Elana Amsterdam had been baking healthy, high-protein desserts since the early '90s -- and then in 1998, she was diagnosed with celiac disease. One thing seemed to lead to another, and the delicious result is the local author's latest work, Gluten-Free Cupcakes.
The cupcakes created by these recipes are light and fluffy, even without gluten, and a handy guide shows how sweet the different recipes are (there are some savory 'cakes in the mix, too). We recently caught up with Amsterdam to ask about the inspiration for the book, her favorite recipes and more.
Westword: What is your background with baking in general?
Elana Amsterdam: I started baking healthy, wholesome, high-protein desserts back in the early 1990s. At that time, I was in a three-year Ayurvedic training in which we studied the healing properties of food, herbs and yoga asanas. Almost twenty years later, I am still implementing what I learned in that training and applying it to my work as a baker in order to take care of my family with healing, nourishing foods. Not an easy thing when it comes to feeding preteens. All of the children in the neighborhood come to my house for snacks. They think they're getting dessert, while I know I'm getting super foods (such as almond flour) into them in the sneaky form of cookies and cupcakes. How did you first become interested in gluten-free baking? What has your journey through the gluten-free world been like?
I was diagnosed with celiac disease during the dark ages of gluten-free living, back in 1998. I went on a really simple gluten-free diet and didn't give it much thought. When my son was diagnosed at age three, I made it my mission to turn all of my favorite recipes into gluten-free classics so that he would not be deprived of any of the delicious treats that I had growing up. That's why my book has everything from Cream Filled Cupcakes -- they're like those cute little Hostess cupcakes my mother used to get for us at the grocery store -- to Baseball Cupcakes, which are chocolate cake with cream-cheese frosting and reddish baseball stitching piped on top: I bring those to all of the boys' baseball team potlucks, and no one knows the difference, that they're gluten-free. We know it's hard to pick, but do you have any favorite recipes in the book?
We definitely have our favorites. My older son loves the Marble Cupcakes. My younger son asks me to make the Raspberry Cheesecake Cupcakes (made with healthy, organic, high-protein goat cheese) every week; and my husband loves the Triple Chocolate, which are a chocolate cupcake base with dark, milk and white chocolate chips. I love them all! Do you have any tips for high-altitude gluten-free bakers?
My recipes work at all altitudes. I test them here and at sea level. If your cupcakes won't rise and are too moist, then it indicates a lack of flour. Because there are different methods for measuring flours, I have included the Measuring Tips section in the book, which is a guide on how to measure your flours so that you have lovely, fluffy cupcakes. What's next for you -- in cooking or in life?
I'm working on three more cookbooks simultaneously, though I'm not sure which one will make it to the finish line first. Keep reading for Elana's Marble Cupcakes recipe -- with Vegan Chocolate Frosting, straight from the cookbook.
To win a copy of Gluten-Free Cupcakes, leave a comment below with your best gluten-free or high-altitude baking tip.
Makes eight cupcakes Sweetness: Medium
Vanilla Batter 1/4 cup coconut flour 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 2 large eggs 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil 1/3 cup agave nectar
Chocolate Batter 2 tablespoons coconut flour 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 2 large eggs 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil 1/4 cup agave nectar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line eight muffin cups with paper liners.
To make the vanilla batter, in a large bowl combine the coconut flour and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, grapeseed oil and agave nectar. Stir the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a large spoon until thoroughly combined.
To make the chocolate batter, in a large bowl combine the coconut flour, cocoa powder and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, grapeseed oil and agave nectar. Stir the wet ingredients into the coconut-flour mixture with a large spoon until thoroughly combined.
Fill each prepared muffin cup with 4 tablespoons of batter, alternating tablespoons of chocolate and vanilla, starting with chocolate batter and ending with vanilla. Use a toothpick to swirl the batter in figure eights.
Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for one hour, then frost and serve.
Vegan Chocolate Frosting Makes 1 1/4 cups Sweetness: High
Who would guess that this super-rich and thick chocolate frosting is vegan? Use it to frost anything -- or simply eat it with a spoon, like I do.
6 ounces dark chocolate chips (73% cacao) (about 1 heaping cup) 1/2 cup Spectrum all-vegetable shortening 1/4 cup agave nectar 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 2 tablespoons water Pinch of sea salt
In a medium saucepan over very low heat, melt the chocolate until smooth. Allow the pan to stand on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes to cool the chocolate to room temperature.
Blend in the shortening with a handheld mixer, then blend in the agave nectar, vanilla extract, water, and salt until smooth. Place the saucepan in the refrigerator for 3 to 8 minutes, until the frosting becomes spreadable.
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If the frosting becomes too stiff to work with, reheat the pan ever so briefly over very low heat and stir until the frosting is softened. If the frosting is too runny, place it back in the refrigerator until it firms up.
Use immediately or store in a glass Mason jar in the refrigerator for up to three days.