Gluten Free Butterscotch Pumpkin Bread

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Fall finally gave way to the nudges of winter here in the arctic tundra. What better way to embrace the long, dreary winters here than to whip up a batch of tasty, moist, full of warming spices, gluten free quick bread? With my girls coming and going between college and work, its always nice to have a loaf on hand for them to a slice, grab and go. With the turning of the weather, I really wanted to be inspired by the fall/winter spices and comforting moisture of pumpkin. I modified a tried and true banana bread recipe given to me by my daughters Godmother, Auntie Barbara, who received it from her grandmother.

When my kids were born, we lived in a small neighborhood just on the outskirts of Portland. It was an older neighborhood with a wonderful mixture of small, entry level sized homes as well as some a bit larger and more established. We happened to one of the first families to move in as the neighborhood began to turn over. As a stay at home mom, I was blessed to have so many wonderful, loving retirees who absolutely doted on my children. That is how we met ‘Auntie’ Barbara and ‘Uncle’ Bruce. They took us under their wing, supported us, loved us and mentored us. They accepted the responsiblity to become my children’s GodParents. Every time I make this banana bread (which has been passed on to my own daughters) I reminisce over our shared times together. I think that is why I love to cook so much. I associate so many wonderful memories with food shared, the telling of the history behind precious recipes passed down, along with celebrations and holidays enjoyed. This recipe has sentimental meaning to me and my family. I hope that by making it, it will create wonderful memories of your own.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread
(this recipe is so simple, don’t over think it!)

1/2 cup Butter (unsalted) melted
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Pumpkin (plain pumpkin, NOT pie mix)

2 Eggs slightly beaten

2 cups Gluten Free Flour (i recommend Pamelas Artisan Flour)
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
Spices : 1.5 tsp Cinnamon; 1/2 tsp Nutmeg; 1/4 tsp Allspice; 1 tsp Ginger; optional:1/4 tsp clove

1/2 cup Hot Water

Handful of Butterscotch Chips. (Hershey’s is Gluten Free. Nestles is NOT!)

Preheat the over to 350 degrees if using a metal bread loaf pan, or 325 for glass. Grease the pan with cooking spray or butter.

Mix melted butter together with the sugar, stir in the pumpkin with a wooden spoon. Lightly beat your eggs, then add in to the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine.

Mix dry ingredients together alternately with the hot water. Stir just to combine. Pour into prepared bread loaf pan and sprinkle the top with butterscotch chips.

Bake 1 hour 15 minutes. Check at 1 hour and continue to bake until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. A few moist bits may cling but it should not be raw.

****In the original recipe, replace 3 mashed bananas for the pumpkin and eliminate the spices. Optional add-in are your favorite nuts.
*******The original recipe does not call for vanilla but you can add 1 tsp if desired.


Cinnamon Rolls: 1st Attempt

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This is my first attempt at trying to replicate my favorite cinnamon roll recipe, courtesy of Pioneer Woman.
Yes, they look yummy, but looks can be a bit deceiving.

In my opinion, these are way too dense. I used Pamela’s artisan flour, cut with a little of her bread flour. (thinking it would help with the structure and rising) I think next time I would stick to the Artisan flour, but if other GF bakers have suggestions I’d be more than thankful for advice! I also will let it rise twice as long to get some airiness in to it. There just has to be a way to make GF baked goods light and fluffy like flour. Being new to this, I’m still in the steep learning curve. 

Well, the results were less than desired perfection. I made a half batch, so at least I didn’t waste boatloads of expensive GF flour, thank goodness! 

I do have a confession to make, which might also attribute to the failure of the rolls, in my overly critical opinion. I will premise my confession with the fact that I cook only with olive oil and grapeseed oil. I feel those are about the only healthy oils we have to work with (other than dairy) and so while I buy olive oil by the gallon, I’ve had my small container of vegetable oil in the pantry for (obviously) a LONG time.
This recipe calls for veg oil, which, while tasting fine and smelling ok, must have been near going rancid. Being the super sniffer/taster in the family, no one else could taste it, but I could. 

Still, they really do look beautiful, don’t they?? It inspires me to try again. My youngest was so excited at the thought of cinnamon rolls. Oooey, Gooey, maple flavored, tender, fluffy, buttery cinnamon rolls. It’s so disappointing to let her down. But I don’t quit, so…….Wish me luck!


Macadamia Nut Butter Crunch Toffee – Updated

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(**Please note a 2014 update at the bottom)

My family has been munching on this since I made it earlier this week. It honestly is the most delicious, creamy, stick to your teeth, perfectly balanced toffee I’ve ever had. I seriously love this recipe for the compliments, faces of obvious enjoyment, and groans of gratitude it elicits.

I found this recipe years back. A friend of mine and I used to get together before Christmas for a number of years, and bake up treats in vast amounts to give to friends and ship to family. It was so much fun to share the chore, catch up on our busy lives, and celebrate a completed task with a bottle of wine. Some of our treats did not make the ‘repeat’ cut list, but this one has. I make it every single year now. Every. Single. Year. And no, I don’t gain a pound. (wink, wink)

Some tips and tricks for safety and success:

1. Anytime you are making candies, it is a good idea to have a bowl of ice water nearby in case some of hot liquid splashes on you. This stuff is cooked HOT and can do some serious damage to skin. Please, this is not a recipe for kids to be attempting, although, it’s fun to watch. (The boiling sugar looks like lava, even as an adult, I find myself mesmerized)

2. I use macadamia nuts. I prefer them over all other nuts as they lend just that slightly salty/creamy aspect that I personally feel balances perfectly with the toffee. You may use any other nut your prefer, or use no nuts. I know that macadamias are spendy, but it’s once a year, and it’s Christmas, so I splurge. Don’t skimp on the macadamia nuts. You’ll want all that creamy nutty goodness to shine through. I have tried off brands, but in my experience, Mauna Loa is a superior brand. (I am a macadamia nut snob….I fully confess)

3. You must have a candy thermometer for this. I know that there are the old fashioned ways to test by dropping a ball in to very cold water and ‘feeling’ it’s stage. In this case, we are looking for hard crack stage. I cook mine to exactly 300 degrees, and I’ve had great success. I consider myself still a novice in the candy making realm, but if you are a candy expert and can eyeball ‘hard crack’, my hat is off to you.

4. The original recipe calls for a chocolate layer, which is melted on the hot toffee as it cools. I skip the chocolate. Honestly? I think chocolate would be distracting to the simple purity of this toffee. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate.  But there are times it can overshadow the star and, this is one of those times. I’ll let you decide whether or not you want to add chocolate or not. If you do, take chopped chocolate and sprinkle on top of the freshly poured toffee and let sit. The heat of the toffee will melt the chocolate, then you can take an offset spatula and smooth it out.

5. Lastly, you will need a Silpat mat (silicone) or parchment paper. I invested in a Silpat years and years ago and it has been a loyal workhorse in my kitchen. If you don’t have one, its Christmas…..

Macadamia Nut Butter Crunch

1 lb butter. (I use regular old salted butter)(***See 2014 update below)
2 C sugar
1 tbsp LIGHT corn syrup
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts.
(8 oz chopped chocolate–as i’ve said, optional. I don’t use it)

Line a sheet pan, using the above tip. I use a sheet pan that restaurants use – Jelly Roll pans – they are rimmed. It keeps the toffee contained and reduces the mess!

Combine your butter, sugar, corn syrup in a heavy bottomed 4 quart sauce pan. You can use a non-stick pot for easier clean up. Get the butter melting first, then add the other two ingredients. Place over medium to high heat, stir with a wooden spoon and bring the mixture to a boil (*see note below), and reaches 300 degrees (hard crack stage) on a candy thermometer.

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Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in vanilla and nuts. (be careful, at this point it will bubble furiously!)

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Pour on to your silpat IMMEDIATELY, and help even it out towards the edges. The nuts can be a bit stubborn and want to clump. Try to do your best to even them out, but don’t sweat it if there are parts with no nuts. It’s still awesomely delish.

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Wait about 5 minutes for toffee to cool slightly. It should be still firm but not sticky. I say that because at this point, excess butter will likely break from the toffee. (**See 2014 update below ) No need to panic, simply blot up the excess with paper towels. Carefully test with your finger around 3 mins to see if it’s set or not. If the toffee is still too hot, blotting will end up with a ruined mess and the consumption of paper. At this point, after blotting, add your chocolate if you wish.

Let it cool until its firm, then crack and store in an airtight container. I layer it in between waxed paper in a ziploc bag or plastic food storage container. Stored at room temperature.

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*I am very careful when stirring to not slosh the sugar/butter mixture up on the sides of the pan. Sugar can be temperamental and you don’t want the toffee to end up sugary in texture, you want it creamy. So, to prevent the re-forming of crystals, once the butter is melted I give the mixture a gentle whisk, then I leave it alone.

***2014 Update:
This year I made this with Hope Creamery Unsalted Hi-Fat Butter. The results were amazing! Because the butter was unsalted, I added a hearty ‘pinch’ (about 1/2 tsp) of Himalayan salt while it was cooking. Using the Hi-Fat butter created a more glossy surface and the butter did NOT break out of the toffee, eliminating the whole blotting step. You can use a less expensive butter and this recipe will still yield great results. But if you really want to kick it up a notch, give the High Fat butter a whirl.
Note: The photo at the top is with traditional store brand butter. The lower photos (added this year) are with the new Hi-Fat butter. (There are other brands, Plugra is one) As you can see, there is a marked difference in the look. Its less grainy, the color richer and more glossy. That said…trust me. Both will be gone in the blink of an eye!