Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nosh, nosh a hamantasch


Yes, it's that time of year again. Another holiday with a specific, gluten and egg based food of which my girlies cannot partake. Or can they?

I searched my cookbooks and on various gluten free blogs for a gluten free and egg less version of the traditional triangular shaped cookies eaten on Purim. They are named "hamantaschen" after Haman, the villain of the Purim story, and are said to resemble a three cornered hat he wore. After no luck locating an appropriate recipe, I emailed the good people at Better Batter, as they have a lot of ethnic and vegan recipes, to see if they had any suggestions. Their staff said I could just substitute their product for wheat flour in any recipe. My search continued. Lillie wanted me to make separate gluten free hamantaschen with eggs for her and egg less, wheat flour hamantaschen for Rosie. I told her I didn't have time to do two separate batches, while I munched on a store bought, egg full, wheat hamantaschen.

Then, my answer came in a manila envelope sitting most unexpectedly in my mailbox. I love getting large manila envelopes in the mail, as they usually contain something good. This was padded---even better. I looked at the senders name and address, and was puzzled as it was from my friend Shuli's mother. I had no idea why she would be sending me something. It was actually from Shuli's sister, visiting from out of town, who is the mother of a severely food allergic child. Her son is now outgrowing many of his allergies, and she was kind enough to pass on to me her copy of Simply Tempting: The Allergy Friendly Kosher Cookbook, by Blimie Frank and Beverly Israel. The cookbook actually claims to contain recipes which are egg, milk, nut, sesame and pea free. However, there are many Passover recipes which use potato starch, and thus are also gluten free. Included are egg less and wheat less cakes and kugels. Such recipes I have been wanting desperately! As I flipped through the book, I was pleased to see an egg less hamantaschen recipe. It calls for wheat flour, but following Better Batter's advice, I decided to go ahead and substitute gluten free flour. So enjoy, and nosh, nosh an egg free, dairy free and wheat free hamantasch!

This recipe is very large, but it can easily be halved. If dough seems too soft to work with, chill for 30-60 minutes before rolling out. I recently read that 2 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup gluten free flour should be added when substituting for wheat flour, as the gluten free flour doesn't absorb liquids as well. If this particular dough seems too liquidy, begin adding additional gluten free flour 2 Tablespoons at a time, until it achieves a firmer, but not stiff consistency.

Purim Hamantaschen
from Simply Tempting, second edition, page 106

6 cups gluten free flour blend (I use Better Batter)
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 sticks margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar (or pure vanilla extract)
1 1/3 cup (plain) seltzer
desired filling (jam, prune lekvar, chocolate spread, poppy seed filling)

Preheat oven to 300F degrees.

Combine all ingredients. Knead into a soft dough.

Roll out onto a floured surface (roll between two pieces of waxed paper, or silicone mat with waxed paper on top, so dough doesn't stick to rolling pin or rolling surface). Cut into circles (use a glass or biscuit cutter). Fill with 1 teaspoon of desired filling (do not overfill, as the filling will spill over when baking). Fold all three sides together (to resemble a tri-cornered hat), and pinch closed as much as possible.

Bake 20-30 minutes (gluten free dough sometimes requires extra baking time additional 10 minutes may be needed). Do not over bake; dough should not turn brown.

Cool on wire racks.

Store in airtight containers, or freeze in zip top plastic bags.

See Cookie Baking Tips.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Maid"-a to Order


Lillie came home from school the other day with telltale signs of cupcake consumption ringing her mouth. During one of the copious snow days we had in the past few weeks we made a fresh supply cupcakes for both Lillie and Rosie to take to school and keep in the freezer there in case of parties. They are clearly labeled with their names and what they are "free of", just in case someone glances at the last name and gives Lillie Rosie's or vice-versa.

She told me there was a party for her classmate Rachel, and her mommy came in and played games. Then she went on to describe the flower cake effusively. Not once did she mention that she wanted to eat the cake, or that it wasn't fair that she couldn't have the cake like all the other children. Lillie just took joy in the fact that her friend had a pretty cake, which she enjoyed looking at as a piece of artwork almost. I felt she had crossed a big threshold in terms of dealing with celiac disease. She could socialize and go out in the world and not chant the "no fair" rant when she cannot eat what everyone else is enjoying. Her own cupcake satisfied her desire for cake, and self-acceptance of her situation satisfied her emotionally.

Of course, it is always nice when everyone can eat the same thing. What a joy it was to open Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, and see a section entitled Cakes Without or Almost Without Flour. The "almost without flour" cakes generally called for a mere 2 Tablespoons of flour, which is easily replaced with potato starch or any gluten free flour blend. I have found that potato starch works well for such substitutions and is the cheapest among the gluten free flour choices. With Passover fast approaching, potato starch should be in abundant supply in the supermarkets---stock up! Perusing further into this book I found other gluten-free friendly offerings in other sections of the book, including a brownie made with oats and a flour less cake created especially for the current Queen Mother of England (maybe that's the secret to her longevity). Given the fact this book practically leaped into my hands at the library, I found these recipes even more serendipitous and delightful. They are good for everyone to enjoy, and if made with potato starch are terrific for Passover entertaining (except the oat recipe).

I have simplified the directions for this recipe to make it "busy mommy" friendly. Ms. Heatter uses all the best techniques though. If you are interested in doing it her way, consult the book. I am interested in using the least pans possible in the shortest amount of time.

Chocolate Oatmeal Brownies
from Maida
Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, p.p. 154-5

3 ounces (3 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound (1 stick) sweet butter (or margarine)
1/2 cup dark or light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 2/3 cup (gluten free) rolled oats
4 ounces (1 heaping cup) walnut halves or pieces

Adjust rack to the center of the oven and pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving 3-inches of foil hanging over the edge on each side. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Place the chocolate in a medium sized microwave safe bowl and heat for 2 minutes. Stir until completely smooth. Chocolate may be returned to the oven for 15-second intervals if not completely melted. Stir in remaining ingredients in the order listed. Pour into prepared pan, and pack down firmly, smoothing the top.

Bake for 15 minutes in pre-heated oven. Remove pan to wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Then cover pan with a second rack, invert, peel off foil, and invert again, leaving the brownies right side up to cool completely.

Cut into thin bars, or chill first in the refrigerator to make cutting easier.

Yield: 24 bars