Saturday, June 4, 2011

Two Varieties of Gluten Free Bars

Merry Mix Up Bars (L) and Scandinavian Tosca Bars (R)
I am baking this week for a graduation open house.  I'm not really into the big sit down meal, Minnesota lunch type party.  I'm having comparably skimpy fare at Jeremy's open house tomorrow.

I'll be serving fruit with cardamom dip, bars, mints and nuts, punch and coffee.

I baked four varieties of regular bars using all-purpose flour.  Since I don't bake much, and when I do, it's things like banana bread or muffins, even doing the regular bars felt foreign to me.  But I got through it and I think they are all edible.  I'm pretty sure they are.  I've been sampling a little bit...I mean, the kids have been sampling a little bit.  Right, the kids.  That's right.

I have friends who have offered to bring another four varieties.  And I thought I ought to provide something for Joe and any other guests who might need a Gluten Free selection. (There are five members of our church who eat gluten free and another neighbor who attends some functions.)

For the Gluten free flour, I kind of used Peter and Kelli Bronski's Artisanal Gluten Free Flour.  I'll include their recipe at the bottom, along with my variation.  I never seem to have all the correct flours at the right time to mix it properly.

First I tried Scandinavian Tosca Bars.  I used Emily Sander's recipe from the Rock Dell Lutheran Church cookbook (Belview, MN).  I believe this book came out in conjunction with Rock Dell's 125th anniversary in 1997.  Incidentally, Emily was Joe's dad's cousin.  She was a kind and zippy lady who always had a ready smile.  She also had celiac disease in the days when not much was known about it and there were not many choices out there for those who struggled with gluten issues.  Scandinavian Tosca Bars are a par-baked cookie crust with a sugar, butter and almond candy syrup poured over and then baked again.  My gluten free version were a bit crumbly but very tasty.

The second recipe I tried was Merry Mix Up Bars.  I used the recipe from Oak Park/ Clearwater Lutheran Parish's Hello Neighbor cookbook.  The recipe was submitted by Gunda Syrtveit.  I think Merry Mix up Bars must be quite similar to what I have heard called Seven Layer Bars in other locales.  By either name, they are a luscious chocolate, coconut, and pecan confection.

I pretty much followed the recipes as is, with the substitution of a gluten free flour blend and the addition of 1/4 tsp zanthan gum per cup of flour.  Since my GF mix has a small amount of xanthan gum included in it, I factored only for the whole cups in the recipes.

Scandinavian Tosca Bars

1 c butter, softened
2 1/4 c GF flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 c sugar, divided
1/4 c cream
6 Tbs butter
1 c slivered almonds
1/8 c GF flour
1/2 tsp almond extract

Cream together butter with 1 c of sugar.  Blend in flour and xanthan gum.  (The original recipe says to blend until particles are fine.  With the GF substitutions, it was thick and sticky like cookie dough, not crumbly like a crumb crust.)  Press into the bottom of an ungreased jelly roll pan.    Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until a light golden brown.

Combine remaining 1 c sugar with the rest of ingredients in a sauce pan.  Heat slowly until butter is melted, then over med high heat until the mixture boils.  Boil for two minutes, stirring constantly.  Pour this over the partially baked crust.  (I waited until the mixture was at a full rolling boil before I started timing it.  When I poured it over the crust, it cooled to a semi-hard mixture right away and was difficult to spread around.  Perhaps I ought to have started timing at a less aggressive boil.)  Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

The recipe also does not indicate at what point one ought to cut these, warm or completely cool.  Mine were completely cool and broke apart quite bit while I was cutting them   Had I cut them when still a bit warm, perhaps it would not have been such a problem.

Merry Mix Up Bars

3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c flour
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c chocolate chips
2 1/3 c coconut (7 oz package)
1/2 c chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1 1/3 c sweetened condensed milk (15 oz can)

Combine the sugar, flour, xanthan gum, and baking powder; and then cut in butter until crumbly.  Place evenly into 9x13 baking pan.  (I'm not sure what the recipe meant by evenly, but I patted it into an smooth layer.  I also greased the pan.)

Sprinkle over the crust, the chocolate chips, then coconut, then nuts.  Pour the sweetened condensed milk slowly over, so that it makes a fairly complete layer.  Don't try to spread it around with a spatula, or you will mess up your other layers.  Trust me, I know these things.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely, then cut.

These turned out just perfect, by the way.  They held together well and were soft and chewy.

Artisanal Gluten Free Flour Blend
5 c brown rice flour
3 c sorghum flour
2 2/3 c cornstarch
1 c potato starch
1/4 c plus 4 tsp potato flour
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp xanthan gum

When I mixed this, I doubled it, because of the volume I generally use.  I had the 10 c brown rice and the 6 c sorghum already mixed together when I remembered I had used the last of my cornstarch a few days before.  Oh, it was maddening!  Usually I might be low on potato starch or potato flour or even occasionally one of the primary GF flours, brown rice or sorghum.  But to be out of something as basic as corn starch!   But with 16 cups of flours already half mixed up, what was I to do?  I continued on, but substituted tapioca starch for the corn starch.  It has worked well for most things, but I really am looking forward to trying the "real" Artisanal Gluten Free Flour Blend.

The Bronskis are a great source of GF information, both at their blog (linked at the top of the page) and the cookbook.  They have a new cupcake cookbook coming out soon.  I have an "in" with the Red Lake Falls librarian, and she had ordered both books for that branch.  She was glad to do it, since she didn't have any GF cookbooks in the holdings.  So if anyone local wants to take a peak before purchasing, they will be available in Red Lake Falls within the next few months.  But I bet you'll want to order your own copy once you preview it.

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