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24 December 2010


the new tattoo

When our daughter lay in the ICU on her second day of being alive in the world, we stood above her bed and asked her to breathe. Her small hands were strapped to the bed because she was already so strong she nearly ripped out her breathing tube. (Somehow, though, she kept making a Buddhist mudra with her fingers and held it.) Her feet were tangled up in cords and covered in bandaids where the wonderful nurses took another vial of blood for tests to see what was keeping her from breathing. As soon as the nurses and doctors finished, Danny and I went back to holding hands over her isolette, leaning down to kiss any place on her face we could find without breathing tube, feeding tube, or tape keeping both of them attached to her.

We watched her, touched her, sang to her, and read stories to her. We tried to never leave her bedside. And every few moments, we leaned our faces down and said, in our sweetest voices, "Breathe, sweetie. Breathe. You know how to do it. You can. Just breathe."

I promised myself that if she lived, I would get this tattoo.

She started breathing. She got her breathing tube out on Danny's birthday. "Best present I ever got," he says. By my birthday, she was home with us.

And now, she's alive. This girl? She's tough. After all she has been through, she tumbles and comes up laughing. She's talking up a storm, saying thank you after meals, reading under the dining room table completely absorbed. She's active and in love with life, jumping on the bed as much as she can, her eyes wide open, her legs strong.

It is our greatest joy to be with her, to help her leap into life.

danny helping Lucy to leap

Two weeks ago, it was time to keep that promise I made to myself.

This is my new tattoo: breathe. It's on the underside of my right wrist, where I can see it easily, when I type or talk or wonder what to do next. For those of you who are font geeks, like me, it's in Garamond. A wonderful young man named Casey, who once was my student, almost 15 years ago, gave me this tattoo.

It feels good.

This tattoo is a sea change for me. (The name of the tattoo place is Sea Change.) I love the yes tattoo I got nearly five years ago. Everything that is good in my life has arrived to me from putting that yes upon me permanently. I will always live it.
But that yes has been outward and sometimes loud and throwing open my arms. This one feels more inward, slower, a chance to really breathe.

I need a chance to breathe right now. This has been quite the year.

Danny and I are eternally grateful for your comments, questions, and wonderful support. We are still in shock that our cookbook was named one of the best of 2010 by The New York Times. (and proud.) But better yet have been your letters telling us about dishes you made, successes with bread and pizza, the way our story has moved you and given you hope. We will never, ever forget this time.

And these past three weeks, coming at the end of the fullest, most delicious few months of our lives, have been filled with pounds of butter, flours on the counter, and 14 gluten-free cookie recipes. I've been thinking about cookies, working on ratios, making flour mixes, baking, photographing, writing recipes, writing essays, answering questions, and going back at it again the next day.

I hope you won't think I'm complaining if I say I'm exhausted. I'm happy too. Still, I can't remember the last time I had a day off from work.

Oh that's right. I do. August 6th. My birthday.

Time to breathe.

So we'll be taking a break from the blog for the next few weeks. We'll be back on January 10th with new recipes, videos about techniques, and ideas for you in the kitchen. (It's all going to be vegetables, whole grains, and green smoothies for awhile. I have no interest in sugar right now.) A real vacation.

Well, not entirely. I'll still be working — so sorry if you have sent me an email in the past five months and I have not answered — and we'll both be cooking and baking. We just need a little chance to revive ourselves, to look at food in a new way, and imagine new projects that might be on the horizon.

Mostly, though, I want a little more sleep, some time to read, and the chance to hold Lucy's hands while she jumps on the bed without thinking of the post I need to publish that day. I don't want to miss a minute with this kid.

Time to breathe.

Danny and Lu and I hope that all of you reading have a restful holiday, whatever that holiday might be. We hope there is enough food for a great dinner in a warm house with family and friends. We hope you eat cookies you didn't think you were going to eat again because we published these recipes. (If you did make any of the cookies from the past three weeks, and you had success, would you mind sharing your stories here? I'd love to hear.) We hope you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.

Mostly, I hope that you breathe.

Happy New Year, everyone. See you in 2011.

23 December 2010

gluten-free shortbread

Scottish shortbread II

I made three batches of shortbread yesterday.

Yes, I'm a little nuts. It's the last day of posting holiday cookie recipes around here. After jam tarts, gingerbread men, coconut sugar cookies, cannolis, plus 8 more, you think I'd be done. That's an even dozen, right?

(Plus, if you go over to our friend Silvana Nardone's blog, Dish Towel Diaries, you'll find our recipe for chocolate crackle cookies, inspired by our friend Tamiko.)

So I could have stopped. I have to admit — I'm a little exhausted. After I finish this post, we can leave for the city and do our first Christmas shopping. (shudder.) Perhaps no one would have screamed if I had let go.

However, I wanted to give you a baker's dozen. You know that sweet little act of kindness, when the baker slips one more sugar cookie into your bag of dozen, a small surprise you find when you walk into your kitchen? That's what I wanted to give you. (I guess I'm not being very silent about it.)

I promised you shortbread, and I just couldn't put up a recipe until I knew it in my hands, until I could explain what worked for us, and hopefully guide you to making shortbread in your kitchen.

That's all this is about: you baking in your kitchen, with your kids, your friends, with good music playing. And the joy we can give people with a few flaky bites of shortbread.

Besides, we had to make this.

Scotch shortbread

A few weeks ago, we met Gabrielle Moorhead, who is one of the forces behind Grand Central Bakery. We all met at the Tom Douglas cookbook social, where we made baguettes with curried red lentil puree. (They were a hit.) Gabby and I started talking, animatedly, about baking and food and family. Her father, it turns out, was recently diagnosed with celiac. He's doing well, but he misses certain foods. Mostly, his grandmother's Scottish shortbread.

I couldn't resist this. I had to make it for him.

Baking is so much more than following a recipe. In fact, I think you have to make a recipe once just to understand its dance: preheating the oven, then combining the flours and gums and salt. Do you cream the butter and sugar? Or melt the butter? Do you knead the butter with your hands? White sugar or brown? Flaky or fluffy? Which do you want? What story is this cookie trying to tell?

That's why I have been so happily absorbed these past few weeks, with my hands in the flours. This is work beyond words. It's about feel and instinct and trusting yourself and being in the moments and whistling while you work, the magic combination of pushing and acceptance, listening and wishing, watching for the sugar and butter to become one, and starting over if none of it works, without any fuss.

I love baking with all my heart.

And if you can give a man his grandmother's shortbread back? The flaky layers and crisp crust, the mild sweetness, the way it melts on the tongue? So much the better.

You want to try it? Here you go.

GLUTEN-FREE SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD, adapted from Great Grandma Burgess

The original recipe makes a LOT of shortbread. Since I was making three different batches yesterday, I cut this one in half, the ratios you will see here. If you want, you can easily double this.

12 ounces Aherns all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon guar gum
1 1/2 ounces white rice flour
4 ounces powdered sugar (grind it fine, if you can)
generous pinch kosher salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter, cool and not melty (out of the refrigerator for 10 minutes)

Preparing to bake. Butter a half jelly roll pan. (A jelly roll pan is a baking sheet with sides.) Carefully lay down a piece of parchment paper, with enough to leave some hanging over the edges. Press it into the buttered pan, taking care to leave no wrinkles. Butter the parchment paper. Set aside.

Making the dough. Put the flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, white rice flour, sugar, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk them together to combine and aerate. Cut the butter into small chunks and add them to the flour. Using your hands and patience, knead the butter into the dough. Think pie crust. Think about massage. You are trying to coat every part of the flour with fat. Work with purpose — you don't want the butter to grow too warm. When the butter is fully kneaded into the flour, you are done.

Press the dough into the buttered parchment paper. It might be crumbly at first, but you can press it together. (If you don't have a half jelly roll pan — and we don't! — fill only half the jelly roll pan.) When it is all pressed in, put another piece of parchment paper over the top and roll the dough smooth with a rolling pin.

Prick the top of the dough with a fork, leaving no more than 1/4-inch space between fork pricks. This will help prevent the dough from puffing and rising unevenly. Using a sharp knife, score the dough all the way down to the bottom of the pan. (If you want bars, cut those. If you want squares, cut those.)

Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

Baking the shortbread. Preheat the oven to 300°. When it is fully heated, remove the jelly roll pan from the refrigerator and slide it into the oven. Bake until the edges are lightly golden brown and the top of the shortbread set, about 45 to 60 minutes, depending on your oven.

Remove the shortbread from the oven. Cut into the lines you scored before baking. Allow the shortbread to cool before eating.

And there you have it. Gluten-free shortbread.

But wait! There's more.

lemon shortbread II

Yesterday, when I was playing around with recipes, I was a little dazzled by all the choices for shortbread recipes. Some say to use only cold butter, others insist it must be room temperature. Some even say to melt the butter. Some call for just all-purpose flour. Others say to add white rice flour (an old Scottish trick) for crispness, and others say to add cornstarch for softness. There seems to be no agreement.

I love that.

(If you want to understand it, read this Guardian piece about shortbread.)

So I had to make another batch, this time using cornstarch for softness and room-temperature butter so soft that the directions call for it to have the texture of whipped mayonnaise.

Oh my. Meyer lemon shortbread, soft without being dense, wonderfully tart on the tongue.

Hello, love.

Would you like to make this one? It's a recipe from Tartine Bakery, adapted by Shauna Sever at Piece of Cake. (I like anyone named Shauna.)

Rather than typing out the recipe, I'm going to make you head over there. All you have to do is use 280 grams of our gluten-free all-purpose flour mix (or any gluten-free all-purpose flour mix you like) for the all-purpose flour in the original recipe, plus 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum and 1/4 teaspoon guar gum.

You see, that's all you need to do to convert all your favorite family recipes: use 140 grams of your favorite gluten-free flour mix for every cup of regular all-purpose flour, add 1% of the volume of flours in xanthan and guar gum combined, and then start baking. That's it.

And after you have this in your hands and heart, you'll start making up your own recipes. Like we do here.

Yesterday, even though I already had 2 successful shortbreads cooling on the dining room table, I pulled out the butter again. This time, I wanted to work with ratios and melted butter.

Brown butter balsamic shortbread cookies with rosemary.

And they were possibly the best of the three.

Want to make some? Just follow this, which is based on the standard ratio for shortbread cookies (1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, 3 parts flour). I have left it stripped down for those of you like Danny who don't want a recipe but a list of ingredients. This is what my notes look like when I'm making something up, so I thought this time I'd let you see it this way.

60 grams sugar
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
120 grams brown butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
180 grams Aherns gluten-free all-purpose mix
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
pinch salt

Sugar + rosemary
mix flour, gums, salt
refrigerate in log
bake at 350° 12 to 15

If you have the ingredients, and you want the freedom of making this yourself without consulting a recipe, make these.

(Also, here's a secret: you could substitute any flavors you wanted in there to make your own shortbread cookies. Roll the dough into a log and refrigerate before baking. You have refrigerator shortbread cookies.)

So there you have it: gluten-free shortbread, three ways.

It doesn't matter how you make it, really. It doesn't matter if your shortbread is imperfect. What matters is that you find that place of heart and hands, pushing and acceptance, and dancing in your kitchen as you bake shortbread for someone you love.

22 December 2010

gluten-free Mexican wedding cookies

Mexican wedding cakes

Mexican wedding cookies. Of all the requests people had for gluten-free holiday cookies, I think this was the most requested. Finely ground nuts, butter and shortening, gluten-free flours, and powdered sugar. It isn't much more complicated than that. All that deliciousness and it's easy too? Sign me up.

Now this cookie, with tiny variations of shape and technique from kitchen to kitchen, can also be Russian Tea Cakes, Viennese Crescents, Snowballs, and even Moldy Mice. (Check out my friend Jessie's excellent post on the slight differences among them all.)

Still, it's Mexican wedding cookies that call my name. I love the idea of a wedding celebrated with these float-on-air, light and lovely, sweet-but-not-too-much-so cookies. And if it's a wedding, there have to be a few nuts, too.

There are a hundred dozen recipes for Mexican wedding cookies out there, including one on the back of the powdered sugar bag. However, if you're making a delicacy of Mexico, why not go to someone who knows the foods of Mexico with her heart?

Pati Jinich is a wonder. I know here from Twitter (of course), where she dispenses recipes, cooking ideas, and funny stories about her boys. Raised in Mexico in a family filled with people passionate about food, she became a political analyst in the United States, with a master's degree from Georgetown. However, she kept gravitating back to food, around the edges of her intellectual job. (Hm, this sounds familiar to me.) Urged by her husband, she leapt. She's now the chef and cooking instructor at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington D.C.

One of my goals for 2011 is to finally meet her. Look at the food on her website, Pati's Mexican Table, and you'll want to be her friend as well.

Last week, she told me she was working on her recipe for Mexican wedding cakes. I waited, patiently. And then I made these.

Now you can too.

Gracias, Pati. Feliz Navidad.

GLUTEN-FREE MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES, adapted from Pati Jinich of Pati's Mexican Table

The real name of these is polvorones, and according to Pati, they are available at nearly every bakery and grocery store in Mexico. "Mexican wedding cakes" is the American version. Still, that's how we know them here, so I'm calling them that so you can find them.

But let's say it together, shall we? Polvorones. Or, in other words: a super-flaky cookie that almost disappears as soon as it hits the tongue, lightly sweet with powdered sugar and air pockets that seem impossible in something gluten-free. You'll be hard pressed to eat just one. These cookies are meant to be a celebration. Go ahead and have another.

1/2 cup pecans
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting the cookies
280 grams Aherns' all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening
1 large egg, at room temperature

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Put the pecans in a food processor (or mortar and pestle, if you want to be authentic) and whirl them up until they are ground fine. Add the powdered sugar and pulse the food processor until the pecans and sugar are combined. Set aside.

Cutting the fats into the flour. Put the flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chunks of cold butter and vegetable shortening and begin working them into the flour immediately, quickly. We used a pastry cutter, but you could easily use your hands. Work the fats into the flour until you have a coarse, crumbly dough.

Finishing the dough. Add the pecan and sugar mixture to the dough. Work it in with your hands. Crack the egg into the bowl and combine everything together, thoroughly, using your hands. (And be sure to work quickly. You don't want that butter and shortening to warm up too much.) Work the dough until it comes together as one ball of dough.

Baking the cookies. Make a ball of dough about 1-inch wide. Pat down the dough ball just a bit with your fingertips. Leaving about 1 inch of space between all the dough balls, fill the cookie sheet. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake the cookies until they have a golden-brown color, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Pull the baking sheet out of the oven and immediately dust the cookies with powdered sugar. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack. Eat when there is not a hint of warmth to the cookies.

(I know. Good luck.)

Makes about 30 cookies.

21 December 2010

gluten-free cannoli

gluten-free cannoli II

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

I'm tempted to write only this. After all, it's the only phrase I hear in my head when someone says cannoli. Probably you too. (And if you don't know what it is, look here. Watch out — you're going to want spaghetti and meatballs after watching this movie.)

However, I want to share just this bit more.

I am constantly astonished by how much better my life is now than when I ate gluten. If you have been reading this site for awhile, you know this is true. In fact, you have been watching the story unfold — finding my health, writing here, getting an agent, meeting Danny, publishing a book, Lucy arriving in our lives, writing a cookbook, moving to our island home, going around the country talking with people about this cookbook. Add to this the fact that I don't have to grade papers anymore? That alone would be enough, frankly, to make me say that living gluten-free is joy for me.

But here's the other part I love. Would I have ever made cannoli from scratch when I thought I could eat gluten? No way. I would have driven to a bakery and eaten the work of other people's hands.

That bakery cannoli? No way I would ever remember them as vividly as I will remember these gluten-free cannoli.

I'll never forget spending the afternoon with my dear friend Nina, who came over just to make cannnoli with me, Danny, and Lucy. None of us had cannoli tubes. None of the stores we looked in had cannoli tubes. So we winged it. Nina's wonderful husband, Booth, fashioned some cannoli tubes out of old bicycle handles. The kitchen was a cluttered mess from all the baking we had been doing earlier in the day. Lu skipped her nap, so she was cranky and clingy, the opposite of her usual self. Danny heated up the oil, then he had to leave for work. The handlebars were too thick, so we switched to something smaller. That's why you could have found me in our kitchen, wrapping gluten-free cannoli dough around a bright blue Sharpie (pen cap on, of course). Those were too thin. So, like Goldilocks (and the Buddha), we found the middle way: the handle of an offset spatula.

How could I ever forget this?

In spite of the fact that the shells kept popping open in the hot oil, or being too small to fill with ricotta, we were laughing. No matter that Lu wanted to jump up and down on the conter and knock cannoli shells around, Nina and I kept going. We made fresh ricotta togehter, the first time for both of us, and were amazed at how easy it is.

And the shells, even the broken ones, had the same cisp exterior and flaky soft interior of a real cannoli shell. Eureka.

The next day, the lovely woman who runs Lu's daycare - a former student of mine, who found out a year ago she should not be eating gluten and became pregnant after years of trying — read my update on Facebook. "I have cannoli tubes." And so, we borrowed a bag of battered metal tubes to make this decadent treat again.

This time, Danny and I did this together. The dough kept sticking to the tubes when we tried to slide it off before going into the oil, so we greased them down. With greasy fingers, and the kids of our friends bouncing on Lu's bed, we plunked cannoli dough into the hot oil. Again, some of them opened, but we just dusted those with powdered sugar and gave them to our brunch guests.

Our friend Alejandra, who grew up first in Argentina (in an Italian area) and then Philadelphia, and thus grew up eating a lot of cannoli, took a few bites of the cannoli shells, then said, "Oh my god, these are fantastic. I like how buttery they are, with a slight tang, from the buttermilk." She took another bite. "These are better than regular cannoli," she said.

Hot damn!

We made another batch of fresh ricotta (so easy!), with Alejandra watching so she could do it at home. When it cooled, we stuffed the few shells that stayed together with fresh ricotta, cinnamon, and sugar. I took the photo you see on top, and then we ate. Wow. Heaven.

And the next day, as I was reading the regular recipe again before writing my own version here? Well, I'll never forget the moment when I realized, "Shauna, you doofus! You leave the cannoli dough on the tube in the hot oil. That's why they were falling apart!"


And I will always remember how I posted the photo you see on top on the Facebook fan page for this site, and dozens of you wrote statements similar to this: "OMG! You gave me my Italian heritage back."

You see, I like eating cannoli. (However, after this week, I don't want anything sweet for a month. Ugh.) I made these so that we could make them again someday. But really, I made these because so many of you wrote that you remember making these with your grandmother, and you thought that sweet ritual of baking together was gone forever.

Here they are. Make some cannoli.

And leave the gun.

gluten-free cannoli shells, first attempt

GLUTEN-FREE CANNOLI, adapted from The Arthur Avenue Cookbook, on Leite's Culinaria

One thing I have learned through teaching myself how to convert gluten recipes to gluten-free recipes: choose a great recipe as your inspiration. I searched through hundreds of cannoli recipes online and many of them looked dubious to me. However, when I found this recipe from The Arthur Avenue cookbook, I had my base. The author of this recipe grew up in a bakery making cannoli, then became a baker himself. He wouldn't lead us astray.

Find the best source you can for a reliable recipe, then play. That's what I do all day these days. I love it. Plus, in the end, you get cannoli.

1 quart safflower oil

for the shells
400 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon guar gum
1/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening (or pure leaf lard, if you have it)
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
1 tablespoon honey (make sure it's a liquidy honey, not the stiff kind)
1 large egg
2 to 6 tablespoons buttermilk (or water if you cannot have dairy)
2 eggs whisked with 2 tablespoons water, for egg wash

for the filling
1 pound ricotta (we made homemade ricotta from this recipe)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup mini-chocolate chips
powdered sugar for dusting

Preparing to make the cannoli. Have all the ingredients ready in a mise en place. Pour the 1 quart of safflower oil into a large Dutch oven. Set the Dutch oven over a burner on medium-high heat. You're starting to heat it to 320°.

Making the dough for the shells. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, sugar, shortening, salt, and cinnamon. Run the mixer on low speed to combine the ingredients and aerate the flour. Pour in the rum, honey, and egg, then mix until they are combined. Here's where you are going to need to use your own judgment — add the buttermilk 1 tablespoon at a time with the mixer running. You are looking for the dough to come together and wrap around the paddle of the mixer. So add 1 tablespoon at a time, let the mixer run, and watch. If the dough is still dry, add another tablespoon.

(The first time we made cannoli, it took 2 tablespoons. The next it took 6. The temperature and humidity of your home will affect the dough. So use your senses here.)

Rolling the dough. Put half the ball of dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper on the counter. Roll out the dough as thin as you can, about 1/4 inch thick. Now, if you have a cannoli cutter, as the original recipe says to use, pull that out here. If not, we cut a big oval around the cannoli tubes. Put a cannoli tube in the center of that oval of dough, then flip the cannoli tube so the edges of the dough are hanging down. Brush egg wash in between the two flaps of dough, then press them together. Crimp and press until they are sealed. Repeat with the remaining cannoli tubes.

Cooking the cannoli. When the oil has reached 320°, gently put the cannoli shells (still attached to the tubes) in the hot oil. (Keep the kids away and be extra-vigilant yourself when you are working with hot oil.) Try 3 at a time in the hot oil, cooking until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes each.

Put the cannoli shells on paper towels to drain, then cook the rest in the hot oil in batches until you are done. Turn off the burner and slide the Dutch oven to the back of the stove so no one gets hurt. Let the cannoli shells cool completely, then gently pull out the cannoli tubes.

Filling the cannoli shells.
Combine the ricotta, sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate chips in a bowl. Fit a pastry bag with a large tip, then stuff the bag with the filling. Pipe the ricotta mixture into the cannoli.

Sprinkle the cannoli with powdered sugar.


Makes about 20 cannoli.

20 December 2010

gluten-free spritz cookies

spritz cookies, gluten-free

We are coming into the home stretch of holiday cookies and goodies around here. I don't want to think about how many pounds of butter, flours, and sugar have been used in this kitchen the past month. I can't even calculate how many times the paddle of the KitchenAid has whirled around these weeks. Every day I am a little bit tempted to throw up my hands, put away the flours, and lie down on the couch. I know I promised you certain cookies, but I feel ready to drop.

Then, I remember the kindness of the man here on the island who opened the door of his just-closed store to give me a USB cord to attach my camera to our computer. Lu had hidden ours somewhere, so we couldn't find it, and I needed to process photos to be able to post all those cookies the past week. His cash register was closed down, so he just gave the cord to me for free and a wave of his hand. We live in a small town. He figured I would pay him later. I did, of course. I also dropped off a batch of smoky bacon ginger cookies as a thank you. The look on his face convinced me to go home and bake again.

So did the joy expressed on this Facebook post when I showed a photo of the gluten-free cannoli.

Those will be here tomorrow.

Today we have spritz cookies.


It's December 20th. Do you know where all your Christmas presents are? May we recommend you give a copy of our cookbook? If you order it online today, it could still reach your loved one by Saturday...

And we're giving away a copy here today, to one lucky reader.

Tell us about a small kindness that inspired you to give more.

GLUTEN-FREE SPRITZ COOKIES, adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Let this be a warning to you: the recipe that comes with the kitchen tools you need to make that recipe? They generally stink. I know that now because I made a big batch of spritz cookies based on the recipe that came with the spritz press I just acquired. It was dry, stiff, and tasteless. And it all went into the trash bin.

Danny and I persisted, however. We didn't want you to miss these buttery, slightly sweet lovely treats. If you've made spritz cookies before, and you have a spritz press already, pull it out. It's not too late to make these little cookies. And, if like me, you have never made these before, and you don't quite get the hang of the different disks and how to press them down on the baking sheet firmly, you can have little squiggles of cookies that look like piles of noodles! "Pasta cheese!" Lu shouted when she saw these, then ate one.

That was pretty great.

280 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon guar gum
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon thick yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
230 grams (2 US sticks) unsalted butter, softening and cool
135 grams (2/3 cup) granulated sugar

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Combining the dry ingredients. Add the flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, and salt to a bowl. Whisk them together to combine and aerate the flour. Set aside.

Combining the wet ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

Creaming the butter and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer running again, add the egg-yogurt-vanilla mixture and beat until it is incorporated into the butter and sugar, about 30 seconds. Slowly, a bit at a time, add the dry ingredients. Mix until the ingredients are combined and form a dough around the paddle. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl to combine with the dough and make sure there are no pockets of flour left. The dough should be pliable without being too soft, yet not too stiff.

Baking the spritz cookies. If you have a spritz cookie press, fill the press with the dough. If the dough feels soft in your hands, refrigerate the cookie press for 15 minutes. Use the directions for your particular cookie press to find the best way to shape the cookies. If you don't have a spritz cookie press, you can press the dough through a pastry bag, using the tip of your choice.

Put the cookies on the baking sheet, leaving two inches between them, until the sheet is comfortably full. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown and set, about 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Allow the cookies to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack. Eat when there is not a smidge of warmth to the cookies.

Makes about 48 cookies.

16 December 2010

gluten-free cake pops

this is a cake pop

This is a cake pop.

It's a cake pop made by my wonderfully talented and lovely friends Jessie (also known as Cakespy) and Megan (also known as Not Martha).If you are lucky enough to know people who want to spend the afternoon with you crumbling up cake with their hands, manipulating marzipan, and making zombie santas into the evening? You know you have good friends.

This is a Rudolph cake pop, inspired by the Rankin-Bass special we three grew up on, surreal and hilarious. The holiday season brings a lot of sensory memories for me, but most of them seem to center on those Rankin-Bass specials and the songs seared into my brain. Holiday cake pops? Have to be Rudolph.

You know what else this is? A gluten-free cake pop. (Of course! We made these cake pops at our house.)

That's not all. This is a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cake pop.

You heard me right -- a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cake pop.

And it was darned delicious.

breaking apart the cake

Is it possible that anyone reading does not know what a cake pop is?

Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats, the book by the fabulous Bakerella, seems to be selling copies faster than the days are flying by. I have to admit -- not being a crafty kind of person -- I was mighty confused at first. Why is this book so popular? I mean, I really love Bakerella from her site. And Jessie told me that Angie (the real Bakerella) is sweeter than her cake pops, authentic, just what you'd expect her to be. So I'm happy for her. But really? Cake pops?

It's also probably because I can't eat gluten. Watching something so entirely reliant on gluten gain such popularity? I might have been sulking like a kid without knowing it.

Let me tell you, I have seen the light.

I love any treat that requires an afternoon of baking, patience, laughing with friends, waiting, melted chocolate, and a sense of humor. Especially the sense of humor.

Plus, to start, you have to crumble up cake with your hands.

Lu took to this immediately. She stood next to Jessie on her chair at the counter, put her hands into the bowl, and crumbled cake, very seriously, very intently. She was actually quite the help.

cake balls

These are cake balls. On their own, they are delicious. You know what they are? Crumbled-up cake with buttercream frosting mixed in and rolled into balls.

Need I say more?

chocolate-coated cake balls

Here's the deal. Traditional cake pops call for the cake balls (after you have chilled them a bit) to be coated with candy coating. Jessie, being the sweetheart that she is, checked every brand she could find to see if it was gluten-free. She couldn't find any at the cake decorating store without gluten. Megan confirmed this later, saying she had heard there aren't any gluten-free ones.

We could all be wrong. If you know a brand of candy coating that is gluten-free, will you please share with everyone here?

So we decided to skip the candy coating and coat the cake balls in melted chocolate.

(Oh, and by the way, it really isn't a good idea to melt chocolate in a pan directly on the stove. It seizes, particularly if you aren't paying attention because your friends are cracking you up and your kid is dancing at your feet. Trust me -- use the pan over the pan of boiling water trick.)

And frankly, Jessie started putting the marzipan directly onto some of the cake balls and they worked out beautifully. You can do that too.

cake pops

After baking and talking, melting and coating, coloring marzipan, and sculpting it, we had cake pops.

(And by the way, my original statement of not being crafty still stands. I didn't make any of these, really. I provided the kitchen, the lunch, the inspiration, and the darling toddler. Megan and Jessie made these. I bow down.)

Holiday cake pops, gluten-free.

zombie santa

Behold Jessie's zombie Santa.

Honestly, she's amazing.

Hermie cake pops

Jessie also made this one, my favorite cake pop of all time. Do you recognize him?

This is Hermie, the elf from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the one who wanted to be a dentist.

I think this is genius.

lu eats a Rudolph cake pop

I finally understand why cake pops are so darned popular. I think they should be. They bring people together. It's the dark of winter, dark days for some folks, complex times and sometimes overwhelming. Making cake pops with Jessie, Megan, and Lu was probably the most relaxed afternoon I've had in months. We laughed and caught up on each other's lives while our hands were busy rolling cake balls, while we melted chocolate and dipped, while we marveled at each other's talents with marzipan. It's silly, light, absorbing work. It was just what I needed.

We couldn't help but marveling at these cake pops, the three of us. None of us had ever made them before.

Finally, in the end, here's the biggest surprise: these are freaking delicious. You know how some darling things, the baked goods with the biggest frills determined to make you say Ohhhhhhhhh! often taste a little stale inside, a little too sweet, a little artificial? Not cake pops.

These are fudgy and not-too-sweet, almond-scented with the marzipan, a little like a truffle, a lot like your soon-to-be favorite treat.

Lu doesn't have much of a sweet tooth. She eats one half of a cookie and she's done. As you can see here, she devoured this cake pop. Every morning since, when we are in the kitchen, she has chanted, "Cake pops? Cake pops?" No wonder they are so popular. Making these for your kids, occasionally, is lovely work.

And now that you know you can make them gluten-free, easily (and dairy-free and egg-free) too? I hope you make some together soon too.

We are giving away a copy of our cookbook, which contains plenty of kitchen projects you can cook with your friends and family.

Also, we are giving away a copy of Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats. You didn't think we were going to give you the exact recipe for how to make cake pops, did you? You need the book for that. One of you could win it here.

Just leave a comment telling the story about a kitchen project you took on with friends and family, one that brought you as much joy as the food was delicious.

x-tra special celebration cake

X-TRA SPECIAL CELEBRATION CAKE, adapted from the Alpha-Bakery Children's Cookbook

A few weeks ago, someone lovely gave me a copy of the Alpha-Bakery Children's Cookbook. "I know it's old, and it's filled with flour recipes, but I figured if anyone could adapt these recipes, it's you. I thought you might like to bake out of it with Lu."

I was so touched. And then I wanted to go home and bake. If you are in your 30s or 40s, you might remember the Alpha-Bakery Children's Cookbook. It's really no more than a pamphlet, with excellent illustrations of waffles with big grins, raisins jumping into bran muffins, and chicken drumsticks playing the drums. It's just surreal enough that I had to bake out of it. Plus, interesting recipes in kids' books intrigue me — they have to be foolproof for the kids to make them work.

When I showed my copy to Jessie, before we began baking, she blushed and almost jumped. "I had that book when I was a kid!" She told me she had made everything out of the book, more than once. (Even the Quick Cheeseburger Pie, which I am dying to make for the 1/3 cup of pickle juice in the ingredients list.) And the "X-Tra Special Celebration Cake"? She made it all the time. "This afternoon just got three times better," she told me.

You know what is great about this cake? Besides the fact that it's super moist? Almost fudgy? That it's just perfect for cake pops and birthday parties and the quickest cake fix you can imagine? It's dairy free and egg free. Now that we've converted it? It's gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and delicious.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cake pops, coming up!

420 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon guar gum
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cold water

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Find 2 9-inch round cake pans in your pantry. Grease and flour them. (We use sweet rice flour for this.)

Combining the dry ingredients. Mix the flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk them together to combine and aerate the flour.

Finishing the batter. Mix the oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour this liquid into the flour mixture and stir, really hard and fast, for at least one minute. (Or, you could do this in a stand mixer instead.) Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing them as evenly as you can. The batter will be thick, so don't worry when you see that. Smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Baking the cake. Slide the cakes into the oven. Bake them until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them over onto a cooling rack. Flip them over and allow the cakes to cool completely.

Makes 2 9-inch cakes.

Rest of Post.

15 December 2010

gluten-free date-walnut bars

date-prune-walnut bars

We can't seem to stop buying new cookbooks. I mean, after that list of our favorite 12 of 2010, we should be done for a bit. There are plenty of meals to be made in that towering stack.

However, the lure of another good cookbook is powerful. On the other hand, we can't go broke on cookbooks.

Solution? I've been buying all our "new" cookbooks at thrift stores.

I'm all for the lure of the new, the polished, the gorgeous photographs. Still, some of my favorite cookbooks of all time have dusty pages and not even a hint of illustration, not even a line drawing once in awhile. In the end, the best books come down to the recipes.

Maida Heatter is one of the most talented and generous pastry chefs I have ever encountered. I've never met her in person, but if I ever have the chance, I'll want to give her a big hug. She writes unfailingly clear recipes, precise without being fussy, evocative without being too writerly, and guaranteed to work.

I'm learning so much from her.

Several of Maida Heatter's recipes showed up in The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century and deservedly so. When Amanda Hesser was in Seattle for a book event, she told this story. Maida Heatter's manuscript was ready to go to print. Everything written, tested, and complete. However, just as she was about to let go, she realized that her oven temperature was off by 25°. So, she re-calibrated her oven, told the publishers to wait, and made every single recipe again, just to make sure they worked the way she said they would.

This is someone I trust.

(If you don't have one, buy a thermometer for your oven. Your oven could be off by as much as 50°! If you're wondering why those cookies are burning or sagging in the middle, it's probably the oven, not the lack of gluten.)

And so, even though we had a full list of cookies planned for you all, I switched in the middle again. I simply could not bake through this holiday season without my 1975 copy of Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts cracked open on the kitchen counter. Luckily for you, Andrews McNeel did a re-print in 1999, so you can have Maida in your kitchen too.

And these date-prune-walnut bars, gluten-free.

Would you like to win a copy of our cookbook? I can tell you that we tested every recipe again and again, particularly the ones that involve flours. These are recipes you can trust too.

As well, we're giving away a copy of Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts, because you need one if you are serious about making cookies, tarts, and cakes.

Leave a comment about the recipe writers you trust, the ones that always work. (Let's refrain from commenting on the ones who do not.) Which cookbook authors have been your teachers?

GLUTEN-FREE DATE-PRUNE-WALNUT BARS, adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts

These fruit and nut bars will be in our long after the holidays are done. I love the chewiness, the taste of walnuts like summer in the woods, the different kinds of sweetness in dates and prunes mingling, the crackly top, the softness of it all.

Next time, I'll play with different fruits, different nuts, and possibly flax seed in place of the eggs. Who knows? Maybe the butter will become coconut oil and we can just call these healthy breakfast bars. Whatever we call them, we're thanking Maida Heatter over here.

140 grams gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
115 grams (1 US stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
225 grams (about 1 cup) dates, chopped
225 grams (about 1 cup) prunes, chopped
195 grams (about 2 cups) walnut halves, chopped slightly
powdered sugar for dusting

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with one piece of aluminum foil long enough to let a few inches hang over either end. Grease the aluminum foil with butter or oil, tucking the aluminum foil into the corners of the pan as you go.

Combining the dry ingredients. Pour the flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Whisk to combine them and aerate the flour.

Making the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or by hand, if you don't have one), beat together the melted butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, letting the mixer run between each egg until it is fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients, about 1/3 at a time. When all the dry ingredients are incorporated, turn off the mixer. Fold in the dates, prunes, and walnuts with a rubber spatula.

Baking the bars. Pour the thick batter into the prepared pan. Press it in place and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.

Slide it into the oven and bake until the top is light golden brown and set, about 35 minutes. Allow the bars to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Put a baking sheet on top of the pan and quickly flip the bars onto the baking sheet. Remove the pan and aluminum foil. Cover the warm bars with another baking sheet (or plate, if you only have one baking sheet, like us) and flip it again.

Allow the bars to cool completely, not even a hint of warmth under your fingertips, before cutting into them. Slice into the bars with a very sharp knife. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top. (We didn't do that for the photo. It's optional.)

Makes about 24 bars.

14 December 2010

gluten-free ginger-lemon bars

making lemon bars

I spent about 15 minutes this morning fretting that this photograph wasn't good enough.

It's messy. You can't see the ooze on the cookies. The top cracked — I ran out of AP flour before I needed 46 grams of it, so I just used sweet rice flour. Don't do that anymore, Shauna. Too starchy. It doesn't hold together the same way. I wanted to hide that. I should have cleaned the counter if I was going to show this. Man, I forgot to clean out the food processor -- oh right, we sat down to breakfast, and then Lu spilled her entire cup of apple juice, and we didn't have any clean kitchen towels so I had to use a bath towel. I hope I remember to wash those before her bath tonight. I wanted a better picture of these.

And then I stopped being so silly and selfish and put up the picture. You know why?

A hungry kid wouldn't give a shit about any of that. He would be thrilled to have these messy ginger-lemon bars. She would be grateful to have something to eat.

Did you know that, according to the great organization Share Our Strength (as well as other governmental and non-profit agencies), more than 17 million American kids are going to bed hungry. Tonight. And most nights. When I think of not having enough food to give Lu that I have to put her to bed with her stomach stretched open, and her possibly crying herself to sleep, I want to vomit. I cannot handle the thought of her suffering that way. Do you how many parents are going to bed feeling horrible about themselves, as well as hungry?

People, this isn't a political issue. It's a food issue. It's a children's issue. It's a human issue.

(If you want a better understanding of what is happening and how, please read this collection of articles on Understanding Childhood Hunger.)

I know. Like me, you've heard these statistics. And we feel bad for a few minutes, maybe even really bad, then we move on. If you haven't been truly hungry before, this might feel abstract.

My friend Brooke just published a courageous piece, an essay about being a hungry kid, and the shame shame shame that went with it. Read it. We need to make this real if we're going to feed these more than 17 million kids.

By the way, that's 1 in 4 kids in the United States going to bed hungry. 1 in 4.

Also, it's December, when we're all thinking about cookies and bounty and candy canes and more food and complaining that we'll miss out on some of the feasts because we can't eat gluten or eggs or dairy or something else that feels essential to make new memories. It's also December, when the temperatures in places like Minnesota are reaching -33 degrees. Imagine going to bed hungry in that weather.

We have to do something about this.

What can we do? Plenty.

Our friend Carol is having an incredible auction on her website, Alinea at Home. She set up a special Alinea at Home Share Our Strength campaign page, where you can donate. She has dozens of great prizes you can win if you donate. (We're honored that our cookbook is one of them.) Donate and win? Come on.

You can buy a copy of Creating a Meal You'll Love: Notable Chefs and Food Writers on Their Unforgettable Dining Experiences, a warm, lovely collection of essays about memorable meals. I'm honored to be in there, along with people like people like Susur Lee, Karen Coates, Nick Malgieri, Mimi Sheraton, and Marcus Samuelsson. (How did I land in this group?) Every essay is filled with sensory details that will make you hungry. And since the royalties for the book are all going to Share Our Strength, you can help someone else who is hungry by reading.

Or, we can give directly to Share Our Strength, which has no other mission than trying to feed kids.

It can be more local than any of those options.

Someone in your community is hungry. If it's 1 out of 4 kids going hungry, there's no way it skipped your town. There must be a food bank, a place to donate, a neighbor who looks a little weary who could use some home-baked food. We're in this together.

We're working at the island food bank for the holiday season. We may be busy this year, but we're not too busy to help.

I hope this hasn't seemed like preaching. Some of you may be skipping right to the cookie recipe instead of reading this. I hope it's not most of you.

See, we have food in our house. You probably do too. We have enough food in our homes to play with it, take photographs of it, write about it, and selfishly worry that it all doesn't look good enough.

I hope you let it all be messy and find a way to spend your time giving instead. I sure wish I could give these lemon bars to a hungry kid.

We would like to give more with this post.

Would you like to win a copy of our cookbook? There's plenty in there that could feed hungry neighbors well.

We're also giving away 3 copies of Creating a Meal You'll Love: Notable Chefs and Food Writers on Their Unforgettable Dining Experiences, as well as a copy of The Greyston Bakery Cookbook: More Than 80 Recipes to Inspire the Way You Cook and Live.

Simply leave a comment about hunger. Were you a hungry kid? If so, sharing your story here might help others to make this more real. Have you fed hungry kids? Let us know about your experience. How do you give this time of the year? Let us know.

ginger-lemon bars I

GLUTEN-FREE GINGER-LEMON BARS, adapted from The Greyston Bakery Cookbook: More Than 80 Recipes to Inspire the Way You Cook and Live

These lemon bars come from a very good baking book, one you probably don't know at all. Written by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan (now of the always-informative website The Kitchn), this baking book offers tried and tested recipes for cakes, cookies, bars, and tarts from the Greyston Bakery. Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York was founded by Zen Buddhist teacher Bernie Glassman in 1982. Its mission? To hire homeless and unemployed folks and give them job training and a career.

Have you ever eaten a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream with brownies or cookie dough? You've eaten baked goods from Greyston. (And of course, I'm not eating those anymore. However, Greyston Bakery has a great line of gluten-free baked goods for you to eat too.)

Sarah Kate worked at Greyston for a few years as the director of the Community Garden Project for the Greyston Foundation. As she writes, "The ethics I absorbed during my time at Greyston inform my work." I'm sure they do.

Oh, did I forget to mention these ginger-lemon bars? And the fact that they have just the right amount of mouth-puckering tartness to make lemon bar fans happy? Or that when Danny tasted one this morning for the first time, there was total silence, then a quiet "Oh my god." Yes.

Good people make good food, it seems. These lemon bars are keepers.

for the crust
280 grams all-purpose flour mix
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 US sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, at room temperature
1 to 2 tablespoons ice cold water

for the topping
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice
46 grams all-purpose flour mix
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Find a 9 x 13 baking pan in your cupboard. Grease it with the oil or butter of your choice. Lay down a large piece of parchment paper, large enough to leave 1 inch of paper hanging over the two long sides.

Making the crust. Pull out the food processor and attach the blade. Combine the flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, brown sugar, powdered sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse them together to aerate the flour. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.

Whisk together the egg and water. With the food processor running, pour the eggy water into the bowl. Pulse only until the mixture begins to hold together. Stop the food processor and pinch the dough between your fingers. If it holds together, you are done. Err on the side of the dough being a bit too dry than too wet.

Baking the crust. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and press it down evenly. (You can do this with a piece of plastic wrap between you and top, if you wish.) Bake until the top is slightly golden and starting to set, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 300°.

Making the topping. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Stir in the lemon juice, flour, sugar, and lemon zest, then whisk them all together. Pour the topping over the crust. Put the pan back in the oven and bake until the top has set firm, about 30 minutes.

Take the pan out of the oven and put it on a wire rack to cool completely. When there is not a hint of warmth to the lemon bars, lift the parchment paper from the pan by grabbing all four corners. The lemon bars will come with you. Put the parchment paper onto a cutting board and cut the delightful dessert into bars.

Dust the lemon bars with powdered sugar before you serve.

(These will keep for 3 days. Yeah right. Like they are going to last that long!)

Makes 2 dozen.

13 December 2010

gluten-free honey-spice madeleines

honey-spice madeleines

All of Proust's remembrances began with one bite of a madeleines.

I have a confession. I still haven't read all of Proust's books. Try as I might, several times, I could never make it past the first 60 pages. Well, you're saying, most of us haven't. I know. But I was a literature major, an English teacher, an avid reader from the age of 2. I've read Ulysses 4 times. Surely I can slog my way through Proust?

"It's a translation problem," a friend of mine told me. This is someone I trust. However, with an energetic 2-year-old, more things to do than I can even write down on a list, and more cookies to bake for you? There's not much chance I'm going to brush up on my French enough to read it in the original. I'll have to let it go until I am old and have nothing to do but sit in the sun and read all afternoon.

Wow. I never imagined I'd want to be old. Still, it sounds pretty good.

(Also, I still haven't read Moby Dick. I'm going to need a lot of afternoons.)

Like Proust, I can dart from one topic to another without much warning. Unlike Proust, and his sentence cousin Faulkner, I am incapable of writing three-page sentences that somehow make sense if you shake your head and go back again to realize where he was going all that time.

In fact, right now, I'm feeling much more like William Carlos Williams than Proust.

I have eaten
these madeleines
that Dorie Greenspan

and which
we made gluten-free
for now
and for breakfast.

Forgive me
for showing a picture
so sweet
that you cannot eat.

(Danny and I both believe these may be the best baked good we have ever eaten. Make these. Now.)

Would you like to win a copy of our cookbook? It's as much narrative as it is recipes. I promise no Proustian sentences.

Or perhaps you'd like to win a madeleines pan? You'll need one to make these.

Simply leave a comment about what you would do with your days if they were a bit slower? Besides eating madeleines, of course.

GLUTEN-FREE HONEY SPICE MADELEINES, adapted from Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours

105 grams gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch kosher salt
pinch cracked black pepper
1/3 cup sugar (I like the superfine sugar here)
finely grated zest of 1/2 large orange
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces (6 tablespoons or 3/4 US stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
powdered sugar for dusting the cookies

Combining the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, xathan gum, guar gum, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and pepper. Whisk them well to aerate the flour.

Combining the wet ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, rub together the sugar and orange zest until you have a beautifully perfumed sugar. Using the whisk attachment, run the stand mixer on low. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat them with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the honey and vanilla while the mixer is running on low speed. Turn off the mixer.

Making the batter. Gently, gently, fold in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula and stir until they are just combined. Add in the melted butter and stir until combined.

Refrigerating the dough. At this point, you can either put the bowl in the refrigerator or prepare the madeleines pan and refrigerate it. We suggest you do this. So...

Butter the madeleines pan well, then tip a bit of sweet rice flour into the molds. Tap out the excess flour. Carefully spoon batter into each mold, until the batter is level with the top of the mold. Take care to not overfill them. (This is a problem for me. The worst that can happen if you go above the level of the mold is that you'll have a puffier madeleines than the photograph shows. Eh. More cookie for you.) Put a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the madeleines. Refrigerate the madeleines pan for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Baking the madeleines. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, then take the madeleines pan out of the refrigerator. Remember to remove the plastic wrap! Bake the madeleines until they are light golden and puffy and the cookie gently springs back at the touch of your finger. Take them out of the oven. Tap the edge of the pan against your kitchen counter, gently. The madeleines should release at the touch of your finger. If not, use a butter knife to release them. (I love that Dorie used the word "recalcitrant" to describe the ones that wouldn't move.)

Transfer the madeleines to a rack and cool until they are barely warm to the touch.

Now, these are pure heaven when just out of the oven. However, they're still pretty darned good the next day too. If they make it that far....

Makes 1 dozen large madeleines.

12 December 2010

winners of the giveaways this week

allergen-free candy

(Holiday candy provided by Indie Candy, which makes allergen-free, delicious candies. I still haven't eaten the chocolate Santa, and Lu's getting the snowflake lollipop for a special treat, in a few weeks. But their gummy candies are some of the best I have ever eaten. If you know someone with food allergies, this is a lovely present.)

Ho ho ho!

Are you feeling any more in the holiday spirit today than you were two weeks ago?

We certainly are today because we can give away a bunch of books.

Over the past two weeks, we've been giving away copies of our cookbook, as well as copies of each of our 12 favorite cookbooks from 2010, and some other cookbooks and food books we think you should know.

Well, if you left a comment at all during that time, please read this post. We would like to announce the winners!

Winners of the Best Cookbooks of 2010

The winner of Anjum's New Indian is Sarah "Gluten Girl," who wrote:

"Married white female seeks cookbook with gluten free and low sugar recipes to share with her diabetic husband. Healthy meals are a must for us, but so are quick but flavorful meals as we both work full time but love big bold and spicy flavors."

The winner of Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers is Mental Magician, who wrote:

"I like a conversational tone, different flavor combinations that are achieved with ingredients that aren't hard to find, gorgeous photos of every recipe, an easy to use index that has the recipes listed by ingredient, not just the recipe name and page number."

The winner of Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours is VanC, who wrote:

"Sometimes I think I love reading the recipes even more than making them. I have a coverless cookbook that has recipes from all around the US, that I found at a thrift store. Poor thing has amazing brunch recipes plus stories about the inn it came from. I take trips in my head every time I read it."

The winner of In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite: 150 Recipes and Stories About the Food You Love is KathyM, who wrote:

"A great cookbook has an intimate connection to the author(s), you feel the passion, smell the food in your mind and the Pavlovian dog response starts as soon as you read the first ingredient of the recipe. Excellent pictures are also a plus!"

The winner of The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion &Cooking Manual is Lisa Ro, who wrote:

"A good cookbook looks great on your coffee table, even though it may not stay there long; its sheer presence makes you anxious to get up off the couch and take it for a spin. It should be beautiful but not too presumptuous as it's likely to get a few smudges here and there -- just a sign it's being loved. Recipes should be well explained, with ingredients that aren't too unusual for easy experimentation. Not to mention easy conversion to a gluten free recipe never hurt for us celiacs!"

The winner of Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours is Amanda, who wrote:

"I'm a sucker for a cookbook and find them irresistible. I love a well produced book that gives me a bit more than just a recipe, but one that inspires me as well. I have spent many happy times thumbing through my copies of "Plenty" and "ready for Dessert" - time spent in either book sends me heading for the kitchen. Dorrie Greenspan's book is high on my list - I can't wait to get it!"

The winner of The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century is Merry Jennifer, who wrote:

"I love cookbooks, and I think I have a serious problem. I can't stop buying them. I don't think print is dead at all. For me, a great cookbook is one that I can sit on the couch with and read while snuggling with my kids. It inspires me to bookmark pages, scribble notes on Post-Its, and make me antsy to get OFF that couch and back in the kitchen. I love recipes that are made with seasonal ingredients I have on hand, or are easily obtainable in my local grocery store. I just love to read them.

Wonderful collection of amazing books - including yours!"

The winner of Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes is Lonna, who wrote:

"Your blog really made for a great thanksgiving! My partner is kind of picky and most of the things she likes at thanksgiving usually have all kinds of wheat in them.. she was totally thrilled with everything I made her, it made it really easy. And she is no longer depressed about thanksgiving and having to eat GF :)"

The winner of Plenty is Heather Scholten, who wrote:

"A great cookbook for me is one that is adventurous and full of diversity. One of those books that you know you can pull off the shelf and find a great recipe no matter what style of cooking you want to do. With well over 200 cookbooks (everyone gives them to me as gifts) I have only a handful that I use on a regular basis and the pages are well tattered AND splattered - always a good sign that it was a well liked recipe. :)"

The winner of Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen isJennie, who wrote:

"I love a cookbook that helps me get dinner on the table quickly on nights I just don't have the energy or the time to make a four-course meal (which seems to be every night these days). Excellent post - thank you!"

The winner of Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys is straystreets, who wrote:

"I agree! Print is very much alive, and always will be in my home. Nothing is better than a collection of good books."

The winner of Pig: King of the Southern Table is The Escandon Family, who wrote:

"I love a cookbook that uses 'real' everyday ingredients, has great photos and kid friendly too :) I cook only gluten free, but find it's fairly easy to modify a recipe to do so!"

Winners of Our Cookbook

Melissa Davlin, who wrote: "Nothing fancy here: I love raspberry jam in the middle of cookies. At the newspaper I work at, we're running a cookie round-up next Wednesday with a recipe for shortbread cookies with raspberry jam in the middle, drizzled with white chocolate. They look divine."

Jenna, who wrote, "Christmas, to me, is baking. Russian tea cakes, gingerbread, fudge, shortbread, sugar cookies…some of my favorite moments spent with my mother happened in the holiday kitchen, elbows-deep in powdered sugar and smears of colored icing."

Mandi, who wrote, "When I was little I liked to experiment around in the kitchen trying to make cookie recipes. Some were successful but 1 in particular was not. They came out of the oven looking reasonably normal for cookies but 1 bite in and we realized that I had forgotten sugar, completely. We tried frosting them but it still just wasn't the same. Lesson learned? Cookies need sugar!"

Nana Rogers, who wrote, "My Mom and GG. They taught me I can do whatever I want if I put my mind to it. We started in the kitchen around age 3. Now I cook with my grandson. I was recently wishing I had one of GG's recipes for cheese danishes. I opened my other Grandmothers recipe book I inherited and found GG's hand written recipe for Cheese danish. She wrote this out for me some 30 yrs ago. I thought it was lost. Now I want to make it GF so I can enjoy it to the full."

Brenda, who wrote, "Well I try to take something from different food groups: butter, nuts, sugar/sweet, chocolate and spices. Okay, maybe those aren't food groups but at Christmas they should be. :-D Hmmm...these pine nut cookies may slide into the "nut" choice for this year. My other challenge is to try some new GF recipes as well as convert some of my old favourites to GF."

Everything Homemade, who wrote, "i just found out that i am gluten intolerant and while i am very excited to be on the path to wellness...i make my own fresh bread from grinding my own grain and i am sad that i can no longer eat it."

Winner of The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009

Mary Ann Wong, who wrote: "i wonder if it would be possible to make a matcha/black sesame paste to put in the centre of these cookies? nom.

Winner of Gingerbread Baby

FigandFennel, who wrote, "I know those deep feelings of satisfaction and peace with my little girls on my lap for books. Bedtime is the one hour of the day that never gets rushed. It's just too valuable and if they want one more book, then yes, there always seems to be time for it. I also know the deep feelings of joy and family that come from craziness in the kitchen with little baking helpers. Highlight of my life. Recipe looks delicious we will DEFINITELY be giving it a try."

Winner of The Grand Central Baking Book: Breakfast Pastries, Cookies, Pies, and Satisfying Savories from the Pacific Northwest's Celebrated Bakery

Amy, who wrote: "My worst baking mistake? Like Devon's sister, I switched the sugar and salt when I was around 10 years old.My favorite baking mistake? Not having enough pecans on hand to make pecan pie, and throwing in sliced almonds and hazelnuts to make up for the shortage. So incredibly good."

Winner ofRatio

Sara Pugh, who wrote, "Thanks for continuing to help in my knowledge of the science of baking! It really is fascinating - and your cookbook would certainly help if I won one ;)

If you are one of these lovely, lucky people, please send an email to Tell me your name, address, and telephone number. We'll have those books out to you as soon as we can!