Monday, September 28, 2015

Gluten-Free Fudgy Chocolate Tiramisu Cake!

       Just last week I posted my recipe for no-fail Tiramisu.  Using that same flavor profile as inspiration, I headed into the kitchen to create a cake, and boy, I have to say this one truly came out even better than I had hoped for!  Instead of using a traditional butter  cream frosting, I opted to use my faux clotted cream to mimic the fluffiness of tiramisu.  I hope you give this unique cake a try and let me know what you think!

 You'll need:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup cocoa powder

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 ½  tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup Kerrygold salted butter

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

4 tsp instant espresso (2 Starbucks Via packs)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

½ cup dark chocolate chips

1 cup hot coffee

       Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease two 9" round cake pans.
       In a medium bowl, combine the sugars, flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

       In a separate bowl, whip together espresso, eggs, melted butter, milk, and vanilla.  Then slowly add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Next, fold in the chocolate chips.

Add the hot coffee to the batter and mix well, until batter becomes a thinner consistency. Pour evenly in prepared pans.

 Bake for about 25–30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

       Once the cakes have finished baking, allow to cool completely before frosting.

Almond Rum Cream Frosting

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp powdered sugar

1 4 oz container mascarpone cheese

1/2 tsp rum extract

       In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  Add in the powdered sugar, extracts, and a third of the mascarpone cheese then whip on high until completely combined.  Whip in another third of the cheese, then finally add in the remaining mascarpone and beat until fully mixed, and the topping is fluffy and smooth.

        To assemble, spread a generous amount of cream onto the top of one of the cakes and sprinkle with cocoa powder.  Stack the next cake on top of the cream filling.  Finish frosting the top and sides of the cake with the remaining cream topping.  Then sprinkle a bit of cocoa powder and turbinado sugar on the top for a nice garnish.  Serve and enjoy, preferably with a cup of coffee!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Brian's Baking Tips - Almond Flour

       Baking can be a difficult task under any circumstances!  Then when you throw in the added challenge of baking gluten-free or even vegan, we’re talking about a whole other level of baking expertise here.

       But it doesn’t have to be unachievable!  One of the main reasons I actually created my blog was to help simplify what to many people is a mind-blowing task: creating desserts and meals for a variety of dietary needs.  This is why most of the time you’ll find me using a simple, pre-packaged gluten-free baking flour blend.  

       As most of you who follow me already know, I’m a huge fan and supporter of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour.  The reasons why will be discussed in another edition of Brian’s Baking Tips, because today we’re not here to discuss my favorite flour.  No, we’re here to discuss the world of baking with almond flour!  When used correctly, it can truly heighten and enhance the dish you’re creating or if used can unfortunately become a total flop.

           So what is almond meal, you may ask?  Well, in a nutshell (pun intended), almond meal is basically finely ground, blanched almonds!  It is important that it be finely ground!  We are trying to mimic the texture of flour so we don’t want to be finding chunks of nuts in our baked goods.  

       Now, I am one who's willing try anything at home once, and if you’d also like to try your hand at making it yourself, then here we go.

You’ll need:

 1/2 cup fresh organic blanched raw almonds

       Place the almonds into a 'dry' container for your Vita-Mix.  When I say dry, I don’t mean to make sure it’s not wet.  If you have the full set-up with your Vita-Mix, then you should have a blending container which is meant to be used with dry ingredients for making flours and nut butters.  If by chance you don’t have a Vita-Mix, then I do suggest getting one because they’re AMAZING!  But if that’s not an option, then you can still try making your own almond flour using a food processor or even a coffee grinder.  However, I will say you’ll find the texture to be less fine and not as similar to flour.

        So to start, place your almonds into the Vita-Mix container and process until you have a nice fine, powdery consistency.  Be sure to NOT over process or you’ll soon go from almond flour to finding yourself with homemade almond butter on your hands.  Of course, who would really mind that, right?  But for today our goal is to make homemade almond flour.

          After you have a nice fine texture with the processed almonds, it’s time to sift them.  In a flour sifter over a medium bowl, sift the almonds in small batches.  Once you’ve done this, any remaining large pieces of almonds should be separated, and now in the bowl is pure almond flour!  

       If you’re just making this in small portions to use right away, then storage won’t be a concern.  But if you prefer to make things up ahead of time to have on hand for when you’re ready to bake, then be sure to store your almond flour in an airtight container in the freezer to keep it from going rancid before you can use it.  Since almonds are high in healthy fats, there is a large content of oil that can go rancid rather quickly when ground.

       So some might ask is this the method I use when I want almond flour for my baking?  My answer to that is, "Um...yeah, no!"

          It’s not because this homemade method doesn’t work.  It's simply a matter of convenience.  For me, juggling a full time job in the health food industry and then baking for hours after work not only for my blog but for my store cafe as well, makes me want to use the most time effective way possible.  So that means buying an already made almond flour from a brand I trust! Yes, I might be starting to sound like a broken record when I say Bob’s Red Mill is my favorite for not only their Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour, but they are also my favorite when it comes to almond flour.  Is that too much of a surprise?  Haha.

          So what ratios would I use for almond flour in my baking?  Well, if you reference the Bob’s Red Mill website, they say to replace 25% of the flour your recipe calls for with almond flour.  That is a great starting point for most people!  But at times I have even been so adventurous as to try a 50% substitution.  WOW, I know I’m such a risk taker!  

       What I have found through trial and error, is that adding almond flour to any type of baked goods you make gives an added depth of flavor and texture that is just lovely.  So give it a try and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Gluten-Free Pecan Cinnamon Roll Cake

       One of my favorite indulgences is a freshly-baked cinnamon roll with a nice glaze of cream cheese frosting!  So since my cravings for a cinnamon roll were going wild today, I decided, why not use this as my next baking inspiration!!!  Might I add that this has to be one of my new favorite creations.  I mean, with the delicious flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, pecan, and the delectable buttery cream cheese topping, how can you go wrong?!

 You'll need:

1 cup Kerrygold salted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tsp hazelnut extract

2 tsp butter flavor

4 eggs

1 cup Bob's Red Mill almond flour

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp Bob's Red Mill xanthan gum

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk


1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 tbsp butter, softened

       Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease two round 9” cake pans and place piece of round parchment paper on the bottom of each one.
       In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Add in the sugars and extracts then continue whipping until creamed.

       Gradually add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.

       In a separate bowl, combine the flours, spices, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Then stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.

       Scoop the batter into prepared pans.  In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the three streusel ingredients until the mixture is in large crumbles. 

       Sprinkle the streusel evenly across the top of the cakes then place the pans in the oven.  Let them bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center and the tops are a light golden brown.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup salted Kerrygold butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

       In a medium bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.  Whip in two cups of powdered sugar and vanilla.  Then whip in the final cup of powdered sugar.  Continue blending until smooth and creamy.

       Now just frost the cake and enjoy the cinnamon-y and pecan goodness!

*Note:  I generally serve this cake as two separate cakes, instead of stacking and icing them together.  To me this recipe is perfect as a single layer slice with a cup of coffee!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Gluten-Free No-Fail Tiramisu

       Alright, so this is one of my favorite desserts to make for special occasions.  In fact, when two of my really good friends recently got married, as per their request, providing my baking skills was my wedding gift to them!  One of the recipes they especially wanted me to make was this particular dessert.  Since I had this recipe fresh in my mind, I decided it was time to share one of my most decadent treats, that also happens to be a family favorite: Tiramisu!

You'll need:

6 egg yolks

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2  5.3 oz packages of Schar Gluten-Free Lady Fingers

2 1/2 cups strong coffee, cooled

A glass trifle dish to show off this beauty
       In a metal bowl with an electric mixer, whip the yolks and sugar together.  Keep beating until light yellow and fluffy.  Next, whip in all of the mascarpone, a little at a time, .

       In a separate metal bowl, whip the cream with a whisk attachment.  Whip on high until stiff peaks form and the cream looks very fluffy.  Then, use a silicone spatula to fold small amounts of whipped cream into the sugar/egg mixture.  Continue this process until you have folded in all of the whipped cream.
       In a large measuring cup, mix together the cooled coffee and extracts.

*Note- I decided to save time and use a simpler method for the coffee.  I used three Starbucks Via packets mixed with 2 1/2 cups of room temperature water.  Voila!  Either way works great.

       In a shallow dish, pour in about a half-inch of coffee.  You’ll need to add more as you go, but we don't want to have too much coffee in the dish at one time.  Then, dip a lady finger cookie into the coffee.  Let it absorb just enough coffee to be moist but not to where it starts falling apart.  Place the cookie on the bottom of the trifle dish.  Repeat this process until the bottom of the dish is covered completely.
       Next, scoop a generous amount of cream on top of the prepared cookies and spread evenly.
       Repeat this process until you have four layers each of coffee-kissed cookies and cream.  Dust the top with a bit of dark cocoa powder for garnish, then place in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
      That's it!  Pretty simple, but always impressive and completely delicious.  Be prepared to receive requests for this recipe from now on.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Gluten-Free Lime & Peppered Chicken Pasta Salad

            Most of the time, I’m  known as just a baker.  But I’ll have you know, I'm actually quite capable of also whipping up a good main dish or two...maybe even three.  To adapt a quote from one of my favorite movies, “I don’t profess to be an expert in the field of cooking, but my friends do say I’m quite skilled in the  kitchen!”  Haha, just joking, but I do hope you'll give this dish a try!
            Oh, and before we get started, if you haven’t checked out my youtube channel yet, now is the perfect time.  I have several videos posted already with many more to come.  And hey, if you like what you see, might as well click subscribe right?
Lime & Peppered Chicken

You'll need:

2 organic chicken breasts, roughly chopped

Black pepper

       Once you have chopped up your chicken breasts into chunky pieces, place them in a container that has a lid.  Pour enough lime juice to cover the tops of the chicken, then sprinkle a generous amount of pepper evenly across the top then.  Stir to combine then seal the container.  Put this in the fridge to marinate for at least 12 hours.  I normally prepare my chicken the night before I make the pasta salad so it has all night to marinate.
        After the chicken has marinated, it’s time to sauté it.  In a cast iron skillet, melt two tablespoons of butter over low heat.  Then raise the temperature to medium heat and add a scoop of chicken to the pan.  Cook until the centers are no longer pink.  Use your spatula to chop the pieces into smaller chunks as they sauté.  Then remove the cooked chicken from the pan and transfer onto a plate with a paper towel to help soak up the excess oil.
       Continue this process until you have cooked up the chicken.  Depending on the size of the chicken breasts, you should end up with around two cups of chopped chicken.

 Set aside until needed.


Crisp-Tender Vegetables

You'll need:

1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, halved then slivered

1/2 cup red bell pepper, halved then slivered

1/2 cup onion, sliced

1/2 cup mini portabella mushrooms, chopped

       Once you’ve prepared all of your veggies, melt one tablespoon of butter into the cast iron skillet, then add your vegetables to the pan.  Over medium-low heat, sauté the veggies just until they are cooked but still slightly crisp.  This took me about four minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer into the dish want to use for the pasta salad.  
    Place the prepared chicken on top of the veggies.  Now it’s time for the pasta!



You'll need:

16oz package gluten-free fusilli pasta

Pinch salt

       In a large pan, fill halfway with water and add a pinch of salt.  Bring the water to boil then add the package of pasta. I suggest using the instructions on the package of pasta, since the cooking instructions may vary depending on the brand or ingredients used in the pasta.  I boil my pasta for about 10 minutes before removing from heat and draining.

              Once you’ve drained the water, it’s time to add it to the chicken and veggies.  Pour the pasta over the top of the mixture then gently mix until fully combined.  Now it’s time to make a nice oil and lime dressing…


Put the Lime in the Coconut Dressing :)

You’ll need:

1/4 cup lime juice

Zest from one whole lime

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

       In a small bowl, combine all of these ingredients and mix well.

       *Note: do not attempt to use regular coconut oil that you have melted.  Since this is a chilled pasta salad, the coconut oil will solidify very soon after you put it in the fridge.  This is why we’re using a fractionated coconut.  It may be a little less nutritionally rich than regular coconut oil, but it allows us to use that wonderful flavor in chilled recipes.

       Once the dressing is ready, pour it over the prepared pasta, veggies, and chicken.  Mix until fully coated.

       One final touch…

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

       Stir the final two ingredients into the salad, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour to allow the flavors to combine.  Give it a good stir before serving then enjoy! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Gluten-Free Meringue-Aroons!

       I’ve been making (and eating) macaroons for quite a while now.  I’ve even posted several varieties on my blog, including a Healthy Classic Macaroon and a little more indulgent white chocolate version as well.  They are one of my favorites because I love coconut.
       I’ve also been planning on making a meringue of some sort all summer.  Then, luckiest of coincidences, it happened….I stumbled upon an amazing meringue post by Cupcake Jemma! I’ll include her video below.  She’s fun, creative, and most importantly, she creates some of the most delicious sweet treats around!!!  I felt so inspired by her video that I decided to take her delicious recipe and, well, do what I do best, play around with flavors!

     So today I bring you a hybrid of a meringue and a macaroon which equals….Meringue-aroons!  (I’m pretty sure you’re required to say that with an Aussie accent.)

       I hope you enjoy my version of this delicious Cupcake Jemma recipe…
You’ll need…

4 egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup powdered sugar
1 pinch Himalayan salt

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Yield: 12 cookies

Preheat the oven to 300°F and prepare a cookie sheet by lining with a piece of parchment paper.
     I decided to whip up this recipe using just a hand mixer.  That way I could walk you through the basic steps, since not everyone has a Kitchenaid type mixer.  So to start, we only need medium mixing bowl and a hand mixer with a whisk attachment.
      The first step is important...we need to let the eggs come to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.  It's up to you whether you leave them to sit out before or after you separate them.  Either way works fine.

When we separate the egg whites from the yolks, we want to be sure that there are NO yolks mixed in with the whites.  If you don’t have one already, I do suggest picking up an egg separator.  They're inexpensive and just make life a little easier.
Once you have the egg whites separated and at room temp, place them in the mixing bowl and add in the cream of tartar.  Start to whip at medium speed and continue until soft peaks form.
Once the soft peaks appear, turn the mixer up to medium-high.  Now we can begin to add in the sugar, one teaspoon at a time.  It is very important to go slowly with adding the sugar!  Adding too much too quickly is asking for trouble.  The mixture will begin to look glossy with a nice shine to it.
     Once you have whipped in all of the sugar, add the almond extract and a pinch of salt.  Then, *very gently*, fold in the coconut shreds.
Scoop the mixture onto the parchment paper one large spoonful at a time.  This should yield 12 cookies.
      Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.  Then turn off the oven and let the cookies hang out in there for at least an hour.  I actually allowed mine to sit for a bit longer than that.
      Once they’ve rested, you should be able to pop them right off the paper, without leaving any residue behind.  You'll notice they will have a slightly hollow sound if you flick them.  That means they are light, airy, and baked perfectly!
     Now serve and enjoy this wonderfully delicious flavor mash-up! I’d like to thank Cupcake Jemma again for the awesome inspiration.  And seriously, go check out her YouTube channel and follow her if you aren't already!

       Enjoy your meringue-aroons!  I promise it's just as much fun to eat them as it is to say the name!