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Monday, June 30, 2014


Posted by Bryna Bear aka Gluten Free Baking Bear

     It is all my friend’s fault.  All she has been talking about is cheesecake and cheesecake recipes. Her husband loves cheesecake and she has been trying to recreate his idea of a perfect cheesecake for a few months.  Her husband is now hiking the Appalachian Trail.  So far he has walked all the way from Georgia to Pennsylvania.  Along the trail my friend will drive to meet him and bring homemade cheesecake.  Now I have caught the cheesecake fever and have begun experimenting with cheesecake recipes to get that perfect cheesecake from my childhood memories.  
     There are so many types of cheesecake.  Some are dense, some light, some dry, some wet, some creamy, some chocolate, some pumpkin, some with fruit on top.  Everyone has their own idea of what the best one is. 
     I grew up in New York City and NYC is famous for its dense creamy cheesecakes.  Some say the one from the Carnegie Deli is the best. I used to love Lindy’s.  My wife is from Brooklyn where Junior’s is famous and this is her favorite.  I decided to start my experiment with a Junior’s clone recipe.  What sets Junior’s cheesecake apart is its spongecake bottom.  Most other cheesecakes have a cookie crumb or cookie crust of some sort.  
     Junior’s sponge cake on the bottom is controversial.  You either love it or not so much.  I love how the cheese part of the cake came out.  The cake layer on the bottom ‘not so much’.  It could be this particular recipe for the cake, but I think cake crust is just not my cup of tea.  The creamy, but slightly dense texture and the taste of the cheese part of the cake was perfect and amazing.  Everyone loved it.  Many commented that it was the best they ever had, but there were some thumbs down on the cake crust.  Very good, but not quite the cheesecake I remembered from my youth.  If I make this again I will use a graham cracker crust.  Soon I will continue my explorations and try another recipe.  Maybe the Lindy’s copycat recipe will be next.

Makes one 9” cake 

1/4 cup Sorghum Flour
3 Tbs. Tapioca Flour
1 Tbs. Chickpea Flour
1/2 tsp. Xanthan Gum
3/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
3 Tbs. Melted Unsalted Butter or Oil (Olive or Canola)
3 large Eggs - Separated
1/4 tsp. Cream of Tarter
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

2 lbs./four 8oz. packages Full Fat Cream Cheese - room temperature
1 cups Sugar
1/4 cup Corn Starch
1 Tbs. Vanilla Extract
2 large Eggs
3/4 cup Heavy Cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Lightly grease a 9” round springform pan or pan with a removable bottom.  The pan must be at least 2¾” deep or do not make this recipe. I did not have a pan with a removable bottom that was deep enough.  I decided to improvise with a regular 3” deep round cake pan.  I put two strips of parchment paper cross wise in the pan.  I then put a cardboard cake round into the pan on top of the strips.  This will allow the cake to be lifted out on the cake cardboard using the parchment paper strips to lift it.  After running a knife around the chilled cake the cake came out perfectly.  No need to buy a special pan.  You could also bake the cake on top of a cake cardboard or parchment round to make it easier to transfer the cake to a plate.
    Parchment paper strips across the bottom of the pan.
    This pan does not have a removable bottom.

    Cake cardboard cut to fit and placed over the strips of parchment paper.
    The strips of paper and cardboard will allow the cake to be
     lifted out of the pan after it is well chilled.
  2. If using a pan with a removable bottom it is necessary to wrap the bottom of the pan with a single large piece of aluminum foil to keep water from leaking into the cake while it bakes in a pan of hot water or Bain-marie.
First Make the Crust:
  1. Add the flours, baking powder, sea salt, xanthan gum and 2 Tbs. sugar to a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Add the melted butter or oil, vanilla and the 3 egg yolks and mix until well combined.
    Egg yolk mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl beat the 3 egg whites and cream of tarter until frothy.  Add 4 Tbs. of sugar and beat until stiff and glossy.
    Egg white mixture beaten until stiff and glossy.
  4. Gently mix in ⅓ of the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture.  
  5. Fold in another ⅓ of the egg white mixture and repeat with the remaining egg white mixture.
    Second third of the egg white mixture before being folded in.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cake has risen, is barely starting to brown, bounces back when pressed lightly with a finger or a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.
    Cake crust batter in the pan.
  7. Remove from the oven, and keep the oven on.  Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake and allow the cake to cool completely on a rack while you make the filling.  The edges will shrink away from the sides of pan a little bit, this is OK. 
    Baked cake crust in pan.
    A knife was run around the edges of the pan
    as soon as it was taken out of the oven.
Next Make the Filling
  1. Mix 1 package of cream cheese (8 oz.), ⅓ cup of sugar and the cornstarch in a bowl and mix on low speed until smooth.
  2. Add the rest of the cream cheese, 8 oz. at a time, beating after each addition until smooth.
    Beating cream cheese into the egg and cornstarch batter.
  3. With the mixer running on low gradually add 1 cup of sugar and 1 Tbs. of vanilla and mix until well combined.
  4. Add the eggs on low speed one at a time, beating in after each addition.
    Adding eggs, one at a time to the batter.
  5. Still on low speed, mix in the heavy cream.
  6. Pour the batter into to pan over the cake crust.  Smooth the top with a spatula.  The filling will rise so be sure not to fill it to the top of the pan.
  7. Place the pan, (with the bottom wrapped in foil if the pan has a removable bottom), into a pan filled with enough hot water to go 1” up the side of the cake pan.
    Cake pan in a pan of hot water.

    Cheese batter on top of the baked cake crust, ready to bake.
  8. Place the cake in the pan of hot water into the oven on the lower middle rack.
  9. Bake 75-90 minutes, depending upon your oven.  When done the cake will be turning golden on the edges.  The center will be jiggly, but the top will appear set.  A thermometer in the center of the cake will read 160°-165°.  My cake took 105 minutes to bake.  When I checked the cake at 45 minutes I was surprised that the top was already brown.  I covered the cake with foil during the last 45 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. 
  10. When done, remove the pans from the oven.  Lift the cheesecake out of the water bath and onto a rack.  I ran a knife around the edge as soon as I took it out of the water to prevent cracking and sinking.  
    Cake cooling on a rack.  I ran a knife around the edge to
     prevent sinking and cracking of the cheesecake.  The 'bellybutton' hole
     in the center is from testing the temperature with a thermometer.
  11. Let the cake cool 2-3 hours at room temperature until it is no longer warm to the touch.
  12. Refrigerate the cake for several hours before serving.  The cake is best when well chilled and set. 
  13. When ready to eat remove the cake from the pan and place on a cake plate.
  14. To serve, dip a knife into hot water then wipe it dry. Dip and dry the knife before every knife cut to get clean cuts and a neat top on each slice. 
  15. Traditionally this cake is served plain, but you can serve it with fruit or fruit topping if you like.  
  16. Refrigerate any leftovers if you will eat them within a few days.  You can freeze the whole cake or leftover slices, well wrapped.  Thaw the whole cake overnight in the fridge before serving. Thaw slices in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for 30-40 minutes.

Monday, June 23, 2014


Posted by Bryna Bear aka Gluten Free Baking Bear

     I always thought of myself as a chocolate person.  I love chocolate.  Given a choice, mine is always chocolate.  So I was a bit surprised when I recently realized that I love oatmeal cookies.  Not only do I love them, but I have loved them for years and never paid much mind to this (the chocolate clouded my vision).  My favorite chocolate chip cookie has oatmeal.  I love granola cookies...oatmeal!  I love those oatmeal cookies with cream sandwiched between them and, of course, the classic oatmeal raisin cookie.  A photo of Martha Stewarts Oatmeal Almond Crisps caught my eye.  Toasted almonds could only improve the beloved oatmeal cookie.  
     I converted the recipe to gluten free by using certified gf oats and added some xanthan gum and gf oat flour to make a less fragile cookie.  I made mine dairy free by replacing the butter with oil so that some dairy free friends could eat them. 
     I love how they came out, crispy on the edges and a bit softer in the center.  Almonds and oats are a delicious combination.  Very flavorful, they were all eaten up at one gathering with friends.  I might try using butter next time just to see if they could possibly get any better.

Makes about 20 2½ inch cookies

1/3 cup Light Brown Sugar - packed
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter - melted or Oil such as Olive or Canola
1 large Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1½ cups Certified GF Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (not quick-cooking)
2 Tbs. Certified GF Oat Flour
1/2 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1/8 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 cup Sliced Almonds

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line two baking sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl mix the sugar, egg, melted butter or oil and vanilla until smooth.
    Sugar and egg mixture.
  3. Add the oat flour and xanthan gum and sea salt and mix until well combined.
  4. Add the oats and sliced almonds and mix into the dough.
    Dough all mixed.
  5. Scoop out dough by level tablespoons (a scoop that measures 1½ across works well) 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets.
  6. Use wet hands to flatten the cookies into 2½-inch rounds.
    Tablespoon of dough scooped out on right.
    Dough flattened with a wet hand on left.

    Flattened rounds of raw dough on a cookie sheet.
  7. Bake until golden brown, about 14-16 minutes.  Take care not to burn them.  Cool completely on the baking sheets.  Gently remove the cookies with a spatula to serve.
    Baked cookies cooling on the baking sheet.
  8. Store in a wax paper lined tin or other airtight container for several days.  Freeze cookies for longer storage.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Posted by Bryna Bear aka Gluten Free Baking Bear

     I was at a street fair and saw an Arepas booth.  They looked good.  The guys at the booth knew nothing about the ingredients and I was wary to try them there, but I did get a hankering for them.  Arepas are corn pancakes most often made with melted cheese sandwiched between two of the pancakes.  They are common in many countries in South and Central America and many Caribbean Islands.  Some pancakes are sweet and some are not.  The recipes are naturally gluten free as long as you use certified gluten free corn flour.
     I looked on-line for some recipes.  I chose a Cuban sweet arepa recipe that is popular in Miami, Florida.  I had some gluten free instant corn masa flour at home for making tortillas.  The arepas are supposed to be made with a special finely ground pre cooked corn flour sold as Harina Pan or masarepa.  I decided to make them with what I had on hand.  The dough was wetter than the dough in the recipe so I adjusted by using wax paper to transfer the pancakes to the pan. I may try to pick up some of the Harina Pan when I can to see if they are easier to work with if the intended arepa flour is used.  I loved how they tasted, very delicious.  I can see why they are so popular at street fairs.  
Makes 6-8


1 cup Arepa Flour - (I used Instant Corn Masa Flour because I had some at home.)
1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
1/3 cup Sugar
1 cup Frozen Corn Kernes - ground
1 cup Mozzarella Cheese - shredded - for dairy free/vegan use a mild non-dairy cheese
1 cup Milk - for dairy free/vegan use nondairy milk
5 Tbs. Butter - for dairy free/vegan use vegetable oil such as olive or canola
6-8 Slices Mild cheese such as Swiss or Mozzarella - for dairy free/vegan use a mild nondairy cheese

  1. Bring the milk (or non dairy milk) to a boil.  Add the butter or oil and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl add the arepa flour, salt and sugar.  Mix well.  Set aside.
  3. Grind the corn in a food processor.  Add the ground corn to the flour mixture and mix well.
  4. Add the shredded mozzarella cheese (or non dairy cheese) to the flour and corn mixture and combine well.
    Flour mixture with corn and cheese mixed in.
  5. Make a well in the center and pour in the hot milk mixture.  Stir until there are no lumps.
    Milk mixture added to flour mixture.

    Dough mixed until smooth.
  6. Allow the dough to sit for at least half an hour so that the corn flour can absorb the liquid.  
  7. To make the pancakes, knead the dough until smooth and sticky adding water as needed if too thick.  Roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out rounds with a 3” cookie cutter. Because I did not use the correct flour my dough was a bit too wet to knead or to roll out.  I shaped the pancakes by pressing the dough into the cookie cutter with my hands. 
    My dough was too soft to roll.
    I pressed the dough into the cookie cutter to shape the pancakes.

    Raw Arepas on wax paper.
  8. Heat a lightly greased griddle or frying pan over medium heat.  
  9. Cook a few arepas at a time.  My dough was wetter than it was supposed to be because I used a different flour.  I cut out the wax paper around each pancake and lifted the arepas into the pan with the wax paper.  I peeled the wax paper off after placing the arepa in the pan.  The pancakes or arepas will be crisp and golden brown, firm, slightly dry on top with some bubbles noted when ready to turn over.  Do not turn over too soon or it will fall apart.
    Using wax paper to transfer the arepas to the pan
     and peeling off the paper after they are in the pan.

    Arepas just put onto a medium heat skillet.

    After cooking about 2-3 minutes.  Note the dry tops.
  10. Turn over and cook on the other side.
    Arepas turned over.  One of mine had a heart.

    This is what happens when the first side is not cooked enough and you turn it over.
    It looks bad, but tastes really good.
  11. Place a slice of cheese on top of one cooked pancake and top with another.  Cook until the cheese melts.  Remove from the pan and enjoy.  Repeat with the other pancakes. 
    On the right is a sandwich cooking until the cheese melts.
    On the left is a pancake topped with cheese,
    the top pancake will go on top to complete the other sandwich.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Posted by Bryna Bear aka Gluten Free Baking Bear

      I passed by a Chock full o’ Nuts cafe in Brooklyn last month.  I could not believe it since I thought that they were closed years ago. It turns out that some cafes have reopened in the last six years or so.  When I was a child I remember going shopping with my mother and getting treated to date nut bread with cream cheese sandwiches at a Chock full o’ Nuts cafe afterwards.  I used to love those sandwiches.  I don’t think that I have even had date nut bread since I was a child.  Well, the wheels in my head started.  I now want (must make) a gluten free date nut bread and cream cheese sandwich like those from Chock full o’ Nuts.
     Date Nut Bread is a sweet quick bread, like banana bread or zucchini bread not a bread like a traditional sandwich bread.  It is more dessert like, but with the cream cheese it makes a satisfying and filling sandwich.  This recipe is easy to slice with a serrated knife.  The bread is moist but firm enough to make sturdy sandwiches.
     I searched for copycat date nut bread recipes and decided to try one from an article about Lost Foods of New York City.  It was definitely the right choice!  After converting it to a GF version I made a cream cheese sandwich as soon as the bread cooled.  OMG!  It was incredibly delicious.  I honestly do not remember what the original one tasted like, but this recipe is fabulous.  No wonder I loved these as a child. This would be great at a Tea Party! I will be making this bread again and again.
  ***Check out the Baking Beauties & Allergy Free Alaska websites.  They are hosting a blogger & DIY link up.  What a great way to learn about other blogs.

Makes one loaf

1 cup / 8 ounces
Dates - pitted and chopped
3/4 cup
Water - boiling
3/4 cup
Sorghum Flour
1/2 cup
Tapioca Flour
1/4 cup
Chickpea Flour
3/4 tsp.
Xanthan Gum
2 tsp.
Baking Powder
1/2 tsp.
Sea Salt
1/2 tsp.
1/8 tsp.
1 cup
Walnuts - chopped
3 Tbs.
Butter or for Dairy Free use Oil (I used oil)
3/4 cup
Sugar (you can adjust this to taste)
2 large
1 tsp.
Vanilla Extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Lightly grease a 9x5-inch metal loaf pan and set aside.  (Do not use a glass pan as it will get too hot and cause the bread edges touching the pan to brown too much or even burn.)
  2. Add the chopped dates to a medium heat safe bowl.  Pour the boiling water over the dates and let them sit for about 15 minutes while you mix the batter.
  3. In a medium bowl add all the flours, salt, xanthan gum, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder.  Mix well with a whisk.  Add the nuts and mix.  Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl add the butter or oil and sugar and mix well.  Then add the eggs and vanilla and mix in well.
  5. Add half the date mixture and mix well, then add half the flour mixture and combine well.  Repeat with the other half of the ingredients.
  6. Scoop batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  7. Bake 45-55 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out with some crumbs still sticking to it.  Do not over bake or the bread will be too dry.  I tested it after 45 minutes and then again after five minutes.  In total it took 55 minutes in my oven.
    GF Date Nut Bread cooling for 10 minutes in the pan.
  8. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing it to a rack to cool completely.
    Bread cooling on a rack.
  9. When completely cool slice with a serrated knife. 
    Bread cooled and sliced with a serrated knife.

8 ounces Cream Cheese - for Dairy Free, use Dairy Free Cream Cheese.

You will need 1-2 Tbs. of Cream Cheese per sandwich.
My favorite way is to spread cream cheese on each slice of bread before putting the two slices together to make the sandwich.

GF Date Nut Bread with cream cheese spread on two slices.