Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

I know, I know. Carrot Cake for Easter, how inspired. But let me explain. See, this Carrot Cake is different. This Carrot Cake has the lovely texture and flavor of the Carrot Cake you’ve come to know and love, except that this one is completely gluten-free. Is it especially healthy? Not on your life. I don’t believe in taking all the sugar out of desserts. Is it perfect for gluten-intolerant friends and gluten eaters alike? It most certainly is. And to be perfectly honest, I’m almost as excited about the garnish as I am about the cake itself.

The last thing I wanted to do was pipe buttercream carrots all over the top of my cake. If I’m making something as popular as Carrot Cake, I at least want the topping to be unique. My garnish is made of carrot that I shredded with a microplane, with chopped walnuts, and dried, candied pineapple bits. Sprinkled on the top of the cake in layers, I think this garnish looks bright and fresh. I love the concept of taking fun ingredients from the cake itself and turning them into the garnish. It gives the top of the cake a little more interest, and displays what people can expect to find inside – this is particularly helpful with something as customize-able as Carrot Cake.

This recipe is adapted from What The Fork’s Gluten Free Carrot Cake, and hers was adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook. Gluten-free baking benefits tremendously from this kind of borrowing and adaptation, and I love it. When recipes go through enough work and transformation, with everyone adding their own improvements, you can end up with some seriously magical desserts.

In the spirit of benefiting the baking community in general, I tested this recipe with King Arthur, Bob’s Red Mill, and Maple Grove Farm’s gluten-free all-purpose baking blends. I very seldom use boxed gluten-free baking mixes, but in this recipe, which includes several heavy ingredients, the lightness that a mix can contribute helps achieve a cake with a great texture. The thing about gluten-free baking mixes is that they vary widely from brand to brand.  King Arthur was the clear stand-out, giving me a delicious cake with a great texture. If you decide to make this recipe, do yourself a favor and use the King Arthur “Measure for Measure” mix.

Bob’s Red Mill uses bean flours in their all-purpose baking mix, which is great in a lot of recipes. But it also gives Carrot Cake a bean-reminiscent flavor. The texture of that test cake was fantastic, but it didn’t have the exact cake flavor I was going for. The Maple Grove Farm’s baking mix is closer to King Arthur’s, and the flavor of that cake was perfect. The texture, however, was very soft, and the cake layers didn’t bake evenly, cratering a little in the center, probably because the Maple Grove Farm mix includes a higher proportion of starch than the King Arthur mix. This kind of variation in mixes is equal parts frustrating and exciting, because while it means you can’t use them interchangeably, it also means that underwhelming results in a recipe made with one mix might be improved by switching to a different one.

Everyone knows the most important part of any carrot cake is the cream cheese frosting, and this one is certainly not lacking in that department. Thick, creamy layers of frosting make this simple gluten-free cake taste like absolute heaven.  This cake is, however, delicious on its own, if you’re inclined to skip frosting to keep the calories low. As always, you can go further and really make this recipe your own. You can swap out the walnuts for pecans if you’d like, boost the flavor by adding shredded coconut (I left it out of this version because coconut and I do not get along very well), or omit the raisins and substitute currants instead. However you make it, this cake is a perfect addition to your springtime festivities. I would know – I’ve been celebrating spring with my test versions of this cake all month!

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Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Adapted from What the Fork's Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe.

Ingredients

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur's "Measure for Measure" Baking Mix 350g
  • 1/2 cup almond flour 45g
  • 3 cups sugar 600g
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsps baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped 130g
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins 40g
  • 1 8oz can crushed pineapple, mostly drained - not too dry 100g drained weight
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups pureed, cooked carrots (about 5 medium carrots) 320g, pureed

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 14 Tbsps butter
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar 356g
  • 2 tsps vanilla

Garnish

  • 4 Tbsps carrot, shredded with a zester or microplane
  • 2 Tbsps chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsps candied pineapple, chopped small
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter 3 9-inch cake pans and dust with baking blend.

    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour blend, almond flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Mix in the walnuts to coat them with the flour, then mix in the melted butter. Fold in the  raisins and the crushed pineapple, and set the bowl aside.

    3. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in the pureed carrots and mix until well combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and gently mix until there isn't any dry flour. Pour the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans. I had roughly 720g of batter in each of my pans.

    4. Bake on the center rack for 35- 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes in the pans before inverting onto wire racks to cool. 

    5. While cakes are baking, prepare your frosting. Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer until very smooth. Add butter and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add the powdered sugar, and whip on the highest speed until light and fluffy.

    6. For the garnish, stir together carrots and pineapple. Sprinkle on top of the cake in a circle, or whatever pattern you choose. Sprinkle walnuts over top of the carrot/pineapple mixture. Sprinkle cinnamon lightly over the garnish. 


Quick Cauliflower Pizza Crust (That Doesn’t Taste Like Cauliflower)

Quick Cauliflower Pizza Crust (That Doesn’t Taste Like Cauliflower)

Whoever claims that cauliflower pizza crust made from scratch is quick and easy is lying to you. You have to rice the cauliflower and cook it and squeeze it. Squeezing it is an arduous task at best, because you really do have to wring as much moisture out as possible to achieve a good crust. If you’re making more than one pizza, which I usually am, because cauliflower crusts are not very large or filling, then it takes double the time and effort. It quickly becomes an expensive, time consuming endeavor to feed more than one person with cauliflower crust pizza.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered the secret weapon. Trader Joe’s Frozen, Riced Cauliflower. It’s only $1.99 for a 12 oz bag, which happens to be exactly the right amount for a beautiful crust, and it’s cheaper than buying fresh cauliflower that you’d have to rice and squeeze yourself. I do think you can buy frozen, riced cauliflower in regular grocery stores – I use Trader Joe’s because I love their store, and it’s the first time I discovered such a magical product.

* not sponsored, just love the product *

When you freeze food, it tends to lose some of its distinct flavor over time. I think this is at play with the frozen cauliflower, and why it makes such a wonderful crust: it doesn’t taste like vegetables. It also doesn’t have a huge amount of moisture, even after you defrost it. I pour it into a bowl, microwave for a minute or two, and then pat the top dry with a paper towel. No squeezing involved at all. Do you know what that means? You’re smart and you probably do, but I tell you anyway. That means that this crust takes approximately five minutes to make. Defrost the cauliflower, pat dry, toss in some cheese, an egg, and some seasonings, stir and pour out onto your tray to shape the mix into a nice crust-like circle. Although to be honest, when I’m making it to eat instead of photograph, mine tends to look like a very wobbly rectangle.

Now, about that cheese that I so casually mentioned. I think of the cheese as my second secret weapon: goat cheese. For Cauliflower Pizza Crust, most people use Parmesan to help bind the crust together. I’ve swapped that for garlic and herb goat cheese, and it’s made a world of difference. The only other ingredients I add to my crust are an egg, some Italian herbs and salt. The crust still crisps up just right, and doesn’t taste like cauliflower even a little bit. The single caveat of the whole endeavor is that the crust needs about 40 minutes to bake properly, so it could be considered time-consuming in that regard. We all know at this point how impatient I am when it comes to wanting to eat what I make, though, so believe me when I say it’s worth the time.

I topped my pizza with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil and pesto. Pesto is my new favorite thing to put on pizza – it just adds a whole new dimension to the flavor. I tested this crust topped like a traditional margarita pizza with fresh mozzarella, but the fresh cheese has a lot more moisture to it, and makes the pizza difficult to eat without a fork and knife. If you don’t mind that, then definitely give fresh mozzarella a try, it tasted outstanding. I am very happy to say that my days of squeezing moisture out of cauliflower until my hands fall off are completely behind me, and I promise that once you try this method, yours will be too.

 

 




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Quick Cauliflower Pizza Crust (That Doesn't Taste Like Cauliflower)

Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 47 minutes
Servings 1 pizza

Ingredients

Cauliflower Crust

  • 1 12oz bag frozen, riced cauliflower
  • 1 egg
  • 4 oz garlic and herb goat cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning

Toppings

  • 2 cups pizza sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • sliced cherry tomatoes
  • basil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet (round or rectangle) with parchment paper. 

    2. Place frozen cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for about 2 minutes until the cauliflower has started to defrost. Pat the top of the cauliflower with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. 

    3. Add goat cheese to the cauliflower and microwave for an additional 30 seconds. Add egg, seasoning, and salt. Stir until well combined. The mixture will seem a little soft and wet. If you don't have garlic and herd goat cheese, you can use plain goat cheese and add an extra tsp of the Italian seasoning. 

    4. Pour the mixture out onto the parchment paper and flatten into a circle (or whatever shape you like, really) about 10-11 inches in diameter, and 1/2 inch thick. 

    5. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through baking time to ensure even color. Baked crust will be a dark, golden brown and the edges will be crispy. Top with sauce, cheese, and whatever else you fancy and bake for  5-10 minutes until the cheese melts and browns very slightly on top. 


Better Chicken Vino Bianco

Better Chicken Vino Bianco

This recipe is one of my favorite dinners, and only partly because the recipe involves wine. It’s pretty quick to make, and all the prep can be done ahead of time, so you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to make something wonderful. Since the chicken doesn’t actually cook in the sauce, you can buy a roasted chicken and use that if you’re especially short on time. Short cuts that don’t diminish the final product are essentially just examples of good time management, right?

Chicken Vino Bianco is typically served over pasta, but I chose to make this dish with rice. The rice absorbs the sauce better than pasta ever could, soaking up the flavor and making sure it ends up in your mouth instead of on the bottom of the dish. The sauce itself is rich and creamy, without feeling heavy, and the flavor of the wine comes through without being overpowering. You can use chicken broth and maybe a little lemon juice in place of the wine and still have a silky, beautifully flavored sauce.

Better Chicken Vino Bianco is loaded with vegetables, but you hardly even notice them because with a little wine and cream in the mix, all the vegetables cook down into the glorious, smooth sauce. This recipe involves fresh grape tomatoes, spinach, shredded carrot, onion, and mushrooms. The tomatoes add a freshness that balances the heavy cream, and the onions, carrot, and spinach add loads of flavor as well as bulk and color.

Every recipe for Chicken Vino Bianco I looked at called for mushrooms. I’ll just say it – I hate mushrooms. I’ve been on a quest to force myself to like foods that I hate, in order to broaden my palate (it’s too complicated to be a food-lover who hates popular flavors like mushrooms and bananas). This was a great place to start, because I chopped the mushrooms so small that they all but disappeared into the sauce, and I could forget they were there.

I’ve tried the recipe sans mushrooms and the flavor just wasn’t the same. If you happen to love them, you can just roughly chop them before adding them to the skillet. You can do that with all of the vegetables in this dish, depending on what you like. If you’re of the vegetarian persuasion, you could also opt to increase the mushrooms in place of the chicken. I don’t think I’ll ever like mushrooms enough to live that life, but I hear some people think they’re amazing. Teach me your ways, please.

Like most of my recipes, this one was developed over time, based on a lot of similar recipes. I love taking a concept and changing it to fit my personal needs – especially when the result is something this tasty!  With its irresistible sauce and depth of flavors, Better Chicken Vino Bianco is a beautiful, savory dish that still feels light and healthy. And thank goodness for that, since it practically comes with a built-in wine course. The recipe only calls for a cup, and it would be a shame to waste the rest!




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Better Chicken Vino Bianco


Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Slice chicken into bite sized pieces and cook in a Tbsp of olive oil. Cook gently, over medium heat, to prevent chicken drying out. Remove cooked chicken from the skillet.

    2. Place onion, shredded carrot, garlic, and a Tbsp of olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Let cook until everything starts to soften, stirring occasionally.

    3. While onions are cooking, cut tomatoes into quarters, and chop mushrooms - I diced mine very very small, but you could just chop them roughly if you love mushrooms. Add both to the skillet with 1 tsp of salt and let cook until soft. 

    4. Add wine to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sauce starts to reduce. Turn off heat and add cream. Stir until well combined. Salt to taste. Add chicken to the skillet and mix until coated with sauce. 

    5. Serve over warm rice or pasta. 

Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Bites

Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Bites

When I first started learning the ins and outs of gluten-free baking, I was not impressed. You have to mix roughly a billion different types of flours in order to create a product that hopefully, maybe, resembles the real, gluten-filled thing (okay, slight exaggeration, but not by much). It’s easier to adapt some recipes than others, but all of it involves a certain amount of trial and error. The more I do it, the more gluten-free baking appeals to me, in spite of its difficulties. I’m not celiac, but I do believe that we’re generally better off eating fewer refined carbs, in this case wheat flour, bearer of gluten (says the woman who recently devoured her weight in macaroni and cheese – it’s about balance). Anything that makes a recipe healthier without sacrificing the flavor or texture means that I get to enjoy more of the foods I love and still fit into my jeans. That’s everyone’s dream come true – right? If someone offered me a million dollars or the ability to eat anything I want without gaining weight, I think everyone knows which I’d choose.

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