Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Mmmm...chocolate and peppermint.  An excellent pairing any time of the year, but especially perfect for Christmas baking.  Thanks to Caroline at the G-Spot for hosting this months ratio rally.  You can check out the bottom of my post for links to all the fabulous gluten free cookies created by ratio this month.

Ruhlman's ratio for cookies is 3:2:1 of flour:sugar:fat, but this produces a shortbread type cookie and I wanted to do a drop cookie.  Ruhlman suggests a ratio of 1:1:1 for drop cookies.  I was a little skeptical.  1:1:1 seemed like a lot of sugar and fat and I don't like cookies that leave a fatty film on the roof of my mouth (even if they taste good).  Since I am new to baking by weight, I decided to figure out the ratio for my favorite chocolate chip cookies and see how they compare to Ruhlman's.  It turns out that Ruhlman knows what he's talking about (surprise, surprise).  Shame on me for doubting!  My chocolate chip cookies have slightly more sugar and a tad less fat than the 1:1:1 ratio, but they were pretty close.  For these chocolate peppermint beauties I decided to compromise and do a 1:1:2/3 (or 3:3:2) of flour:sugar:fat.  To make chocolate cookies I used cocoa powder as part of my flour mix and I chose to use shortening as the fat because I didn't want a flat cookie.  You'll notice that there isn't any peppermint in the cookie.  My husband is not a fan so I only added peppermint to the frosting.  You could certainly add a bit to the cookie dough if you'd like.  These cookies have a slightly crunchy edge and a soft center.  They are delicious frosted or plain and would be fantastic with any kind of chip added in.  They'd also be really good if you sandwiched the frosting between 2 cookies.   I don't know how they are the next day - we ate them all within a couple of hours!

Gluten Free Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
yield: 15-20 cookies

100 grams brown sugar
66 grams shortening
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
75 grams gluten free flour mix
25 grams cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cream the sugar and shortening together.  Add the egg and mix until well incorporated.  Add vanilla and mix.  Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Drop dough by tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet.  I used a small (2 teaspoon) cookie scoop so they'd be the same size.  Bake for 10-11 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet and cool before frosting.

Please forgive me for not weighing the frosting.  My 2 year-old was helping and I got distracted trying to keep the ingredients inside the mixing bowl...

Peppermint Frosting
1 cup powdered sugar
3-4 teaspoons milk
1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (less if using oil)
Crushed candy cane for decorating

Combine powdered sugar, half of the milk and half of the peppermint extract in a mixing bowl.  Give it a little taste to see if you need more peppermint.  Add a drop of food coloring if desired.  Mix well.  Add milk 1 teaspoon at a time until you get the consistency you like.

Frost cooled cookies and sprinkle with crushed candy cane.  Allow the frosting to set (about 5 minutes) and enjoy!

Amanda | Gluten Free Maui | Simple Shortbread
Amie Valpone | The Healthy Apple | Grapefruit Sugar Cookies
Brooke | B & the boy! | Candy Cane Shortbread
Caleigh | Gluten Free[k] | Mulled Spice Cookies
Caneel | Mama Me Gluten Free | Cardamom Date Cookies
charissa | zest bakery | Coconut Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caroline | The G-Spot | Double Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies
Claire | Gluten Freedom | Chai Latte Cashew Cookies
Erin | The Sensitive Epicure | Spritz Cookies with Jam
gretchen | kumquat | Classic Sugar Cookies
Irvin | Eat the Love | Apple Brown Butter Bay Leaf Spice Cookies
Jean | Gluten Free Doctor Recipes | Reindeer Cookies
Jenn | Jenn Cuisine | Basler Brunsli
Jonathan| The Canary Files | Vegan Salted Oatmeal Cherry Cookies
Karen | Cooking Gluten Free! | Mexican Wedding Cakes
Lisa from Gluten Free Canteen | Molasses Rum Raisin Cookies
Mary Fran | frannycakes | Pinwheel Cookies
Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan | Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Morri | Meals With Morri| Stevia & Grain-Free Thumbprint Cookies with Apricot Preserves
Pete & Kelli | No Gluten, No Problem| Belgian Speculaas Cookies
Rachel | The Crispy Cook | Melomakarona
Silvana Nardone | Silvana's Kitchen | Old-School Italian Jam-Filled Hazelnut Cookies
Shauna / Gluten Free Girl / Soft Molasses Cookies
T.R. | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies | Cinnamon Lemon Cookies
Tara | A Baking Life | Walnut Shortbread

Blueberry Pie

I've been looking forward to the pie ratio rally for months!  Pie has always been scary for me and I was determined to find a delicious and flaky crust that I could come back to year after year.  I also found a great deal on a Cuisinart food processor and was excited to incorporate it into my pie making routine.  I experimented with 3 different flour combinations and found one that I absolutely love.  Yeah!!!  I want to say that trial and error led to my pie success, but it was probably the food processor!

The pie crust ratio is 3-2-1 (flour-fat-water).  And once you find a great crust there's nothing stopping you from creating just about any kind of pie you can dream up.  The only negative is that an 8 or 9 inch pie is too much for our family.  We usually only eat half of the pie.  Enter the 6 inch pie dish.  When working with ratios you can easily scale a recipe to fit your needs.  Now I've got a recipe that is the perfect size for our family.  I'll be making pie year round!

This pie is for a double crust 6 inch pie plate.  If you'd like to make it to fit a 9 inch dish multiply everything by 3.

Gluten Free Blueberry Pie
6 inch pie

40 grams gluten free oat flour
40 grams white rice flour
40 grams corn starch
40 grams cold shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
40 grams frozen unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
40 grams ice water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine flours, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until aerated.  Add shortening and butter and pulse 10 times or until mixture resembles course meal with a few larger pieces remaining. Slowly pour in the ice water and pulse 5 times or until the mixture just begins to come together. If mixture is dry add additional water 1 teaspoon at a time.

Divide dough in half, place on plastic wrap and form into a disk. Wrap each disk in the plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.  Make filling (below).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove chilled dough from the freezer and let rest on the counter for a few minutes before rolling.  If it's been in the freezer longer than 30 minutes you'll need to let it thaw a bit longer before rolling.  Unwrap the disk from the plastic wrap but keep the disk on the plastic wrap while you roll.  Roll out dough to an 8-9 inch circle (about 1/8 on an inch thick) and place into your 6 inch pie plate.  If dough rips gently press it back together.  Fill the pie plate with the blueberry filling.  The filling will be higher than the pie plate and might start to spill over but when it cooks it will shrink so you want more than you think you'll need.  Roll out the 2nd dough disk just like the first and gently place it over the filling.  Fold it under the bottom crust and use a fork to crimp the edges. Cut a few slits in top of the crust to let out the steam. Brush the crust with a little cream and sprinkle with sugar crystals if desired. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit on the oven rack one notch lower than the middle for 20 minutes.  You'll probably want to bake it on a cookie sheet to avoid blueberry juice spilling in your oven.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40 minutes.

2 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Stir together until all of the blueberries are coated.  Place in bottom pie crust.

For links to more amazing gluten free pie recipe visit this months host Lisa over at Gluten Free Canteen.

Gluten Free 7UP Biscuits

These soft biscuits are delicious and so simple.  You only need 4 ingredients including a gluten free baking mix.  I used Pamela's but you could use the gluten free baking mix of your choice.  We like them smothered with honey or homemade jam.

Gluten Free 7UP Biscuits

2 cups Pamela's gluten free Baking and Pancake Mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup 7-up
1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut sour cream into Pamela's mix and stir in 7UP until just combined.  Dough will be sticky.  Flour your work surface with additional Pamela's mix and pat dough out to 3/4 inch thick.  Place butter in a 9 inch square (or round) pan and place in the preheated oven to melt the butter.  Cut into nine 2 inch circles (I used a drinking glass to cut them).  Remove pan with melted butter from the oven and place cut biscuit dough into the pan.  Return pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Serve warm with topping of your choice.

PIZZA! GF Ratio Rally

Making pizza by ratio has definitely been a learning experience for me.  I've made over 8 pizzas in the last 3 weeks (which is a lot for a family of 3) and I have yet to find a "perfect" gluten free pizza recipe.  That being said, I do have a go to recipe that is yummy and easy and for now that's good enough!   This month's rally was hosted by Karen of Cooking Gluten Free.  Check out her blog for the complete list of links to the delicious gluten free pizza recipes created for this months rally.

Here are some things I learned:
Ruhlman's Ratio- For Pizza Ruhlman's ratio is 5:3 of flour and liquid.  I tried this and it was a dismal failure.  The dough was heavy and dense and looked compressed and underbaked.  It felt like a rock in my stomach.  Gluten free flours need more liquid.  I figured out the ratio for my go to crust, the one I posted here and have been using ever since.  The ratio for this is 6:3:1 flour:liquid:egg  This ratio is close to Ruhlman's  but the addition of an egg adds the right amount of moisture to create a nice firm crust that you can pick up with your hands without being heavy and dense.  For the flour I found that I like a crust with more starch than my usual flour blend so I went with 50% high protein flour (brown rice, millet, soy) and 50% starch (tapioca, potato, corn)
I knew I had a crust I liked before I started the challenge, but I wanted a go to crust that didn't use eggs.   I tried a few more flour:water ratios including:
10:7 (dense and heavy)
19:16 (excellent)
8:7 (also excellent but I cheated and used an egg as part of the liquid)
1:1 (batter too thin)
Like I said, I learned a lot...there's nothing like a good failure to get the noggin thinking!

Even though I tried several ratios, my main focus really was more on technique.  I cooked my pizza at a hotter temperature (450 degrees Fahrenheit), I let it rise for an hour before rolling it between 2 pieces of parchment paper, and I pre-baked it on the rack with a hot pizza stone on the oven rack beneath it before adding the toppings.  All of these things, together with the 19:16 ratio made for a great crust.

19:16 sounds like a strange ratio, but if you multiply it by 10 grams you'll end up with an easy 18 inch pizza crust. Here's the Recipe:

Pizza Crust by Ratio
makes one 18 inch crust (or two 8 inch crusts)

190 grams gluten free flour
  • 95 grams high protein flour (I used equal parts of millet, sorghum and soy but play with this using flours you like or have on hand)
  • 95 grams starch (I used 70 grams tapioca and 25 grams potato starch)
160 grams warm water
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2  teaspoons xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix water with yeast and sugar and let proof for about 10 minutes or until nice and foamy.  Combine the remaining dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Add the yeast mixture and olive oil slowly to the dry ingredients and mix on low until the mixture is well incorporated. Increase the speed to high and continue to mix for 4 minutes.  The dough will be sticky.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour or until doubled.

After an hour preheat the oven to 450 Degrees Fahrenheit and put a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.  Place dough on a piece of parchment paper.  Spray a second piece of parchment paper and place it on top of the dough.  Use a rolling pin and with light pressure roll the dough to about an 1/8 inch thick (thicker if your prefer, but you'll need to adjust the baking times).  Remove the top parchment and slide the bottom parchment with the crust onto the oven rack.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the crust just begins to brown.  Remove crust from the oven and top with your favorite toppings.  Return the pizza to the oven for 10 more minutes or until the cheese is melted and crust is brown on the edges.  Enjoy!

Gluten Free Strawberry Cupcakes

Our baby girl turned two this month and requested cupcakes for her birthday.  She calls them "Happy Birthdays".  I love that.  She loves the color pink lately and strawberries are one of her favorite fruits, so strawberry cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting was the only way to go!  My husband says these are the best cupcakes he's every had and probably his second favorite dessert behind Aunt Betty's Chocolate Cake.  They really are that good!

Gluten Free Strawberry Cupcakes

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (3 oz package) gluten free strawberry jello mix
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups gluten free flour mix
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4-6 strawberries; chopped and mashed or pureed to equal 1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a muffin pan(s) with 12-15 cupcake papers.  In a large mixing bowl beat sugar, jello and eggs at medium speed for 1 minute.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix on medium speed for 1 minute.  Pour batter into the pans dividing evenly and filling each cupcake 2/3 full.  I like to use my 1 1/2 Tablespoon cookie scoop and put 2 scoops of batter in each cupcake liner.  Bake cupcakes in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle of cupcake comes out clean.  Let cupcakes cool for a few minutes and then remove them from the pan to finish cooling.  Frost cooled cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting. (below)

**I never frost all of my cupcakes.  Instead I put half of them in the freezer, unfrosted and I store the extra frosting in the fridge.  Whenever we want cupcakes I grab a few out of the freezer along with the frosting from the fridge.  The cupcakes thaw on the counter within 20 minutes or 15 seconds in the microwave.  Just frost and enjoy.  Fresh cupcakes every day for a week (less in our house)! 

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

2 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 Tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
1 strawberry, chopped & mashed or pureed (1-2 Tablespoons)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
milk if needed

Place cream cheese, butter and pureed strawberry in a mixing bowl and beat until combined. Mix in the lemon juice (optional but brightens up the flavor).  Add the powdered sugar and mix on low until combined then turn mixer to high and beat for 1-2 minutes until frosting is light and creamy.  Check the frosting's spreading consistency at this time.  Cream cheese frosting tends to be on the soft side so you probably won't need any additional liquid.  If the spreading consistency is too stiff mix in some milk 1 teaspoon at a time checking spreading consistency after each addition.  Store frosting in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

**The strawberry makes the frosting a pale pink.  I added a little food coloring to make it brighter.

Strawberry "Happy Birthdays"

Buffalo Chicken Cobb Salad - Gluten Free

We've been eating a lot of salads lately.  Not only are salads a great way to incorporate veggies into our diet, but it's been crazy hot in Arizona and salads make a nice cool meal!  It can get a bit boring having salad 3 times a week, so I'm always on the lookout for a new twist on a familiar favorite.  The buffalo wing sauce used in this otherwise traditional Cobb Salad fits the bill and tastes delicious.

**a note about bleu cheese**
Bleu Cheese was traditionally made using bread as the starter and there was a question about whether or not it was gluten free.  Many companies now use chemical starters for the cheese instead of bread, making the cheese free of contamination and safe for the gluten free world.  However, there are some cheese makers that still use bread to make bleu cheese.  Bleu Cheese tests have detected gluten at less than 1ppm (part per million).  That's even smaller than itty bitty, but if you are super sensitive research some brands before you buy.  And ALWAYS read the ingredients on salad dressings...or make your own using bleu cheese that you are comfortable with.  That being said, my husband doesn't like bleu cheese so I used sharp cheddar cheese and gluten free ranch salad dressing instead!

Gluten Free Buffalo Chicken Cobb Salad
-serves 4

6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1 large chicken breast, cooked & shredded (1 1/2 - 2 cups)
1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce (check ingredients)
1 head of your favorite lettuce, leaves torn
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese or 4 ounces bleu cheese crumbles
1 avocado, cut into cubes
1 large tomato, chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1/4 cup diced red onion
gluten free Ranch or Bleu Cheese salad dressing for serving

Toss the shredded chicken with the buffalo wing sauce.  Cover four dinner plates or one large platter with the lettuce.  Arrange the bacon, chicken, cheese, avocado, tomato, eggs and red onion in columns on top of the lettuce.  Serve with your favorite gluten free dressing.

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

This is one of my husband's favorite recipes from his mom.  Before being diagnosed with Celiac Disease I used to make these all the time but never thought to convert them to a gluten free version until today.   Chuck full of chocolate chips and oatmeal with a touch of cinnamon, these are once again on our family's list of favorites!

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

3/4 cup oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 cups gluten free quick oats
2 cups gluten free flour mix
2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a 9X13 cake pan with cooking spray.  Combine oil, sugars, egg, milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl and mix on medium for 1 minute.  Add the dry ingredients except for the chocolate chips and mix until just combind.  Stir in the chocolate chips and spoon dough into the prepared pan spreading to the edges.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Cool slightly before cutting into bars.

Gluten Free S'mores Pie

Chocolate marshmallow is my husband's favorite flavor combination.  When I saw a recipe for s'mores pie in Rachael Ray's June 2011 magazine I knew I had to make this for Father's Day - gluten free, of course!  This super sweet chocolate delight is so easy to put together. 

I put a layer of chocolate chips between the pudding and marshmallow topping for that melted chocolate effect that you get with smores, but only some of the chocolate chips melted.  It was still really yummy (I ate 2 slices!), but next time I might try mixing the chips in with the marshmallow topping to see if they melt better.

Gluten Free S'mores Pie

4 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups gluten free cookie crumbs (I use a 6 oz box Orgran gluten free vanilla animal cookies crushed in the blender)

1 5.1 oz box gluten free instant chocolate pudding
2 cups cold milk
1 cup gluten free whipped topping

1/2 cup gluten free chocolate chips
7 ounce jar gluten free marshmallow creme

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a 9 inch pie dish combine the crust ingredients and use a fork or clean hands to pat the crust into the pie dish.  Bake at 375 for 7 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.

While the crust is cooling, whisk together the chocolate pudding mix and milk until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Stir in whipped topping.  Spoon chocolate filling into the cooled crust and top with chocolate chips.  Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.  (If you're making this ahead of time, refrigerate the pie until 30 minutes before serving.  At that time, place it in the freezer for 15 minutes).  Turn on your oven to broil, remove pie from the freezer and spoon marshmallow creme over the pie sealing the edges.  It's sticky, so use a wet knife.  Place pie under the broiler until marshmallow topping starts to brown.  This only takes a few minutes so watch it carefully!

Remove S'mores Pie from the oven and serve immediately.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Churros- Gluten Free Pate a Choux Ratio Rally

How did I not know churros were made using pate a choux?  My mom taught me how to make cream puffs when I was a little girl and I made gluten free pate a choux for eclairs soon after I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  If I'd known frying the dough would make churros I would have tried it years ago!  I'm not much of a food fryer - mostly because I don't like the smell that lingers in the house from the hot oil.  That being said, these were so easy to make and yummy to eat I might start making them every year to celebrate the beginning of summer.  There's nothing like a churro to usher in the months of summer fests and  amusement parks!
Pate a choux is this months Gluten Free Ratio Rally.  Our host was Erin, The Sensitive Epicure.  You can check out her blog to see all the wonderful gluten free eats made with pate a choux this month.  I chose to make churros because 1- I love them, 2- I missed them, 3- I'd never made them, and 4- they are made out of pate a choux (but mostly because of 1).  The pate a choux ratio is:
1 part flour
2 parts liquid
2 parts egg
1 part fat
or 1:2:2:1
The ratios are done by weight.  I start by weighing my egg and adjusting everything else from there.

Gluten Free Churros
makes 10-12 5 inch churros
53 grams water (almost 1/3 cup)
27 grams butter (about 5 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
27 grams gluten free flour mix (about 1/4 cup)
53 grams egg (1 large egg)

Oil for frying
1/3 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon for rolling the churros in once they are cooked.

Boil water, butter, salt and sugar. Add gluten free flour mix. Work mixture together and cook 1-2 minutes longer. Continue working the mixture until all flour is incorporated and dough forms a ball. Remove pan from heat and cool pan by dipping into cold water for 3-4 minutes - don't let any water get into the pan. You want the dough to cool down so that it doesn't scramble the egg, but it still needs to be warm.  Add the egg, and using a whisk beat the dough to fully incorporate the egg.  The dough will look slippery and messy at first but continue to whisk and it will come together after a minute or so.  If you double the recipe add the eggs one at a time fully incorporating each one before adding the next one. Once the mixture is smooth, refrigerate it for 1 hour or overnight.

Put refrigerated dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 1M tip.  Pipe dough into 5 inch lines onto small baking sheet.  Freeze for 15 minutes or overnight.

Add 2 inches of oil to a medium pan and heat over medium until it reaches 375 degrees.  Remove the churros from the freezer and place 1 to 3 into the hot oil.  Fry for 60-90 seconds and then flip the churros to cook the other side an additional 60-90 seconds.  Remove from oil and place on a plate covered in paper towels.  Allow the churros to cool 1-2 minutes and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Make sure the oil is at 375 before frying the rest of the churros.
Best eaten warm.

Asian Pasta Salad - Gluten Free

This is my new favorite pasta salad.  It's packed with flavor without the heaviness often accompanied by pasta salad and since it doesn't contain mayo or meat, it makes a great side for an outdoor dinner.  I shared this at a potluck dinner recently and was disappointed that I didn't have any leftover!

Gluten Free Asian Pasta Salad

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup gluten free sweet and tangy or teriyaki sauce (San-J)
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup sesame oil
1 Tablespoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

16 oz gluten free pasta fusilli or other bite size pasta
          (I used Trader Joe's organic brown rice pasta fusilli
           always check package ingredients as they often change!)
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup dried cranberries
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 bunch (3-4) green onions, chopped
1/2 cucumber, cut in bite size pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.  Cook gluten free pasta as directed on package until al dente.  Drain pasta and rinse with cold water.  Immediately mix cooked pasta with salad dressing so that the pasta doesn't stick together.  Mix in the rest of the salad ingredients and toss gently until evenly combined.  Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Gluten Free Lemon Bars

Lemon bars.  Sweet, tangy, buttery, and indulgent.  A perfect dessert for spring.  I've always loved lemon flavored desserts and lemon bars have been a favorite since I was a little girl.  A few years ago I tried my hand at gluten free lemon bars and it was a disaster.  The lemony top was okay, but the crust was gummy and raw.  Yuck!  Recently I've been doing some experimenting with xanthan gum, or maybe I should say WITHOUT xanthan gum.  I've found that my banana bread doesn't need it, the scones I made last week didn't need it, and lemon bars most definitely don't need it!  I'll continue to use it with cakes and whenever I use yeast, but I've enjoyed the experimenting and the anticipation of how the finished products texture will be.

Cheryl Bullock, my neighbor growing up, made the best lemon bars on the block.  I've adapted her recipe to be gluten free.  They're as delicious as I remember!

Creamy lemon top with a buttery crust.  Delicious!

Gluten Free Lemon Bars

1/2 cup powdered sugar
5 Tablespoons cold butter cut into 5-6 pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine crust ingredients and mix on medium until dough is crumbly (kind of like sand) for about 1 1/2 minutes.  Use your hands to press the dough into an 8x8 square pan.  Bake for 20 minutes.

While the crust is baking, mix the lemon filling.

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons gluten free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In the same mixing bowl that you used for the crust (no need to wash it), combine all of the filling ingredients and mix on medium for 1 minute.  Pour onto the hot crust and immediately put it back into the oven.  Bake for another 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and allow to cool.  Cut and serve.  Enjoy!

Cinnamon Raisin Scones for the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally

Scones, a most delightful breakfast treat - especially while watching the The Royal Wedding of William and Kate!  How perfect that scones happen to be this months challenge for the gluten free ratio rally.  I remember learning about pound cake as a teenager in home-ec class: a pound of flour, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar; or a 1:1:1 ratio.  That's what the gluten free ratio is all about - using weight to figuring out gluten free baking/cooking ratios in hopes of creating an end result of perfect gluten free deliciousness.  Lauren, over at Celiac Teen is our host this month.  Head over to her blog for the complete list of scrumptious gluten free scones created in this months rally.

Scones, at least the traditional English kind, were a first for me.  Not only had I never made them, but I'd never eaten one before this challenge.  Yes, I'd seen them in the glass cases through coffee shop windows, but since I don't drink coffee or tea, I never really thought to eat scones. 
For many of the ratio rally challenges we will be using Michael Ruhlman's book Ratio and adapting as needed to make things gluten free.  Ruhlman does not have a scone ratio so we (a collection of very talented gluten free bloggers) did a lot of experimenting to find the ratio that works best for us.

I had success with a ratio of 3 parts flour/ 1 part liquid/ 1 part egg/ 1 part fat.  I started out by weighing my egg.  I usually use large eggs, but since my local store was practically giving away medium size eggs for Easter, that's what I had on hand.  Due to the size of my egg I measured everything in grams so that I would be more accurate.  The nice thing about using ratios is that you can easily adapt the recipe swapping out ingredients and making more or less depending on your pantry!

 Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Scones

50 grams sweet rice flour
100 grams gluten free flour mix
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
50 grams milk
50 grams egg (my egg was 49 grams. I added water to make it 50)
50 grams cold butter, cut into small pieces
70 grams raisins (about 1/2 cup raisins)

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add butter and mix on low until flour mixture looks like course meal, 1-2 minutes.  Place flour mixture into a small bowl and stick in the freezer to keep cold while you beat the egg.  Beat the egg in the same mixing bowl that the flour was in. (you don't need to clean it).  Mix on medium for 3-4 minutes or until the egg is very light and foamy.  Turn off the mixer and add the milk, raisins and the flour mixture from the freezer.  Mix on medium low just until mixture comes together (about 30 seconds).  Scoop dough onto a piece of parchment paper or silicone baking mat and pat down to a 3/4 inch thick disk.
Cut out the scones with a small cookie cutter or use a pizza cutter to cut it into 6- 8 wedges.  I cut out 5 triangles then pressed the dough scraps together into a small disk and got 2 more triangles plus a free form circle with the last of the scraps.

Place cut scones on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar crystals.  At this point I covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight so I could bake them fresh for breakfast.  If you don't want to wait, go ahead.  Skip the refrigerator, bake and enjoy!

Baking instructions:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place baking sheet into preheated oven and turn down the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes. (20 minutes in my oven for 7 scones).

If desired, drizzle a simple glaze of powdered sugar mixed with a little milk over each scone.

Gluten Free Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

This has been adapted from a recipe in the Gluten Free Baking Classics cookbook and is my favorite recipe for chocolate cupcakes.  Gluten free cupcakes can be heavy and dense, but these cupcakes are light, moist and oh so chocolaty - just the way a cupcake should be!  I usually frost these with a chocolate butter cream frosting, but cream cheese frosting would be really yummy too.

Gluten Free Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup minus 2 Tablespoons gluten free flour mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake papers or spray with cooking spray. In a medium bowl sift together cocoa powder, gluten free flour mix, baking powder, baking soda, salt and xanthum gum. Set aside. Beat sugar and egg in a mixing bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients and the milk. Turn the mixer to low speed and stir until just combined. Add in the oil and the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix on low until combined. Scrap down the bowl then turn the mixer back up to medium speed and mix for 1 minute.

Fill cupcake pans 2/3 full. You should have just enough batter for 12 cupcakes. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean (mine were done in 20 minutes). Cool cupcakes completely before frosting with your favorite chocolate butter cream frosting (you'll need about 1 cup of frosting).

I usually freeze 6-8 of the cupcakes before frosting them. I store the frosting in the refrigerator and pull out a few cupcakes at a time to enjoy throughout the week. They thaw on the counter in about 30 minutes. Frost and enjoy! They taste just as good as the day you baked them.

If cake is more your style, you can bake the cupcake batter in a 9 inch round cake pan for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.  For my daughter's birthday I doubled the recipe and made a chocolate layer cake.  Everyone (gluten and gluten free eaters alike) loved it.

Mexican Style Black Beans and Pork in the Slow Cooker

This is one of our new favorites.  It's quick to put together and it tastes delicious.  The recipe makes enough for 4-6 adult servings, which means leftovers for us.  The first night I serve this over brown rice (I prefer short grain) and I garnish it with cilantro.  Later in the week I like to make it into tacos.  For tacos I heat up the pork mixture, drain off the liquid and serve it in warm corn tortillas topped with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.  My husband usually adds sour cream and chipotle tabasco sauce to his.  We've also had these in burritos using my gluten free multi-flour tortilla recipe.  Any way you choose, this one is a keeper!

Mexican Style Black Beans and Pork

2 1 inch thick pork chops cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon table salt)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (based on your heat preference)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans drained black beans (or 3-4 cups if you make your own like I do)
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can water (use the tomato can once it's empty)
chopped cilantro, sour cream or any other garnishes you like

Place pork into the slow cooker and sprinkle with all of the seasonings (chili powder, salt, garlic powder, cumin, red pepper flakes and pepper) stir to coat the meat. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the garnishes and cook on HIGH for 4 hours (or low for 6-8).  Serve over rice and garnish as desired. 

Slow Cooker Black Beans

We love beans and have them almost every day.  In an effort to save money, I decided that I wanted to start using dried beans instead of buying canned beans.  I asked for and received a pressure cooker for Christmas last year with the specific intent of cooking my own beans...and it's still in the box.  Frankly, I'm intimidated by it.  And even though I've read the instruction manual several times, I don't want to be the one responsible if it blows up. 

Last week I got out the pressure cooker, read the manual again, put it back in the box, and pulled out my slow cooker.  I'd never done black beans in a slow cooker, but I have tried this recipe for refried beans without the refry so I went off that for bean and water measurments. 

Success!  We love the black beans!  This recipe makes 6 cups of beans and I used 2 cups for a recipe (a can of black beans is almost 2 cups). Then I divided the 4 remaining cups of beans into two freezer containers and froze them until I needed them.  Not only am I saving money, but since I buy dried beans in bulk I'm rotating my food storage so my beans stay fresh.  Best of all, there's NO SOAKING with this recipe and the texture is very much like canned beans! 

Slow Cooker Black Beans

3 cups dried black beans, rinse and remove any small pebbles or floating beans
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon kosher salt (1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons table salt)
9 cups water

Place everything into your slow cooker and cook on high for 8 hours.  Drain liquid.  Use beans straight from the pot or allow them to cool and refrigerate up to a week or freeze up to 6 months.