Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Romantic Desserts
Simple to sublime, rustic Italian treats show you care
Desserts in my family seem to come with the seasons. Deep-dish cakes and cookies during the winter holidays. Fried pastry cookies and wedding cannoli in the summer. Sweet egg breads and frosted biscotti for Easter in the spring.
In February, the old-time goodies from the countryside of Italy always speak to me of Valentine’s Day. They seem to symbolize the luscious essence of romance. Rustic desserts boast a humble beginning. In the 1700’s, sugar was a rare commodity, reserved for royalty. Peasants learned to use honey, fresh fruit and homemade liquors as sweeteners.
In modern times, Italian pastries have become quite sophisticated but I still love the rustic desserts of my childhood, particularly at this time of year. Not too sweet but incredibly delicious, the Italian dolci is as rewarding as it is uncomplicated.
Here are four easy-to-make desserts that speak of love. From the simple biscotti cookie to a modern take on Tuscany’s sublime tiramisu, these gluten-free, dairy-free recipes end any meal with elemental pleasure.
Easy and Dairy Free
Dairy-Free Raspberry Granita
One of Italy’s great gifts to the world, gelato is a refreshing dessert that’s perfect after a heavy meal. Countless flavors and varied textures make it a sensuous experience every time you eat it.
¾ cup granulated sugar or ½ cup honey
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups frozen raspberries
1. Line a 9x13-inch metal baking dish with parchment paper or wax paper.
2. In a small bowl, combine first three ingredients. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
3. In a food processor or blender, blend raspberries until smooth. Add sugar mixture and pulse until combined, about 1 minute.
4. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and put into the freezer. Stir every 30 minutes, scraping frozen edges into center, for about 1½ hours or until mixture is frozen. To serve, scrape granita with a fork into individual dessert dishes.
Each serving contains 130 calories, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 1g protein.
Rich Cocoa Flavor
Dairy-Free Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
These buttery biscuits are infused with the dark taste of cocoa. Only slightly sweet, they pair perfectly with granita. These cookies freeze well in an airtight container or zip-lock bag with wax paper between layers; remove from container and thaw before serving.
1 cup unsalted butter or dairy-free substitute
⅔ cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2½ cups + 2 tablespoons Mary’s All- Purpose Flour Blend or blend of choice
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- Decorative sugar, optional
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Using a Kitchen Aid or hand mixer, beat together butter and sugar, about 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Add vanilla and gently combine using mixer; set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour blend, xanthan gum, salt and cocoa powder.
5. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, mixing on low speed only until ingredients are combined. Don’t over-mix. Put dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
6. Line a cutting board with parchment paper or dust it lightly with additional flour blend. Place dough on board and roll it out about ½ inch thick. Cut into 1x3-inch rectangles with a shortbread cutter or knife. Space evenly on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with decorative sugar.
7. Bake in preheated oven for 16 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet.
TIP Cookies continue baking as they cool. They will be crumbly and difficult to handle until they’ve cooled completely.
Each cookie contains 92 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat,1 mg cholesterol, 15mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g protein.
Fragrant Orange-Cherry Flavor
Gluten-Free Orange-Cherry Dipped Biscotti
Dipping this “twice-baked” dessert in melted chocolate makes it an irresistible treat.
1½ cups Mary’s All-Purpose Flour Blend or blend of choice
¼ cup tapioca starch/flour
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- Pinch salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, dairy-free butter alternative or vegetable oil, such as grape seed oil or canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature, or flax gel
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon orange zest (zest of one orange)
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup gluten-free, dairy-free semi - sweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour blend, tapioca starch, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt. Whisk until well blended.
3. Using a hand mixer or Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar. Beat for 3 minutes until mixture is fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing on slow speed just until incorporated. Mix in orange extract, orange zest, and dried cherries. Add dry ingredients and mix just enough, until ingredients combine to form a soft dough. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
4. Shape dough into two 2x6-inch logs. Place side by side on prepared baking sheet, leaving room for dough to spread.
5. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.
6. Cut logs into individual biscotti about 1-inch thick.* Lay flat on baking sheet and place them in oven to bake an additional 7 to 10 minutes.
7. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave just until melted. Spread or dip melted chocolate onto one end of the biscotti.
Each biscotti contains 141 calories, 6g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 22mg cholesterol, 31mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g protein.
*TIP Biscotti will be quite doughy after the first baking, so let cool before slicing. Cut gently with a pastry knife or chef’s knife, using the knife to flip biscotti on their sides for second baking.
A Scrumptious Fruit Pie
MAKES ONE 8-INCH CROSTADA
A simple fruit crostata is the perfect way to end a romantic meal. What’s not to love about sweet shortbread pastry dough wrapped around fresh fruit? Use strawberries or a fruit of your choice.
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon potato starch
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Sweet Pastry Crust
1 cup Mary’s All-Purpose Flour Blend or blend of choice
2 tablespoons tapioca starch/flour
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or dairy-free substitute, well chilled
1 large egg or flax gel
1 tablespoon or more ice water
1. In a small bowl, mix together berries, sugar, potato starch and zest. Set aside.
2. To make crust, in a food processor or large bowl, mix together first four dry ingredients. Cut in butter or butter alternative just until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add egg or egg alternative and ice water and mix until dough forms a ball. Place dough between two pieces of parchment paper and flatten dough to about a 4-inch disk. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan.
4. Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a 9- to 10-inch circle. Peel off top sheet. Transfer crust to prepared pie plate, dough side down. Peel off remaining sheet of parchment.
5. Place strawberry mixture on crust and gently fold pastry up and over the edge of the filling, pleating it as you go. You will end up with about an 8-inch crostata.
6. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until crust is a golden brown. Cool before serving.
Each serving contains 207 calories, 9g total fat, 6g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 49mg cholesterol, 11mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 2g protein.
Alluring and Delicious
This modern take on traditional tiramisu is gluten free and dairy free. It’s constructed with delicate ladyfinger cookies, scrumptious espresso egg custard and your favorite dark chocolate.
These wonderful cookies have many applications in addition to tiramisu. Use them in a trifle, a mousse cake or frost them with a chocolate ganache for a fancy tea cookie. For best results, do not replace eggs with an egg substitute.
3 large eggs, separated
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup Mary’s All-Purpose Flour Blend or blend of choice
¼ cup potato starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks, 2 minutes or more. Add sugar and beat again until meringue is glossy and smooth and forms stiff peaks, about 1 minute. Do not over-beat.
3. Gently beat egg yolks and vanilla together and then fold into meringue with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour blend, potato starch, xanthan gum and baking powder. Sprinkle mixture on the top of the meringue and fold in gently.
5. Fit a large pastry bag with a large plain tip (#16) and fill with batter. Or use a large zip-lock bag with the corner cut off to 1/2 to 3/4-inch opening. Pipe out strips of batter, 3-inches long. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
6. Bake for 10 minutes, without opening the oven door. Then rotate pan and cook for another 4 minutes or until a very light brown.
7. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
TIP Ladyfingers can be frozen for up to 4 weeks. Freeze them in a sealed plastic bag with wax paper between each layer. When ready to eat, remove from bag and thaw. Then toast lightly in a 375-degree oven for 5 minutes.
Italian Egg Custard
This rich egg custard combines a sweet wine with espresso to create a delicious sauce for ladyfingers. It’s so tasty, you may find yourself eating it by the spoonful. For best results, do not replace egg yolks with an egg substitute.
3 egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar
3 tablespoons Marsala wine or sweet dessert wine
3 tablespoons espresso or dark brewed coffee
1 egg white, beaten to soft peak
2 ounces dark chocolate, shaved or chopped
1. Over a tight-fitting double boiler, mix egg yolks and sugar. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth. Add wine and coffee and whisk constantly until mixture becomes thick and doubles in size, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
2. Beat egg white until it forms soft peaks. Fold egg white into cooled coffee mixture. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
3. Transfer ladyfingers, custard and chopped chocolate to a serving platter. Invite your guests to build their own tiramisu: Top a ladyfinger cookie with a mound of custard and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.
Each serving contains 150 calories, 5g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 114mg cholesterol, 27mg sodium, 21g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 3g protein.
Mary Capone (bellaglutenfree.com), author of The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook, lives in Longmont, Colorado.
MAKES 6 CUPS
A combination of white and brown rice flour lightens the texture of baked goods. For a more nutritious mix with lower glycemic index, use all brown rice flour (a total of 4 cups flour).
2 cups brown rice flour
2 cups white rice flour
1⅓ cups potato starch (not potato flour)
⅔ cup tapioca starch/flour
1. Mix ingredients together. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator until used.
Each cup contains 564 calories, 2g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 4mg sodium, 127g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 7g protein.