June 29, 2008

Chestnut Pumpkin Danish

A June Daring Baker's Challenge

This month's challenge was hosted by the lovely Kelly of Sass & Veracity and the fabulous Ben from What's Cookin'?. They selected the "Danish Braid" from Sherry Yard's "Secret of Baking". Kelly and Ben chose for us to make danishes for a variety of reasons, one of them would allow us as Daring Bakers to get creative with our fillings and the shapes of our braids.

Pumpkin is a favorite flavor in my house, attaining a level of popularity that out shines any fruit including apple. When I started contemplating what flavors to use, my kids wanted to know what was wrong with using pumpkin. Absolutely nothing, I assured them, so pumpkin it is.

The dough was easy to make and worked very well with all the changes I made to make it gluten and dairy free. The finished dough turned out flaky and flavorful as well. I made a braid and several smaller pinwheel danishes with the dough, but the pinwheels were devoured by my eager family when they first came out of the oven.

This was a wonderful challenge for a gluten free baker with learning to make laminated dough and then make different shapes with the dough. My family loved the danish, everything from the crisp flaky dough to the pumpkin custard filling. I served it on Father's Day for breakfast and we almost ate the entire danish at one sitting. Simply delicious.

Thanks Kelly and Ben for a great challenge!



½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup chestnut flour
¼ cup + 1 Tb arrowroot starch
¼ cup + 2 Tb sweet rice flour
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp chia seed meal
½ tsp pectin powder
1 pkg dry active yeast
¼ cup + 2 Tb almond milk
Pinch monocalcium phosphate powder *
3 Tb cane sugar
1 Tb chestnut spread **
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, chilled & beaten

Shortening Block

1/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 Tb coconut oil
2 Tb sweet rice flour


1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flours, salt, chia seed meal and pectin. Stir and make sure the chia seed meal and pectin are thoroughly incorporated through out the flours.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the yeast, almond milk and calcium powder. Start mixing on low speed. Slowly add the sugar, vanilla extract, chestnut spread and egg. Continue mixing and slowly add the dry ingredients into the bowl. If the dough is sticky add a tablespoon of flour.

3. Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment paper and wrap it. Then place it in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Shortening Block

1. In a mixing bowl, dump in the vegetable shortening, coconut oil and flour. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape the sides down and beat for 1 more minute.

2. Transfer the shortening mixture to a small bowl. Leave at room temperature.

Layering the Dough & Shortening Block

1. Once the dough has chilled for 30 minutes, turn it out on a parchment paper covered surface. Sprinkle with flour and then cover with parchment paper. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is ¼ inch thick. If the dough is sticky, keep sprinkling it with flour. After it is rolled out, slightly score the dough into thirds. Spread some of the shortening block on the middle and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left side into the center and then the right side on top of the left side. Wrap in the parchment paper and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. This is the end of the first turn.

2. Remove from the freezer and rotate the dough. Repeat the above steps and place back in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes. This is the end of the second turn. Repeat the same for the third and fourth turns.

3. Once the fourth turn has been completed, leave the dough in the freezer for at least 5 hours or overnight. The dough is now ready to be used. If you aren’t going to use it within 24 hours, roll out the dough until it is about 1 inch in thickness. Then wrap it in plastic wrap and place back in the freezer. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Making the Braid

1. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. On another sheet of parchment paper, sprinkle it with some flour and then lay down the Danish dough. Sprinkle the top with flour and cover with parchment paper. Roll out into a rectangle that is ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes and then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 3 - 4 inch long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the other side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling in the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom flaps, fold down the top flap over the filling to cover it. Then, fold the bottom flap up to cover the filling. This helps to keep the braid net and to hold in the filling. Begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Chestnut Pumpkin Danish Filling

2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp chia seed meal
¼ cup arrowroot starch
½ tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture has thickened.

2. Spoon the mixture down the center of the danish dough.

3. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container if you are not planning to use the filling right away.

Chestnut Glaze

1 Tb chestnut spread

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 Tb almond milk

1. Place the ingredients in a small bowl and stir together. Work the mixture with the back of a spoon to work out any lumps that might remain.

2. Pour over the top of the warm danish.

Proofing and Baking

1. Set the baking sheet with the Danish on it in a warm location. Cover the Danish and allow it to rise for 2 hours or until it has doubled in volume.

2. Near the end of the time the bread needs to rise, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake the Danish for 10 minutes then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake about 15 – 20 minutes more or until it is golden brown.

4. Cool and serve the braid either warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or freeze for 1 month.

* The monocalcium phosphate powder is part of the Pomona’s Universal Pectin package.

** Chestnut Spread is by Clement Faugier (crème de marrons de l’ardeche).

June 18, 2008

Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chips cookies are a fixture at our house. I periodically tinker with the recipe or try new ones just to see what my family thinks about them. Lately, I've been trying out making some of our favorite baked goods with honey. We've been enjoying trying out different flavors of honey, from the mild clover honey to the robust mesquite honey.

For this experiment, I used the Honey Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from the Culinary Institute Arts Encyclopedic Cookbook, edited by Rose Berolzheimer. These cookies turned out beautifully with a hint of honey. My daughter was thrilled with these cookies and preferred them slightly warmed.


1/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/2 tsp chia seed meal
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a medium sized bowl, dump in the flours, chia seed meal, baking powder and sea salt. Stir and make sure the chia seed meal is mixed through out.

3. In a small bowl, pour in the honey, egg and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.

4. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir together. Dump in the nuts and chocolate chips, then fold them into the batter.


1. You can substitute 1 cup of a gluten free flour mix for the individual flours. If the flour mix has xanthan gum, do not add the chia seed meal.

2. You can substitute 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum for the chia seed meal.

June 14, 2008

Rustic Millet Bread - Testing A Biga

It has been a busy time at our house the last week and a half. School and sporting activities are finishing off for the summer. We've been darting here and there around town for the last ten days. There have been school programs, last dance classes and several karate belt tests.

In the midst of all this I was trying to finesse a special request cake recipe for the kids. I thought I had it just right and the power goes out. Five hours of twilight and a cake in a rapidly cooling oven. High temperatures and the need for air conditioning had over whelmed the utilities. I hoped the residual heat in the oven would keep the cake baking, but instead it deflated and turned into a flabby Frisbee.

I decided to drown my cake baking sorrows in another kitchen experiment. I pulled out my copy of Peter Reinhart's Crust and Crumb and flipped to the pages on making pre-ferments. I'd tried my hand at making bread with a poolish and this time I would try to making bread with an Italian style biga pre-ferment.

An Italian style biga is usually firm pre-ferment for making bread. Like making sourdough, the biga is a sponge of flours, yeast and water. The difference is that the biga is made with cool water and the texture is firmer than other styles, like the poolish. They also take longer to rise, due to the thicker dough. According Reinhart, a biga will stay active for up to 3 days if kept refrigerated, will freeze for up to 6 months.

I didn't use a binding agent like xanthan gum or chia seed gel for this rustic bread. It's the combination of flours that keeps the bread together. If you alter the flours used in this recipe, make sure to add a binder when you make it. You would use 1 teaspoon xanthan gum or 1 teaspoon chia seed gel. Add both to the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix into the flours.

This is a lovely bread, full of holes and delightfully flavorful. I sliced thin strips of bread and toasted them. Then I made a bean relish of navy beans, carrots, radishes, dill, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. It was delicious and made a wonderful appetizer to our meal. My husband and I thoroughly nibbled on these while we waited for dinner to cook. Our children preferred eating hunks of the bread all alone.

Making the Biga Pre-Ferment (Firm)

½ cup millet flour
½ cup gluten free oat flour
½ cup arrowroot starch
¼ cup sweet potato flour
1 package active dry yeast
2/3 to ¾ cup cool water (65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 Tb agave syrup

1. In a small bowl, measure out a small amount of the water and then pour in the yeast. Allow it to soften for about 5 minutes before using.

2. In a large bowl, dump in the flours and stir together. Slowly add the softened yeast and agave syrup to the bowl. Then begin to stir, slowly add enough of the rest of the water until the dough is smooth and slightly firm. The dough shouldn’t be loose and runny.

3. Cover the dough and set aside for it to rise at room temperature for 3 to 5 hours.

4. Use right away or store the biga in the refrigerator to retard it overnight.

Rustic Bread*

1 1/3 cup biga
½ cup millet flour
½ cup oat flour
½ cup arrowroot starch
¾ cup sweet potato flour
2 tsp sea salt
1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup almond milk, room temperature
1 Tb agave syrup
1 ½ Tb olive oil
½ cup cool water (65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit)
Olive oil
Hot water for steaming bowl

1. If the biga has been in the refrigerator, set out for an hour before using. Then measure out the biga into a large bowl.

2. Dump the various flours, salt, and yeast in the bowl. Stir until the yeast is thoroughly mixed throughout.

3. In a large measuring cup, pour in the agave syrup, olive oil and water. Gently stir together and pour into the bowl of dry ingredients. Use the spoon to work the dough together taking care to work the biga into the dough.

4. Cover the dough and set aside to rise for 2 to 4 hours or until the dough is 1 ½ times its original size.

5. Set out 3 pieces of parchment paper and then divide the dough in to 3 equal pieces. Place the individual portions dough into the center of each piece of parchment paper. Shape into a rectangular shape and brush olive oil over the top of the bread. Do not press or squeeze, so that the air remains in the dough. Cover the loaves and allow to rise for 2 hours or until it rises 1 ½ times its original size.

6. Place a pizza stone or bread baking stone on a rack placed into the center of the oven. Place a heat proof bowl on a rack below the baking stone for steaming. When the bread is just about finished rising, preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Place a loaf on parchment paper on the baking stone. Pour about 2 cups of hot water into the heat proof bowl. Then spritz water over the loaf and the sides of the oven.

8. Bake for 2 minutes. Spritz the oven with water again. Bake for another 5 minutes and then reduce the oven’s heat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 20 minutes until the loaf is a golden brown or sounds hollow when thumped.

9. Cool for 1 hour before cutting and eating.

* I didn't use a binding agent like xanthan gum or chia seed gel for this rustic bread. It's the combination of flours that keeps the bread together. If you alter the flours used in this recipe, make sure to add a binder when you make it. You would use 1 teaspoon xanthan gum or 1 teaspoon chia seed gel. Add both to the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix into the flours.

June 2, 2008


If you haven't been introduced to a fabulous New Orleans sandwich, the Muffuletta, then read on. The layered sandwich originated at the Central Grocery, a small Italian-American grocery store in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The muffuletta is a delightful meal of a soft light bread filled with a variety of meats, cheeses and a zesty olive salad.

My gluten free version of the muffuletta is based on the recipe from Nola Cuisine. Danno has created a wonderful sandwich that he based on the one from Terry Thompson-Anderson's book, Cajun-Creole Cooking. This recipe makes a fabulous tender loaf of bread that's perfect for letting the filling of a sandwich shine through and a spicy olive salad for the filling.

Since this was one of our favorite sandwiches, my husband and I were thrilled with how it turned out. Our children really enjoyed it, however they weren't as keen on the olive salad. This recipe makes enough for one meal for four people, but don't count on leftovers. My family made sure that every scrumptious bit was devoured, before asking me to make this one again.


Muffuletta Bread

1 cup warm water (110 - 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp cane sugar
2 tsp chia seed meal
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup gf oat flour
1/2 cup arrowroot starch
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tb vegetable shortening
sesame seeds

Egg Wash
1 egg, beaten
2 Tb cold water

1. In a large bowl, pour in the yeast, sugar and water. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes or until the yeast is bubbly. While the yeast is proofing, cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a medium sized bowl, dump in the flours, chia seed meal, salt and shortening. Using a fork, work the shortening into the flour until it is in small bits.

3. Slowly stir the flour into the yeast until the dough comes together. Then set the dough on the paper covered cookie sheet and shape into a round loaf. Set the cookie sheet in a warm location and allow the bread to rise for 1 1/2 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. With a pastry brush cover the egg wash over the top of the loaf. Then sprinkle the top with sesame seeds. Place the cookie sheet in the loaf in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and cook the loaf for an additional 25 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.


1. You can substitute 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend for the flours in this recipe.

2. You can substitute 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum for the chia seed meal in this recipe.

3. You can substitute agave syrup for the cane sugar in this recipe.

Olive Salad

2/3 cups green olives with garlic, pitted & chopped
1/2 cup Calamatta olives (or black), pitted & chopped
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
2 Tb capers
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/3 cup carrot, sliced thin
1/3 cup jarred pearl onions, chopped
1/3 cup radish, sliced thin
1 Tb parsley, finely chopped
3 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp grains of paradise
2 Tb red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tb lemon juice
2 tsp olive brining liquid (from the green olives)
Sea salt & black pepper to taste (salt may not be needed)

1. In a large bowl, dump all the ingredients into the bowl and stir together. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator.

2. Allow the salad to sit for at least 3 days before eating. The salad gets better with time.


My version is nightshade free, if you can eat them you can add pepperoncini, 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup pimentos to increase the spiciness of the dish.

Building the Sandwich

1 loaf Muffuletta Bread
Olive Salad

1. Slice the loaf in half, using a pastry brush coat each side of the loaf with the olive oil from the olive salad.

2. Layer the meat and cheese on the bottom of the bread. Then top with the olive salad. Put the top on the salad and lightly press down. Slice into quarters or eighths and serve.