I love to bake and actually think I turn out some pretty good sweet treats. After I got settled in at my new job, I thought it would be nice to take something home-baked in for a Monday morning staff meeting. Then I found out that one of the ladies I work with is gluten intolerant and I just wouldn't bring a treat that couldn't be shared and enjoyed by everyone.
A few years back, my Mom sent me a wonderful cookbook called "The Cake Doctor" by Anne Byrn. The concept is to use mixes to create desserts that taste like they're made from scratch. It's awesome and if you've never tried her peanut butter frosting on a chocolate cake, you have no idea what you're missing! In fact, it's so amazing, I'm just going to go ahead and give you the recipe ...
Peanut Butter Frosting
from Anne Byrn in The Cake Doctor
(makes 3 cups, enough to frost a 2- or 3-layer cake or the top of a 13x9" sheet cake)
1 C. creamy peanut butter (I used chunky and it was still great)
8 T. (1 stick) butter at room temperature (unsalted)
2 C. confectioners' (powdered) sugar, sifted
3 to 4 T. milk
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Blend the peanut butter and butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy (30 seconds). Stop the machine. Add the confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons milk and the vanilla. Blend on low speed until the sugar is well combined (1 minute). Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting lightens and is fluffy (1 minute more). Blend in up to 1 tablespoon of milk if the frosting seems too stiff.
But back to gluten-free baking, I was at a bookstore for an author's event and book signing where I went on the search for a gluten-free cookbook. And, behold, I found another Anne Byrn cookbook, "The Cake Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free." Same concept, slightly different mixes.
At my local Fry's grocery store, I found Pamela's Products, all natural wheat-free and gluten-free mixes in the baking section. Granted, they are quite a bit more expensive than regular cake mixes (I think the cake mixes were $5.39 and the brownie mix was a little over $6.00), but if you're looking for something easy and gluten-free, this is a very good solution.
The first one I tried is Cran-Orange Muffins. I used an orange off my tree, cranberries I had frozen from the holidays and baked them in cupcake papers. Because my store did not carry the yellow cake mixes, I used a vanilla cake mix instead and got 23 cupcakes from the mix with additions ...
I was really worried that they just wouldn't taste good because, frankly, that's all I've ever heard about gluten-free products. In fact, they were moist and delicious. I do think the fresh squeezed orange juice, orange zest and bursting cranberries played a big part in the goodness of the finished muffins. Let me just say, they were a hit with everyone at the office.
Next up, I decided to bake gluten-free brownies for a Valentine's Day treat at work.
In addition to the brownie mix, egg, water, vegetable oil and a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter, I mixed in 6 ounces of mini chocolate chips and 2/3 cup of chopped walnuts. And they were really good! I mean really good! As with all baked goods, though, I believe in slightly under baking which keeps things moist.
We ate them for dessert at home with a scoop of peanut butter cup ice cream. At the office, they were excellent just plain. You'd never guess these were gluten-free ... just delicious!