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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.

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.

El Diablo Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from a Recipe by Chef Nicole Langille at Evil Dave’s Grill, Jasper, Alberta, Canada

4 to 5 large boneless, skinless chicken breast filets (about 1 to 1 ½ pounds)

Marinade ingredients:
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.

The Sauce:
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

Garnish:
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.

Visit evildavegrill.com

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.

Apple Spice Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
This cake serves 12

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.

 

No one has ever mistaken me for a shrinking violet.  I’m not subdued and I’ve never been one to turn my back on a challenge.  You get the picture.

So when a friend who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease asked me if I had done a spritz cookie makeover, I said, “yes.”  Truthfully, I hadn’t made spritz cookies in years.  I wasn’t even sure I could find my cookie press, the one I inherited from my grandmother a while back.  What was I thinking?

But my friend, who I will call Debbie, is still in the pity phase of the gluten-free diet, a place I rarely go.  I don’t recall feeling badly even when I was diagnosed with celiac disease more than thirty years ago.  Frankly, I didn’t know another soul with this disease back then.  So who would have listened, if I did complain?

But Debbie was diagnosed this year.  “I miss pizza.  I can’t find a beer I like.  “And I wish I could bake up a batch of the spritz cookies my family makes for the holidays,” she said.

After thirty-something years of living and baking gluten-free, I have a hard time accepting her glass-nearly-empty outlook.   “Look what you can have,” I countered.  This is when the stubborn in me goes from simmer to full boil.  There is no need to miss out.  Today, we have so many choices.  And after writing my cookbook, Gluten-Free Makeovers, I am convinced that everything can be made over.

So, when Debbie asked if I had a gluten-free spritz cookie recipe, I didn’t tell her I had no idea what I had done with the recipe or if I ever had one.  Nor did I mention that my cookie press had disappeared.  I was out to prove a point – – we can eat everything, just gluten free.  So what if I had no idea what I was doing?  I’d figure it out.  After all, isn’t that part of a no-shrinking-violet philosophy? I went to the basement where I store all the gadgets I rarely use.  I rummaged in storage closets where they are well wrapped and piled in a heap.  Under the back-up coffee maker, the spice grinder, the antique food mill, I found the gold metallic cylinder of a cookie press.  I dug deeper and found the levered top.  Two piles over, were the discs and finally, in with an old food processor, was the ring that holds the discs in place.  I was ready to try my hand at making press cookies.

I did not realize there was more of a challenge ahead.  On the surface, spritz cookies look pretty simple – – flour, butter, eggs and sugar. I could replace the flour and create my own cookie press cookies, I reasoned.  And, at first, that’s exactly what I did.  Little did I realize that these delicate cookies hold their shapes because of the wheat and gluten.  Every shape I pushed through the metal cylinder produced the same non-descript blob of dough.  I was ready to throw in the kitchen towel, give up the whisk, put my grandma’s cookie press in the tag sale box.

A one-for-one conversion was not doing the trick.  How was I going to create a dough that would hold its shape when pressed through the cookie press but still tasted delicate with a pleasant crumb?  Little by little I increased the flour, adjusted the xanthan gum.  And soon I had reached the exact balance, the ratio of butter to flour that produced the right amount of texture but preserved the delicate crumb.  So dust off your cookie press and enjoy!

Spritz Cookies
Makes 60 cookies
These rich, buttery treats are fun to make and decorate.

1 cup white rice flour + 2 tablespoons
¾ cup sorghum flour
½ cup cornstarch
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line 3 to 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine rice flour, sorghum flour, cornstarch, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, and salt.  Whisk to combine.  Sift and set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter until light yellow.  Add the sugar and beat about 3 minutes or until fluffy.  Add the egg yolks and extracts and beat to combine.  Add the
flour ingredients, a little at a time, beating briefly after each addition.  Chill 30 minutes.  Scoop into a cookie press and press out cookies, one at a time.  If they do not release from the tube, loosen with a dull kitchen knife.  Set 1 ½ inches apart.

Decorate with sprinkles or colored sugar and chill on trays for at least 10 and up to 30 minutes so that cookies hold their shape.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes.  Cool completely before storing.

TIP:  Add food color to the dough and beat or divide dough and color each portion with a different color.
For best luck, use cookie press forms with the widest openings and avoid those with small holes in the designs.