Monthly Archives: February 2012

I recently asked people what they missed most after they became gluten-free.  The number one answer was Chicken and Dumplings followed by Roasted Turkey with Gravy and Stuffing, Chicken Pot Pie, and Lasagna – – comfort foods we all equate with nourishing goodness.

Comfort food and I go back a long way.  Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, when my tummy didn’t feel right, I would walk to the nearest Brigham’s in downtown Boston and order a hot turkey sandwich.  The plate would be heaped with slices of turkey that had already left their indentation on two slices of Wonder Bread and their intention imprinted on my heart.  The sandwich was swimming in turkey gravy, a mound of sage and celery dressing was casually deposited to the side and a little white pleated paper cup of cranberry sauce was propped against the meat.  It was the only color on the otherwise anemic plate that matched my pasty complexion in those days.   As I took the first bite, a fork full of equal parts turkey, bread and stuffing,  I could feel wellness heading my way.  This was my comfort food.  But, ironically,  I was dosing myself with the same medicine that was making me sick.  Who knew?!

As I got sicker, my craving for comfort food increased.  If it wasn’t a hot turkey sandwich,  I ordered chicken and dumplings, or chicken pot pie.  They engaged my soul and I felt good.  My body, however, was another story.  Hours later, I would feel that familiar tightening in my tummy, that slow burn and indigestion.  By then the memories of my comfort food were far away.  I would not correlate the meal I had eaten four hours ago with the queasiness I was experiencing now.  For many years, I would not realize that the food I loved did not love me back.

When people on a gluten-free diet picked the same foods I craved before diagnosis, it made me wonder if they had similar memories. Perhaps they, too,  remembered the days when they sought out these dishes in hopes of feeling better, in hopes of finding comfort.   Perhaps “comfort food” has a double meaning for all of us who are gluten intolerant – – an unrequited love of old and a new, gluten-free love fulfilled.

Hands down, the ultimate comfort food seems to be Chicken and Dumplings, the recipe I am asked to makeover more than any other.  It sends me back to those days when I tried to find comfort at Brigham’s lunch counter, when I knew something was missing and tried to replace it with a nourishment that was ultimately my undoing.

And it sent me to my recipe files for a makeover because it seems that making this dish into a delicious gluten-free recipe is a challenge.  Readers say the dumplings are too hard, or they break apart in the liquid;  they are too dense, too dry.  I had the same experience at first.  I dug out the dish from my past, the one my mother made in our Yankee kitchen (although this recipe has its roots in Southern traditional),  and I tried to create something equal to the taste and texture of the meal I remembered.  After several tries, I got it just right!

Here’s How I Made it Over 
The first time I made this with a high protein flour blend.  The results were tasty but too dense.  The dumplings didn’t rise and fill the pot as I expected.  Then I opted for a white flour blend and added baking powder and butter.  This time, they were just right.  The dumplings had doubled in size; they filled the pan! The texture was light and they had the mouthfeel I remembered from my gluten-filled years.

The first time, I poached a whole chicken in broth and vegetables, the way my mother had done.  But no one has time to wait that long for a delicious meal.   Next time, I poached boneless chicken breasts.  They take 5 to 10 minutes.  You could also purchase a cooked rotisserie chicken, as long as it’s gluten-free, and remove the meat from the bone.   As a final tip, you’ll want to scoop the dumpling dough onto simmering (not boiling) liquid and cover the pot tightly.  Don’t peek while the dumplings cook. These aren’t as tasty as leftovers, so you’ll have to eat them all in one sitting which should not be difficult.

This is a food that will nourish your soul AND your tummy.

Chicken and Dumplings  Serves 4

Chicken and VegetablesTop Recipe Makeover

1 quart gluten-free chicken stock, more as needed
1/4 cup dry sherry or vermouth (optional)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 medium potatoes peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
Ground black or white pepper

Dumplings
(Makes about 12 dumplings)

2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour blend*
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives or other fresh herbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk of choice
1 large egg, beaten

Heat the chicken stock to a gentle simmer in a medium saucepan.  Add sherry, if used, and garlic.  Add chicken breasts and salt and pepper to taste.  Poach covered for 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the breasts and cool.   Skim foam off the surface of the liquid.

Return the pot of chicken broth to medium-high heat.  Add the onion, celery, carrot, parsnips, potatoes, and thyme.  Cover and simmer vegetables until just fork tender (about 10 minutes), while making the dumplings.

Make the dumpling batter by sifting together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add chopped chives or other fresh herbs. Add melted butter, milk and egg to the dry ingredients. Gently mix with a wooden spoon or fork until mixture is moist and comes together.  Do not overmix or dumplings will be too dense.

Cube the chicken and return to the pot.  Add additional broth if mixture is too thick or liquid has cooked down too much. Return to a simmer.

Drop dumpling batter into the simmering stew by heaping tablespoonfuls, over the surface of the stew. (Note that the dumplings will double in size as they cook.)  Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes.   Do not uncover and peek while the dumplings are cooking.  In order for the dumplings to be light and fluffy, they must steam, not boil. Uncovering the pan releases the steam. If after 15 minutes they are still not cooked through (use a toothpick or skewer to test) cover pan again, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Gently stir in peas and parsley. Ladle portions of meat, sauce, vegetables, and dumplings into soup plates and serve. Note that the stew will continue to thicken as it sits.

* If all-purpose flour blend contains salt, do not add additional salt.  If blend does not contain xanthan or guar gum, add 1 teaspoon gum to the dry ingredients.

Here’s the blend I like to use:

Basic Blend
2 ¾ cups rice flour
1 ¼ cups corn or potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca flour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Sweetie!  These dazzling Linzer Cookies are just the thing for your special someone.  They are easy to make, keep for several days, and freeze well.

I confess.  I am a sucker for cookies, especially cut-out cookies.  But it seems like many of you are, too. People frequently ask me if I have a good recipe for roll-out cookies.  So, here it is.  These are wonderful and, since two cookies are sandwiched together, you get two-for-one when you make these Linzer Cookies.

And, now I feel like the Ginsu Knife salesperson.   Not only can you make Linzer Cookies with this recipe, but you can also make fabulous drop cookies, too.

I love the idea of using one recipe to make many kinds of cookies.  It’s brilliant.

My goal was to develop a dough that can be used for several variations.  To create this makeover, I incorporated elements of several recipes I found in regular cookbooks and turned these inspirations into one Master Dough.  I’m making roll-out Linzer Cookies here, but by adding an additional egg, I’ve also come up with recipes for fabulous Double Ginger Cookies and Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies.  (See the recipes below.)  I suspect the possibilities are endless, but I will stop at two and let you use your own culinary inventiveness
to create others.

All of the mainstream recipes I found use butter.  I tried these with Earth Balance Buttery (Vegan) Sticks and with unsalted butter.  Truth be told, I prefer butter.  There’s nothing quite like the taste in home-baked cookies.  But, if you can’t tolerate dairy, these work well with a dairy-free spread.  I also added one teaspoon of baking powder to lighten the finished product. Gluten-free baking needs all the help it can get.

For ease of handling, I rolled out the Linzer Cookies between sheets of plastic wrap.  Don’t roll them too thin or they will be difficult to handle.  And, don’t use raspberry jam with seeds.  It is disastrous as the little seeds make it very difficult to fill the tiny opening in the top cookie.

Enjoy these cookies and don’t forget to share some with your sweetheart!

Roll-Out Linzer Cookies
Makes 48 to 60 cookies

1 ¾ sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon orange extract
2 ½ cups cake and pastry flour blend (below) or all purpose blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam or jelly

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until soft and slightly fluffy.  Add the egg, vanilla and orange extracts and beat until smooth.  Combine flour blend and baking powder.  Add the flour blend to the butter mixture, one cup at a time, beating briefly just to incorporate
after each addition.

Between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick.   Cut out 2-inch circles or other shapes.  Gently gather the extra dough from around the cutouts and reroll it.  Chill the cutout cookies for 15 minutes while you roll out remaining dough.  With a small star or circle or the point of a paring knife, cut centers out of half the cookies.  Remove the centers and add them to the dough you are reworking.  When cookies are chilled, use a spatula to transfer them to the cookie sheets, setting them 1 inch apart.  Bake 10 to 11 minutes or
just until the edges are slightly brown.

Heat the jam or jelly in a microwave for 45 seconds or until softened.  Set the whole cookies on one sheet of parchment.  Brush with jam and top with a cut-out cookie.  Spoon the remaining jam into the center of each cookie sandwich, leaving any chunks of fruit behind.  Let cool until set.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  These can also be frozen.

Cranberry White Chocolate Walnut Cookies
(Makes 42 to 48 cookies)

1 ¾ sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon orange extract
2 ½ cups cake and pastry flour blend (below) or all purpose blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup dried cranberries
¾ cup white chocolate
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until soft and slightly fluffy.  Add the eggs, vanilla and orange extracts and beat until smooth.  Combine flour blend and baking powder.  Add the flour blend to the butter mixture, one cup at a time, beating briefly just to incorporate
after each addition.  Fold in cranberries, white chocolate, and chopped walnuts.  Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheets and bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Double Ginger Spice Cookies
(Makes 42 to 48 cookies)

1 ¾ sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon orange extract
2 ½ cups cake and pastry flour blend (below) or all purpose blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
¾ cup chopped crystallized ginger
½ cup raisins.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until soft and slightly fluffy.  Add the eggs, molasses, vanilla and orange extracts and beat until smooth.  Combine flour blend, baking powder, and spices.  Add the flour blend to the butter mixture, one cup at a time, beating briefly just
to incorporate after each addition.  Fold in chopped ginger and raisins.  Drop by
teaspoons onto a plate of sugar and roll to coat.  Set on baking sheets and bake 10 to 12
minutes.

Cake and Pastry Flour

This makes ¼ cup more flour blend than you’ll need for the master dough recipe.  Reserve the extra for dusting the counter when making roll-out cookies. 

1 cup sweet white sorghum flour (4 ounces)
1 cup white rice flour (5.4 ounces)
¾ cup cornstarch (3.4 ounces)
1½ teaspoons xanthan gum (or guar gum)
½ teaspoon salt

SHORTCUT:  This blend makes very light pastries and cookies with a fine crumb but, if you are pressed for time, you may use 2 ½ cups of any all purpose flour blend.  Add the xanthan gum and salt if they are not already in the blend.