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While I personally do not know anyone who has a problem with gluten in their diets, I wanted to experiment with a couple of gluten free recipes in case I am called to bake for someone who cannot tolerate this particular protein. It has previously never occurred to me that some people cannot enjoy regular grains like wheat, rye or barley and it was not until medical school that I learnt about celiac disease and how difficult it is for such patients to go about their daily grocery shopping and cooking.  We now have a reasonable wide range of gluten-free products in supermarkets and specialty stores but most of these unfortunately do not come cheap.

Coconut flour is one which can be safely consumed by anyone on a gluten-free diet without having to break the bank. Easily available in your local store [I found mine at Shoprite Tamarin under Lemcke Brand from South Africa], coconut flour, while being healthier that your refined wheat flour derivatives, will not give the same ‘lift’ during baking such that your cakes and muffins will lack the expected light and fluffy texture. If it is your first time, you will be surprised [like me!] to discover that this recipe, from King Arthur Flour, calls for less flour [as little as ¼ cup for a dozen muffins] and typically twice the number of eggs. This is because coconut flour readily absorbs moisture from the batter, so I think it does help to have a few fresh berries in there.

COCONUT FLOUR BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 large eggs, room temperature

3 tablespoons butter, melted

3 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon kitchen salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease six wells of a standard muffin pan.

  • Line the pan with greased muffin papers. Sift coconut flour and baking powder.

  • Mix it until well blended. Stir together the eggs, butter, honey, salt, and extracts.

  • Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there are no visible lumps.

  • Gently fold the fresh blueberries into the batter till they are evenly incorporated.

  • Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup to about half full.

  • Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

  • Cool for about 5 minutes in pan, then transfer to a rack to cool. Makes 6 muffins.

Coconut Flour Blueberry Muffins

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The classic financier, made with finely ground almonds, is something I bake every time I have extra egg whites left over from homemade custards or ice cream. Very basic in its ingredient list and baking method, the only lengthy step you will encounter is to brown a few knobs of unsalted butter to create the aromatic beurre noisette, which highlights the nutty flavor of this delicate loaf-shaped friandise.  For a twist, I switched the almond meal in Weekend Bakery‘s recipe to a good measure of ground pistachios with a light sprinkling of chopped nuts on top and they were as good as the traditional almond financiers. I am further encouraged to try them with other nuts like pecans or cashew nuts just to see which one I like best.

PISTACHIO FINANCIERS

Ingredients:

30 g pastry flour

50 g pistachios

25 g almond flour

150 g icing sugar

Pinch of kitchen salt

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

3 egg whites, room temperature

100g unsalted browned butter

20g pistachios, chopped

Method:

  • Shell the pistachios and grind them to a fine powder along with one teaspoon pastry flour.

  • In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, pastry flour, almond flour, pistachios and almond extract.

  • Add egg whites and stir with a whisk until you have a smooth mixture, 1 minute is enough.

  • Add browned butter in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Transfer it to a piping bag.

  • Put it in the fridge for one hour. Preheat your oven to 200 °C / 390 °F conventional setting.

  • Now fill the prepared financier molds and sprinkle the tops with roasted chopped pistachios.

  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Leave in pan for 5 minutes before turning out.

  • Cool completely on a wire rack. Financiers are best eaten while fresh. Makes 12 financiers.

Pistachio Financiers

Now that I have got somewhat more comfortable with the process of making scones, I feel I have come a long way from the scone ‘phobia’ I suffered from my Home Eco days. At time, I find myself looking up for basic scones and on few occasions, even succumbing to trying out one for breakfast. The simple vanilla scone, from King Arthur Flour, may well be fabulous on its own but I wanted to see what the addition of coarsely chopped dark chocolate would do to the scone batter. After painstakingly chopping an entire bar of Lindt’s 70% cocoa, do not forget to set a few chunks aside that you can melt and drizzle over your baked scones for a bakery style finish.

DARK CHOCOLATE CHUNK SCONES

For the Dough

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon kitchen salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter

1 cup dark chocolate, chopped

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup to 2/3 cup milk

For the Topping

2 teaspoons liquid milk

2 tablespoons sparkling sugar

Method:

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  • Work in butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly. Stir in dark chocolate.

  • In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract and fresh milk.
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir it until all is moistened.

  • Dough should hold together. Line baking sheet with parchment without greasing.
  • Sprinkle a bit of flour atop parchment and scrape dough onto floured parchment.

  • Divide the dough into halves and round each half into a 6″ circle, about 3/4″ thick.
  • Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle them with coarse white sparkling sugar.

  • Using a knife that you have run under cold water, slice each circle into 6 wedges.
  • Carefully pull the wedges away from the center to separate them about 1/2″ apart.

  • Place scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown; the edges should not look unbaked.

  • Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve scones warm.
  • When completely cool, wrap in plastic. Store at room temperature for several days.

  • To reheat room-temperature scones, place on a baking sheet, tent lightly with foil.
  • Warm in preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes and serve them immediately.

Dark Chocolate Scones

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