Friday, July 18, 2014

Gluten Free Desserts


I have a lot of friends who are on gluten-free diets. Even though I eat gluten myself (I don’t have celiac disease, or any of the symptoms of gluten intolerance, thankfully!), I do think, as hosts, it’s important we serve foods to our guests that are what they like and desire. So…I have come up with a few favorite gluten-free desserts that I often serve to my guests who are on a g/f diet. Here are my favorites:


1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
6 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Measure out 2/3 cups of the sugar and place in a heavy skillet. Turn the heat to medium high. Let cook until the sugar is caramelized. Stir or wiggle the pan occasionally to ensure the sugar is being heated evenly. Once the sugar starts caramelizing, turn heat to low. Keep stirring occasionally until all the sugar is melted and golden. This will take about 5 minutes. Divide this mixture into 8 individual ramekins or custard cups. Set aside until ready to fill.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs, milk, the remaining 2/3 cup sugar and vanilla together just until well blended. Pour into custard cups.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Flan cooks best in a water bath. To do this, p-lace paper towels on the bottom of a large roaster or baking pan (this will prevent the ramekins from slipping). Put enough hot water in pan to reach a depth of ½ inch. Carefully  place ramekins in water bath. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes, just until custards are set (they should jiggle slightly in the center when shaken). Remove from oven. Carefully remove flans from water bath and cool on wire rack for about an hour. Cover each flan with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, run a knife around the inside of the ramekins to unmold. Place a serving plate on top of each ramekin and then flip cup and plate. Serve immediately.


8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 cups superfine granulated sugar (or “Baker’s Sugar”)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups heavy whipping cream

Combine cream cheese and sugar in medium mixing bowl. Stir in cocoa, milk and vanilla and beat until smooth. Whip cream until stiff peaks form; fold in. Spoon into a decorator bag with a star tip and pipe into chocolate dessert cups. You can buy these in specialty grocery stores, or make your own. Put them in the refrigerator until ready to serve, or freeze them until serving time. They can be frozen up until 3 months. (If you freeze them, pull them out of the freezer a half hour before serving and set them out at room temperature. They will be the perfect consistency for eating!). If desired, garnish with a chocolate covered espresso bean or chocolate leaf. (You can do this before freezing if you like, or garnish once the mousse is thawed from the refrigerator. Garnishing chocolate mousse cups with fresh raspberries or strawberries is also nice.) .

Making your own chocolate shells:
I have a huge selection of chocolate dessert cup molds, which I have collected over the years. You can sometimes find these molds at craft shops. If you can’t find them there, I suggest going online and getting them from carries a large variety of chocolate cups and candy molds. My favorite are made by CK Products. Wilton also makes some. These are plastic sheet with 4 or 6 individual dessert mold cavities on it: an oval, triangle, diamond and circle. You can also find molds for individually-sized round fluted and cordial cups. They’re smaller, but great for filling bite-sized portions of mousse.

To make the chocolate molds, you will need to coat them with chocolate. I usually use either Wilton “Candy Melts” candy coating wafers, or one of the brands of chocolate disks available at craft stores such as Hobby Lobby. You can also find a huge selection of melting chocolate for dipping strawberries, at supermarkets. These work fine too. You can choose from white, dark or milk chocolate candy melts. I like all three, and usually I’ll make all three types of chocolate cups—just to have the variety. Melt the chocolate disks in the microwave in a small glass or plastic bowl, for one minute. Stir, then melt for 15 to 30 second intervals until the chocolate is just melted (you don’t want it to burn!).

Use a small paint brush, and “paint” a layer of chocolate on the inside of each mold. After the mold cavities are all painted, lightly tap the mold to get out any air bubbles. Then put the mold in the freezer for a 2-3 minutes. When the chocolate is hard, take out the mold and pop out each chocolate cup. Now you are ready to fill them.

Alternatively, I have also made a large chocolate “box” out of the same dipping chocolate and filled it with the entire batch of the chocolate mousse recipe above. I kept it in the freezer overnight to harden a bit. Then the next morning, I took it out of the freezer, put glazed strawberries in the center (the berries were dipped in commercial—Maries’s--strawberry pie glaze) and then piped whipped cream around the edges. Then I kept it in the refrigerator until serving time—which was that evening. The picture of this dessert is below:


2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
4 T. chopped raw almonds
4 T granulated sugar
4 T unsalted butter, melted

Toast the almonds and coconut for about 5-7 minutes in 350 degree oven until lightly golden brown and fragrant. Chop the almonds in a food processor fairly finely. Put almonds and coconut in a bowl. Add sugar and melted butter. Stir to combine. Press the mixture into the bottom and partially up the sides of a 10-inch the cheesecake pan. Refrigerate until time to fill.


4 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 (4 inch) vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 T. pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp. pure almond extract
2 cups sour cream
½ cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Add vanilla beans, vanilla and almond extracts and eggs, and beat until well-blended. Stir in sour cream and heavy cream and mix in just until blended.  Spoon into prepared crust. Bake 60-70 minutes, or until filling is lightly golden and “poofed” in the center. Turn off oven. Let cool in the oven, with oven door open. Then remove from oven and let cool at room temperature another hour. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Garnish with fresh strawberries or berries or canned pie filling.


These are easy to make. You can use the same melting chocolate for dipped strawberries, that you use for make chocolate dessert shells for mousse cups. Hershey’s and Ghirardelli both make candy melts that are really good quality, aren’t expensive, and don’t have to be tempered before using. You can probably find them at just about any grocery store.

Finding good strawberries can be a challenge, even in the summer when the berries are in season. Try to find vine-ripened, plump and large stawberries with no bruises or mold. Long-stemmed berries are the best (although you can pay a premium for the long stems), and fresh, green caps. You may have to go to several stores to find good quality berries. A lot of supermarkets may only have half-ripened berries, or berries that have been ripened after picking—and they just don’t have the taste they should. 

Wash the berries in cool water and lightly pat them with waxed paper to remove water. Let them set out on paper towels about an hour at room temperature. This will prevent condensation from forming later on when you coat the berries with melted chocolate.

Line a large cookie sheet or baking pan with waxed paper, freezer paper or parchment paper. This is what you will set your berries on once they’ve been dipped in chocolate.

Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler or in the microwave. If you melt your chocolate over the stove, it’s important to do it in a double-boiler and over a low heat. If the chocolate gets too hot or overheats, it will “seize” meaning it will become grainy and stiff—and unusable. If you melt your chocolate in the microwave, do it at one minute intervals on a medium –low setting. After each minute, take the chocolate out of the microwave and stir it. Keep doing this until the mixture is completely melted—but not overheated! The chips may appear like they’re still hard and fully shaped, but once you take them out of the microwave and stir them, they are a nice, smooth mixture—and perfect for dipping!

Dip the strawberries one at a time. Hold them by their stem, and carefully dip them on the chocolate. You may want to make “confetti” strawberries, where you dip them in a variety of toppings: shredded choconut, chopped nuts, candy sprinkles, etc. Or, you could dip them in dark or milk chocolate, and once that’s hardened, drizzle white chocolate (I like to pipe it in a decorator bag) on top—or vice versa.

Let the dipped berries rest at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Then store in the refrigerator until serving time. These are best eaten within 24 hours.

Enjoy these delicious gluten-free desserts!


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