Holiday Cooking for GF Friends and Family

Holidays are a joyous time but they are also a stressful one for those of us with celiac or gluten allergies. We have a difficult road dealing with holiday work parties, festive outings, dinners with family and or friends. Some people make it easy for us to participate and some try but make errors that cause upset digestive systems. I myself am rather leery of all those situations except my family gatherings. My sisters and brothers understand my dietary restrictions really well and never cook stuff on the table that I cannot eat.  They try had to find safe places to eat out, which isn’t easy in my geographic area. They don’t want to go far and close by my home there are extremely limited choices. All that said, if you need to cook for someone who is gluten free there are a number of great choices of what to serve and there are some simple protocols to follow. cherry sunrise pie

Cherry Sunrise Pie; can  use a premade gf crust. No baking then!

apple pie done

Gluten is in all wheat-based ingredients; from all purpose flour, to rye flour, whole wheat, spelt, farro and barley grains/flours. So, I have to avoid them completely. Even a quarter teaspoon in your dessert or sauce is enough to cause major digestive pain.

One easy way to go is to make a meal that is all naturally gluten free; baked potatoes, steak, roasted or grilled chicken, fish without breading, pork chops, fried or mashed potatoes, rice: all safe. Beware of breading on proteins unless you are creating it with gf flour or gf breadcrumbs.  Veggies are safe unless they come with a crumb topping or other fancy stuff; read the label! Be careful with spice mixes; sometimes they have flour in to facilitate flow; stick to McCormick; their single spice containers are generally very safe.

You might want to focus on a gluten free dessert like a cake,pie or cookies for your company. I have some advice below for you for each of these categories and there are many options for gf desserts on my blog; just type in what you want like cake or pie or cookies and see what comes up!

chicken with broc

Stir fry; I used cornstarch in a slurry to thicken the sauce.

First some entree and sauce advice: no regular flour can be in that gravy or sauce. No way! An easy substitution is either white or brown rice flour in the same proportions as regular flour stirred into the gravy or sauce. I have gone with each of them several times. I slightly prefer the brown rice in gravy. Other gravy thickener choices are cornstarch, sweet rice flour, potato flour or arrowroot. It should function pretty much identically to the all purpose flour in your recipe for these items of gravy or sauce.

Most proteins are naturally gluten free but be careful of injected broth or marinades; often have some small amounts of flour which renders them uneatable for folks with celiac or a wheat allergy. This happens in turkeys and often hams. Read the labels! I look for a GF stamp/sign.  FYI: Fake crab is the one seafood I cannot eat; it is wheat based. Eat the real deal!

Be careful making soups or stews; many canned broths have a small amount of gluten/wheat in them. Read that label. Aldi’s has some great gf broths at excellent prices.

choco tart in pan

Chocolate silk tart ready for embellishment and devouring!

Now desserts: If you are making a dessert it is a different ball game going gf. A mix that you add eggs, butter and milk to is a great starting place. If you buy a gf mix for a cake I suggest you also buy some throw away aluminum pans to use; your pans may have tiny amounts of food particles from past baking. Better safe than sorry as even that tiny amount would be problematic. If the dessert requires a graham cracker crust just buy a readymade one in the gf section; the ones I make with gf crackers cost just about as much as a readymade one and it is a real time and labor saver.

choc pavlova minus choco

Chocolate pavlova: if you can make meringue in your mixer you can make this awesome company dessert.

If you want to make cookies; there are gf mixes out there. You might even find readymade gf dough. Just be sure to lay down some aluminum foil on the baking sheet to keep any stray tiny crumbs of old cookies at bay. May I recommend Russian teacakes; easy to make the dough; then form balls and bake; lots of powdered sugar on top after they are cooling. Delicate and delicious; my family says they are even better gf than when they were wheat based. The recipe is on my blog. I have a gf holiday baking cookbook as well as a Christmas gf cookie cookbook and some in my favorite Annalise Roberts cookbook.

My stollen recipe is off the King Arthur website; they have a great selection of gf baked goods including cookies and pastries. And there is always pinterest; I have found great things there.

stollen baked

Christmas stolen breads; super yummy; look on King Arthur’s website. Pretty easy too!

In summary; read labels, try to cook naturally gf and don’t try to make too many gf items your first time or two; think one new recipe at a time!  You will be rewarded with gratitude from the person who has to be gluten free and you will feel great for your efforts. I will be posting and reposting holiday baking recipes in the next 2-3 weeks so you may find some awesome gf holiday treats. There are even more in my large catalog of blog posts so use the search feature to see what I have available to shine for your holiday gathering.  Best of luck to you in your holiday gluten free adventure!

Russian Teacakes – A Christmas Classic

These miniature snowball cookies were the foundation of the Christmas cookie baking season when I was a kid.  They were always made every year, sometimes a second batch had to be baked as we had eaten them all before the big day!  You can use pecans but I rarely do; walnuts are cheaper and I sort of prefer their flavor for this cookie.  Some people call them Mexican Wedding Cookies but we generally called them Russian Teacakes… 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.

Alsatian Apple Tart; Deliciously Creamy

 

I bought a great gf cookbook a few  years ago.. I have been too busy to do much fancy baking plus my wrist has made it impossible to roll out pie crust; this is my first rolled out crust since last June. Annalise G. Roberts wrote my favorite gf cookbook “Gluten-Free Baking Classics”.  In “ The Heirloom Collection” she re-creates many classic recipes we all love but in a gluten free version. Eighteen cakes, thirteen muffins, scones and quick breads, sixteen cookies, twenty breads as well as eleven tarts. And some other misc. baked goods. SO many yummy looking things to bake. All gluten free. And knowing Annalise Roberts, all yummy!  Of all I have made from it this is possibly my favorite recipe. I know you will enjoy it too.

She starts with a section on how to take a wheat flour based recipe and make it gluten free; very interesting: I have a few cherished recipes I would love to convert.  She is such a reliable and careful baker; all her recipes turn out exactly as promised. With so many great looking recipes and if you have any of her other cookbooks you will definitely want this one.

Anyway back to my tart: I was looking for an apple recipe that only needed a few apples, cause that’s all I had and this tart caught my eye. I had everything I needed and I remember how delightful it was last time. My brother ate two slices and his wife ate my crust happily; apparently she never does that.  Aiden loved it as well.  Definitely a hit.

It was a very easy recipe; make the tart shell and while it pre-bakes, peel and slice the apples and mix up the custard. Arranging the apples took me 3-4 minutes and another 30 seconds to pour over the custard and carefully place it in my oven for a transformational baking.alsatian apple tart 002

This tart has a lovely texture; the apple slices are soft but held their shape and the custard is silky and subtle. The long baking makes the crust very crisp. No ice cream needed; this is perfect just by itself.

alsatian apple tart 007

After making this tart the first time I noticed that this is the baked good featured on the back cover of the book; a place of honor for a fantastic apple treat. So freaking good; you must try it even if you use a wheat crust. Alsace-Lorraine is an area in Germany close to France; over the years it has been passed back and forth a few times. One of my ancestors is from this area so I was thrilled to find a recipe my great great grandmother might have baked!alsatian apple tart 004

Alsatian Apple Tart
6 large slices or 8 skinny ones

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, lemon juice, even lime juice works

Spray a nine – ten inch tart pan that has a 1 ½ inch side with cooking spray, set aside. I use a ceramic ten inch pan but if you have one of those tricky deep tart pans with a removable bottom that would work perfectly.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl of a 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 out the flattened ball into a pie crust in a pie bag or between the two sheets of wax paper, try to get the thickness even, no thick middle! I like to sprinkle a bit of my flour mix on the crust as it gets thinner so it doesn’t stick to the pie bag/wax paper. Peel off one side of paper and place in the tart pan, be sure to center it. Remove other slice of wax paper. Crimp edges all around. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes until light brown.  Let cool.

Filling:

3-4 medium to large sized apples, yellow delicious work particularly well as they don’t squish down too much. I have used Fuji in the past as it also doesn’t get too mushy.

Peel apples, quarter, cut out core, slice into 1/2 inch thick slices (8 for a medium apple)

Mix in a medium mixing bowl with:

6 tbsp. sugar
2 eggs; stir well
Add 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, ¼ tsp. cinnamon.

Arrange the apple slices in the warm/hot tart shell, squash them close together. Pour the custard filling over the apples.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 50-55 minutes until the custard is set and the crust is light brown

Cool the pie at least 1 hour before serving. You can sprinkle the slices with confectioner’s sugar if you like to gild the lily; not really necessary in my mind.

Brown Rice Flour Mix (same as King Arthur GF Flour mix)
2 c brown rice flour, finely ground
2/3 c potato starch (Not potato flour)
1/3 c tapioca flour

This recipe is from Annalise Roberts’ great cookbook: Gluten-Free Baking Classics – The Heirloom Collection.

Originally published in November 2015, minor changes to text.

Banana Custard Pie, 2.0

 

My mom used to make a similar banana custard pie when I was in my thirties and I moved back to PA – lived close enough to come home some weekends; for some reason she never made it for us as kids.  I remember cutting up and setting the banana rounds in the baked pie shell for her.  The contrast of the rich custard, the flaky crust and the fluffy cream with the delicate banana flavor is just so memorable.    Today I used a shortbread crust for first time and it was very well received.  My grandson said it was my best pie ever! Easy as can be too!

Notes: I will freeze the egg whites to make angel food cake this winter. Waste not want not!!  In a past version I used a slightly different egg custard – both are delish!  This one might be slightly easier to construct and it sure got firm; I have had one or two failure custards that never did fully gel. I suppose you could use a box custard but this is infinitely superior.

Nonna’s Banana Custard Pie

Make the custard first as it takes a while to cool down. Next do the crust.  Don’t do the bananas until you are ready to pour the custard. The whipped cream should be make right before you use it.

Filling:

4 egg  yolks

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup corn starch

½ tsp sea salt

2 cups whole milk or 2 percent, no lower fat than that

4 egg yolks beaten lightly

1 tbsp. butter cut into small cubes.

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 large ripe bananas

Directions: Beat the egg yolks until thick; add the sugar in a slow stream. Heat the milk in a 1 ½ qt sauce pan, add the cornstarch and salt to the egg/sugar mix; then add the hot milk in a slow stream beat/stir with a metal whisk as it heats. Pour it all back into the saucepan and cook on medium low heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Once it reaches a boil; turn heat down to low and time it for one minute, STIRRING CONSTANTLY.  Add the butter and stir as it melts, then the vanilla, stir.  Pour into a mixing bowl, let cool a bit and then put a film of plastic wrap on the top; press it down onto the custard.  Chill at least an hour before using. Do not use until cold.

CRUST: I am still not rolling out pie crust;  so I made a crumb filling like shortbread cookies using my stand mixer:

1 cup KA all purpose gf flour

¼ c sugar

1 tsp. xanthan gum

¼ tsp. cinnamon

Mix in stand mixer and add 5 Tbsp. cold butter cut up in 6-7 pieces; blend until crumbly and press in pie pan

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 17-18 minutes until the crust is light brown.  Cool at least 30 minutes.

Cut peeled bananas into 1/3-1/2 inch rounds and cover the bottom of the pie crust with them close together.  Pour the custard over the sliced fruit and smooth the top.

Chill pie 1- 4 hours before slicing and serving cold topped with a big dollop of whipped cream.  Note: I confess we didn’t do this step of chilling it; we ate it right away as there was no time for chillin.

Whipped cream: Beat cold whipping cream with an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks; add 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar and ½ tsp. vanilla.  Do not beat any more, just stir the sugar in. I didn’t bother with vanilla; made this part in my mom’s assisted living room; left the vanilla bottle at home. Still great.  banana custard pie

I think it is best served the same day you make it, or no more than 12 hours after baking for optimal flavor.  The crust will get soggy if too much time passes. Mine was still very good the next day; just not as great as when really fresh.

Note: I froze my egg whites for later use in a cake. No wasting them, that’s for sure!

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

2/3 c potato starch – Not potato flour!

1/3 c tapioca flour

 

Yes, This IS the Best Yam Casserole EVER! 2.0 Version for Double the Delish

 

I started making this simple side dish six years ago; we have enjoyed it for a number of holidays.  I like it alongside a roasted meat like ham or turkey.  I always serve it on Thanksgiving Day: far healthier than that casserole full of sugar and marshmallows.  For all the yummy food I serve for big feasts, this humble side dish often gets the most praise.  There generally is very little leftover. I made it last week for a teacher luncheon; no leftovers 😦 but some raves!

I love it because it is healthier than most yam/sweet potato casseroles.  It is free of gluten, grains, eggs and refined (read white) sugar.   If you use something other than butter it can be dairy free too.  No tons of butter, marshmallows or cup of brown sugar.  Less than a quarter cup of sweeteners make this a good choice for pre-diabetes.  I generally use the coconut oil rather than butter; it adds a subtle flavor I enjoy.  Plus yams themselves are quite good for you. We love their natural sweetness.easter-036

And it is so easy to throw together. Just peel and dice up the yams, mix up the other ingredients in a small saucepan and pour over, bake and enjoy.  So easy but the flavor is subtle yet very pleasing.  I suggest 4 large yams but I often use 5 or 6 smaller ones. Simple, tasty and healthy; side dish home run!

yam casserolle

It shrank a bit in the pan but still a nice amount of delish to share. Looked fantastic before I took it to the luncheon; darn but I forgot to take a picture….

NOTE: I am doubling this for all those who wish for a bigger pan of this delish side. Look at old posts for the smaller version!

Honey Spiced Yams

8 good sized yams
1/2 c. butter (or coconut oil)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
4 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger (dry not fresh)
1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes (yams), peel if you like (it’s not all that necessary), chop into fairly uniform 1/2 inch cubes or do 1/4 inch slices and place them in a 9×13 inch baking dish that you sprayed with cooking spray. Be sure NOT to use the one with flour added…. Over low heat, melt the butter and coconut oil in a heavy small saucepan. Stir in the honey, molasses, and spices. Mix and drizzle over sweet potatoes, then sprinkle with salt. Stir to evenly coat, then bake for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes or until yams are fork-tender. I like to stir it up once or twice while it bakes so that yummy sauce can sink into every bite of yam.

I can’t remember where I found this recipe: I think it was in a magazine.  The original version left the skin on but I am not that brave with company; but go ahead and try it….let me know if people like it that way.  This recipe was originally posted by me in late 2014.

 

Almond Frangipane Tart

I still am not rolling out pie dough so I did my favorite shortbread cookie crust made in my stand mixer in a few minutes with no real work. This simple press in crumb recipe by Annalise Roberts is sweet and has a perfect texture. And so easy… There were still apples from our fall picking expedition so that seemed to be what I could plan a family dessert around.

I had a bag of whole almonds that needed to be used up.  So, I went with the classic frangipane filling under thin slices of Granny Smith apples. I used the almonds to make my own almond paste (the recipe is a blog post by me last year) but you can buy some if you prefer. I pre-baked the crust as I feared the almond filling might make the raw crust

The tart was a rousing success; the crust tasted delicious; the almond filling fused the skinny apple slices into the crust as a cohesive whole that was delightfully almondish!

Notes: I used Granny Smith as they hold their shape under oven heat; some baking apples can mush down too much. Don’t change that or you might end up with a saggy top.

apple tart with frangipane filling only

apple frang tart with applesapple frang tart bakedApple Frangipane Tart with Cookie Crust

 

Ingredients:

CRUST:

1 cup gf flour (King Arthur basic gf blend)

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp. xanthan gum

¼ tsp. cinnamon

5  Tbsp. cold butter

FILLING:

8 oz almond paste

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 butter, softened

2 eggs

3 Tbsp.  KA basic gf blend

3 cups of peeled, cored and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples (3 large  apples)

1 Tbsp melted butter

1 Tbsp. coarse sugar for topping

DIRECTIONS: Crust: use a stand mixer; put dry ingredients in bowl, add cut up butter and mix on medium until crumbly. Spray 9 inch tart pan with cooking spray and press in crust, heat oven to 375 degrees.  My pan has a removable bottom but I don’t see why you couldn’t use a plain pan.  Bake crust 6-7 minutes; let cool while you make filling.

Filling: Mix filling in medium bowl; put almond paste (break up if chunky: can grate it if hard) and sugar. Mix a bit, add butter; mix well, add eggs one at a time, beat well between eggs and 3 minutes after second egg; add flour; chill. Gently spoon into tart pan on cooled crust, fan out apple slices in circles or any pattern you like, brush with melted butter and sprinkle top with coarse sugar.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake on lowest shelf in oven, 35-40 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool at least 30-60 minutes before serving. Best eaten within 2 days; I thought it was actually even better the next day. Vanilla ice cream is great with apple tart! Enjoy. apple frang tart slice

Apple Tart…Veganized But Still Yummy

 

My assignment was to make a vegan (and gluten free) dessert to take to a small gathering out of town. I have to confess I am not particularly fond of some vegan desserts I have tried: the mouth feel is sometimes odd and the texture can be heavy especially icings. But I felt those things could be avoided. There were still plenty of apples from our picking expedition in October so that seemed like a great place to plan from. I am not yet rolling out pie dough plus it has an egg in it so that’s a no…so I did a shortbread cookie crust made in my stand mixer in a few minutes with no real work. I really didn’t miss the rolled out crust; this simple press in crumb recipe by Annalise Roberts is the very best crust for sweetness and texture. And great for gimpy folks like me!

The tart was a complete success; the crust tasted delicious and not weird. All gone in moments; silence as everyone inhaled their slice. Shortly thereafter two other non-vegan guests sidled up to me and quietly thanked me for a great dessert; they were probably glad there was no weird icing involved, LOL! This could be an excellent holiday dessert if you need one that is vegan.  It travels great; I have a pie saver – big diameter, low cylinder tupperware meant just for pies and tarts.

Notes: I used a mixture of baking apples; some golden delicious and Jonagold. Any baking apples will work (Not red delicious as they are best eaten raw) …no honeycrisp either; best raw.

vegan apple tart unbaked

vegan apple tart baked

I forgot to take a picture of my slice before devouring it: sorry; it was great looking, everything held together perfectly.

Apple Tart with Vegan Cookie Crust

Ingredients:

CRUST:

1 cup gf flour (King Arthur basic gf blend)

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp. xanthan gum

5  Tbsp. cold Earth Balance (sold in sticks just like butter)

FILLING:

3 -4 cups of peeled, cored and sliced cooking apples (4 good sized apples)

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp. Tapioca flour or KA basic gf blend

1/3 c sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp. coarse sugar for topping

DIRECTIONS: Crust: use a stand mixer; put dry ingredients in bowl, add cut up Earth Balance and mix on medium until crumbly. Spray 9 inch tart pan with cooking spray and press in crust, heat oven to 375 degrees.  My pan has a removable bottom but I don’t see why you couldn’t use a plain pan.

Filling: mix dry ingredients in a small bowl, Mix filling in medium bowl; dump in apples, sprinkle with lemon juice and then sprinkle over all with all of the dry mix. Gently place into tart pan on crust and sprinkle top with coarse sugar. I took the time to arrange mine in a pretty pattern but you can just pile it in if you are in a rush.

Bake on lowest shelf in oven, 35-40 minutes until lightly browned and bubbling. Remove from oven and cool at least 30-60 minutes before serving. Best eaten within 24 hours. Vanilla ice cream is great with apple tart! Enjoy.

Note: You can use the convection setting; takes about 25-30 minutes to bake.