Meyer Lemon Lavender Bars (grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)

It really is grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free!

It really is grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free!

This post is a year in the making.  I am so happy to finally have the recipe to share with you.  Toiling with this is one of those things that you really can only do one change at a time to know exactly what isn’t right in the final product.  Last week when I wasthisclosetoit, I had too much agar agar in it and it was more thick gelatin-like than gooey thick like a lemon bar should be.  It was good, but not great.  Yesterday, I ate a second piece right after the first piece.  The last few days have been rough, so hitting jackpot was a big bright spot for me.  Good things can always happen when you let them.

My first trials with this was to make it egg-free before I was even egg-free.  Then I decided to go back to using eggs and for some reason I was still having problems.  Now that I’m egg-free and Meyer Lemons are abundant in stores, I decided it was time to go back to the first trials.  I use agar agar because it will keep things clear and with most foods when trying to get it to thicken, you don’t need to cook it.  Bonus, it has a nice protein content.

The crust is a press in crust, but you need to use pie weights or dried beans when baking it.  Someone forgot to do it this time around.  *looks around whistling*  You also want to bake it completely because once you add the filling it doesn’t go back in the oven.  Also, my final product is fairly tart since I’m using raw local honey.  You can use palm sugar, but the filling will be a darker amber.  If you still use white sugar, you could use that, too.  Just make sure you taste the filling before adding the agar agar to make sure the filling is at your sweetness level.

This calls for some waiting.  The filling starts to thicken as it cools and it can take an hour or more for it to get thick enough to add the lavender. It will set quicker once it’s in the pan.  Also, I dusted the top with homemade powdered sugar.  The filling sucked it up really fast, but it did give balance to the tartness.

Meyer Lemon Lavender Bars – 9 servings

1 1/2 cups almond flour (I use Honeyville)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup palm shortening (I use Spectrum)

1-2 Tablespoons chilled filtered water

Juice of 6 Meyer Lemons (should yield 2/3 – 3/4 cup), pulp and seeds strained out

1 cup filtered water

1/2 cup raw local honey or palm sugar

1 Tablespoon agar agar powder

1 teaspoon lavender

2 Tablespoons palm sugar

1/2 teaspoon arrowroot.

Preheat oven to 350.  You can grease an 8×8 pan, but I didn’t and nothing stuck to it.  I use a glass pan.  In a medium bowl whisk together almond flour and salt.  Cut in palm shortening with a pastry blender or two knifes until you have coarse crumbs.  Add in a tablespoon of water and stir together.  Add more water a little at a time if it is not forming a big ball of dough.  It will look almost like regular pastry dough, but will feel stickier.  Dump the dough out into your pan and press firmly into the bottom, spreading it out as evenly as possible.  Cover with parchment and weigh it down with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 30 minutes and set aside to cool.  Combine Meyer lemon juice, water, and honey or sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil while whisking together well.  Whisk in agar agar powder well.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Check every 15 minutes or so and whisk.  Once it starts to thicken enough to suspend the lavender, whisk in the lavender.  Pour into the pan and let it finish setting.  Before serving dust with powdered sugar or unrefined powdered sugar.  To make the unrefined powdered sugar add palm sugar and arrowroot starch to a coffee/spice grinder and grind until the sugar is a fine powder.

This post is linked to Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs; at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free; and Gluten-Free Wednesdays at The Gluten-Free Homemaker.

Oy! Who Threw Up On The Lefse?

Gluten-free, dairy-free lefse

One of the best things about Christmas back in Hawai`i is that Auntie Jude (my mother’s middle sister) and her family moved there the same time I moved back.  Uncle Jag (I’m so naming him as he was a JAG lawyer and judge) was fortunate enough to get stationed there after having been stationed in Manila.  This means I got to be around all my cousins.  It also meant Granny, Papa, and Auntie Boogie traveling to Hawai`i every other year for Christmas.  I also got to partake in the Halvorson family traditions.

One of the traditions I enjoyed was Christmas Eve dinner.  Meatballs, lefse, and mashed rutabagas.  Did I mention that Uncle Jag is Norwegian?  My cousins taught me to butter the lefse, sprinkling it with sugar, then roll it up to eat.  I loved it.  And the meatballs.  And the mashed rutabagas.

Granny requested a Thompson family Christmas in 2000.  Chaz and I flew out to Tustin for a week to be with my mother’s side of the family.  Now, Auntie Boogie loves giving gag gifts and Dad is a bit slow in processing jokes.  That year, she gave Uncle Jag a book of Norwegian jokes.  Uncle had to do the flip through and read out some jokes for all of us to enjoy.  One of them was about Oleg seeing a pizza for the first time and saying, “Oy! Who threw up on the lefse?”  We had a great laugh with that one.  Except for Dad.  He didn’t get it.  Until 10 minutes later when the joke book was laid aside and we were back to unwrapping presents.

In the midst of the sound of paper being torn we hear Dad start to laugh and say, “Oy! Who threw up on the lefse?”  He was laughing so hard that he took his glasses off, was pinching his nose and starting to double over in his chair, looking like he was about to fall on the floor.  Yep.  That’s my Dad.  We’re always on to the next thing when he finally gets the joke.  My brother, sisters and I used to tease him relentlessly about his lack of quick wits.  I really don’t know where we got it from.  These days I wonder if his slow processing of jokes has to do with English being his second language.

But I digress.  This post is about lefse.

Auntie Jude gave me the recipe for the lefse and the Christmas Eve meatballs some time ago so I could make them myself.  However, since moving to the South/Mid-West, we’ve always been with Chaz’s family on Christmas Eve and Christmas.  So, I’ve never been able to make them for Christmas Eve dinner.

I started thinking about it last week after my successful conversion of Amaretto Bread.  Along with Grandma Brown’s (Stick’s grandmother) Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I figured why not give it a go?  Worse thing that could happen is they are inedible and I end up quickly fixing another side to go with dinner.  Right?  Right.

I made roasted butternut squash instead of rutabagas to give the plate a little color

The lefse was a little time-consuming, but I was able to prep the veggies and get them in the oven while I was cooking the lefse.  Since I don’t have a special lefse rolling pin (they have grooves in them) and my marble rolling pin is way too heavy, I used a glass to roll them out.  I noticed that the thinner I got them, the more pliable they were.  They were also better that night than they were the next day since they are best at room temperature.  They were still good the next day, just dry.  And for some reason I was thinking we used cinnamon on it when we added the butter and sugar.  So my first test I buttered it and used just cinnamon.  I hate to admit it, but the sugar makes it.  Thankfully, I used palm sugar, and just a hint to give it a tiny bite of sweetness.  I will be making it again, but just half of this recipe so I don’t have a bunch of lefse leftover.  Best thing, the dough doesn’t stick to your hands like other gluten-free doughs.  You know those doughs I’m talking about.  The kind where half the dough sticks to your hand while trying to get it on the baking pan.

Lefse (gluten-free, dairy-free)

3 cups mashed russet potatoes at room temperature (do not refrigerate or dough will be sticky)

3 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon palm sugar

2 tablespoons Spectrum palm shortening

1-2 tablespoons So Delicious Coconut Creamer

Earth Balance soy-free butter (optional)

palm sugar (optional)

cinnamon (optional)

Combine ingredients except creamer with your fingers.  Add cream 1 tablespoon at a time.  Just enough to hold the dough together and not make it sticky.  The dough should have the consistency of play dough.  Roll out dough 2 tablespoons at a time between two pieces of parchment paper using a lefse rolling pin, another small rolling pin or a glass.  Bake lightly on a medium hot griddle or flat pan.  You want it lightly browned on each side.  Let cool on a rack lined with paper or cloth towels.  Serve at room temperature with dairy-free butter, palm sugar and cinnamon.


Amaretto Bread

Gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free Amaretto Bread

One of the things that speak Christmas to me is Amaretto Bread.  Auntie Boogie used to make it in mini-loaves and give them out to friends and family around Christmas every year.  When I moved out on my own and finally had a place with an oven, she gave me the recipe for her Amaretto Bread.  I then became the Amaretto Bread maker amongst my circle of friends and family, and later on, in Chaz’s circle.

I refrained from making it 2 years ago when I radically changed my diet.  Then, after going gluten-free I really didn’t have a clue about how to bake gluten-free other than following a recipe.  I’m more adept at converting main and side dishes to gluten-free, than I am at converting baked goods.  This year, I’m more clued in.  After following so many other recipes, I feel more comfortable with gluten-free baking.  I mean, I finally made apple pie for Thanksgiving.  That was huge!  At least in my little world.  So, Shirley posted her recipe on Facebook for Perfect Pound Cake.  I instantly thought of Amaretto Bread since I had been thinking about it recently.  The wheels really started turning and I printed off the recipe and placed it next to Auntie Carol’s recipe for Amaretto Bread.  My intention was to use Shirley’s recipe as inspiration and a jumping off point to make Amaretto Bread.  The more I looked at the 2, the more I asked myself, why complicate it with making an entirely new recipe?  Her recipe did serve as inspiration, but I did not use it at all in converting my recipe.  I simply took the original recipe for Amaretto Bread, made a couple of substitutions to make it gluten-free and dairy-free, and also added some xanthan gum. 

While I am not part of the Home for the Holidays series that Shirley started in late November, she did say I could use the little picture for this post since it is a holiday treat and other bloggers are doing the same who could not take part.  If you haven’t seen my links for the posts on Facebook or Twitter, go to the link I provided and check them out.  Everyone has shared spectacular recipes.  Did I mention the giveaways?  There are giveaways galore going on so make sure you enter for the ones that are active.

On to the recipe.  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but the gluten-free, dairy-free Amaretto Bread tastes just like the gluten-full, butter-full version.  It has the same texture, too.  The only thing different is the coloring is darker since I used palm sugar to make it refined sugar-free, too.  This will definitely reappear next year and help make me sane during retail madness.  Just goes to show that converting doesn’t have to be complicated.

Amaretto Bread – makes 6-8 mini-loaves or 2 loaves

8 eggs, separated

3 cups palm sugar

2 cups soy-free Earth Balance butter

3 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1/2 cup Amaretto

4 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract (I prefer almond)

1 cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease loaf pans.  Beat eggs whites until soft peaks form.  Add 1 cup palm sugar gradually and beat until stiff peaks form.  If stiff peaks don’t form, don’t worry, just beat until they are thick and brown.  It should look the same as if they were to form stiff peaks.  Set aside.  Cream butter with remaining sugar.  Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add xanthan gum.  Add flour in thirds, alternating with Amaretto.  Mix well.  Stir in extract and nuts.  Fold in egg whites gently.  Pour batter into pans and bake.  About 1 hour for regular sized loaves, 35 to 45 minutes for mini-loaves.  Toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaves will come out clean when done.