Browned Butter Wedding Cake Cookies

These miniature snowball cookies were the foundation of the Christmas cookie baking when I was a kid.  They were always made every year, sometimes a second batch had to be baked as we ate them all before the big day!  You can use pecans but I rarely do; walnuts are cheaper and I sort of prefer their flavor.  Some people call them Mexican Wedding Cookies but we generally called them Russian Teacakes…but today I am giving you a variation I plan to try this Christmas baking season. I am making them with browned butter today! No change in ingredients; one extra step.

For me it is not Christmas without these cookies so I was extremely pleased to find a great gf recipe. My sisters think they are better tasting than the old regular recipe!

They are super easy to make with not too many ingredients.  Be careful lifting them off the pan as they are delicate until fully cooled. The texture and subtle flavor of this GF version is actually superior to the wheat flour recipe of my childhood. When you bite into one it shatters into a delicious mouthful of sweet cookie. They are delightful with a cup of tea or coffee.  My family clamors for a few to take home!

If you like them really sweet sprinkle on extra powdered sugar, less of it makes them perfect for those who are not used to too much sweetness. No one will ever know they are GF and you will get complements on their flavor and texture.  This recipe is from Annalise Roberts’ fabulous Gluten-Free Baking Classics with some minor changes by me and the browned butter idea which comes from Bon Appetit.  Enjoy: they are rather addictive cookies!

xmas cookies 006

Browned Butter Wedding Cake Cookies

1 cup salted butter, room temperature

6 tbsp. powdered (confectioners) sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups brown rice mix (King Arthur basic blend or see recipe below)

1 tsp xanthan gum

1 cup walnuts or pecans chopped fine

Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling

Directions: Heat butter in a heavy sauce pan; swirl it around and NO NOT walk away! It can go from yellow to dark dark brown in a few seconds so stand there and watch closely until it gets lightly brown and then pull the pan off the heat and immediately pour into  your stand mixing bowl. Let it stand until it is mostly congealed into a solid mass. Then beat butter and powdered sugar in large bowl of stand mixer until light and creamy.  Add vanilla, beat in.  Add flour and gum, mix in until well blended, stir in walnuts until distributed.  Chill dough for an hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Form dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in powdered sugar if you like.  Place on cookie sheet lightly sprayed with Pam (not the baker’s version that has flour).  Place about 1 ½ inches apart.  Bake 13 to 15 minutes until lightly browned on top and bottom.  Cool on pan for 5 min and then sprinkle with lots of powdered sugar before placing on wire rack to cool. I like to sift it onto the cookies so the coating is even.  You could put a sheet of wax paper under the wire rack to catch the excess sugar.  Store well wrapped: in airtight container, in fridge for a week or freezer for up to 30 days.  You could store unbaked dough in fridge for a few days.

Brown Rice Flour Mix base mix  (same as King Arthur gf blend)
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch *not potato flour

1/3 c tapioca flour

Note: This wonderful cookie was first posted December 2014 on my blog.  Minor revisions have been made since then.

Hot and Sour Chinese Chicken Soup

Leftover roasted chicken, a can of bamboo shoots, freshly made chicken broth and scallions.  What to make?  Ah hah! Chinese hot and sour soup; even better than take out ever was when I could eat it and super simple.  Lots of stuff in it but just measure and dump basically.

Notes: you can use leftover roast chicken or pork as the protein or tofu if you want to be vegetarian. I like all the vegetables but leave any of them out if you wish. You can even leave out the noodles; I would use the cornstarch then to help it be a tad thicker.

hot and sour soup in pot

Hot and Sour Chinese Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

5 cups homemade chicken broth

about 3/4 cup broken rice noodles; I prefer extra wide size

2 garlic cloves

about 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger root

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2-3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar; can use red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. chili sauce

3 Tbsp. gf soy sauce

1/4 tsp. sriracha sauce

2 tsp. brown sugar

1 stalk celery cut on the diagonal into thin slices

1/2 cup thinly sliced red pepper; I cut it into 1 inch lengths

4 oz mushrooms; shiitake are traditional but you can use any fresh mushroom, sliced

1 8 oz can bamboo shoots; drained

1/2 cup petite frozen peas

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 cups roasted chicken cut in small chunks

2 eggs

2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

4 green onions (scallions)

Pour the broth into a large saucepan. Start it heating on medium.  While it heats heat 3 cups of water to boiling and add 1/2-3/4 cup broken rice noodles; I used extra wide size. Let stand 9 minutes. Add minced garlic, grated ginger, two vinegars, chili sauce, soy sauce, sriracha sauce, brown sugar, celery slices, red pepper strips, bamboo shoots and mushrooms to the heating broth. Cook 5 minutes. Add peas, black pepper and roasted chicken. Then the rice noodles which you have drained. Beat the eggs up and add them, and then the sesame oil and the scallions. I like to add the white part of my scallions a minute earlier than this as I don’t like them raw; up to you! Stir as you add the eggs.  Turn off heat. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Pour into bowls; makes about 5 servings.hot and sour soup in bowl

Notes; some folks add corn starch mixed with cold water to thicken it. I like the broth thin and brothy but you can do the cornstarch; 2 Tbsp. mixed with same amount cold water; add after the initial 5 minutes of cooking. This recipe is the one where you really need that homemade chicken broth; it is critical to the perfect flavor but use what ever you have and all will be amazed at your Chinese cooking skills. Enjoy!

Turkey Posole Stew; Different and Delish!

I am betting you have some roast turkey in the fridge or freezer, maybe a pint of gravy too?  Well, I have just the recipe for you, courtesy of Rachel Ray and foodnetwork.com.  It is nothing like most traditional turkey leftover recipes.  It is a Mexican stew.  Posale stew can easily be gluten free. Just use care choosing your chicken broth and your tortilla chips that accompany this savory soup.

I have been making it every fall after Thanksgiving and always look forward to a few bowls of it.  Spicy, crunchy, tangy; unlike any other soup I make.  It is called turkey posole. It can be made with roasted pork and I have done so.  I like it far better with roast turkey.  I have served this stew to many people and it is always well received and enjoyed, even by my elderly mother.  I made it tonight and it was so delish!

Ingredients

2 tbsp mild olive oil or canola oil

2 medium onions chopped

4 cloves garlic chopped fine

1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped fine –use two if you like it spicy, I use one!

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1 GF beer (can use 1 cup water if you want but it gives more flavor)

Coarse salt and pepper

12-16 tomatillos; about 2 lbs, take off the paper cover and chop up.  Can coarsely chop in food processor

5-6 sprigs fresh thyme; chop it up off the stems.

2   15 ounce cans hominy

1.5 qt chicken stock (can be part gravy)

1 ½ to 2 lbs chopped turkey meat; can be mixture of light and dark

1 lime juiced

Chopped cilantro leaves to garnish (optional)

Tortilla chips; the ones with lime go particularly well with this.

tomatillos

Cook first six ingredients about 5 min in a large stock pot.  Add beer or water, cook one minute.  Add chopped tomatillos and cook 5-6 minutes until softened.  Add hominy, thyme and stock and cook 15 minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper.  Add lime juice, stir well.  I never use cilantro; something I just don’t like, but feel free to add it as the original recipe uses a bunch of it.turkey posole soup

 

THen ladle the posole into bowls and serve lots of white tortilla chips to crunch over the top of the hot soup.  As the soup disappears from my bowl I like to add more chips to keep the crunch going.

Notes:  I halved the garlic and tomatillos this time. Used most of a good sized jalapeno pepper and two cans of hominy. I used a cup and a quarter of water for the beer and a carton of gf chicken broth. No gravy this time.  It was delish!

tomatillos

The more jalapeno pepper you add the hotter it will be. I have tried canned tomatillos and they are not really a good substitute.  You can get them fresh (found near the fresh tomatoes) in many stores including Giant.  They are used in Hispanic and Mexican cooking and add a lot of flavor and tartness to the soup. I have heard that some folks use salsa verde instead of tomatillos but it really isn’t hard to chop them up so I recommend the real deal.

Hominy is a corn product; whole kernels soaked in lye to swell and soften.  The kernels have a mild corn flavor plus they soak up other flavors quickly and add a certain texture and body to the stew.

The wild turkey is native to North America and one turkey species is originally from Mexico.  So turkey is a natural component in this stew.  The Aztecs revered corn and liked to cook it with meat.  Tomatillos are native to Mexico, related to cape gooseberries.  They are used in salsa verde and other Mexican dishes. So this compilation of turkey, corn, tomatillos and lime is a natural combination that will be easy to make and fun to eat. Go on, be adventurous and enjoy a steaming hot bowl of delicious posole and use up that turkey in a totally different way!

Coconut Shrimp Stew

I was not been feeling so great last week. So, I was searching for a healthy soup or stew for supper one night. I took a cauliflower turmeric soup recipe from realfarmacy.com and changed it quite a bit to fit the ingredients I have. I love and it feels so healthy. It even has some seaweed in it, yeap I went there and it worked; just one sheet of nori seaweed chopped up with a scissors. Adds complexity and it is good for skin care which is what I need right now.  You can alter it as you like. I used shrimp as I had them. If you prefer chicken go right ahead and swap out for that. Or use cauliflower and make it more veggie driven. I think this is a flexible stew; thick and very flavorful. Great on a cold day especially if you feel ill or sluggish. It will perk you up!

Shrimp and Coconut Stew

Ingredients:

1 medium onion chopped

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 lg garlic cloves

1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger

1 can unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup finely sliced Chinese cabbage

1/2 cup shredded snow peas

1 tsp. sea salt

1 sheet nori seaweed

Big handful of dry rice noodles; maybe a cup of them; I used large width.

3/4 lb large raw shrimp; peeled or not!

Directions: heat oil in large soup pot, add cumin seeds and stir for a few moments; add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes; add garlic; cook a minute and then add all the dried spices and chopped ginger. Stir and cook a minute; add the tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes until they soften. Add the Chinese cabbage, coconut milk and broth. 

Meanwhile; heat 2 or 3 cups water to a boil in a separate dish and add the noodles; turn off heat and let stand 8 or 9 minutes. I heat the water in my microwave but you can do it on the stove of course.

Add the shrimp and snow peas to the soup once the mixture had come nearly to a boil. While it is heating you can add the seaweed. I folded my sheet up and cut it into narrow strips with a scissors and dumped it all in. Turn down heat so it doesn’t boil, and simmer 5-6 minutes. Don’t over cook those shrimp! Add the cooked rice noodles and salt at the end of this time, stir and add  water or more broth if it has gotten too thick. Make sure it is hot, and that you have tasted to see if there is enough salt to your tastes. Serve in a wide shallow bowl. Enjoy!

 

Notes: I generally break up the rice noodles into 2-4 inch lengths; they come in a packet of long strips; hard to measure. I just grab out a big chunk and break them up somewhat before dumping in the very hot water. You can use any width you prefer.  You can use any type noodle you prefer but rice noodles are most authentic.

If you don’t like shrimp use another seafood like scallops or a white fish like cod. If you don’t like seafood/fish you could add cooked chicken in slivers or go with no protein at all. To make it vegetarian use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. To “beef up” your vegetarian version try adding some small flowerets of cauliflower; maybe a cup or two when you add the tomatoes.

If you shiver at the very thought of the nori; just leave it out. It adds flavor and protein and does increase the authenticity of the flavors. Enjoy!

Fig and Cheese Galette

Yeap…another fig recipe. Sorry, but I still am harvesting the sweet beauties and this new recipe is my favorite dessert to bake right now. A delicate and not overly sweet treat. My figs are small so I used like 14-16 of them, at least! But use store ones if you don’t grow them and if they are big; cut the figs in thirds.  It goes together pretty quickly if you use your stand mixer to blend up the pastry crust. My old recipes used goat cheese but cream cheese is a less tangy choice and reminds me a bit of cheesecake. I softened my cream cheese in the microwave. Don’t worry if there are some tiny lumps in the filling after beating but do soften it close to room temp for best blending results.  One time I used an egg wash on it and one baking version I didn’t. More sugar sticks onto the crust if you use the egg wash. Just saying it helps but if you don’t want to you can get away with not doing that step.

Fig and Cheese Galette

Crust:

1 c plus 2 Tbsp. brown rice flour mix (at bottom of recipe)

2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 lg egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Line a 15 inch pizza pan with parchment paper.  Can use a thick cookie sheet; preferably with edges. Done it both ways.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and juice.  Mix until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 15-20 minutes.  Then roll out and put on the parchment lined pan; put back in the fridge while you prepare the filling.  You can make this crust and refrigerate it for hours or a day; will need to warm up for a bit before rolling out. Get it out first and let it stand a bit. No microwaving though!

Filling:

12-16 small figs or 6-8 larger ones

8 oz light cream cheese, room temperature

1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 large egg

½ tsp. cinnamon

Sprinkle nutmeg (optional)

Zest of a lemon

————————

1 medium or small egg; beat up to make an egg wash

1 Tbsp. coarse or turbinado sugar

Directions: Cut your figs into halves or if large, thirds or quarters.

Cream cheese filling: put softened cream cheese in medium bowl. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, optional nutmeg, lemon juice; blend with whisk, add egg and blend well. Zest the lemon with either a fine grater or better yet a loop zester that will give you longer strands. I like to do it onto a sheet of wax paper; add to well blended filling.  It is smart to zest your lemon before you want to juice it for the filling and crust.  If you have time chill the filling for 10-15 minutes before compiling the tart.

Get out the tart crust and pour the cream cheese filling in the center. Leave 1.5 inches of plain crust around the edge, put fig halves gently all over the cheese filling, cut side up, leaving no big gaps, not touching them but with a bit of filling between them. Fold up the edges of your crust and pinch together to create the galette shape. Try not to let it crack at the bottom; pinch and fix those cracks! Use a pastry brush to brush the crust with the egg wash. Sprinkle the coarse sugar over it all including the crust.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven.  The crust should be lightly browned and filling almost bubbling. Let your tart rest a bit; don’t serve hot but a warm slice will be awesome.  Slice and top with a big dollop of crème or yogurt if you like that sort of thing.  We ate it plain – which is actually my favorite way to appreciate the flavors of this awesome tart. I am wondering if coffee ice cream might go great here… Enjoy! fig tart slice

fig tart cutBrown Rice Flour Mix (same as King Arthur All Purpose GF blend)

2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch – not potato flour!

1/3 c tapioca flour

The crust recipe is from Annalise Roberts great cookbook, GF Baking Classics, Second Edition.

Grilled Cheese and Fig for Lunch

 

With company last weekend, I needed a quick but tasty lunch. Figs were plentiful in my garden so how to use them. I never make sandwiches, well hardly ever. Grilled cheese; honestly I just never think of it; so little sliced bread hanging out in my kitchen.  But, for some reason it was what I wanted. I made a simple grilled cheese using Aldi’s multigrain bread as the base. I sliced mild cheddar cheese, slathered one side with some brown mustard. The secret ingredient was a couple of ripe brown figs sliced thinly added before the grilling. The cheese got gooey and the figs softened even more. It was delicate and delicious. Use the cheese you prefer as long as it is good quality; no plastic cheese!  Ditto as to your bread. My choice bought at my local Aldi’s worked perfectly. Ditch the mustard if you wish. I used it in moderation; you don’t want it to be the prevalent flavor. This is a fig and cheese symphony!

grilled cheese

Grilled Cheese and Fig

 

2 slices gluten free sandwich bread

1 tsp brown mustard

2 tsp. butter

Enough cheddar cheese to make a solid layer on one slice of bread, like 5 chunks

2-3 ripe figs.

Directions: Super easy, super quick. I use a Teflon grill pan; melt 1-2 tsp. of salted butter; lay out the two slices; one plain and one with the mustard topped with cheese slices and topped with thinly fig.  When the bottom (you gotta peek!) is browned gently lift the solo slice and carefully place it on top. I like to put a domed lid over it and cook another minute on low heat to cement the two parts into one delish sandwich. Slice in half on the diagonal and enjoy!

 

 

GF Flour Choices and a Few Personal Words….

Wanna know what flour blends I favor? It took me a few months or maybe years to figure this out for my cooking style. First, I bought a zillion weird and a few typical gf flours. Tried to bake with each and every one of them. Found out a few kinda suck and stopped using them. Others are used infrequently but have real value for a few recipes that they match to. If you are new to gluten free or just trying to get into baking gf this post is for you.

My favorite blend is King Arthur’s Gluten Free All-Purpose blend; made of three flours; brown rice, potato starch and tapioca flour. It is versatile. It makes great pie crust that my family really loves. I use it in most of my muffin recipes. I use it for gf pasta making and for cookies that wow.  Get some and give it a try. I actually make my own blend (same exact blend as KA’s basic all-purpose flour) as it is cheaper but you can buy it at your local grocery store in a  box.

 

king arthur flour

Another blend I like very much is Better Batter, the copycat version you can find on glutenfreeonashoestring. I make a batch and keep it in the freezer so it stays fresh. Great for quick breads, desserts and pastries.

If you want a cup for cup replacement flour there are some good options; Cup 4 Cup or King Arthur’s Measure for Measure flour.  They can be used in your favorite recipes for the most part.

king arthur flour

white rice flour

White rice flour or cornstarch work well for breading things and thickening. I always keep both on hand. Ditto for tapioca flour which I use in my blends and some other recipes. Gotta have it available. I also keep sweet rice flour to use in my main blend and in a few recipes. It adds flakiness in my pie crust. Potato starch is great in my basic blend and a few other blends/recipes. Another must have.

I use sorgum flour in a number of recipes including my delish buttermilk pancakes. It has a nice flavor compared to things like quinoa flour or bean flours. Uggh on them! I still have some in my freezer but I NEVER willingly use them. I do have some chickpea flour but rarely have a need for it.

Occasionally I use teff flour; in small amounts. It makes breads darken and seem like rye or pumpernickel breads.   But, it can give a muddy flavor if you use too much. Coconut flour is another flour I keep in the freezer but only use occasionally.  It can dry out a recipe if you use too much so  use sparingly.

I just got some cassava flour to use to make flour tortillas.  I hear it is fantastic.  I’ll let you know how that goes…

My suggestion is that you start with one or two blends and a couple single flours that can be used in combination. I rarely ever use just one flour except for breading or thickening. A great blend is critical.

Don’t let all the flour choices discourage you.  Try a few and find out what works for you. Some need to be frozen or refrigerated especially if you don’t use them up rapidly; check for that storage information so your flour blend that costs a lot doesn’t get rancid on you.  Have fun!

A personal note. I am sorry I haven’t blogged much lately. Been struggling somewhat. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July and had a partial mastectomy in early August. On the first of October I started radiation therapy and it has sucked my energy and focus away from most of my enjoyable hobbies including this blog. I hope to feel better soon; 3.5 more weeks to go! At least I won’t lose my hair, LOL! I have done a bit of baking and cooking but due to my low energy I seldom can find it in me to write. This will change in November I hope.  Peace and happy gf cooking!