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!

Kiffles Are For Christmas!

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

You can use apricot or raspberry jam or what ever you like; be careful as some kiffle fillings that are ready made have traces of wheat flour in them.

Note: when I was first looking for kiffles 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.