, because this is not a glass-is-half-empty kind of cake. It is, in a word, exemplary: moist, dense, super chocolaty, with a lovely crumb.

The use of quinoa flour adds an almost undetectable, nuanced compliment to the cocoa, not to mention a hefty nutritional boost. You just taste complexity. I’ve talked about this combination before: chocolate + quinoa flour.  It’s a real favorite of mine.

Please, do give it a try and let me know your thoughts. I think it might just become one of your favorite cakes, too.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Quinoa Flour
Truth be told, we’ve been known to have a little sliver alongside our morning cup of joe…just an idea. Also, I offer a range for both the quantity of water and the baking soda. If you live at sea level you’ll likely need the higher range of each, or 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. I live at an extremely high altitude so I almost always need less liquid and slightly less leavening. One last note, this batter, when immediately poured into your baking dish, is pretty thin and pourable. If you wait, the batter begins to thicken.

Dry mix:
1/2 c. quinoa flour
1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. potato starch
3 T. tapioca starch
1/3 c. cocoa powder
3/4 t. xanthan gum (a heaping 1/4 t. if using Bob’s Red Mill xanthan gum)
3/4 – 1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Wet mix:
1 c. turbinado sugar (or white sugar)
3/4 – 1 c. water
1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil like grape seed
1 T. apple cider vinegar (white vinegar works also)
1 1/2 t. GF real vanilla extract

  1. Preaheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  3. In a larger bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.  Let the wet mix sit for a moment to give the turbinado sugar a chance to dissolve. This is when I oil my pan.
  4. Add the dry mix to the wet mix and whisk until fully incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter into an 8″ round, oiled pan.
  6. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so.

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.

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.