GOOP

This week we bring you the lovely Erin McKenna and recipes from the best thing to happen to health conscious foodies – the BABYCAKES BAKERY! When I’m on the sugar-free/vegan/gluten-free tip I bust out this glorious hymn to the guilt-free treat and get busy.

Love,

--- Gwyneth Paltrow

GOOP: How long have you been making gluten-free, vegan and (mostly) sugar-free baked goods? What inspired you to eliminate gluten, dairy and often sugar?

Erin McKenna: I began to teach myself how to bake this way back in 2002 after I went to a health practitioner because I was having horrible stomachaches and huge digestion issues. She told me to eliminate wheat, dairy, soy, caffeine and refined sugar from my diet. She also explained that steering clear of processed food and non-organic items would quicken the healing process with my gut. I almost fell over because I LIVED for frozen yogurt and my mother's chocolate chip cookies. I remember my first grocery-shopping trip after I heard I needed to avoid these ingredients. It was so devastating and confusing. I had no idea what to buy. If something was wheat-free, it had sugar. If it was sugar-free, it had toxic sweeteners like Aspartame. If it was vegan, it had wheat and on and on. I think I left the store with an Asian pear and a box of Kleenex. I eventually found savory foods that fit the bill but had to make my own desserts at home that were up to my new health standards.

GOOP: What effect has it had? What are the health benefits of being wheat and dairy-free?

Erin McKenna: I was never overweight but I dropped about 10 pounds by taking out the gluten, dairy, caffeine, processed foods and sugar and replacing them with whole foods. There was no dieting involved, no carb-counting or fat gram tallying. I was just very careful about my food choices and made sure that I knew what was in everything I was eating before I indulged.

GOOP: What are your must-have ingredients? And where do you get them?

Erin McKenna: My top 3 must have ingredients are coconut oil (it’s really high in lauric acid, stimulates the thyroid and gives almost identical flavor of butter when used properly), agave nectar (I prefer Organic Nectars – it’s low on the glycemic index, non-toxic and tastes just like sugar without the aftertaste) and Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all purpose baking mix (my whole baking empire would collapse if he went out of business! His product is so incredible). You can get these at health food stores or Whole Foods but if there isn’t one near you, they’re all available online (check out www.nutiva.com, www.organicnectars.com, www.bobsredmill.com).

GOOP: How did you develop these recipes? And how did you figure out how to substitute uncommon ingredients to get familiar results?

Erin McKenna: I used to look at old cookbooks like Julia Child’s for inspiration and I would try to figure out the flour/leavening/fat/sugar ratio in order create recipes from scratch. At the time there was no cookbook available that was doing what I set out to do, so recipe development was an insanely rocky road. At the height of my testing I had to support the venture by waiting tables at Lupa and cocktailing at the Merc Bar to have enough money to test and re-test recipes. It was really expensive! I never went to culinary school so I had to teach myself not only how to make my way around the kitchen but also how to play in this crazy culinary obstacle course I put myself in.

GOOP: Is spelt gluten-free? It is often a common misunderstanding.

Erin McKenna: Spelt is not gluten-free. It’s an ancestor to wheat and contains gluten. Some people who are wheat sensitive can tolerate spelt but not everyone.

GOOP: What are your plans for Babycakes?

Erin McKenna: Big plans! Another cookbook next year, a downtown Los Angeles location and I’m in talks to open another location in NYC slated for 2010 (I can’t disclose where it will be just yet). I hope to have about twenty locations eventually.

GOOP: Are there any recipes you are working on that you are excited about? Or are there any old classics you are still trying to master? Will there ever be a vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free Twinkie?

Erin McKenna: I just made donuts a couple weeks ago, which was almost as exciting to me as when I came up with the frosting recipe. I LOVE donuts. I think they have the same appeal as cupcakes and evoke the same feeling. When I announced that we were now serving gluten-free, vegan, soy-free donuts at the bakery everyone lost it! Everyone went into a frenzy and one guy biked from Brooklyn through heavy rain just to try one. Luckily everyone loves them and some say it’s the best thing we make. I love it!!!!!

GOOP: And finally what is your favorite recipe that you have created?

Erin McKenna: The donuts. No. The Frosting. Wait, no. The cookies. Can I have 3???

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

YIELD: 3 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, applesauce, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, flax meal, baking soda and xanthan gum. Using a rubber spatula, carefully push the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and combine until dough is formed. With the same spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chips just until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Using a melon-baller, measure out the dough and place on the prepared baking sheets. Space the portions 1-inch apart. Gently press each with the heel of your hand to help them spread. Bake the cookies on the center rack for 14 minutes, rotating the trays 180 degrees after 9 minutes. The cookies will be crispy on the edges and soft in the center. Remove from the oven.

Let cookies stand 10 minutes. They’re best served warm, but to save them use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely before covering. Place in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

download a printable version

Lemon Poppy Teacake

YIELD: about 10 slices

  • 2/3 cup rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1⁄4 cup poppy seeds
  • 3/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cups agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons pure lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 7 × 4 × 3-inch loaf pan with oil.

Pour the rice milk, apple cider vinegar, and poppy seeds into a small bowl – but do not stir – and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, vanilla, and lemon to the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the poppy seed mixture into the batter, and combine just until all ingredients are blended. The batter will expand slightly.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake on the center rack for 35 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 18 minutes. The teacake will be golden brown and springy, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

Let the teacake stand in the pan for 20 minutes, then gently run a knife around the edge of the bread. Cover the top of the pan with a cutting board, and invert onto the board. Carefully lift the pan away and re-invert the teacake onto another cutting board. Either cut and serve warm, or wait until it is completely cool before storing. Cover the uncut teacake with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

download a printable version

Chocolate Cupcakes

YIELD: 1 dozen

  • 1 cup garbanzo and fava bean flour
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 6 tablespoons applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot water or hot coffee
  • Frosting for serving (see recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line one, standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, potato starch, cocoa powder, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt. Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, vanilla, and hot water directly to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is smooth.

Pour 1/3 cup of the batter into each prepared cup. This portion will almost fill the cup up entirely. Bake the cupcakes on the center rack for 22 minutes, rotating the tray 180 degrees after 15 minutes. The cupcakes will bounce back when pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean. Remove from the oven.

Let the cupcakes stand for 20 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack right side up and cool completely. Using a frosting knife, gently spread 1 tablespoon of Frosting over each cupcake. Place the cupcakes in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

download a printable version

Vanilla Frosting

YIELD: enough for 1 dozen cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups soy milk
  • 3/4 cup soy “Better Than Milk” powder
  • 1 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice

In a blender or food processor, combine the soy milk, “Better Than Milk” powder, coconut flour, agave nectar, and vanilla. Mix the ingredients for 2 minutes. As the machine blends, slowly add the oil and lemon juice, alternating between the two until all parts are incorporated. Pour the mixture into an airtight container. Place the container in the refrigerator for 6 hours, or for up to 1 month, before using.

download a printable version

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I'm kind of in love with Erin Mckenna, check it: www.vimeo.com/6596217

For more information visit www.babycakesnyc.com

Pick up a copy of the Babycakes cookbook available on Amazon.