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.

Holiday Baking: GF Safety for You Non-Celiacs

This post is a brush up for folks who have gf relatives coming by over the holidays. Or if you have someone new in your social circle and you want to know how to cook a gf meal for them.  Let’s start with the basics. Did you know that once a person with celiac disease stops eating wheat it becomes even worse when they do accidentally consume a food containing gluten?  After I quit wheat I thought that I could cheat once in a while and not really suffer any consequences.  Not so. It is like your body becomes incredibly sensitive to all gluten substances and even a tiny bit is too much. So your caution is so important for the health of your guest.

A few examples of how to get glutened if you are a celiac: if I splash beer on my hands while serving it at a friend’s house it is so easy to forget and touch your face/lips. Glutened! And I hate to be in anyone’s kitchen as they bake with regular flour; super easy to get sick from that exposure.  There are multiple ways to be contaminated by homemade food that should be safe: salad dressing may not be gluten free due to trace amounts of flour in it. If the cook sprinkles seasoned salt or spice mixes on my rice or potatoes, it is likely uneatable for a celiac.  The reason is that manufacturers often put all purpose flour in seasoning mixes to facilitate flow and to create a smooth mixture of spices.  This is why many things that appear safe are not; “seasoning mixes” are the culprit that makes rice pilafs and many other boxed mixes often uneatable by celiacs. 

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Christmas is in a few days.  Beware, many turkeys have brine that contains some gluten; I got sick that way  my second gf holiday season. Butterball turkeys fresh or frozen are gluten free.  Plus, a turkey stuffed with regular bread stuffing is unsafe for someone with celiac to eat even if they don’t touch the stuffing.  Really. You need to buy or make a gluten free stuffing; either based in rice, gf cornbread or just buy a bag of gluten free bread to make your stuffing. Aldi’s has gluten free stuffing for both chickens and turkeys. And ham; often it has been brined in a solution that has some wheat in it; read the label carefully!

Even GF pasta can be contaminated if it is drained in a colander that is used for wheat pasta.  The gluten in pasta is extra sticky and it is nearly impossible to get all of it off a colander.  So, many times pasta that should be safe gets contaminated when the cook drains it in a colander that has tiny particles of wheat gluten sticking around the strainer holes. Restaurants that advertise GF menus need to have dedicated equipment like strainers, colanders, pots and utensils. I often ask about the pasta pot and colander when I attempt to safely eat pasta at a restaurant. So cooking pasta for your gf guest can be quite problematic.

A few people seem to feel celiacs are exaggerating or being over cautious.  When in reality all that caution is necessary to eat safely and avoid gluten.  It only takes a tiny amount of gluten to contaminate food or drink.

So if you are cooking for someone with gluten intolerance, be sure to take extra caution and your meal will be a success for everyone enjoying it! When shopping for the meal  ingredients you have to read the label even if it says gf, regardless just to be sure as occasionally food is labeled GF and the ingredients say wheat in the list. Do read the labels, it is best to cook from scratch, and remember that all wheat varieties including spelt are unsafe as are all purpose flour, barley and rye flour/berries. Don’t use your old wooden cutting board or wooden spoons with ruts and gashes that may harbor gluten and any pans you use must be super clean. In fact, if you bake a cake I urge you to use either new pans or buy throwaway ones as tiny bits of the last cake are likely clinging to that lovely pan of yours. Gravy can made using white rice flour, cornstarch, brown rice flour or even sweet rice flour. If you add broth to the turkey or ham pan be sure it says gf on the package. You can get gf stuffing in a box at Aldi’s. there are redi-made gf crusts and gf graham cracker crumb crusts available to make lovely desserts. Or box/packaged crust mixes you can use for your gf pie. Even a teaspoon of regular flour is way too much; get the gf flour out. The tiniest amount is enough to make your celiac friend feel so ill their meal enjoyment will be spoiled. 

If you want an easy stuffing; try this one!
Bob’s Red Mill makes many gf flours of high quality that you can use for gravies.
A yummy gf crust to make your special dessert with.

And if you eat out in a restaurant over the holidays don’t roll your eyes when the person at  your or the next table starts to ask pointed questions on ingredients and method of preparation with respect to gluten.  They are just trying to eat a safe meal out.  Sometimes this experience is kinda a roll of the dice for us celiacs so be patient and polite if you come into contact with this situation when you are dining out.

In summary; now you can see how important it is to have products that are labeled gluten free and why your friend with celiac has a zillion questions when you invite them for a holiday get together! Be understanding and extra careful. They just want to enjoy a meal with you without feeling terribly sick afterwards.

Rhubarb Cobbler – Spring treat

My spring mission: to convince you rhubarb haters to try one of these recipes.  This one is delicate in flavor with a fluffy yet satisfying cobbler topping and no sour ickiness as some say rhubarb can be.  It takes a bit less fruit than a pie and goes together in just a few minutes.  And it is gluten free for all of you who must avoid gluten which means wheat, rye or barley flours are a no-no in baking.

This recipe is the same basic one I posted about for peach cobbler in the past; it is modified from a muffin dry mix in Bette Hagman’s book, More from the Gluten-Free Gourmet and uses a flour mix that will give you 4 cups of the dry ingredients.  One cup will make an 8×8 pan of cobbler topping.  I keep the rest of my dry mix in the freezer and a pan of cobbler can be thrown together in less than 10 minutes plus baking time.  What a time saver this mix is! I make all sorts of cobblers with it.  i made an apple blackberry one last Saturday using some frozen blackberries; very tasty it was!

I always get the fruit part cooking before putting the topping together so the fruit is hot and ready for the topping and can go right into the oven.

 

rhubarb cobbler

Angie’s Rhubarb Cobbler

Dry Cobbler Mix – use one cup for this recipe and freeze the rest

2 ¼ cups white rice flour

½ cup potato starch (not potato flour!)

½ cup tapioca flour

1 tsp. baking soda

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp. xanthan gum

1/3 cup sugar

 

 

Fruit Filling

4 cups sliced rhubarb

½ tsp. almond extract

½-2/3 cup sugar –add more or less depending on how sweet you want it

2 tbsp. GF flour

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Mix the fruit and almond extract in a sauce pan. Stir together the sugar, cinnamon and flour and mix into the fruit.  Cook on the stove top for 5-10 minutes until it is thickened and hot.  Pour into a buttered 8 inch square pan, top with big blobs of the cobbler topping.

Cobbler Topping

1 cup dry baking mix

2 eggs

2 tbsp melted butter or canola oil (both work fine)

1/3 cup milk/buttermilk (I skimp a tbsp off to keep it from being runny)

½ tsp. vanilla or 1/4 tsp almond extract

Mix the wet ingredients and then add to the dry mix in a big bowl.   Mix briefly: do not over-mix for best texture.  Use a big spoon to plop it right away on the hot fruit.  Bake immediately as baking soda and powder can’t stand around waiting or they lose their umph!

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  The top should be light brown and spring back when you poke it with your finger.  If it looks damp or squishy bake it 5 more minutes.

Let cool 5-7 minutes before serving as it will burn your mouth right out of the oven!  Some people love it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  This tender rhubarb cobbler is perfect just on its own.

Reposted with minor changes from June 2015.

 

 

Cheddar Brats For the Win!

Quick update. So I went back last week and got some Cheddar Brats at Lidls…a German supermarket located in Wilson Boro. A plus is that they are super cheap; $2.49 a six pack. So…the bratwursts were on the menu twice so far. Yummy; not too cheddary, juicy as well as mildly smokey. We had them with a version of tater tots called tater crowns; discs of crunchy potato bits. Less than 8 minutes to brown them lightly before diving in. I recommend these brats for a quick tasty meal. Pleaser for the 8 year old. Go get em! smoked brats with cheese