Sunday, January 30, 2011

Simple Pleasures in Life

Gluten-Free Brownies

One simple pleasure in life is gathering products from nature, taking them home, and using them as ingredients in recipes. Doing this reminds me of the many pioneer stories that I have read.  Recently, my family and I were out walking in our neighborhood and amused ourselves by stopping to pick up pecans that had fallen in the street.  Some of them we cracked right away to test.  A few were thrown away because they were dried in the shell, but most of them were a light golden brown, meaty, and delicious. And of course, along the way, my dad would give us a lesson in the different types of pecans.  Some were long and skinny, and some were big and fat.  Dad said one type was a seedling pecan. The good pecans were taken home, the shells were cracked, and the "meat" extracted.  These pecans were the basis for my dessert of gluten-free brownies. (Brownies, by the way, are one of my family's favorite desserts.)

This was my second attempt at making gluten-free brownies. The first batch was immediately trashed after I tried it. In the first batch I used mostly white rice flour which produced a grainy textured brownie.  The reason I baked with the white rice flour is because besides sorghum flour, that is the only gluten-free flour I have at the moment.

After researching natural treatments for myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune disease my dad was recently diagnosed with), I found that a diet of no white flour, white sugar, red meat, etc. can help people with the disease. Since my dad's diagnosis about two weeks ago, I have been cooking for him and my family using natural ingredients. I use agave to sweeten oatmeal, homemade lemonade, fruit desserts, etc. I have also experimented with Stevia.

When preparing for baking the brownies, I decided to use cane sugar. Cane sugar is better because it is the raw sugar that hasn't been refined. I didn't have a fine ground cane sugar but I decided to use the cane sugar I had. Next time, I will use a fine cane sugar because it melts easier and gives a smoother texture.

With my second successful batch, I used a combination of flours. My choice for the combination came from the gluten-free flours I had at my house as stated earlier. I used white rice flour, sorghum flour, and cornstarch. You might be wondering how I would know, a newbie gluten-free baker, what combination to put together. I searched online for ingredients needed to make gluten-free brownies. I didn't have many of the gluten-free flours needed. One ingredient was almond meal. The site stated to use blanched almonds and process them in a coffee grinder. Since I don't have a coffee grinder I decided to use my food processor. Then the instructions stated to sift the ground almonds. After frustratingly sifting the ground almonds, I only ended up with a tablespoon of almond meal (fine ground almonds). The rest of the ground almond pieces were too large. After all my work, I was not going to discard my one tablespoon of almond meal.

One ingredient that I added in this batch that I didn't in the first was the baking soda. This ingredient is an important component in order to achieve the cracked topping of the brownie.

And this is the recipe for my second attempt at a Gluten-Free Brownie.

Gluten-Free Brownies

5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I recommend Ghirardelli)
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup cane sugar (fine)
1 Tbsp. almond meal
¼ cup brown rice flour
¼ cup sweet sorghum flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8x8 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until melted. Let cool slightly.

Beat eggs in a mixing bowl. Stir in sugar.
Gradually add chocolate mixture into egg mixture until combined, stirring constantly.

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients: almond meal, rice flour, sorghum flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda; whisk together. Stir in the dry flour mix into the chocolate mixture, until combined. Add the vanilla, chocolate chips, and pecans.

Scrape into the baking dish. Smooth batter with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 36-40 minutes. Depending on how fudgey you like them.

Enjoy warm fudge brownies!


  1. I bet your red-headed pal Julie would like this being she can't eat gluten! --Michael

  2. Hi Whitney,
    Have you checked out Gluten-Free Girl? Her cookbooks are great and she also has a helpful blog with so many great recipes. It might be a good resource for you as you "flex" your gluten-free cooking muscles. You're dad is lucky to have you cook for him!

  3. Charming story about the pecans! Those don't grow in the tropics where I'm from and they cost a small fortune so it's so amusing to hear stories about pecans being picked up right off the street!

  4. Whitney! i need your help. unfortunately, my mom also has myasthenia gravis. and we just can't rely on the medicine she takes. she needs a proper diet. first, we have to know what she should and should'nt eat. lets start with the don'ts . your help would be highly appreciated.