Gluten Free Picnic Fun

The end of May was a busy time for the Fruit Tart household — a farewell party, a reception for visiting friends, an end-of-year picnic for preschool, the blog’s birthday, and Tartlet 3’s birthday. For two of these I made trifle. At the end of April I made a trifle with Alton Brown’s angel food cake, but in May I made one with a store bought angel food cake and the other I made a gluten free angel food cake, based on Alton Brown’s recipe and method.

It didn’t have quite the same texture as a regular angel food cake, and it browned faster, but since I was tearing it up to make trifle anyway, the texture wasn’t a big detractor. I thought it had good flavor and because I didn’t use any rice flour there was no grittiness in the texture. I would definitely make this again for gluten free friends, but I might tweak the ratios of flours and use more tapioca and less potato starch or use a little white sorghum. Still, it was very popular when layered with Cool Whip and fresh fruit (strawberries, blackberries, mango, kiwi, and blueberries), and most people didn’t realize it was gluten free.

Gluten Free Angel Food Cake (adapted from Alton Brown’s Angel Food Cake)

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 c. potato starch
1/3 c. tapioca starch
1/3 c. corn starch
1/2 t. xanthan gum

12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor or blender spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt, starches and xanthan gum, setting the remaining sugar aside.

In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to stand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the starch mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the starch mixture is incorporated.

Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry).

And The Winners Are . . .

Random.org picked the numbers 4, 6, and 10, which means Amanda Z., Lori, and N are the winners of the cookbook giveaway. Congratulations! Thank you to all the readers for helping me celebrate 3 yrs of Fruit Tart!

Last Call!

If you want to be entered into the Cookbook drawing, leave a comment on that post. Sunday I’ll be picking three comments using random.org and plan to get the cookbooks in the mail as soon as I have addresses from the 3 lucky winners.

Sorry for the long hiatus, which was totally unplanned. I thought I’d post about a few of the things I made for the gatherings we have hosted lately as well as a picnics and other things we’ve done, but the blog has been neglected in the flurry of activity.

I read a post sometime in the last couple of months in which the author was amazed that their family of 4 ate *sooo* many eggs, nearly  a dozen per week. I just laughed. One week recently I used 4 dozen — two dozen whites went into angel food cakes and some of the yolks were used in a key lime tart, pictured above. I think I could employ a small henhouse full time!

On another occasion I made the gluten free angel food cake pictured above. I’ll come back with a recipe for that later. In the mean time, here are pictures from our vacation:


Better than Hallmark, Mother’s Day wishes in the sand.


Crab Trap dinner for Mother’s Day. The kids especially love the buckets and shovels.


Some crabs we found, but did not eat.


Fun at the beach.


Sunset walks every evening.

Cookbook Giveaway!

While I’m away at the beach this week, I wanted to get ready to celebrate the blog’s 3rd birthday!  26 May will be three years since my first food post.  The blog has changed a little over the years, hopefully for the better, but I often come back to the same cookbook over and over again, the source for my first post. Although the Muffin Cookbook is out of print, I managed to procure three copies in very good condition to give away at the end of the month. All you have to do is a leave a comment telling me the name of your favorite muffin at the end of this post and you will be entered to win! I’ll use a random number generator to select three winners. Thanks for reading!

Revealing My Sources

When The Husband and I were first married, we lived in a less than desirable part of town (I once saw someone ‘jogging’ down the alley with a TV on his shoulder — great for those more intense workouts, you know!) with very interesting neighbors, the kind that could be the fodder for several books. One of the more colorful characters and one of my favorites was B. He was always very kind and polite to me, though he looked quite rough. He enjoyed the simple pleasures — his Harley, his sports car, his beer and weed. You could tell when he was smoking — all the doors and windows were shut, the curtains were drawn, and you could practically get high from the exhaust of his swamp cooler. He was busted by the DEA and ATF twice during our 8 mos at the apartment. I never inquired as to his sources because I really didn’t want to know.

But a good source of vanilla beans, now there’s something worth finding out. A year ago Cookie Baker Lynn posted about vanilla beans and I bookmarked it to check into later. About six months later I finally bought a pound of vanilla beans from Saffron.com. Yes, that’s right. A pound! Now, if you are used to buying your beans in those jars ranging in price from $7-20 with only 2-3 beans in them, you may be wondering what lottery I won. But this is an amazing source for excellent beans at prices that make using them only a little more expensive than good eggs.

They arrived in a box with a golden foil wrapping around the vanilla.  I inhaled deeply, just sniffing the package periodically for a couple of days before I finally opened it.  I think The Husband was afraid I was going to start snorting lines of vanilla seeds 😛  Mmmmm, it smelled so good!  I finally opened the package and the beans are just luscious.  And there are so many of them!  No need to skimp! So, of course, I’ve been adding them to everything. I make vanilla yogurt about twice a month, I toss them into cupcakes and frosting, pastry cream, and of course, ice cream and frozen yogurt.

Because Saffron.com has a minimum order of $12 and a pound of vanilla beans is $20 (plus shipping — $8.55 in my case), I chose the full pound as the most cost effective choice. If you think you will not have the need for roughly 125 vanilla beans (you just aren’t being creative enough), then consider buying a pound and splitting it with a couple of friends. You could have 40 beans for the cost of buying just a few at the grocery store.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I periodically buy packages of Welch’s Dried Cherries for a snacking treat or to make a super quick and easy dessert. But ever since I first bought a package, with a recipe on the back for Cherry Oatmeal Cookies, I’ve thought it would be really tasty to make cherry chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Since the recipe on the back of the package only made 18 cookies, I decided to come up with something different.

One thing I really wish I would have done, however, is to chop up the cherries. They make delightful lumps in the cookies, but there aren’t enough in a 5.5 oz package to get much cherry in each cookie and I didn’t want to make the cookies outrageously expensive by using several packages. Too bad I was too lazy to chop them! These cookies are really tasty and I will definitely make these again.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 cups quick cooking oatmeal

1 (5.5 oz) package dried cherries, chopped
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Beat butter and sugars together until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, blend together flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to butter mixture, mixing well. Add oatmeal. Fold in cherries and chocolate chips.

Chill dough for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 7-9 min or until slightly under done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 minute on baking sheet before removing to cooling rack.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies, which still won’t be enough. 😉

Great Harvest Bread

I had tasted some bread from Great Harvest Bread Company, but I hadn’t been to their shop until a month ago when Tartlet 2 had a field trip there. I tagged along for the field trip and loved the peek into the kitchen. The oven = WOW! Grain milled fresh daily. That day we took home a loaf of Caramel Apple Crunch and devoured it like ravenous beasts. You would think we had never tasted freshly baked bread before!

With that in our memories, I took a couple of girls with me back to the shop last Friday for some Asiago Pesto bread, which was also awesome, and we were offered a taste of the Cinnamon Chip bread. (They give everyone a free sample slice of one of the day’s breads, menu available here.) It was so great, we had to take a loaf home. The guy behind the counter said it makes awesome French toast and so our dinner plans were made for us.

Check out that oozy cinnamon sugar on the crust. Yes, it did taste as good as it looks. It didn’t really need any syrup, but the kids smothered theirs anyway. Interestingly, some of the Tartlets prefer the bread plain and at least one preferred it made into French toast.  One Tartlet thought it compared favorably to doughnuts, only healthier.  The kids have already been begging — when will I go to GHBC again?

I think most of the loaves are in the $4.50-5.50 range, scones and muffins are $2 each, and they have some great oatmeal cookies (Tartlet 2 was given one at the end of her field trip and she shared!), as well as other things we haven’t yet tried. They have a ‘club card’ — get 10 stamps and get a free loaf, and the kids think I should race to get mine filled!

Great Harvest Bread Company
The Shoppes of Knollwood
2149 S. Neil
Champaign, IL
398-5623