Thursday, October 31, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Cake (GF)

Now I realize that this cake has both the words “vegan” and “gluten free” in the title, but bare with me :) Sometimes, you just really need a piece of chocolate cake. Sometimes, you run out of eggs & butter.

Sometimes, you have an ankle injury that makes going to the grocery store more difficult than usual.

But you STILL really want cake... (by the way, the "you" in this "hypothetical" scenario is actually me...)

Enter this chocolate cake.  The cake’s ingredients are ones that can usually be found in a well-stocked pantry.  It’s actually vegan (though neither my husband nor I couldn’t tell just from the taste) & I used my favorite GF flour blend to make it gluten free.

So now any day can be chocolate cake day! I know this recipe is most definitely one I’ll keep in my arsenal for any future dessert emergencies :)

Vegan Chocolate Cake (GF) 
adapted from Food52 
yields 8 servings 

6.35 oz / 1 1/2 c AP Flour (I used Jeanne’s GF AP flour mix to keep the cake GF)
1 oz / 1/3 c Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
7 oz / 1 c Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
8 fl oz / 1 cup Cold Water (I substituted a little cold coffee)
2.25 oz / 5 Tbl Neutral Oil (I used Vegetable Oil)
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 Tbl Vinegar
Confectioners' sugar (for dusting) 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease an 8” round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment. Grease the top of the parchment too & set aside.  
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, soda, sugar & salt. Sift {yes, you actually need to sift this time, not just whisk}. 
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining wet ingredients. 
  4. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet & continue mixing until smooth & free from lumps.  
  5. Pour into the prepared pan.  Tap the pan on the top of the counter to pop any air bubbles. 
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top of the cake is springy.  
  7. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a plate & peel off the parchment paper.  
  8. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving. 
  9. Store any leftovers, well wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Copycat KIND Bars (GF)

October has been full of unexpected things.  A badly sprained ankle. A government shutdown (i.e. a disrupted paycheck schedule).  A knee injury that happened in September, but is taking a long time to heal. Other unexpected medical tests. An ant infestation in the car ?!? (insert Archer jokes, if you like)

We’re kind of in survival mode at this point, wondering why Murphy’s law seems to follow us around so closely these days. And trying to anticipate what unexpected thing will pop up next.

I intended to make these homemade KIND Bars for us to eat on the way to Waco, TX, where my husband was to participate in another Tough Mudder Challenge. I figured they’d be a good training treat as well as a tasty on the road snack.

But his knee injury is taking a lot longer to heal than we thought it would. After a visit to the doctor and an MRI, he has been advised not to participate & that this knee injury may take up to 6 months to fully heal! Sad.

Even though we won’t be heading to Waco for the race like we planned, I still wanted to make these homemade KIND Bars. I do love eating the store bought version--they're such a great gluten free on-the-go snack option. However, they can get to be rather expensive....

Making them at home was really easy and so much more cost effective. Though I made the “Nut Delight” version this time, I can see myself using the same concept & substituting different nuts and mix-ins, depending on what I have in the pantry.

I almost made a second copycat batch, this time of the “Almond & Coconut” variety, but the first “Nut Delight” recipe was so tasty! Perhaps it would be better for my self control (or lack thereof) to wait to make that batch until a future date :)

Nut Delight Copycat KIND Bar (gluten free) 
adapted from The Yummy Life
yields 20 bars

7.5 oz / 1 1/2 c Whole Almonds, raw & unsalted
3 oz / 3/4 c Walnuts, raw & unsalted
2.3 oz, 1/2 c Brazil Nuts, raw & unsalted {approx 15 total}
3.75 oz / 3/4 c Peanuts, lightly salted 
0.25 oz / 1/2 c Puffed Millet (or other puffed whole grain cereal/crispy brown rice cereal)
6.33 g / 1 Tbl Flaxseed Meal
6 oz / 1/2 cup Honey
4 oz / 1/3 c Brown Rice Syrup
1 tsp Vanilla 
1/4 tsp Sea Salt (optional, if any of the nuts are salted) 
nonstick spray 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spread the almonds, walnuts, and brazil nuts onto a large baking sheet & bake until lightly toasted and fragrant, approximately 10 minutes. 
  2. While the nuts are toasting, liberally spray a 9x13 baking pan with nonstick spray (I used a quarter sheet pan). Line with parchment paper & spray the parchment paper. Set aside. Also, spray a large bowl & a heat tempered spatula with nonstick spray.  
  3. Once the nuts are toasted & slightly cooled, mix with the peanuts, then coarsely chop. Add the nuts to the large bowl, plus the puffed cereal & flax meal.  Stir & set aside. 
  4. Add the honey, brown rice syrup, and salt to a 2qt sauce pan.  Clip on a candy thermometer. Heat over medium high heat until the mixture reaches 260 F. Remove from the heat & stir in the vanilla--be careful, the mixture may bubble & splatter!   
  5. Pour over the nut mixture and quickly stir until everything is combined.  
  6. Quickly transfer to the greased pan, spreading the mixture evenly in the pan.  Press & compact the mixture using well greased hands and/or the greased bottom of a metal measuring cup or drinking glass. 
  7. Let cool 20 minutes (pan will still be warm). Invert the pan on a cutting board & tap until mixture falls out in one piece. Remove the parchment paper. Cut into 20 bars. If the bars become too cool & are too hard/brittle to cut, put the pan into a warm oven for a couple minutes to help soften and then try cutting. 
  8. Allow the bars to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container. Use parchment paper between the layers.  Or individually wrap the individual bars in parchment paper for easy transport. Store at room temperature for up to 1 week, or refrigerate to extend shelf life. 
Alternate Ingredient Substitutions
  • Need a vegan version? Use all brown rice syrup & omit honey
  • Can't find puffed millet? Use another puffed whole grain cereal.  I almost used GF Rice Krispies before I finally was able to find puffed millet at Central Market

Friday, October 18, 2013

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

I once read an article stating that 80% of Americans live within 20 miles of a Starbucks.  Well, I happen to be part of that lingering 20% that don’t live within 20 miles.  In fact, I’d have to drive a couple hours to get to the nearest true “coffee shop” (I’m not sure that McDonalds will ever count as a coffee shop in my book).  Oh one of the many “joys” of living in the middle-of-nowhere Texas :) 

I love coffee & coffee shops.  One of my most favorite jobs was in a coffee shop. I love creating & producing fancy beverages, as well as serving them to people.

Imagine my excitement and then sadness (plus a teensy bit of envy) when at the beginning of September, pumpkin spice lattes invaded social media. In south Texas, the beginning of September means we’re still in the thick of summer with temperatures remaining steady in the triple digits. All the pictures and mention of pumpkin spice anything made me really nostalgic for fall & for slightly cooler weather. I would have loved to taste a fall-themed beverage, even if I had to get it iced due to the scorching heat.  I even dreamed one night about getting a pumpkin spice latte....   

Instead of moping about not being able to buy a pumpkin spice latte, I decided to make my own!  I found a great post online for recreating the pumpkin spice syrup & I made a big batch one weekend. I cold brewed some coffee (which is better on my system these day) and mixed it with a generous portion of homemade foamed milk (all you need is a clean jar with a lid, a microwave & some milk).  A couple spoonfuls of the syrup & a sprinkling of cinnamon and I had my very own homemade pumpkin spice latte.

While traveling a couple of weeks ago, I finally bought myself a pumpkin spice latte.  But I realized that I may even prefer my homemade version! Thank goodness the batch of syrup is such a large amount--now I’m able to enjoy many, many PSLs at home, which I have been doing on a daily regular basis. 

Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup 
adapted from A Beautiful Mess

2 cups water
10.5 oz / 1.5 c granulated sugar
3.75 oz / 0.5 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3.5 oz / 4 heaping Tbl pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling!) 
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and stir just briefly to combine. 
  2. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, not stirring. 
  3. Strain into a jar & refrigerate once cool. Add back the cinnamon stick, if you like. 
  4. Syrup will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks (in fact, I think the flavor improves after a couple days).  Shake/mix well before using.  
PS Latte/Cafe au lait
Due to some health issues, I have to make my coffee beverages more milky.  Feel free to adjust these ratios to your preferences.  

1 tbl Pumpkin Spice Syrup
3 oz strong coffee (recipe for cold brew follows, or use french press coffee) 
5 oz foamed milk (recipe follows) 
ground cinnamon, for garnish
  1.  Add a tablespoon of pumpkin spice syrup to the bottom of a coffee cup.  Top with the strong coffee & microwave to warm. 
  2. Make the foamed milk (recipe follows). Add the milk part of the foamed milk & stir to combine the milk with the syrup & coffee. 
  3. Spoon the remaining milk foam over the drink & sprinkle with a little cinnamon.
  4. Taste & add more syrup, if desired.  

Homemade Foamed Milk
adapted from The Kitchn

Small Jar with a Lid 
  1. Fill the jar just shy of half way full of fresh, cold milk.  Tightly screw on the cover. 
  2. Vigorously shake the milk for 30 seconds.  (I usually do this over the sink just in case the lid leaks at all). 
  3. Remove the lid & microwave the jar for 30 seconds. 
  4. Pour the milk into hot coffee & spoon the foam on top.  

Note: do this just before serving & make only as much as needed--it really doesn't keep.

Cold Brew Coffee
Adapted from Food52

1/3 c Coffee Grounds (coarse ground is best)
1 1/2 c Cold Water
  1. Mix the coffee and cold water in a mason jar. Cover and refrigerate 12 hours. 
  2. Pour through a strainer lined with a coffee filter & place back into a jar. 
  3. The concentrated coffee will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 
  4. To use, mix with equal parts cold or hot water, adjusting the amount of concentrated coffee to taste.  
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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Waffle Weekend: Spiced Pumpkin Waffle Doughnuts (GF)

We have reached the time of year where everything turns to pumpkin.  Sweet pumpkin desserts. Savory pumpkin dishes. Drinkable pumpkin. Pumpkin decor.  (if you don’t believe me, just check Pinterest or Instagram).

Personally, I’ve been craving pumpkin doughnuts. And pumpkin spice lattes (but that will come in a future post....).  Sadly, I have not found too many gluten free pumpkin options, but that means I simply must make something myself!

Three years ago, I fried pumpkin spice cake doughnuts  for a Daring Bakers challenge.  I liked the recipe so much that I included it in the doughnut day of Laminated Doughs when I taught that class at the Culinary Institute of Charleston.

I’ve been thinking about those doughnuts lately, but I haven’t been so keen on the frying part.  While I don’t mind frying (since I conquered my fear of frying), but I do hate the mess it makes & how the smell of oil permeates our small open concept apartment.  And opening the windows is not an option since temperatures are still in the upper 90s....

Remembering the waffle doughnut method I concocted early last summer, I decided to turn the fried cake doughnuts into waffle doughnuts!  Less messy and smelly yet still delicious.  They’re even better when they're dunked in maple glaze & paired with a homemade pumpkin spice latte :)

Pumpkin Spice Waffle Doughnuts 
adapted from here

14.9 oz / 3.5 c Jeanne's GF AP Flour Mix (or use AP flour, if you're not GF) 
4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbl Cinnamon
1 tsp Ginger
0.5 tsp Baking Soda
0.5 tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
pinch Cloves

3 Tbl Butter 
1 c Sugar

1 ea Egg
2 ea Yolks
1 tspVanilla

1/2 c + 1 Tbl Buttermilk
8.7 oz / 244 g / 1 c Canned Pumpkin 

  1.  In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside. 
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar on low speed--the mixture will be lumpy. 
  3. Add the egg & yolks, one at a time, mixing on low.  Scrape down the sides. 
  4. Add the buttermilk, mixing on low. Add the pumpkin, mixing on low. 
  5. Add the dry ingredients in two batches. 
  6. Let the batter rest while the waffle iron preheats. If you can, set the temperature to medium high. 
  7. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto the waffle iron. Cook until very lightly browned
  8. Cool slightly. Glaze, if desired. These waffle doughnuts are best consumed the day they are made. 

Maple Glaze
8 oz, 2 c Powdered Sugar
4 Tbl Milk
4 Tbl Real Maple Syrup
sprinkle of Cinnamon  & freshly grated Nutmeg 

  1.  Sift the sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in the milk & maple syrup. 
  2. Add the cinnamon & nutmeg. 
  3. Use immediately, or cover & refrigerate until ready to use.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mom's Apple Crisp (Gluten Free)

October 1st will always be "Apple Crisp Day" to me. But not just any apple crisp, my mom’s now famous apple crisp.

My dad, along with his  business partner Steve, took a leap of faith and started their own engineering company on October 1, 1991. Those first years were not easy ones as they worked to get their business established. Lots of time and effort goes in to the creation of a company! I remember my dad working extremely long hours in those early days & also doing extensive traveling....

Amidst all the hard work, they did take time to celebrate. The company’s first anniversary was celebrated with cake, but, every anniversary since then has been celebrated with delicious apple crisp, made by my mom.

Fast forward 20+ years, and that same company, which started with two people in a tiny basement office of a downtown building, has since grown exponentially.  There are now more than 200 employees in over a dozen branches in different cities throughout the upper midwest!

It never ceases to amaze me when I remember where they started back in the early 90s and see how much things have changed today. What an incredible thing. I’m so proud of them :)

The apple crisp tradition continues still today. I have very fond memories of visiting Dad’s office every October 1st (or on a date near there) to help hand out pieces of crisp to every employee present. The employees who have been there for years & years have come to expect & anticipate the coming of apple crisp!

As many years as it is possible, the different offices will have an apple crisp celebration party all together via video link. And Mom has graciously shared her recipe with people in each office so that they might all share in the same signature dessert.  The main office has become so large that several employees volunteered to each make a couple pans of apple crisp, so that Mom isn’t making apple crisp for quite so many people...

A few years before Dad’s company was founded, my parents planted an apple tree in our back yard, and that apple tree has provided the fruit for many years’ crisps. Most years, the crazy tree produces SO MANY apples that my parents have to pick a bunch of the non-mature green apples early in the season so that their weight doesn’t break the limbs of the tree.

This year was different.  The tree decided not to produce a single apple, which meant my mom had to find a new source for apples this year.  But I have high hopes that next year their tree will be back to its overproducing ways :)

I haven’t lived in my hometown nor attended the annual anniversary celebration in several years. I also haven’t made mom’s recipe in quite some time because my body just hasn’t seemed to like oats (this recipe just isn’t the same without them). But I’ve been experimenting with trying Gluten Free Rolled Oats & so far I don’t seem to have the same unpleasant symptoms I’ve had in the past. Hurray! 

So this year, I made Mom’s recipe.  I scaled it down slightly, because I knew it wasn’t a good idea to have a 9x13 pan of apple crisp for just the two of us--I doubt I’d have any self control when it comes to a pan of apple crisp.  I used a little cornstarch (instead of flour) to help thicken the apple juices & substituted gluten free flour & gluten free oats in the topping.

The intoxicating smell of the cooking apples & the spices as the crisp baked permeated the whole apartment.  It was torture to wait the nearly two hours it took for the crisp to properly bake.  Even with the slight changes, the apple crisp was perfect. Though I wasn’t back with my parents to celebrate in person, we celebrated in spirit with our bowls of warm crisp topped with melting vanilla ice cream.  I tried not to lick the bowl :)

Happy Anniversary, AE2S!

Mom’s Apple Crisp
yields approximately 6 servings

3.5 oz / 0.5 c Granulated Sugar (may adjust depending on sweetness of apples)
2 tsp cornstarch 
2 tsp Cinnamon 
4 medium large apples (I used a mix of 3 Granny Smith & 1 Fuji, which came to about 21 oz once peeled, cored & sliced)

2.15 oz (0.5 c) Flour (I used Gluten Free)
1.75 oz (0.5 c) Rolled Oats (I used Gluten Free)
3.75 oz (0.5 c) Brown Sugar
1/8 tsp Baking Soda
1/8 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Cinnamon
pinch Sea Salt
2 oz (0.25 c) Unsalted Butter, cold

Ice Cream, for serving (optional, though not optional in my book!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease an 8x8 square pan or a medium gratin dish with nonstick spray or a little softened butter.  
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the granulated sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Peel, core and slice the apples.  Mix in with the sugar mixture.  Pour into the greased pan & compress slightly . 
  3. In a separate smaller bowl, combine the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt.  Cut the butter into small pieces & use a pastry cutter or two forks (or very quickly work with your not hot fingers) to cut the butter into the dry ingredients.  Keep the mixture slightly lumpy & crumbly.  Immediately distribute the crumb topping over the apples. 
  4. Place the finished pan on top of a rimmed pan (to collect any juices) and slide into the oven. Bake for between 60 and 90 minutes, or until the top is browned and the juices are bubbly--mine took close to 90.  
  5. Cool slightly and serve with vanilla ice cream. 
  6. Store any leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator.  Leftovers are great cold (even for breakfast, shhhh!) or warmed.  Consume within a couple of days.  
Notes: To any readers who are gluten free but can't eat oats (even if they are gluten free), make the same apple base & try topping it with my gluten free almond topping recipe.