Sunday, April 21, 2013

Gluten Free Espresso Hazelnut Toffee Brownies

Joe's mom and sister both have celiac disease, which means that their bodies can't process any gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, etc.).  Actually, there's much more that goes into it, but I'm not even going to pretend to be an expert.  Instead, here's the Wikipedia link: Celiac Disease

Joe's family's get togethers are always potluck style, with everyone bringing a different dish so that the host doesn't have to try and cook for 30+ people all alone.  This is awesome, except that his mom and sister's special dietary requirements mean that they're limited to what they can eat and that baking, specifically, is very difficult.  I've been trying to add more gluten free things to repertoire, but the fact of the matter is that it's a lot more expensive and it's difficult for me to justify spending all the extra money on "safe" ingredients when they will likely go bad before I'm able to use them up and get my money's worth.  I've tried some of the packaged mixes (Betty Crocker makes brownies and cakes and Bob's has a ton of different things, from pancake mix to chocolate chip cookies) and while they're all good, they're not great.  Seems to me that the best way to make something gluten free is to have all of the right flavors with none of the dangerous stuff.

I recently learned that there are ways to make most everything gluten free without buying fancy or special ingredients, simply by changing the flours that you use.  Since wheat is off-limits, so are wheat byproducts, like regular white flour.  However, almost everything can be ground into flour - including gluten free things, like almonds and rice and potatoes.  It's not a one-to-one exchange, but knowing that I can make little tweaks and adjustments to current recipes (provided that everything else in the recipe is also gluten free) is PRICELESS.  The chart below is certainly not all inclusive for all of the wheat flour substitutes, but if you're either gluten free yourself or cooking for someone who is, then this should be helpful!

I've done some research on substituting almond flour for regular wheat flour, and it looks like it's usually a one-to-one exchange... as long as you have actual almond flour, not almond meal.  The difference is that almond flour will be really finely ground, while almond meal will be coarser and still have the skin.  Since there's no gluten, both almond flour and almond meal will react differently with the wet ingredients.  You'll most likely need a little more, so start with a one to one swap and go from there. (Almond Flour Baking Primer and Baking with Almond Flour Meal)

This should go without saying, but if you're allergic or sensitive to almonds, DON'T USE ALMOND FLOUR!

Now... on to the recipe...

Joe's sister, Melissa, has been texting me all weekend about how awesome these brownies are.  I'll be honest: they are really delicious.

They're moist and chewy like any good brownie should be.  They're chocolatey, which is always important.  Truthfully, that was the part that had me the most concerned: I've never made chocolate brownies or cake without using cocoa powder, so relying on melted chocolate made me a little worried.  Going to the grocery store worried me, too, since I was having a really difficult time finding two GF candy bars that would compliment each other enough to be in the same recipe.  I've had Endangered Species before (Joe sells them at work) and truthfully, I've never had a bad bar.  Sure, I like some more than others, but they're all really, really good.  They're also gluten free.  They have a ton of different varieties, too, and a portion of the profits goes to support habitat preservation.  Each bar features a different endangered animal on the front label, with the inside label telling you more about the plight of the animal.
The rhino and tiger are the stars of these brownies

The almond flour adds a nutty flavor to the brownies, which compliments the chocolate really well.  Oh, and Melissa can eat them without dying, which I guess is a good thing, too. =)

The only thing that makes me sad about these is that Joe can't eat them since he's allergic to almonds.  I'm really excited that I finally have something I can bring to family functions, though, so I'm going to keep playing around and see what other flavor combinations I can come up with.

What are some of your favorite gluten free recipes?

Gluten Free Espresso Hazelnut Toffee Brownies
To print this recipe, click here

Endangered Species 72% Dark Chocolate with Espresso bar (tiger), broken into squares
1/2 cup ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
3/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Endangered Species 72% Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Toffee (rhino), chopped into chunks

Preheat oven to 325°F and grease a mini muffin pan; set aside
In a microwave safe dish, melt ghee and the Endangered Species tiger bar
Stir in honey and eggs
Add almond flour, vanilla and sea salt
Fold in the chocolate chunks
Fill each muffin tin with 1 tablespoon of batter
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean

Let brownies cool.  Run a knife around the outside edge of each mini muffin and lift each one out, carefully.  It may help to use a spoon here so you can get underneath the brownies.  Store in an airtight container and enjoy.

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