Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger: Carol Kicinski Simply Gluten-free Desserts

August 6th, 2011 yum Posted in Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger, Gluten Free Blogs, Gluten Free Cookbook Recipe Review 4 Comments »

This month I decided to adopt Carol Kicinski of the blog Simply Gluten-free. I’d heard about her cookbook Simply Gluten-free Desserts and thought it sounded lovely. When Carol sent me a review copy, I thought that the timing was perfect. I needed someone to adopt, and here was this great recipe collection and gluten-free blogger ready and waiting! Carol’s book is truly a delight to look through. There are so many recipe that sound perfect for company, or perfect for a special family treat, from red velvet cupcakes to No-bake Chocolate Truffle Cake to creme brulee. There are also some very creative recipe, from dairy free cream puffs (on my to-do list!) to peanut-butter and jelly ice cream sandwiches, to dairy-free pumpkin creme brulee. You can also tell that Carol is very familiar with the gluten-free community and its resources as she shares classic forum favorites as black bean brownies and the ubiquitous flour-less peanut butter cookies. The range of recipes really makes this book a treasure trove for the newly diagnosed as well as the long-time veteran in the gluten-free trenches.

The only slight hiccup was just as I was all set to make some recipes from Carol’s cookbook and blog, the DH went traipsing off on a week long business trip to Florida. He is the major sweet tooth in our household. Granted, my mother has a not-so-secret sweet tooth of her own, but she is perpetually on a diet, so not always helpful at consuming goodies. And Toddler Yum does like sweets but I limit her sugar pretty heavily- this kid loves snap peas and artichokes and I’d like to keep it that way! So I hesitated, and waffled, and thought long and hard about what to make from Carol’s cookbook. Interestingly, while Carol’s main flour blend is a white-flour blend, she has quite a few grain-free recipes in her cookbook, like chestnut flour crepes and nut flour muffins.

I decided to make her almond-flour based apple cinnamon muffins because they sounded so darned good and I could feel good about sharing them with Toddler Yum as they were only sweetened with Agave nectar. The recipe yielded twelve moist, sweet but not overpoweringly sweet muffins. Everyone that tried them, from Toddler Yum to my Mother to the intrepid JM liked them, and I was happy to have tried them.

I also tried her chestnut flour crepes from the cookbook. It was a good way to break into the bags of chestnut flour I’d been hoarding in my cupboard, and it sounded simple and tasty. I didn’t make the filling, though, because I didn’t have whipping cream and so I may have missed out on the full experience. Nevertheless, Toddler Yum nibbled on them happily enough. I had never used chestnut flour before and so I was surprised by the toasted-nut fragrance in the flour. It reminded me of kinako, toasted soy flour that is used in Japanese sweets recipes as a topping, and I wondered if I could use kinako in recipes interchangeably with chestnut flour. Ultimately, I wasn’t sure that the taste of straight chestnut flour was quite my thing, but I appreciated that Carol had a recipe that I could try, and now that the bag has been opened perhaps I can find other recipes that just use it as a complementary flour that would suit our household.

The final recipe I tried from Carol’s cookbook was her famous cinnamon rolls.

This recipe used Carol’s classic white-rice, sweet rice, potato starch and tapioca starch flour blend. I think the DH would heartily approve, as he always liked using a similar white-rice mix from Bette Hagman. I hadn’t baked with white rice or sweet rice flour in a while, so it was good to get out those flours and look forward to recipes using a “normal” white flour blend that would emulate its gluten counterpart. I loved how easy it was to make. You whisk the dry ingredients together and then blend the wet dairy ingredients together in a food processor. Toddler Yum got a huge charge out of pressing the pulse button on my food processor. Next you add the dry ingredients to the food processor and pulse it together. This resulted in more joy from the toddler- a happy perk. The dough that comes out of the food processor is amazingly easy to work with. Carol says that the strength of this recipe is not just in the ingredients, but in the technique, and I have to agree. I love that Carol gives us the chance to knead the dough, and her technique of rolling the dough between two layers of parchment sprayed with oil is just brilliant. Now, her recipe calls for a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had to look up springform pan. Sure enough, I didn’t have one. Instead I used an 8 inch cake pan lined with two long strips of parchment set together to form a cross, so that you can easily remove the cinnamon rolls out of the pan. I couldn’t fit one of the cinnamon rolls in the pan and so I baked it separately. As a bonus, this became my first “tester” cinnamon roll that I could gobble up right away hot out of the oven. I did let it cool for about 5 minutes first. Anyway, not only was this dough very easy to work with, but it produced an excellent cinnamon roll.

My Mother was reminded of her childhood, when a visiting great-grandma would mix up a batch of cinnamon rolls for her parents, she and her two sisters at their farm. She said this gluten-free version was delicious, and while it was not quite as fluffy as the gluten-version, the taste was spot on. The dear Toddler Yum gobbled up a bit and asked for more. And as for me, well, I had one for breakfast with my latte and then had another as I was writing this post. This could be addicting! I do feel a bit bad having made this while the DH was away. The last time he was away I made (raw, nut-based) cheesecake. This time I made homemade cinnamon rolls. Cruel? A little bit… I may have to make this recipe again when he is home, since I don’t think we will have any left by the time he gets home…tomorrow.

The next recipe I plan to make from Carol’s book is her Lemon Bar recipe. This is something I always enjoy ordering at gluten-free bakeries, but never make myself. I think it is time to change that! Also, my Mother loves lemon in any form, but lemon bars in particular, so it would be nice to make some to share. But after that, those dairy-free cream puffs are fair game, as soon as I figure out how to adapt Carol’s flour blend to be potato-free so that I can share them with my allergic friend JM.

Since this is an “Adopt a gluten-free BLOGGER” event and not just an “adopt a gluten-free cookbook author” event I wanted to make sure to make some recipes from Carol’s blog. I had such a good time looking through Carol’s photos of her recipes. I was delighted to find some vegan and vegetarian savory recipes that Carol made for her son and family. I bookmarked Carol’s Recipe for African Vegan Sunbutter Stew and loved reading about her travels in Africa. However, I simply could not resist her recipe for Gluten-free Vegan Spoonbread with a Mess of Greens. She had me at greens… and spoonbread intrigued me as well. As a Yankee… am I a Yankee? No, ok, as a Northwestern native from Seattle, I had never heard of spoonbread. What was it? At first I assumed it was corn bread, but the dough was so liquid I knew that it had to be different. In fact, I was so worried about how liquid the batter was that I sent Carol a message asking if that was normal! Poor Carol. Anyway, I also did a little research on my own and found out that spoonbread is like a cross between “polenta, cornbread and a souffle” and should be soft enough that you can eat it with a spoon. Well, that explains the name! We enjoyed the spoonbread.

Toddler Yum gobbled it up plain like candy, and I covered it with a mess of Carol’s spicy greens. Oh how I do love Southern-style greens… when they are vegetarian! I’d made them before, but I enjoyed Carol’s version so much that I can’t wait to make it again, maybe with a few changes just for fun. I was thinking some seared mushroom bites would be a tasty savory addition to the recipe… or maybe toasted nuts. Yum! I’ve bookmarked another of Carol’s vegan recipes for Creamy Brussel Sprouts and plan on making them in the next day or so.

As always, this adoption was a true pleasure, and I am grateful to have had the chance to review Carol’s wonderful book. It is a wonderful resource, and I know it will come in handy whether I need to make a glutenoid-approved dessert for an event or just a sweet treat for our family. You can watch Carol on youtube and hear more about her fascinating story, and I hope you will check out her blog and cookbook too!

More Reviews of Carol’s book and recipes:

Kim’s review with Black Forest Cupcakes Recipe
Review and recipe for Sticky Mango Rice Cake
Wendy’s experience with Carol’s cupcakes
A general article about Carol’s book

*This post is a day late, because I wanted to make sure that I wrote something that did Carol justice. Apologies… but better late than never!

Email me at adoptaglutenfreeblogger[at]gmail[dot]com with your photo of the recipe, the URL of your post, name of the recipe and the URL of the original blogger’s recipe post. PLEASE SIZE PHOTO TO BE A MAXIMUM OF 500 pixels wide.

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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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