Lemon Posset

I have these lovely friends, a couple, who are pretty much good at everything. One is a doctor, the other a nurse. They volunteer in a hospital in Haiti a couple of times a year. They renovated their home, deconstructing the chimney and building skylights with their own hands. They garden, and of course, they cook. And let me be clear—when I say “cook,” I mean one of them trained under a French chef. So when they invite me over for dinner, I always say yes. Then I have a brief moment of panic while I try to decide what to contribute to the meal.

Life has been busy lately, so I decided not to over think it and just make a chocolate espresso pudding I’ve made a few times before. It’s quick, it’s easy, and who doesn’t love chocolate? Sadly, I attempted to make the pudding while I was preparing dinner. My impatience meant that the pudding never thickened properly, and remained a soupy mess even after a full night in the fridge.

Meyer lemons are sweeter and milder than other lemons. Much of the lemon flavor comes from the oils in the skin.

Meyer lemons are sweeter than other lemons. Much of the lemon flavor comes from the oils in the peel.

That’s when I decided to take the risk of making a recipe that had caught my eye—lemon posset. Historically, posset refers to a drink of warm milk curdled with ale or wine, then spiced. Thought to have healing properties, this drink was enjoyed as a cold remedy in medieval England. Today posset more commonly refers to a custard-like dessert. The original recipe has only three ingredients: heavy cream, sugar, and lemon juice. With a recipe this simple I couldn’t resist adding my own little twist. First, I decided to use Meyer lemons. Since Meyer lemons have a more delicate flavor, adding a teaspoon of zest seemed like the best way to ensure the lemon taste would shine through. I also love the combination of lemon and lavender, so I decided to sprinkle the posset with dried lavender flowers just before chilling. I added raspberries just before serving, because it just felt right to incorporate the first local berries of the summer.

let the cream come all the way to a boil, but keep your eye on it so it doesn't boil over

let the cream come all the way to a boil, but keep your eye on it so it doesn’t boil over

This was so delicious that one of my friends licked the bowl! It was a success that bears repeating, except next time I plan to use fresh Oregon blueberries as a complement to the floral note of the lavender. This was the perfect dessert for an early summer dinner with such dear friends. Enjoy!

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Lemon Posset via Food 52

By Mrs. Larkin

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Homemade Chocolate Digestives

The rain has resumed. Much like the UK and Ireland, it rains in the Pacific Northwest for most of the year, and a hot, fragrant cup of tea is just the thing to warm your hands when the rain is lashing outside. Given their love of tea, it’s no surprise that the English developed a cookie that is its perfect accompaniment—the chocolate digestive. Digestives are typically made with whole wheat, and are light enough on sugar to taste almost wholesome. Dipping them in chocolate transforms them into a salty-sweet cookie designed for teatime (also known as elevenses.)

use high quality, gluten free dark chocolate

use high quality, gluten free dark chocolate

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This recipe relies on spelt flour, which is wheat free but not gluten free. Remembering the practically savory flavor of plain digestives from before my gluten-free days, I decided that buckwheat flour would make the best substitute for spelt. Its slight sourness really gave the cookies that whole-grain heartiness I was aiming for. I ended up using ½ cup of Bob’s Red Mill gluten free all purpose flour blend, and ½ cup of buckwheat flour, just because I know the buckwheat can be overwhelming on its own. I also added the ¼ teaspoon of xantham gum recommended by Bob’s Red Mill when preparing cookies from their gf flour blend. In addition to the flours, this recipe calls for old-fashioned rolled oats. Oats are naturally gluten free, but the machines that cut them are usually heavily contaminated with wheat, so the only safe way to go if you’re celiac is to purchase gluten free oats. Blending the dry ingredients and butter together in a food processor (or blender) reduces the oats to a coarse texture, leaving a few chewy flakes in the final product.

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This recipe emphasizes a couple of times the importance of keeping the dough chilled, so if starts to get sticky be sure to pop it back in the fridge for a few moments. I don’t own a simple round cookie-cutter, so instead I made little people and dipped the bottom half in rich, melted dark chocolate. The chocolate was rich enough that dunking the whole cookie wasn’t necessary, but by all means, follow your heart on this one. Just be sure to check that your chocolate chips are gluten free and your digestives are fully cooled before any dunking occurs.

pre and post baking

pre and post baking

 

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These digestives were just right with a cup of dark, milky tea. Let the rain keep falling–I’ve got everything I need.

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Homemade Chocolate Digestives via Food52

By londonbakes            March 2014

Figgy Buckwheat Scones

I’ve been dreaming about these scones for the past year. If the phrase fig butter doesn’t entice you, what will? Figs are naturally sticky-sweet. In this recipe dried figs are poached in a mixture of red wine, port, and spices. Buckwheat, despite its name, is not related to wheat and is entirely gluten free. The slight sourness of the buckwheat actually enhances the sweetness of the fig butter, and the delicate purple hue of the flour makes the finished scones absolutely beautiful.

figs in wine and spices

figs in wine and spices

Since I knew these would be a project, this seemed like an ideal recipe for a baking date with my friend Sarah. It was wonderful to have a friend in the kitchen for so many reasons. I tend to approach gf baking with a low-level of anxiety and a commitment to precision. Gluten free baking can be expensive and seems to lend itself to disaster. This doesn’t have to be the case, of course, but it is so upsetting to gather together high-quality ingredients only to be disappointed by the final result. Fortunately, Sarah comes from the other end of the spectrum. When the dough felt too dry, we optimistically agreed to pour more cream in until the texture felt right. When I neglected to let the wine and fig mixture cool before blending it with the butter, we tossed it into the fridge for a few minutes and assumed it would be fine. It was better than fine—it was delicious!

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If you’re not fortunate enough to have a friend in the kitchen with you, it’s worth making the fig butter in advance. I would probably store it at room temperature overnight and make the dough the next day. It took a little while for the syrup to turn amber, but the most important thing is not to let it burn. Once the wine and port were simmering, the rest was easy. I still have a jar of leftover fig butter that is great on toast and may even end up in some homemade fig newtons in the future.

pretty pinwheels

pretty pinwheels

As for the dough, you can take your cold butter from the fridge and use a grater to help create the grainy texture you’re working towards. Nothing works as well as rubbing it between your fingers to fully incorporate it into the flour mixture. It’s okay to leave some small lumps of butter in the dough. Sarah taught me to use a sifter to create an evenly floured surface, and that’s a trick I will keep with me. We used measuring tape to measure the dimensions of our dough. It sounds silly, but it helped us form pinwheels that matched the dimensions in the recipe so we could trust the cooking time. Spreading the butter and rolling the log was straightforward. Since they are best right out of the oven, we only baked ½ of the recipe and saved ½ of the dough for later.

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The final result was gratifyingly sweet, with a pastry that crumbled like cookies and rich fig-and-spice spiraling throughout. A year of dreaming about them and they were definitely worth the wait!

Figgy Buckwheat Scones via 101 Cookbooks

Reprinted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

I have long been a fan of lemon poppy seed muffins. It started with a delicately flavored, dense lemon poppy seed cake that my mom used to make. Like hers, this recipe incorporates sour cream. The sour cream enhances the tartness of the lemon, but also adds some density and feeling of richness. It is a must-have ingredient for me in any lemon poppy seed based recipe.

pretty purple poppy seeds

pretty purple poppy seeds

I have a few tips although the recipe is fairly straightforward. First, the reviewers are right—the recipe should state ½ cup of butter, not ½ a pound. Getting your butter to room temperature is important in order to make it cream properly. For the flour I used Cup 4 Cup, but you can easily use Bob’s Red Mill, Pamela’s, or another all-purpose mix. Don’t skip the sifting step! It makes gluten free baked goods a little bit lighter. Per usual, I chose to make flax-eggs for the egg substitute. This recipe calls for three eggs, and typically I look for recipes that call for two or less in order to get the texture right. I took a chance with this recipe and I wasn’t disappointed. This discovery may broaden my cake-horizons!

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These muffins can be enjoyed with a glaze or a frosting. I skipped the glaze called for in the recipe and instead mixed one cup of confectioner’s sugar with lemon juice until the texture was thin, but not liquid. I baked the muffins for 18 minutes and glazed them right out of the oven. A sheet of parchment paper under the cooling rack kept the kitchen from getting messy. I only glazed the muffins once and brought them warm and fresh to my book group gathering.

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I missed the lemon zest from the glaze and will definitely add it next time. Other than that, I was pleased with my sweet, lemony, and poppy-seed-crunchy muffins. My food nostalgia rarely leads me astray!

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Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins via Food 52

By sweet enough            July 2009

Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

You will love this cake. This is the cake my family loves to make during the holidays. It’s the cake I turned into cupcakes for Ben’s 40th birthday last year. It is one of the few cakes guaranteed to taste delicious without gluten or eggs. It’s full of pureed pumpkin, pineapple, flaked coconut, and wintery spices, all topped with a butter and cream cheese frosting.

ben and his 40 cupcakes

ben’s 40 cupcakes

I used to love baking, but when I was diagnosed with celiac I had no idea how to bake without wheat. Going gluten free inspired me to learn about a wide variety of flours. Each flour has its own flavor and texture, and therefore it’s own ideal uses. Tapioca flour is sweet and chewy, which makes it great in brownies. Chickpea flour adds earthiness to savory dishes, especially Indian foods. Potato flour is a great thickener (sometimes too great!) Almond flour makes delicious crusts for pies and cakes. There are pros and cons to each of these flours and learning how to use them can be an incredible asset to your baking, but none of them can be used as a cup for cup substitute for wheat flour. Most gluten free baking recipes require a mixture of three or more flours plus xanthan gum to achieve a result akin to wheat flour.

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And that brings me to Cup4Cup. My aunt told me about this all-purpose gf flour designed by a chef at the famed French Laundry. Thank you, Aunt Therese! I’ve made this cake before with another all purpose gf flour and of course it was delicious, but between the cup4cup was definitely better. I’m also a fan of flax eggs as my egg substitute instead of powder egg replacements. I find that it does a better job as a binder and doesn’t leave an aftertaste that some egg replacers can have.

brown flax seed

brown flax seed

This cake is a little time consuming, but it’s not too difficult. It’s significantly easier as cupcakes because it’s not necessary to butter and flour two cake pans and frost both layers. The layered cake is more impressive, but the individual cupcakes are pretty sweet, too! In my oven the cupcakes take 15-17 minutes per dozen and the recipe makes about 2 ½ dozen cupcakes. The frosting recipe makes way too much, so this time I cut it in half. It’s a rich frosting and a thin layer on this dense cake is all you need.

pumpkin coconut currents

pumpkin coconut currents

pre and post oven

pre and post oven

One of the best things about this recipe is that it just gets more decadent after it’s been refrigerated. If you’re looking for a special dessert this holiday season and want to prove that gluten free pastries can satisfy everyone, this is your best bet. Enjoy!

Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting via Epicurious

November    2009

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