Bonnie Stern

I almost want to hide the fact that the theme of this post is “Gluten Free”

Let’s not get into a big debate about gluten hype. You all know I adore the stuff. But my daughter, who I love more than bread, has recently become (thanks to a nasty virus), gluten intolerant. We are all hoping it is temporary, but in the meantime, life, and a delicious one, must go on.

My baking adaptations have been…uneven. I have determined that the best two “all-purpose” gluten-free flours are Bob’s Red Mill BLUE LABEL (the red label one is pretty icky), and Maison Canelle All-Purpose.

So far, I can say that both flours can be used exactly as my regular wheat AP, and things turn out ok. Anything cakey is perfect the first day, but gets gritty if it sits around. Cookies are fine.

This week I have decided to make Gluten Free Hamentashen, Challah, and Sticky Toffee Cake. The cookies and cake are regular recipes, and the “Challah” is one specifically for Gluten Free flours.

I am intrigued to see how restaurants adapt to this food restriction. Whether it is to beat wheat bellies, or to accommodate true allergies and intolerances, many restaurants and bakeries are offering “glutard” options (no, it isn’t politically correct, but come on, it is kinda funny).  A few weekends ago in NYC, we noticed Les Halles offers a gluten-free (I will just use GF, ok?) menu. Great – we sat down, and looked at the breakfast selections. Eggs and toast. French toast. Um, server, are we missing something? “You can have a fruit cup”. NEXT…

Friedman’s Lunch (one in Chelsea Market and one on W. 31st.) does it right. Can you say chicken and waffles? Pancakes? GF reuben sandwich (yes, the toast did crumble).


Want something a little less sinful? Bistango offers a full selection of Italian-esque GF deliciousness. Meatballs without breadcrumbs, great GF pastas, and yes, desserts. All choices were seriously good, on their own merits, and not just because they had GF options.

Perfect GF pasta

Perfect GF pasta

If budget is not a concern (to put it mildly) , 11 Madison Park (3 Michelin stars) makes GF adaptations of everything they serve.

One of these things is NOT like the other...

One of these things is NOT like the other…

my baking report: the hamentashen were ok, but not easy to fold. Nice thought, not worth redoing. Or taking a photo!

The sticky pudding cake recipe is a winner – gluten free or not. Here is the original recipe from Bonnie Stern:


3/4 lb pitted dates (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3  eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (regular or gluten-free)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Butterscotch sauce:

3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed

The recipe mentions serving it with additional whipped cream, but I never do!

Butter a 9″ springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, or bake individual cakes in 12 muffin pans

  1. Combine dates and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add baking soda and let rest 5 minutes. Puree. Let it cool.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs one at a time. Whisk flour with baking powder and salt. Gently fold into batter alternately with dates, starting and ending with the flour. Transfer to prepared pan.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. (Muffin sized ones usually take about 25 -30 minutes.)
  4. Meanwhile, while cake is in the oven, make the sauce by combining sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Simmer gently 5 minutes until slightly thickened.
  5. When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then prick holes and drizzle half the sauce over the top
  6. When serving,  drizzle with remaining butterscotch sauce and if you want to, some whipped cream.


Makes 10 to 12 servings

and now…..


The following recipe is courtesy of so thank you.

The Challah is worth tweaking – next time I will replace some of the sugar and water with honey, just so it tastes a bit more like my “standard”.  That said, it is probably the tastiest “white bread” I have eaten in a long time. It is delicious toasted, and incredibly, it is NOT crumbly!

seriously rising

seriously rising



2 cups rice flour (I used almost half and half brown and white rice flours)

1 3/4 cups tapioca flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons sugar

3 teaspoons xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup lukewarm water

1 cup lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

4 eggs

sesame seeds, poppy seeds or my favourite, pearl sugar (optional)


  1. In mixer, combine the flours, 1/4 c sugar, xantham gum, and salt.
  2. Dissolve the 2 tsp sugar in the 2/3 cup of water and mix in the yeast. In a separate bowl combine the butter with the additional 1 cup water and vinegar.
  3. With mixer on low speed, blend the dry ingredients. Slowly add the butter/water mixture. Blend in the eggs, 1 at a time. The dough should feel slightly warm. Pour the yeast mixture into the ingredients in the bowl and beat at the highest speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Place the bowl in a warm spot, cover with greased plastic wrap and a towel, and let rise approximately 1 hour.
  5. Return the dough to the mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes. Spoon the dough into a greased, floured loaf pan. Fill 2/3 full, you may bake the remainder in greased muffin tins, etc. (or make all rolls~about 18). Sprinkle tops with sesame seeds. Let the dough rise until it is slightly above the tops of the pans, about 45-60 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 F and bake the large loaf for approximately 1 hour. Bake the rolls 25 minutes.

Personally, I think the bigger loaves taste much better, but try it out and see!



Longwinded Blueberry Cake

Looking for one of Bonnie Stern’s recipes this morning, to tell you how I adapted it to deal with my overzealous blueberry shopping, I found the recipe below, which was published in the National Post.  It isn’t what I was looking for, but I can’t resist posting it.  Reading it, I am thinking it will be an apple pudding chomeur.  I am LOVING summer, but if fall means apples, it won’t be all bad.

This is an old-fashioned pudding cake made with apples and maple syrup.  You can also make this in individual ramekins.

photo reposted from theNational Post

photo re-posted from the National Post

1⁄2 cup sugar
2 tbs water
3⁄4 cup maple syrup
3 tbs unsalted butter
6 apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter
3⁄4 cup sugar
2  eggs
1 tbs vanilla paste or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp baking soda
1⁄4 tsp kosher salt
3⁄4 cup buttermilk

Vanilla ice cream, and maple syrup.

Stir sugar and water together in a deep skillet. Bring to a boil and, without stirring, cook until sugar turns golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Standing back, add maple syrup and butter. Mixture will bubble up a bit.  Add apple slices and cook gently about 10 minutes until tender. Cool.

For the cake, cream butter and sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add mixture alternatively to batter with buttermilk to make a batter.

Place apple mixture in the bottom of a 9-inch baking dish. Spread cooled apple mixture with batter.

Bake in preheated 350F oven until firm in the centre, about 30 to 40 minutes until centre of cake is cooked.

Serve with ice cream and maple syrup.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Now, just for reference, here is the recipe for the best Pouding Chômeur (unemployment pudding), anywhere.

It is from Pied de Cochon, of course (adapted a bit by, and from, House and Home Magazine). This makes 6 individual ramekins, or you can make it in a casserole (may need a touch longer in the oven)

Can you smell it?

Can you smell it?

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup whipping cream (35%)
pinch of salt1 cup (Quebec of course) maple syrup – do NOT use light, clear, or heaven forbid maple-flavoured syrup!

Vanilla ice cream to serve – optional, but if you are going down, go in flames…

In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars, and blend until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until completely incorporated.

Add flour and baking powder, and stir until dough is well mixed. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This is the dough part.

In a saucepan, bring syrup and cream to a boil, stirring often. As soon as it reaches a boil, remove from heat, add salt and let cool until tepid, then refrigerate for 1 hour. This is the syrup mixture.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Place 6 oven safe, 5 oz. ramekins on a foil lined baking sheet and spoon a some of the cooled maple syrup mixture into the bottom of each. Divide dough evenly among ramekins by loosely packed tablespoons. Slowly pour remaining maple mixture over dough. It will sink into the nooks and crannies.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Let it cool for a few minutes, and then serve!

Top with ice cream at the table if you want it to look really great.


After making blueberry sauce for our morning oatmeal, and not having the heart to tackle another round of jam making after doing strawberry this week, I decided to go to my trusty Bonnie Stern HeartSmart Quick Apple Cake recipe.  Here it is, with the apple OR blueberry option. Bonnie’s recipe calls for half the batter, but I find it better when it is doubled. I have taken the liberty of doubling the batter in the recipe below.

I also use the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture as a drizzle instead of tossing it with the fruit.

Quick Apple (or blueberry) Cake (my way)

2 eggs (or 1 egg plus 2 whites)
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup canola oil (I use a bit less and make up with orange juice)
6 tbs. OR orange juice

Note: Bonnie uses apple juice, but I like the freshness that orange offers. 6 tbs. is 3/8 of a cup, so I use ½ cup and reduce the oil. Not exact, but it is fast.
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt

3 apples, peeled and sliced thinly OR 3 (or so) cups of blueberries, tossed in flour or cornstarch


1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

This is the only part that I haven’t doubled. I find it enough, but double as you like.

In a large(ish) bowl, beat eggs with sugar until thick and light. Beat in oil, juice and vanilla.
In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into egg mixture and combine only until blended.
Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and enough water to make a pourable drizzle. Set aside.
Arrange apples in bottom of oiled 9″ square baking dish. Smooth batter on top.  I sometimes make 2 layers, but the layers are pretty thin.

Drizzle the top with the brown sugar mixture.
Bake in preheated 350F/180C oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake comes away from sides of pan slightly and a cake tester comes out clean.

If you choose to use blueberries, it will take a bit longer to bake.  Check that the middle is baked. It won’t over-bake easily with blueberries because the juice keeps it moist.

Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

This cake looks best when served from the pan, rather than inverting it onto a serving plate.  The drizzle also stays nicely crunchy that way.

Italian Grandmothers everywhere are shaking their heads…

Every once in a while I see a recipe that looks like it is either intentionally booby-trapped, or is just plain wrong. When I finally looked at my August newsletter from Bonnie Stern (author of several go-to cookbooks in my arsenal) there was one freaky recipe that caught my attention. Not only do I not believe in re-inventing a perfectly good wheel, I think there are a few things you don’t mess with, like cooking pasta properly, and making risotto. So OF COURSE I had to try….


This recipe is from Judy Witts Francini, a friend and colleague of Bonnie’s who leads tours, writes guidebooks and has a helpful website for anyone travelling to Italy  Don’t worry that it is against every rule of cooking pasta – it is amazing.

  • 3 lbs ripe tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp hot red chile flakes
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2 cups boiling water

for finishing:  3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or butter

1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large 12″ deep skillet. Add tomatoes, cut side down. Add about 1/2 cup boiling water and cook about 10 to 15 minutes until tomatoes have softened. Add garlic and hot chile flakes. Turn tomatoes over, cook another 5 minutes, adding more boiling water if necessary to prevent sticking. Now break tomatoes up with a wooden spoon and cook, until sauce-like and juicy.

2. Add dry spaghetti and stir a little until it softens and you can stir everything together. Adding water about 1/2 cup at a time, as the spaghetti absorbs the liquid, stir and cook until the spaghetti is al dente – about 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, oil or butter and basil. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano if you like.

makes 6 servings

Folks, the texture is incredible and the lack of boiled-in-water-sog is amazing. Revolutionary even, perhaps. The sauce becomes creamy from the starch released from the pasta (which is why you really have to keep stirring as it cooks.).  I did skin the tomatoes to spare everyone the skin-in-the-teeth smile. The only slightly odd part of this adventure is the colour. If I were to name a new Crayola colour for the finished sauce, it would be “Chef Boyardee”