Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Goodies

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that you are well and enjoying time with your loved ones. I am spending time with my family at my parent’s house.  It’s not very Christmassy outside with it overcast and raining all day, but it’s Christmases inside. Everyone has opened their presents and had a big turkey dinner and now we are just lounging around listening to the crackling fire …. on TV.  I love Canadian television with the burning log channel at Christmas.

My family is not very religious, but the idea of spending time with friends and family, helping those less fortunate, and just being able to enjoy yourself for a few days in the middle of winter is definitely worth celebrating.

This year for Christmas I decided to try and make homemade presents. The endeavor was actually quite fun, but also a lot of work and far more expensive then I thought it would be.  However, I thought I would share all of the gift ideas … edible or not with you today. That way you can get tones of ideas for next year and I can feel less guilty about not posting as frequently as I would like to on here.

I’ll start with the bathroom related products. The easiest product to make is room spray (air freshener). My partner despises febreeze and makes a big stink about it every time I use it to freshen up the place, so I started looking into making my own air freshener. I tried a few different versions that I found online and settled on the following recipe: 1/8 Witch Hazel, the rest water and 8-12 drops of scented oil. For Christmas I chose clove oil and does it ever work. The scent of cloves is quite strong and overpowers any other scent in the room with only one squirt.

The second bathroom product I made was lavender body scrub. I got that idea from another blog that I read regularly and it’s quite a simple recipe. Just sugar, salt, oil and scent. You can find it here: Affairs of Living

I also chose to add my flavoured pears and pear butter to the list that I made this summer and some homemade vanilla extract. I remembered reading how to make your own on a blog, but wasn’t able to find the article again. Other how to sites told me though that it is simply vanilla beans and vodka.  Most seemed to agree that 3 beans per cup was the correct ratio and since I had bottles that were half a cup, I used 1-½ vanilla beans and filled the rest with vodka. It is to be kept in a dark cool place (aka a cupboard) for about 6 weeks and shaken occasionally before it is ready to use.

Since I went a little crazy with the vanilla beans (I got a great bulk price on them) I also made vanilla sugar and vanilla salt. As I had not used vanilla salt I just kept that for myself and made everyone else vanilla sugar. That is pretty simple as you put about 2 to 3 fresh vanilla beans in with one cup of sugar or 5 to 6 used vanilla beans in with one cup of sugar. You can use the flavoured sugar in whipped creams or in coffee and many other baking adventures. Vanilla salt is made the same way and is great for sprinkling (lightly) on chocolate chip cookies.

Finally came the baked goods. I filled a tin with peanut butter balls, lemon hazelnut shortbread and soft chewy ginger cookies. The peanut butter balls are something that my grandma has made every year for us and are very similar to Reese’s peanut butter cups (which happen to be one of my favourites).  Unfortunately I just realized I left my recipe at home so I will have to post this recipe another time. But here’s a sneak peak at the peanut butter chocolate goodness any ways!

For the lemon hazelnut shortbread cookies, I had wanted to make shortbread but make them different some how. Origin bakery that I go to now and then in Victoria makes lavender and early grey tea shortbread and I was going to go with one of those, but then decided I wanted to use up my hazelnuts before they went rancid. I really love lemon hazelnut green beans, so I figured the combination would work just as well in a cookie.  So I based my recipe off of Martha Stewarts hazelnut cookies and added lemon and made them gluten free. I brought them to work and everyone loved them! They are light and refreshing and melt in your mouth like shortbread should.

Lemon Hazelnut Shortbread

1 stick (125mg) salted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1-cup sweet rice flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1-cup hazelnuts
1 egg (warmed)
Rind of one lemon
Vanilla sugar (sugar that's had vanilla beans sitting in it)

Place hazelnuts on a cookie sheet, lightly coat with oil (I used grape seed oil) and set under broiler in oven until toasted (lightly darkened and smell good). Remove and toss hazelnuts into a food processor and process as fine as you can get it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add rice flour, hazelnuts, and xanthan gum and mix well. Next add warm egg and the rind of one lemon (or half a lemon if you would like a lighter lemon flavour) and beat until dough forms.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on greased baking sheet. Press balls with fork to flatten. Sprinkle tops of cookies with vanilla sugar and bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool on sheets set on wire racks.

Last but not least, I made soft chewy ginger spice cookies. Although I’ve always liked gingerbread men I’ve never been a fan of ginger snaps. I like my cookies soft and this recipe is just that!

Soft Ginger Spice Cookies

3/4-cup margarine
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg (warmed)
1/4 cup fancy molasses
4 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 teaspoon ginger powder
2 cups Bob Redmill’s Gluten Free All-purpose Flour
1-teaspoon xanthan gum
1-teaspoon baking soda
1-teaspoon cinnamon
1/2-teaspoon cloves
1/2-teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4-teaspoon salt
Vanilla salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl cream margarine with sugar until fluffy. Next beat in egg, molasses, orange rind and ginger. Stir together spices, dry ingredients then add to margarine until well blended. Place in fridge for 15 minutes or until firm. Then shape into 1-inch balls, place on greased baking sheet and press balls with fork to flatten. Sprinkle lightly with vanilla salt and bake at 325 degrees for 12 - 15 min.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bailey's Banana Date Bread

Recently I’ve been inspired to dig out some of my old recipes and try to revamp some old classics. I have always loved baking, but I was never very adventurous or creative about it.  I made the occasional pie, apple crumble and banana bread and that was about it. Once in a blue moon I’d make chocolate cakes for friends or try carrot cake, but really nothing fancy and nothing beyond the recipe ... no ad-libbing with flavour or fruit or nuts.

When I started baking gluten free, I had so many baking mishaps that I gave up on it completely for a while. Then, slowly but surely I started again. Having this blog forces me to be at least a little creative and I love that. You may have noticed the lack of baked treats on here lately, and it’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve been really into almond flour these days and although the recipes that I get from books turn out great, the ones that I try haven’t been working out so well.

So when rifling through my recipe collection I found a very well used piece of paper, bent, torn and with ink bleeding everywhere. I knew that this was the recipe to convert and to go back to what I know (for now). I know Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour and I know coconut flour. The trick with coconut flour is to use little and to add a lot of moisture to your recipe to compensate for the fibrous flour.  Also, a new trick I learned recently is that working with warm eggs (not cold or room temp) gives gluten free baking the extra help it needs, when it comes to raising breads and cakes.

I bring you, Bailey’s Banana Date Bread:

1 cup Butter (softened)
¾ cup Sugar
3 very ripe Bananas
4 Eggs (warm)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 ½ cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
½ cup Coconut Flour (sifted)
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Xanthan Gum
1 cup Buttermilk (I used 1 cup lactose free milk with 2 tablespoons lemon juice)
1 cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream
½ cup chopped Dates
½ cup chopped Walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl cream together butter and sugar. Add bananas, eggs and vanilla and mix well. Next add flours, baking soda, xanthan gum and mix well. Mix in milk, Bailey’s until batter is thoroughly mixed and moist. Fold in dates and nuts. Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake at 350 for about an hour.  Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on rack.