Using Your Noodle
I’ve always had a love affair with pasta salads. Easily transformed, they take on the flavor of the dressing, the add-ins, the seasonings, the spices. Cilantro, black beans, corn, and pico de gallo allow me to call my salad, “Mexican Fiesta.” Adding chopped pepperoni, black olives, mozzarella cheese, and artichoke hearts turns my dish into “Antipasto Pasta.”
What’s more, I make it up as I go along. If I have feta cheese and Greek dressing that’s gluten free, the salad might be more of a “Greek Goddess” salad. Caesar dressing and anchovies might become my “Hail Caesar Pasta Salad.” You get the picture. Pasta salad is easy, versatile, and delicious. And little tweaks can completely change its ethnic roots.
With all the gluten-free pasta products available, the trick is selecting the best cut for your salad and following a few simple tips to keep the noodles from getting mushy or absorbing all the dressing before it’s served.
For most pasta salads, select a short pasta. Spirals (fussili), elbows, cavatelli, and small shells are great choices as they hold their shape and pull the flavors of the salad into the crevices of the noodles.
Undercook pasta by 3 to 4 minutes or just until the brittleness is gone. It should be chewy, but not crunchy. Drain the pasta and rinse well under cold water. This removes the starch and cools the pasta so that it does not continue cooking. Now the pasta can sit while you prepare the added ingredients.
Pasta salads can be prepared a few hours ahead but don’t toss the ingredients and dressing into the salad until just before serving.
All Grains are Not Created Equal
Gluten-free pasta comes in all matter of grains. Quinoa, corn, rice, and brown rice are the most common. And many are a blend of flours as well. White rice and brown rice pasta do not hold up as well as others. You might want to leave these for hot dishes that are served as soon as they are made. Corn pasta (preferably from Italy) and quinoa pasta are well suited to pasta salads. They do not fall apart or turn mushy and can even stay overnight in the refrigerator without decomposing.
Here’s one of my favorite summer pasta salads. Roasting the vegetables before they are added, produces an intense and vibrant flavor that is both fresh and satisfying.
Quinoa Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Orange and Olives
1 (8-ounce) box Ancient Harvest quinoa rotelle pasta (about 2 cups) or other quinoa or corn pasta
6 large plum tomatoes, each cut into 6 to 8 wedges
1 large onion, halved lengthwise, cut into thin wedges
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Juice and zest of one orange rind, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Fresh basil, cut into thin strips (about ¼ cup)
½ cup halved, pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup fresh feta cheese crumbles or dairy-free cheese shreds 2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water 6 to 7 minutes or until tender but still firm to bite. Rinse in cool water and drain well. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Oil 2 rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray.
Spread tomato wedges on one sheet and onion wedges on the second sheet.
Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic and juice and rind of one orange. Drizzle half over vegetables on each sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven until vegetables are very tender and brown around edges, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes for onions and 45 minutes for tomatoes. Cool slightly. Set aside.
Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl. Add roasted tomato and onion mixtures, basil and olives to pasta. Stir gently. Add cheese, 2 tablespoons orange juice and olive oil. Toss. Add more salt and pepper, to taste.
May is Celiac Awareness Month
I am celebrating with cupcakes and I hope you’ll join me. I’ll tell you how in a moment, but first, here’s a little background on why this event has far-reaching implications for all of us.
The World’s Tallest Gluten-Free Cake
Last year I was part of the world’s largest gluten-free cake event along with the American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA) and the 1in133.org awareness project. Hundreds of us met in Washington, DC to build the world’s tallest gluten-free cake, bring attention to the number of people with celiac disease and convince the FDA to reopen the process for creating gluten-free regulations.
While Jules Shepard and John Forberger headed the confectionery team, Andrea Levario and I headed to Capitol Hill to manage the legislative front. With our sons, media folks and gluten-free manufacturers in tow, we spoke to Congressional leaders about the importance of gluten-free regulations. We asked them to keep the pressure on the FDA to push the regulations forward.
They Heard Us And We Ate Cake
In the early evening, we gathered at a reception for supporters and Congressional folks. To our delight, the Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, Mike Taylor, attended. In front of hundreds of us, Deputy Commissioner Taylor told the group we would have gluten-free regulations. On August 4, the FDA reopened the comment period for the regulations. The comment period closed on October 3 and the FDA promised to issue these regulations by the end of the third quarter of 2012. The countdown is on.
Calling All Cupcake Builders
This May, as we await the forthcoming regulations, I invite everyone to make cupcakes – – one for every year you have been gluten-free. Take a picture and share it with the community by posting to the ACDA’s Facebook page. Then post to your Facebook page, blog and link back to the ACDA’s page. Vote for your favorite cupcake by “liking” the photos on the Alliance Facebook page. Prizes will be awarded in categories like best presentation; most unique decorations; most years being gluten-free; and kids categories. The winners will receive products and coupons from several gluten-free companies. Get out those whisks and mixing bowls. The more likes we receive the more voices will be heard from our virtual community. Go to 1in133 for guidelines.
Let’s Eat Cupcakes
This weekend, I made 56 chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting; 36 for me and 19 for my son, Jeremy. That’s a lot of cupcakes. Let me tell you. But, I’ve seen, firsthand, the power of community. When a standard for gluten-free on food packaging comes out, I can say I had a hand in making it happen. I hope you’ll join me in that effort. It feels good. And, besides, you get to eat cupcakes!
Here’s the recipe I used. You are welcome to “borrow” it. The chocolate cupcakes are a variation on those in my book, Gluten-Free Makeovers. The frosting is pure decadence – – a blend of peanut butter and cream cheese. I love peanut butter and chocolate and the slightly tangy cream cheese flavor cuts the sweetness in a lovely, subtle way. To bring it all together, I top these cupcakes with crushed Reese Peanut Butter Cups. If you are allergic to peanut butter, you could use sunflower butter or simply frost these with plain cream cheese frosting.
CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BLOSSOM CUPCAKES
Makes 24 to 28 cupcakes
2 ¼ cups Cake and Pastry Flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter or non-dairy buttery spread, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk, soy milk, or rice milk
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease or oil two 12-cup muffin tins or line with paper liners. Combine the cake flour, cocoa, baking powder; and baking soda. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate. Blend in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups, filling a little more than half full. Smooth the tops and bake on the center rack for 16 to 18 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely before frosting.
PEANUT BUTTER BLOSSOM FROSTING
1 cup smooth peanut butter (any gluten-free brand)
½ cup milk
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup (about 6) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, crumbled (optional)
Beat the peanut butter, milk, cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar together until smooth and fluffy. Frost cupcakes. Sprinkle with crumbled peanut butter cups. Refrigerate until time to serve.
Cake and Pastry Flour
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.
Quick, Delicious Chicken and Rice
I went to culinary school in the seventies when classic techniques were still in vogue. We whisked egg whites in copper bowls, boned whole fish, and removed chicken from its skeleton leaving meat and skin intact. But, Auguste Escoffier forgive me. There is more than one way to skin a chicken. As a modern chef and cook, I take shortcuts. Besides, being gluten-free, I cook to eat. I can’t wait all day to enjoy a meal.
In that same era, I took a cooking class in Indian Cuisine. We toasted and ground aromatic spices and made our own customized garam masala, a blend that’s used to flavor every dish. We peeled and grated ginger, poached tomatoes to remove the skin, and fried onions until they were a perfect golden hue. The end results were amazing; but, come on, who has the time to cook this way?
I did meet my future husband in this class and we fell in love over Biryani and Vindaloo. But, I confess we rarely made Indian food together. (It’s still one of my favorites to eat in restaurants and is a decidedly gluten-free-friendly cuisine.) Then I fell in love again – – with Passage Foods Simmer Sauces, aromatic blends of exotic spices, ginger, onion, and garlic, that simmer for hours before they are packaged. These sauces brought Indian food back into my kitchen. All I do is add a protein (chicken or lamb) and some veggies like eggplant, okra. tomato or potato. (Veggies aren’t even necessary if I’m in a rush.) In the time it takes to cook basmati rice in my rice steamer, I have a full meal.
Today, I added a few extra steps so I could justify calling this a recipe instead of a tip. With these additions, I turned Passage Foods Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce into Chicken Biryani and it tastes just like the meal we made in my Indian cooking class years ago.
In case you don’t know about Biryani, it’s a flavorful rice dish filled with aromatic Indian flavors, pieces of chicken or lamb and chunks of potato. There are four hallmarks of a good Biryani. (1) The grains of rice should not clump but be separate and easy to spread apart. (2) The aroma should fill the room with a sweetish fragrance that is not overpowering or reminiscent of any one specific spice. (3) The taste should be flavorful and roll off the tongue and the flavor should fill the meat. (4) There must be nicely browned potatoes and they should be as flavorful as the meat . Without potatoes, it is not Biryani.
So there you have it – – a perfect Biryani. And here’s the recipe. I think you’ll agree it’s easy and delicious. And thanks to simmer sauces, I’ve found a better way to skin a chicken.
Easy and Delicious Chicken Biryani
1 pouch Passage Foods Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce, divided (or other Indian simmer sauce)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in 1 inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 ½ cups raw Basmati rice
3 cups gluten-free chicken broth
¾ cup dark raisins
1 ¼ cups shredded carrots (commercial product like Dole brand)
Reserve 1/2 cup of simmer sauce. Marinate chicken in the remaining simmer sauce for 30 to 90 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and sauté the potatoes and onion until brown and potatoes are fork tender. Remove from skillet and set aside.
In a medium pot, combine the rice, reserved simmer sauce and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add raisins and carrots. Simmer until liquid is absorbed (about 18 to 20 minutes). The rice should be slightly chewy, not too soft. (Remember – it should not clump.)
While the rice is cooking, heat remaining oil in skillet. Sauté the chicken until browned and cooked through.
When rice is done, fold in the potato and onion mixture. Reheat briefly (about 1 minute). Spread mixture over a serving platter and top with chicken.
Now For Some Deals!
Want a sample of Passage Foods Tikka Masala? Sign up for our newsletter in the upper right hand corner of this site. We’ll send five lucky people sample packs of Indian, Thai, and Moroccan Simmer Sauces. Or go to Passage Foods for information on where you can find their sauces.
Blender Girl Giveaway
I love this community of bloggers. So much energy! Look at this. My new best blogging friend Tess Masters aka Blender Girl is making April gluten-free month with great recipes from all your gluten free blogger friends and a KitchenAid Giveaway. Check it out.
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
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
(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:
2 ¾ cups rice flour
1 ¼ cups corn or potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca flour
Of all the take-your-breath-away vistas, the hikes into remote areas, the climbs over glacier crusted mountains, one adventure missed my radar entirely until we visited the Canadian Rockies last summer. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined a full-grown grizzly bear would be joining us for breakfast!
It was a crystal clear, late summer day and I was enjoying a world free of commercial interruption. Perhaps it was the berries, the yogurt, or the hour (nearly 8 a.m.). But, more likely, it was the location – – sleepy Baker Creek (near Lake Louise and Banff) – – where we stayed in a rustic cabin no more than fifteen feet from the water’s edge. I stood over my husband’s shoulder pouring coffee when she caught my eye, sauntering by, not ten feet from the sliding glass door.
“Honey, you might want to look up from your computer for a moment,” I said to my husband who had not fully unplugged, yet. Indeed, a magnificent brownish-gray beast with that unmistakable hump behind its head was wandering by. Griz held our attention for what seemed like an hour as she slowly meandered past the cabin and down to the chilly brook. “This might be a good time to get the camera,” said my husband. But, alas, I couldn’t move, could not take my eyes off the gorgeous creature who might have truly joined us for breakfast had I opened the glass door.
So, you’ll have to take my word that a grizzly bear came to breakfast one August morning. But you need not take my word that a visit to the Canadian Rockies affords an extraordinary mix of travel and exploration. Besides the vistas, the glaciers, the majestic falls, save an appetite for dinner. Restaurants in the Canadian Rockies are no strangers to the gluten-free diet. Every eatery seems to speak gluten-free and many offer separate menus, gluten-free pizza, breads, and rolls.
And we ate well – -from the four-star Post Hotel in Lake Louise to the rustic Bakers Creek Lodge at Bakers Creek, to pizza parlors and Cassio’s Italian restaurant (with several gluten-free pasta dishes). It’s just across from the railroad station in Jasper, Alberta.
High on my list was Evil Dave’s Grill in Jasper. There’s no Dave at this funky, self-styled
café. What you will find is great service, sublime atmosphere, and wicked food. Owners Mike and Cyndi Day are known for offering a whimsical menu and casual décor that makes diners feel nourished the moment they enter. From the gluten-free menu, check out Chinese Lettuce Wraps, Malicious Salmon (blackened salmon with a skewer of grilled shrimp) Fiendish Falafel, and convicted Felon (Asian style salmon over rice noodles).
My favorite was El Diablo Chicken, a signature dish that’s bursting with flavor and a bit of spice. (The heat can be adjusted by cutting back on the chipotle seasoning.) Chef Nicole shared the recipe which I adapted here. I’m plannng to serve this at a gathering for the Super Bowl, but its great presentation makes this a perfect company meal, too.
It’s not too early to plan a summer vacation to the Canadian Rockies where the season is short and hotels book quickly. And, about that grizzly – – well, you’ll have to find your own. Our bear was last seen swimming across the creek.
4 to 5 large boneless, skinless chicken breast filets (about 1 to 1 ½ pounds)
¼ cup olive oil
1tablespoon good quality chili powder
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Juice of one large lime
Combine marinade ingredients and add chicken breasts. Stir to coat and let stand, refrigerated, for at least 3 hours.
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ of a large yellow onion, diced
Two vine-ripened tomatoes, diced or 1 (15 ounce) can of diced drained tomatoes
½ to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (adjust for heat)
2 cups gluten-free chicken broth
¼ to ½ cup heavy cream
½ cup corn kernels, thawed, if frozen
½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups cooked Jasmine rice
1 to 2 ripe avocados, thinly sliced
2 scallions, top third removed, coarsely chopped
To make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Sauté the onion and tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add chipotle powder and sauté briefly. Add the chicken broth and simmer until reduced by half. While the mixture is simmering, preheat a grill to medium high and grill the chicken on both sides until centers are no longer pink. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly and slice each filet diagonally to yield 5 to 6 slices per filet. Add the cream to the reduced chicken broth mixture and simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Fold in corn and black beans.
Divide rice between 4 to 6 plates (or plate on one serving platter). Spoon a portion of the tomato mixture over the rice. Fan out chicken slices over the top and garnish with avocado slices and a sprinkle of chopped scallion. Or arrange on a platter and serve family-style.
I have exciting news . . well, sort of. Gluten-Free Makeovers won an honorable mention at the New England Book Festival. Ordinarily I would do the always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride thing and wallow in butter cream for a few days. But the category was cookbooks, all types of cookbooks. Mine was gluten-free, a fairly narrow subject within the category. And the cookbook that won was Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. It has universal appeal and has taken honors everywhere. If there is anyone I would want to be the bride in this category, it’s Dorie. I’m a huge fan of this great lady and wonderful chef. Her book, all her books, are well researched and inspired. And her recipes work. Besides, she lives in Connecticut part of the year. We are almost neighbors.
So, when I was asked to recreate a spice cake for some readers, this not-too-sweet cake appeared on my radar. It came from a recipe by Dorie Greenspan that appeared in Bon Appetit Magazine in October 2009. I knew I couldn’t miss if I made over a recipe she had created.
This one is amazing. It’s light and moist and, although considerably revised to make it gluten-free, I thank Dorie for steering me in the right direction. By frosting only the top and center of the cake with cream cheese frosting and using applesauce for part of the fat, it’s lower in calories than it’s hi-test cousin.
Dorie says to use fairly sweet apples with a sturdy structure like Gala of Fuji apples. There’s no question this is a winner. And, all things considered, it would make a fabulous wedding cake.
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
½ cup tapioca starch
½ cup cornstarch or potato starch
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
1 ¾ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups sugar
¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brandy or rum (optional)
1 1/3 cups unsweetened applesauce
2 medium Fuji or Gala apples, peeled, cut into 1/3-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting:
1, 8-ounce package reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup coarsely ground walnuts
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly oil two 9-inch-round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Whisk first 12 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, then brandy, if desired (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture to egg mixture in thirds alternating with the applesauce. Beat until blended after each addition. Fold in apples. Divide batter between cake pans; smooth tops.
Bake cakes on the center rack until tester inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and cool in pans 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks. Cool completely.
This can be made a day ahead. Wrap each cake in plastic and store at room temperature.
To Make the Frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla extract and pinch of salt. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and beat briefly to incorporate.
Transfer one cake to serving platter, flat side down. Drop half of frosting (about 1 1/2 cups) by spoonfuls atop cake. Spread frosting evenly to edges of cake. Top with second cake, flat side down. Drop remaining frosting by spoonfuls onto top of cake, leaving sides of cake plain. Spread frosting to top edges of cake, swirling and creating peaks, if desired. Sprinkle with walnuts. Let cake stand at room temperature 1 hour to allow frosting to set slightly.
Or cover loosely and refrigerate. Let cake stand at room temperature at least 2
hours before serving.
As a child, my biggest worries this time of year were whether Mrs. Lord was making caramel corn balls for Halloween and if Mrs. Oakes would have any candy coated apples left by the time I came to her house to trick or treat.
I spent the entire month of October anticipating the Candy Corn, the Tootsie Rolls, and the Mars Bars that would fill my shopping bag – several bags, if I was lucky. As I counted the days until the end of the month, I brooded about the ever cooling weather pattern. Would there be snow in the tiny Maine town I called home? Would I need mittens – something that made it very difficult to eat Mrs. Oakes’ sticky candy apples. Most of all, I wondered how many layers of clothing I would need to wear under my costume. Would the ubiquitous black cat costume still fit or would I have to opt for my brother’s red devil number?
In school, I sketched faces I might want to carve into my jack-’o-lantern. I practiced drawing angry faces, funny ones, sad ones. In the end, the pumpkin always looked the same, owing to my lack of dexterity and the ever-dull knife that was the only one my mother allowed me to use. Each year I promised myself that next year’s pumpkin would be much better. It never
But not once did I realize that all the pumpkins I carved or stole from people’s porches and smashed in the middle of the road were edible, that pumpkin was food. I missed the connection, that these orange orbs were essential to my grandmother’s Thanksgiving pumpkin pie and my mother’s pumpkin quick breads. Pumpkin – – duh?!
I can’t say when the light went off, when I began using pumpkin in baking rather than carving. But one day, it did. And, now it’s the orange flesh that pleases me. Low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins, pumpkin is my friend. And it’s particularly great for gluten-free baking, adding moisture and texture to muffins and quick breads. Warm spices – – cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg – – pair nicely with pumpkin puree. Although you can bake a pumpkin and remove the flesh, you can also buy canned pumpkin puree. It’s so much easier and just as good.
So, say “Hello” to pumpkin and its many uses, and to this flavorful, moist pumpkin bread with crumb topping I made in honor of the season .
½ cup white rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 ½ tablespoons tapioca starch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups pumpkin puree (most of a 15-ounce can)
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped pecans or other nuts, optional
1 cup Crumb Topping (below)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil two 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pans.
Combine the flours, cornstarch, tapioca starch, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in the pecans, if using.
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Sprinkle ½ cup of the crumb topping over each loaf. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes away clean. Set on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Turn the breads out onto the rack and let cool completely. Wrap with plastic and let sit overnight before slicing.
Makes 3½ Cups or 3 Cups If Nuts Are Omitted
Store remaining topping in the refrigerator for 3 weeks or freezer for 3 months.
¾ cup rice flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup ground pecans, walnuts, or almonds, optional
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or non-dairy buttery spread, at room temperature, cut into pieces
Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pecans, if using, in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the butter and use your fingertips to mix just until crumbly.