55 Reasons to Leave Gluten

Gluten intolerance can be an insidious condition. Those who’ve suffered through years of  gluten-induced physical maladies know this all too well. And yet, there are those well-meaning, but annoying folks, who look at us like fad diet drama queens and hypochondriacs.Eating gluten-free makes sense.  And for many of us, gluten-free living is a necessity– born out of seeking health.  

For my daughter, Haley, latent celiac disease caused years of seemingly unrelated illnesses. When  persistent joint pain lingered in spite of multiple doctor’s visits, and caused Haley–a talented athlete and prize winning sprinter– to drop track and field, a red flag sounded in my head. Yet, the orthopedic specialist felt it was a benign condition she’d grow out of with some exercises.

Rashes appeared on her legs, blister-like and horribly itchy. We mistook these for flea bites from our cat’s forays or perhaps allergies to skin-care products and began using a wide variety of hypoallergenic items instead. It never occurred to us this was in fact a gluten reaction called dermatitis herpetiformis

Once in a while, she’d have some tingling or problems with an arm or leg, but the doctors found nothing abnormal in visits. There were canker sores occasionally. My once sunny and cheerful daughter became anxiety-ridden and irritable. She was 17, and we attributed this to the emotional nature of teenagers- certainly not to wheat proteins.

Then it was off and on again “stomach flu” — but no one else in the family contracted these bouts of “flu.” We determined this was perhaps related to milk and switched to lactose-free milk, which offered some relief, but never cured the situation. About the time I was ready to take her to a doctor for a full workup and evaluation for the gut problems, she became weak, light-headed, confused, short of breath during even limited exertion.

Given her symptoms, the doctors first investigated parasites, thinking our old drinking well had been a source of contamination. A blood draw had shown a very high level of eosinophils and basophils- types of white cells related to parasites or allergic responses.  We didn’t know that some very credible sources, including  the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center,  had linked elevated eosinophils to celiac disease as well as parasites and allergies. And of course, after two more weeks of testing, there were no parasites.

But Haley worsened, deteriorating before my eyes each day. Another blood test showed a very low ferratin (stored iron) level…dangerously low in fact, for a teenager.  For a kid who took a daily multi-vitamin with iron and ate a very balanced diet, she was horribly anemic with no apparent cause. 

At last, celiac disease was found to be the issue.  The day the doc scrawled the words, “gluten-free” on a paper and told me to “Google” it and start Haley on this diet  immediately and permanently. It was hard for me to believe this disorder could be connected to all these symptoms. Could ingested wheat be causing joint pain or blisters on her legs?

It took months of weekly hemoglobin interveneous treatments to bring her iron levels up to even low normal levels–and a gluten-free diet– to change all her symptoms. Gone were the joint pain, the rashes, the irritability and mental confusion, canker sores, odd neurological symptoms and the stomach complaints.

Through all of her illness, she never lost weight, failed to “thrive” or presented with classic symptoms of celiac disease. Even her bouts of nausea and diarrhea were very intermittent until the last month prior to her diagnosis, when she completely bottomed out and became very ill.  Gluten can and does cause many severe reactions in individuals– even without classic symptoms. In Haley’s case, she’d been sick for years, the doctors conjectured, to have iron levels as low as they were.

Mark Hyman, who is a medical doctor and a blogger with the Huffington Post, best summarized  the link between gluten and a range of disorders. Below is a brief from his excellent post.

“A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten.  These include osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, and rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric  and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression,  schizophrenia,  dementia,  migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage).  It has also been linked to autism.

We used to think that gluten problems or celiac disease were confined to children who had diarrhea, weight loss, and failure to thrive. Now we know you can be old, fat, and constipated and still have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Gluten sensitivity is actually an autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract, and more. It can be the single cause behind many different “diseases.” To correct these diseases, you need to treat the cause–which is often gluten sensitivity–not just the symptoms.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that ALL cases of depression or autoimmune disease or any of these other problems are caused by gluten in everyone–but it is important to look for it if you have any chronic illness.”

Cupcake Wars Winner: Interview with Lisa Cowden: The Future of Gluten-Free Living

Lisa Cowden: Food Network Cupcake Wars Winner: Survival of the Fittest: Air Date July 09, 2010

She’s affable, humble and unabashedly open. At 28, Lisa Cowden has already discovered that fame is sweet icing on the cake “cupcake” of preparation and hard work. As winner of the Food Network’s acclaimed “Cupcake Wars,” this Scottsdale, Arizona woman wowed tough judges, beat out her competitors (one of whom was a previous Food Network contestant) and kept her cool, while wading deftly in high heels through puddles of buttercream frosting- crafting for the final episode a stunning display and 1,000 scrumptious cupcakes.  

 She’s a girl after my own heart and clearly a woman of many skills. Her baking masterpiece- a delectable Rich Chocolate Carmel Cupcake- made of all-natural ingredients, that sings of decadence- even and most especially for gluten-free folks.  

Yeah, that’s right.  

Lisa, an accomplished pastry chef and baker for the renowned and allergen friendly haven – Gluten-Free Creations Bakery in Scottsdale – understands food intolerance on a personal basis. And while her cupcakes won with all natural ingredients but traditional flour- they readily translate into equally natural, yummy gluten-free confections- as do most of Lisa Cowden’s culinary treats- providing proof that gluten-free can be both delicious and upscale.   

Wheat and dairy intolerant, Cowden’s been in the trenches pioneering tasty wheat and dairy-free foods from her preteen years. It’s no surprise that she found her niche at Gluten-Free Creations – with their prolific and tasty offerings of over 150 gluten-free treats. When Lisa won, she’d been working at LuLu’s Cupcakes in Scottsdale- an all natural bakery- which was sold to LynnRae Ries and reopened as the second of Ries successful Phoenix area GF bakeries recently.  

Forgetting the time difference, I caught up with Lisa in the midst of her frantic baking schedule. Cowden, with her characteristic good humor took the call in spite of my poor planning. Says Cowden of her Cupcake Wars experience, “We geared up our brains to come up with the most creative things we could.” An easy laugh follows, “And then the pressure hit and…it’s all kind of a blur.” On auto-pilot through the tense competition, Lisa- a 2008 graduate of Scottsdale Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu- drew on her training and passion for natural foods, as well as a profound love for the fine art of cupcake crafting to edge out competitors.  

Lisa, shares a common vision with LynnRae Ries, the owner of Gluten-Free Café and Gluten-Free Creations Bakery, to make gluten-free and allergen friendly foods that taste as good as or better than traditional fare. “It’s a really good fit for me,” notes Cowden about working at GFC.  

Ries, who has celiac disease and is a noted author, chef, national leader for gluten-free awareness and specialty diet educator, is collaborating with Cowden on an upcoming cookbook. (Given the delectable creations that pour forth from GFC, we in the gluten-free community should wait upon this project with fork in hand.) (I’ll keep you posted)  

In addition to coming away from our conversation uplifted and encouraged, I also gleaned her prize winning recipe in the gluten-free version and gained expert pastry chef tips on converting various items into dairy and gluten-free variations, which are linked in these two posts- here and here.  

(You can view her original recipe here on the food network, if you’d like.)  

Lisa's Rich Chocolate Carmel Cupcake

When I lamented the typical plight of bland, boring or just “wrong” gluten-free treats, most of which taste far too “healthy” to be considered a delicacy, Cowden said of bakery confections,“You want a treat to taste like a treat- not like health food.” But Cowden, who uses all natural ingredients to foster her culinary delights, magically makes healthy food taste like treats- a commodity sorely lacking in most GF diets.  

She stated in a recent interview with Fox News, “People call up and say, thank God I found you, you make my life so much better… most bakeries can’t say that about what they do. Absolutely no one can tell that they are gluten free or maybe even dairy free or casein free or vegan. We service all the top 8 food allergens so everyone still loves them.” The national attention that resulted from winning the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars has brought greater media focus to food intolerance and celiac disease- as well as her mission with Ries at Gluten Free Creations. “You can’t make everything yourself, ” Cowden said, my utter agreement, “It’s nice for people to have options.”  

To me, Cowden represents the future of gluten-free living. She’s joyous, inventive and creative and able to impart flavor in living healthy while coping with-and even overcoming food intolerances. And I’m thrilled my daughter has a stake in a GF future led by women like Lisa Cowden.  

Congratulations, Lisa!  

Recipes from Cupcake War Winner Lisa Cowden and Tips on GF Baking

Lisa Cowden: Pastry Chef and Winner Cupcake Wars

Who says we can’t have gourmet fare on a gluten-free diet? Certainly not the Food Network Cupcake Wars winner, Lisa Cowden. In a recent interview, Lisa discussed her own food intolerance and shared a bit of her extensive pastry chef expertise with me. Cowden who crafts yummy treats daily at Gluten-Free Creations in Scottsdale, Arizona- where all 8 top allergens are catered to- understands both personally and professionally the need for GF food that isn’t “second best.”  While her Food Network recipe won with traditional flour, it’s easily created into gluten-free (and casein free as well) -without losing flavor.  Added perks that Cowden attributes to winning, are the natural ingredients that make these cupcakes prize worthy in your kitchen as well.    

Here’s what Lisa says, “You’ll want to substitute a gluten-free mix for the flour. A good mix should be able to substitute cup for cup for the traditional wheat flour.” Her suggestions for GF mixes include using ones that contain sorghum flour- a component used in the Gluten-Free  Creations Bakery for such items as cakes, cookies and other sweet fare. Gluten-Free Creations also has a mix you can buy that’s well worth considering, as it contains not only the exact proportions for baking, but also added vitamins that we – in the gluten-free community- often lack.    

 Below you’ll find further “tweaking” for making the Chocolate Carmel Cupcakes casein-free as well,  based on Lisa’s expert advice. Since about a third of those who have celiac disease have issues with casein or lactose (including my daughter) making items such as ganache - which is heavy on cream- requires further adaptations. Lisa offered two suggestions for casein-free, gluten-free ganache. You’ll find the second ganache option in this earlier post.    

 I was thrilled to find these cupcakes, while somewhat labor intensive for mere kitchen slobs such as me, turned out to be some of the most tasty and delicious items I’d made in the history of my home culinary events- or as Lisa said, “drool-worthy.” And you’d never know they are gluten-free. (seriously). In a spirit of adventure and kitchen mass destruction- we made both this recipe and the original winning recipe on the same day. I wasn’t disappointed in either variety. This one below, given to me by Lisa Cowden, was by far the easiest and was truly stand alone delicious. The original winning recipe  “Rich Chocolate Carmel Cupcake” as it appeared on Food Network, I tweaked for gluten/casein free diets again using Lisa’s tips. It was a bit more work, but the creme filling was well worth the added steps- you can find it here in this post.    

Chocolate Carmel Cupcakes from Lisa Cowden  

Gluten Free Baking Flour Mix (See link below for recipes)     1 ¾ cups  

Zanthan or Guar gum (if not included in your gluten-free flour mix) 1/2 tsp  

Sugar 1 ¾ cups  

Cocoa powder ¾ cups  

Baking powder 1 ½ tsp.  

Baking soda 1 ½ tsp.  

Salt ¼ tsp.  

Buttermilk 1 ¼ cups (If casein intolerant, substitute lactose free milk ,soy milk, or almond milk mixed with 1 tsp cider vinegar- but be sure to add the vinegar for chemical reaction with baking soda)  

Whole eggs 2  

Vegetable oil 4 Tbsp.  

GF Vanilla 1 tsp.  

Hot water 1 cup  

Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Mix. Add the hot water while mixing well, until smooth. Fill cupcake liners ¾ full. Bake at 350F 15-20 minutes or until cupcakes bounce back in the center when touched.  

Caramel Filling  

Sugar 1 ½ cups  

Water ¼ cup  

Agave nectar 1 Tbsp.  

Heavy Cream 1 ¼ cup (Substitute heavy coconut milk for cream if casein intolerant. Cream is easier to scoop out if can is chilled in fridge first. Use only the cream part. Discard liquid)  

Butter, softened chunks 2 ounces (1/2 stick) (See this post on butter and casein. Since butter is usually 99 % casein free many people can tolerate butter. But you can substitute soy margarine such as Willow Run)  

GF Vanilla ½ tsp.  

Boil the sugar, water, and agave until it takes on a caramel color and smell. Add the cream slowly, whisking in to avoid boiling over. Whisk to loosen any hardened caramel and melt it all smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour into a squeeze bottle and chill to thicken.  

Ganache Frosting  

Heavy cream 16 ounces (Substitute heavy coconut milk as above, discard liquid and use only the cream portion)  

Dark chocolate chips      16 ounces  

Heat the cream in a pot until it steams. Pour in the chocolate chips and let sit to melt. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Let sit 2-3 hours to set up slightly, or chill in the fridge to firm up, stirring frequently.  

*****  See this post for gluten-free flour mixes to whip up at home.

*****  See this post about additional ganache options for casein-free diets.

***** See this post for original Cupcake Wars winning recipe in the gluten and casein free version.

  

Winning Cupcake War Recipe Tweaked to Gluten and Casein Free

This is the original Food Network Cupcake Wars recipe that’s been tweaked by me. I’ve used the tips gleaned from pastry chef Lisa Cowden, who won the Cupcake Wars: Survival of the Fittest with this slam dunk treat. You’ll find another version she kindly offered to me here.  Even those as under developed in culinary skills- as I am- can bake this recipe successfully. Albeit, the kitchen was quite destroyed. And I’m reasonably certain the Board of Health would not approve the cat licking agave drippings from the table whilst the baking process proceeded…but even lacking the prowness of a pastry chef- these were beyond delicious.

Rich Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes by Lisa Cowden

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups gluten free mix (plus 3/4 tsp xanthan gum if not included in mix)
  • 11/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 9 ounces unsalted butter, softened (See this post on butter and casein. You can also substitute soy margarine such as Willow Run or butter flavored vegetable shortening)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (If casein intolerant, substitute lactose free milk ,soy milk, or almond milk mixed with 1 tsp cider vinegar – but be sure to add the vinegar for chemical reaction with baking soda)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon GF vanilla extract
  • Caramel Cream Center, recipe follows
  • Ganache, recipe follows
  • Prepared blue rock sugar, for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 30 regular-size cupcake or muffin cups with paper cupcake liners or line 6 dozen (72) mini cupcake or mini muffin cups with mini cupcake liners.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Sift the cocoa powder in a separate bowl. Whisk the hot water into the cocoa until smooth. In bowl of electric mixer, cream the sugar and butter well. Add the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and add the cocoa mixture. Beat just until smooth. Fill the cupcake liners 3/4-full and bake the regular-size cupcakes for 20 minutes, or until cooked through or bake the mini cupcakes for 19 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool completely. Fill with Caramel Cream Center and top with Ganache Frosting and the prepared blue rock sugar.

Caramel Cream Center:

  • 6 ounces egg whites, from about 5 whole eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 12 ounces to 1 pound unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces ( Or substitute soy margarine such as Willow Run)
  • 1/2 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
  • 1 batch Agave Caramel Sauce, recipe follows

Warm the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler, stirring the egg mixture until the sugar dissolves and the mixture feels warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and whip until medium-stiff peaks form. With the mixer running, gradually add the softened butter and vanilla until thick and smooth. Fold in the Agave Caramel Sauce until fully incorporated. Place the Caramel Cream Center in a pastry bag fitted with pastry tip and fill the cooled cupcakes.

Cook’s Note: The yield for the Caramel Cream Center is more than needed. The extra can be used as frosting or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature and stir, before using.

Agave Caramel Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 ounce sugar (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons light agave nectar
  • 5 ounces cream (Substitute heavy coconut milk for creme if casein intolerant.Use only the cream part. Discard liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened – (or substitute soy margarine such as Willow Run)
  • 1/4 teaspoon GF vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, heat the water over high heat until hot but not boiling. Add the sugar and the agave and stir gently to dissolve. Bring the mixture to a boil, and heat to 330 degrees F, or to a warm brown color. Add the cream slowly, whis

Lisa's Rich Chocolate Carmel Cupcake

king constantly, the caramel will bubble and rise. Add the butter and continue whisking over the heat until the caramel is smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Chill the mixture to thicken.

Ganache:

  • 3 cups heavy cream (Substitute heavy coconut milk for creme if casein intolerant. Use only the cream. Discard liquid)
  • 24 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (recommended: Ghirardelli 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate chips)
  • Ice bath, in shallow bowl

 In a saucepan, heat the cream to scald. Add the chocolate chips. Stir the mixture until smooth. Chill on the ice bath until a spreadable consistency, stirring frequently. Frost the filled cupcakes with the ganache and garnish with the prepared rock sugar.

**** For gluten-free flour mix recipes check here
**** Alternate recipe from Lisa Cowden
**** Additional ganache options for the gluten and casein free diets

Gluten-Free Flour Mixes for Baking

Photo by Emily Carlin

 

You’ll find three options here for making your own gluten-free flour mixes. I opt for keeping two kinds on hand. We like the first recipe for cakes, cookies and lighter fare. The sorghum adds a nice texture and imparts a very good taste  without being overpowering. I substitute cornstarch for tapioca at times, with no real noticeable differences.  At times I’ll try out another cake-like variety and I’ll mix up a big batch of the middle recipe. As far as the latter recipe, we like that for breads, pizza crusts and biscuits or heavier or denser items. You’ll find masa harina in the Mexican section of most grocery stores and it’s wonderfully cheap (a boon for the budget of GF families.) You must store all GF flours in the fridge or freezer, as they can become rancid at room temperatures rather quickly. Keep them covered in large, tightly covered containers or ziplock bags. 

Gluten Free Cake Flour Mix -From Gluten-Free Cooking School
1 part brown rice flour
1 part sorghum flour
1 part tapioca starch 

Gluten-Free Cake Flour Mix- From Gluten-Free Bay 

3 cups brown rice flour (fine ground)
1 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 1/4 teaspoons guar gum ( I used xantham gum with equally good results) 

Sift ingredients together, combining thoroughly. Use in place of flour in cakes and other baked goods. Store in airtight container or ziploc bag in refrigerator. 

All-Purpose Gluten Free, Soy Free Flour Mix – From Gluten-Free Cooking Cooking School 

3 parts brown rice flour
3 parts cornstarch
2 parts sorghum flour
1 part masa harina or corn flour 

When baking gluten-free,  it’s likely you’ll need to add xanthan gum or guar gum to the recipe for the “elastic” quality that simulates normal consistency of baked goods-unless of course, the mix already has this added to it. (If you use a commercially made mix, check the package prior to using it in a recipe, as you definitely do NOT want to accidentally double or delete this ingredient.) 

It’s wise to keep some on hand for converting regular recipes. I opt for xanthan in my home. Though it seems pricey, a little goes a long, long way…A word to the wise- you’ll seriously ruin your baked goods by overdoing the xanthan or guar gum inclusions. I added 1 tsp instead of 1/2 tsp (doubling it by mistake) only to find my cookies were…almost “slimy” (eewwww).  Thankfully, it’s a texture you don’t experience much in the kitchen otherwise.  We don’t like guar gum here, because it’s got some interesting laxative properties that only exacerbate some people’s existing digestive issues – but it might work for you and not offer the same ill effects it does here. As a rule of thumb, you can usually replace one for the other in the exact quantities specified.  

Though some recipes or GF chef’s will use a higher percentage of xanthan gum, I opt for the sage advice below – culled from “What’s Cooking America.”  

“Most gluten-free flours will require the addition of xanthan or guar, a substitute binder used to compensate for the lack of gluten.  The amount needed to add will depend on the type of product and it’s reliance on the gluten structure. Breads rely heavily on gluten for their structure, cakes to a lesser extent, and cookies almost none. Typically the starchier and/or more refined the crumb, the less the reliance on gluten.   Xanthan gum tends to be almost three times as expensive, and in the US is grown off of corn syrup (but tests out corn-free in the lab after processing).  Some gluten-free groups discourage the use of guar because of the higher fiber (and therefore possible laxative effect) of large amounts of guar gum use.  Try both and see.  If these gums are not appropriate for you, some suggest the use of mung bean (AKA green bean) flour (1/8 of cup to every cup flour) or pre-gelled potato flour.” 

“Suggestions for the addition of xanthan or guar: For every cup of wheat-free/gluten-free flour use:
 
½ teaspoon Xanthan/guar gum for cakes
 
1 teaspoon Xanthan/guar gum for breads or pizza
 
½ teaspoon to no xanthan/guar gum for most cookies.”
 

Casein and GF Coconut Whipped Cream- When You Gotta Have a Fix

 

Photo by Ginnerobot

As a child, I lurked in the kitchen waiting for my mother to make whipped cream- real, luscious whipped cream. She’d hand me the beaters and I’d scuttle off with my treat. This was before the onset of my own food intolerances and celiac disease, of course. Then there were many bleak years, post- diagnosis where I yearned for a smidgen of whipped cream in vain. Back a hundred years ago or so, when I was a kiddo- though my mother was an amazing pioneer in the world of gluten-free cooking- knowledge and resources were limited.  To this day,  I remain a consummate whipped cream junkie.

Thankfully, being gluten and casein free today doesn’t mean your pumpkin pie is doomed to be forever lonely. There are wonderful alternatives available that actually taste fabulous.

One of the best friends you’ll make in your walk on the GF and casein free path is coconut milk. You’ll find it nearly every grocery and health food store.  Coconut milk comes in two main varieties whole or full fat and “light.” While the light works well in nearly all sweet baking as an equal and flavorful substitute for milk, the full fat kind is magical as a replacement for cream. (A word of advice, don’t use coconut milk in such fare as “potato soup” or it will impart an overpowering and unwelcome coco-nutty taste. Although coconut milk is a great item, some things DO NOT work as universal substitutions. Kindly learn from my mishaps and spare yourself the agony)

Tips for working with coconut milk:

To make whipped cream, you’ll need the full fat kind. Grab a few cans and stick them in your fridge as you’ll want the cream to clump together and separate from the watery “milk”. I like to leave cans for several days in the fridge. The bare minimum I’ve found you can get a decent separation is about 4-8 hours of chilling. Much less than that and your cream will be sludgy and gooey.

Coconut Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

•1 1/2 cups full fat coconut milk, (Two 13.5 oz cans )

•1/3 cup powdered sugar

•1 – 4 Tbsp Tapioca Flour  or Tapioca Starch (they are the same thing, but may be labeled differently) (add 1 Tbsp at a time)

•1 Tbsp GF vanilla extract or you can use GF almond or chocolate extract for a flavor change

Directions:

1.Chill the unopened cans of coconut milk for several days in fridge or at least 4-8 hours.

2.Open cans, remove cream with spatula. Discard liquid or use in another recipe. (The cream should be very thick, almost coagulated)

3.Beat the thick coconut cream in a chilled bowl with a hand mixer on high speed until thick and fluffy.

4.Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and tapioca starch or tapioca flour 1 or 2 Tbsp at a time, testing for flavor and consistency

5. You can flavor the whipped cream further by adding two tablespoons of cocoa powder and increasing sugar by two tablespoons.  Or add cinnamon or GF liqueurs. Make sure you GENTLY add these ingredients by folding so you don’t cause cream to wilt. Work quickly and use immediately or place in a covered bowl in fridge and store for until needed. In the fridge the cream holds up quite well, but you should consume within a day for best results. 

Use this on your favorite dessert,  as a topping for a rich hot chocolate treat or fold into Chocolate of the Gods for a more “milk chocolate” version or any time sweetened whipped cream is needed.  Or you can immediately pounce on the stuff and mass consume it straight out of the bowl. Who said the gluten-free life didn’t have many options?

Chocolate of the Gods: Don’t Tell the Kids What’s in This and Everyone Will Enjoy It

Question: What’s green and brown and goes “whir”? 

Answer:  Something amazingly delicious - that’s what –  even and in spite of the combined ingredients.

I’m a foodie. But if you’ve read anything about our family, we aren’t the health food sort. By this I mean, we don’t milk our own goats or grind our own grain. I do not want to learn these skills either. While we enjoy almost any vegetable, fruit or similarly “good for you” item, we also enjoy tater tots (Ore Ida- a top choice of harried gluten-free moms) and yes, we eat hot dogs and cakes and candies.  I’d call us “non-selective” feeders and mainstream eaters, apart from being gluten-free, that is.

We’ve nixed enough items to be gluten and casein-free that I’m not up for cutting real, honest to God sugar from our diet and I don’t venture  off the grid into the land of odd combinations or substitutions. Hence, while we eat non-selectively- the healthy and the unhealthy- we don’t make any real steps into the extremes.  And I’d have never tried this combination below were it not for the advice of Lisa Cowden, award winning pastry chef and purveyor of delicious food.

Chocolate mousse is a near impossibility when you are gluten and casein-free.  Cream is the main component in chocolate mousse and cream – lest you haven’t heard- is chock full of nasty proteins called caseins. Apparently, “Chocolate of the Gods” isn’t a new recipe, but it was new to me. If I’d have found this before an expert told me to try it, I’d have run screaming from the kitchen. I say all of this to preface the below recipe for you. It’s delicious. It’s rich. You’ll fool your family and friends into thinking it’s real mousse. And these words come from the most die-hard chocoholic and normal eater, so please try it.

Yeah, it’s got avocados and maple syrup and chocolate in it.(OMG)  But don’t dwell on the ingredients. Once you taste this confection, your palate will thank you. You can also use this for the ganache frosting on Lisa’s cupcake recipes or alternately for any chocolate frosting or filling. It’s incredibly thick, so bear in mind it’s best for recipes you need a stiffer frosting or filling. If you eat it as mousse, it’s super rich. Top it with some whipped coconut cream to lighten up the taste if you desire. 

There are many versions of “Chocolate of the Gods” online. This is a variation I tweaked a bit to our taste and the ingredients I had on hand, based on recipes from Food.com and Spectacularily Delicious.com. Since we almost never have gluten-free soy sauce on hand I omitted that, although some Chocolate of the Gods recipes  do call for it. I’m not sure what difference that makes, since ours turned out wonderfully without it. I used almond extract as we enjoy that flavor best with chocolate, but you can also use vanilla, peppermint or orange GF extracts. It was- I must admit- an “Oh My God” moment in the kitchen when I tasted it. Wow. I promptly fed this to three of my kids, including one adult daughter and her boyfriend who were visiting. Not one person thought it was anything but very rich, decadent dark chocolate mousse. Go and create chocolate lusciousness and may the force be with you…

Chocolate of the Gods

Ingredients 

 

  • 2 large Hass avocadoes, cubed or 1 large florida avocado
  • 1/2 cup REAL maple syrup, plus 2 Additional Tablespoons REAL Maple Syrup
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or regular vegetable oil (coconut oil does add the best taste)
  • 2 teaspoons GF almond extract (or peppermint, vanilla or orange GF extract)
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (no substitutions)
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (use the best variety you can find)

Directions

  1. Place first six ingredients (avocadoes up to and including basalmic vinegar) in a food processor and pulse until smooth. [Do NOT use a blender as it purees into watery green frog-like soup]
  2. Sift cocoa powder with a metal strainer to remove lumps, then stir into avocado mixture and blend until smooth. [Make sure you blend it well, but don't over process. Globs of unmixed cocoa aren't very tasty]
  3. At this point you can refrigerate the pudding in a tightly-sealed container for up to a week or freeze it for up to a month.
  4. Serve chilled, layered with coconut whipped cream and strawberries or raspberries or top with a giant dollop of coconut whipped cream and fresh mint sprigs. Or use for frosting or chocolate filling in bakery items. Doubles as a decadent ganache! Yum!!!

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