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.

  

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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

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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