Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Oh, the banana...such an underrated fruit.  All too often they sit on our counters, lonely and green with envy as the apples and berries have all the fun being used for more than just a quick breakfast on our way to work, but then, in the blink of an eye, our beautiful canary yellow bananas turn a potting soil brown. I know, sounds appetizing, but I beg you to resist the urge to throw out those bananas with the old coffee grounds. Instead, throw them into the freezer until you are ready to use them because what was old and brown can become new again, and sweet!

Gluten Free Banana Bread
Bananas past their so called peak of freshness can be used for all sorts of tasty treats such as one ingredient banana "ice cream" (slice them up, freeze, then blend to a soft serve consistency and you've got an amazing way to beat the summer heat); or, two ingredient banana pancakes (one banana mashed with 1-2 eggs lightly beaten and cook as you would any other pancake and you have a delicious breakfast for your toddler or hungry spouse). 

Personally, my favorite use for my ripe bananas is a good old fashion loaf of banana bread because the flavor never disappoints and goes great with my morning coffee or latte. There is just something so nostalgic about banana bread. I guess it reminds me of holiday mornings surrounded by my family; hanging out in our pjs and laughing about one thing or another.

This fabulous recipe was adapted from Hoosier Homemade's "Best Ever Banana Bread" was converted to a gluten free version for my school assignment and I have to say, it is one of the best banana breads I have ever eaten. It is all that you want a banana bread to be: soft, moist, slightly sweet and full of banana flavor, which you can thank those potting soil brown bananas for!!

Ingredients (makes 1 standard loaf)
2c MINUS 2tbsp GF Flour Blend**
1c sugar
1tsp GF baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2c GF Wesson Vegetable Oil (Soybean oil)
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1tsp GF vanilla
Add 1/2c walnuts, chopped if your nuts are free of gluten ingredients
**See my post on my go to GF Flour Blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prep 1 standard bread pan with GF non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients and set aside.  In medium bowl, mash bananas, add eggs, vanilla and oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients into well.  Fold wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf only has a few crumbs.
Mise en place
Sift, Mash and Fold
Bake to Perfection
This bread was so delicious and once again my GF Flour Blend did not disappoint. I can't tell you how excited I was to see the height of the loaf through the oven window as it baked up because I had always been unable to achieve that kind of lift with other GF recipes.  You will love this loaf and if you don't want to make the leap to gluten free, I am sure that the original version is just as yummy so give it a try.
If you need to be strict on your gluten intake please be careful when choosing your ingredients.  I was very close to following the original recipe and adding walnuts, but when I looked at the ingredients on the walnut bag I noticed that they were produced with trace amounts of wheat, which is a no-no for gluten free eaters.  The same is true of baking powder and even vanilla so read the ingredients list closely!  If you need some extra help on deciphering whether the item is gluten free or need some options, head over to GF Overflow to check their database.
Please enjoy and let me know who you think. 
Happy baking!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Flickr Online Baking Portfolio

Over time I have slowly been creating an online Flickr Baking Portfolio that I would like to share with you. It has a little of this, and a little of that, but most of all it is a fun collection that shows how my baking chops continue to progress.

Here are a few of my latest cakes that I am really proud of that are included in my Flickr Baking Portfolio:
Rockin Rio
 6" - 4 Layer Vanilla Bean Cake
Meyer Lemon and Strawberry Curd
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Strawberry Scented White Chocolate Shards & White Chocolate Drip
Rainbow Sherbet
6" - 4 Layer Vanilla Cake
Meyer Lemon Curd and Strawberry Preserves
Ombre Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Peanut Butter & Jelly
6" - 5 Layer Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Buttercream with Strawberry Preserves
Chocolate Cake Orbs with Rainbow Confetti
Cookies 'n Cream
6" - 4 Layer Chocolate Cake
Cookies 'n Cream Cookie White Chocolate Buttercream
Carrot Cake
8" - 3 Layer Carrot Cake
Cream Cheese Frosting & Toasted Walnuts
Strawberry Cheese Cake
9" - New York Style Cheese Cake
Fresh Strawberries and Fresh Whipped Cream
Thank you for your continued support and I welcome any feedback. 

Happy Baking,

Sunday, August 23, 2015

GF Cinnamon Oat Streusel Cake

Never in a million years would I have ever thought that these words would come out of my mouth, but this gluten free coffee cake is better than any I've had before. I thought that I would immediately be able to tell that this cake was made without AP flour and that it would taste dense, dry and gritty, but the truth is that those worries couldn't be further from the truth.

This cake is moist, fluffy and light.  The crumb is tender with the perfect amount of chew. It's so light in fact that you will be tempted to go back for seconds and even thirds! My husband, who is picky about his sweets had no clue it was gluten free nor did he care once he found out.
This cake is also a great base for different flavors such as the addition of berries and nuts, but be careful with nuts if you need to be strict about it staying gluten free since a lot of nuts are processed where wheat and other gluten contaminated products are processed. 
1c butter (softened)
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1 1/2c sugar
1c milk (room temp)
3c sifted GF Flour Blend**
4tsp baking powder
2tsp salt

Streusel Topping
1c brown sugar
4tsp cinnamon
1/4-1/2c rolled oats
3-4tbsp melted butter
**See my post on my go to GF Flour Blend
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13x9 pan and set aside. Cream together butter, eggs and sugar. Stir in milk. Fold in sifted dry ingredients and set aside batter. Prep streusel by combining all ingredients with a fork. Pour half of cake batter into your greased 13x9 pan. Sprinkle 1/2 of streusel over batter. Top pour remaining batter over streusel layer then sprinkle remaining streusel over batter. Bake for 35-40 min or until golden brown. A toothpick inserted into center should give a few crumbs.
Mise en place
Creaming and folding
Streusel and layering
Enjoy and please let me know what you think! Up next, a delicious gluten free banana bread. 

Happy baking, 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Gluten Free Flour Blend

Hi everyone!! I have been absent for a bit, but I have recently gotten back into the swing of things and started my Escoffier Online Culinary Academy Healthy Baking course and I am so excited to share my journey with you.

The course includes:

Gluten-Free Baking and Desserts
- Lactose-Free Desserts
- Vegan Baking and Desserts
- Diabetic and Low Fat Desserts
- Paleo Desserts
- Raw Desserts
- Heart-Healthy Desserts
- Farm to Table Desserts

My first two assignments were to convert my favorite recipes into gluten free versions. I was a little nervous about this because when I have used other flours in the past the flavors were just not great. The texture was gritty and the baked goods were dense with absolutely no fluffiness whatsoever.  

So in order to avoid this I searched Pinterest for a gluten free flour blend. Now, everyone claims that their blend is the "BEST EVER", but I knew they couldn't all be right. I wanted a flour blend that seamlessly stepped into the shoes of my go to AP flour; a 1 to 1 substitution. The good news is, I found the perfect blend and I want to share it with you!

This GF Flour Blend was adapted from "The Thrifty Couple"

I replaced the sweet rice flour with sorghum flour because I just couldn't find sweet rice flour at any of the markets I went to, but the substitution created the most delicious GF Flour Blend so I think I will stick with this version.

4 1/4 Cups Brown Rice Flour
4 1/4 Cups White Rice Four
4 1/4 Cups Sorghum Flour
4 1/2 Cups Tapioca Flour (aka Tapioca Starch)
2½ TBSP Xanthan Gum (not pictured)

Just measure, mix it up with a whisk and put it in a glass or rubber container with a lid and you are good to go!

Bob's Red Mill GF Flours
Using a 1 to 1 conversion I was able to make GF Cinnamon Oat Streusel Coffee Cake and Banana Bread. I will share the recipes and pictures in my next post coming up very soon!

I promise you will not be disappointed with this GF Flour Blend and you will not miss the AP flour at all.  You may even like the recipe better gluten free...I know I did.

Happy Baking!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Pastry School Update

(Pinup Illustration by the great Gil Elvgren)

I did it!!! I finished the Pastry and Baking Program at Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy!! It was such a great experience and I would definitely recommend the program to anyone.  I loved it so much that I have enrolled in their specialty program for Healthy Baking, which will teach me the ins and outs of baking gluten free, vegan, raw and farm-to-table among other healthy baking techniques.

If you are local (San Gabriel Valley/Los Angeles area of California) and are interested in ordering for a special occasion or just because email me!!  No fondant...strictly homemade goodness like moms and grannies make.  Check out my Flickr page for a "taste" of my work, but we can work together to create something to suit your tastes!

I look forward to working with you...Thank you for your support!

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo

Monday, September 15, 2014

Salty Sweet Perfection

I'm sure you have heard it before, but adding a little salt to chocolate takes the flavor to a whole new level. Not only are these fudgey morsels adorned with perfect little flecks of sea salt, the pretzel crust on these brownies was a real "ah-ha!" moment for me. As soon as I tasted the salty, crunchy crust against the sweet and chewy texture of the brownie my mind started racing while thinking "why haven't I been using pretzel crust all these years!?!"

Even if you never make these brownies, which would be a HUGE mistake, I would definitely hang onto this pretzel crust recipe. It can be used to compliment so many different desserts like as a pie crust or do what I did and use it for a cupcake crust...delish!

Happy Baking!!
Dani xoxo

Pretzel Crust (Adapted from Bakers Royale and Better Homes & Gardens)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup crushed pretzels
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup melted butter

Directions: Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl stir together crushed pretzels, flour, brown sugar, and baking soda. Once combined stir in the melted butter. Pour the mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan and pat it down.  Bake for about 10 minutes.

Dark Chocolate Brownie (Adapted from Bakers Royale and Better Homes & Gardens)

7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions: Place a bowl over a saucepan with simmering water (bain-marie).  In the bowl combine chocolate, butter, and water; stir constantly until chocolate is melted.  Or, to save having to do a bunch of dishes later, place the chocolate, butter, and water in a medium bowl and microwave in 20 sec increments stirring after each time until the chocolate is fully melted.  Be careful you don't overheat the chocolate!  Transfer to a large bowl.

Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar to chocolate mixture; beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add flour, salt, and cinnamon. Now beat on low speed until combined. Spread batter over the pretzel crust.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Topping: Drizzle with melted chocolate and caramel sauce and sprinkle with sea salt or fleur de sel. Cut into bars.  They are rich so I would suggest small bars.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Where Do I Begin????

Wow...I know...it's been forrrrrevvvverrrrrr!! Why the long absence you may ask, well, I have been busy....baking a baby!!

My husband and I welcomed a beautiful baby boy in June and we are over the moon in love.
You can't tell from the picture, but it is seriously crazy what changes happen to the body while pregnant. About 6 weeks in I broke out in full body hives that looked like huge red welts. It was nuts, but I couldn't complain too much since it only lasted a few days, thank goodness, and I had zero morning sickness.

Then, towards the end of my pregnancy I was retaining so much water the tops of my feet were like memory foam pillows. If you touched them with your finger it would leave an indent that would take a few seconds to disappear, but after all was said and done I would do it all over again to experience the miracle of life. Sorry...totally cheesy, but I swear...it's a magical experience.
So fast forward to 3months later and I am just getting back into the groove of things. I am almost finished with pastry school; my school was nice enough to give me an extension, and I am learning to deal with extreme sleep deprivation.

As a new mommy I am trying to find balance in my life. I am back to work so I am trying to figure out how to find time to bake while also spending time with the loves of my life.

This recipe is actually perfect for busy moms who want to bake something special, but 1.) don't have time to go to the store to get specialty ingredients; and, 2.) just don't have time in general.

It's an adaptation of the strawberries and cream bars I previously made from the awesome blog Cookies and Cups. I love it because it only takes a handful of ingredients that are really staple ingredients in a lot of homes, you can change things to suit your tastes or use what you have on hand and it doesn't take that long to make. 

Plus, it looks impressive and like it took all day, but I managed to whip it up while my baby was taking a little cat nap. 

Spiced Toasted Walnut Tart

Bake Time: 25-30min
Bake Temp: 350 degrees

1 box of Spice Cake Mix (use what you have!)
1/3 cup butter softened
2 eggs, divided
8oz package of cream cheese softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla (or another flavor you like)
1/2 to 3/4 cup walnuts roughly chopped (any kind of nut will do) OPTIONAL (or some berries, or candy...use your imagination)

Essentials: 10 inch tart pan or 13 x 9 baking dish
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease your tart pan or baking dish (I used Pam spray) and set it aside. Blend the cake mix, butter, and one egg together in a bowl until combined. Take the mixture, which will look like cookie dough, reserve 1 cup for the topping and pour the rest into your prepared pan or dish. Press it into the bottom and up the sides a bit. Bake it off in your pre-heated oven for 10 minutes. 

While the crust is baking make the filling by blending the cream cheese, sugar, remaining egg and vanilla in a blender until combined and smooth and set aside.

Once the crust comes out of the oven pour your cream cheese mixture over the crust, sprinkle with the reserved crust crumble and walnuts.  Throw it back in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until it's golden brown and the center is set (my oven took about 27 minutes). 

Once cooled you can pop it in the fridge to chill until it's time to eat. It is a great make-ahead treat and a perfect dessert to take for a dinner party, holiday get together or potluck.  This recipe in particular would be greatly complimented by a cinnamon flavored whipped cream and some fresh berries to give a real depth of flavor and to keep it from being one note. 

Any uneaten portion should be tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge for a midnight snack!

It feels good to be back...I hope you try this recipe and let me know what you think or what changes you have made. 

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo