Gluten-Free Fig Bars

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Fussellette and her Hurler are in town again.  Hurler is staying for good and Fussellette will be along permanently in January.  Currently they’re staying with us so I decided to whip up some gluten-free fig bars from Serious Eats to feed to my guests and to take to my biweekly meeting at work.  These cookies have a few more steps than a regular cookie, but none of them is particularly difficult or time consuming, so it’s worth it.

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Start with your figs.

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Take about 14oz dried figs and soak them in water for at least an hour.

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Here is the underwater view of the figs starting to soak.

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And the after-soaking underwater view.  I just like taking pictures underwater.

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Especially considering that this was going on outside.

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Now let’s get on to the dough. In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/4 cup white rice flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 1/2 teaspoon table salt.  Set that aside and haul out your mixer.

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In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream together 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup dark brown sugar.

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Beat in 2 large eggs, one at a time.

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Grate in a few teaspoons of orange zest.

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Tip in your flour mixture and beat on low until well combined.  Continue to beat on a higher speed until a nice cohesive dough forms.

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Shape the dough into a patty, wrap it up and refrigerate it for at least two hours.

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Now you can make your filling.  Drain your soaked figs and tip them into a food processor.

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I ripped off all the tough stems, which was an easy job with the softened figs.

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Add in the juice of half a lemon and about 3 tablespoons light corn syrup, a dash of salt, 1/4 cup water, and pulse until your goo is uniform and you can pipe it like icing.  You may need to add some more water if it’s not squishy enough.

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You can store your fig goo in a piping bag but I scooped it into a Ziploc instead.

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And then the sun came out.  Briefly.

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When your dough is ready, preheat your oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set out another piece of parchment paper on your work surface and dust it with some brown rice flour.  Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces.

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Roll out each segment into a rough rectangle about 10″ by 4 1/2″ and trim the edges (save the trimmings).  Use an offset spatula to gently separate the dough from the paper.

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Cut a 1/2″ hole in the corner of your Ziploc bag and pipe a few lines of fig goo down the centre of the dough rectangle (I piped three lines on each and ended up with a LOT of leftover fig goo, so be generous).

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Fold the edges of the dough over the fig goo and seal the seam.

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Place your fig/dough log seam side down on your baking sheet.  I rolled out the trimmings into yet another rectangle and ended up with 7 logs in total.

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Bake the fig logs for 15-20 minutes, until they are a light brown.

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Slice them with a sharp knife into 2″ pieces while they are still hot, then seal in a lidded container overnight so they can sort of steam themselves until they’re a bit softer.

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The next day you get lovely, cake-y, gluten-free figgy goodness!

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

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So my washing machine has been broken for about a month now.  My landlord didn’t like the first repair quote we got so we had to get a second opinion and now it turns out that the part we need is pretty much not available anymore.  While we wait, I do some laundry by hand in the bathtub (so not as fun as it sounds) and some I do downstairs in Fussellette’s machine (which is identical to and yet works so much better than ours).  So in recompense for being a pain in her butt while I wash my unmentionables in her house, I made her some cookies yesterday.  These puppies (adapted from this recipe) are soft and chewy and you can’t even tell that they are gluten-free.  I asked the Pie how many cookies he wanted and all he did was extend his arms to their fullest, which I took to mean “this many,” so I doubled my batch, but a single batch here makes 18-24 large cookies.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

If you can find oat flour for this then you’re gold.  If you can’t, take a heaping cup of rolled oats and plop it in your food processor.  Give that a go for a few minutes until you have fine crumbs.

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Plop that in a bowl together with 1 cup brown rice flour, 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, 1 teaspoon fine salt, and 1 teaspoon baking soda and stir that up.

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In the bowl of a mixer, add together 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar.  Pour 1 cup melted butter on top and mix it up.

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While that’s on the go, add in 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Now slowly add in your bowl’s worth of dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.  Looks kind of runny but don’t fret.

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Now slowly mix in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips.  That looks more like it, eh?

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I used a soup spoon to scoop plops of dough onto the baking sheets.

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Bake for 10-13 minutes, rotating your sheets halfway through, until the edges of the cookie turn a nice brown.  The centre will not look set, but again, don’t fret.  Let the cookies set on the pan for another 2-3 minutes after removing them from the oven.

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Then you can put them on a rack to cool completely.  Or you can eat them right away.  I think the choice is obvious.

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You can see how well my lettuce is doing, too.

Fruity Oat Muffins (Gluten-Free!)

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Fussellette sent me this gorgeous recipe from the CBC and I had to try it out after listening to her rave about the results.

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The best part about this recipe is that it’s flexible — you can change the flavours around by changing up the fruit you’re using, even using fruit-flavoured yogurt if that’s what you have on hand.  I’d also like to play with the flours a bit, maybe swapping in some coconut or almond flour if appropriate.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and spray or line a muffin tin with paper cups. I recommend paper cups for these, because gluten-free baked goods tend to like to stick to what they’re baked in.

Take 1 cup oats (if you have a sensitivity, make sure they’re gluten-free), and pulse in a food processor until they’re all fine and powdery.  Plop that in a large bowl.

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Add to that 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 1/3 cup tapioca flour, 1/3 cup corn starch, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.  Whisk that all together.

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Then add in 1/2 cup each dried cherries, dried cranberries, and golden raisins.  I had this multi-pack with all those in it already, so I chucked that in, together with some chopped dried apricots.

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In another bowl, rub 2 teaspoons orange zest and 2 teaspoons lemon zest (I used 4 teaspoons orange because I had no lemons) into 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

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Whisk in 2 large eggs, then 1 1/4 cups Balkan-style plain yogurt1/3 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 1 teaspoon cider vinegar.

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Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir only until just combined.  It will seem lumpy but don’t fret.  If you stir it too much you’ll end up with flat muffins, which, especially in gluten-free recipes, is the opposite of what we want to happen.

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Spoon into your muffin tin (it should make 12 regular-sized muffins or 6-7 super large ones).

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If you end up with some empty space in your muffin tin, add a bit of water into the empty cups — it will ensure that your muffins bake evenly.

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Sprinkle some more whole oats and maybe some brown sugar on the top of each muffin.

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Bake for about 25 minutes, until the tops are firm to the touch.  Allow to solidify in the pan for about five minutes after removal from the oven.  Use a fork to transfer the muffins to a rack to cool completely.  As with most gluten-free material, they won’t last long, so make sure to eat them or freeze them within a couple of days.

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Treats

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This is the last pumpkin post, I swear.  We’re finally rid of it.  Fortunately, there is one member of our family who will never tire of pumpkin, and that is The Short and Spoiled One.

Experimenting with Animal Portrait Settings
Have we met?

This is a quick recipe that I put together with inspiration from Betty Crocker and Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups brown rice flour with 2 tablespoons ground flax meal (optional) and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  It occurs to me after the fact that you could also use a mixture of brown rice flour and quinoa flour, seeing as quinoa is the new superfood for dogs these days.  Very trendy of you.

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In another bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs with 1 3/4 cups (or 1 14 oz can) of pure pumpkin purée (not the pie filling) and 1/4 cup peanut butter (all natural, with no added salt or sugar, please).

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until a shaggy dough forms — you may need to use your hands.

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Sprinkle with more flour and stir that in if it’s still tacky.

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Take the dough and form it into a small ball with your palms.  Flatten it into a patty and place it on the baking sheet.  Angle your thumb sideways on one side of the cookie and press it into the dough.  Use the point of one of your fingers to make four indentations along the curve of your thumbprint.   So it looks like a wee paw print.  Cute, eh?

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Bake for about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your cookie.  A finished cookie is crisp and dried out.

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Allow them to cool completely on a rack and store them in the fridge to keep them fresh for a couple weeks.  At room temperature in an airtight container they’ll keep for about a week.

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Gren obviously enjoyed testing them.  Here he is waiting for my okay.

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Scarfing down the first piece.

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Discovering the second.

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Scarfing that one too.

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Are there no more?

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Gren was nice enough to share with some of my coworkers’ dogs, and this was the review:

Photo credit: E. Wright

Snow Day Dinner: Gluten-Free Linguini

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Fussellette has recently discovered that she is a celiac and can no longer digest wheat gluten.  So now when we have her for dinner we have to take that into account, and can no longer offer the very dough-heavy meals that are traditional favourites for our Newfoundland friends.

Friday here in St. John’s was a snow day.  The whole city, including the court systems, the municipal and provincial governments, were shut down due to a sudden snow squall.  Fussellette decided to brave the winter weather, however, and made it to our house for dinner.  In honour of the weather, I decided on some form of comfort food, and in my mind that usually equals pasta.  For Fussellette, that means gluten-free pasta. This recipe makes enough for four servings.

Fortunately Sobeys has a large selection of gluten-free flours to choose from.  Just remember, however, when you’re baking with gluten-free flour, such as a rice flour, you still need a thickener, such as a starch, and a binding agent to replace the gluten.  Usually the binding agent is something called xanthan gum.

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So to make this pasta, I had to do some mixing.

In a bowl, mix 1 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 2/3 cup arrowroot starch, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 1 teaspoon fine sea salt.  Whisk that together thoroughly.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks.  Save the whites for an omlette or meringue or something.  Add in 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons water and mix again until it’s fully combined.

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Now comes the fun part.  You can simply pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and stir, or you can do it on the counter in the old fashioned way.  Dump the dry stuff carefully out on your work surface.  Using a scraper, make a deep well in the centre.

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Carefully pour in the egg mixture.

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Using the scraper again, and your hands, start mixing the flour into the egg.  Work quickly, or your egg may form a river that will wind its way off your counter top.  The scraper, I found, is handy for cutting through the dough to make sure it mixes properly.

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It should be cohesive but not tacky. Feel free to add more flour or water if you’re not getting the right consistency. Form the finished dough into a long cylinder and cut it into four sections.

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Flatten those sections, wrap them tightly in plastic, and refrigerate them until you’re ready to make pasta.

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You have a few options in how to make your pasta.  You could roll it out by hand and then cut it into long strips, but there is so much room for error in that, especially if you are working with a gluten-free pasta that barely sticks together on its own.

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I opted to use a pasta maker.  This one here seems to be the standard one.  My parents own the same one so I know how to use it.  Most people who have a pasta maker own this one.  You can find them pretty cheap in second-hand stores.  I guess people get them as wedding presents and then never use them.  That’s where this one came from, and it had never been used before we busted it out.

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So we used our awesome machine to thin out and cut our pasta into linguini.  We were originally going to go with spaghetti but we were concerned the pasta wouldn’t hold together all that well if it were smaller.  I recommend using two people to operate a pasta maker.  It may be awkward trying to figure out whose arms go where, but it’s handy to have one person operate the crank while the other feeds the dough through the machine and pulls it out the bottom to prevent tangling.

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We laid the cut pasta out for a few hours to dry a bit, just to make sure it wouldn’t completely dissolve when we cooked it.

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To cook, add a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil to your water before you boil it.

Fussellette said that this pasta was better than the stuff she finds at the store, because once the gluten-free pasta is dried it is hard to cook it all the way through and she says it’s often chewy on the inside.  Because this stuff is fresh it takes only about 6 minutes to cook and you know it will be nice and tender throughout.

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Stay tuned on Wednesday to see what we did with it!