Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Apple Tart

Apple Tart with Salted Caramel by Amy Roth Photo

I’m not sure what came over me last weekend, but the idea of a salted caramel apple tart just worked its way into my imagination and wouldn’t let go. It was entirely too specific to be denied — an apple tart would’ve been fine, even an apple crisp, but this HAD to have salted caramel, and had to be gluten-free. So I got to work.

While this tart is easy enough for even novice bakers to make, it has a few parts to it which add up in terms of actual cooking plus resting time. If you’d rather not do it in one pass, you could easily start a day or two early by prepping the crust and the caramel and refrigerating them until you’re ready to proceed.

Gluten-Free Tart Crust

I wanted to use almond flour for the crust because I thought the flavor would complement the apples and caramel nicely, so I searched for a recipe that guaranteed something more flaky than dense and chewy, which can sometimes be a problem with almond flour. Turns out that meant adding some tapioca starch, but not enough to overwhelm the nutty flavor of the almonds. The recipe I chose from Cassidy’s Craveable Creations worked out great. There’s no need to parbake — just follow her instructions to prep and rest the dough, then go from there. (You’ll need to purchase finely ground almond flour rather than almond meal for this, which isn’t always easy to find locally. Bob’s Red Mill is delicious, but too coarse for a lot of the recipes I make, so I order flour online in five pound bags and store it in the freezer for maximum freshness. I’ve put together a shopping guide at the end of this post so you can find any specialty items I mention.)

Salted Caramel

Salted caramel is a snap to make, and it’s a great way to use any leftover heavy cream you may have hanging around. The nice thing about this recipe is that it makes more than you’ll need for the tart, so you have an excuse to warm the caramel for an ice cream topping, eat it with apple slices, or just sample it liberally from the jar. Most recipes are pretty similar and don’t call for vanilla, but I have a ridiculous amount of vanilla bean pods in the cupboard, so I simmered one with the cream, and it really added a nice depth to the final product. (If you ever need vanilla beans — especially in bulk — but can’t bring yourself to purchase them at the extortionate prices charged by grocery stores, do what I do and order from ebay. Seriously.)

This tart can really use a generous application of salted caramel (and it’s great drizzled over the individual slices), so don’t be shy when you’re building it. The apples aren’t tossed with sugar before assembly, so if you prefer a sweeter tart, be generous.

Vanilla bean pods by Amy Roth Photo

Apples and Assembly

To make the tart a bit prettier than I normally would, I left the apple skins on and cut them into thin slices before arranging them in the pan in half-apple groupings. Instead of trying my patience with a knife, I set my mandoline to cut 1/8″ slices, which ensured even slices and sped up the process considerably. But even with the mandoline, it took a little while to slice five apples, so I dipped the fresh slices into a mixture of citric acid and water to keep them from browning. You could use plenty of lemon juice in the water instead of the citric acid powder, but I’ve never had much luck with it. Neither one is strictly necessary since browning won’t harm the flavor, but it makes for a nice presentation.

My 9″ tart pan was perfect for this application, but you can use a pie plate if you prefer. Just don’t use deep dish unless you increase all ingredients. Even so, the apples may look a bit meager in there after baking.

The only difficulty with assembly was taking pictures between each step, but when the photographic muse calls, one must listen! In fact, I created a little animation of the process, if you’d like to take a look:

Gluten-free apple tart with salted caramel by Amy Roth Photo

While making a pretty tart takes a little more effort than my go-to apple crisp, the extra time spent in the kitchen is certainly worth it! Nothing says fall like a delicious apple dessert.

Slices of Salted Caramel Apple Tart

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Apple Tart with Salted Caramel by Amy Roth Photo
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Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Apple Tart

An apple tart with soul – salted caramel adds depth and the nutty almond crust plays beautifully with the other flavors in this perfect fall dessert.

Course: Dessert
Ingredients
Salted Caramel
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Apple Tart
  • 4-5 baking apples (like Cortland or Granny Smith)
  • citric acid
  • water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter melted
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar optional, for sprinkling
Instructions
Almond Flour Crust
  1. Follow instructions at the blog post listed in Recipe Notes (below) for tart preparation. After chilling dough in refrigerator, roll out between two sheets of parchment paper, remove one piece of paper and turn dough over and into a 9" tart pan with removable bottom. Remove top sheet of parchment and press dough into the pan. Trim excess dough either with a knife or by pressing dough against the edge of the pan. Refrigerate until you're ready to assemble the tart.

Salted Caramel
  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine granulated sugar and water over medium heat and cook, without stirring, until a deep amber color. 

  2. While syrup is cooking, simmer heavy cream and vanilla bean in a small pot. Remove vanilla bean just before proceeding with the next step.

  3. Once sugar reaches the proper color, whisk in heavy cream, taking care as you do because it will foam up. Continue whisking over low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until smooth.

  4. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in butter and salt. Allow to cool before proceeding with apple tart assembly.

  5. Mix a small bowl of water and citric acid according to instructions on the package and set next to your work station.

Apple Tart
  1. Cut apples in half lengthwise and core. To slice, turn an apple half on its side so the apple is taller than it is wide, with the cut half is facing away from you. With a mandoline set to 1/8", slice the apples as far down as you can go without endangering your fingers.

  2. Stack the apple slices in order so they re-form the apple half. Dip in citric acid & water and set aside on a plate or cutting board. Repeat with remaining apples.

  3. To assemble, remove prepared tart shell from the refrigerator and add 3-4 large spoonfuls of salted caramel to the base of the tart. Spread with a butter knife or small offset spatula. 

  4. Arrange sliced apple halves decoratively into tart shell. See video for how I did it, or just wing it. Fill in any open spaces with smaller groupings of apple slices.

  5. Brush apples with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if using.

  6. Place tart shell on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 350°F for approximately 60-75 minutes (possibly more), or until a skewer inserts easily into the thickest apple sections with little resistance. If tart dough starts to brown too much, wrap the edges in foil.

  7. Cool in tart pan to room temperature before serving. Drizzle with salted caramel sauce for a decadent presentation.

Recipe Notes

Use your favorite tart dough recipe or follow instructions for the one I used at Cassidy's Creaveable Creations

Pavlova Wreath with Berries

Like clouds in edible form, pavlovas are delicate and ethereal, and can really rain on your parade if the circumstances allow. It’s a meringue allowed to form the backbone of a dessert, so you’ll want to treat it with care because it’ll respond in kind. Warm the eggs before beginning your recipe. Make sure the whites, mixing bowl and beaters are completely free of any oil/yolk. Start whipping the egg whites slowly, then gradually faster until stiff peaks form. And follow the directions for baking in the recipe. It can be a delicate balance, making sure it’s cooked through and dried without browning, but you’ll be rewarded with a scrumptious and impressive-looking dessert, which you then pile high with whipped cream, berries and jam. It’s beyond delicious, and my favorite of our Sweets Week desserts by far. Please visit Darcie’s blog for more about this dessert.

So this is it for the Advent Calendar — I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts Darcie and I have shared this month! We’ll be taking off for the holidays now, but plan to be back in the new year with more posts, probably of the healthy/nourishing variety. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season’s Greetings, and Happy New Year! Catch you in 2017.

Pavlova Wreath Close-Up | Amy Roth Photo

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Pavlova Wreath with Berries

Allergy Egg, Milk
Meal type Dessert
This Pavlova Wreath with Berries is gorgeous and wintery with fresh flavors you can't get enough of.

Ingredients

  • 1 pint whipping cream (chilled)
  • powdered sugar (for dusting)

Pavlova

  • 4 extra-large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (white wine or distilled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Berries

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 cup Bonne Maman Four Fruits Preserves

Note

Pavlova base adapted from Ina Garten's recipe.

Directions

Pavlova
Preheat oven to 180°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, gradually add the sugar and beat until shiny, stiff peaks form. Sift the cornstarch over the egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla and gently fold together with a spatula.
Spoon large dollops of the meringue in a circle on the parchment paper. Using a spoon, spread slightly, forming a wreath shape with a shallow trough. Bake for approximately 1 hour. The merengue should remain very light in color. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven. The end result should be crisp and dry on the outside.
Berries
In a microwave safe bowl, heat the fruit preserves for about 30 seconds, until slightly thinned. Add half of the blackberries, crush with a fork and stir until combined.
When the base has cooled and you are ready to serve the dessert, whip the chilled cream.
To assemble the pavlova, place the base on a serving platter. Spread the whipped cream over the base. Top with the remaining berries, then drizzle with the fruit preserve sauce. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookies

It never even occurred to me that someone might not like shortbread cookies. They’ve always been a favorite of mine for the reason I suppose a lot of people don’t like them — there isn’t a lot going on there, and the flavors aren’t bold. In fact, the primary flavor is butter, so you do have to use the good stuff. But Darcie came up with a fantastic spin on shortbread cookies with this recipe, adding macadamia nuts, chocolate ganache and — what really sets these apart — freeze dried raspberries crushed to bits. The flavors marry beautifully, and the raspberries give it an unexpected zing, plus make them look adorable and festive.

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Macadamia Shortbread Cookies

Allergy Egg, Milk, Tree Nuts, Wheat
Meal type Dessert, Snack
Misc Child Friendly
Flavorful shortbread cookies? I know it sounds unusual, but adding macadamia nuts, chocolate ganache and freeze dried raspberries to the mix really takes this one over the top.

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts (finely chopped)
  • 1 Large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ganache Icing

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried raspberries (crushed)

Directions

Cookies
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. Gradually add the flour and mix until just combined. Add the macadamia nuts to the mixture. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper, to roughly 1/4-1/2 inch thick, then cut into squares or desired shapes. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for about 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.
Ganache Icing
This is the a “cheat" method of making ganache, but I find it works well for cookie icing. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate and cream in 30 second intervals until melted, stirring between microwave sessions.
Dip one end of each cookie in the ganache, then sprinkle with raspberry powder. Place on wax paper and allow to cool and set. This is not a very hard icing when dry, so take care not to stack cookies on top of each other, or do so with caution.

Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

If there’s one thing I hope I’ve made clear in this blog over the years, it’s that I hope you’re having fun in the kitchen and aren’t afraid to make substitutions. (Or is that two things? Oh, well.) Unless it’s a main ingredient like beef when I want to make pot roast, I don’t mind swapping out ingredients if I have something on hand that sounds appropriate.

Take this sunny, gluten-free lemon cake from Serious Eats. I haven’t had a great deal of luck with gluten-free cakes in the past, but this recipe sounded simple and intriguing enough for me to give it another go…with changes. I don’t often like the texture of cakes made with oil (and don’t keep vegetable oil in the house, anyway), so I used butter instead. I could’ve melted it to keep things simple, but wasn’t sure if that would leave me with the same texture I was trying to avoid, so I creamed it together with some sugar and hoped for the best. It smelled great and looked just fine coming out of the oven, so I was halfway there.

And then neither of the topping options sounded very good to me, so I whipped up a lemony cream cheese frosting that I thought would complement the cake. And it was tasty, but the cake’s texture was a little spongier than I like. But when I woke up the next morning, I gave it another try and was really happy to see that the cake had evolved overnight into something softer, almost pudding-like, probably the result of the humid weather we’re having. So I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe, especially if you like bright, lemon flavor without a lot of sweetness. Just wait a day for perfection.

And if you want it sweeter or tarter? Make a few substitutions. Why not? What’s the worst that could happen? (Not rhetorical; I’d really love to know. Leave a comment with any baking horror stories you’ve experienced, please!)

Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

Serves 6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Meal type Dessert

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature (plus extra for greasing pan)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup sweet white rice flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch (1 ounce)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (rounded)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (from 2-3 lemons)
  • 2 Large eggs (at room temperature)

For the icing

  • 4oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
  • pinch kosher salt

Note

This recipe was adapted from Serious Eats. I wanted a lighter textured cake than oil normally provides, plus a slightly sweeter base and tangy icing. I think I succeeded on all counts, and thank Serious Eats for the inspiration!

Directions

CAKE
Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with butter.
The the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until butter is light and airy.
In medium mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients — rice flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, and salt. In a measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, lemon zest and eggs.
With the mixer set to speed 3, add one-third of dry ingredients and mix until incorporated into butter. Add 1/3 of buttermilk mixture and mix until incorporated. Continue alternating dry ingredients with wet and mixing between additions until a batter is formed. Turn off mixer and scrape down the sides, then mix again for about 30 seconds.
Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow cake to cool to room temperature in pan.
ICING
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until it's light and fluffy.
Turn mixer to low and add remaining ingredients, mixing until incorporated fully into cream cheese.
With the cake still in the pan, frost with cream cheese mixture.

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Hi, everyone! It’s good to be back. We’ve celebrated a birthday and an anniversary since I last posted, but those milestones caused barely a blip on our radar, given the other major happenings in our lives. We had even greater cause to reflect on another journey around the sun when Gil left the job he’d held for 17 YEARS to form a trade association for a segment of advertisers in the magazine he edited. More than just needing a change as part of a (thankfully non-sleazy) mid-life crisis, this is his chance to build a new business from the ground up, so after a lot of talking, we decided he’d be crazy not to try. It means tightening our belts for a little while, but that’s ok.

So we’ve both been working from home. Hey, I heard that sharp inhalation and can practically see you wincing! But really, it’s been great. Gil’s been traveling a bit, so we haven’t had two straight weeks of each other yet, but even when he’s here, he’s at one end of the house and I’m at the other. So no, we aren’t sick of each other yet.

My big news isn’t nearly so momentous. I fully expected a freelance photography career to have its ups and downs, but it’s been mostly downs for a while now. I’m looking into a contract position doing photo production work for the summer so I can earn a steady paycheck and refill the coffers, but to get my business back on track, I registered for Marie Forleo’s B-School. It’s a big commitment, both monetarily and in time spent, but the course has nearly paid for itself already and I’m only three weeks in. And I’m learning SO MUCH. I’ve never pretended to have a head for business, but it’s been shocking to find out how much I didn’t know, and terrifically surprising to have fun learning about building a business.

I’ve gained a lot of clarity about the people I want to serve, too, and I was shocked to discover that it isn’t major food magazines. Of course, I’d still kill to shoot for them, but the clients I’ve truly loved working with over the past year and change have been small business owners and restaurateurs — people with whom I can form a relationship and really help by providing beautiful imagery, be it branding photos or simple product photography and styling.

Now that I’ve gotten clear about the WHO, I need to figure out the HOW. So I’ll put this call out to you. If you fit the bill — maybe you own a small restaurant or run a food-related business, or just need better product photos for your Etsy store — give me a shout. I’d love to talk to you about your goals and how I can help you achieve them.

You may notice a little change in my site design, too. As part of B-School, we’re encouraged to provide opt-ins on our websites that offer our readers things they need or want. I can’t quite figure out what that might be for Amy Roth Photo, so I thought it’d be best to begin here, at the blog that started it all for me. I’m going to start sending out a monthly newsletter featuring new gluten-free recipes, product photography, and special offers (though probably not all three each and every month). If you’d like to sign up, you can either go to the bottom of this post and look for a light blue box, go to the top of the Blog sidebar, or down to the footer. I tried to make it easy for you, PLUS there’s a special thank you for everyone once you’ve confirmed your registration.

I know all of this has nothing to do with that bit of beauty at the top of the page, so thank you for bearing with me while I got that off my chest. What you see up there is a celebratory apple tart I baked for Gil’s last day at the office. We decided not to do a big blow-out celebration because it was happening right in the middle of my birthday and our wedding anniversary and frankly eating out a third time in the space of a week and a half just didn’t sound that appealing.

WHO AM I?!

To make the tart, I started with my standard gluten-free tart crust from Elana’s Pantry, dusted it with ground cinnamon, then proceeded with the free-form apple tart instructions at Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn. My mandoline didn’t come out to play because I’ve grown attached to the skin on my knuckles, so the apples were a bit thicker than they should’ve been. It didn’t affect baking time or flavor, though, so don’t worry if you have the same issue.

The tart was rich and buttery-tasting from the almond flour, but totally vegan. It wasn’t very sweet, so you could eat a large piece and not feel like you needed a nap, but it was still sweet enough to feel like a treat with afternoon tea. All in all, a great recipe for a quick dessert. I’d imagine it’d be wonderful with a dollop of pastry cream or whipped cream, but that experiment will come later.

For now, I’ll be working on B-School and planning a bigger work life.

The Christmas That Went All Pear-Shaped

Hi everyone, I hope you’re enjoying the holidays! Do you have exciting plans for the new year, or perhaps for New Year’s Eve? Because Gil and I are antisocial, we’ll be dining at our favorite local-ish restaurant — Café Matisse — instead of going to a party. And because we’re old and geeky, our reservation is bordering on Early Bird Special territory so we can be home early enough to watch at least the first installment of the LOTR trilogy. (Tradition must be given priority, after all.)

For Christmas, we visited my family in Louisiana, though Gil’s visit was cut short when Ru and Otis got sick. The boys are on the mend now, but we thought it would be unfair to burden our teenaged dog sitter with arse-spraying mayhem when she should be with her family, enjoying a day free of frequent walks and poop-stained carpet (I hope), so Gil flew home on Christmas Eve to tend to them. I know what you’re thinking: “How will Gil survive a full year without boudin?” amirite? But don’t worry, I ate his portion at the family party that evening, so as a couple, we’re covered till next Christmas.

In a stab at healthy eating, I also indulged in loads of fresh citrus from my Dad’s trees this year. I gloried in satsumas, mandarins, kumquats and grapefruit, and even fit a couple of Meyer lemons into my bulging carry-on. My distress at coming back to a fruit-scarce home was unnecessary because I returned to find huuuuge boxes of grapefruit, apples and pears sent by our friends in Florida!

So for the next week I’ll be sharing recipes for grapefruit, apples and pears just in case you lucked into similar bounty.

Gluten-Free Flaugnarde with Pears | Minimally Invasive

In honor of our pear-shaped Christmas, I thought I’d start with this indulgent breakfast recipe — Gluten-Free Flaugnarde with Pears. Though a cousin to the clafoutis and the Dutch baby pancake’s doppelganger, it tastes less eggy and doesn’t puff up quite so much in the oven. I made a few adjustments to the recipe, which I’ve detailed below, but even with the changes, Gil ate roughly 2/3 of the finished product, so I’m comfortable labeling it a complete success.

What were the highlights (or lowlights) of your holiday season?

Gluten-Free Flaugnarde with Pears adapted from Food & Wine

While adapting this recipe to make it gluten-free (with Cup4Cup flour), I winged a few other minor changes. There was no butter listed in the ingredients, so I took a page from the Dutch Baby rulebook and melted a tablespoon of unsalted butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet until the foam subsided, then poured in the batter. (I think I’ll skip this preheating step next time, as the crust was a little bit tough.) I swapped out dark rum for my homemade dark rum-based vanilla extract and liked the results, so I adjusted the amount of rum in the recipe and added regular vanilla extract for flavor. Then the pears cried out for a little cinnamon, so I sprinkled a small amount over the top before baking, but can see myself using a heavier hand next time around.  

3 large eggs
1 cup gluten-free flour blend
2 pinches of salt
1 cup warm milk
1/2 tablespoon dark rum
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 ripe medium Bartlett pears— peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Cinnamon, to taste

In a blender, combine the eggs, flour, salt, milk, rum and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes before proceeding with recipe.

Preheat the oven to 450°F and coat bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Pour the batter into the pan and arrange the pear slices on top. Dot with the remaining butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and remaining sugar and bake in the lower third of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and bake for 30 minutes longer, or until the flaugnarde is puffed and deeply golden.

Cookies! Get Your Cookies Right Here!

 

Though I normally don’t thrill to baking in quantity, The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap piqued my interest when I read about it on my friend Kasha’s Facebook page. The brainchild of Lindsay from Love & Olive Oil and Julie from The Little Kitchen, this event brings together bloggers from around the world to share cookies and support a worthwhile cause. After registering and paying a nominal fee, you receive the names of three bloggers and send each of them one dozen freshly baked cookies. In return, you receive one dozen cookies from three other bloggers.

How could anything go wrong? Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you how. Things can go wrong if you only skim the instructions then start baking weeks later without returning to them. If I’d reread the instructions before diving in, I might have saved myself a bit of time and a lot of trouble, but then three bloggers wouldn’t have received THREE DOZEN gluten-free cookies each. But it’s the season of giving, and I hope Sara from And a Little Chaos, Jackie from La Casa de Sweets and Jennifer from Nibbles ’n Bites are enjoying the cookies as much as I enjoyed baking them!

As you can imagine, all of this baking really put the damper on my already-minuscule sweet tooth, but I really did love all of the gluten-free cookies I received: Oatmeal Toffee Cookies from Andrea of Delicious by Dre, Classic Soft & Fluffy Sugar Cookies by Ariana of Ari’s Menu and Spicy Gingerbread Cookies by Heather at A Sweet Simple Life.

But on to my entries! Spicy molasses cookies and oatmeal cookies are always duking it out for my favorite cookie, so I thought I’d send both. With the help of this brilliant post at Gluten-Free Goddess, I managed to substitute flours pretty heavily for the molasses cookie and they turned out GREAT; the flavor was just what I was looking for and the texture was spot-on — not overly soft, as you’d expect from a gluten-free cookie.

GF Molasses Spice Cookies | Minimally Invasive

For an oatmeal cookie that would stand up to shipping, I made Oatmeal Lace Cookies adulterated with loads of spices.

GF Oatmeal Lace Cookies | Minimally Invasive

And you didn’t think you’d get out of this holiday season without another tweaked version of my Pecan Macaroons, did you? I added some coconut flour to bind the ingredients together and hopefully keep them in one piece during shipping.

Pecan Macaroons | Minimally Invasive

But that’s not all! Once I realized my mistake, I went COMPLETELY overboard, figuring I might as well bake more and turn it into something special for the holidays since I’m not doing my annual Advent Calendar this year. Instead, I’m debuting an online magazine called Savory & Sweet! Check it out here or click the picture below for the three recipes from the cookie swap, plus several more. And let me know what you think. I’ve been a little bored with the standard blogging format, as you might be able to tell from my infrequent posts, so I’m considering putting out one of these online magazines every quarter or maybe even every month.

Savory & Sweet | Minimally Invasive

The cookie swap was a success, by the way. We raised over $13,000 for the charity Cookies for Kids’ Cancer! If you’re interested in participating next year, sign up here for updates.

Molasses Spice Cookies adapted from Recipe Girl

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp teff flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon psyllium husk
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark molasses
additional sugar for rolling

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (teff flour through salt).

Melt butter in medium saucepan over moderate heat until foam subsides, then lower heat and swirl butter in pan until milk solids turn light brown and smell nutty.

Combine butter and sugar in a stand mixer set to low. Increase speed by one level and blend in molasses, then egg. Add dry ingredients a little at a time until well blended. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least four hours or up to three days.

Preheat oven to 350°F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a melon baller, scoop out a spoonful of the dough, roll it into a ball, then roll it in the additional sugar. Place dough balls about three inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are set and starting to crackle on top. Cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Oatmeal Lace Cookies adapted from Hippo Flambe

2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 cup sweet white rice flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over moderate heat until foam subsides, then lower heat and swirl butter in pan until milk solids turn light brown and smell nutty. Stir in brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt. oats, flour and and spices until well mixed. Turn off heat and add egg, stirring well until batter is thoroughly combined.

Drop batter onto baking sheets in two teaspoon increments. Leave at least two inches of space between cookies, as they’ll spread in the oven. Use the back of your teaspoon to flatten each cookie into a two-inch round.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, rotating trays halfway through baking, until cookies are browned and set.

Cool cookies on baking sheet, or cool for five minutes then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Pecan Macaroons

1/4 cup organic palm sugar, packed
1 large egg white
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, preferably homemade
Pinch of coarse salt
1 teaspoon coconut flour
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Whisk together sugar and egg white in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients and allow mixture to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Form dough into sixteen 1-tablespoon mounds and drop each onto sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake macaroons until golden-brown on bottoms and edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

To finish, using a spoon, drizzle melted chocolate over cooled macaroons. Macaroons will keep, covered, for up to one week.

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Almond Bites

Sugary, almond-y, and the perfect little bites when you want a nibble, not a full-blown dessert.

Course: Dessert
Ingredients
  • 1 cup almond paste
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups finely ground almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 egg whites, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • slivered almonds
  • powdered sugar, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. In a stand mixer set to low, mix almond paste and sugar until ingredients start to combine. Increase speed by one or two levels until ingredients are well mixed. Reduce speed, add almond flour and salt, mixing again until thoroughly combined.

  3. Add egg whites, jam and almond extract, and beat at medium speed until a wet dough is formed. It will be very sticky.

  4. Scoop out a level tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball between your palms. Place dough on prepared baking sheet and continue with remaining dough, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between cookies.

  5. Top each cookie with a pinch of sliced almond, pressing almonds down into the cookie until cookie flattens into a disc about 1 1/2 inches wide.

  6. Bake at 300°F for 25-30 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets.

  7. Dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar if desired. Store in a closed container at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

This recipe calls for finely ground almond flour. Brands I've used and can recommend include JK Gourmet, Wellbee's and Honeyville. Whatever brand you use, just be sure the flour is finely ground, as this recipe will not work with almond meal.

Pop-Tarts for All You Adults Out There

Concord Grapes | Minimally Invasive

There’s something about Concord grapes that makes my toes curl. Until a few years ago, my only experience with them was in the form of Welch’s Grape Jelly, and I’ll admit that whenever I pop a Concord grape into my mouth, memories of Welch’s spread on buttered, crustless bread (thank you, Maw-Maw) come flooding back. I tried my hand at a grape focaccia a couple of times with decent results, but I wanted to focus on something more obviously dessert-y this time and ended up with hand pies and a LOT of leftover jam.

I won’t lie — making grape jam from scratch is a big pain in the ass because you have to pop the grapes from their skins, cook the pulp, then remove the seeds, but it’s worth the trouble (and the purple-stained fingers if you forget to wear gloves). Sweet, tangy and dusky all at once, it bears little resemblance to industrialized jelly and is just the thing to set off a flaky, buttery crust. Get the jam recipe at Apt. 2B Baking Co.

Fraisage | Minimally Invasive

I read about the promise of a flaky, buttery and gluten-free pie crust at the new-to-me blog The Bojon Gourmet and couldn’t wait to get started. It uses a manageable blend of gluten-free flours, lots of butter, and the fraisage method of bringing the dough together to produce an extra-flaky crust. It’s pretty easy, too — you simply scrape your hand across a small portion of the dough on the board, then use a bench scraper to lift it into a bowl. Sure, your hands get a little messy, but when you’re making pie crust, you’re already committed to dough-covered hands, so what’s a slightly bigger mess? I didn’t try the crust without the fraisage method, so I can’t say how the two compare, but this was terrifically flaky, so there’s that. Read all about it at The Bojon Gourmet.

Gluten-Free Pie Crust | Minimally Invasive

FRAISAGE!

Hand Pie Assembly | Minimally Invasive

After it chilled in the refrigerator for a while, I rolled out the dough on a well-floured board with my well-floured hands and rolling pin and got to work crafting hand pies! I made mine about 3 1/2″ x 5″ and found them a little large to eat in one sitting. I’ll go smaller next time so I won’t have to wait for Gil to get home to share. A dollop of jam, some egg wash along the edges to seal the top and bottom layers, a quick crimp with a fork, and the pies were nearly ready to bake.

Concord Grape Hand Pies | Minimally Invasive

With the extra bits of dough, I made one goofy-looking sample pie (in the upper-right corner of the photo above) and some little dough balls which became a decorative cluster of grapes on the top of each pie (if you squint and use your imagination). That step wasn’t necessary at all, but if you’re making hand pies with multiple fillings, this would be a great way to differentiate the pies. After they were all sealed and decorated, I gave them one more quick brush with the egg wash before baking at 400°F for about 30 minutes. I didn’t want any extra sweetness, but if you do, you can sprinkle the tops of the pies with sugar before baking.

Baked Hand Pies | Minimally Invasive

Fresh from the oven.

Grape Hand Pie | Minimally Invasive

And that first bite…mmmm… They were tender, flaky and ever so slightly crunchy on the edges, with a hit of grape jelly that reminded me of a grown-up version of Pop Tarts in the very best way. It’s a bit of an undertaking, but we happily ate these for several days before vowing to lay off desserts for a while. It’s the natural order of things — indulge, repent, repeat.

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Amy Roth Photo

I also wanted to share my new portfolio/shop site at Amy Roth Photo with you! Until now, I’ve had a couple of portfolios in different places plus a shop on Etsy, but it all got to be too fractured for my taste, so I drank the Squarespace Kool-Aid this week and set up a new site where all of the disparate elements are integrated! I couldn’t be happier with the Squarespace experience, and managed to set this up in only one day, which, if you’ve ever set up a new website, you’ll recognize as practically unheard-of.

So now the PORTFOLIO and SHOP links at the top of Minimally Invasive point to Amy Roth Photo. Check it out and let me know what you think! I still have a little tweaking to do here and there, but it’s already miles better than what I had previously.

The shop has listings of food, nature, travel and pet photo prints, which I can now offer at different sizes. There’s also a growing digital download section, currently with nature-inspired background textures to use in your digital designs, but soon will have patterns to use in crafting, design or for printing, and holiday card designs that you can print yourself.

To celebrate the launch, I’m offering 20% off all shop orders over $20 (in other words, a sale on prints) through Sunday evening! Just use the code 20OFF at checkout.

One of Us! One of Us!

I’m generally immune to the pumpkin-washed hysteria that grips the popular imagination this time of year. I figure there’s plenty of time for that sort of thing before we see pretty, leafy produce again next spring. Plus, it’s just kinda gross. (I’m looking right at you, pumpkin-flavored coffee.) But our days have been unseasonably cool and I had a delicious roasted ambercup squash for breakfast yesterday, so I felt primed for a little pumpkin dessert. It’s ok, right? I mean, it is October and you do need to know about these before your fall baking gets underway…

I picked up a couple of doughnut pans for baking last year, but the recipes weren’t quite right, so I never shared them here. The larger pan functioned very well, honestly, despite the flavorless batter I filled it with. Actually, the mini doughnut pan worked well, too, but I just don’t have the patience to deal with something so precious for such a minimal output. YMMV. But this outing was a success thanks to this recipe for Gluten-Free Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts from Serious Eats (with just a few minor changes). I gave up on baking with gums a while ago and use ground psyllium husks now, instead. Just a pinch is what the Gluten-Free Girl recommends for this type of baking and it gave me an absolutely perfect result. I brushed the pan with melted coconut oil and used the same in place of the vegetable oil. I wasn’t in the mood for coconut flavor, so I used the organic expeller-pressed stuff from Tropical Traditions, but I’d be curious to see how the flavorful virgin coconut oil works out next time. Because there will be a next time, only with a little more pumpkin spice in the mix. Just a smidge, though. This recipe doesn’t need much noodling.

So forgive the pumpkin post, if you’re not ready for it just yet. But I HAD TO. Now, would it be a terrible thing to have two of these in one day? I suppose I could exercise to make up for it…

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Doughnuts Stack | Minimally Invasive

Field to Feast: Paleo Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Go on, treat yourself to a slice of chocolate zucchini bread with your morning coffee. I won’t tell.

As ever, the recipe from Elana’s Pantry is perfect — moist, rich and delicious. I doubled the recipe and baked it in a regular-sized loaf pan, so that’s probably why it fell in the center, but the flavor was unaffected. And for a dessert as unassuming as zucchini bread, imperfection just adds to the charm, don’t you think?

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Have you read Kasha’s great recap of our Field to Feast posts yet? No? Well, grab another slice of zucchini bread and hop on over