Pear Spice Muffins…Another Snack Option

I had few portable baked snacks and a few bosc pears so I figured it was time for a new muffin recipe. This is a riff off a recipe out of Annalise Robert’s cookbook; Gluten-Free Baking Classics. It is  similar to my recipe for apple nut muffins that I created from her banana muffin recipe. If I had to have just one GF cookbook hers would be the one for me.

Do use a fairly firm pear; I used a bosc which is naturally great for baking but almost any firm pear will do. Notice I didn’t say “hard”. Nope to that; not gonna taste great.  Don’t chop them super fine or big; 1/3 inch dice is good.

I always enjoy eating a muffin still warm out of the oven. It is smart to freeze any you won’t eat in 2 days; ziplock freezer bag works great.  They make super snacks.  These  muffins are kinda delicate; if you want to take them on a hike or car ride put them in a plastic food box – the rigid sides will keep your muffins safe from crushing.

Pear Spice Muffins              

2 cups brown rice flour mix (see below)

2/3 c granulated sugar (can use coconut palm sugar: just increase milk by 2 Tbsp.)

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

¾ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

skimpy 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1  1/2  c chopped firm pear; peel and core! (about 2 pears)

½ c chopped walnuts

2 large eggs beaten

½ c milk, 1 or 2 percent

½ c canola oil

DIRECTIONS:  Heat oven to 375, placing the rack in middle of oven.  Spray muffin pans with cooking spray.  One batch makes 14-16 muffins.

Mix all dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer or big bowl

Add pear chunks and walnuts; stir to coat them with dry mix

Combine milk and oil,  Beat in eggs.  Add liquids to big bowl; stir until blended.

Fill muffin pans 2/3 full.  I use a big serving spoon and fill it about half way to dump in each muffin space. Sprinkle the top with a bit of raw old fashioned oatmeal; 2-3 Tbsp. should do it or try  cinnamon sugar.

Bake 20-24 min until golden brown. I used my convection setting and did them for 17 minutes. Perfect. Do not over bake or they will taste dry.  Rest five minutes and then remove from the pans and cool on a rack.

Freezes well for up to 3 weeks.  Keeps in fridge (well wrapped) a few days.

Brown Rice Flour Mix base mix
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

Russian Teacakes aka Mexican Wedding Cookies, Even Better GF

These miniature snowballs were the foundation of the Christmas cookie baking when I was a child.  They were always made every year, sometimes a second batch had to be baked as we ate the whole first one before the big day!  You can use pecans but I rarely do.  Some people call them Mexican Wedding Cookies but we called them Russian Teacakes. For me it is not Christmas without these cookies so I was extremely pleased to find a great recipe.

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This year’s batch; made with pecans!

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.  They are delightful with a cup of tea or coffee.

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 Glutin-Free Baking Classics with very minor changes by me. Enjoy: they are rather addictive cookies!

russian teacakes

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

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.

Form into 1 inch balls.  Roll in confectioners sugar, place on cookie sheet lightly sprayed with Pam (not the bakers version that has flour).  Place about 1 ½ inches apart.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned on top and bottom.  Cool on pan for 5 min and then sprinkle with more powdered sugar before placing on wire rack to cool.   Store well wrapped: in airtight container, in fridge for a week or two or freezer for up to 30 days.  You could store unbaked dough in fridge for up to three days.

Brown Rice Flour Mix base mix
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

Note: This was originally posted to my old blog site last December (2013).  I just made a batch of them Wednesday night.  Still totally wonderful.

Fruity Nutty Yummy Healthy….All in One Muffin!

No muffins in the freezer, and I was a tiny bit tired of all my flavors: it was time for a new kind of muffins. This is a riff on a recipe out of Annalise Robert’s cookbook; Gluten-Free Baking Classics.  It is very similar to her blueberry muffins. If I had to have just one GF cookbook hers would be the one: her quick breads are delicious!  I saw the topping on a blog (Swirls and Spice) and modified it just a touch.

These muffins did not disappoint: delicate texture yet crunchy outside with a great blueberry cinnamon flavor.  The pomegranate seeds add color and a touch of flavor.  Fall is the season for pomegranates so toss them in and surprise your family.  I suppose you could leave them out; add another ¼ cup of blueberries.  I used frozen blueberries; easy to get in the winter, don’t defrost them before adding. There are walnuts in there to so you get some really great nutrients from the fruit and nuts.  No guilt in eating one of these treats!

It must be mentioned that I used a different sugar; organic coconut palm sugar from Frey’s Better Foods.  It looks like soft brown sugar, can be used 1-1; same amount as granulated sugar and tastes great.  Best of all, it is low on the glycemic scale so you don’t get that sugar rush/crash nearly as much as most sugars.  I found that to be so; no sugar reaction like I often get when eating sweet baked treats.  I think it tastes slightly like brown sugar and it does darken the baked good slightly.  As a pre-diabetic I love that this sugar is low glycemic; much better for my body.  But use granulated sugar if that is what you prefer.

I always eat a muffin from the batch while they are still warm out of the oven, just perfection.  The streusel topping makes them look like they came from a bakery.

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It is smart to freeze any you won’t eat in two days time; a zip lock freezer bag works great.  These muffins are delicate; if you take them on a hike or trip, put them in a plastic bin – rigid sides will keep them safe from crushing.

Blueberry Pomegranate Cinnamon Muffins

2 cups brown rice flour mix (see below)

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

¾ tsp. xanthan gum

¼ tsp. salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1¼ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup pomegranate seeds (ariels)

2 large eggs beaten

½ cup milk, 1 or 2 percent

½ cup canola oil

½ tsp. vanilla extract

Topping: Mix the following in a bowl, make sure the butter is in tiny pebbles; use your fingertips to blend.

½ cup rolled oats

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. almond meal

1½ tbsp. butter

¼ tsp. cinnamon

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Directions: Heat your oven to 375 degrees, placing the rack in middle of oven.  Spray muffin pans with cooking spray.  One batch makes 12-16 muffins.  I got 16 when I made them yesterday.

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Mix all dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer or big bowl Add fruits and walnuts; stir to coat them with dry mix.  Combine milk and oil.  Beat in eggs, add vanilla.  Add liquids to big bowl; stir just until blended.  It is a very thick batter.

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Fill muffin pans 2/3 full.  I use a big serving spoon and fill it about half way to dump in each muffin space. Sprinkle the top with the topping. Gently press the streusel into the muffin batter just a bit so it doesn’t fall off after they are done. Bake 21-24 min until golden brown. Do not over bake or they will taste dry.  I let them cool 3-4 minutes before I removed them from the pans to cool on a rack.

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Freezes well for a few weeks.  Keeps in fridge (well wrapped) or an airtight cookie jar for 2-3 days.

Post script: I froze 2/3 of my batch and six days later I have just two left. These muffins are addictive and I love how they don’t raise my blood sugar noticeably yet they taste so wonderful; bursts of blueberry/pomegranate flavor and the crunch of the nuts. I promise that you will be thrilled with these muffins even if you skip the pomegranates!

Brown Rice Flour Mix base mix

2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

Pumpkin Pie, Easy Peezy and G-F

So you might need to make a GF pie for the holidays.  There are lots of fancy pies but I think pumpkin is a traditional yet easy to make pie choice: it has only a few steps and no top crust, not even crumbs.  Make a crust, dump and mix up the filling, bake it, chill it and yumm it up!! Some people like theirs with whipped cream, I like mine plain so I can savor the spicy flavor all the better.

pumpkin pie 2

This GF crust by Annalise Roberts will work for any pie you should want to make including pecan pie.  This particular pumpkin pie filling recipe is adapted from my 1970s Betty Crocker and is one I have made for years; perfect custard texture.  If you like it really sweet add another quarter cup sugar.

My mom always says that eating a slice of pumpkin pie is like having an extra vegetable serving.  I like to cook up a butternut squash and run it through a food mill to make it silky smooth for the pie but you can just buy a can of pumpkin, not pie filling which has other stuff; just the pumpkin please.

Go ahead, bake as easy a pie as is humanly possible and enjoy a tasty yet kinda healthy dessert for Thanksgiving or Christmas!

Angie’s GF Pumpkin Pie

Crust:

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

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 a 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 while you make the filling.

Filling:

2 eggs

2 cups cooked pumpkin or butternut squash puree (canned is okay)

½ cup sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. cloves

Sprinkle of nutmeg

1 3/4 c evaporated milk (1 can)

Beat eggs well and add the rest of the ingredients and mix it all together with a mixer at low speed until blended.

Put It Together:

Roll out pie crust between the two sheets of wax paper, try to get the thickness even, no thick middle! My sister Karen gave me a pie bag and I love it for an even thin crust.  You can get one on line from King Arthur Flours.  Peel off one side of paper and place in pie pan, centered.  Remove other slice of wax paper.  Crimp edges all around.  Fill with pumpkin pie mixture.  Sometimes I sprinkle the top with more cinnamon and nutmeg.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, lower temperature setting to 350 and bake for 45 minutes until just set and the crust is light brown.  Cool and chill at least 2 to 4 hours before serving at or close to room temperature.

Brown Rice Flour Mix
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake Perfection

Okay, I have to confess something.  I am a terrible cake baker, under pressure, that is.  I call it the birthday cake curse.  Really.  I actually took a personal vow like 8-9 years ago to make no more scratch birthday cakes as they always get screwed up.  I can make a great cake the rest of the time but birthdays…not so much.  Once I baked a birthday cake for my sister Margie at my mom’s house and unbeknownst to me there was a second bottom on her cheesecake pan; my pear ginger cake was all goopy in the middle because of that! And then there was that fancy three layer cake I baked for my birthday long ago; the top layer was a sort of raspberry gelatin and it slid mostly off! Disaster at the party… Any number of cakes that didn’t rise properly or cracked as it baked or broke as I tried to get them out of the pan. I could go on and on.  The curse continues!

Now I am gluten free and there are very limited and expensive options as to making gf cakes.  Perhaps I should mention that I enjoy baking and it is a challenge I accept in my new gluten free life.  So I persevered and several birthday cakes have been created since going gf and all were totally yummy.  A few glitches but on the whole, I am pleased with my new gf birthday cake record.  Today I baked my three year old grandson’s cake.  Not so good in the perfect department but it sure was tasty when we ate it at the party.  When it came out of my oven the layers sank some in the center.  Re-reading her instructions at the start of the cake chapter I discovered that she does not recommend using a Kitchen Aid mixer; it is too powerful and always overbeats gf cakes.  Now I know.  I just flipped one layer over and used it as the bottom. I put extra cream cheese icing in the middle.  The top was level and the flavors were out of this world.

chocolate cake 001

This is the third time I have baked this cake for a birthday; time to share it.  It is from my go to cookbook; Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts.  Get a copy if you haven’t already.  This cake is incredibly yummy, no one will ever feel cheated by the gf nature of it.  And it isn’t that difficult to make, just don’t use that big powerful mixer! I like that it is make with low fat milk and canola oil; less fatty than many cake recipes. I used half the vanilla in the cake and it tastes perfect.  I also measure the oil and milk and remove that tablespoon from each before mixing; she does it after mixing.  I think oil and milk are hard to blend so I do it first.

I iced Aiden’s cake with a frosting from the Chocolate Cake Mix Doctor cookbook by Anne Byrn; vanilla cream cheese frosting and the contrast is perfection with this decadent chocolate layer cake.  This icing spreads easily and the cream cheese makes it smooth and less sweet with a tangy undertone; it is addictive. It’s a perfect combo for a birthday celebration once you poke a few candles on top.  This cake gets its deep chocolate flavor from two sources, unsweetened chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder.  You will need a fair amount of sugar to make it sweet enough.  And you will need some of that brown rice flour mix I often use.   Recipe for that is below.

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Not the prettiest looking cake but one of the tastiest chocolate birthday cakes ever!

Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake

4 oz unsweetened chocolate chopped up

1 ¾ cup brown rice flour mix

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

¾ tsp. xanthan gum

½ cup canola oil

1 ½ cup low fat milk

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Line two nine inch cake pans with parchment paper; spray the inside of the pan lightly with cooking spray.  You need the paper for safe removal from the pan. Do not use dark cake pans; light ones are far better for this cake. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, oven rack in the middle.

Melt chocolate, stir often.  I used the melting feature on my microwave and did a lot of stirring until the last bits were liquid. You can do it in a double boiler if you are into that sort of thing.  I went for the easy way.

Put all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well to combine.

Measure oil and milk, remove 1 tbsp. from each and discard.  Mix together.

Beat sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Do not use your kitchen aide. Beat until light and fluffy.  Blend in melted chocolate and vanilla, blend well.  Add the dry and wet ingredients alternating half at a time, low speed on mixer.  Mix at medium speed for one minute.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake immediately.  Any delay is not going to help so have the oven ready to go.  Bake 30-35 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan 5 minutes, run knife around edge, tip out onto a cooling rack.  Flip upright so the top of the cake is on the top.  Let cool completely before icing.

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You could make cupcakes out of it but no 8 inch pans; I tried that once and it overran the pan in a crazy “I love Lucy” manner!

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Brown Rice Flour Mix
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

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Cream cheese Icing

1 8 oz package light cream cheese, room temperature

1  8 oz stick salted butter, room temperature

3 ¾ cups powdered sugar, sieved

2 tsp. real vanilla extract.

Blend the cream cheese and butter in the mixer (yes I used my Kitchen Aid for this recipe!)  Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, blending on low speed.  Do not skip the sieving.  Add the vanilla and blend a bit more.  This recipe will frost one 9 inch layer cake perfectly.