Today's my day to host a stop on the blog tour for Ricki Heller's new cookbook, Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free. I just want to say before I begin, that you need this book. Whether or not you have food sensitivities, you probably have friends who do, and how great would it make you feel to be able to make your friends a fabulous dessert they can enjoy? Not to mention that you will love the desserts, too, because this isn't just a great gluten-free dessert book, it's a great dessert book. Period.
Seriously, Ricki is the wizard of healthy, allergy-free desserts — maybe because she's had lots of practice in dessert-making and-eating. With a monster sweet tooth, she's struggled all her life with sugar cravings. When health issues forced her to rethink her diet, she developed new recipes that were both indulgent yet suitable for her new way of life.
Ricki says, "As more and more of us seek a healthier diet and lifestyle, finding a dessert that tastes great without contributing in some way to ill health can seem like an impossible task. After all, isn't a 'healthy dessert' an oxymoron? We're left wondering: is it possible to enjoy authentic desserts without consuming any of these unhealthy foods? With this book, I hope to prove that you can have your cake and great health too!"
|A pan of freshly baked butterscotch blondies, cooling.|
There are 100 recipes for wonderful desserts that look and taste amazing. Everything from cheesecakes to cupcakes to butter tarts to bundt cakes, whoopie pies, cookies, ice cream and raw cookie dough bites have been perfected for your table. In addition to the recipes and lots of gorgeous photos, there are more than 30 pages of information covering topics like supplying the pantry, ingredients, tips and techniques, and kitchen equipment. Speaking of ingredients, it's true that if you are already cooking and baking to accommodate allergies or other health issues, your pantry may be stocked with foods many people have never heard of, but many of our pantries may be missing some of the less typical ingredients. If using recipes with unusual ingredients has you worried, fear not, Ricki provides loads of substitutions for less common items. Don't have coconut sugar on hand? It's OK to use regular sugar. You may even find that expanding your pantry to include a few new ingredients, can be a good thing.
One of my favorite recipes from Ricki's first cookbook was Butterscotch Blondies. (recipe to follow) In fact, I was so fixated on the blondies that I almost couldn't make anything else. (Click here to see the old recipe on her blog.) In her new book, Ricki has updated the recipe to make it gluten-free and allergy-friendly without compromising the yummy flavor and great chewy texture. Of course, the blondies were the first thing I made from Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free, and it took a lot of will-power to make myself try another recipe rather than making the blondies again and again. (I didn't have goji berries so I used dried cranberries, but next time I'm thinking of using dried bananas.)
But, in the interest of maintaining a balanced diet, ahem, I whipped up a batch of Easiest Almond Cookies. When I was a child, my family used to go to Philadelphia's Chinatown every Sunday night for dinner before visiting my aunt, uncle and cousin in West Philly. To complete the meal, I always ordered an almond cookie for dessert. When I saw Ricki's recipe, I was eager to revisit my childhood memory. Ricki doesn't place an almond in the center of her cookies, but I just had to press one into each cookie so they would look like the ones from the Dragon Gate restaurant. Ricki's cookies are chewier and a little less sweet, but just as delicious as the ones I remember.
When I first saw Ricki's recipe for Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, on her blog, I was skeptical, to put it mildly. Rather than being made with a stick of butter, it's made with sweet potato. Eewww, right? I was so surprised by the ingredients, I had to try it for myself, and now it doesn't even seem weird to me. The taste and texture are fabulous, and everyone I've served it to loves it as much as I do. Actually, no one has a clue the frosting contains sweet potatoes — and I don't always tell.
Sellers Publishing has given me permission to share Ricki's recipe for Butterscotch Blondies, and I've provided links to the other recipes mentioned in my post. In addition, the publisher will send a free copy of the cookbook to one of my readers, randomly selected from the commenters. If you want to be eligible to win, please be sure your comment is connected to an email address so I can contact you. The book drawing is limited to North America, but please don't let that stop you from leaving a comment. I love comments! If you live in North America and wish to be entered in the drawing, please type 'book' after your comment. The contest is open until midnight, Oct. 19.
Butterscotch Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Goji Berries Makes 16
These are a favorite dessert in our house. They are rich tasting and chewy, and the combination of lucuma with coconut sugar and coconut nectar is, I think, very reminiscent of butterscotch. I love using dried, super-healthy goji berries in these bars, but dried cherries or cranberries work just as well. In fact, feel free to stir in any additions you like, as long as you keep the same proportions. For instance, one alternative I really enjoy is pistachios and chopped dried apricots. ~ Ricki
- 1 cup (135 g) Ricki's All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix (see page 22)*
- ¾ cup (75 g) whole oat flour (to make your own, see page 35)
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) lucuma powder
- 1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
- ½ tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
- ¼ tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
- 1 tsp (5 ml) xanthan gum (use only Bob’s Red Mill brand if you are concerned about a corn allergy)
- ⅓ cup (25 g) coconut sugar
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) water
- ½ cup (120 ml) coconut nectar
- ⅛ tsp (.5 ml) pure stevia powder or
- ¼ tsp (1 ml) pure plain or vanilla stevia liquid, or to taste
- ⅓ cup (90 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
- 1 Tbsp (30 ml) pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp (1 ml) rum, butterscotch, or brandy flavoring (optional)
- ½ cup (100 g) unsweetened carob chips or dairy-free dark chocolate chips
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) dried goji berries, cherries, cranberries, or dried fruit of your choice
- Preheat the oven to 325˚F (170˚C). Line an 8-inch (20-cm) square pan with parchment paper, or spray well with nonstick spray.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, lucuma powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum.
- In a large bowl, mix the coconut sugar and water until the sugar begins to dissolve. Add the coconut nectar, stevia, oil, vanilla, and flavoring, if using, until well blended. Gently stir in the chips and gojis.
- Pour the dry mixture over the wet ingredients and stir to blend. You will have a thick and sticky batter. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through baking, until a tester inserted in the center comes out just barely clean (a moist crumb or two is fine). Take care not to overbake, as these will dry out! The top may fall a little as it cools; this is fine. Allow to cool completely in pan before cutting into squares. May be frozen.
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