I hear it all the time – people, especially those new to a gluten free diet, tell me how difficult it is to cook and bake gluten free – the ingredients are hard to find, they are expensive, they can’t be found in the regular grocery store…
I understand that there can be challenges to baking gluten free, trust me, I have had to face my fair share of challenges over the past 18 years of creating gluten free recipes. But it does not have to be hard, expensive and inconvenient! To prove this I gave myself a little challenge. I decided to bake a dessert that could be taken to a bake sale, a cookie swap or served to friends with tea or coffee and to use ingredients I bought entirely at my local grocery store.
I don’t live in a big city and I certainly don’t live in a progressive city – I think my grocery store is probably pretty average in terms of what gluten free items are available. But I will say this – over the past year my store has started to carry many more gluten free items. I like to think that I have something to do with this. Why? Because I ask for them! And then, when they get the items in, I buy them and I spread the word.
OK, maybe it’s not all because of me; recent studies have shown that there are 5 times more gluten free products available in “normal” grocery stores currently, than there were just one year ago. Companies that have been producing wheat based products for decades have started producing gluten free products. But I don’t rely on my local grocery store to follow suit – I talk to the manager, I ask for them to carry more gluten free products and when they get in the products I ask for, I buy them. There are grocery stores on every corner practically, if one store wants my business, they need to stock the items I buy. And when they do stock the items I ask for, others buy them too. Obviously I am not the only gluten free person in this town.
So, back to my challenge – I walked the grocery aisles and looked at what was available and decided to make almond bars. I started with a bag of blanched almonds (my store sometimes carries almond flour but they were out that day) and went on from there. I grabbed some gluten free oats, a bag of brown rice flour, a couple cans of Solo’s Cake and Pastry Filling (all of Solo’s cake and pastry filling flavors are gluten free) and some sliced almonds. I tossed some butter and brown sugar into my cart and off I went to bake.
The result? Gluten Free Almond Bars with a rich almondy base, topped with a crumbly almond oat topping and a layer of berry flavor sandwiched in between that I would proudly offer to anyone, I would take them to a bake sale, participate in a cookie swap with them and I would even serve them to people who firmly believe that “gluten free” equals “taste free.”
I hope this recipe proves that gluten free baking does not always require unusual ingredients, it does not have to be difficult and that great results are available to everyone. If your local store doesn’t carry any of these ingredients – ask for them! If you never ask, you never give them an opportunity to please you.
Gluten Free Almond Bars Recipe
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup brown rice flour – use divided
½ cup corn starch (or you could use tapioca starch)
1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
½ cup plus 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces – use divided
1 – 12.5 ounce can Solo Almond Cake & Pastry Filling (not almond paste or marzipan)
½ cup gluten free rolled oats
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sliced almonds
1 – 12 ounce can Mixed Berry (or your favorite flavor) Solo Cake & Pastry filling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking dish (a lasagna pan) with a piece of parchment paper large enough to extend over the sides of the dish.
Place the blanched almonds into a food processor and pulse several times until they are ground into a meal. Add ½ cup brown rice flour, the corn or tapioca starch and salt and pulse a few times to combine. Add ½ cup of butter and the almond Cake & Pastry filling and process until fully combined. Spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes.
While the base layer bakes, prepare the topping by combining the remaining ½ cup brown rice flour with the gluten free oats, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and work it into the mixture with your fingers until crumbly (or you can use a pastry cutter). Stir in the sliced almonds.
When the base layer has cooked, spread the Mixed Berry Pastry Cake & Pastry Filling on top in an even layer. Sprinkle the topping all over in an even layer and bake for another 20 – 25 minutes or until the berry filling is bubbly and the topping lightly browned. Let cool in the pan. Once cooled, place a sturdy cutting board next to the baking dish, lift the baked pastry out of the pan using the parchment paper and place it on the cutting board. Cut into 16 bars approximately 2 by 3 inches each.
(If you don’t have a food processor and almond flour is available to you, substitute 1 cup almond flour for the blanched almonds, cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter and blend the remaining ingredients for the base layer in a mixer.)
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Ready for dessert?
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