Gluten Free Monkey Bread

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With our little family being on our own for so many years, we developed Christmas traditions to fill the void that would normally be filled by the bustle of  family gatherings. Our traditions are activity based, and certain foods we enjoy every year. When the children were little, Christmas Eve consisted of Ham, scalloped potatoes and a green veggie, all foods easily popped in the oven to bake while we were at church. After dinner, we made traditional Christmas Eve phone calls to out of state Grandparents and relatives. The girls opened the gifts relatives had sent while on the phone, so that the relatives were able to share in the joy despite the distance. Once all the calls were made and well wishes given, the girls opened their annual Christmas PJ’s. While the girls changed, I would make a batch of homemade hot cocoa to be poured into Santa mugs, while dad warmed up the car. Once ready, we piled into the car and drove around the neighborhoods, enjoying the Christmas light displays. This was immediately followed by checking Norad’s Santa Tracker, setting out Santa’s cookies, and finally little ones tucked into bed.

Christmas morning was a continuation of traditions. Trying to beat the girls awake, I would stumble down blurry-eyed to get breakfast/brunch going. In between mixing and baking time, with coffee in hand, presents were opened. Breakfast was served. Messes cleaned up. Then we host an Open House for our local friends. While our friends come and go, spreading and sharing cheer, Big Man tends the Roast Beast.

For many years I made the same Christmas Brunch starting with a yummy Apple-Ginger Strudel Bundt cake, Quiche Lorraine (made with leftover ham from Christmas Eve), fresh Fruit Salad and Steamed Asparagus. However, with the diagnosis of gluten intolerance in the girls, I decided to change things up with a Gluten Free Monkey Bread. Monkey Bread on Christmas morning has become a welcome new tradition. Nothing says warm, cozy, yumminess than bread dredged and baked in buttery cinnamon sweetness. Along with this, I serve a crustless quiche and simple fruit salad. It’s a great way to start the day. Give it a try and tell me what you think.

Gluten Free Monkey Bread

1.5 cups Brown Rice Flour
2 cups Tapioca Starch
1/2 cup Sorghum Flour
1 tbsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Baking Powder
4 oz (1 cube) Unsalted Butter, Frozen
1 cup Water + 1 cup Whole Milk or Almond Milk. (You may not need it all- read Step 3)
1 large Egg

Dough Dredge

1 cup Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
4 oz Butter, melted. (1 stick-use regular salted butter- you may need more. better more than not enough!)
2 tsp Vanilla

Optional: Chopped Pecans

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
Lightly butter a 9 inch baking dish – such as a 9 in pie plate or 2 in deep casserole dish. I prefer round, but you can use a 9×9. (The photo above is made in a Bundt pan. While prettier for display, I have achieved better baking results with a pie dish, the dough cooks more evenly.)

To make the Dough:

1. Combine the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar, and xanthem gum in a large bowl.
2. Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour. If possible, use the smallest holes. Toss the dry ingredients as you go, coating the butter and mixing it well into the flours.
3. Mix the egg into 1.5 cups of the liquid, and add to the flour. Continue to add additional water until you get a dough that is soft, but firm enough to hold the shape of a ball. If your flours are dry, you might need more water. You want it to be the texture of a sweet bread dough. It needs to be firm enough to hold its shape, but moist enough to not turn out dry. It’s better to err on the side of moist.

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To Assemble:

1. Mix the white and brown sugars together with the cinnamon and put in a shallow bowl or pan.
2. Melt the butter, add the vanilla and put in a shallow bowl or pan.
3. Roll the dough into balls that are about 1.5 inches in diameter. The balls should be smaller than the length of your thumb. My technique is this: With my right hand, I use my fingertips to grab a small ball of dough. I use that hand to drop into the butter. I then flip the ball, and on the palm of my left hand, shape it into a ball. Then, still with my right hand, I drop the ball into the sugar. Using my left hand I toss the balls in the sugar and lay in the pan. This will prevent ‘club hand’, as they put it in the cooking realm.

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4. Dredge the rolls in the Vanilla/Butter mixture, then roll in the Cinnamon-Sugar mixture. Scatter the balls evenly in the pan, laying them so the the next layer fits into the empty spaces of the first. They should be nestled like loosely linked puzzle pieces. If you run out of sugar or butter, just make some more and continue.

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5. If there is any leftover sugar, butter, or if using pecans, sprinkle over the top.

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6. Place on a rack in the center of your oven and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. You will need to check it at 20 mins, but it might take up to 30 minutes to be fully cooked. You do not want it doughy.
7. Let rest for about 5 minutes, then turn over on to a serving platter.

Note: If you decide to give this a try, please leave me feedback in the comments. I am going to bake a trial run this year modifying the recipe with Pamelas Artisan Flour, the same one I use successful for my GF Scones. If it improves the taste/texture, I’ll be sure to modify this post.


Black Friday – Avoided

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and all is quiet in the house. And while I love Thanksgiving Day, I love the day after even more. I get to sit in my sweats reading the news or a book. The kids are home, usually sleeping in till noon. Hubby walks the dogs for me. There are plenty of leftovers, so no real cooking effort needs to be made.

Yes, it is the perfect calm before the storm: The storm of festive flurry we call Christmas.

Thanksgiving has a gentle lead up to it. Mother nature does her part, slowing the cycle of life to a dormant state of rest. Plants and animals alike preferring to sleep through winter, to be awakened by springs breath, tickling them to awake. One is busy through Halloween, preparing ourselves for this time of ‘wintering over’. So, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, attention can be focused on giving thanks, untouched by the other distractions so prevalent in spring and summer.

Thanksgiving is the time of year families turn inward, reconnecting and cherishing each others presence. It is the time of year we seek out those who might not have the blessing of genetically related family, extending the hand of familial friendship, embracing new connections and relationships so that hopefully no one unwillingly spends the day alone. In our home, with the exception of my brother (who drives the long 4 hours in traffic) we don’t have our own extended family nearby. Instead, we have been blessed with amazing family friends with whom we have created our own traditions, and break bread with. Some years our little family has shared the occasion with three or four families, house bursting to the seams with laughter, conversation and joy. Some years it has been quiet and cozy, shared with one other couple or my brother, an emphasis on comfort and intimacy. All have been wonderful and wonderfully different.

When Thanksgiving Day is over, it’s the perfect time for me to pause before mentally and physically gearing up for the chaos that todays culture has created, Christmas. We all try not to get caught up in a ‘keep up with the Jones’ attitude towards Christmas; but many of us have traditions we wish to keep. The result can be a self imposed pressure to fit all that we have individually defined as ‘Christmas Spirit’ into the Christmas season. Ideally, we spread the ‘reason for the season’ throughout the year. But let’s be honest, it is at least nice to have a time of year were we are encouraged and motivated by society and culture to be intentionally giving and sharing.

And so we come back to Black Friday, a nightmare of consumerism, resulting all too often in the most base of behavior. It’s hard for me to fathom the very people who were sharing their time and table one day, embracing the concept of Thanksgiving, are the very same people mowing down their fellow man/woman in a mad rush to be the first at the bargain table the very next day. For those who work this day, I thank you for your patience and service. It can’t be easy to work on Black Friday, but with the demand for the stores to be open, someone must be there to open the doors and ring the cash registers. And ring they do.

I’ll leave the thrill of the sale to others. I am going to sit here with my steaming cup of coffee and give a pass to the madness. As I read the headlines of the morning, history has been a good indicator of the present. I am reminded of an appropriate metaphor: Don’t feed the beast. So, I won’t. Instead, I think I’ll make a leftover turkey sandwich and be very thankful I am home.

 


Gluten Free Thanksgiving Dressing ( Grandma Nettie’s Stuffing)

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***Update: After putting my own bread in this morning, I am re-adjusting the temp to 250 and will recommend you check every 10 minutes for up to 40 minutes. Mine took 40 minutes, which hubby dutifully tended while I hit the grocery stores. DAB the bread cubes with butter, you’re not soaking here. Just adding a layer of flavor and encouraging normally difficult GF bread to dry out crispy, intact and give something for the herbs to stick to. I am including photos I took as I prepared the croutons and the mix. Hopefully tomorrow I can post a better picture than the one above! Check recipe again for any additional tips, tricks and modifications.****

This was the stuffing recipe handed down to me from my mother, who has since passed away. For many years, I stuffed the turkey with the very same version, only it was normal bread croutons, Pepperidge Farms Herbed Dressing to be exact.

With the discovery of my daughters gluten intolerance, I’ve had to come up with an alternative. Due to the nature of GF breads, it would turn to mush inside the bird, so, I have created a dressing version instead. (Dressing is what it is called when not baked inside the bird)

You can use Udi’s bread for this recipe, but I highly recommend ‘Goodbye Gluten’. It’s shelf stable and the texture is incredibly good, and the resulting dressing is light instead of dense. I use both whole grain and white for color and texture. This dish is such a favorite in our household, that I have actually taken it with me on the occasion we were invited to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving. I cannot imagine Thanksgiving without it! Here, we call it “Grandma Nettie’s Stuffing”. You’ll just call it DELISH! (Read the recipe all the way to the end before tackling. You can put questions in the comment section below!)

Grandma Netties Stuffing

3/4 loaf Goodbye Gluten white bread, cubed, 1/2 inch (crusts removed is optional. if you remove crusts, use the entire loaf, leaving out the loaf end pieces)

3/4 loaf Goodbye Gluten whole grain bread, cubed, 1/2 inch (ditto above comment)

2 cubes butter, 1 cube melted

1 tsp herbs de provence or an italian mix

1 med-large onion, chopped small dice

3-4 stalks celery, small dice

1 pound breakfast sausage (check for gluten if making GF)

1 can water chestnuts, diced (yes, water chestnuts. Trust me!)

1 tsp dried sage, or 1 tbsp chopped fresh (optional, we like ours with a good dose of sage)

1-3 cups warmed Homemade Turkey Stock (or good quality, low-sodium Chicken Stock)

extra melted butter for basting, and extra stock for adding moisture if needed.
Heat oven to 250 degrees. Lay the bread cubes out on sheet pans and gently brush with 1/3-1/2cup of the melted butter.
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Season with salt. (I use my silpat for easy cleanup) Sprinkle with the Herbs de Provence
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and bake until the cubes are dried out and crisp. Stir a couple of times, so that all sides are exposed to the heat. This may take between 20-40 minutes, depending upon the moistness of your bread. (I have done this up to a week in advance, freezing them in a ziploc freezer bag and defrosting on a sheet pan when needed.) Let cool.
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Cook sausage in a large skillet, till no longer pink. Remove from pan, wipe skillet with a paper towel and add butter to melt. Add onions and celery and cook on medium heat until tender, but still a bit crisp. Add back the sausage and the diced water chestnuts. (This step can also be done up to 3-4 days in advance, refrigerating and rewarming to melt the butter prior to assembly)
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When ready to bake, toss the warm sausage mixture with the bread cubes and sage, gently, until evenly combined. Add the turkey stock until the mixture looks moist, but not wet. This is going to take some eyeballing, just remember, you can always add more stock for moisture. You most definitely do not want a soggy mess, err on the side of caution. Start with 1 cup of stock, adding 1/2 cup increments until it absorbs some of the liquid, but are still fully intact.
Pour this mixture into your casserole dish or desired baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. The first photo is a 9×13 pyrex dish, but I doubled the recipe for this. Baste frequently with additional melted butter, and stock if needed. Your goal here is for the top to become buttery/crunchy/golden and the underneath to be moist, tender and yet still fluffy. You can check the progress with a fork, gently lifting the top layer to get a gauge on how the bottom layer is doing. When the underneath steams and the top is browned, it’s done.
If you are looking for a traditional tasting stuffing that is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters, you can’t go wrong with this one. If you try it this year, or at any time, let me know what you think!
POSTNOTES:
– I wrote this recipe in this format, so that it feels like I am in the kitchen with you, walking you through the steps.
– It sounds vastly more complicated than it actually is.
– This recipe is also very flexible: If you hate sage, omit sage. If you want to trim some of the fat, cut the butter by half and drain the sausage. We don’t, because I eat this once a year and we like it just exactly this way, plus I limit how much I take. Portion control!
– You can up the ingredients to suit your taste. I believe in the photo, I used a pound and a half of sausage. What can I say? Pork and pork fat rules.
– You can make this dressing with regular old bread cubes from the bag (which I did for decades) using the liquid portions listed on the package.
– For leftovers we always, and I mean ALWAYS have a turkey sandwich on white ‘bread’ with thick slices of turkey, mayo, cranberry sauce and stuffing. It honestly makes for the BEST sandwich ever, and as I said above, it’s a sandwich I eat once a year, so I allow myself the indulgence.
– I apologize for the anemically yellow photo of the finished dish. One of my goals this Thanksgiving is to pick my brothers brain on ways to achieve better pictures. He is a photographer, and obviously I am not. My trusty iPhone has served me well on my Facebook cooking page, but it’s time to step up my game!