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Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Posted by Bryna Bear aka Gluten Free Baking Bear

     The dairy full version of this pie was so amazing that I wanted to serve it for Thanksgiving.  My son is vegan so I decided to make both a dairy free and a dairy full version.  I made mini pies since they are much easier to serve.
     “How did it come out?”, you ask.  Really great!  There is very little difference in taste or texture between the dairy free and the dairy full versions.  I did have to adjust the recipe because the dairy free cream cheese was very tart.  My daughter-in-law can not eat soy or gluten and Daiya is the only dairy free brand that is also soy free.  Please read the recipe carefully so that you can adjust it if you use different brands of ingredients.
     I have been busy cooking all day, but I am pushing to get this post up today so that you too can enjoy this on Thursday.
     Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Makes one 9-inch pie or 15 mini pies

2 Tbs. Earth Balance Soy Free Margarine or other soy free GF, DF or Vegan Margarine - melted 
OR use vegetable oil such as canola or olive
2 Tbs. Shortening that is GF & Soy Free & DF or Vegan such as Spectrum organic on hydrogenated shortening - melted
OR use vegetable oil such as canola or olive
2 cups / about 8 oz. GF & DF or Vegan & Soy Free Chocolate Cookies  - finely crushed or ground in the food processor.
I used one (6.3 oz.) box of Enjoy Life brand crisp Double Chocolate Chip cookies since they are GF and Soy free and contain no eggs or dairy.
3 Tbs. Sugar
1/4 tsp. Xanthan Gum

8 oz. DF or Vegan Soy Free Cream Cheese - at room temperature 
I used Daiya brand since it has no soy and is vegan, DF and GF.
If soy is not a problem just use any brand of vegan or dairy free cream cheese.
1 cup Smooth Peanut Butter
I used Organic unsalted peanut butter with peanuts as the ONLY ingredient.
1 recipe Dairy Free Condensed Milk (recipe below)
4 tsp.  Lemon Juice
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup Sugar (I had to add this because the Daiya cream cheese was quite tart and the condensed milk was less sweet than a traditional condensed milk.  Taste the peanut butter mixture before folding in the whipped cream.  Add the sugar if needed for your taste.  Adjust the amount if necessary.  You may prefer to use more or less or no sugar at all at this point.)
1 recipe Coconut Whipped Cream (recipe below)

3 cups Non Dairy Milk - I used Almond milk.  You can use coconut or hemp or whatever you like.
1/2 cup Sugar - I used evaporated cane juice crystal.  For vegan be sure to use a vegetarian sugar.

1 can/ 14 oz. Full fat Coconut Cream - kept cold in the fridge overnight. I used Trader Joe’s brand and used the whole can.  
If you use coconut milk (full fat) you will need 2 cans that are kept in the fridge overnight.  Drain off the liquid (and save for another use) and use only the solid part of the coconut in the cans. 

1/4 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1 Tbs. Confectioner’s or Powdered Sugar


  1. First make the Dairy Free Condensed Milk.
  2. In a saucepan with a heavy bottom add the milk and sugar and stir.  
    Almond milk and sugar in a heavy bottom pan.
  3. Cook over a medium low flame.  It can take 2 hours to reduce the milk to about 1 cup.
    Mixture simmering on low medium heat.

    After cooking down to 1 cup.
    It took about 2 hours.

    Measuring the diary free condensed milk.
  4. Allow the milk to cool off and then pour into a glass jar and place in the fridge to cool completely.  You can make this ahead.  The condensed milk will keep for several days in the fridge.
    Dairy free condensed milk in a jar.

    What it looks like after sitting in the fridge for several hours.
  5. Next make the crust. 
  6. Grind the cookies into crumbs in the food processor.  Add the crumbs to a large bowl and mix in the xanthan gum and sugar.  Set aside. 
    Ground up cookie crumbs.
  7. Melt the margarine and shortening.  Add the melted margarine & shortening (or oil, if using) to the crumb mixture.  Mix well.
    Melted margarine and shortening.

    Crumb mixture and margarine mixture well combined.
  8. To make one large pie put the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie pan.  Press the crumbs as evenly as you can along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Set aside.  To make Mini Pies use paper liners in a muffin pan.  I scooped out the crumbs using a scoop that measured 1 1/2-inches.  Then I pressed the crumbs along the bottom and slightly up the side. Set aside.
    Crumbs scooped into paper liners in a muffin pan.
    Some of the crumbs have been pressed into to bottom
     and slightly up the side of the  liners.
  9. Next make the filling.
  10. With a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer beat the cream cheese until smooth. 
    Whipped dairy free cream cheese
  11. Add the peanut butter, lemon juice, condensed milk and vanilla.  Stir or beat until smooth.  I tried to use the electric hand mixer, but the batter was too thick and climbed up the beaters, so I used a silicone spatula to mix it.  There will probably be no problem mixing it if using a stand mixer.
    Peanut butter mixture.
  12. In a separate bowl add the cold firm part of the coconut milk or the entire can of coconut cream, xanthan gum and confectioner’s sugar.  Whip with a hand mixer until thick.  Add the whipped cream to the bowl with the peanut butter mixture.
    Coconut whipped cream added to the peanut butter mixture in the bowl.
  13. Add 1/4 of the coconut whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture and stir or mix until smooth.
  14. Next fold in the rest whipped coconut cream using a silicone spatula.
    Beginning to fold the coconut whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture.

    The pie filling after the coconut whipped cream is completely folded in.
  15. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust if making a large pie or scoop out portions into the prepared muffin tins if making mini pies.  Smooth out the top of the pie or mini pies.  Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

    Scooping the filling into the prepared muffin pan.
    Some of the tops are smoothed out.
  16. You can make this pie ahead and freeze the whole pie or mini pies well wrapped.  For mini pies first freeze them in the muffin pan so that they keep their shape.  When the mini pies are firm place them in containers or baggies and return them to the freezer. Thaw in the fridge the morning of the day you plan to serve the pie.  Left over slices can be frozen and thawed as needed.
    Mini pie after several hours of chilling.
  17. For a fancy presentation you can drizzle melted chocolate over the pie or mini pies.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Posted by Bryna Bear aka Gluten Free Baking Bear

     I made this pie after I accidentally confused a can of condensed milk for evaporated milk while making some pumpkin pie.  As soon as the can opener made a small slit in the can I realized my mistake.  I transferred the condensed milk into a jar to wait in the fridge until I found a recipe in which to use it.  A photo of this pie caught my fancy on a google image search for desserts using condensed milk.  I am glad that I tried this recipe because it is so much better than I even imagined a peanut butter pie could be.  If you love peanut butter, you will love this pie.  It is like a big fluffy peanut butter cup.  I can’t convey how good this pie experience is. 
     Thanksgiving is next week.  A No Bake Peanut Butter Pie is perfect for the holiday or anytime.  You can make it ahead or after the turkey is in the oven, so that there is no competing for precious oven space while making dinner.  This pie can even be frozen and thawed in the fridge on the morning you will serve it.  
     The peanut butter pie is creamy and light yet rich and satisfying.  Umm it is so yummy that everyone will be savoring each bite with delight.  If there are any leftovers you can freeze slices and thaw them as needed.  
     I imagine that it could be made dairy free by using melted margarine instead of butter for the crust and using dairy free cream cheese and coconut whipped cream or pureed silken tofu for the filling. You will need to make homemade dairy free condensed milk too.  I’ll let you know how to tweak the recipe when I try this for my vegan son.

Makes one 9-inch pie

4 Tbs. Unsalted Butter - melted
2 cups / about 8 oz. GF Chocolate Cookies - finely crushed or ground in the food processor
3 Tbs. Sugar
1/4 tsp. Xanthan Gum

8 oz. Cream Cheese - at room temperature 
1 cup Smooth Peanut Butter - I used unsalted organic peanut butter with peanuts as the only ingredient.
1 can (14 oz.) Condensed Milk
3 Tbs. Lemon Juice
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream - whipped to soft peaks

  1. First make the crust.  
  2. Melt the butter.  If you melted it on the stove add the crushed cookies to the pan and mix.  If you melted it in a bowl in the microwave (like I did) then add the cookie crumbs to the bowl and mix.
    Melted butter in a bowl.
    I used the microwave to melt it.

    One 8oz. box of GF chocolate animal crackers
     in the food processor bowl.

    Ground up cookie crumbs.

    Mixing the crumbs, sugar, xanthan gum and melted butter
  3. Put the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie pan.  Press the crumbs as evenly as you can along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Set aside.
    Crumbs in a 9-inch pie pan.

    Crumbs pressed along the bottom and sides of the pie plate.
  4. Next make the filling.
  5. With a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer beat the cream cheese until smooth.
    Beaten cream cheese.
  6. Add the peanut butter, lemon juice, condensed milk and vanilla.  Stir or beat until smooth.  I tried to use the electric hand mixer, but the batter was too thick and climbed up the beaters, so I used a silicone spatula to mix it.  There will probably be no problem mixing it if using a stand mixer.
    The peanut butter, lemon juice, vanilla, condensed milk and cream cheese all mixed.
  7. Whip the heavy cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks form.  Add the whipped cream to the bowl with the peanut butter mixture.
    Whipped Cream added to the bowl with the peanut butter mixture.
  8. Fold in the whipped cream using a silicone spatula.
    The folding has begun.

    The whipped cream completely folded into the peanut butter mixture.
  9. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust.  Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
    Filling in the prepared crust.
    This photo was taken at night so the lighting is off.
    Posted it anyway to give an idea of what the whole pie looks like.
  10. You can make this pie ahead and freeze the whole pie, well wrapped.  Thaw in the fridge the morning of the day you plan to serve the pie.  Left over slices can be frozen and thawed as needed.
  11. For a fancy presentation you can drizzle melted chocolate over the pie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Posted by Bryna Bear aka Gluten Free Baking Bear
     No, it is not in your head, gluten free baking is more complicated than baking with wheat flour.  It is more difficult to get consistent results.  Why? That is the question.
This week I am going to share what I have learned in my years of gluten free baking so that you will be able to make your holiday favorites with more confidence.

     With wheat baking there are basic flours, all purpose, cake, bread, pastry, whole wheat, etc.  Each of these types of wheat flours are manufactured to consistent standards.  In other words, when you buy all purpose flour in New York or London or Timbuktu, it has the same fineness of grind, will hold the same amount of moisture, will weigh the same per cup and will work the same every time you make a recipe.  This makes it easy to get consistent results.  
     There is no single GF flour or combination of GF flours that is able to replace wheat flour in every recipe.  Everyone comes up with their own combination of gf flours to mimic what wheat flour would do in a recipe.  That is why there are so many types of GF flour mixes on the market and why each recipe on-line or in cookbooks uses so many different types of flours.
     Most GF recipes use a combination of flours.  The key to success is finding the right combination.  The bulk of a GF flour blend is made up of grains such as sorghum, rice, buckwheat, oats, etc.  Protein flours, such as chickpea or other beans, almond or other nuts & seeds, etc., help to give structure to the baked goods.  Starches, such as tapioca, arrowroot, potato, corn, etc., help to make a lighter product.
     If you do come up with your own successful flour blend, then there are other issues that come into play to complicate matters.  There are no standards to gluten free flour production and every manufacturer of every flour just makes up their own specifications.  Each brand has its own fineness of grind, holds different amounts of moisture and weighs a different amount per cup.  So, if you buy one brand of rice flour and the recipe comes out great and then next time you buy another brand of rice flour the recipe may come out quite differently.  If this is not difficult enough, then you will find that each company might also have variations of their grind in each manufacturing plant.  So, if you buy your GF flour in New York and then move to San Francisco, your tried and true GF recipes may start giving you different results.  You will have to make adjustments and tweak the flour blend again.  
     Another thing that affects results is that everyone measures the flours differently.  So one cup in a recipe may be different from one cup the way that you measure it out. The big controversy is whether to dip or scoop the flour.  I like to dip the measuring cup into the fine flours like tapioca, arrowroot or cornstarch and then level the cup off.  I like to use a spoon to scoop out the flour into the cup for heavier flours like, sorghum, chickpea or rice and then level it off.  There can be as much as 1/2 cup or more difference in the amount of flour in a recipe according to how each flour is measured out.  
     The best practice is to weigh out the flours, grams are the most accurate way to measure.  Again, there is a catch.  The weight of one cup of GF flour will vary according to brand and according to how the person who wrote the recipe measured out the flour.  In other words, one cup of sorghum in my recipe the way I measure it out is 128 grams or 4.5 ounces.  Other GF recipes list different weights.  Some sources list how much their flours weight and this will help to recreate their recipe as they intended.  This is a helpful conversion chart for US to metric measurements.


Sorghum  4.5 128
Tapioca Starch or Flour 4.5 128
Chickpea 4 113
Sweet Rice 5 145
Corn Starch 5 142
White Rice Flour (superfine) 5 141
Brown Rice Flour (superfine) 4.5 130
Millet 4.5 128

     Substituting different GF flours than the ones called for in a recipe usually will produce different results than the original recipe.  Sometimes I have to substitute a flour due to a sensitivity of someone I am baking for or because I don’t have that particular flour on hand.  Substituting one starch like flour for another causes the least amount of problems in a recipe. Tapioca flour can have gummier results than other starches, so depending upon how large a percentage of the flour mix it is there may be a texture problem.  Substituting grain & protein types of flours causes the most variations in a recipe's results.

The following substitutions have worked for me in most recipes.
Tapioca = corn = arrowroot = potato starch (not flour).  
Brown Rice Flour = Sorghum
White Rice Flour = Millet
Sweet Rice Flour = Potato Flour

My Gluten Free Flour Blend 
In all baked goods, except breads, I find that this combination works well to produce a wheat flour like texture.
1 cup Sorghum flour
1/2 cup Tapioca flour
1/2 cup Chickpea flour

The best way to get more consistent results is to find a brand of GF flour and stick with it.  Come up with the combination of flours or a pre-made mix that works best for you and use this to get results that you can depend on.  Take the time to weigh out the cup of each flour as you measure it out.  Write it down so that you can then consistently recreate the recipes the way that you like them.  I have a chart of my flour weights and flour substitutions on the fridge for quick reference.


    Wheat flours have gluten in them.  Gluten acts like a glue and holds baked goods together.  With gluten free baking, in most cases, it is necessary to add things to the batter or flour mix that will act like gluten to help hold baked goods together and keep them from crumbling apart. When I first started baking with gluten free flours I did not know about binders.  I will never forget my first batch of cookies. I was so delighted that they looked wonderful, but when I bit into one it fell apart and crumbled into sand. Not the texture you want in cookies.  
     Gums are the most commonly used addition since they are binders and emulsifiers that act like gluten.  Xanthan gum is a bacteria that is typically grown on corn, but is sometimes grown on wheat.  Some people who are very sensitive to corn or wheat cannot tolerate xanthan gum.  Guar gum is made from a seed and is less expensive than xanthan gum.  I have read that xanthan gum works better when heat is used and guar gum better in cold applications.  I usually use xanthan gum when baking, but guar gum has acted the same when I did use it to bake.
     Some people prefer not to use the gums and use things like pectin, ground flax or chia seeds, agar and gelatin.  I can not speak to these ingredients as binders as I do not have much experience using them.  There are plenty of blogs out there that have good information about how to use them in GF recipes.  Here is one blog that might be helpful.

     GF cake and bread batters do better when beaten for about 3-5 minutes or more.  This makes a lighter product by adding air to the batter.  Unlike wheat baking, there is no gluten to over mix and toughen the dough or batter.  I find that the more I beat the batter the better.
     GF dough is softer and wetter.  Most people come up with their own techniques for working with the dough.  
     For rolling out doughs, I find it easiest to place the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper and roll it out.  I do not recommend adding additional flour to the dough to get a wheat dough like consistency as this usually results in a tough hard product after baking.
Rolling dough between two pieces of wax paper.

     For cut out cookies or shapes I find it works well to chill the dough between each step.  Chill the dough & roll the dough; chill again & cut out the shapes; chill again & lift out the shapes to place on the baking sheet; chill again & bake.  Yes, it does take longer and it is a lot of work, but that is how to get shapes that are cleanly cut and hold their shape while baking.
Raw cookies cut out.  Chilled after each step.
Baked cut out cookies.

     For pie crusts, it is best to chill the dough before rolling it out between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Remove the top piece of plastic and invert the dough into the pie pan.  Use the plastic that is now on the top to press the crust into the pan.  Remove the plastic.  Whether you bake the crust empty or with filling, chill the pie very well before baking.  This will keep the crust flaky and light and help hold its shape during baking.
Peeling off the top wax paper after pressing the pie crust into the pan.

Pie crust after baking.
  For thicker doughs like biscuits, scones, biscotti, etc. It is best to use wet hands to shape and smooth out the dough.  Shape the baked goods a little higher than you want as the dough will flatten or spread out a bit as it bakes.

     Bread batters usually come out more like a cake batter and need to be baked in a pan.  Smooth the top with wet hands.
     Some bread recipes actually do come out like wheat dough in texture and you can shape them easily, but this is not typical.

  1. Invest in an oven thermometer to insure that the oven is the correct temperature.  It can take much longer than you think to preheat an oven.  Often the oven will signal that the correct temperature has been reached, but the thermometer will indicate that it is off by 50℉ or more.  It can take over half an hour to preheat an oven. You also may find that you will have to adjust the dial on your oven to achieve the desired temperature.  With gluten free baking it is especially important to have an oven that is at the correct temperature in order to get a good rise on breads and cakes and prevent the dreaded sink hole.  
  2. Read the recipe first.
  3. Gather all the ingredients.  Make sure that if the recipe calls for ingredients to be at room temperature, chilled, hot, etc., that they are at the required temperature. 
  4. Use the correct size pans.  If you do not have a pan the size that a recipe calls for then you should look up how to adjust for baking times with different pan sizes.  You can also check to see what other pans are equivalent in size even if they are a different shape.
  5. Make sure your baking powder, baking soda or yeast are active and fresh or your baked goods will not rise (and will be dense and flat and unappetizing).  To check if baking powder is fresh add some to 1/4 cup of warm water, if it fizzes it is still active.  To check if baking soda is still working add a 1/4 tsp of white or apple vinegar to 1/4 cup of water and put a pinch of baking soda in.  If it fizzes it is still good.  To test yeast, add 1/2 tsp of sugar or honey to 1/2 cup of 110℉ water and dissolve add the yeast and stir.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.  The yeast should foam up, if not get new yeast. 
  6. Follow the directions.  There is usually a very good and necessary reason (even if it is not spelled out or explained) that the steps are there and in a certain order in the recipe.  With cooking it is safe to experiment with ingredients and amounts, but baking is more like a chemistry project and changing what you use and how much can cause a disaster.  Make the recipe as written the first time and then adjust it if you are not happy with it.  Look up guidelines for baking substitutions before you change things up.  
  7. Scoops are very helpful to measure out equal portions of cookies, biscuits, fillings and cupcake batter.  Scoops come in all sizes. 
  8. Check for doneness 10 minutes before the recipe says it will be done.  Your oven might bake things faster than anticipated.  Keep an eye on the baked goods during the last 5-10 minutes to prevent burning or over baking and drying out the products.  A quick read thermometer is very helpful to check on the doneness of breads.  A cake tester is good for checking on the doneness of cakes.  I find the gentle press of a finger to see if the cake springs back works best for me to check for a cake’s doneness.  
  9. Taking cakes out of pans can be tricky.  Try to take the cake out too soon and it may break apart.  Leave it in the pan too long and the sugar will crystalize and glue the cake to the pan making it removable only by scraping it with a knife and spatula (how do I know this?...).   When no instructions for cooling are given what works best is the following method. Take the cake out of the oven and place on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the cake.  Set a timer and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely.   Sometimes a recipe will tell you to remove a baked good from the pan immediately or cool in the pan, etc.  I find it is best to do what the recipe says.         
     I hope that this information helps you to have more success with your gluten free baking.  Feel free to ask questions, I love to help if I can.