Category Archives: baked goods

Gluten-Free Baking Class? Yes Please! Part 2

Hello, it’s Ally again.

Thank you for all the positive comments on my first posting about the gluten-free baking class that Kelley and I attended at the City Arts Centre last month.

If you remember the last post featured light and fluffy celiac-friendly scones and this post goes to the opposite end of the spectrum and features crisp thin homemade gluten-free crackers!

So, let’s get right to it!

First off, even though you make your own flour, this is probably the simplest recipe I have ever made!

Making the nut flour is possible in a “drinks” blender, if it is built for it.  My blender  is made for crushing ice for slushy drinks and it worked, but for best results use a food processor.  In fact, your standard run-of-the-blender would likely not be powerful enough.

Our instructor, Jody Shenkarek, got this great cracker recipe from the Green Kitchen Stories blog:

Gluten-Free Nut Crackers

2 cups nuts and/or seeds (Kelley, Jean & I chose mostly sunflower seeds with sesame, pumpkin, cashew and almonds)
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sea salt

Toppings: salt, herbs, garlic … whatever you like. We left them plain, but the recipe advises brushing them with Braggs liquid aminos and sprinkling sesame seeds on top.

  • Preheat oven to 360 °F (not 350°F) and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Mix nuts/seeds into a flour in a blender or food processor.
  • Put in a bowl and add egg, water and salt. Stir until a stiff dough is formed.
  • Divide in two and place half on each of the two baking sheets covered in parchment.
  • Roll out into rectangles about 2 to 3 mm thick. If dough is sticky (you bet it is!) put another sheet of parchment on top to keep the rolling pin from sticking.
  • Cut into sticks or squares mist with a little water and sprinkle on toppings.
  • Bake for roughly 10 minutes – you must watch them as they burn easily.
  • Store in jars. Make sure they are perfectly airtight as these have no preservatives and you want them to stay crisp.

These turned out so great in class, in fact out of the two cracker recipes we tried this was by far the best one.  In case you are watching your salt intake you can leave it out; Jean and I thought the added salt was quite unnecessary for our taste, while Kelley thought it was just right.

Since the crackers turned out so great and the recipe left me some latitude to to try different nut and seed combos, I couldn’t wait to experiment with different nut mixes at home.  I finally got around to it towards the end of February which was a very busy day for me.  In hindsight, I would have had much better results if I hadn’t felt rushed….

Here are the proportions of nut and seed mixes that I tried out:

Pecan: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup sliced Almonds, 1 ½ Cups Pecans!

Pistachio: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, 1 Cup Pistachio’s, ¼ Cup Sesame

Pumpkin: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, ¼ Cup Sesame, 1 Cup Pumpkin.

Cashew: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, ¼ Cup sliced Almonds, 1 Cup Cashews

I love to experiment when I’m cooking and rarely stick to the recipe when making a meal, because I like more spices than most recipes call for.  Baking on the other hand is not quite as flexible, but I was fairly certain that I could safely experiment with this recipe.

So for half of the pecan mix I added about an 1/8 cup of defrosted frozen blueberries, and with half of the Pumpkin mix I added 1 tablespoon of fennel candies, which I love.

As I mentioned, I was quite rushed and tried to do too much in too little time (2 ½  hours), so I did not pay enough attention to the thicknesses when I was rolling out the cracker dough.  In addition, I only own two cookie sheets so I was pre- rolling the nut mixtures on parchment, while the first batch was in the oven, and finally, I do not own a rolling pin so I was rolling out with a juice glass.

Sigh.

As you can imagine it was a bit crazy.

To achieve better results each batch should have been split between two baking sheets rather than trying to crowd it all onto one.  Adding the berries and candied fennel certainly made for yummy flavour combos but those turned out to be more biscuit-like than the crispy cracker I was after, and they had to be refrigerated which kept them moist. Although tasty, very “uncracker-like”.

I wanted snack crackers that could be eaten without toppings so I deleted the salt. My personal favourite is the Pumpkin with Candied Fennel, next is Pecan, because they are my favourite nut and I cannot get enough of them. The Cashew was most popular with friends – even those who generally don’t favour cashews. I think it is because they were the most “cracker-like” in flavour, were the best thickness, or rather THIN-ness, and worked with toppings or with dips. I did love the taste of the pistachio sticks but they were much too thick, though I could call them mini-biscotti, and pretend that was on purpose.

I highly encourage you to try out this recipe as it is very simple and quick for a single batch, then you could comment back to Kelley about your successes, experiments and tasty mistakes!

Click to print recipe

Gluten-Free Baking Class? Yes Please!

Hi Everyone, Ally here, I am excited make a guest appearance on Kelley’s fantastic food blog!

As you know from Kelley’s recent post she and EPC have had a very busy month or so thanks to Coco, the new adorable addition to their family. In the midst of her hectic month Kelley did make time to attend a Gluten-Free Baking Class, with me, at the City Arts Centre. It was her idea, because she loves baking, and I am the lucky Celiac friend who often benefits from her passion for new foods.

There were 11 of us in the class, all ladies, about a 50/50 split between “there for their own health or interest” and “there for their husband’s gluten intolerance.”

“Where are all the husbands?” Kelley wondered aloud.

After brief introductions and a short overview by our instructor, Jody Shenkarek (former co-owner of the fabulous Cafe Mosaics), we split up into groups of 2 or 3 and headed into the large kitchen to test our baking skills. Each group had chosen two of the recipes in the handout provided so that by the end of the evening we would be able to sample a bit of everything.

Kelley and I were joined by a lovely older lady named Jean and the three of us set to work mixing up a batch of  Basic Gluten Free Flour Mix.  We made a double batch to provide the basic ingredients for most of the groups. Rather than sifting we mixed the Basic Flour ingredients with a whisk which certainly did the trick.
Our group’s first recipe was for Basic Scones, which was very exciting! Both Kelley and I  love scones!

Baking by committee in a crowded kitchen had its challenges but we managed to gather all the ingredients measure them properly and keep track. In the recipe it says to flour a surface and your hands when splitting the dough into two batches. Well, the GF flour mix doesn’t behave like regular wheat flour so Jody, our instructor, took over – simply plopping the halved dough right onto the parchment and using slightly floured hands to shape it. It provided a good “teachable moment” for her.

Our scones turned out perfect and all three of us were quite pleased.

I have since made these scones at home adding an eighth of a cup (1/8 C) defrosted frozen blueberries to one half, and sprinkling chopped pistachios and mission figs on top of the second half. They turned out delicious! However the berries added a lot of moisture so the scones needed an extra
3 to 5 minutes to fully cook and brown nicely. Personally I think you should experiment with the options – I used to love Berry and White Chocolate, or Cheese and Spinach scones – from Good Earth Café in Calgary. The Basic Scone recipe is straightforward and easy to experiment with, so don’t be afraid to get creative.

Once our scones were in line for the oven, we set to work on the Nut Crackers. I will continue with this recipe in Part 2 of Gluten-Free Baking Class!

Stay tuned.

Basic Gluten Free Flour Mix (makes 6 cups of basic mix)

4 Cups Superfine Brown Rice Flour
1 & 1/3 Cups Potato Starch (NOT potato flour)
2/3 Cup Tapioca flour (which is a.k.a. tapioca starch)

  • Sift in bowl or put into an extra-large Ziplock bag and shake to mix – keep remainder refrigerated!

Caution: when measuring, pour into measuring cup rather than scooping it – Then level off the top with a knife.
This will avoid packing it too densely and mixing  up the proportions.

Basic Scones (makes 1 dozen)

3/4 cup of plain yogurt (I used plain dessert tofu with no problems!)
3/4 cup milk (substitute rice or soy milk to make them dairy-free)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups Basic Gluten Free Flour mix (see above)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoon baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil

  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (NOT wax paper)
  • In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon & milk – set aside
  • In a large bowl whisk together all other (dry) ingredients.
  • Once it is well mixed add the wet ingredients and the oil, using a wooden spoon until it is well combined but still clumpy.
  • Divide the dough in half and plop onto cookie sheet – flour your hands and the top of the dough shape into two (6 inch diameter) discs (add optional ingredients to the top at this point if not added already)
  • Cut each disc into 6 “pie” slices and then bake in the centre of the oven for 15 to 17 minutes – transfer to a cooling rack and serve warm.

Optional ingredients: berries – 1 cup, chocolate chips ¾ cup

Recipes adapted from The Allergen Free Bakers Handbook by Cybele Pascal.

Click to print

Nut Free (or not) Fruit-Sweetened Granola Bars

My friend asked me about 4 months ago if I knew any recipes for nut-free granola bars.  Since I am so remiss in getting around to whipping some up, I decided to post two delicious nut-free recipes.  In this case, the granola part of the bars needs to be made first as it provides the base for the fruit-sweetened bars.

Which means breakfast time and snack time are both covered!

I do not have much to say about these bars (aside from the fact that they are delicious!) other than they can be nut-free or not.  I did decide to add almonds for EPC and I, but a mix of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds would work just as well.

They are chewy, reminiscent of a Lara Bar, but with less structural integrity.  In response, I wrapped each bar separately and stored them in the fridge.

Oh yeah, they can also be made to suit vegans and Celiacs alike!

Seed and Dried Fruit Granola
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

6 cups of rolled oats (not quick oats) (for gluten-free use Only Oats rolled oats)
3/4 cup of raw sunflower seeds
2/3 cup of raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup of sesame seeds
1/4 cup of poppy seeds
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup of honey (substitute maple syrup for vegan granola)
1/4 cup of maple syrup
1/4 cup oil
1 cup of  dried fruit, such as raisins, chopped apricots, and tart cherries

  • Preheat the oven to 300°F
  • Heat a large pot over medium low heat.  Add the oats and stir until fragrant, about 5 minutes
  • Add the seed mixture and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Pour the roasted oats and seeds into a large (9X13) casserole dish and add the cinnamon, oil, honey and maple syrup.  Stir well to mix
  • Take 1/3 of the mixture and spread out on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan (this step is optional, but it produces a more crunchy and darker granola which offers a nice contrast to the lighter cooked granola in the casserole)
  • Put the casserole dish and the cookie sheet into the oven and bake for 20 minutes stirring halfway through.
  • Remove from the oven and stir in the fruit.

This makes about 7 cups of granola.  When cool, store in an airtight container.

Fruit-Sweetened Granola Bars
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 1/2 cup of mixed dried fruit.  I used about equal amounts of raisins, apricots, and apples
1/4 cup of oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups of Seed and Dried Fruit Granola
1 cups of seeds or nuts of your choice. I used almonds.

  • Add granola and seeds or nuts to a large bowl
  • Put the dried fruit mixture, oil and water into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Scrape the fruit mixture in a small pot and warm on the stove top.   When hot pour over the granola mixture and stir well to coat.
  • Line a 8 x 8 square pan with cling wrap and press the mixture into the pan.
  • Cool in the fridge for 1-2 hours until firm and slice into 12-16 bars.

Click to print

Delicious Gingerbread Cookies!! And by the way, they are gluten free.

It is not unusual for people to turn up their nose when I mention gluten-free desserts. I am not sure why, perhaps it is because they feel that something must be missing; that they have to sacrifice taste or decadence, because the tasty treat has not been made with wheat flour.

That is certainly not the case! In fact, many delicious deserts are traditionally made without flour – think Pavlova – or without wheat flour, such as Scottish shortbread where rice flour is used.

This recipe does not forgo flour to be celiac friendly, but takes advantage of a great gluten-free flour mix from Bob’s Red Mill. I can’t compare this to other gluten-free flour mixes, as this is the only one I have tried, but I really love its light brown colour.

I made these cookies last year as part of the Christmas cookie pack that I give out to my friends and they all loved them.

The inspiration to spend the afternoon baking a batch of cookies comes from my dear friend who is half way through the National Novel Writing Month.  She has signed up for the challenge of writing of 50, 000 words over the month of November and, yes, she has a full-time job as well!  I figured she needed a few cookies to get her over the halfway point.

I found this recipe on the Canadian Living Website, so I have included the link for you. I did make a few changes: I subbed butter for the shortening and didn’t bother with the icing.  I also added 3/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum as suggested on the back of the flour mix (easy to find at your local health food store).  In addition, the recipe also works well as a drop cookie!

Gluten Free Gingerbread Cookie recipe

Tag-team Sunday night supper: Sage Focaccia and Fire-Roasted Black Bean Soup

I usually end up making dinner on Sunday evening because EPC likes to relax in the late afternoon before he heads off to his Sunday evening yoga class.  But this week he decided to make his favourite black bean soup recipe from Toni Fiore’s Totally Vegetarian.

In response I chose to make whole wheat sage focaccia from Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. I had a lot of luck with his whole wheat pizza crust and figured it couldn’t hurt to give his foacaccia bread a try. Afterall, the flecks of fresh sage in the bread would make a great accompaniment to  my husband’s soup.

As always, the soup was delicious.  This was the first time he had tried it with canned fire roasted tomatoes and it did make a difference.

I remember the first time he made this soup – before we had an immersion hand blender – what a mess.  Scooping soup by the cupful into our blender was not the easiest way to blend up the soup, and we lost a considerable amount on the floor.  It certainly made my husband an advocate of our latest kitchen appliance.  If you  like to make soups I really recommend picking up an immersion blender (we got ours at Superstore for about $30.00).  I find even if the soup does not call for pureeing, blending a small amount of the soup gives it a nice thick consistency.

In addition to that first  messy batch of soup,  we followed the recipe by adding the 2-3 jalapenos and the 3 tablespoons of chipotle chili powder it called for.  This made the soup almost inedible!  We now use only one jalapeno and 1 -2 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder.

Since winter has practically arrived in Edmonton (one night last week it went down to -5°C!) I did not mind spending the majority of the afternoon indoors as I waiting for the bread to go through two long rises (1 1/2 to 2 hours each).  It was worth it.  I had never made focaccia before and I am really glad that I did.  Next time I will bake it on a sheet of parchment paper.  Well-oiled or not,  I had a difficult time prying the bread off the pan.  The edges cracked a little and I lost some of the bottom to the pan, but what it lacked in presentation it made up for in taste.

I also found the bread cooked quicker than the 20-25 minutes recommended, so make sure you take a peak in the oven after 15 minutes.

I think I will use the leftover focaccia to serve as a bun for the veggie burgers I am going to make tomorrow night.  So stay tuned!

Sage Focaccia Bread

1 1/3 cups of warm water
2 teaspoon of active dry yeast (I used bread machine yeast and it worked fine)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 scant cups of whole wheat bread flour
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh sage leaves and about 20-25 whole sage leaves
2 tablespoons of olive oil for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt.

  • Combine water, yeast, and oil in a large bowl.
  • Add the flour, salt and sage and stir to mix with a wooden spoon.  Stir until the dough comes together (it will  come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball)
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes)
  • Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth.  In a warm place let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (I found 1 1/2 hours was sufficient).
  • Oil the bottom a cookie sheet with at least 1 inch deep sides ( I recommend parchment paper instead of oil).  The pan should be about 15 by 10 inches.  Flatten the dough into the pan, spray the top of the dough lightly with oil and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Let the dough rise a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the dough has almost doubled in size (I waited almost 2 hours).
  • Preheat the oven to 425°C.  Before placing the dough in the oven use your finger to dimple the dough at 2 inch intervals.  Place a fresh sage leaf in each dimple, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt.
  • Bake for 15-25 minutes until golden  brown and remove from the pan to cool.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature

Click to print.

Toni Fiore’s Black Bean Soup recipe can be found here.  EPC only adds 1 -2 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder and 1 jalapeno.  The soup is too spicy otherwise.

All in a day’s work: The Best Granola (so far) and Flourless Oatmeal Cookies

Well, I got tired of store-bought cereal again, so I decided to make some granola.

This time, I did not follow a recipe. I took the method from my Mom’s granola recipe and added whatever nuts and seeds I had lying around. I added dried blueberries instead of the usual raisins and took advantage of the rich buckwheat honey I picked up from Lola Canola’s booth at the Downtown Farmer’s Market.

Delicious: what a treat the blueberries were and adding buckwheat honey gave the granola a subtle touch of  caramel-like sweetness.

This is definitely the best granola I have ever made!

Having The Best Granola for breakfast on Tuesday morning will make the end of the long weekend a bit easier to bear.

Since I had so much luck with oats Sunday morning, I decided to make some oatmeal cookies in the evening (I was in a baking mood, so I whipped up a batch of Carob Cashew Brownies too!)

The oatmeal cookies were delicious and very filling.  I tried to eat two, but I had to struggle through the second one.  I figure this cookie will make a great (and fairly healthy) afternoon snack.  It will satisfy a sweet craving, without being too sweet and fill me up until dinner.

Although the recipe calls for wheat bran, you may be able to make these celiac friendly by substituting in Only Oats oat bran in place of the wheat bran.  I haven’t tried it, so I can’t say for sure, but if you do try it let me know.

Being flourless, these are not a doughy cookie.  You need to form and flatten the cookies with moistened hands, so it requires a bit more work that the traditional dollop on a cookie sheet, but they are still nice and chewy – even more so, because there isn’t any flour to get in the way of the oats.

The Best Granola (so far)

6 cups of large flake oats (not instant or quick oats)
2 cups of barley flakes
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/3 cup sesame seeds
2/3 cup of coarsely chopped whole almonds with the skins still on
1/3 cup of raw cashews coarsely chopped
1/3 cup of oat bran
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Grated zest of one orange
1/4 cup of oil
1/2 cup of honey (approximate)
1 cup of dried blueberries

  • Preheat oven to 350°C
  • In a large baking dish combine barley flakes, oatmeal, oat bran, cinnamon, seeds and nuts.
  • Add orange zest and stir
  • Pour oil into measuring cup up to 1/4 cup measure.  Top up with honey to 2/3 cup measure.
  • Stir well to mix.
  • Optional: Take some of the mixture and place on a cookie sheet about 1 layer thick (this will give you some granola that is extra brown and crispy).
  • Bake for 15 minutes at 350°C.  Remove from the oven and stir.
  • Bake for 10 minutes more and stir again.
  • Add blueberries and bake for 5 minutes more.
  • Let cool and store in an air-tight container.

Click to print

Flourless Oatmeal Cookies – adapted from Uprisings: the whole grain bakers’ book

3 eggs
3/4 cup of warmed honey (I heated it on the stove top for a few minutes)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce
4 1/2 cups large flake oats (not instant)
1 1/4 cups wheat germ
3/4 cup milk powder
3/4 cup medium unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup of chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped raw cashews
2/3 cup currants
Grated zest of one orange

  • In a medium bowl beat together 3 eggs.
  • Add oil and applesauce and stir together.
  • In a large bowl add oats, wheat germ, milk powder, coconut, nuts, currants, and orange rind.
  • Stir mixture and let sit for 25 minutes.  This will help the cookies stick together.
  • Preheat the oven to 325°C
  • Using your hands, roll the dough into a ball and shape into a flat cookie about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick and press onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet,  firming up the cookie edges if needed.
  • Bake at 325°C for 15 minutes until lightly brown

Click to print

Sunny Boy Muffins and Strawberry Jam

What a busy couple of weeks.

First there was my in-laws’ family reunion, followed by EPC’s Aunt and three cousins staying with us for a few days, topped off with strawberry picking and preserving, and then a BBQ at EPC’s Dad’s place.

I certainly got a lot done, but man am I tired!

Since we had company staying with us for a few days, I figured they needed something special for breakfast, so I made up some delicious Sunny Boy Whole Grain Muffins.  I have been on a Sunny Boy cereal kick for the last few weeks, so I decided to take a look at the recipes on their website and came across a wonderful looking recipe for hearty (read: non-cupcake style) muffins.

I loved the muffins and so did the relations.

We enjoyed them with a dollop of homemade nectarine jam gifted to me by a coworker, as I didn’t make the strawberry jam until the weekend after they left.

The muffin recipe wasn’t followed exactly, because I was in a hurry and wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. This can be a disaster when you are baking, but fortunately the recipe was saved by the addition of some large flake oats to soak up the extra milk.  If you end up adding twice as much milk like I did, you can save the recipe by adding 2/3 cup large flake oats.  In addition, I swapped out the all purpose flour for whole wheat.

And now on to the sweet stuff.

The strawberries were incredible.

I picked 50$ worth of strawberries in 45 minutes.  Don’t ask me how many berries that equates to, but it was a lot and the picking was easy too.  In case you live in the Edmonton area, I picked my berries at South Windermere Gardens.

Aside from berries for eating and freezing, I was able to get two batches of jam. Both jam recipes come straight off the Bernardin website.  The first, No-Pectin Strawberry Jam (shown on the muffin pictured above) was made with the addition of unripe berries.

No pectin jams are nice, because you make them with a bit less sugar.  You still need to add sugar though.  I have made the mistake of trying to do it with less than the recommended amount of sugar and, trust me, it doesn’t really work so well.

The second jam I made was Strawberry Balsamic Jam.

It is to die for.

If you are looking for a different jam, this is the one to try.  Bernardin recommends serving it with cheese and crackers, but it is also great with plain yogourt, slathered on fresh bread or by the spoonful.

I can’t wait to serve it to guests this winter as a sweet addition to a cheese tray!

Sunny Boy Whole Grain Muffins

Bernardin No-Pectin Strawberry Jam

Bernardin Strawberry Balsamic Jam