Category Archives: baking

Baking Substitutions

Baking is something that many people enjoy.  But often people are looking for substitutions to decrease the amount of fat or sugar in their baked goods without sacrificing flavor.  I have used the black beans substitution for flour in brownies with great success, they came out moist and delicious.  As a matter of fact when I served them at a gathering everyone was surprised to learn that the brownies were gluten free and were were in fact made from black beans.

I love the idea of using pureed avocado as a possible substitution for buter in chocolate cookies.  Having successfully used it in pudding I can see how the flavor melds well.  The next time I’m experimenting with a new recipe I definitely plan to try this.

It’s important to note that not all of the substitutions (such as marshmallow fluff) are healthy ones and some (like chia seeds or avocado) may actually be more expensive.  It’s important to make choices that work for you and your nutritional plan.  This is, however a good general guideline for substitutions that can be made in baking.

Healthy Recipe Substitutions: Baking


Why Gluten Free Sourdough?

Today’s post is from Sharon Kane, the very talented baker and author of The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking.  In this article she shares her journey from sourdough consumer to someone with multiple food sensitivities who needed to find an alternative.  During her long journey to learn how to make gluten-free sourdough bread Sharon was focused on making it as nutritious as possible by continuing to use whole grain flours.  It is important to note that many gluten free products currently on the market are made with enriched and nutritionally deficient flours.  They are also often not soaked and, as she explains below, this is an important part of the process which helps to make the end result more nutritious.

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 10.00.17 PMSourdough baking is a time-tested bread baking technique that was used exclusively until the discovery of modern commercial yeast. The technique utilizes the natural yeasts and bacteria present on the grain, and in the air, to leaven bread. Sourdough bread becomes highly digestible because the flours are fermented or “soaked” in the starter as well as in the long rise period.

Some people may remember their grandparents soaking oatmeal the night before cooking it for breakfast. Soaking neutralizes natural enzyme inhibitors in the grain, begins breaking down the tough cellulose fibers, fosters the formation of probiotics and enzymes and releases vitamins. All this makes for a more nutritious finished product that is easy on the digestion with many nutrients available for assimilation. Sourdough breads have a robust taste, long shelf life and freeze well.

I became successful at making sourdough rye bread and happily ate the bread for a few years. Then I learned I was gluten intolerant and could no longer eat my beloved rye sourdough bread. I also learned I was highly sensitive to eggs, dairy, soy and commercial yeast.

Wanting to continue eating good bread, I went to the market and saw that all the retail gluten-free breads contained one or more of the ingredients I needed to avoid. I realized that if I wanted bread I needed to be able to control the ingredients and the baking technique.

I began experimenting with gluten-free flours using the rye technique as a guide.  My parameters were:

  • Use gluten-free whole grain flours
  • Minimize the use of high starch flour
  • Use only simple food ingredients so no xanthan or guar gums nor baking powder or soda
  • Minimize the use of all sweeteners
  • Use high quality oils, fats and flavorings

I began experimenting with the sourdough techniques I had mastered for the rye bread and it took one whole year to make a successful bread! Five more years of research and development led me to use different flour combinations and different types of breads.

This type of baking is different from conventional gluten-free baking and is also different from conventional sourdough baking. There is a bit of a learning curve to this technique however many people have mastered it and are happily eating nutritious gluten-free sourdough bread from recipes that are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, yeast, peanuts, baking powder/soda, and xanthan and guar gums.

Don’t forget to stop by The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking for a FREE sourdough starter recipe.

Baking Mishaps

A lesson in humility… Just a week ago I posted a recipe for lemon millet muffins.  I was so happy with how the recipe came together the first time.  Often that doesn’t happen.  This next effort clearly demonstrates that.

I wanted to make cookies.  The family has been requesting chocolate chip for a while and I’ve been experimenting with lots of other types, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodles, etc, that I decided the time had come to make chocolate chip cookies.  Never content to just pick a tried-and-true recipe I wanted to make gluten free, dairy free, egg free chocolate chip cookies.

The picture shows that it was less than successful.  I will share that they taste great but they don’t look so hot.  The biggest concern is what will happen when they cool.  In my experience if they spread this much they are often inedible when no longer warm.  We’ll see how it goes.

And it goes without saying that this particular recipe is not exactly ready for prime time.

Olive Oil Cranberry Bundt Cake

I love the tasty tartness of cranberries and every year I look forward to the fresh ones available in the grocery store.  I confess to being somewhat jealous of my brother and sister-in-law who live in Massachusetts near a cranberry bog.  Not only is it picturesque, but it also produces loads of these lovely berries, one of the few native fruits we have in this country.

Most people tend to eat cranberries either as canned jelly or as craisins.  But they’re so much more versatile than that.  During the holiday season, I make my own cranberry orange relish and love a dollop of it in my morning oatmeal in the winter.  Even more than that I love it in this bundt cake.  I’ve lost the original source for this recipe over the years but I remember learning about olive oil bundt cakes years ago and being amazed at the thought of olive oil in a cake.  When I discovered how moist the cake was, even days later, I was hooked.  Tinkering with the recipe over the years this is the final version that I came up with.  It’s a tasty recipe and I always look forward to making it when fresh cranberries are in season.*

Olive Oil Cranberry Bundt Cake

6 egg whites
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane juice crystals
3/4 cup extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk, organic
2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Butter a 9-inch bundt pan and dust with flour
In a bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff
Beat in the cane juice crystals until fluffy
Mix in the olive oil
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg
Alternately mix the egg white mixture and the buttermilk into the flour mixture until smooth
Fold in the cranberries and orange zest
Transfer the mixture to the prepared Bundt pan
Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean

Note:  this cake can also be made with blueberries instead of cranberries, simply omit the cinnamon and nutmeg.

If desired make a simple orange juice glaze:
1 cup evaporated cane juice crystals
1/4 cup orange juice

Blend the cane juice crystals in a blender until finer and more powdery
Whisk together with orange juice

*don’t forget to buy extra bags of cranberries, they freeze very well

Gluten Free Lemon Muffins


I needed to make something to bring to an event that I was attending recently.  Knowing that the hostess was sensitive to gluten and dairy I wanted to make sure that I made something that fit her nutritional plan.  Casting around for ideas I spied a pile of fresh Meyer lemons that I had recently been gifted with in the fruit bowl.  These are my absolute favorite lemons. Immensely fragrant they add fabulous lemon-y flavor. I have a small tree that is now making 6-8 lemons a year.  I am eagerly awaiting the day that I get bags full of lemons like my friends.  Fortunately those same friends are very generous and share.

I had thought about making a lemon quick bread but decided to make muffins instead.  The best thing about muffins is that they are so easy to throw together.  In just a few minutes you can have all of the ingredients mixed together and into the pan.  Because muffins are so small they bake rather quickly.  

I love lemon-flavored baked goods.  Quick breads, scones, muffins, they are all so tasty when they have the added brightness of lemon added to them.  I’m not sure why lemon baked goods don’t often make an appearance, more people seem to go for chocolate, or other flavors.  Sometimes sticking with a simple flavor is the best, imho.

I wanted my muffins to have a little crunch to them so I decided to add some millet which would give a slight pop.  I’ve used millet before in other baked goods and like the crunch and texture it adds.  

I often play with a recipe multiple times before it’s ready for prime time, but this one seemed to come together really well so I’m sharing it as is.  I made it in mini-muffin tins and got three dozen.  They were well received at the event, all of them were eaten and I went home with crumbs.  This is  definitely a recipe that’s a keeper.  Something not-too-sweet but definitely tasty, perfect with a cup of tea to brighten up a cold, grey, winter morning.

Lemon Millet Muffins
  1. 1/2 cup coconut oil
  2. 1 cup sucanat
  3. 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice crystals
  4. 1 lemon
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1/2 cup almond milk, approximately
  7. 1 cup gluten free flour mix (I used a combination of oat, rice, buckwheat, tapioca)
  8. 1/4 cup fresh ground flax seeds
  9. 1/4 cup (heaping) millet seeds
  10. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  11. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Grease three mini-muffin pans (or one regular muffin pan)
  3. Zest the lemon
  4. Juice the lemon and put juice into a measuring cup
  5. Add almond milk until there is 2/3 cup liquid
  6. Beat together coconut oil and sugars until fully combined
  7. Add eggs, one at a time until well mixed
  8. Add lemon zest, baking soda, and the salt
  9. Alternate adding flour and curdled milk, making sure they are well mixed
  10. Spoon by tablespoonfuls into muffin cups
  11. Bake 15 minutes
  12. Let cool 2 minutes in the pan
  13. Finish cooling on a wire rack
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy


photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

Persimmon Raisin Muffins

Persimmons | photo: Tomomarusan

It’s persimmon season.  I love these tasty little fruits, with their rich fragrant scent and amazing flavor.  Luckily for me there is a pick your own place not too far away.  Each year I go and pick pounds and pounds of them.  I eat as many as I can before they get so ripe and so soft that they are in danger of sliding out of the fruit bowl and off the counter.  They have to be pretty soft before they are ripe enough to eat so this window is pretty small.

When I get to this point I turn the rest into pulp to store in the freezer.  This allows me to make cakes, cookies, and other persimmon delights for as long as the supply lasts. Apparently you can make jam from persimmons but I somehow never seem to get around to doing that.  I’m also not sure if I would use it as I’m currently the only one in the house who likes persimmons.

One of my favorite things to bake with persimmons are these muffins.  They’re a great treat with a rich dark flavor that is so reminiscent of the crisp fall weather.  I’m sure they would freeze well but somehow they’ve never lasted long enough for me to test that theory.

Persimmon Raisin Muffins

3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup persimmon pulp
1 egg
1 cup sucanat
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375°F
Grease loaf pans
Sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt
In a separate bowl beat egg, add persimmon pulp and sucanat
Add vanilla, raisins and pecans
Add sifted ingredients and mix well
Spoon into greased muffin tins
Bake 15 minutes or until tops spring back when tapped
Remove from oven and cool in tins 3-4 minutes before moving to wire rack
Finish cooling on wire rack

Gluten Free Cookie Fun

Walking into The G’s Healthy Gourmet with a couple of borrowed kids I am greeted by the sounds of Christmas carols playing over the speakers and the sight of children rolling dough and sprinkling flour.  Tiffany, the Pastry Chef, and her husband, Nick, the Executive Chef at The G’s, greet us at the door.   We settle at a table while Tiffany brings us our supplies…rolling pins, a block of cookie dough, a bowl of her own specialty gluten-free flour, cookie cutters, milk (because what goes better with cookies than milk?) and a plate of cookies to munch on while we are working.

Rolling out the slightly cold dough and pressing the cutters into it is a lot of fun for the kids.  It’s hard to get the cold dough started, the adults help get things going.  Some of the children seem to really like the idea of flouring the table, the rolling pin, the dough, the floor; Tiffany assures the adult guests that they have someone coming in to clean up after the event is over.  Rolling, cutting, reshaping and re-rolling the dough, the kids are having a lot of fun.  Excitedly chattering away about the choices of cookie cutters they are using the children quickly fill up their baking trays.  After getting each child to initial their parchment paper lined tray Tiffany and Eric, her assistant, take the cookies back into the kitchen and slide them into the oven.

Ten long agonizing minutes.  Waiting and waiting for those cookies to come out of the oven.  Playing with flour.  Making shapes out of left over dough.  Is it ten minutes yet?  Are the cookies ready yet?

Then the wait is over and the warm cookies arrive.  A pretty pile of holiday shapes all waiting for their final transformation.  With them come bowls of fluffy frosting (a serious temptation for little fingers), parchment paper frosting-filled bags and the excitement of creating a masterpiece.

It was clearly obvious that everyone, kids, parents, the folks at The G’s, had a good time.  Each child went home with their cookies carefully placed into a stack of take-out boxes, proudly carrying the haul of their handmade creations.  What a  sweet way to start the holiday season.

Gluten-free Holiday Gift Giving

The holidays are approaching.  Gluten and those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease have gotten a lot of publicity lately.  There are lots of gluten-free items on the grocery store shelves, there are articles in the news, there are restaurants proclaiming that they have gluten-free items.

Apologies in advance for the advertorial nature of this post, however I’ve gotten quite a few questions about what to give to folks who need to switch to a gluten-free lifestyle or who know someone who has to deal with this issue.  After writing practically the same email a number of times I’ve realized that there are probably others out there who have the same question so I’m putting it out on the blog.

While I’m not a gift-giving expert there are a few things that come to mind; items that I think anyone following that lifestyle would be happy to have on their gift list.  I’d like to start by sharing a column that I recently wrote for the Woodlands Family Magazine about gluten-free living.  Admittedly the information is geared toward those who live in The Woodlands, but the information about gluten-free living holds true for anyone.  And many of the grocery stores and restaurants are chains so you may be able to find one near you that can accommodate your needs or the needs of your loved ones.

I do not have any affiliation with any of the products listed below, however they are linked through Amazon and I do receive a few cents if you purchase through the links I provide.

One of the best gifts that I think you can offer someone is a bread machine.  Making bread by hand is wonderful and I love doing it.  But I realize that for many folks this just does not fit into their busy modern lives.  The Breadman is a great machine and I will actually be giving this as a gift this year.  If you have more dollars to spend I have several friends who use a Zojirushi and they love it.

A great thing about a bread machine is how simple it is to use.  Put the ingredients in, push a button, walk away and a few hours later you have fresh bread.  If you are making specialty breads a bread machine is great; it will allow you to thoroughly knead the dough, then pull it out to shape, and bake in a conventional fashion.  This is wonderful for rolls, baguettes, pizza and all sorts of other wonderful treats.

There are a couple of not-to-be-missed gluten-free cookbooks:

These are cookbooks that I own, love and use a lot.  The great thing about these books is that they give you an amazing amount of great information to help you or your loved one learn what they need to know to make the transition to gluten-free living.  They very clearly explain how folks, can live happy, healthy and gluten-free.  I actually feel they’re a great choice not only for those who must live gluten-free but those who want to be able to bake and cook for them.  Even if you don’t have to avoid gluten, if you have someone in your life who does, these books make it easy to understand what works for that lifestyle.

There are a couple of other books on my personal wish-list that I feel are worth mentioning here:


Another nice thing to do for those on your gift list who need to be gluten-free is to consider giving a gift basket full of gluten-free goodies.  Ingredients that they need for their gluten-free life, or gluten-free mixes that can give them a boost in making delicious treats.


The ingredients that go into gluten-free baking can often be confusing for folks.  Xanthan gum, guar gum, potato or tapioca flour (not starch), nut flours, bean flours.  These are all things that you have to have in your pantry to be able to compensate for the absence of gluten in your baking.


The most important thing to remember is that living gluten-free does not mean you have to be deprived.  There are so many wonderful things that you can eat and so many delicious substitutions that it’s really not deprivation, just a different way of doing things.  My friend Claire recently wrote a post about her adventures with gluten-free baking that shows how simple it can be and how delicious.

So enjoy your holidays, with or without gluten, and all that the season has to offer.

Baking With Kids

ready, set, bake

Baking is wonderful and something I love to do.  Even more fun is to bake with kids.  They’re so excited and fascinated by the process.  Learning their way around the ingredients, how to measure, the wet and dry combining process; it’s a fun edible science and math experiment in the kitchen.

This is one of my baking buddies, Miss A.  She came over the other day with her brother, Mr. C.   I had promised them that the next time they came over we would make cookies so that was our plan.

As it turns out Mr. C’s idea of making cookies was to allow his sister and I to do all the baking while he played the part of Official Cookie Tester.  And, might I add, he was rather impatient for those cookies to be done.

Miss A and I got down to business, put on our aprons and got out my “Famous Chocolate Chip Oaties” recipe.  Mr. C. wanted to know why they were famous, had they been on t.v.?  Did someone famous invent them?  I told him that it was a recipe I had created and I simply call them Famous because everyone who eats them really likes them and wants more.  Needless to say he was less than impressed and informed me that unless they’ve been on t.v. they can’t be famous.  Maybe I should send a box to Ellen?

One of the things I love about baking with kids is how curious they are.  Miss A wanted to taste everything.  Of course we decided that the chocolate chips were pretty tasty.  Surprisingly she liked the oatmeal, even raw, and requested a large spoonful of her own to nibble on.  We had two kinds of sugar and she tasted both of them.  Then we got to the baking soda.  Miss A asked if she could taste it.  I was a little surprised and said, “I’m not sure you want to do that.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Well,” I replied “it’s a little bitter tasting and I’m not sure you’re going to like it.”
“But I want to taste everything.” she said.
So I let her taste it.
Her face scrunched up a little and she said, “It’s not really bitter but I don’t like it.”
“Want some chocolate chips to wash that down?” I asked.
Of course the answer was yes.

We wound up making two batches of cookies the regular variety and the peanut butter variety.  The recipe is below and we’re sure you’re going to enjoy it, just like we did.

Famous Chocolate Chip Oaties

1/2 C butter
1 C evaporated cane juice crystals
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1 C + 2 T white whole wheat flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 C chocolate chips
1 C rolled oats

Preheat oven to 375
Blend together butter and sugar until creamy
Add egg and blend well
Add vanilla and blend well
Mix together flour, salt and baking soda and sift into butter mixture
Blend in chocolate chips
Blend in oats

Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet
Bake 10 minutes
Let sit on baking sheet 2 minutes
Move to rack to finish cooling

For the Peanut Butter variety:
Substitute sucanat for the evaporated cane juice crystals
Add 1/2 C chunky peanut butter

Banana Oat Pancakes

We love pancakes in our house.  They are a great, easy to make, healthy, whole grain breakfast.  Throw in some fresh fruit and maybe a little homemade Greek yogurt and it’s the perfect meal to start your day…filling, nutritious, blood-sugar balancing, and, most importantly, delicious.

I love it when I find a recipe that is so perfect it doesn’t need anything else.  This recipe is one of them.  From my King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book it’s a recipe that is a consistent favorite.  I love the fact that it’s made from whole grains.  Although I make my own oat flour by grinding oat groats you can easily make it at home by placing old fashioned oats in the food processor or blender and blending it until it reaches a fine consistency.  If that’s more than you are willing to do you can also just buy it, both Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill sell oat flour or you can get certified gluten-free oat flour from Legacy Valley or Cream Hill Estates.

As a quick side note, oats do not have gluten in them.  However they tend to be grown near, stored with or transported with other glutinous grains, most specifically wheat.  Certified producers grow and process only oats, guaranteeing that there is no cross-contamination.

One of the things that my family likes so much about this recipe is that it is very fluffy.  You don’t realize that these are whole grain oat pancakes they are that light and airy.  The bananas combined with the cinnamon and nutmeg make it a delicious way to start your day.  I also like having another great recipe that allows me to use up any almost over-ripe bananas.

King Arthur Flour’s Banana-Oat Pancakes

3 small bananas mashed
2 T. unsalted butter melted (use organic)
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. sugar (I reduce this to 1 t. as the bananas when they are this ripe have a lot of natural sugars)
2 eggs
1 C. oat flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg

Stir together the mashed bananas, butter, lemon juice and sugar in a medium bowl.
Beat in the eggs.
Whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a small bowl.
Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.
Stir the batter just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened.
Check to be sure the batter is thin enough for your pancakes; you may need to add a touch of milk or water (I never do)
Let the batter sit 10 minutes before using.

Heat a nonstick griddle or heavy skillet.
If your surface is not non-stick brush it lightly with vegetable oil.
When the surface is ready spoon batter 1/4 C. at a time into the pan.
Let the pancakes cook on the first side until bubbles begin to for around the edges, 3-4 minutes.
When the pancakes are just beginning to set flip then and let them cook on the second side, about 1 1/2 minutes more.

KA suggests you can sprinkle toasted walnuts over the batter just before cooking as an extra treat.

Sources for oat flour: