Great GF Pretzels;Gotta Travel!

I buy gluten free pretzels at Giant and at Aldi’s.  Both are okay but a tad too crunchy and hard for my tastes but I crunch on as I sure miss pretzels. Did get some awesome milk chocolate covered gf pretzels at Aldi’s early this fall, keep looking for them….no luck. Not until my sisters went to Queen’s Nut Shoppe in Allentown did I find some really great gf pretzels.  They are small and in the traditional twisted shape. Made by Gratify Foods in Israel. Yeap, you got that right! Made overseas in the country of Israel, go figure. They are of course parve… About $4 for 14.1 ounces (400g): a good price for gluten free pretzels and called Sea Salt Twists. I live in eastern Pennsylvania, home to Utz Pretzels (my old pretzel love) and Philly pretzels as well as a few other tasty pretzel brands.  This is pretzel country! But, no one local (read Pennsylvania) makes a decent gf version, so…to get delicious gluten free ones; head to Queen’s Nut Shoppe (a health food store) in the eastern side of Allentown, not far off of Union Blvd. if you want to try these addictive little treats. My favorite way is to dip them in peanut butter; just a tiny dab. Ahh pretzel heaven is mine!

Update: the Wegmans on 248 near Nazareth has them too!pretzels

Meyer Lemon Meringue Tartlets

Pies are lovely but sometimes I like to make little tartlets. Folks just love having their own miniature pie.  I haven’t tried this shrink job before on a lemon meringue pie. But today I did it. This is my take on my mom’s bastardized version of an old Betty Crocker recipe and (of course) made gluten free with my favorite crust.  It has no gelatin for you gel haters! I make it with the lesser amount of sugar in the filling but you can double it if you are a sweet freak.  The Meyer lemons in these tartlets are sweeter than regular lemons so they really don’t need all that much sugar compared to regular garden variety lemons.

I used Meyer lemons for this recipe since I had some my brother sent me.  These  tartlets have a really delicate lemon flavor – so try it if you can get a couple.  Don’t worry; regular lemons work just fine. It can be slightly difficult to find Meyer lemons and a bit pricey too.  I saw them at Giant this week, might be worth it…

My mom always added a touch of corn syrup to replace some of the reduced out sugar and because it makes the texture of this pie creamier and more delicate.  In this tartlet form you can leave out the corn syrup…the resulting lemon custard kinda needs to be firmer  in this tiny format.

Tip: Don’t make this on a very humid day or the meringue will weep and bead on the top.  It will taste fine but the look will suffer from the humidity.

Store any leftovers in the fridge. It probably won’t keep more than two days but frankly these tartlets will be eaten if you have anyone else in the house!

 

Lemon Meringue  Tartlets

Crust:

1 c plus 2 tbsp brown rice flour mix (at bottom of recipe) [King Arthur plain mix]

2 tbsp sweet rice flour

1 Tbps. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbps. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 lg egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Spray 9 inch metal pie pan with cooking spray, dust with white rice flour.

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 it out and line 7-8 tartlet pan with it.  Make sure you get the crust nice and thin; this crust can be tough to get the center as thin as the edges. Prick it all over with a fork to keep it from bubbling out and bake the empty crust at 350 for 9-10 minutes until light brown.  Let cool.

Lemon Filling:

Ingredients:

1/3 to 2/3 cup sugar

1/3 plus 1 tbsp. corn starch

1 ½ cup water

3 eggs, separated; yolks for filling, save whites for meringue

1-2 tsp. lemon zest

½ cup fresh lemon juice

2-3 tbsp. clear corn syrup (optional but it does make it extra creamy)

3 tbsp. butter cut in small chunks

Directions:

Start oven heating to 400 degrees for browning the topped tartlets.

Mix the sugar and corn starch in a heavy bottomed medium sized saucepan.  Add the water, stirring.  Heat until it boils, stirring constantly, boil one minute, take off heat.  Beat yolks briefly in a small mixing bowl, then add the hot stuff slowly to it; half the hot mixture, stirring constantly.  Then dump it all back into the saucepan, bring to a boil, stir like a crazy person so it doesn’t scorch. Boil 1 minute at medium heat.  Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and zest and then stir in the butter.  Let it melt as you stir.  Glug in some corn syrup. Let it stand in the hot pan while you make the meringue.  Then use a big spoon to pour the hot lemon filling into the mini pie crusts.  Top while still hot with the meringue you just beat up. I put it on very carefully in 2-3 spoonfuls and spread it gently to keep it from overflowing the filling. There should be enough filling for eight flat bottomed tartlets or seven deep dish ones.  Make sure you get the meringue all the way across the top and along every single edge. No cracks, no gaps. Bake it 10-11 minutes until light brown. Cool to room temperature and then chill for 1-2 hours before serving. This short chill time is one benefit of tartlets; they cool much faster than a big pie does. Enjoy! lemon tartlet side view

Meringue topping

three egg whites, room temperature

¼ tsp. cream of tarter

sprinkle of salt

6 tbsp. granulated sugar (or 8-10 tbsp.)

Beat the whites, sea salt and the cream of tarter until it is past the foamy stage, add the sugar half a tbsp. at a time beating on high until the whites are stiff and glossy.  This will take several minutes.

If you add one or two extra egg whites add another ¼ tsp. cream of tarter and add 2 tbsp. sugar for each extra white. I do think for the tartlets that an extra egg white would make the topping thicker. Up to you bakers!

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Brown Rice Flour Mix (Same as King Arthur All purpose blend)
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

Kiffles! Just Delicious GF

Kiffles are a local favorite when it comes to cookies, particularly Christmas cookies.  The Kiffle Kitchen outside of Bath, PA has made their reputation on their outstanding kiffles, sold on line! I used to enjoy them but never took the time to make them until a few Christmases ago.  I had purchased “Gluten-Free Baking Classics The Heirloom Collection” by Annalise G. Roberts and page 170 had the answer to my search; Rugelach, Kifles, and Kolaki.

I made a batch of kiffles (the preferred local spelling) on Christmas Eve 2015.  I just did jam filled, apricot and raspberry. The cream cheese dough in formed into two discs and chilled before rolling out between wax paper sheets into an 8 inch square. I did find myself chilling it a bit to keep it from getting too soft.  After rolling, cut each big square into 16 two inch squares and put a tsp. of best quality jam on each; fold together so the filling peeps out both ends and chill some more on the baking sheet.  I brushed them with heavy cream and sprinkled a touch of granulated sugar on before they hit the hot oven. The cute packets of dough and jam bake up lightly browned and delicate. Success was felt when my mom ate a few that evening.  Her smile told me how yummy they were.

Next time I made them with the nut and cinnamon filling that is very traditional around the Lehigh Valley.  Yummers!  Stores sell special kiffle filling meant just for these cookies but I don’t think it is gluten free due to cross contamination issues and therefore not safe for me to enjoy.

So if you are gluten free and crave kiffles; this cookbook by Annalise Roberts is the place to find a workable recipe.  She has never failed me yet with her desserts and I thank my lucky stars her cookbooks are on my shelf to guide me through holiday, parties and everyday meals. I don’t mean to sound like a salesperson for her but I can’t say enough great things about this new cookbook and her prior best seller Baking Classics – my copy of that is well worn and I couldn’t exist without it.  This kiffle recipe is way too involved to type out for you and I think that if you are serious about baking gf you need to check it out and get your own copy, real soon! Here are the dough ingredients to help you in deciding whether  you want to make it:

1 cup gf flour, King Arthur Basic blend

2 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

1/4 tsp. salt

6 Tbsp. softened butter

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

I am baking a batch today; the dough is chilling….using apricot and raspberry fillings. Might try another jam filling….lots in my larder to pick from.

Note: I did a search on line for a gluten free kiffle recipe and didn’t really find one; lots of other cookies but these are quite a specialty and not made by most home cooks except in areas where they are popular and what you can buy is not gluten free.  Let me know if you can provide any other recipes but I am very happy with the one I used and recommend to you for your own holiday baking. Enjoy!

Originally published December 2015.

Moravian Spice Cookies

Time to bake more cookies!

We all long for things familiar, things remembered from our childhood. Especially when it comes to cookies. In my family the holidays were framed by a huge array of fancy cookies, no chocolate chips or peanut butters for my relatives but we had spritz, springerly, butter horns, almond crescents, Russian tea cakes, candy cane cookies, and sugar cookies rolled, cut into Christmas shapes like trees, bells, stars or reindeer and sprinkled with fancy colored sugars. So going gluten free meant finding ways to re-create the special cookies I loved. My first effort was the Russian tea cakes and the results were utterly delicious. Last year I made spritz cookies and they were a big hit. This year I have the newest cookbook by Annalise Roberts, “The Heirloom Collection” and so far nothing has disappointed. If you like to bake gf it is a must purchase, not just for cookies but tarts and lots of other tasty treats.

Today I bring you her Moravian Spice Cookies. I chose them for many reasons – the memories of spicy cookies being foremost. I am blogging this recipe for a friend who avoids chocolate as well as gluten: makes it hard to find great cookies. I think you will love this cookie for its flavor and crisp texture. I live not far from Bethlehem which is the home base for the Moravian Church.  You can buy these cookies in the Moravian Book Shop but probably not gluten free.  So now those who can’t eat gluten can have them to enjoy this holiday season.  xmas cookies 007xmas cookies 005

You can cut them out in shapes but I found I liked to mostly make diamonds using a sharp knife. I did do some hearts and ornament shapes but it was tough going to get them off the wax paper and onto the baking sheet without distorting their original shape. You can take her advice and chill them further to facilitate the moving process.  I do love them any shape they are!

 

Moravian Spice Cookies

1 1/4 cup brown rice blend (recipe below)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
¾ tsp. xanthan gum
¼ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter or vegetable shortening (room temp)
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses

Directions: First combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl; mix well.
Beat shortening, brown sugar and molasses in your big mixer bowl until smooth, add flour mixture and blend until well combined. Shape dough into two disks, chill about 30 minutes, lay between two sheets of wax paper, roll into a very thin (1/8 inch thick) sheet. Cut into 2 inch or less shapes, move with spatula onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. If they are sticky and hard to lift up return the sheet to the freezer for a few minutes until they are stiff enough to move. Bake at 325 degrees for 8-11 minutes. Make sure they are fully baked or they won’t be crisp. Leave on the cookie sheet a minute before moving to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight cookie jar or tin.

Spicy and crisp. Great with a cup of coffee or tea! Annalise says you can reduce the spices for less zing; 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, ¾ tsp. ginger and ½ or less of cloves.
Brown Rice Flour Mix (same as King Arthur GF flour)
2 c brown rice flour
2/3 c potato starch
1/3 c tapioca flour

Mexican Wedding Cookies aka Russian Teacakes

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… I am going with Mexican today! 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 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. Enjoy: they are rather addictive cookies!

xmas cookies 006

Russian Teacakes

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

6 tbsp. powdered (confectioners) sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups brown rice mix (recipe below)

1 tsp xanthan gum

1 cup walnuts or pecans chopped fine

Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling

Directions: 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: First posted December 2014 on my blog.  Minor revisions have been made since then.

Nut Tassies for the Holidays

Nut tassies are a local favorite around here in eastern Pennsylvania. They look like a tiny pecan pie, the size of one big bite! Heavenly sweet and best made with pecans.  I have eaten them at many people’s homes. In all fairness I never made them when I could still eat regular gluten filled white flour. Perhaps it is that I was able to just snag them off a cookie plate at someone’s holiday party.  Now, that is no long a possibility and I was craving a nut tassie. I started looking for a recipe and had some trouble with that; found a cherry one that was gf and thought I would combine it with the filing in my cookie book’s recipe.  Then I lost that location and had to search again.  Inept me….but then on food.com, there it was; a classic tassie recipe complete with cream cheese dough for the pie crust and a filling almost identical to the traditional filling. And it was gluten free for folks like me…eureka!

This weekend my family is having a small pre-Christmas gathering and I whipped up a batch of these tassies early Saturday morning.  After chilling the dough some I made a dozen.  My crust was very crumbly and with trepidation I started rolling a ball of the crumbs into one ball a bit over an inch in diameter. It held together in a ball. Then I dropped it in my mini muffin tin and used my finger to spread it out and up the sides.  It worked but I fear I used a bit more than specified for the dozen shells so I may not get my full two dozen tassies.  I will make the rest of them next weekend…reason being that gf cookies don’t keep as well as regular flour cookies so best not to bake a whole batch at once shot.  This way you have fresh cookies twice.  I keep the dough and filling in the fridge nice and cold and it will last up to a week or so.

Speaking of filling, I didn’t chop my nuts really fine; left some in chunks to give a bigger texture which I prefer. The filing is so simple; chop the nuts, then dump the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl, add the softened butter and the vanilla and nuts; stir and it is ready to spoon into the little crust cups you just created.

 

Here is the link to the recipe I used: http://www.food.com/recipe/gluten-free-pecan-tassies-105371

They are easy to make and totally yummy to devour.  I find it takes me 2-3 bites to down one of these treat.  Happy baking folks!

Reposted from December 2016.

Meyer Lemon Tartlets

Winter suddenly is upon us and I always look forward to all the fresh winter citrus. I was lucky enough last week to get a small shipment of fresh Meyer lemons from my brother who lives in Texas and has a tree in his back yard. He didn’t send a lot as he had somewhat of a crop failure but a box came my way when I thought none were going to be shared so I am thrilled at my horde of smallish, greenish lemons. He was heading out of the country and picked them a tad early due to his eminent departure.  They are relaxing safe in my fruit bin of the fridge and I decided to make a special dessert yesterday.

I have made plenty of full sized lemon tarts but not so much in my small 3 inch across flat bottomed tartlet pans. I have two 4 piece pans so I could make 8 at a time. I chose to make 4 yesterday and the rest today.  That way my crust for tonight is incredibly fresh so I can present them with the perfect contrast of the flaky buttery crust and the lightly sweetened but tangy lemon filling.

We ate a couple last night for dessert and I served them with full fat plain Greek yogurt from Aldi’s which has great flavor and a thick smooth texture. It is rich and still somehow light.  A better topping than ice cream which melts…unfortunate in a lemon tart and less work than making whipped cream. I suppose you could top with some spray whipped cream but I chose something healthier and I happen to love it used as a pie topper.  High end plain yogurt is also really good for this purpose; StonyField Organic Low Fat is my preferred choice.

I make my standard pie crust dough and chill before rolling out chunks of it. I didn’t make thick fancy edges; smaller edges being better for the putting of the lemon flavor as the forward taste of these tartlets. I ended up with six shells and I took the leftover crust bits and make a hand pie filled with homemade pawpaw jam. Can’t wait to try that treat!

Notes: You can make these tartlets with regular lemons that you freshly juice. You might want to up the sugar by ¼ cup if you do that.  Also, these tarts should be stored in the fridge until serving. Enjoy!

tartlet shells

lemon tartlet

Meyer Lemon Tartlets  makes six

Crust:

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

2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 large egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Directions: 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.  Roll chunks of it out to thin circles and fit into tartlet pans. Mine have removable disc bottoms and I highly recommend them. Prick the bottoms with a fork to prevent puffing up and bake at 375 degrees for about 11 or 12 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool.  You need six tartlet shells as the filling is just fill six. You should have enough crust for 7: hence my hand pie.

Lemon Filling:

¾ cup sugar

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice

The zested rind of 1 and a half Meyer lemons, of just one lemon if you use regular lemons

4 large eggs

2 egg yolks (freeze whites for use later)

½ tsp. lemon extract

¼ cup butter cut into 4-6 small pieces

Directions: combine sugar, lemon juice, eggs and yolks in heavy bottomed medium sauce pan; 1 quart size works perfectly.  Heat over medium low while stirring constantly with a whisk. Heat until it thickens a lot and coats the spoon thickly.  Will take 8-10 minutes.  Do not stop stirring or it will boil and overcook! No boiling…. An instant read thermometer will be at 175 degrees. Pour into a mixing bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap and cool in fridge at least until lukewarm. It will look a lot like the filling for a lemon meringue pie but soft and almost pudding-like. Spoon into tartlets and chill at least an hour or two before serving; the tartlets should be icy cold when you plate it. Top with a spoonful of high quality Greek yogurt or freshly whipped cream and maybe a thin wedge of lemon. Enjoy!

The filling and crust are out of Annalise Roberts’ great cookbook; The Heirloom Collection. I just adapted it to small tartlet pans.  The flour is King Arthur’s basic blend or you can make it at home; see any pie recipe I have posted for the proportions of flours; easy as there are only 3 ingredients to it.