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.