Gluten-Free Exploration

Blackberry Almond Cake GF

Blackberry Almond Upside-Down Coffee Cake

The world of gluten free is an unusual one that I really had doubts about entering.  I really thought the gluten thing was just made up by highly sensitive folks who didn’t really enjoy food the way I did.  (I initially thought that these issues were caused by a by-product of our environmental changes and the way in which wheat is grown, which actually could be a contributor.)

How I came to take it seriously was happenstance.  While exploring a small town, I stopped in By the way Bakery, as it was mentioned to me by two locals.  They are a gluten-free, dairy-free bakery.  Hmmm…  I know gluten-free is all the rage but really, how can you bake anything good without dairy (I’ve baked a pretty decent vegan version of my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies).

They offered samples of their blueberry-almond coffee cake.  Wow!  Nice crumb, great flavor from the blueberries, not too sweet!  Pretty unbelievable!  I wound up buying an apple flavored version of the blueberry which was just as delicious.

Since people have been requesting GF baked goods and since I never believed how good they could actually be until tasting them, it was now time to do more investigating.  I checked GF cookbooks, recipes and readings I found online.

I was fortunate to find some of the flours that I thought were quite strange at first but that I had become accustomed to seeing in the GF recipes I came across.

Some of what I found out.

GF baked goods contain a combination of flours and starches.  Most cakes, which is where I wanted to begin, contain white and/or brown rice flours.  And yes, they are from rice that is ground into a powder.  No rice and beans here!

GF baking also requires a substance that will provide some elasticity since the protein that does this is nonexistent.  Guar gum or xanthan gum are used.  They read like a chemical additive yet they are both naturally derived.  Guar gum is from the guar bean.  Click here for more information.

Guar or Cluster Bean

Xanthan gum is derived from fermentation (black rot) found on various organisms and vegetation.  It was recommended that guar gum is truly GF since xanthan gum can traditionally come from a source that may contain gluten.  For this reason, I used guar gum ($8.19 for 8 oz. — Yowza!).

Lately I’ve been a bit more bold with my baking.  I’ve been adding and combining new flavors for cakes and scones and right now don’t even need to follow a recipe when I bake a batch of my healthy scones!  Awesome!

This is a great topic for me to continue experimenting with as it encourages my creativity and since there are so many GF flours available the combinations are limitless.

Here is list of a few commonly used GF flours:

Sweet white rice flour
Brown rice flour
Sorghum flour
Amaranth flour
Tapioca flour
Corn starch
Potato starch
Potato flour
Corn flour
Tef flour

Check here to read more on each of these flours.

Blackberry Almond Cake GF

I searched around for a flour combination that would make a basic yellow cake as a guide for proportion and flavor to develop my own recipe for this Blackberry-Almond Upside Down Coffee Cake.

Here’s the recipe.

Blackberry Almond Cake GF

Blackberry Almond Upside-Down Coffee Cake

Yield = 9” 1-layer cake
Prepare a 9” round baking pan by greasing and adding parchment paper.



¼ C GF flour mix below
¼ C sugar
½ t lime zest
3 T butter, melted
2 C blackberries
1/3 C sliced almonds

Process:  combine all ingredients except for berries and almonds, mix well.  Combine this mixture to the berries and add to a prepared baking pan.  Sprinkle the almonds over this and set aside.


1 C rice flour
1 C almond flour
½ C tapioca flour
½ t baking soda
1 ½ t GF baking powder
½ t fine sea salt
1 t guar gum

Folding In
3 egg whites, beaten until soft peaks form

½ C sugar + 7 T butter
2 egg yolks
1 ½ t vanilla
1 C milk/plain yogurt mixture

Process:  combine all the dry ingredients and mix well, set aside; beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside; cream the butter and sugar until fluffy; add the egg yolks and vanilla and continue to mix; alternating with the milk and yogurt mixture add the flours to the creamed butter and sugar and beat well; fold in the egg whites; add to prepared pan with berry topping; bake at 350F for about 35 minutes.

A bit more to the baking process yet it allows more to enjoy a tasty treat!

Blackberry Almond Cake GF

Feel free to contact me for information regarding gluten-free cake-baking or if you’d like me to bake you a gluten-free cake.

I’m planning another version of this cake with a yummy crumb topping.  Coming soon.

Blackberry Almond Cake GF




The Duck Before the Turkey

Braised Duck Breast with Blueberry Ginger Sauce

Braised Duck Breast

Braised Duck Breast

Why food is so comforting to me is historical. At some critical point in my young life, I connected to food during perhaps a high-stress moment and it took off from there…

After dancing the “Barefoot Boogie” I was in the vicinity of a popular Asian market called H-Mart. It was 11 PM or close to that so I wondered if it was still open and if it were, perhaps I might enjoy a crowd-free shopping adventure.  And yes, it was open.  And yes, I had practically the entire store to myself.  I came upon this duck breast – though a bit pricy – looked ultra fresh, so I bought it.

Fresh duck is a rarity here in NYC, I often have to look high and low for it so it came into my orb unexpectedly with little effort on my part. Sometimes it’s nice when decisions are made for you.

After unpacking the breast, it was discouraging to find that there was so much more skin and fat than actual meat. I purchased 2.1 pounds and trimmed and tossed about ¾ pound of the duck skin ($18.99/pound for a total cost of $40.07!)!

Braised Duck Breast

Fresh duck in NYC — rare!

Braised Duck Breast

The breast after trimming some of the skin and fat.

Braised Duck Breast

Very fresh!

Duck is so worth it! It is easy to cook and always tastes good – as long as it’s fresh!

Then I had a pint of blueberries from a couple of days ago and thought that fruit goes so well with various meats like pork, chicken and duck. And blueberries with lemon and ginger – divine!

Braised Duck Breast

Some of the main ingredients. Fresh!

While there are more steps involved than you might normally expect from me, they’re easy steps and can be done ahead. Try it.  It will not disappoint!

Braised Duck Breast

Braised Duck Breast with Blueberry Ginger Sauce


Pint of blueberries
1 1/2 C water
2 T sugar
1 T fresh ginger, minced
½ t lemon zest & ½ t lemon juice

Process: add all ingredients to a pot and cook for about 20-30 minutes until some thickening appears.  Allow to cool then puree in a blender and put through a sieve.  Set aside.


Duck breast – 1 ½ pounds, rinsed and dried
1 t dried ginger
1 T fresh ginger, minced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ t salt
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 t Zhenjiang Vinegar (black rice vinegar)

Process: mix all the marinade ingredients together then add to duck and allow to marinate for an hour or more.  In a heated, dry pan, add the duck, skin-side down.  Cover and allow to cook on low flame without turning over for about 12 minutes.  As grease from the duck fills the pan, remove it until the pan is almost dry.  Turn the duck and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes increasing heat.  To brown the skin, turn once more for another minute then remove from heat.  Serve with blueberry ginger sauce and salad or another side such as jasmine rice with peas.

Braised Duck Breast