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A Recipe by Beth Hillson
Yield: 24 bars

This is my latest go-to dessert.  I take it to pot luck dinners, bake sales, you name it!  It’s easy, delicious and amazingly versatile.  Use whatever fruit is in season.  Vary the sweetness of this recipe by adding more or less sugar depending on your tastebuds and the natural sweetness of the fruit.  The bars freeze well.

I made these using RYZE Blue Flour Blend.  Instead of measuring out a bunch of flours, I use one ingredient.  However, you could certainly make this with any A/P flour blend.  Make sure it contains xanthan gum or add 1 teaspoon xanthan gum to the recipe.

For the Dough
3 cups RYZE Blue Flour Blend or an A/P Gluten-Free Flour Blend that contains xanthan gum
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the Filling
4 cups (2 pints) fresh blueberries of 5 cups peeled, sliced peaches or apples (about 6-7)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup RYZE Blue Flour Blend or an A/P Gluten-Free Flour Blend that contains xanthan gum
½ to ¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and coat with vegetable spray.

Make the Dough: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the knife blade, add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse several times to combine.  Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal (about 10 pulses).  Add the egg and pulse briefly.  Empty contents into a large bowl. With a fork, mix the dough until egg is distributed evenly.  Dough will be crumbly.  Or combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Use a pastry blender to cut in the butter, and then the egg.

Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan. Place the pan and the remainder of the dough in the refrigerator to stay cold while preparing the filling.

Make the Filling: Place the washed and drained blueberries in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice and vanilla. Mix gently. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle over the fruit and toss gently with a wooden spoon.

Spread the fruit mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the blueberries.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Recipe from Beth Hillson
Makes 36 cookies

These chewy cookies are laced with brown sugar and sweet butterscotch chips.  Adding a sea salt topping creates an explosion of flavors.  Easy to make, these are perfect for holiday cookie swaps and gifting but you’ll want these on your table for every occasion.

sweet and salty butterscotch cookies

2 cups gluten free cake and cookie blend (below)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup gluten free butterscotch chips such as Hershey or Guittard brand
Sea salt, for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour blend, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Place butter and brown sugar in the large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until combined.

Add the dry ingredients. Mix until the just combined. Stir in the butterscotch chips.

Using a spoon or cookie scoop, form tablespoons size balls of cookie dough. Top with a sprinkle of sea salt.  Press into the dough. Place on balls on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. Do not over bake. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Store in an air-tight container for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Cake and Cookie Flour Blend

This makes enough flour blend for several of your favorite holiday cookie recipes.

2 cup sweet white sorghum flour
2 cup white rice flour
1 ½ cups cornstarch
3 teaspoons xanthan gum (or guar gum)
1 teaspoon salt

Mix to combine.  Store leftover blend in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator.

Recipe by Beth Hillson
Makes 30 to 32 cookies

holiday sugar cookies

These rich, buttery cookies are slightly crisp on the outside with a chewy center. They have quickly become my favorite cookies; they’ll be yours, too.

Dip dough in colorful sanding sugar to turn them into beautiful holiday cookies.  Top with chopped pecans or fold chopped, toasted nuts into the batter to create another variety. Perfect for cookie swaps and gifting, you’ll be making these cookies for occasions all year long.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups cookie and cake flour blend (below)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sour cream
Sanding sugar or sprinkles (optional)

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down sides with spatula. Add egg and vanilla. Mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour blend, baking powder, and baking soda. Add half to wet ingredients, mixing on low speed. Then add sour cream and combine. Finally, add the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough is well blended.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Roll dough into walnut-size balls.  Dip one side in sugar (if using). Place sugar-side up on parchment-lined baking sheets, two inches apart as dough will spread.

Bake for 15 minutes, until edges start to brown slightly.

Cool for 10 minutes in pans before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Cooled cookies will keep in an air-tight container at room temperature for several days and can be frozen for up to 2 months.

TIP:  Can’t have dairy products?  Replace butter with dairy-free buttery sticks from Earth Balance and sour cream with dairy-free sour cream from Tofutti or Follow Your Heart.  For lactose-free sour cream, check out Green Valley Organics.

Cake and Cookie Flour Blend

This makes enough flour blend for several batches of your favorite cookie recipes.

2 cup sweet white sorghum flour
2 cup white rice flour
1 ½ cups cornstarch
3 teaspoons xanthan gum (or guar gum)
1 teaspoon salt

Mix to combine.  Store leftover blend in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator.

 

I envy Northern California for its long growing season, its verdant farms and endless vineyards. But from June to September, Connecticut is in full bloom and I am content to stay close to home, near the local orchards and farms that rival anything I’ve seen in any other part of the US. Our best chefs know that cooking with fresh, local foods can turn ordinary recipes into three-star meals.  I’m reminded of that secret when Connecticut’s harvest smiles.  I load up on fresh corn, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and herbs.  I can never have enough!

And just about now, the orchards are bearing fruit – – pears, apples, and peaches.  Ah.  Peaches.  Perhaps my favorite of all the local produce.  Nothing else comes close to that juicy, tree-ripened crop.   Their faint fruit perfume floats over the back roads as I drive by the local orchards.  I buy them by the bushelful.  By the time I get home, I’ve devoured a sizable number and my car seat and steering wheel bear the sticky evidence.  It’s a race to reach my saturation point before the trees return to their dormant state.  So I eat just as many as I possibly can.  But I reserve enough to bake a few special treats.

This peach cake is one. Fresh peach slices, fanned out over the buttery cake, turn this into an elegant dessert that bursts with intense flavor. The cake makes the perfect company dessert that fools most into thinking it’s not gluten-free.  Perhaps that’s because I started with a great, gluten-filled recipe.  This is a makeover from one I saw in Bon Appetit several years ago.  It can also be packed and taken to a picnic or a pot luck meal. Don’t tell, but I make this with frozen peaches when the fresh varieties are not available. They beat the hard, unripened fruit that I find in stores throughout the rest of the year. I’ve also used fresh plums. The purple skin makes for an equally beautiful presentation.

PEACH CAKE

3/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour blend *
½ cup sorghum Flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½  teaspoon xanthan gum
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter or non-dairy buttery spread, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 large eggs or egg replacer of choice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
4 ripe, but firm peaches halved and each half cut into 4 slices*
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon for topping
Whipped cream or whipped dairy-free topping

Second Choice:  Cascadian Farms or other brand Organic sliced peaches can be used.  Thaw fruit before using.  Purchase 2, 10-ounce bags and pick the prettiest slices for this cake.  Save the rest for another use.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9-inch spring form pan. Combine the flour blend, sorghum flour, baking powder, and xanthan gum in a bowl; set aside.

Beat ¾ cup of the sugar and butter in a mixing bowl until fluffy.  Add the dry ingredients and orange zest and beat until crumbly. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the orange juice and beat just to incorporate. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Arrange the peach slices on top of the batter so that they touch and form concentric circles that cover the batter. Press into the batter lightly. Don’t worry if the slices are not perfect. The cake will partially cover the fruit as it bakes. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle over the batter.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes, until golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Run a knife along the side of the pan to release and remove the side of the pan. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or dairy-free topping.

*  If  the blend you use does not contain salt and gum, add ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon additional xanthan gum to the dry ingredients.

“I used to serve my family Strawberry Cake before I became gluten-free,” said Alice.  Any chance you could create one like that?” 

I told her I had seen a bunch of recipes.  Some used Jell-O and others used real strawberries.  What did she have in mind? 

“Not the one with Jell-O.  Mine was like a white cake with pureed fruit in it,” she told me.

“I know how to make a gluten-free cake and I’m a sucker for strawberries,” I told Alice.  I mean, I’ve been known to plan vacations to coincide with the local strawberry crop, I explained.  I was eager to give this a try.  But, as it turns out, our local crop of berries has gone by and the fresh strawberries come from across the United States or South America this time of year.  I ended up using frozen, whole, unsweetened strawberries.  They were easier and tastier.  The flavor was more concentrated and more consistent.  So, you’ll see that my recipe calls for frozen berries.  Unless your local berries are in season,  I suggest you do the same.  Use fresh berries for garnish and even dip a few in chocolate for an added touch. 

And use a good gluten-free cake flour blend, one that includes sorghum and cornstarch.  Sorghum is light and less grainy than rice flour.  Plus it has nutrients and fiber.  Cornstarch lightens the texture and adds structure to the cake.  If you are able to have corn products, use it in this recipe.  Otherwise, tapioca or potato starch are okay, but a distant second.  If you can’t tolerate dairy products, Earth Balance products work well.

Now about color.  That’s a matter of preference.  I’ve seen versions of strawberry cake that are bright red.  That’s not from the berries, I’m afraid.  Rather, it’s from red food coloring.  If you like that stuff and that color, by all means, add a drop or two to the batter.  I prefer the subtle pink and don’t really like food dyes.

So, here’s a really, truly completely from-scratch, fresh strawberry cake. No Jell-O, food coloring, or artificial flavors!  Using frozen strawberries makes this easy and means you can celebrate strawberry season anytime of the year.

Strawberry Cake

1, 16-ounce bag frozen, unsweetened whole strawberries
1 cup white rice flour, more to dust pans
¾ cup sorghum flour
½ cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
1 ¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk or milk of choice, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly oil 2, 8 or 9 inch round pans.  Dust with rice flour.  Set aside.

Slightly thaw strawberries.  Puree in a food processor.  Transfer to a mesh strainer and set over a bowl large enough to set the strainer over the opening.   Using a rubber spatula, scrape the puree through the strainer, then scrape the underside of the strainer, catching the puree in the bowl.  Repeat until just seeds and pulp remain in the strainer. You should have about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups of puree.  Set aside and discard the seeds and pulp.

Combine rice flour, sorghum flour, cornstarch, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda.  Mix well.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add dry ingredients and beat to combine.  Fold in ¾ cup strawberry puree.  (Reserve remainder for frosting.)  Add milk and beat until smooth.  If you would like a deeper pink color to the batter,  add a drop or two of pink or red food coloring here.

Divide the batter evenly among the pans and smooth tops.

Bake for about 23 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cakes cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto wire racks. Let cakes cool completely before frosting.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8 ounce) package of low-fat cream cheese, softened
½ stick of butter, softened
½ cup pureed strawberries from above
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk (if needed)

Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth.

Slowly add the sugar in 1 cup batches until desired sweetness and consistency is achieved.

Stir in puree and vanilla. Add milk slowly if you need a looser consistency.

Frost cake and garnish with sliced or halved fresh strawberries.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

You can also make 24 cupcakes from this recipe.

 

 

A letter from a reader sent me scurrying to create an oatmeal cookie.

“I have had celiac for 15 years, I’m excited about all the new products coming out in all these years.  But I haven’t found an oatmeal cookie I like.  I was wondering if you have a recipe for oatmeal cookies?”

The note sparked memories of my childhood when we would pull down the Quaker Oats cannister from the top shelf of the cupboard and make the recipe on the back of the container.  I couldn’t recall the last time I made oatmeal cookies – certainly not since I became gluten-free 36 years ago.

So her suggestion triggered a powerful reaction in me, a hankering to enjoy chewy oatmeal cookies again.  But this time, I couldn’t use Quaker Oats or all-purpose flour and my tastebuds hankered for a more updated, mature version of my childhood favorite.  Nevertheless, as I creamed the butter and sugar and folded in gluten-free oats with a wooden spoon that had belonged to my mother,  I was, once again, standing at the counter in her blue and yellow kitchen.  Funny how a hankering evokes such vivid memories – – the days of childhood, the days of old fashion oatmeal cookies, the days before I was gluten-free.

I suspect oatmeal cookies stir up fond associations for all of us.  I brought these cookies to a barbecue where the young adults far outnumbered us oldsters.  One-by-one, the “kids” in the group sought me out to say, “thank you.”   “These are the best cookies I have ever had,” several of them told me.  A couple of them (friends of my son who is a celiac) knew they were gluten-free, but no one else  suspected.

The recipe was inspired by one on Food.com.  It’s a good thing it makes a big batch! They disappear quickly.  A key step in this recipe is to let the dried cranberries soak in the eggs and vanilla for 1 hour.  So allow a little extra time when preparing these.  If you’d like to reduce the fat, replace 4 to 6 tablespoons of butter with the same amount of unsweetened applesauce.

The Best Oatmeal Cookies EverBest Oatmeal Cookies Ever
Makes 72-84 cookies

3 large eggs, well beaten
1 cup dried cranberries such as Craisin brand
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter. softened
1 cup lightly-packed light brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
2 ¾ cups any All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 ¼ cups gluten-free rolled oats (not steel cut or thick cut oats)
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

*Add 1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum and ½ teaspoon salt if these are not included in your blend.

Combine eggs, cranberries and vanilla and let stand for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two or more cookie sheets with parchment.  Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugars.  Mix flour with cinnamon and baking soda and whisk to combine.   Add to butter mixture and mix well.  Blend in egg mixture, oats, and chopped walnuts.   Dough will be stiff.

Drop by heaping teaspoons onto cookie sheet, or roll into balls and flatten slightly.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.  Cool in pan before removing to a serving tray as cookies are quite soft.

These freeze well.

 

My latest makeover comes from Lois A. who asked me if I would recreate her recipe for an Italian cookie called Anginettes.  She said her family made batches of these delectable treats for Christmas and Easter and delivered them all over the neighborhood.  I’m not surprised.  The cookies are amazing and the recipe makes enough to feed an army!  I cut the batch in half but you can double it if you have a large family or are planning a gigantic Easter gathering.

As I researched Anginettes, I found that these cookies are a tradition in many families.  Everyone has their own way of making them as well as story or two romanticizing the cookies – – wooing boyfriends with plates of these, making them for every member of the family or feeding the entire neighborhood.

Some family recipes call for adding citrus (lemon or orange); others make Anginettes with anisette liquor.  Some drop the cookies; others, like Lois, roll them into knots.  Many frost them with colorful confectionary icing as I have done here.

One thing is clear.  This humble, slightly sweet cookie pairs well with strong coffee and good friends.

Certainly with all that tradition surrounding Anginettes, it seemed like someone should try to make them gluten-free.   I was up to the task.  But first, I had a few questions for Lois.

“Are they soft, hard, big, small?” I asked.  Lois told me the texture should be soft.  And the shape?  It was another puzzle for a novice Anginette baker like me.  Lois said the dough was rolled like a snake and folded over.  “Folded like a pretzel?” I asked.    Then she told me, “I get a melon ball- size piece of dough and form it into about a 3″ long snake.  I put one end of the snake onto the baking sheet and bring it around and up, piling it on top of itself.”  She sent a picture of finished cookies all frosted in pretty pastel colors.

I’m happy to say mine looked just like the picture.  However, I was not able to twist 3-inch snakes.  Mine were longer, around 5 to 6 inches.  “Some families drop teaspoons onto baking sheets, but my family always did it this way,” she said.  I tried making drop cookies too,  and they were equally delicious.

To Make Over Lois’s Recipe:  I replaced the regular flour with the Cake and Pastry Flour below.  The flour blend is light and not the least bit grainy, lending itself to delicate pastries.  I added a little more xanthan gum so the cookies would be more elastic and easier to roll and form.  And I cut the shortening into the dry ingredients before adding the eggs and vanilla.  That method almost always guarantees a light texture.

Several of the recipes called for orange juice.  I added some to half the dough but it made it too wet to roll.  So I made that portion into drop cookies – – equally good.  I made confectionary frosting and divided it into three bowls, adding a different food color to each bowl.  The result was these festive Easter cookies that are ridiculously easy and sinfully delicious.  They taste even better the second day and freeze well, too.

Easy, Delicious Cookies for EasterAnginettes (Makes 30 to 36 cookies)
2 ½ cups Cake and Pastry Flour (below), unsifted
½  cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ cup + 2 tablespoons Earth Balance organic shortening or other organic shortening, in small pieces
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup orange juice (to make drop cookies)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Combine flour blend, sugar, baking powder and xanthan gum.  Cut in the shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.   Mix in eggs and vanilla.  (Add the orange juice here if making drop cookies.)

Pull off walnut-size pieces and roll into 6” long snakes.  Wind the dough in a circle around itself with the end set on top.  Place on cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes.

Cool and frost with confectioners’ sugar mixed with enough milk so that it is of frosting consistency.  Frosting can be tinted if desired.

Cake and Pastry Flour 

2 cup sweet white sorghum flour
2 cup white rice flour
1 ½  cups cornstarch
3 teaspoons xanthan gum (or guar gum)
1 teaspoon salt

Mix to combine.  Store leftover blend in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator.