Recently in Desserts Category
The restaurant in Vermont where I started my cooking career was famous for their apple crisp- fragrant with cinnamon, and boasting a delightfully crunchy walnut and brown sugar topping. Each fall, as soon as the Santa Anna winds subside here in Los Angeles and brisk weather arrives, I think about my autumns in New England and want to cuddle up with a warm bowl of fruit crisp, with vanilla ice cream melting into the tangy filling.
Today it finally cooled down enough to get enthused about planning our Thanksgiving menu, and I want to serve an apple crisp for dessert.
This will be my second gluten-free Thanksgiving. Last year my sister-in-law brought her signature fall offering- a big bowl of pomegranate arils and blackberries, topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream. We will enjoy that again this year, but I am prepared to bake a gluten-free dessert to add to the feast.
I’ve been having fun reading and cooking from a few new cookbooks this fall. Although they aren’t specifically gluten-free, every one has plenty of recipes for the gluten-free cook, and every one would make a great gift for yourself, a gluten-free friend, or any friend who loves to cook. And that is the point. The recipes in these books, like on this blog, produce fresh, naturally gluten-free food. No one should say “Oh that’s good for a gluten-free dish,” instead the criterion is that this is delicious food! For anyone!
With the exception of one of these books, they are written by food pros I know, mostly from my years as food editor at Bon Appetit magazine, so I was already familiar with the high quality of the recipes they create. Oh yes, one is my new book, Gluten-Free Baking
, which will be available any day now.
I took a long sabbatical from this blog to write a baking book, and it will be available by December 23. It can preordered now on Amazon.com
and Barns & Noble.com
, and should be in book stores by then too (just barely in time for the holidays). Hopefully it will show up a little earlier in Williams-Sonoma stores.
I am not fond of most of the baked goods in stores or the recipes for goodies I find in books and magazines. They are all packed with nutritionally empty white starches that give an off flavor and dry texture. I preferred to go without, for a while. Eventually I started craving artisanal style gluten-free breads and homemade cookies. So I decided to create my own recipes using whole grain gluten-free flours and naturally gluten-free techniques. I am thrilled with the flavors and textures of the recipes I created, and hope you will be too.
Father’s Day snuck up on me, and I’ve got to plan a meal for Steve right away. Of course, he’s not my father, but I’m the cook in the family, and his son Ethan usually joins us for supper on Sunday evenings. The two guys will go to a film, and then return home for something good to eat. Inspired by the summer berries in the markets now, I quickly decided on the dessert: this marvelously creamy, but not-cloyingly-rich Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce.
I created this festive dessert for a holiday gathering with my gal pals (Steve’s name for the group of friends with whom I celebrate birthdays several times a year). Rather than making a disappointing imitation of a baked treat that relies on wheat flour, I prefer naturally gluten-free desserts, and this intense chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream and a sparkling cranberry and crystallized ginger compote was so pretty and indulgent, everyone wanted seconds.
The mousse relies on lots of bittersweet chocolate for its rich flavor. The better tasting the chocolate, the better the mousse. I used Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic Dark Chocolate
. I melted it in water with only a little cream, not wanting cream to obscure the distinctiveness of the chocolate. The fluffy texture of the mousse comes from whipped egg whites rather than cream, again to preserve the nature of the chocolate. However, whipped organic cream sitting atop the mousse offers a luxurious contrast to the bitter chocolate, helping show off its unique taste with each spoonful.
It is easy to fit cooking this dessert into a busy holiday schedule. The cranberry embellishment will keep for days in the refrigerator, so you can make it whenever you can find 15 minutes. I stirred up the mousse the night before our party and mounded on the cream and cranberries in the morning. Three days after the lunch, the small amount leftover was every bit as good as on the first day, so I will most likely make it a few days ahead next time.
In October, when the hot, dry, Santa Ana winds blow here in Los Angeles, I long for cool, crisp fall days, colorful foliage, and farm stands adorned with apple and pumpkin displays—spectacles I came to love during the years I lived in New England. We may not have many chilly days or crimson and gold leafed maples in Southern California, but I can get a taste of Vermont by placing several large pumpkins by our front door and cooking with pumpkin and other winter squash.
While the Santa Anas were gusting last week, I was inspired to create a pumpkin cornbread for my friend Kelly, a California girl who doesn’t crave New England autumnal pleasures but fancies anything made with pumpkin. The first loaf I baked was a little bland, begging for molasses and spices, so I stirred up a spiced molasses butter to spread on big squares of the bread. Delicious, but this triggered the idea to combine all the flavors in one, easy-to-make loaf.
When Steve and I were first introduced, we exchanged stories about our backpacking adventures (we are both retired backpackers), which led to our first date, which led to lots of hiking together, and eventually to our marriage.
We rent a comfortable cabin in the Sierras each year for a week of high-mountain exploring. Our days are more relaxed than when we used to rough it, and shape up like this: While I cook breakfast, Steve builds a campfire under the pines, we eat a leisurely breakfast and read by the fire before deciding on a hike, pack a lunch, and hit the trail around 11:30—just when I start to get hungry for lunch.
Pretty, indulgent, relatively healthy, and easy to craft, I made a tin full of these gluten-free confections for us to enjoy during valentines’ week. But, we realized our stash was dwindling yesterday, so we rushed to take the photo here before they were all gobbled up.
I subscribe to the recent wisdom that dark chocolate is beneficial to health, and never miss my 1-ounce daily dose. To transform the routine prescription into something distinctive for Valentines Day, I added nuts, dried fruit, and crystallized ginger to a base of intense, full-bodied bittersweet chocolate. Large walnuts halves, deep red dried tart cherries, and the sugar on the ginger make these delicacies festive and glittery. For a little more polish, I sometimes drizzle melted white chocolate over the top.
I have a few more gifts to tend to, but I’m determined to stay away from the malls during this last week before Christmas. Here are suggestions for three items that can be ordered to arrive in time and one extra special treat to prepare at home.
These naturally gluten-free goodies are crisp on the outside, gooey inside with a surprising hint of ginger. They are easy to make too. I’ve already baked one double batch; we took half to a dessert party, and stored the second half in a tin to serve to friends who stop in. Steve’s son was here the day I baked them, and many got eaten as we finished decorating our tree. The recipe is in my new book, Gluten-Free Baking
, and I’ve included it at the end of this post. So keep reading.
For a stunning finale to Easter dinner, or another special meal, present this luxurious dessert. Tangy lemon curd and whipped cream make a sumptuous filling and topping for the delicate almond sponge cake, and fresh berries are a beautiful embellishment.
I created this dazzling dessert for my Valentine, Steve! It was last year while I was working on my new book, Gluten-Free Baking
. Steve loves almost any goodie that features lemons. These cardamom-scented meringue nests are ethereal and crunchy with a not-too-sweet, not-too-rich yogurt and Meyer lemon curd filling—a perfect, naturally gluten-free finale for a festive meal.
I didn’t have a recipe for a gluten-free pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving. Missing that holiday classic inspired me to delve deeper into gluten-free baking, which lead to my soon-to-be-released cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking
. One of the stars of the book is a luxurious pumpkin pie, and the variation here will be one of the stars of our holiday meal.
My goal for the book was to create goodies that are so tasty, with such pleasing texture, no one will think they are gluten-free. I didn’t want to fill the recipes with the traditional gluten-free, flavorless and nutritionally empty white starches that are the backbone of most gluten-free baking. I wanted to feature whole grains and naturally gluten-free formulas, with just enough white starch to hold the goodies together. My friends and editors say I succeeded.
To avoid the crowds of holiday shoppers and to give personal gifts, I have started preparing goodies in my kitchen. Today I boiled up a batch of Maple-Nut Pralines. It took me only half an hour to turn out a large batch of confections, and my house smells like maple sugaring time in Vermont.
Pralines are a New Orleans-style candy fashioned from sugar, cream, and pecans. I put my own flavor stamp on these sweets by replacing the standard white sugar with pure maple syrup, stirring in walnuts in addition to pecans, and adding a pinch of nutmeg for a festive touch.
I plan to concoct more candies and bake cookies all during December, and will post some of the recipes on this blog. They will be treats I have thought up over the years and enjoy making again and again. These recipes, and many more, can also be found in Cooking at Home
. I am going to thumb through the book again, to select a cookie to make for the friends I will be visiting this weekend.
Why, you might ask, is there an olive sprig in this photo? Extra-virgin olive oil is the first of two unique ingredients in these intense, dark chocolate brownies. Not something normally associated with desserts, but the oil’s depth of flavor accentuates the chocolate, and the results are less cloying than treats made with butter. These brownies are worthy of serving to a Valentine (and the preparation is easy).
was excited about the pomegranate tart cherry juice
she discovered at Whole Foods. It is 100% fresh-pressed organic juice, not reconstituted from concentrate, no sugar added. However, the bottle she gave me sat on the kitchen counter for a week because I like eating fresh fruit more than drinking juice.
When I returned home after brunch with girlfriends on Sunday, I found the path leading to our house covered with trimmed branches from our rosemary bushes, and my beau Steve in the kitchen, stirring rosemary syrup into the pomegranate cherry juice.
Steve is not a cook; he provides takeout sushi on my yoga nights, and grills anything that I have readied for the fire. I create our meals, and this is my preference. For dinner parties, I like to serve make-ahead desserts, thus four summers ago I purchased an ice cream maker to churn old fashioned peach ice cream. Steve was intrigued. Sorbets and lime pops are his favorite sweets, and he wondered if the machine would freeze sorbets. With a lemon sorbetto recipe from my files, he launched into his first culinary project.