Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies

It's not fun being sick over the holidays, especially when your loved ones go out of the way to make gluten-free goodies that you can't eat without feeling nauseous. Sigh. There are, however, baking successes to share, even if I can't eat them. This is my contribution, by the way, to the Gluten-Free Holiday Baking Event sponsored by Gluten-Free Gobsmacked and others. Be sure to check out all of the recipes!

My dessert triumph this year has been gluten-free gingerbread cookies, an adaptation of the cookies I grew up baking with my mom. These cookies were always a major part of our holiday bonding, a recipe whose dough we came to know intimately over dozens of batches and that no one else we knew could make as well.

When I was about eight and, for an unremembered reason, we decided to make gingerbread cookies for the first time, out The Joy Of Cooking came.The 1975 Joy was always the go-to cookbook in our house (I bought the sadly disappointing 1997 edition and immediately reverted to 1975, which this summer still trustily led me through the creation of a perfect lemon meringue pie. I mean, why ditch "The Foods We Eat" sections for a separate part on tofu? Joy isn't exactly my go-to tofu cookbook...The 2006 edition is purported to be a much better revision.). That first time we only baked one gingerbread man at a time to find out whether they should be baked for 7 minutes or 9. We discovered that an 8-minute bake time on insulated baking sheets in our oven was perfect and that the dough doesn't roll out smoothly when the humidity is too high. And, over time, we acquired great seasonal cookie cutters--not the ones with only shapes but ones that imprint pictures of witches, ghosts, Santas, and fir trees on the cookies, too.

The original recipe is about as far from cookie dough in a tube as you can possibly get. The dough and the bake time are pretty finicky, which basically means that a little practice working with the recipe helps a lot. I've made some changes over the years, though, that have helped the dough be more predictable and workable.

Last year at Christmas I tried to make these cookies gluten-free for the first time. I didn't know much about gluten-free baking yet, so I just substituted Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour, which of course has a garbanzo bean base, for the wheat flour. The rolling out was difficult, though not impossible. Predictably, they came out crumbly and tasting somewhat like chickpeas. Yum.

I tried again this summer, substituting sorghum flour for the flour, adding xanthum gum, and mixing a little canned pumpkin into the dough to make it roll out more easily. The flavor was great, but the consistency was lacking--they still tasted slightly powdery instead of chewy. The dough rolled out more smoothly than they ever had before, so the pumpkin was a keeper.

A few weeks ago, I tried yet again. This time I used a mix of flours: sorghum, corn (I got the idea from Shauna's post about the baked goods she ate in Italy), brown rice, teff, and tapioca flours. I also chilled the dough, which I'd never done before. The result? Just like mom's...

Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies
These are spicy so experiment with the level of spice if you want a more mild cookie. Double the recipe for about 3 dozen cookies.

2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Beat in:
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup corn flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup teff flour
2 tbsp tapioca flour
2 tsp ginger
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice, cloves, nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthum gum
pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix the flour mixture into the with butter mixture in three parts alternating with 2 tbsp of water (begin and end with the flour). Chill for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out with cookies cutters. Bake for 8 minutes, or until you can lightly touch your finger to the cookie and any indent pops back, at 350. Makes about 20 cookies, and the recipe is easy to double.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gluten-Free, Low-Fat Kitchen Sink Cake

I wouldn’t even post this cake recipe except for the fact that it turned out unexpectedly well and that it entailed very thrifty use of leftovers in my kitchen. I had a bake sale confection to make today, but it’s been snowy and I didn’t feel like cleaning off the car and driving to the store. Add to that the fact that we’re leaving town next week and you get a gluten-free baker out to empty the frig, not fill it up.

The answer: a kitchen sink cake. I started with Karina’s recipe for a gluten-free, vegan coconut cake. Then I raided my refrigerator and cabinets and pulled out everything that needed to go (and that could conceivably be put into one cake): ½ cup of sweetened condensed milk, ½ cup of lite coconut milk, applesauce leftover from Hanukah, ½ a bag of old marshmallows, Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix that I never use, the end of a bag of confectioner’s sugar, a few half empty bags of chocolate chips, some sweetened coconut from the freezer. You get the picture.

Never let anyone tell you that gluten-free baked goods aren’t forgiving. I did keep a few gluten-free baking principles in mind, but basically I was throwing my leftovers in a bowl without really measuring. I would have never done this before going gluten-free. All the experimental cooking has been great for my culinary creativity. This cake turned out great, if not quite sweet enough. But the need for a little more sweetener allowed me to use even more leftovers! Try this out or make up your own kitchen sink cake…

Kitchen Sink Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease an 8 x 8 dish. In a small bowl, combine:
1 ¼ cup Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix (includes xanthum gum, starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt)
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup cocoa powder

In a large bowl, combine:
½ cup sweetened condensed milk (honey or maple syrup would be fine)
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup lite coconut milk
½ cup applesauce
1 egg

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir in:
½ cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup flaked coconut

Bake for 35-40 min or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool in the pan. When cool dust with confectioner’s sugar or frost. You can use your favorite frosting or mix up the one I concocted.

For the frosting, melt over low heat (stir often to prevent burning!):
½ bag of marshmallows
1 tbsp chocolate chips

Transfer to a bowl. With a mixer, blend in the following ingredients, adding enough cocoa and sugar to bring the mixture to the consistency and chocolatiness you desire:
¼-1/3 cup cocoa powder
¾-1 cup confectioner’s sugar
3-4 tbsp milk

Spread over the cooled cake and cut into squares. Eat within a day or two.