Signal Hill Gingerbread (Gluten-Free)
Last weekend, I attended my friend’s annual birthday/Atlantic Christmas party. As per usual, I volunteered to bake something, and he wondered if I could make a gluten-free adaptation of one of his favourite family recipes, the "Signal Hill Gingerbread" cake from the Laura Secord cookbook. This dessert is "named after the hill that overlooks the harbour in St. John’s Nfld where many a keg of molasses has landed…more of a cake than a bread.”
I haven’t done much gluten-free baking, but was game to give it a try.
The original recipe is as follows (my modifications are italicized.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch square cake pan.
Sift together in a large mixing bowl:
2 cups all-purpose flour (I swapped in 2 cups of Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, plus 1 tsp of xanathan gum, as per the package directions)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salta
1/2 cup granulated white sugar (I bought a fresh bag, in order to minimize possible cross-contamination from previous use of measuring cups with wheat flour)
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
(I mixed all the dry ingredients together, then separately mixed the wet ingredients, adding them to the dry mixture).
Add : 1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup molasses
1 egg (After reading that GF baked goods don’t always rise sufficiently, I separated the white and the yolk and beat each of them with the electric mixer. As a result, the cake was nice and fluffy - perfect cake texture.)
Beat all together with electric hand mixer for 2 minutes at medium speed (or 300 strokes by hand -always use a wooden spoon).
Add 1 cup boiling water. Beat for an additional 2 minutes. Turn into prepared cake pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for 55-60 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back lightly to touch. Check centre of cake with toothpick or metal cake tester to see that batter is not still wet at centre. Let cool on cake rack.
May be served warm or cold ; either by itself or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or lemon sauce. Cake can be re-heated gently in aluminum foil.
The cake was a big hit. It certainly had a different taste than a cake with wheat flour, but overall I was quite pleased with how it turned out. A few people noted that it was appropriate to have brought the cake to the party in a Cadbury biscuit tin - it seemed like something someone’s aunt or grandmother would bring to a holiday party.
Happy holiday baking!
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal Crumb Squares
I typically try not to repeat recipes too much, preferring to try new things.
Yesterday, though, I was invited to a Thanksgivukkah dinner (Hanukkah + U.S. Thanksgiving), and I offered to bring a dessert. I didn’t have the time to tackle making a pie, and wasn’t sure on the number of attendees, so squares felt like a good bet. Since I’d enjoyed these oatmeal pumpkin squares so much earlier this fall (*drools*), I was confident they would be a crowd-pleaser, and I bought yet another can of pumpkin puree to make the recipe again.
They were once again enjoyed, and someone pointed out that they were a bit like a variation on date squares… which actually might inspire me to try making those for the first time. Who wants to be my guinea pig to try those?
Garlic Rolls & Chocolate Mousse
Last Sunday, I hosted this month’s edition of an ongoing series of potlucks my friends and I have been having. We themed this month’s edition as “Heritage Moments,” with the idea of bringing something from your cultural background.
Since I was hosting and thus didn’t have to carry food elsewhere, I made a few dishes. My family has been making a curried chickpeas dish for potlucks since before I was born, so while that wasn’t technically English/French Canadian/Metis, I feel like it’s part of my family’s heritage. Plus, it’s a great vegetarian/vegan dish, and the recipe doubles easily to accommodate a crowd.
To cover off the French side of things (although it was more French than French Canadian), I made a chocolate mousse - my first ever! It turned out really well. I used (yet another) Smitten Kitchen recipe (as did my friend Esther, for a honey loaf she made!), with a couple changes. I didn’t have any cognac or brandy, but I did have Sortilege, a maple liqueur from Quebec, which had the bonus of satisfying the French Canadian angle (not that the taste was super noticeable). I also added 1 tsp of vanilla, and since the bittersweet chocolate only came in boxes of 6 oz, I substituted 2 oz of semi-sweet baker’s chocolate. I was really delighted with how the mousse turned out, and frankly, it’s dangerous for me to realize that it’s not actually difficult to make.
Completely unrelated to the theme - just because I wanted to make a bread, and I had a garlic craving - I made some garlic rolls. I imagined them being all gooey and soft like Jack Astor’s pan bread, but I used a very large pan and they didn’t rise and stick together. I used this recipe for garlic knots, adding some garlic powder to the dough, and used margarine instead of butter. The rolls were tasty (mainly due to the garlic, I suspect) but not exceptional.
I am terrifically loving these ongoing potlucks, and it’s such a delight to have friends who also enjoy cooking and sharing. Everyone really brings their A-game - nary a store-bought package of stale pastries in sight. But the best part of it, besides the actual eating, is listening to everyone explain what they made and why. So much fun!
Brownie Roll-Out Cookies
My wonderful colleague Lilly from Montreal was visiting this week, and she dropped strong hints that if I’d be so kind as to bake something, preferably chocolate, she’d be very delighted.
I was happy to oblige, and used it as an opportunity to try out the brownie roll-out cookies from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I added a bit of fleur de sel to put my own spin on them. I don’t make too many cookies with cookie cutters, so it was also a good chance to to use my hand-shaped cutter - which I like to think of as yielding “high five” cookies, in accordance with my Twitter handle.
These were very soft and chewy cookies, and they elicited comments like “this is the perfect cookie!” or “these are fucking delicious.” I suppose it’s a pretty positive sign when people can’t resist swearing.
Yesterday, I drove to Buffalo to see one of my favourite bands, Built to Spill, along with two close friends. In addition to our shared love of this band, the three of us share an interest in bourbon, and I woke up yesterday feeling like a bourbon-pecan combo would be just right for a road trip snack.
I made this recipe, but I halved it (it still made more than enough for three people), plus added 1/4 tsp of vanilla, and 1/4 tsp of cornstarch (which seemed to work out so well in the maple bacon chocolate chip cookies I made last month.
Protip: toasting the pecans was definitely the way to go here. They were extra delicious in this chewy cookie. Yum!
Pumpkin Whole Wheat Bread
Last weekend, I was originally supposed to host a pumpkin-themed dinner party. A few people couldn’t make it, so we cancelled it, but two of the friends were going to still join me for dinner. Although they ended up getting sick and cancelling, I went ahead with making a delicious dinner that had the added benefit of using up the rest of my last can of pumpkin puree.
I made this pumpkin bread, with a few changes - I only used one kind of whole wheat flour, and I left off the pepitas. The result: a quite dense bread with a lovely orange colour. It could’ve been a bit more moist, but along with the pumpkin hummus I’d also made, it was quite nice.
It was an enjoyable accompaniment for the roasted chicken & butternut squash I’d made. All in all, the perfect fall comfort food meal.
I *might* be done with pumpkin now. Maybe.
Pumpkin Streusel Bundt Cake
My friends and I had another potluck last Sunday, this time loosely pumpkin-themed. I would’ve happily made a main dish (pumpkin curry, anyone?) or an appetizer (like the pumpkin hummus I finally made today!), but I’m beginning to suspect my friends pretty much count on me to make dessert for these occasions (though there were other desserts, too!).
Once again, I needed a treat suitable for my vegan friends, which would also travel well. Sadly, my bike basket doesn’t fit my cake carrier, and I had to walk over to my friends’ place (I’m not looking forward to being back on foot/transit once winter really kicks in).
I adapted this pumpkin crumb cake with pecan streusel, thinking a bundt pan would bring a nice old-fashioned flair to the dessert. I wish I’d used cake flour (since I even had some on hand!), and perhaps mixed a bit less, because this cake was dense. The flavour was alright, but it was a heavy, heavy cake. Usually pumpkin adds some extra moistness, so I’m not sure that accounts for it; it may have been the lack of eggs found in most cakes. Either way - it was ok, but not great, and I found myself wishing I’d taken my friend’s suggestion to make the pumpkin pie oatmeal bars again (though I would’ve had to substitute the eggs, butter, and milk). Avoiding trying to repeat myself = no guarantees that I’ll bake something exceptional. Live and learn!
Sometimes, I’ll have half a carton of eggs inching ever closer towards their best before date, and want to use as many as possible. Brownies often require 4 eggs, as with this one-pot brownie recipe from my friend Melissa’s blog, which makes them perfect for this objective. Not to mention that they gave me something delicious to bring to the then-upcoming baked goods- (& masks) themed Halloween party I was about to attend the Friday before last.
One of my friends told me that the brownies were exactly like those that his mom used to make, and I was really honoured to have tapped into a childhood memory - a very high compliment!
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal Crumb Bars
When you find yourself repeatedly at the kitchen counter, cutting off tiny slices of a pumpkin pie oatmeal square, and find that the pan is rapidly emptying, you know two things:
1. You’ve made a dangerously delicious treat;
2. You’ve got to get that dessert out of the house as fast as possible.
Luckily my friend helped me enjoy these after the curry turkey pot pie a few weeks ago. I found them pretty irresistible, though, and I had to share them with coworkers the next day, since I was definitely at risk of eating the rest of them myself. I would definitely make these again, and kind of wish I had made them a second time for a recent pumpkin potluck I attended (I’ll share that next pumpkin dessert soon!).
Curry Turkey Pot Pie
Turkey pot pie has got to be one of my favourite uses of extra turkey. Fortunately for me, my mom bought a large turkey this year, so there was lots for me to take home. Since I love curry and it’s a nice spin on the traditional pot pie, I adapted this chicken curry pot pie from Martha Stewart, using leftover dough from the apple pie I made for Thanksgiving dinner.
The photo isn’t so appealing, but I promise you that it was delicious!