The Holiday Season is finally upon us, but it feels for us as though we have been in it for months. As you all know by now we have been planning, cooking, and photographing full menu spreads for special occasions for our new book, Gather The Art of Paleo Entertaining. This book has been an incredible challenge, but the success with how it has turned out has made the hard work more than worth it.
Bill and I have both been under a lot of stress lately, which is why you really haven’t seen much of us on here. We are working day and night to perfect this book, for which we have spent months begging friends and family to let us photograph our menus in their beautiful homes, and leading up to each shoot we spend weeks preparing the menus, prop shopping, and of course cooking. Then we pack our cars, and head off to wherever we may be shooting that week. We are down to the wire, and unfortunately for us, our deadline falls at the same time as the Christmas season and the time we need to finish our wedding guest list and get our save-the-dates out. You can probably imagine that we haven’t been able to do much holiday shopping, or think one bit about our wedding right now.
This project has literally been back breaking work, that is sooo mentally taxing, but the feeling of success that sweeps over us as we finish each shoot and look back on the amazing photos, and remember the wonderful flavors, really keeps us inspired for the next one. It’s almost euphoric, the feeling. Although I have yet to have a baby and give birth, that is probably the closest example I can give to what this process has been like. Sweat, tears, and pain for hours and hours, and then when it’s all done the beauty of what we have created together makes us forget all the work that went into it so we are more than ready to go through it all again. Yes, that is exactly what this book has been like–child birth every single week for months. Okay maybe I have exaggerated slightly, but I’m not that far off. We have really enjoyed this project and we have a huge a attachment to our “new baby”.
Even though we are up to our eyeballs in work for this book (and the thought of holiday shopping and wedding save-the-dates are gnawing at me inside), we still wanted to celebrate the Holidays with all of you! We have perfected an oldie, but goodie, recipe for grain free gingerbread cookies. This recipe is two years old, and based off of Bill’s mom’s favorite gingerbread cookie recipe. The first time we made this recipe we baked the cookies in Bill’s parents home with his mom there and we were able to share them with her. It was a really nice moment. It’s sad to say, but we really haven’t made them since, so I was really looking forward to trying this recipe again with a few tweaks.
I have become very fond of a new baking ingredient since starting to work on Gather. Well, it’s not a “new” ingredient per se, but it was new to me. Arrowroot flour. I didn’t understand what it was before, and thought that if it wasn’t made from almond or coconut it was a Paleo sin. I have found a new love for arrowroot flour. It really adds something special to grain free baking, and seems to be that “magic ingredient” that takes an “okay” grain free baked good to the next level of “Oh Emm Gee this is like, totally the real deal!” I have always loved baking, not just because I love sweets (which I do), but because desserts are beautiful. I am a makeup artist. I love enhancing or creating beauty, and there is something absolutely exhilarating about creating a beautiful baked good. It takes time, effort, and skill, and when you can make something that special happen in your kitchen–WITHOUT gluten and conventional ingredients it’s that much more rewarding.
Now here is were we really take a walk on the wild side. A week or so ago I was staring at the wall of baking ingredients in Whole Foods. I think I have touched on this before, but I can be horrible to shop with because I will just stare off into retail space not really knowing what I want, just kind of soaking things in. Often I do the whole “get in and get out” with groceries, but sometimes I just have to stand there and look. I’m always looking for new ingredients to play with for grain free baking, and sometimes I will look even though I know I’m not going to find anything new and “safe” to cook with. We have really taken an approach to writing Gather that it is a book for people who love food, and want to enjoy food with friends and family. It’s not your typical 3o day challenge book, it’s a lifestyle book. (And we have NOTHING against doing a month of strict paleo – we’re even writing our next cookbook around that very concept!) With life comes celebrations and dessert, and our feelings on this is that as long as ingredients are ones that you can purchase with integrity, and stay grain free, then it’s all good. A grain free dessert is NOT Paleo, and is never going to be a health food. It is always going to be a dessert, so if you think you are really doing your body a good service by munching down on some “Paleo” brownies, you are fooling yourself. Grain free treats need to be treated as such, and eaten in serious moderation, and in our minds, they are best left as celebratory treats with friends and family. We never make grain free cookies at home just so we can eat them. We only ever bake for a holiday, party, event, or work. But that’s what makes it so special.
My reasoning for this explanation is to now tell you that I purchased powdered sugar at Whole Foods. I know, stop the presses! But wait… I picked up the bag, in hopes of some miracle that would tell me I could make real homemade frosting for some grain free desserts, and well, the ingredients were “cane sugar” and “tapioca starch.” …I’ll take it! Sugar is sugar people, whether it’s honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, coconut syrup, or unrefined cane sugar. It’s all sugar! Tapioca starch is derived from cassava, which is a great starch source, and is often sold in whole food form and known as Yuca, a root vegetable that is similar in flavor and texture to white potatoes. Cane sugar and yuca…that’s all I needed to see to know that I was going to purchase that ingredient and make some real deal grass fed buttercream frosting, and last night that is exactly what I did. I whipped up a homemade buttercream frosting in our KitchenAid mixer, and once our cute little gingerbread people cooled down enough, I decorated their outfits with piped frosting. YAY!
I had a great time baking these cookies. It was fun, relaxing, rewarding, and delicious. The new recipe is simpler than our original one, and makes an easy-to-cut cookie batter. No gooey, runny dough that is tough to move around for baking. This dough was firm, yet mobile enough to roll out, and baked up beautifully. When I had used all the dough except the last little bit which wasn’t worth rolling out for more cut outs, I made a few little gingersnap cookies. The gingersnap cookies are a great alternative for this cookie dough if you do not have cookie cutters on hand but want to make a festive cookie for a Holiday party.
Looks like a great cookie. I wish I could find a recipe like it that our family could tolerate (still looking for that one). I don’t want to start an argument, and I definitely agree with you about the dessert aspect of some foods (and that they’re not Paleo), but I do have to disagree about the cane sugar being the same as honey, etc. It is not. Sugar cane is a grain (for us, our family avoids all grain all the time, dessert or no). It comes from the same family as other grains. It is also more difficult to digest than honey (per Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride). If that’s something that you feel comfortable “cheating” on, I totally understand that. But please don’t tell people that it’s the same as the other sugars. There are good reasons why someone (especially someone eating Paleo and/or with gut issues/autoimmune issues) would want to avoid cane sugar and molasses.
@Christie B.- Thanks for the info, I actually did not consider that sugar cane was a grain, but even so, my explanation was based on people looking for gluten free alternatives for desserts, and not being confused thinking that a “Paleo dessert” is healthy because it’s not. I don’t consider honey, or maple syrup to be any more of a health food than cane sugar, which was my meaning behind “sugar is sugar”. Also there are plenty of people in this community who eat white rice occasionally which can be fairly benign so I don’t hesitate in posting this recipe. When a grain is refined and stripped of those proteins the reaction might be minimal, but I understand what you are saying about sugar in the gut. For someone who knows they absolutely cannot tolerate cane sugar for digestive reasons then they could make this recipe without molasses (they wont taste exactly like gingerbread but it’s an alternative), and use honey in the buttercream frosting instead, but also if someone has serious gut issues/autoimmune conditions I would wonder why they would be trying to eat a baked good anyway? Most folks with a serious autoimmune condition know they aren’t benefitting their health by eating grain free baked treats-that’s why this recipe is not directed toward someone with an autoimmune condition.
Yes, those of us with autoimmune diseases (that would include both myself and my 11-yr-old son) should eat a very clean diet. Here we do. But in order to keep my son compliant with the way we eat, I do need to provide a treat now and then (seriously, the last time I made cookies was over a year ago, and I rarely make treats of other kinds, either). I figure that if that is what it takes, so be it. I make the treats as “clean” as possible, and it’s rare that he has any trouble with them. I also try to make sure that they don’t cause any inflammation. And I often make nutrient-dense foods into a “dessert” (such as an avocado “pudding”). For kids who don’t eat junky desserts, it passes with flying colors (I have no idea how it would go with your average kid).
Keep in mind that we will need to live this way for a lifetime. Autoimmune diseases can often be controlled, but they can’t be cured. The occasional treat is not likely to cause a problem, and will make it so that my son can contemplate eating this way when he grows up and moves away. That seems to me a fair compromise.
I’m sorry if I came across as judging you. I didn’t mean that. As I said, I really do understand what you were saying about desserts, and I mostly agree. I didn’t realize you were going for a GF cookie, rather than Paleo. Sorry. I was just trying giving some information that many people don’t seem to realize.
I just made the old recipe a couple days ago, and indeed they were a bit difficult to work with. I ended up doing gingersnaps rather than men. I about tripled the ginger, and the flavor was amazing… and after they baked they were chewy and perfect!
I cant wait to try this one out. I think maple cream would be a great frosting here: http://www.americastestkitchenfeed.com/recipes/homemade-maple-cream/ It’s basically just whipped maple syrup. Also you can do a real buttercream (swiss, italian or french) and you wont have a mealy texture from the powdered sugar… plus you taste the butter more (which is always a great thing).
Happy holidays, and thanks for being awesome!
I made the original recipe last year and as it’s been stated – they were hard to work with. I made this revisted recipe and they were soooo much easier to roll out; however, I am still having an issue. Once they bake they blow up in size and instead of gingerbread men — mine kind of look more like blobs! My snowflakes look like flowers, and my trees look like rounded triangles! You get the idea. I am sure it’s something I’m doing wrong — but any suggestions or ideas on how I can get them to keep their shape? My dough was rolled to about 1/4 an inch in thickness.