Category Archives: Sweet Things

It’s not too late yet! Dark Chocolate Mocha Fudge – just in time for Christmas

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Dark Chocolate Mocha Fudge

Christmas is coming!  Santa is near.   The girls can feel it in the air.

This year we’ve donated money to our local food bank on behalf of all of our nieces, nephews and family members.  To be honest, it was the best thing ever.  Each family is taking care of their own little ones with gifts, etc – but we’ve been so happy to teach the girls our reality.  And what is that reality?  Well, we may not have everything, but we have a heck of a lot more than many others in our community.  And there too, but for the Grace of God, ….  in this economy, you never know.

For the last few years, my classes and I have held special food drives for a weekend food program for hungry kids in Pre-K through 6th Grade.  (Other kids can access food programs through their family aid.)  The program (“Backpack for Kids”) sends home a backpack filled with easy-to-serve/make (pop-top cans, etc) and highly nutritious foods for little people.  The meals target little ones who may not have access to food otherwise on the weekends.  As a teacher, I know too well the look of hunger on a student’s face.  This year, the program serves 1,700 kids in our community.  That is up from 1,100 kids just last year.

600 more kids in need.

It’s a number that floored me.

I don’t need to hammer you with statistics, you probably know them.  Let’s just say, I’m happy to know that our donations will serve a purpose.  There are some great places to make a donation on behalf of your loved ones if you are struggling with what to get for someone.  Not only to I recommend your local food bank, but please consider joining us in making donations to these other organizations:

And then make some great cards to let those you love know how they’ve helped another this holiday season.  :D

And when you sit down to write your Santa letter, you could always ask for chocolates for your neighbors too.

At least that is what Zoe did.  She and I were talking about the food bank (she’s been there with me to drop off donations, etc a few times).  She asked me if the three neighbors near us would be going to the food bank this year.  I told her I didn’t know, but that I didn’t think so.  So then she asked if they had any ‘ersheys (aka “Hersheys”) in their houses.  (Can you tell what we were out of?  No chocolate in the house can be a disturbing thing.)

Since I told her that I wasn’t sure, she then added “chocolate for the neighbors” to her Santa letter.  Personally, I think fudge is better.  Especially at Christmas time.

So have no fear, if a donation doesn’t fit your last-minute gift-giving plan, try making this fudge.  I’ve sent some along with my Love to work for his Christmas party and they were a hit.  Today, I’m making another batch – more for the neighbors and this time, I’m going to make some salted-caramel mocha fudge too.  Yum!

This recipe is based on my mom’s fudge recipe.  Her recipe rocks and was so easy to adapt to add coffee extract, etc to make it a mocha flavor.

Dark Chocolate Mocha Fudge with a Toffee crunch topping

Makes one 8×8″ pan – Printable 2 page recipe here

Toffee topping:  (you can substitute GF toffee bars if you’d prefer)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • sea salt  (approx. 1 teaspoon +) for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. in a shallow pan, place the olive oil and sliced almonds over medium heat.  Swirl to prevent burning, but toast the almond slices.  Remove from the heat and roughly chop.  Set aside.
  2. Place a piece of parchment paper on a cutting board.  (Use a piece about as long as a cookie sheet – which will be more than long enough for this small batch of toffee.)  Cover with half of the toasted almond slices.  (Actually, place a pile of sliced almonds on the parchment and spread them out a bit  - about to a 8″ square or so.)
  3. In a deep pan, using a candy thermometer, bring the water and sugars (white and brown) together to a boil.  Cook, stirring the middle of the pan but without scraping the sides (you can swirl the pan a bit if needed), until you reach a temperature of 285F.
  4. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla extract.  Again, stir these ingredients in but do not scrap the pan.
  5. Quickly pour the mixture over the almond slices on the parchment paper – but don’t scrap your pan!  (Scraping will actually make your toffee crystallize and not be smooth).  Cover the top of the toffee with the remaining almond slices and sprinkle with sea salt.  Set aside to cool (which won’t take too long).
  6. Crush or chop the toffee into bits.  (About 1/2 of this toffee recipe easily tops one fudge recipe.)
  7. Make your fudge.

Dark Chocolate Mocha Fudge

Makes one 8 by 8″ pan

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 3 Tablespoons instant coffee
  • 12 regular sized marshmallows
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup or a quarter pound)
  • 1 large package dark chocolate chips (10-12 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coffee extract – OR – 1 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1/2 teaspoon coffee extract
  • Sea salt for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Butter the bottom of your 8×8″ pan well.
  2. Cook together sugar, milk, instant coffee, and marshmallows over a medium heat.  Stirring constantly, bring it to a boil, then turn the temperature down a bit.  You want to keep a low boil – but too high of a temperature will cause the sugar to form large bubbles that pop  and become lava-like burn potential while boiling – be carefully!
  3. Stir constantly over this low boil for 5 1/2 to 6 minutes.  (Longer and the fudge will be hard, not long enough and the fudge won’t set.)  (Cook until soft ball stage or between 235-240F)
  4. Remove from the heat, add the butter, dark chocolate chips and coffee extract.  Stir until well incorporated.
  5. Pour into your prepared pan.
  6. Top quickly with the chopped toffee pieces and sprinkle a little sea salt over the top.
  7. Allow to cool/set before cutting into pieces to serve or share.

And don’t forget to walk some over to your neighbors as well.

After all, chocolate is for sharing, right?

Merry Christmas, All!

~Kate

PS.  Thanks for the fudge recipe, Mom!  I’ve had it for years in my recipe book from you… and don’t think I’ve ever dared to make it. Not that it’s hard… I just knew that I would eat the whole pan!  Thank goodness for little girls (who love chocolate) and neighbors, right?

Gluten Free Basic White Cake

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Gluten Free Ratio Rally

Baking with a cause: YOU and getting you back in the kitchen too!

I’ve written this post a million times over since I decided to host this month’s Gluten Free Ratio Rally.  Way back in the beginning, I signed up for this with high hopes – and I was being completely selfish when I chose the task:  cakes.  And white/yellow cakes.  (Sorry, chocolate cake fans..although a few bloggers appealed to you, I was really on the hunt for fabulous GF white cakes.)

I say selfishly because I do have some fabulous cake recipes.  My favorites are my sponge cake recipe and the mini-vanilla filled cupcakes.  But really, I have been longing for layer cakes due to their versatility.  My favorite cakes have always been white layer cakes.  It’s true!  Even since I started making cakes in our house when I was in elementary school. (I did a fine job of both trashing the kitchen and baking a decent cake.)  My favorite white cake recipe is still being worked on to convert it to gluten free.  I needed some help.  And some inspiration.

And (I hoped)  I can’t be the only one with an aversion to chocolate cakes. (Right??)

And I say that reluctantly because I know that some very fabulous people in my life have made some incredible flourless chocolate cakes for me (birthdays at work, etc).  I’ve eaten each slice with a smile.  But I have a confession to make:  I’ve never liked chocolate cakes.  At the age of six, I completely overindulged:  chocolate cake + chocolate ice cream + first day in new state/neighborhood/house = bad news for the future of chocolate cake in my life.  I am refraining from using details here … after all, this *IS* supposed to be a food blog.

So you see, I am selfish in my quest for the *perfect* gluten free non-chocolate cake.  I’m not the only one who realizes the beauty of a white cake – the versatility, etc.  Oh yes. A white cake is where it is at, people!  And you will see from this month’s ratio posters just how fabulously versatile it is!

I fell on a sword this month taste-testing over 9 cake recipes ideas in four weeks.  Not too pointy of a sword, mind you.  If the cake tasted great, but failed?  I have crumbled them into a baggie and made some “cake pops” for my daughter(s) and I.  We share one “cake pop” after swim lessons.  But I think I’m going to have to invest in some swim time for myself after a month of cake eating.  Ay ay ay!

I’ve discovered a few things about cake baking – especially gluten free cake baking – that I’d taken for granted previously.

  1. Watch your baking time CAREFULLY and check often – especially within the last 5-6 minutes.  An over baked gluten free cake = the Sahara Desert in your mouth.
  2. Have your eggs and butter at room temperature.  But don’t do this if you live without air-conditioning and your house is 80F.  Not cool.
  3. Add your eggs one by one and beat them in for a couple of minutes before adding the next.  (No matter how hard your child pulls on your legs/hands.  Add the eggs one at a time!)
  4. Parchment lined/bottomed cake pans are just as fabulous as dusting them with gluten free flour – and easier for me.
  5. Gluten free cake batter is definitely thicker than gluten-filled cake batter.  Don’t stress when you see it.
And most importantly:  the RATIO makes a difference.  You really do have to measure the flours by weight if you are going to change up the flours you chose to use.  If you see a cake within the several that will be shared today as part of the rally, please do take the time to use the flours they chose to use.  For each of the cakes I made, I used 228g of flour.  Sometimes this was the equivalent of 1 cup of rice flour + 1/2 cup tapioca flour OR 1 cup of rice flour + 1/3 cup potato starch OR 1 cup millet flour + 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons sweet rice flour.  Yikes.
I wanted to make a cake that anyone could make with readily available flours that are relatively inexpensive as far as gluten free flours go.  I wanted it to be something your best friend could make for you or your mom or your colleague if they wished to.  So many times our diet is intimidating and expensive.  I just wanted to simplify it all.  (And I’m not going to tell you about my initial starts of using whole grains, less sugar, etc because <girl smacks self in head now> I was making a cake.  I gave myself permission not to think about applesauce in lieu of butter, etc.  I just wanted a cake.  And a good one at that.
I ended up with several.  From one recipe too.

GF Basic White Cake
The basic cake.  With only the primary frosting on.  I had intended to frost this further, but the Chicklet got a hold of the sprinkles and she went to town.  So, it stayed just like this:  minimal frosting and a fabulous crumb.
GF Basic White Cake with Raspberry Jam center

For these little cupcakes, we filled them with a dollop of raspberry jam – (and some with Nutella – YUM!).  No frosting was needed.

GF Basic White Cake with Strawberry Jam and Strawberry ButtercreamSimilar to the one above, filled with sliced strawberries and topped with fresh strawberry buttercream frosting.  All things pink are met with approval from the Chicklet.

The ratio for a basic cake is as follows:

1:1:1:1

Egg : Sugar : Flour : Butter

I’m not convinced that I’ve achieved the cake I dream of.  But, in looking at the titles of the cakes of my fellow GF Ratio Rally participants, I see that I have a fabulous future of cake testing ahead of me.  (Tiramisu! Confetti Cake! Lemon Tea Cake! – just to name a few!)  Maybe one of you will find a way to make it even more fabulous.  That is the beauty of being a gluten free community:  learning, sharing and growing together.

Basic Gluten Free White Cake

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces – 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces – 1 cup (226 grams) sugar
  • 4 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 226 grams “My” gluten free flour mix, sifted (1 1/2 cups + 2 teaspoons)
  • OR 175 grams (1 scant cup) rice flour + 50 grams (1/3 cup) potato starch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line the bottom of two 8 inch cake rounds with parchment paper OR butter each and flour with rice flour (NOT the rice flour called for in the recipe – please use 1 Tablespoon or 2 in addition to that called for in the recipe).
  2. Beat butter in the mixer until light and creamy.
  3. Add sugar.  Beat again for several minutes (3-4) on medium until light and fluffy.
  4. Add one egg.  Beat for 2 minutes.  Add next egg and beat again 2 more minutes.  Repeat until all eggs have been incorporated thoroughly.
  5. Add extracts.  Mix in.
  6. Sift together flour(s), baking powder and salt.  Add to cake batter.  Mix in carefully so as not to lose the softness created from mixing in the eggs/sugar.
  7. Divide into cake rounds evenly.  Smooth the surface with a wet spatula.  (I found it helpful to have a glass of water nearby and I kept dipping the rubber spatula into the water to keep the batter from sticking.)
  8. Bake until the top is just golden brown and a toothpick (or cake tester) inserted comes out shiny but not sticky – about 18-20 minutes.  Check your cake as you approach the 15 minute mark at a minimum to avoid over-baking.
  9. Remove from pans by flipping on to cooling racks after removing from the oven.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.
If you want to, this recipe easily converts in to cupcakes.  Bake for 15 – 18 minutes for 12 cupcakes.  When making cupcakes, we loved adding dollops of goodness (homemade raspberry or strawberry jams, Nutella, etc) in to the center of each cupcake and then we topped them with more batter.  These additions also added moisture to the cakes as well and helped them last longer. (Well, as long as a cupcakes can last around kids.)

Please check out the other fabulous Gluten Free Ratio Rally participants and their cakes, I know I will be doing taste-tests frequently from their ideas.  In fact, my sister-in-law is coming this week for a visit… so we have another birthday cake to make.  (Great excuse, huh?)

Gluten free Fresh Ginger and Rhubarb Crisp

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Fresh ginger and rhubard crisp:  Gluten free, of course.

Growing up we used to have a couple rhubarb plants outside the cabin door.  I’m sure they were there every year, but I didn’t always notice.  After all, there were blueberries in our yard and across the street.  BLUEBERRIES!  Yum!  And I’m sure my childhood memories are off in their timing, but I remember always wishing for a “blueberry pie on the 4th of July” as my Dad would say was possible when he was little.  But really? I don’t think we hardly ever had the luck of a pie on the 4th.  I never minded the blueberry hunt, however.

But one year my mom made strawberry and rhubarb pie for our 4th of July.  (Once again, no blueberries were to be found in time.)  Oh, that pie  was delicious.  Ever since that pie, I paid attention to that funky looking rhubarb plant with new interest.  That thing had potential!

While we didn’t receive the rhubarb in our CSA, it was available through the local food organization we’ve been trying out this month.  (See this post for more info.)  And even though I didn’t have a clue as to what I would end up doing with the bunch I ordered, I went ahead and ordered them anyway.

I have made a GF rhubarb cake, but that’s not what I was craving. I wanted more rhubarb flavor.  We had strawberries on hand so I was thinking a pie like my mom made.  But the strawberries were demolished by my Love and the girls with such glee that I just had to find a plan B.

So I called my mom.  :D

I asked her for her recipe for a rhubarb crisp.  She found one for rhubarb pudding that called for an egg.  An egg?  That did not convince me.  I’m not really a “pudding” kind of gal.  And then was the possible bread pudding with rhubarb.  Again, not appealing.  Not only do we not have GF bread on hand, but I really wanted the rhubarb to have its bold flavors be the center stage.

I read to her the section about rhubarb from the book “The Flavor Bible“.  (This book lists fabulous flavor combinations/suggestions but is not a recipe book.  I’ve been loving the fact that I have this on hand, especially for my CSA deliveries.  It’s helping me change things up a bit from our routine cooking/baking.)  When I saw ginger listed, I knew I had to try it.  I love fresh ginger and we had just purchased some that is so fabulously yellow and bright flavored, I couldn’t resist.

I only wish my mom were here to reap the benefit of recipe planning over the phone with me.  I think she would have enjoyed this too. We have a lot of telephone-recipe conversations.  These calls happen A LOT when I am at the grocery store and saw something fabulous.  I call my mom and she’d tell me what she would make/do with whatever I had in hand.  My poor mom.  But hey, at least she knows that we’re eating healthy!  LOL

So, here’s to you, Mom.  Make this o the 4th of July for the family.  I’m sorry we won’t be there to see the scraggly rhubarb plant (if it still there) in person. I can’t wait for my girls to get “Up North” and play like I used to.  Maybe they will take an interest in that rhubarb plant too.

I love you, mom!

GF  Fresh Ginger and Rhubarb Crisp

You can open a printable copy of this recipe here.

Ingredients:
3 cups cleaned, chopped rhubarb (halve the stalk, then 1/4 inch pieces)
1 cup sugar
1/2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup sweet rice flour
Crisp topping:
1 cup certified gluten free oats
1/3 cup crushed nuts (walnuts or pecans) optional
1/3 – 1/2 cup butter, room temperature  (more if you want bigger chunks of topping, less if you want it more crumbly)
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Clean, halve and chop your rhubarb stalks into 1/4-1/3 inch pieces.  Toss into a large bowl.
  2. Grate some of the fresh ginger (about 1/4 of it) over the rhubarb.  (I used a microplane, so I had some ginger juice dripping in too.) Finely chop the remaining ginger (into slices, then smaller pieces).  Add to the rhubarb.
  3. Over the top of the rhubarb, pour the sugar, orange juice and sweet rice flour.  Mix well.
  4. Pour into a 9 by 13 inch baking dish/pan.
  5. In the same bowl, add your room temperature butter, oats, brown sugar and salt.
  6. Squish together (I either use my hand or a potato masher).
  7. Sprinkle on top of the rhubarb.
  8. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until the crisp topping is golden brown and the crisp is bubbling nicely around the edges.
  9. Allow to cool a bit before enjoying (hot sugar!).
  10. Serve as is or with a dollop of coconut ice cream.

Enjoy!
~Kate

PS.  If you are looking for a basic crisp recipe, here’s the one I shared ages ago (again, with love from my mom):  GF Apple Crisp