Adventures in Gluten Free Baking, or, How to Make Poorly Delineated Cinnamon Sugar Blobs

Let me first say that I am not choosing to go gluten-free, nor am I likely to in the future after today’s attempt.  There are just some things that I was not meant to do, and gluten-free baking is one of them, right up there with runway modeling and staying up past 11:30 at night.

I was trying to make sticky buns for a work brunch, but to call these babies sticky buns or cinnamon rolls implies a level of shapeliness that is just not there. They are clearly blobs of gluten-free sweetness. The work party is to celebrate a milestone reached in a pilot program I am involved with. The whole thing has just taken off and is growing pretty quickly. It’s headed by a wonderful geriatrician, who happens to have Celiac Disease. I figured the least I could do for the man who gainfully employed me fresh out of college was to make something that he could eat at his own party. So off I went to the grocery store, to buy all kinds of bizarre flours and starches, the prices of which added up to princely sum. But it’s all good. I’m taking one for the team.

Clearly I am unable to follow recipes. I generally steer away from online recipes, especially if it’s something time consuming, because I’m never quite confident that they’re any good. Anybody can slap anything on the web and say it’s a good idea (ahem….myself included I suppose). But I found a recipe that got stellar reviews so I figured I was safe. I was not safe. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the recipe. I think it’s probably me. I can’t read recipes, and measure ingredients, and talk to the dog, and dance in the kitchen at the same time. It’s beyond my skill level. My dough was way too wet. Even after adding extra dry ingredients I had something that looked more like cake batter than sticky bun dough. Wet dough is pretty darn difficult to roll up into a log and cut in slices.

Thus, I ended up with these yummy little blobs. They’re pretty darn good, as long as you don’t look at them while you’re eating them. At all. I’m sure any true foodies gazing at the photo below are experiencing some intense retina burn right now. I cut them into bar shapes, and will introduce them to the team as sticky bars….not sticky blobs. And then no one will know that I made a mess of it all!


I think the most impressive thing is not that I made some poorly delineated gluten-free cinnamon sugar blobs, but that I managed to make them w/out crying.


Mallory’s Banana Bread

Believe it or not, I didn’t make banana bread for the first time until I was in college. One of my best friends Mallory shared here recipe with me, and it’s the one I’ve been using ever since. It’s a very forgiving recipe, as you’ll see below. I’ve found myself with a surplus of brown bananas. My supervisor and her family don’t like bananas once they start to brown, so she’s taken to plopping them on my desk once they’re past the point where her family wants to eat them. I’m never one to turn down free food. Life hands you brown bananas…make banana bread!



1/2 c granulated sugar

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 c applesauce

2 eggs (or 1/2 c greek yogurt if you’re out of eggs like I was, 1/4 c of yogurt =1 egg)

1 c mashed bananas (2 or 3 bananas, I usually eyeball and skip the measuring)

1 tsp. baking soda

2 c flour (I didn’t check prior to baking to see if I had all the ingredient. You’d think I’d learn! I didn’t have any regular all purpose flour. I ended up using mostly bread flour, and then  1/4 c of masa, or corn flour, when the bread flour ran out. It tastes just fine.)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 c walnuts (if ya want)


1. Pour all ingredients into the bowl and beat with an electric mixer until combined and banana chunks have all been smoothed out.

2. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan.

3. Sprinkle with nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar if you like.

4. Bake at 350° for 45 min to 1 hour, until toothpick or knife inserted into loaf comes out clean.

5. Cool (or not) and eat!





Lena’s Potato Dinner Rolls

My grandma’s best friend Lena bakes the best bread. Not only does she bake it, she shares it freely. It’s always a special treat when I visit home, and some of Lena’s dinner rolls magically appear at my grandma’s house. I’ve done some bread baking, here, here, and here, but hadn’t tried dinner rolls yet. I finally wrote to Lena, who gave me her recipe. I know she won’t mind me sharing it with all of you, since she’s such a generous person.

Lena’s Potato Dinner Rolls

2 packets of yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups of flour

1. Measure flour out into a large bowl.
2. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water
3. Mix all ingredients together, except for dissolved yeast and flour. Lena suggests using a blender for this part, to make sure that everything is thoroughly mixed.
4. Add dissolved yeast to mixture.
5. Pour wet ingredient mixture over the flour, and mix well.
6. Let mixture rise in the bowl. I covered mine and put it in a cool oven for about half an hour.
7. After first rise, punch the dough down, knead for a minute or two on a floured surface, roll into balls, and place in a lightly greased pan. I decided to make mine dinner roll sized, but you could make bigger ones to use for sandwiches and burgers.
8. Let rise again. I did another half an hour in a cool oven.
9. Bake at 375-400 for 8-10 minutes, until the tops brown. Remove from oven, cool on rack, and brush with melted butter if desired. Of course, I desired the butter.


It’s like eating a really delicious cloud. Seriously.


Earl Grey and Lavender Shortbread Cookies

I accidently bought more plants today. And by accidently I mean completely on purpose. The proceeds from the plant sale go towards various Madison children’s charities, so I don’t feel too guilty about spending money I don’t have. I came home with a white geranium and a pot of lavender. I tried growing lavender from seed for some silly reason, but it didn’t sprout so I had no choice but to buy some.


Then I was inspired to bake. I haven’t had time to do much of anything in the kitchen for weeks now, so it was overdue. I decided it was time to use up the Earl Grey and Lavender infused sugar that I had left over from a baking disaster that took place last month. I don’t want to talk about it. Here we go!

2 cups of butter, softened

1 cup of Earl Grey and Lavender infused sugar. Not as fancy as it sounds. Basically you put 1 or 2 tablespoons of Earl Grey loose leaf tea and 1 or 2 tablespoons of dried food grade lavender in a food processor along with 1 or 2 cups of sugar and blend it up for a while. Then, let it sit in a closed container for a day or two (or 4 weeks if you’re me) so that it all mixes nicely together. You could choose to remove the lavender and tea bits before using the sugar, but I left those in. Because I’m lazy, and the bits make the cookies look interesting.

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups of all purpose flour

1. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.

2. Add vanilla, flour, and salt, and mix well.

3. Place dough in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill. It will be way to sticky to roll out if you don’t. I speak from experience.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.

5. Roll dough out onto a well floured surface, about 1/8 of an inch thick. You can go thicker if you want, just adjust your baking time. You’ll want to make sure your rolling pin is floured too. Over and over again. Flour that baby up. If not, it’s going to stick and you’re going to get upset and you’re going to cry. Again, experience talking here.

6. Cut out your cookies, place on baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes. You have to watch shortbread closely, as it gets brown pretty quickly. I burnt the first pan. And the second pan. I caught on eventually. After taking the cookies out of the oven, I let them sit on the pan for about a minute before moving them to a rack to cool. They’re likely to break if you lift them off right away.


They’re pretty nice with a cup of tea! You can see that I used my fancy little cookie cutter that Ad got me for Easter. Hangs right on to the mug! Genius.