July 29, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson's Mexican Chocolate Cake - Gluten Free

Loving chocolate is in my genes. I think it's a prerequisite for being a member of my family, you must love chocolate...even if it's just a little bit.

When I was a child, my father loved to go to Sears & Roebuck not just for the hardware department, but for the candy counter. Once we'd finished our shopping, off we would go to make our selection for the drive home. My dad would slowly walk around the glass cases and contemplate the chocolate. Which kind should he buy today? It always came down to the large dark chocolate blocks. He'd order a pound and nibble on a few of them all the way home.

At seven years old I never quite understood my dad's love for solid chocolate. I liked chocolate coatings on candy centers. That's why I always liked to share my mom's bridge mix. Every piece seemed to be a surprise in a chocolate package. When I asked her why he kept getting those chocolate blocks, she would smile and say, "They are his favorite."

So when birthday's roll around at our house, there's never a question about whether or not the cake will be chocolate. The question is what kind of chocolate. Since the choices are numerous, great care is taken on deciding each element of the cake.

This year the winner was Lady Bird Johnson's Mexican Chocolate Cake recipe, from the Dallas Times Herald. Baked in a jelly roll pan rather than the traditional 9 x 13 pan, the cake is dark and moist. The boiled frosting recipe can be halved and used like a glaze or use a whole recipe to cover the entire cake. My modifications were to make the cake gluten free.



¼ cup cocoa
1 cup butter
1 cup water or strong coffee
2 tsp kudzu powder
2 cups cane sugar
¾ cups brown rice flour
½ cup sweet rice flour
¼ cup arrowroot starch
¼ cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
2 beaten eggs
½ cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan place the kudzu powder, cocoa, butter and water. Bring to a boil and stirring constantly. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, dump in the sugar, flours, cinnamon and soda. Stir them together. Pour in the slightly cooled cocoa mixture into the large bowl and stir together. Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla to the large bowl and stir. Make sure the eggs aren’t added while the cocoa mixture is still very hot or the eggs will cook. The cake batter will be a bit runnier than regular cake batters. Pour the cake batter into the jelly roll pan. Then spread it around with a spatula so it is even. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


½ cup butter
¼ cup cocoa
6 Tb milk
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Optional: 1 cup chopped pecans

In a medium saucepan, dump in the butter, cocoa and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour in the powdered sugar and stir together. Cook the frosting until the powdered sugar is combined and thoroughly blended, about three minutes. Take off the heat and add the vanilla and cinnamon. Pour the icing over the cake. Move quickly to get it spread out before the icing cools.

What did we all think? The cake was a winner with the entire family, although my son said he really just wanted to eat the cake. It was a great party cake and best of all, there were leftovers.

July 20, 2007

Blueberry Polenta Cake - Gluten Free

The blueberries have been particularly beautiful at the market recently. Inspired by my love of blueberries and childhood memories, I made a light and fruity gluten free cake that we enjoyed together one warm July night not that long ago.

Every summer throughout the years I was growing up, my parents would take us to Florida to see our grandparents. I always wanted to go visit towards the end of June as one of my grandmother's had an old stand of blueberry bushes. These enormous beauties standing amongst her forest of white pines were the reason for my wishing to visit in late June.

Large and succulent berries filled my thoughts as I would ask my grandmother for a bowl to pick them. I always told her I'd pick enough for her to make us a pie, but there were never enough. We couldn't help ourselves, my brother, cousins and me, we had to try them out. We picked the dark blue ones, those that were still slightly green and ate just about everything that touched our fingers. Only leaving those berries on the top of the bushes, we nobly declared that we would leave those for the birds. The truth was we couldn't carry the tallest ladder that would get us to the tops of the bushes.

Filled with remorse as we didn't have enough berries for a pie, we would discuss how we were going to break this to Granny. There always seemed to be a single cup of berries in the bowl, no matter how many berries were on the bush. And my wonderful grandmother, she would smile and thank us for the berries. Then she would say that there weren't enough for a pie she would have to whip up some blueberry syrup for the vanilla ice cream that we could help them churn. First we would have to wash up, she'd say. Since there were too many of us to wash in the house, she'd send my dad out to set up the sprinkler. That way she'd make sure that the sand and blueberry juice stayed outside and not on her rug.

Inspired by a variety of polenta cake recipes, I tweaked and altered until I came up with this version of the polenta cake. It celebrates one of my all time favorite fruits, the blueberry.


1/2 cup + 2 Tb butter
1/2 cup + 2 Tb cane sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup almond meal
3 1/2 tsp coconut flour
5 Tb yellow polenta or fine cornmeal
1/4 tsp baking powder
6 oz. or 3/4 cup blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 4 X 10 loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, dump in the almond meal, coconut flour, polenta or cornmeal and baking powder. Stir together.

3. Plop the butter into a mixing bowl and cream on medium speed. Pour in the sugar and mix with the butter. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla extract to the bowl and continue to mix.

4. Slowly pour in the dry ingredients in to the mixing bowl and combine on low speed.

5. Remove the mixing bowl from the mixer and dump in the blueberries. Using a spatula or spoon fold the blueberries into the cake batter.

6. Bake for 45 minutes or until a pick comes out clean. Serve with ice cream or blueberry syrup.

What did my family think of the blueberry cake? Neither of the kids liked the cake, but all the adults thought it was delightful. They liked it with blueberry syrup, vanilla ice cream and with ice cream with blueberry syrup on top.

Should You Eat Oats?

For a discussion on the health concerns about consuming oats, follow this link to an article at the Celiac Sprue Association. Celiac.com maintains a list of articles about oats that you can go to from their site. You can also read Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic (Collins, (c) 2006) by Dr. Peter Green and Rory Jones. It has a discussion on consuming oats, talking with your doctor and the safety of certified gluten free oats.

Talk to your doctor, if you've been given the go ahead for consuming certified gluten free oats, you can find them at: Gifts of Nature, Gluten Free Oats and Cream Hill Estates.

Before cooking oats for others who must maintain a gluten free diet make sure they have their doctor's okay to eat them.

As for me? I've talked to my doctor and she has given me the go ahead to eat certified gluten free oats.

Update 9/3/2007: Health Canada has updated their position on consuming oats. You can read more about it at Health Canada's website.

July 19, 2007

Buckwheat Almond Pancakes - Gluten Free

My dad had a root canal that didn't go well last week. After a day in the dental chair, traveling back and forth between three different dentists, he and my Mom were worn out. I whipped up a batch of these gluten free buckwheat almond pancakes with apple compote and scrambled eggs for us to share. They were so thankful to have a warm comforting meal waiting for them when they got home.

As we sat around the kitchen table sharing food and the story of their day, I was reminded of how easy it can be to give of ourselves. Sharing of our time and baking can be easily done. You can bake a large batch of bread yourself or you can gather a group of friends to bake in your kitchen, then share your bread with neighbors, your family or the local nursing home.

If you would like to bake for others, let me share the story of an inspiring group, Spread the Bread. "In the nineties, Karen Kelly Kiefer and her children began making, baking and spreading her mother’s Irish bread to neighbors and friends. Inspired by people's response to their gesture, they made more and more bread, dressing the breads with cards and artwork. Then they dropped them off at local nursing homes and shelters. "As a child her bread spoke to me,” said Kiefer, "letting me know I was home, I was safe; I was cared for, loved. As I grew older, her bread spoke to others, letting them know they are safe, they are cared for, not forgotten, loved."

After September 11th, Karen and close friend, Juliette Fay, officially launched Spread the Bread. They saw a need and an opportunity to use bread to heal and comfort their community and to teach children it is important to make a difference.

Six years later, their bread-giving legacy is contagious and Bread groups have been hosted in almost every state in the USA. With the help of the Girl Scouts, groups are forming in countries around the world: Canada, France, Australia, Hungry, South Korea, Kuwait, and Zimbabwe. The breads are spread in all different shapes, flavors, from a multitude cultures and are spread for many different reasons: honor breads, memorial breads, prayer breads, celebration breads, and more. Spread the Bread* was one of the ten national "Make a Difference Day" Award Winners for 2006."**

Inspired by her love of pancakes, Karen Kiefer wrote a poem about them that she given me permission to share on the blog.

Pancake A Calling...

The sweet smell of addiction
Hovers over my toes
It swirls around my bed sheets
And travels up my nose

It's a familiar happening
The aroma has called before
When Mama's in the kitchen
Anticipation's at my door

I wait to hear the sizzle
As the cakes hit the pan
Batter oozing everywhere
Spreading like a fan

"Ding" the spat Chula chimes
The cakes have all been flipped
Mama grabs my plate
And some orange juice to sip

I dart down the hallway
Tripping over my obsession
34 pancakes later
I still didn't learn my lesson

Yes, Mama knows my weakness
Not the breakfast eggs and bacon
When her cakes come a calling
My will power is so shaken

Now, satisfied I sit
Fully belly in hand
The only thing that's missing
The flannel button on my pants!

By Karen Kiefer

I was inspired by the Buckwheat Pancake recipe at Food Network of Canada. I made my modifications so that the recipe was gluten free and made with agave syrup rather than sugar. The apple compote was made with Turbinado sugar and maple syrup.

Pancake Recipe

¼ cup brown rice flour
¼ cup sweet rice flour
½ cup buckwheat flour
2 Tb almond meal
1 ¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp guar gum
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup + 2 Tb milk
2 Tb agave syrup
2 Tb melted butter

In a medium sized mixing bowl, dump in all the dry ingredients (first seven ingredients) and stir together. Add the beaten eggs, milk, agave syrup and melted butter, then stir together. The batter will be thick. Place in the refrigerator to rest for about 30 minutes. Preheat a skillet or griddle iron and drop by 1/4 cup amounts on the surface. Spread out the batter and allow to cook until bubbles form. Ease around the edge of the pancake with a spatula, then slide it under the pancake and flip it over. Cook the other side. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. Makes approximately 16 pancakes.

Apple Compote

3 Pink Lady Apples, or other firm apple
1 Tb butter
1 Tb Turbinado sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup maple syrup

Peel and dice the apples. Drop the diced apple into a medium sized sauce pan. Then add the butter, sugar, cinnamon and maple syrup. Cook on low heat until the apples are soft.

The pancakes were a hit with all of my family. The kids preferred the pancakes with maple syrup. The adults liked them with any of the toppings we had on hand: apple compote, maple syrup and blueberry syrup.

*Would you like to get involved with Spread the Bread? You can contact them via email (info@spreadthebread.org), by phone (774-286-9987) or on their website. Happy Bread Giving!

**Permission was granted by Spread the Bread to reprint portions of text from their website to this blog post.

July 12, 2007

Buckwheat & Almond Madeleines - Gluten Free

I have been fascinated by a recipe from Trembom-English Version for Buckwheat Madeleines. In this recipe, the buckwheat plays a starring role, rounded out in flavor by the almond meal and browned butter. Held together by egg whites, they are sweetened with powdered sugar and a teaspoon of honey. The Madeleines are gluten free.

They sounded delicious and I had to give them a try. So, I purchased several silicone Madeleine molds and baked up a batch one Sunday afternoon. They worked nicely and the cakes popped out easily. This recipe makes 18 regular sized Madeleines. Visit Trembom for the full text of the recipe.

They were delightful fresh from the oven and even several days later. We liked them best when they were frosted with a thin layer of dark chocolate icing.

To convert the grams to cups in the recipe, visit Gourmet Sleuth for the gram conversion calculator. They also have a calculator for converting Celsius to Fahrenheit.

The one note I would make about this recipe, is be careful as you fold the browned butter into the Madeleine dough. The butter will sit on top of the dough so go slowly, so some of the butter doesn't flip out of the bowl.

How did they go over? Everyone loved them, especially when they were frosted with chocolate.

July 10, 2007

Olive Bread - Gluten, Dairy & Egg Free

A long time food blogger, Karina of Karina's Kitchen: Recipes from a {gluten free} goddess, has been diagnosed with a multitude of food allergies in addition to having Celiac Disease. Gluten Free By The Bay is hosting a Cooking for Karina blogging event so that we can help her with recipes that will encompass not only her need for gluten free food, but also her new food allergies.

For the food event, I chose to make Olive Bread. It is a gluten, dairy and egg free bread filled with black olives, rosemary and minced garlic. I hope she enjoys it.


1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup sweet rice flour
3/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 package dry yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tb dried rosemary
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/4 cup water, divided
3 Tb agave syrup
4 Tb olive oil
1 Tb agar agar
1/2 cup sliced black olives

1. In a small bowl, pour in the dry yeast and 1/2 cup of warm water (110 degrees F). Allow the yeast to soften.

2. In another small bowl, pour in the agar agar and 1/4 cup of water. Place in the microwave and heat for approximately 30 seconds or until the agar agar becomes a gel.

3. In a large bowl, toss in all the flours, salt and rosemary and stir together.

4. Pour in the yeast and water mixture, the agar agar gel and agave syrup and stir together. Pour in the rest of the water (1/2 cup) and the olive oil and stir. Toss in the garlic and olives, then stir together.

5. Place the dough in a warm location to rise for approximately 2 hours.

6. Scrape the dough into a parchment paper lined 9 x 5 bread pan and allow to rise for 1 hour.

7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush olive oil over the top of the loaf, then bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.

How did it taste? Hearty and satisfying. It was wonderful with butter and a glass of red wine.