A few months ago I was exploring different methods of making caramel and came across a caramel brownie post by my favorite food blogger David Lebovitz. In his post about the brownies, Lebovitz gives a brief description Irvin Lin’s cookbook Marbled, Swirled, and Layered, the book from which he took the recipe for the caramel brownies. Lebovitz is not, of course, a blogger of gluten-free recipes, and neither is Lin’s cookbook devoted to gluten-free baking. Never-the-less, the cookbook sounded intriguing and if David Lebovitz gives is a thumbs up, well then! The book is good enough for me! I ordered the cookbook later that day, even paying full price for it (I usually buy only used books).
As I was exploring the pages of Marbled, Swirled, and Layered, the name of which alone conjures up images of flavorful, rich, beautiful desserts, I was surprised to find a section of gluten-free conversions for the recipes near the front of the book. In this section Lin includes suggested combinations of gluten-free flours to create an all-purpose gluten-free flour, whole grain gluten-free , and chocolate gluten-free flour blends. The chocolate blend is really interesting. It requires carob powder instead of cocoa, and mesquite flour. Although mesquite flour is rising in popularity, as I’ve written about recently in Edible Austin and Edible San Antonio, seeing someone use it as part of a flour blend in a cookbook is unusual.
Although the flour blends suggested by Lin are sound (blends of gluten-free flours that have proteins with those that are starches), a novice gluten-free baker will need some information that is lacking in the gluten-free section of this cookbook. Lin does note on the first page of the section that people using the flour blends he suggests will need to use xanthan gum as well as the amount needed according to recipe type, he neglects to mention that gluten-free flours require more moisture than all purpose flour. Recipes in this book that require liquid of some sort will need further adaption for it to work well with gluten-free flour. To be fair, this book is not a gluten-free cookbook and Lin is thoughtful to have included a section with gluten-free flour blends, so I won’t fault him for leaving out that piece of information.
As for the recipes themselves, well, I have to admit that after reading through the cookbook I grew to ENVY Mr. Lin. The recipes in this book reflect a creative culinary mind, especially in his choice and combination of flavors. In this book one finds such combinations as peach and thyme; blueberry and coriander; lemon, ginger, and tequila; strawberry and bay leaf; raspberry and grapes; and grapefruit and Earl grey tea. This book is a perfect resource for inspiration in the kitchen (and let’s be honest – most people who love to bake use cookbooks more for inspiration for creating their own recipes than for the actual recipes in the books).
The inspiration value of Lin’s book having been noted, I admit to having made one of his recipes nearly step by step and with nearly – but not quite – the same ingredients. I am naturally drawn to any recipe that includes caramel, caramel and chocolate being my top two flavors. Add salt to that combination of flavors and perfection is achieved. The recipe for citrus sour salted caramel bars with dark chocolate ganache immediately attracted my attention and I went for it. I made my own gluten-free flour blend instead of using one from the gluten-free section in Lin’s book. His all purpose blend would be the one that would be my choice for use with this recipe, if I were going to choose one. That blend uses white and brown rice flours, and I’ve grown partial to using purity protocol oat flour in most of my baking.
Lin’s recipe for the lemon salt lists citric acid as an ingredient. His notes for the recipe say the citric acid is optional (it adds a more sour note to the citrus salt), however, so I omitted it. I doubled the amount of grated lemon required by the recipe, though.
The instructions for the baking the shortbread crust require that a piece of parchment paper be placed over the crust, with pie weights or beans on top of the paper as the crust bakes. I didn’t see a purpose for following those instructions since the recipe also includes instructions to poke the crust through with a fork before placing the paper and weights over it. Just pricking the crust with the fork should be enough to keep bubbles from forming in the crust as it bakes. I pricked the crust well with a fork and skipped the weighted parchment paper step. My crust turned out perfectly.
When making the the caramel I skipped the recipe instruction to stir the sugar when it begins to brown. Stirring the sugar can cause the caramel to crystalize. I swirl it instead. Instead of heating the cream and vanilla extract in a pot on the stove, I microwaved it. Sadly, I was so intent on making sure the caramel didn’t burn while making it that I just completely forgot to take photos of the caramel making process! Alas, I have no photos of the caramel making among the photos of the crust, ganache, and lemon salt making in this post.
Directions in the cookbook for making the ganache include instructions to melt the chocolate first, then add heated cream to the melted chocolate. I don’t see a need for the extra step of melting the chocolate first. I placed the chocolate in a bowl and poured the heated cream over it, which I believe is the most common method of making ganache. I left the chocolate to sit in the cream for a couple of minutes, then whisked the mixture until the chocolate was completely melted and smooth. The recipe requires that 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar be added to the ganache (a very nice addition to the ganache; the vinegar brightens or sharpens the chocolate flavor). Lin doesn’t specify, but please, please, please don’t use the three dollar version you find on your grocery shelf. Look for true balsamic vinegar and be willing to splurge to get the good stuff (if you don’t already). If you live in a state where you can shop at HEB, then you can find this reasonably priced IGP balsamic vinegar. If you live near a Trader Joe’s, you can buy its private label balsamic vinegar, which is reasonably priced, actually IGP, and very good quality.
This caramel bar recipe, as well as many of the book’s other recipes, have many steps and require a fair amount of time to prepare. Be sure to plan your time accordingly if you want to deglutenize one of the recipes in this book. Don’t worry about the time you put into making one of Lin’s dessert recipes. The result will be well worth your time.
Gluten-Free Citrus Salted Caramel Dark Bars with Dark Chocolate
This recipe is adapted from the Citrus Sour Salted Caramel Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache in Irvin Lin’s book Marbled, Swirled, and Layered.
- 75 grams oat flour celiacs use purity protocol oat flour
- 75 grams superfine sorghum flour I use Authentic Foods superfine grind sorghum flour
- 75 grams tapioca flour
- 75 grams potato starch NOT potato flour
- 100 grams powdered sugar
- 255 grams butter cut into small pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream heated
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 450 grams sugar
- 200 grams butter cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 100 grams dark chocolate chopped, or chips
- 6 tablespoons butter cut into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar