For those of you readers who are not vegan, today is your lucky day! I have a special Christmas treat for you. It has been a long time since I have posted a non vegan recipe on the site. But it is Christmas, and I wanted to share a recipe that will appeal to absolutely everybody. My dear friend, Karen Morgan from Blackbird Bakery, one of the most accomplished, brilliant gluten free bakers I know has created a decadent chocolate holiday creation just for you. Yes!
One of my favourite companies, Green and Blacks sent me some of their gorgeous Fair Trade Dark Chocolate to play (I use their vegan cocoa powder all the time) and because it wasn’t vegan I couldn’t use it. So, Karen came to the rescue. I sent her the chocolate, and she whipped up some magic in her signature style. These Gluten Free Chocolate Coconut Genoise Petits Fours are show stoppers! For those of you who eat eggs and dairy you will be in piggy heaven!
Karen’s commitment to excellence with recipe development (trialing her recipes no less than 100 times!) continues to astound and inspire me. Those of you who have been following me for a while may remember Karen from my Gluten Free Baking With KitchenAid event where she shared her fabulous Drunken Rum & Raisin Carrot Cake that made us all weak at the knees!
If you do not know Karen Morgan, then you are about to be acquainted with one of the ROCK STARS of the gluten free baking world. She is basically the gluten-free baker to the celebrities! After being diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2002, Karen started experimenting with gluten free baking in spectacular fashion. In the summer of 2006, with almost 100 show-stopping gluten free desserts under her belt, she gave her gluten free creations the ultimate test on the patrons of the chateau where she was baking at in France. Word spread quickly about her gluten free genius, and she was soon serving packed houses and hailed a sensation!
BlackBird Bakery was born in 2008, and for the last four years, this hugely popular online, gourmet, gluten-free bakeshop has shipped out hand-crafted gluten-free works of art to dicerning gastronomes all over America. Karen is in huge demand, and has catered parties for celebrities like Kelly Slater, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Jennifer Eaposito, Ben Harper, and Laura Dern; as well as events at the Grammy Awards, Sundance Film Festival, and many others. Karen's sensational gourmet creations have been featured in prestigious publications like The New York Times, About, Daily Candy, Living Without, and Yoga Journal, just to name a few.
Karen's passion for the science and art of gluten free baking, and the depth and breadth of her knowledge is incredible. She is also WONDERFUL about sharing her years of experience so everybody can benefit. She has recently created a wonderful line of gluten free baking mixes. After years of gluten free experimenting, she came to realize there is no such thing as an “all-purpose gluten-free” flour mix. These flour mixes might work well for some applications, but not all, as the name suggests. For the best results, a specific gluten free flour blend is required for each section of baking.
Emulating the role of the “tourrier” (the person responsible for making all the master doughs in French bakeries) Karen has created a line of gluten free flour blends that create a brilliant foundation on which thousands of gluten-free recipe variations can be built. With Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free Flour Blends you will have gourmet-quality, gluten-free baked goods every time you step into the kitchen! There is a gluten free bread blend, tart and pie crust blend, choux pastry blend, cake blend, quick bread blend, cookie blend, and puff pastry blend. For those of you who are vegan, some of the mixes are vegan and some are not, so just read the labels.
These blends are SO easy to use. Each pack comes with the “master recipe” on the back of the bag, and more recipe inspiration can be found on the Blackbird Bakery store page. You can use these mixes to make all of my favourite family recipes with sublime results. These mixes make exquisite gifts. The packaging is classy and minimalist.
Not only do these mixes yield baked goods that are superior in texture, they are made from the finest ingredients. All of the Blackbird Bakery Flour Blends are 100% natural, contain complete protein grains, are devoid of genetically modified flours and starches, are xanthan gum free, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and dairy-free, and are thoughtfully packaged in a certified Kosher and gluten-free facility.
Now, a word about why these mixes are free from xanthan gum. I used to use xanthan gum until I learnt how toxic it is. Karen was instrumental in my transition from xanthan to guar gum, and I am so incredibly grateful. SO many gluten free recipes and products contain xanthan gum, and so I really wanted to take this opportunity to share what I have learnt. Rather than relay in poor form, I will just quote Karen. My xanthan gum expert!
Karen says, “When I began baking gluten-free over a decade ago, I remember being told that xanthan gum was “an absolute must! The very best gluten-free ingredient’ that should always keep at the ready to make my baked goods stay together. So like anyone else that didn’t know what they were doing, I followed their suggestions. As I baked, however, my experiments quickly began to reveal that something was just not right. I wasn’t getting the glorious results that all of the gluten-free experts at the time were promising me. My cakes were like choked down parcels of sand; cookies crumbled the moment I bit into them, turning to grinding stones on my teeth; pies were so hard they stuck to the bottom of pans and threatened to chip my pearly whites. Oh, and who can forget that trademark “gluten-free” aftertaste? It was enough to gag a skunk.
These were the days of dehydrated, crumbly, malodorous baking and I was miserable. One need only smell a bag of xanthan gum to find the source of the offensive odor. Exchanging the course flours for higher quality, more refined flours eliminated the “God awful” texture, but what kept making me feel so sick? I thought giving up the gluten would make me feel better, and I did, but there would be times when I would be doubled over with shooting pains and bloating so severe I looked pregnant.
Xanthan gum was discovered in 1960, by Allene Rosalind Jeanes and her research team at the Department of Agriculture. Jeanes was given the task to screen a large number of biopolymers for their potential industrial uses. After extensive testing on animals, xanthan gum was not approved to be safe for human consumption by the FDA until 1968. Xanthan gum is derived from the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris, the pathogen responsible for the black rot that devours broccoli, cauliflower and other leafy vegetables. In order to grow large quantities of xanthan gum, it is harvested in batches that are grown through the fermentation of yeast and sugar. Most batches are fed high fructose corn syrup, but others are fed wheat, soy, or dairy, so you might want to consider returning your current stock to the store.
A 2011 study by Jennifer Beal with the Center for Applied Nutrition, concluded that premature babies that ingested test tube nutrition containing xanthan gum immediately developed necrotizing entercolitis, or intestinal tissue death. Premature infants have exceptionally delicate immune systems, making them far more susceptible to bacterium and toxins, and xanthan gum was no exception. For those of us with celiac disease, who have intestinal tracts as delicate and susceptible as a premature child, xanthan gum is just as dangerous for us. The sicker we are, the more dangerous it is because we don’t have the immunity to combat this toxin every time we sit down to eat. At the very least, xanthan gum is prolonging our healing process.
Wendy Cohan, a registered nurse who writes often for Celiac.com agrees. Adverse reactions to xanthan gum are very real and these reactions can “lead people who live the gluten-free lifestyle to believe that they have been exposed to gluten because their symptoms are so similar.” One has to wonder, what is xanthan gum doing to “healthy” individuals?
Xanthan gum is used in countless products, everything from salad dressings, vending machine foods, shampoo, makeup, lotions, sunscreens, toothpaste, and soap. So if you aren’t eating xanthan gum, you are washing your mouth out with it, rubbing it on your body, or applying it to your face with a make up brush. This is why I exclusively use guar gum for all of my gluten-free baking.
Guar gum is 100% natural and is derived from the endosperm of the guar plant. Prized for centuries for it’s healing properties, like lowering cholesterol, more recent studies have proven guar gum to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, making it a holistic tool to help cure diabetes in conjunction with diet and exercise. Did I mention that guar gum also improves the efficacy of most prescription drugs? The whole point of the gluten-free lifestyle is to improve our quality of life, in every regard, which makes it all the more important that we understand the ingredients we use and the best way to use them.” Thanks Karen. I won’t be touching xanthan gum again!
Sorry, don't want to cast a cloud over this fabulous recipe. I just wanted to share the information. If you are not vegan, please don't miss making this incredible recipe. Karen just ROCKS. Be sure to check out her amazing book, BLACKBIRD BAKERY GLUTEN-FREE: 75 Recipes for Irresistible Gluten-Free Desserts and Pastries. I cannot wait for her new book to be released next year!
Karen, THANKYOU for creating this incredible recipe for us. I just LOVE LOVE LOVE you my kindred spirit sister. I swear we were separated at birth! You are truly one of the most generous, insanely talented, inspiring people I know. WONDERS of the universe await you in 2013 and beyond....I just KNOW IT!
This recipe published here with permission from Karen Morgan.
Learn more about Karen Morgan at BlackBird Bakery.
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