Monthly Archives: January 2011

Baking Wreck: The Fallen Gluten Free Angel (Cake)

GF angel cake wreck; tunnel meets too much chocolate glaze

Like calculus, there are some things that defy staying cemented in my brain.  Like the difference between  chiffon and angel cake.   I thought they were both of the sponge-ish variety and kind of the same – only different.  If you want to read up on chiffon, Google a guy named Harry Baker.  Seriously, that’s his name.  He was the dude who developed the chiffon way back in the dark ages and guarded his top-dog secret ingredient until he met that siren called Betty Crocker.  By the 1940s, chiffon was a cake that everyone was writing about.

The big obvious difference is that angel cake has no fat in it, just a boat-load of sugar.  The chiffon has oil and yolks.  Think hybrid – a sponge-ish cake that looks a lot like an angel cake, but has the flavor of a yellow cake.

Chiffon and angel were the dressy cakes in our house.  Mom made those for parties, gifts, and Hadassah meetings or holidays.   My mother taught me all kinds of baking, but never how to do the chiffon or an angel cake.  Somehow I got the idea that they were complicated enough that I didn’t dare to try to make them. Continue reading


Tiramisu – Eat Dessert First!

Eat dessert first!  Gluten Free Tiramisu

A fellow baker and I often chat about what’s for dessert tonight instead of what’s for dinner.   Our motto?  Eat dessert first.

Tiramisu comes up often.  She whips it together in no time flat.   The taste is always the same, sublime.   Though I have watched her do it hundred times, I cannot tell you why it is so.

Mine, though I thought I was duplicating hers, always came out a little bit off, each time slightly different.   It tasted fine, just looked peculiar.  I started serving it in little glass cups instead of plates because it looked better that way, more like the unconstructed look was on purprose.

But years passed and the celiac among us made the construction of tiramisu even more challenging by finding just the right cookie for the role of holder of all things gooey and chocolate.   Sounds easier than it is. Continue reading

Ask Essie: Accommodating a Celiac When Feeding a Group?

Elaine wants to know a way to accommodate preparing food for a group where one member needs a gluten free meal, particularly a kid’s group.

Well, Elaine, that is an excellent question and as more people are diagnosed at earlier ages with gluten intolerance or celiac disease it is a good discussion to bring up.  I have a few ideas.

Kids especially don’t want to stand out in a crowd so the kindest way to accommodate the dietary restriction is to feed them all the same way.  Fortunately eating gluten free has never been easier than now with a few twists of the ingredients. Continue reading

Baking Wreck: Gluten Free Ginger Pear Upside Down Cake

For every goody that makes it to the blog – recipe stage with a pretty little photo, there is a train wreck of casualties lined up behind it.  No recipe ever gets to the blog without repetition and plenty of upgrades along the way.   I thought you might enjoy some of the wrecks – kind of like a look into why I drink an awful lot some days (yes, kidding, sort of).

No one ever gets to gluten free pastry perfection  without a boat-load of trial and errors.  Some of those errors are worthy of eating and others more likely to be bulldozed into the trash.  I’ve wasted my share of doughs, pounds of butter, eggs, and flours.  Baking gluten free is not without its moments of humor.  The flours, even if you know a lot of information about their properties, will still work in mysterious ways and sometimes just a little twist of how the ingredients are mixed makes all the difference in success or um, hideous baking wrecks.

I bring you the upside down cake.  I thought it would über spiffy to use up some very ripe pears by inventing a gluten free ginger-pear upside down thingy in a bundt pan.  How hard could that be? Continue reading

Ginger Banana Gluten Free Dog Cookies

Lulu and Phoebe signature cookies:  Mine and Mine

Last summer, my answer to our unexpected and ridiculously long stretch of unemployment was to spend hours in the kitchen using baking therapy to work out those frustrations.  I’d baked all our old favorites at least twice, pounded dough, chopped until the cutting board looks like a sacrificial lamb, and started working on new recipes.

My constant kitchen companions, Lulu and Phoebe stood quietly by just in case help was needed sweeping up stuff from the floor, taste testing or waiting to bark in case Timmy falls in the well.

I’d just finished baking some really fine triple ginger (gluten free) cookies for humans, when I looked up and noticed that both dogs were blowing bubbles; some serious drooling was going on.

Ginger-three-ways was apparently the holy grail of the doggy palate.  I’ve seen them get enormously excited when I dropped things on the floor, but they had not yet been soaked with drool in advance of things dropping.  Who knew that it would be all about ginger? Continue reading

Xanthan Gum?

Melissa asks what the heck does xanthan gum do and why is it so expensive?

Well, Melissa, x-gum is the glue that holds all kinds of stuff together, including baked goods lacking gluten. This little bottle to the right is what sits on my shelf (for now).

X-gum is a nasty little marriage of controlled man-made bacteria that is fermented with sugar and derived from corn.  According to WebMD, x-gum is used therapeutically to help constipation, diabetes, dry mouth and cholesterol.

And yet it thickens stuff.  It is what chemistry geeks would call a foaming agent in baking and a structural cornerstone once baked.  It mimics gluten in GF baking and stabilizes the baked good.  Keeps the gluten free cookie from crumbling, actually. Continue reading

Little Gluten Free Nutella Bites

Happy World Nutella Day!  Read about it here, here and here.

I love Nutella.  I could eat it from the jar with a spoon.  When someone mentions Nutella, I am there.

Nutella brownies?  Who knew.

My friend Annie posted this link on Facebook a while ago and I ran right out and bought the largest jar of Nutella I could find.  I found other links for this, and realized this recipe comes to us from Abby Dodge and her four ingredient dessert book.  Called Nutella Brownies, we’ve morphed them into gluten free bites with just a few ingredients.  You can make them in five minutes, clean up, and have a glass of wine while you wait the whole 12 minutes for them to bake. Double the recipe for more fun.

You’ll need a mini muffin tin and Amazon or Target will have them for a decent price.  I bought a 24 cup mini tin because doubling the recipe seemed to make sense.  I could freeze some or we could eat them.  We ate them.  All. Continue reading