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.
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Our Daily 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.

Caramelized Banana Bread {gluten-free, vegan}

Caramelized Banana Bread {gluten-free, vegan}
Serendipitously, I was flipping through a magazine in the dentist’s chair last week, all sorts of specialized dental gadgetry filled my mouth, when I stumbled upon this little number.
Caramelized Banana Bread {gluten-free, vegan} Caramelized Banana Bread {gluten-free, vegan}CARAMELIZED BANANA BREAD
Adapted from Rachel Ray’s Everyday

I successfully adapted this to be gluten, dairy, soy and egg-free, with out Ener-G egg replacer, too.  I used clarified butter for the caramelization, but I really think coconut oil would work beautifully, too. And then it would be vegan.

I was nervous that this might be cloying for my tastes, but it was not. As a matter of fact, it had a wonderful balance between caramel sweetness and whole grain goodness. I just might have to make this again on Christmas morning.

3 or 4 large bananas
3/4 cups cane sugar
2 tablespoons clarified butter, coconut oil or butter if you can have it
2/3 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
3 tablespoons potato starch (not potato flour)
2 tablespoons tapioca, arrowroot or cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder (add a pinch more, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon if you’re at sea level)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons canola oil or 1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon vinegar
3 tablespoons sparkling water

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan. Cut the ends off of the bananas using the bottom of your loaf pan as a guide (see above photo) and reserve the ends. Slice the long banana pieces in half, lenghtwise and set aside on a plate.
  2. Bring 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water to a simmer in a large, heavy bottom skillet. Do not stir the mixture, simply swirl your pan to keep the water and sugar mixed. The water will evaporate and the mix will begin to turn amber. Once it has a nice caramel color remove from heat and stir in the clarified butter or coconut oil with a fork. Lay the long banana pieces in the pan cut side down (see below photo) and continue to cook on low heat for 1-2 minutes. Transfer the banana slices to the prepared loaf pan, laying them cut side down. Drizzle the remaining caramel on top.
  3. Mash the reserved bananas and measure out 1 cup (this used all of my pieces). Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the mashed banana pieces with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Add the vinegar and sparkling water (this is your egg replacer) and mix until incorporated.
  4. In a large bowl mix the remaining ingredients: sorghum flour through salt. Add the banana mixture and the oil. Scrape into loaf pan on top of bananas. Spread batter into pan. Bake 50 – 55 minutes until top is firm to the touch and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes. Then run a paring knife along the edges of the pan. Place a plate over the pan and invert the loaf onto the plate.

Caramelized Banana Bread {gluten-free, vegan}

Green Bean Panzanella {gluten-free, vegan}

Green Bean Panzanella {gluten-free, vegan}
Green Bean Panzanella {gluten-free, vegan}

Oh, how I am smitten with panzanella (a.k.a. bread salad).  This clever little Italian dish couldn’t be easier or more down to earth: mix a few vegetables together, toss in some homemade croutons and drizzle with vinaigrette. Dinner is served. The homemade croutons take this from a wimpy side dish to a lovely, light meal. And who wouldn’t be impressed if you told them you were serving panzanella. It is all in the name (shh! I use this tactic on Adam all the time).

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GREEN BEAN PANZANELLA
Adapted from Ina Garten

About this recipe. I’ve made this 4 or 5 times in the last month and this version is my personal favorite.  Feel free to experiment.  The possibilities are endless.  I can’t wait to try a true fall version with butternut squash, brussel spouts, etc.

Salad:
4-5 slices of gluten free sandwhich bread (or whole grain wheat bread if you’re not GF)
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces (see this post for how to)
1 lb. green beans or approximately 3 cups/handfuls, ends trimmed and chopped into bite size pieces
1 small shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
3-4 leaves of fresh basil, thinly sliced

Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 350.  Place halved tomatoes on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast 45 mins. until slightly shriveled and browned in places.
  • While tomatoes roast prepare the croutons. Cut the slices of bread into 1″ cubes. Heat 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil over medium low heat, add bread cubes and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, tossing frequently until browned, adding more olive oil or salt if necessary.  Set aside to cool.
  • Bring a pot of water to boil. Add green beans and cook 1-2 minutes until bright green, but still crisp.  Drain and run beans under water to cool.
  • Whisk together the vinaigrette.
  • Remove tomatoes from oven. Roast bell peppers at this point if you haven’t already.
  • Mix the roasted tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and sliced shallot together with the croutons, toss with vinaigrette, garnish with basil and serve immediately.  Alternatively, the mixed veggies can be stored in the refrigerator up to 1 day and then tossed with the vinaigrette and croutons upon serving.

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Fudgy Brownies

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There is really no good excuse for not making brownies from scratch. I know box mixes sound convenient, but really, you still have to add eggs, oil, and mix it all up.  I’m willing to wager that this recipe comes together just as quickly and the texture/flavor combo is dead nuts. DEAD NUTS!! I’m afraid my pics aren’t doing them justice. Notice the thin flaky crust on top, the dense fudgy center and the quintessential cracks in the photo below. These are the real deal.

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FUDGY BROWNIES
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

The trick is to not overcook the batter.  Also, I like to freeze the finished product about 20 minutes before cutting into squares. That way you don’t get the gooey buildup on your knife. Enjoy.

3 T. sorghum flour *
3 T. brown rice flour, plus more for dusting
1 T. potato starch
1 T. tapioca starch
1/4 t. xanthan gum
generous pinch of salt (less than 1/4 t.)
1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips or a 3 oz bar, chopped
6 T. ghee, Spectrum organic shortening, or butter (I used half ghee, half coconut oil)**
1/2 C. plus 2 T. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 375. Oil an 8×8 dish or pan or cake pan. Dust with rice flour, tap out excess, set aside.
  • Whisk together flours, xanthan gum and salt. Set aside.
  • Melt chocolate and 6 T. of ghee/coconut oil/butter in a heat proof bowl (I prefer glass), set over a small pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove melted mixture from heat to cool slightly.
  • Mix brown sugar and eggs with an electric mixer on high for 2-3 minutes. Turn to low and slowly add the melted chocolate until incorporated. Add the vanilla.  Add flour mix and continue to beat until just combined.
  • Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake 20-30 minutes until top has cracked and the center is just set.  Mine took about 23 minutes. Cool and freeze 20 minutes to cut into squares.

* Replace the gluten-free flours with an equal amount (1/2 C.) of all-purpose flour if you’re not gluten-free, omit the xanthan gum.

** I use Spectrum unrefined coconut oil.  It smells slightly of coconut, as it should.  I’m wary of the “refined” coconut oils.