Monday, December 10, 2012

Tea Time Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays

Yay, I finished writing my manuscript for my new tea book so, I am now back to blogging!   I hope to share the process of my book with you as I go through each step so stayed tuned.  But, in the meantime, I couldn't think of a more perfect topic to write about during this holiday season than BAKING and pairing homemade treats with delicious teas!

I love to bake especially during this time of the year.  Each year I always make homemade goodies to give to my neighbors, our mail lady, and friends.  However, in the last few years, I found out from my doctor that I have a sensitivity to wheat. So, I try to maintain a gluten-free diet, but at the holidays I have always struggled.  Therefore, I "cheat" and then I don't feel my best at all.  But, for some of you cheating isn't even an option!

Well I don't have to "cheat" anymore since I received Jeanne Sauvage's GLUTEN-FREE FOR THE HOLIDAYS: 60 Recipes for Traditional Festive Treats cookbook.  This book is way more than just a cookbook. It is what I would call a primer for gluten-free baking as well.  Baking and enjoying homemade treats with my tea has a whole new outlook! 

Jeanne and I share a few things in common such as the same literary agent and now the same publisher, Chronicle Books.  I later discovered we also share a love of tea.  When I was in Seattle last year teaching a tea class, she took me to a local tea shop and we had a great time chatting.  Lucky for me, I even got to preview some of the photos for her now published book. 

 Being diagnosed gluten intolerant after  her daughter was born over a decade ago, Jeanne didn't want to quit her love of baking, so she figured out a new way that fits her diet restrictions AND her taste buds!  For those of you that need to stick with a gluten-free diet, you know that taste and texture can be a problem in baked goods.  Well, not anymore.  Here are two great recipes from Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays.  You will want to buy this book ASAP, to try out the other 58 recipes in the book plus read the primer that is included to help you navigate the gluten-free world of baking.  She also includes some basics such as yummy yeast rolls and bread too!

To Get Started here is, Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (Makes 4½ cups / 660 g)

1¼ cups/170 g brown rice flour

1¼ cups/205 g white rice flour

1 cup/165 g sweet rice flour

1 cup/120 g tapioca flour

scant 2 tsp xanthan gum

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown and white rice flours, sweet rice flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum thoroughly. Transfer the mix to an airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 weeks or in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

I used to make cutout cookies with my kids every year for Christmas when they were little. We used the same cookie cutters that I grew up with which made the baking even more special. It was always the cookies the kids left for Santa. This recipe would be great with a cup of green Japanese Sencha or a black first flush Darjeeling! I do think Santa would enjoy a little cup-of-pick-me-up with his cookies too! Here is Jeanne's gluten-free recipe perfect for all the gluten-free Santas.

Cutout Cookies (Makes About 30 cookies)

Cutout cookies are a must for the holiday season. The wonderful thing about this dough is that it can be cut into any shape or size that a particular holiday requires. I make the dough year-round and use cookie cutters that suit the occasion. The cookies are fun to decorate. When my daughter was a toddler, we painted the icing on the cookies instead of piping it. Painting the cookies was so much easier. Now that she is older, it is a wonderful way for both of us to get creative when decorating the cookies. Each cookie can be a masterpiece.

2 cups / 280 g Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (please see separate recipe)

1½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup / 115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup / 200 g granulated sugar

1 extra-large egg, at room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ tsp grated lemon or orange zest (optional)

Tapioca flour for dusting

Colored sugar for decorating (optional)


2 cups / 225 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

4 to 6 Tbsp heavy cream, or more if needed

Food coloring in various colors (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and beat for 1 minute. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute. Add the vanilla and beat to combine. Add the lemon zest (if using). Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a disk, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes, or for up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Remove one dough disk from the refrigerator. If the dough is rock hard, let it warm up a bit. Place the dough between two pieces of waxed paper and roll to ⅛ in/3 mm thick.

Using cookie cutters dipped in tapioca flour, cut out as many shapes as possible. Using a spatula, place the cutouts on the prepared sheets, spacing them at least 1 in/2.5 cm apart. Roll out the dough scraps and repeat the process until all the dough is used or the cookie sheets are full. The dough is best cut when it is firm, so you may have to return it to the refrigerator before cutting more shapes.

Sprinkle the shapes with colored sugar (if desired or leave them plain and decorate with icing after baking). Bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheets for about 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Let the sheets cool completely and repeat with the remaining dough.

While the cookies are cooling, make the icing. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Add the vanilla and 4 Tbsp of the cream. Whisk until all the ingredients are combined and smooth. If desired, add more cream to make the icing thinner. If you want to color the icing, divide it among small bowls and tint each bowl of icing with a different food coloring. Using a small paintbrush per color, decorate the cookies. Place the decorated cookies on the wire racks to let the icing set.

Store the cookies in an airtight container, between layers of waxed paper, at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Not everything in this cookbook is sweet.  If you are looking for a savory tea time treat, how about trying these cheese crackers.  They would pair nicely with a cup of malty astringent black Assam tea or if you like smokey black  Lapsong Souchong that would also be nice!

Cheese Crackers and Straws (Makes 60 or more crackers or straws)

Cheese crackers and straws are terrific party snacks, especially for New Year’s Eve. They are simple to prepare and get rave reviews from guests. Sometimes I make them with cheese only, and sometimes I add a pinch of cayenne for a little kick. You can also experiment with your own choice of herbs and spices. The recipe here calls for both Cheddar cheese and Parmesan. If you like, you can use Cheddar alone, by replacing the Parmesan with the same amount of Cheddar.

1½ cups/210 g Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (please see separate recipe)

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

½ tsp dried herb such as thyme or rosemary or ground spice such as cumin (optional)

6 Tbsp/85 g cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2½ cups/175 g grated Cheddar cheese

1 cup/70 g grated Parmesan cheese

1 extra-large egg

¼ cup/60 ml milk

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas mark 5. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, cayenne (if using), and dried herb (if using).

Pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and both the cheeses and pulse until evenly mixed with the dry ingredients, about 1 minute. The dough will look like wet sand with pebbles. Add the egg and pulse until incorporated. With the motor running, pour the milk through the feed tube and blend until the dough forms a ball. (Alternatively, you may mix the dough by hand, using a pastry cutter to combine the dry ingredients and the butter and cheeses. Then, with a wooden spoon, stir in the egg and milk. The dough will be very stiff.) Divide the dough into two equal portions.

To make cracker rounds / Place a portion of the dough between two pieces of waxed paper and roll to ⅛ in/3 mm thick. Using a 2-in/5-cm cookie cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible. Using a spatula, place the cutouts on a prepared sheet, spacing them at least ½ in/12 mm apart. Roll out the dough scraps and repeat the process until all the dough is used.

To make straws / From a portion of dough, pinch off a marble-sized piece of dough. Roll into a ball and then put on a piece of waxed paper and roll into an evenly shaped cylinder about 5½ in/14 cm long. Place on a prepared sheet. Repeat until all the dough is used, spacing the cylinders at least ½ in/12 mm apart.

Place the sheets on the middle and lower oven racks. Bake until the crackers or straws are brownish around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. They will be moderately crunchy. Let the crackers or straws cool on the cookie sheets until you can pick them up, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

The cookbook makes a perfect gift for your gluten-free friends or for yourself.  Hurry so you have plenty of time to try lots of different recipes during the holidays.  You might want to check out Jeanne's blog called Art of Gluten-Free Baking for more wonderful recipes. Let me know which recipe in the cookbook is your favorite!

Happy Sipping and Baking, Lisa