dhar-ma (n) the essential nature of a thing. cakes (n) a sweet baked food.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pear Polenta Muffins

Hey Dharma Cakes... long time no bake huh? I've spent the last week and a half down with the flu (one of the many perks of student teaching and observations... you catch everything) so food in general was not happening, let alone baking.

Anyways... I've been feeling a bit better (basically I can breathe now) and I was in the mood for something other than a bowl of Chex cereal for breakfast; have I mentioned how excited I am about cinnamon Chex? It's awesome just so you know, and they are marketing it specifically for the gluten free lifestyle, which caught my attention. I had never seen a television commercial that was discussing living gluten free. Ok, back to the story now, I found myself visiting the Gluten Free Goddess's blog this morning after seeing a post for perfect pizza crust, so of course I had to get it to try out later in the week, and found myself perusing her selection of breakfast recipes. I was hit by the name of one of her muffins - Pear Polenta Muffins - and knew what I was making in the kitchen this morning.

The Gluten Free Goddess is amazing, truly she is a culinary goddess and an inspiration to the allergy foodie world. So it should not come as too much of a surprise that these muffins are delicious, and I am excited to try them with other fruit pairings as well. Because I can't help myself, I made a few slight modifications to the original recipe which you can find here, but either way, these muffins are rock star... tender with a slightly sweet grainy texture and juicy bites of pear... topped with a little soy free "butter" yum...

Pear Polenta Muffins

2 cups peeled, cored and diced ripe pears (2-3 depending on size) or you can use the equivalent of canned pears in natural fruit juice
3/4 cup ground cornmeal
3/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 ripe banana, mashed well
1/3 cup coconut milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
3/4 cup organic raw sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 muffin tin with liners. In a large bowl (I use my kitchen aid) combine the dry ingredients - cornmeal, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, sea salt, baking powder, and cinnamon; whisk until well blended. In your food processor puree the banana and blend with 1/4 cup of oil; add 1/3 cup coconut milk, sugar and vanilla; blend until smooth and creamy. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. The batter should have the consistency of a thick muffin batter. Stir in the pears. Drop batter into the muffin cups by spoonfuls; distribute evenly among the twelve cups. Sprinkle the tops with raw sugar. Bake in the center of a preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until the muffins are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean. (mine took 25 minutes) Allow the pan to cool for a few minutes; then remove muffins from hot pan to prevent from getting soggy. Enjoy warm or cool for a tasty treat.
Makes 12 muffins

I'm thinking this recipe would be delicious with blueberries and a bit of lemon juice or with peaches...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

For the Love of Muffins - Banana Mango Tropical Fiesta Muffins

I think muffins may just be the worlds most perfect food. Think about it; moist bread, fruit, just the right hint of sweetness, portable in those cute paper wrappers... really what's not to love about a muffin?

So when I feel in the mood to bake something, muffins are usually at the top of my list. Quick and easy with virtually instant gratification. Back in my pre-Gfree clean eating days I had come up with a simple base muffin recipe which I could then modify to suit my needs, depending on what flavor combination I was in the mood for.

I am currently taking an Educational Psychology class which meets two Saturdays a month, for eight hours each session. That's right... I said an eight hour psychology class. Needing something to bring with me to munch on, I trotted out my old muffin recipe and stared into the fridge to see what kind of fruit I had on hand. I am on a big banana kick right now. I am literally putting bananas into everything I eat, including my daily morning smoothie. So obviously bananas are in... now what goes with banana... I see a gorgeous mango gazing up at me from within the fruit chiller and the light bulb goes on. Banana Mango Muffins! Oh with coconut, definitely coconut... it'll be a tropical fiesta in muffin form!

So here it is Dharma Cakes... my new and improved G-Free, Vegan, Banana Mango Tropical Fiesta Muffins.
These muffins came out light, fluffy, and super moist, with a very subtle sweetness. I think the secret to getting that fluffyness was whipping the banana and mango together in the food processor until it became an airy mousse consistency. And the toasted coconut on the top... gorgeous... Just what I needed to get me through the day.

Banana Mango Tropical Fiesta Muffins

Dry Ingredients:
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup certified gluten free oats
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:
1 Tbs ground flax seed + 3 Tbs water - let sit for 5 min to gel (or egg replacer for 1 egg)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 banana
1 large mango
Shredded coconut for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease muffin pan or line with paper liners, set aside.

Mix together all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the wet ingredients and stir making sure the mix is well blended. Roughly chop up the banana and mango and puree in the food processor until light and foamy. You want an almost mousse like consistency here. Gently fold into the batter.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Sprinkle shredded coconut over the tops of muffins. Bake 20 - 25 minutes or until gold in color and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Let the muffins cool for about an hour to let the flavors blend. Hot banana, mango doesn't taste like much, but cooled.... well that's a whole other story.

The excellent thing about this recipe is that you can replace the fruit with just about any combination you want. Just add approximately 1 cup of fruit of your choosing to the overall mix for a whole new flavor experience.

Makes 1 dozen muffins

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Apple, Walnut Flappers & the Buffy Flay Throwdown

I have a secret... I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ok... I'm a tad bit obsessed with it actually. Not in a weird way mind you, I just think that it is one of the best TV shows that have ever existed, and if you have never watched Buffy, trust me you are seriously missing out. But my love for a show that has been off the air for 9 years now is not what this post is really about. You see, last week my brother Adam brought over the epic find of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer video game for the gamecube, and since I have commandeered his Nintendo Wii, this was truly an exciting event. In the midst of my enthusiasm however I came to the sad realization that I suck at video games. I swear I have absolutely no manual dexterity or fine motor skills when it comes to those controllers, and end up mashing buttons furiously while facing backwards from the target because I can't figure out how to turn around. It's quite sad really... But I am determined to take on my role as Slayer and fight my way through hordes of vampires and zombies and bizarre wolverine looking creatures to save the day, so I made a deal...
My brother will come over and help kill said vampires, zombies, and wolverine creatures, and I will make him dinner. Brilliant, I help save the world from evil and no one goes hungry... two vamps, one stake. Hence Saturday night has become what we call the "Buffy Flay Throwdown."
Adam has become a recent convert to the wonder that is the Food Network, and Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives is his hero. So when I called him up to ask what he wanted me to make it wasn't too much of a shock to learn it was something he had seen the other night on Triple D: Apple, Walnut Flappers (Pancakes) with Brie. You can watch the segment featuring them here. Since I like to eat too, my challenge was to make them gluten free and vegan, while still having them taste like something you might find Guy chowing down on. A daunting task.

The flappers on the show were made with a yeast dough, and try as I might I could not find a gluten free yeast pancake recipe anywhere. So I pulled out my box of magic flours and found a regular recipe for yeast pancakes on the Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen site, and got to mixing up some gluten free mojo. The results...
Yum... Brinner is served. Thick, chewy, delicious pancakes covered with a sweet apple, walnut caramel sauce... the gluten eaters proclaimed "these are good, really good" and I was happy they didn't turn out like lead, actually I was more than happy because they were the exact opposite of lead, they were a gluten free taste extravaganza... Mine were served sans Brie, but I was informed that if you can eat the cheese, a slice or two of Brie on the top takes them to a whole other level of Brinnery goodness.

G-Free, Vegan Apple Walnut Flappers
2 cups Sorghum flour
1 cup Millet flour
1 cup Tapioca Flour
1 cup Potato Starch
2 tsp xatham gum
2 Tbs organic cane sugar
1 Tbs salt
2 packets yeast
4 cups coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk of your choice) warmed to 100 - 120 degrees
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup melted earth balance soy free margarine
2 Tbs ground flax seed + 6 Tbs water (or egg replacer for 2 eggs)

For the Apple Walnut Sauce:
5 apples - cored, peeled and diced tossed in lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp apple pie spice
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs earth balance soy free margarine


In a small bowl mix flax seed with water, let sit for five minutes to thicken and gel. In a large bowl combine the flours and starches, mixing very well to ensure even distribution. Add in the remainder of the dry ingredients, the salt, sugar, yeast and xanthan gum. Pour in the warmed milk, vanilla, margarine and flax seed gel. Stir into the batter until well combined. Cover and let rise in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. (I preheat my oven to 175 degrees and then turn off and place my dough inside. It rises beautifully every time.)

Pour batter by 1/2 cupfuls onto a greased hot griddle and spread them out a little. Turn when bubbles form on top of the pancake; cook until the second side is golden brown. These pancakes are thick and rise quite a bit while cooking. I checked them with a toothpick to ensure they were cooked through and not doughy in the center.

Meanwhile for the sauce, melt the margarine in a hot skillet. Add the apples, sugar, spices, walnuts, vanilla, and maple syrup and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until apples are soft and liquid has reduced to a thick caramel sauce consistency.

Serve flappers with the apple, walnut sauce spooned over them.

Serves 4

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hello there Dharma Cakes!

Hi! Welcome to Dharma Cakes, My name is Alicia, I am an artist and full time graduate student working towards my masters in education, and I've survived my first month living allergen free - for me this means no gluten, dairy, eggs, or soy... I won't go into the gruesome details of the multiple reasons why I choose to embark on this new way of life, but needless to say most foods just really did not like me... I mean not at all. I could not understand why my "healthy" diet which consisted of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and no red meat was making me feel so miserable, and to top it all off I was packing on pounds like it was my job.

Having been previously diagnosed with two other autoimmune diseases, I was also aware that I had problems with dairy, soy, and eggs. The former caused some discomfort, and the latter two brought on full on allergic reactions (which included chugging benadryl whenever I ate soy.) What is truly amazing was that I continued to make exceptions for these foods. Just because I may love tofu and enjoy the occasional cheese omelet, does not mean that I should tolerate the horrible side effects they brought upon me. So I started to do some research on my various ailments, and having some family history of celiacs led me to understand the missing link. After much soul-searching, I decided I was tired of feeling sick and tired and declared 2011 the year of allergy free eating and self-care.

I know it sounds like every other New Years resolution everyone has ever made, but after just four weeks I feel fantastic! I have so much more energy, my skin is clearing up, my joints feel better, my headaches have gone away, and I don't need to make my escape from the dinner table 30 seconds after I eat... plus I am 10 pounds lighter to boot! I am learning that this is a lifestyle change, a way of being, not a "diet". I am enjoying discovering different types of grains and flours, experimenting in the kitchen with baked goods, and learning to better listen to and understand my body and its needs.

That is where Dharma Cakes comes in. I love to cook and bake, and just because I could no longer eat traditional baked goods, did not mean that I should have to give up a favorite hobby of mine. Deciding to combine my love of baking with my love of writing, this blog is where I will list recipes I have found and tried, chronicling my successes and failures in the world of gluten free, vegan baking. Come along and join me if you like, its a whole new world out there and all the rules have changed...

My first attempt at successful G-Free, Vegan baking was sandwich bread... I know jump right into the fire with yeast bread... crazy but I was determined. Really is there anything better than warm bread fresh from the oven with butter melting into a nice thick slice? Speaking of butter, earthbalance makes really delicious vegan margarine spread that is soy free! Seriously I was super excited when I found this out. Look for the one in the red container. I found it in Whole Foods and Wild By Nature, but sadly not in the regular supermarket...

So anyway I found this recipe for totally awesome gluten-free, vegan bread on this blog; Aprovechar I felt like a kindred spirit to Sally, the woman who writes it, (you can also check out her new website tilth) and had to give it a go. So I went out and collected the assortment of flours I needed, took out my trusty kitchen aid and got baking. The results.... Oh my goodness... It's way better than any gluten filled bread I have ever made... the whole family agrees this one is a keeper. Try it for yourself, you won't be disappointed. So thanks Sally, you and your amazing bread brought hope to my first days of living gluten free.

Delicious Gluten-Free, Vegan Bread

Recipe for 2 loaves—it is okay to halve the recipe if you want to make just one

Note: If you are using a mixer that doesn’t have a great engine, you may want to mix it by hand at the end to ensure it’s all mixed. Since there’s no gluten to get tough from overmixing, you can mix until you’re confident.

In a large mixing bowl combine:

1 1/2 cups millet flour
1/2 cup teff flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup cornstarch (or double the potato starch if you can’t eat corn)
1 cup potato starch
1 cup tapioca flour
4 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp active dry yeast (not rapid rise)


4 tsp olive oil
3 1/4 cup warm water (not hot)

Mix with electric mixer–using paddle attachment, NOT regular beaters or bread hook–for two minutes. The bread dough will be more like cake batter than traditional bread dough.

Pour into two nonstick or well-greased loaf pans, place on a warm surface (such as on top of the pre-heated oven), and cover with a towel. Allow to rise until batter extends a bit over the top of the pan–generally 50-70 minutes. (Batter should take up about half the loaf pan before rising.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove loaf pans from oven and cover with aluminum foil. Return to oven and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. (Insert a toothpick or knife into the center to see if it comes out clean or doughy, if you aren’t sure when you pull out the bread.)