Be My Gluten-Free Valentine! 3 Tasty Treats to Make

by Nicole Hunn

I’m not usually one to blubber.

But back in 2004, when I found out that my son would never again be able to eat this crazy thing called “gluten,” I cried like the baby he was. Since he wasn’t quite one-year old, he clearly couldn’t obsess about what it meant to be gluten-free. What would he eat? Would he ever have a cupcake at a birthday party? Would he feel like a weirdo?

From that day forward, I bore the mantle of that obsession myself. And it’s one that has lasted me straight through until today. But what began as a source of frustration and tears has become a true pleasure. Developing gluten-free recipes that delight not only my gluten-free son but his sisters and all their gluten-eating friends (not to mention my own friends) has only gotten more fun over the years. Now, nothing is out of reach, for my family or for yours.

In those early days, I spent most of my time thinking about how to get tasty meals on the table for my family. Desserts were one failure after another, and most certainly were nothing to photograph and blog about, much less publish in a cookbook! But now, I have the luxury of focusing mostly on baked goods when I develop recipes, and I won’t stop until it’s just right. When it comes to celebrating birthdays or holidays like Valentine’s Day, I believe that the gluten-free community should have as many fabulous options as everyone else – if not more. I mean, who’s more obsessed with food than those of us who are gluten-free?

This Valentine’s Day, why not make a gluten-free treat for that gluten-free special someone (or for yourself!) that will have them begging for more? To start, we're giving the black-and-white cookies you might find in the bakery section of your grocery store a pretty, pink makeover -- gluten-free style! For the chocolate lover in your life, try rich grasshopper brownies. And what would Valentine’s Day be without red velvet? Cheers to never having to find out!

Pink "Black & White" Cookies for Valentine's Day

Prep time: 15 minutes       Cook time: 15 minutes       Yield: 16 cookies

Ingredients

FOR THE COOKIE

1 1/4 cups (175 g) high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used my Better Than Cup4Cup Blend)

Heaping 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend, like mine, already contains it)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar

1/3 cup (75 g) sour cream, at room temperature

1 extra-large egg (60 g, out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

5 tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

FOR THE ICING

1 1/2 cups (173 g) confectioners’ sugar (plus more by the tablespoon)

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoons water

Red or pink gel food coloring, to desired color

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set is aside.

Make the Cookies. In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the sour cream, egg, butter and vanilla, and mix to combine. The dough will be thick. Spoon or pipe the batter by the heaping tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. With wet fingers, smooth the top of each mound of batter into a proper disk. Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the cookie tops are puffed and pale golden, about 15 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the icing. The cookies must be completely cool before being iced, or the icing will melt into the cookies. To make the icing, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla and about 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl until completely smooth. This makes the white icing. To make the pink icing, transfer half the icing to another bowl, add the food coloring, and stir very well. As necessary, add water by the tablespoon to thin, or add more confectioners’ sugar by the tablespoon to thicken, both the white and the pink icings separately. The consistency should be such that it dribbles from a spoon slowly and gracefully, like molasses. If it is too thick, it won’t spread. Too thin, and it won’t be visible on the cookie.

Ice the cookies. Once the cookies are completely cool, ice them. Turn the cookies flat side up, and spread the white icing over half, then the pink icing over the other half. The icing should be opaque and not melt into the cookie. If the icing disappears as you spread it, add more confectioners’ sugar to thicken. Serve chilled, so the icing is set just right.

Shoestring Savings:

If you make it: $3.00 for 16 cookies; If you bought it: $16.00 for 16 cookies

RELATED Gluten-free Pumpkin Doughnuts

Red Velvet Cupcakes for Valentine's Day

Ingredients

13/4 cup (245g) your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour blend (I like 140 g superfine brown or white rice flour + 70 g tapioca flour/starch + 35 g potato starch)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons (10 g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup (200 g) sugar

6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 eggs at room temperature, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Super red soft gel food coloring to desired color

Scant 1 cup (7 1/2 fl. oz.) milk (low-fat is fine, nonfat is not), at room temperature

Directions

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners and set it aside.

In a large bowl, place the flour blend, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, cocoa powder and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the butter, eggs, vanilla, vinegar and 2 to 3 drops of food coloring. Mix to combine. The batter will be lumpy. Add the milk, and mix to combine well. Add more food coloring a drop at a time, mixing well after each, until the color is a bit brighter than the desired color is reached. The batter will darken as it bakes.

Divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups. Shake the muffin tin back and forth to distribute the batter evenly in each cup. Smack the tin flat on the countertop to break any trapped air bubbles in the batter.

Place in the center of the preheated oven, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before frosting.

RELATED Healthy Valentine's Day Breakfast

Grasshopper Brownies for Valentine's Day

Ingredients

10 tablespoons (88 g) your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour (I like 50 g superfine brown or white rice flour + 25 g tapioca flour/starch + 13 g potato starch)

¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon plus one dash (1/8 teaspoon) kosher salt

1/3 cup (27g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk at room temperature, beaten

11/2 teaspoons peppermint extract

6 ounces (168 g) good quality white chocolate, chopped

9 ounces sweetened condensed milk, at room temperature or a bit warmer

31/2 tablespoons (16 g) vegetable shortening

2 tablespoons (14 g) confectioner’s sugar

Green soft gel food coloring to desired color

5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan and line it with unbleached parchment paper. Set the pan aside.

Place the flour blend, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, cocoa powder and granulated sugar in a large bowl, and whisk to combine well. Add the butter, eggs, and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, and mix to combine well. The batter will be thick. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan, spread into an even layer and smooth out the top with a wet or oiled spatula. Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes (less for very fudge-like brownies, more for less fudge-like brownies). Take the pan out of the oven and allow the brownies to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, or until completely cooled and firm.

When the brownies are cool, make the mint layer. In a medium-sized microwave safe bowl, place about 5 ounces of the white chocolate. Microwave for 45 seconds at a time on 70% power, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the remaining 1 ounce of chopped white chocolate, and stir until the final pieces (or seeds) are melted. Add the sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 tablespoon shortening, the remaining 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, the remaining 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, the confectioners’ sugar and the desired amount of green food coloring. Mix to combine well. The mixture should be thickly pourable. Pour the mint fudge over the cooled brownies still in the pan, and shake to distribute it in an even layer. Place the pan in the refrigerator and chill until firm, at least an hour.

Once the fudge layer is set, make the chocolate shell. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, place about 4 ounces of the chopped semi-sweet chocolate and the remaining 3 tablespoons shortening. Microwave for 45 second intervals at 70% power, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted. Add the remaining 1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate, and stir until it is melted and the chocolate has thickened a bit. Pour the chocolate mixture on top of the mint fudge layer and spread carefully in an even layer with an offset spatula. Allow the pan to sit at room temperature (or in the refrigerator) until the chocolate is firm.

Slice into 16 squares and serve.

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Nicole Hunn is the personality behind the popular blog, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, and the author of the book series Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, featured in the New York Times, MSN Money, Epicurious.com, and the Dr. Steve Show. She lives with her husband and three children in Westchester County, New York. http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/

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