Review of Elana Amsterdam’s Gluten-free Cupcake Cookbook

April 27th, 2011 yum Posted in Baked Goods, Fellow Food Bloggers, Gluten Free Blogs, Gluten Free Cookbook Recipe Review 16 Comments »

First, let me just say that I think I should rename the House of Yum the House of Cupcakes after the last few weeks. I went from having cupcakes once or twice a year to having them three times in half as many weeks. And you know what? I like cupcakes! I do! I never had heart palpitations over cake, except for our wedding cake -swoon- but something about a cupcake really appeals to me. Maybe it is the serving size- so cute, so demure, and yet so satisfying. Maybe it is the fact that you can dress it up in a little holder with hearts or silver or- ooh- even silver hearts. But maybe, just maybe it is the frosting. The fact that you can cover the entire top with an absurdly huge frosting dome and it is yours! All yours! Try doing that with a cake. Not only will the physics cause you some serious issues, but cutting it will be a big, gooey mess. Give me a cupcake any day. This is why when I heard that Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry was coming out with a new gluten-free cupcake cookbook I was beside myself with excitement. And then I got my very own review copy- plus one for a giveaway. Wheeee! Sometimes being a food blogger has its perks. In this cookbook, Elana adds a new gluten-free, low carb flour to her repertoire- coconut flour. I have experimented a little with coconut flour myself, and it can be a tricky flour to love. It eats eggs like nobody’s business and has this personality that just doesn’t work well with savory. Elana has somehow whipped coconut flour into shape and made it work for her in this cookbook. Really impressive. Now, if you have a sensitivity to coconut flour and are curious- 11 of the main cupcake recipes do not contain coconut flour. About half of those recipes are savory (yum yum, such a nice surprise), and then most of the frostings are coconut free. Still- probably not an ideal for the coconut-allergic reader. Almond flour is also featured in many (but not all) of the recipes, for your information. Time to re-order from Honeyville! And Elana still uses agave nectar in most of her recipes, although she has yacon syrup in a few as an alternative sweetener (Pecan Pie Cupcakes and Gingerbread Molasses Cupcakes). This woman keeps me busy ordering from Amazon. But I know what you really want to know- how were the cupcakes?
Elana’s Lime Cupcakes
The hardest thing about this book is actually only picking one recipe to try. They all sound so good. Read the titles when you aren’t hungry sometime- vanilla fig, apple spice, cinnamon crumb, german chocolate. You will be hungry by the time you’re finished flipping through this little book. I finally gave up on picking one- I handed the book to the DH and said “You pick it, I’ll make it.” So he picked Elana’s lime cupcakes, which was a pleasant surprise. Of all the recipes I tried, this one was my favorite. It was deceptively simple but flavorful and fresh with the tanginess of lime and only the barest whisper of coconut. We didn’t actually try her suggested frosting accompaniment- the DH whipped up a zesty lime cream cheese frosting that made us both very happy. This recipe has great texture, subtle but wonderful flavor, and I will definitely be making it again. Oh, one quirk that you might want to know- the recipes don’t exactly conform to a 12 muffin pan. Recipes tend to make between 8-12 cupcakes. If baking for a large family, you might want to double the recipe. Oh, darn, more cupcakes! I’m sure no one will object.
Strawberry Cupcakes
I made Elana’s strawberry cupcakes for a gluten-free South Bay Area potluck, and frosted them with a coconut cream whipped frosting garnished with freshly sliced strawberries. I have to admit I went a little rogue- what is it with me improvising my own frostings? I really should try one of her frosting recipes, too… But anyway, these cupcakes were a big hit, especially when people found out they were both nut and dairy-free. My good friend JM declared them “wicked good” and liked the delicate, complex flavors. The DH and I both liked them, although I think I would have tried Cream cheese frosting next time. What can I say, we are addicted to the stuff. Recipe for Strawberry Cupcakes found on Elana’s blog.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Elana’s recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes had me at “Chocolate Peanut Butter” and I couldn’t resist taking them to our local potluck. The DH thoroughly enjoyed them and said I could make them “any time” and that if he hadn’t known they were gluten-free, he wouldn’t have thought they were anything but a regular cupcake. High praise indeed! My chocoholic friend JM surprised herself (and me too) by saying she liked the strawberry cupcakes best. Fine with me. She can have the strawberry cupcake leftovers if I get to keep every single lime cupcake to my greedy self…and I think the DH would be happy to hog more than his fair share of the chocolate! Just goes to show that there is a recipe for everyone in this book.

I was very happy to get permission to share the lime cupcakes with you here. I hope you enjoy them, and enjoy Elana’s cookbooks as much as I do. I’ve been baking gluten-free my entire life, and I’m used to shuffling canisters of gluten-free flours out of the pantry, but baking from her books is like taking a vacation from being gluten-free. Just one (or at most two) flours and basic, whole ingredients, and you have a great tasting, quality recipe. If I hadn’t made her recipes myself, I’m not sure I’d believe it.

You’ll need these ingredients… especially if you win the extra copy of Elana’s book I’ll be giving away on Facebook at the Book of Yum Page!

Want more?
Shirley of Gluten-free Easily made her Marble Cupcakes
Kim of Cook it Allergy-free made many of Elana’s sweet cupcakes, a savory cupcake and also the lime cupcake!
Heidi of Adventures of a Gluten-free Mom also tried Elana’s lime cupcakes! (Great minds think alike, I guess!)

*All photographs from the House of Yum except of course for the cookbook cover.

Lime Cupcakes
Makes 10
Sweetness: Medium

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons firmly packed lime zest, plus more to decorate (about 3 limes)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 10 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, almond flour, salt, and baking soda.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, grapeseed oil, agave nectar, and 2
tablespoons lime zest. Blend the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture
with a handheld mixer until thoroughly combined.

Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 1 hour, then frost, sprinkle with the remaining lime zest, and serve.

Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour. Copyright 2011 by Elana Amsterdam, Celestial Arts, an imprint of Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.
Cream Cheese Lime Frosting
1 package lowfat cream cheese (for dairy free, you can try Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese)
1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar (*start with 1/4 cup and keep adding to taste)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
one half of a small lime, juiced (or less, to taste)
1/2 tsp lime zest
Put your cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl and microwave briefly until soft enough to stir. Add vanilla and begin adding powdered sugar to taste, whipping together with a standing or hand-held mixer. Add a dash of lime juice and your lime zest to the mixer and combine thoroughly. Taste and add more if needed. It will be too soft and runny for frosting at this point, so put in a freezer safe ziploc bag and chill in refrigerator until it is thick enough to frost with (at least 30 minutes).
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Adopt a gluten-free Blogger Jan 2011: Stephanie of Wasabimon

February 3rd, 2011 yum Posted in Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger, Delicious Baking Fail, Fellow Food Bloggers, Gluten Free Blogs 5 Comments »

I have been aware of Stephanie’s gluten-free Wasabimon site for quite some time now. The moment I saw it, I was attracted to the Japanese-inspired title and design. I also loved her adventurous take on gluten-free foods, and the international flair of her savory and sweet dishes. I was happy to finally adopt Stephanie for this month’s edition of Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger, but I found myself in something of a quandary. What dishes of hers should I make? It was so hard to decide! Finally I decided to make her baked falafel recipe and a version of her Curry Quinoa Salad. I love both falafel and quinoa, and it seemed a match made in heaven. The baked falafel turned out beautifully. I made them using chickpeas from scratch. The only thing that was a little complicated was that the recipe called for 1 cup of dry chickpeas OR a 15 oz. can of chickpeas. I made a double batch of chickpeas because I wanted to make Channa Masala with the second cup of chickpeas, and so I had to guess about how much was half. But oh, those falafel were delightful. I drizzled them with raw tahini sauce and had them with quinoa, on tortillas, and even put them on Elana’s almond biscuits in a falafel “burger”. I would make these again, and serve them to dinner guests whether they could eat gluten or not!
The Great Falafel Heist

Baby Yum gave them her seal of approval by stealing one from my photo shoot and nibbling on it. As is the way with toddlers, she only had a few bites since it was her first time with the flavor. These falafel “cookies” make a fantastic and very portable snack and would be great in a lunch box, so Baby Yum can expect to be seeing these in the future.

I also made Stephanie’s Quinoa Salad. Now, I have a rule that with our event, we try to follow recipes as closely as humanly possible so we experience the recipes as the author intended (and are reviewing them fairly). With this recipe, since I’d followed her falafel recipe to the letter, I took a little license and followed the dressing recipe exactly but substituted apple slices and grated carrot for the mango and red pepper, respectively. (I was out of red pepper and don’t care for mango.) It was an interesting and tasty recipe. Rinsing the quinoa didn’t quite work for me, probably because I initially overcooked the quinoa. I think next time I would just prepare the quinoa as I usually do by putting quinoa and water in the pot together, bringing them to a boil, lowering the heat and simmering them, covered, for 12-15 minutes. Anyway. The curry dressing was very pleasant and added a mild kick to plain quinoa. I also loved the addition of mint. This recipe has a lot of potential and I look forward to experimenting with variations in the future!

Now, I was planning to stop there, honest. That was, until I saw that Stephanie is something of a Macaron aficionado. Perhaps it has something to do with living in the Bay Area. Just this weekend I visited the Japanese pastry shop Satura and saw their lovely assortment of brightly colored macarons, all labeled “Gluten Free.” They have quite a few desserts labeled gluten-free, actually- their Yuna chocolate cake, a new sesame pudding type dessert, and a berry macaron delight. However, one always has to wonder about cross contamination from a gluten-producing bakery, and that weekend after I had the Yuna cake and the sesame pudding I did not feel well. I also ate gobs of raw garlic on pizza that same day, so who knows what resulted in ye ol’ rumbly tummy. But anyway. The point is, macarons are lovely. I saw them, and I wanted them. And what serendipity to find that Wasabimon is practically the headquarters of macaron design, having featured an entire week devoted to them at one point, and coming up with various lovely versions over the years she has been blogging. Wondering what the difference is between a Macaroon and a Macaron? Stephanie has the answer for you!

The most enticing version of all is her Rosewater and Vanilla Macaron Recipe. Can’t you just imagine how delightful that combination would be? I will admit that the fact that a candy thermometer was required gave me pause. And the requirement of beating egg whites into soft peaks sent a frisson of terror down my spine. Eggs and I have never gotten along that well, and I have about as light a touch with them as Baby Yum has with a porcelain goblet. (The latter met an unfortunate end and was smashed into bitty pieces onto the floor. Luckily we were able to whisk Baby Yum away before any pieces embedded themselves into her tender baby feet. But I digress.) However. With thoughts of rosewater and vanilla dancing in my head, I steeled my soul and prepared the kitchen for battle. I brought out my scale; a useful device that I rarely am organized enough to use. I measured and poured like a mad scientist, which is really the appeal of that scale and why I think American cooks like the Gluten-free Girl have been turned on to its use. I soft boiled the rosewater candy syrup. At this point, post soft-peak, was when Baby Yum decided it was time for Mommy to read to her. I turned her loose on the cat and continued my project. I didn’t have any food coloring, natural or otherwise, so I decided to go all-natural and grate some beets for the juice to use as coloring. Really a good idea, if I do say so myself. However, I should have reduced the water proportionately. Ah well. It was only a half teaspoon or so, but who knows where these things go wrong. I did have serious difficulty folding the meringue type stuff into the almond paste. The latter was so heavy and thick that I felt to get it truly incorporated I would have to destroy the puff in my marshmallow puff look-alike meringue. So, I will admit, I left it a little on the lumpy side. Just slightly. I piped out my macaron using the old Alton Brown standby- a quart ziploc bag with a hole cut out the corner. I should have cut a larger hole, I suppose, so I could pipe each macaron out in one lovely blob. Next time. I had three baking sheets worth of macaron, which I wasn’t quite expecting. I filled all my baking sheets and then had some left over, so I filled a heart shaped Madeleine mold for good measure. Not really a good idea, but I was experimenting. They sat on the counter. The recipe suggested they would be dry in 25 minutes or so, and I sat down to tweet about my adventure. Twenty-five minutes later they were still sticky to the touch. An hour later, they were still sticky. The darned things just wouldn’t dry out and form that lovely crust that keeps them together when they puff, forming “feet” at the bottom (a rough-textured platform). Finally one batch seemed relatively dry. I put them in the oven and watched them anxiously. They puffed- but not from the bottom, from the top, and cracked. I didn’t remember seeing any cracks in Stephanie’s gorgeous macaron. And, after the requisite time, when I took them out and tried to remove some of them from the baking sheet, the lids popped off revealing a wet interior. Tragedy! I looked online. It turns out the humble macaron is not so humble. Unlike its home cook friendly cousin, the macaroon, macaron have caused many a pastry chef to shed bitter tears of disappointment. Unbeknown to me, they are figety little devils that demand the perfect humidity, timing, and skill to form their deceptively simple little “legs” and transform into the French cross between a meringue and an oreo cookie. Apparently I might as well have tried to master the souffle in one try as these bad boys. Now they tell me.

To make a long story short, I didn’t manage to make a single perfect macaron. I did manage to make some that released cleanly from the parchment paper on the baking sheet, but every single one cracked on the top and failed to develop their feet. Alas! However, I plunged ahead, not one to let a disappointment stop me from making a buttercream vanilla filling for my little ugly ducklings. The frosting was divine. I added lemon juice along with the vanilla as flavoring, as per Stephanie’s instructions, and it provided that little something extra that made my mouth very, very happy. And caused my blood sugar to skyrocket. Whew. But lovely, nonetheless.

At long last, I took two of my un-macaron cookies, basted them with vanilla filling, and stuck them together. I did this delicately, because my ugly-ducklings were more fragile than they should have been. I took a bite, and swooned. If fairy princesses were to exist and eat cookies because they are fairies and not prone to expanding waistlines, they would live on these and skip the ambrosia. The rosewater made me feel like I was dining on delicately perfumed floral dew, and combined with the comforting and familiar vanilla ever so lightly spiked with tart lemon, I was in heaven. Stephanie was inspired when she created this recipe. Inspired. Now if she would just come to my house and make them for me so I could experience a perfect macaron. If I have to wait for me to master this recipe, it could take a very, very long time.

Even failures can taste divine...

To conclude, this adoption was an amazing experience and I feel that I really got to know another very special gluten-free blogger’s culinary point of view. Stephanie’s international savory recipes were right up my alley, and her European sweets recipes challenged me and took me back to my days as a participant in the Daring Baker event. I enjoyed this adoption thoroughly and look forward to seeing what else is in store for us at Wasabimon.

Other Enticing Recipes at Wasabimon:
Yellow Thai Curry
Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate
Chana Spinach Curry
Gratin Dauphinois
Lemon Verbena Macaron
Gluten-free Strawberry Pecan Pastry
Gluten-free Brioche Recipe

Too many to count!

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