When is a Biscuit a Square?

Biscuit Squares with Watercress

It’s so exciting being at the leading edge of cuisine, especially when it happens because you’re in the midst of a culinary disaster.  The chain of events went as follows: A reader had asked me to find a recipe for biscuits—a request which I had filed away in my memory banks.  Then I bought watercress on sale.  Then I looked through cookbooks for watercress recipes.  The New York Times Cookbook obliged with a recipe for watercress biscuits.  “What an odd but good idea!” I thought, because it fit in with my desire to add nutritious vegetables wherever I can. 

Then I found a biscuit recipe in Bette Hagman’s The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods, which I particularly liked because it didn’t use a lot of shortening.  However, the recipe wasn’t for the lactose-intolerant because it included buttermilk.  I had read in Living Without magazine that I could substitute 1 cup of soy milk mixed with 1 tbsp. lemon juice for 1 cup of buttermilk.  Problem solved.  Except that I couldn’t use the Featherlight Rice Flour Mix called for in the recipe, because I didn’t have any potato flour on hand.  I decided to use the Gluten-Free Mix instead.  Problem solved. 

Then I went into cooking mode.  Measure, add, mix…measure, add, mix.  “Hmmm, a little moist,” I thought.  Clearly, I think in understatements.  When I tried to roll out the dough, the disaster revealed itself.  Way, way too moist.  Was it doomed because the soured soy milk wasn’t as thick as buttermilk?  Or because I hadn’t used the right flour blend?  Or maybe the watercress was adding to the moistness?  Whatever the cause,  I was either going to have to add lots more flour, which could make the biscuits too heavy, or…, I know, bake the biscuits as they were squares! 

The result?  They smell like biscuits, and they taste like biscuits with a slight tang of watercress.  But, of course, but they don’t look anything like biscuits.  But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?  So…I give you the recipe, using the correct flour mix, with two endings: the recipe’s actual ending and my ending.  I do plan to try this again and will keep you posted!

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 8 servings

The Featherlight Rice Flour Mix is as follows:

  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp. potato flour (not starch!) 


  • ½ cup unsweetened soy milk or other alternative milk
  • 1½ tsp. lemon juice
  • 7/8 cup Featherlight Rice Flour Mix
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. sugar (I used the real thing because the amount was so small, but you can substitute artificial sugar)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. shortening
  • 1 bunch watercress, big stems removed, and processed until finely chopped (optional)


  1. Mix soy milk and lemon juice and let sit while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flour mix, xanthan gum, baking soda, sugar, and salt.
  3. Using pastry blender or two knives, cut in the shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Stir in soured soy milk.
  5. Add watercress, if desired.
  6. Ending #1: If your dough forms a ball, turn it out onto a surface dusted with rice flour and pat or lightly roll to ¾” thickness.  Cut dough into 2½” rounds.  Place 1″ apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in 450º F oven for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Ending #2: If your dough is too moist to roll, pour into a sprayed 8″ x 8″ baking pan.  Bake in 425º F oven for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers: Each serving is 3.5 points on the Points plan and 4 points on the PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from “Featherlight Biscuits” in The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Food by Bette Hagman)

Zucchini Cinnamon Bread

(Update April 2012: I have refashioned this recipe to lower the calorie-count and changed it from a bread to Zucchini Cinnamon Squares.)

This bread is dense, rich, moist, and fragrant with cinnamon and other spices.

It’s healthy for you too, covering all the food groups: grain (rice flour), vegetables/fruit (zucchini and applesauce), protein (quinoa flour), and oils (olive oil).

The quinoa flour has another benefit for dieters: it’s “cheaper” than rice flour in terms of calories and Weight Watcher points than the white rice flour that was called for in the original recipe.

My husband, who has a stomach of iron, can eat anything, and doesn’t need to lose weight, used to stay away from my gluten-free, diet experiments.  Not any more.  Now the sounds and smells of bread coming out of the oven has him wandering down to the kitchen just in time for a sample before I take the photographs. 🙂

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 8 slices


  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • ½ – ¾ cup artificial sugar
  • ½ tsp. xanthum gum
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ginger
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup soy milk or other alternative milk, if needed
  • 2 cups green zucchini, shredded (about 2 small zucchini)
  • Cooking spray


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients: brown rice flour, quinoa flour, tapioca flour, just ½ cup of artificial sugar, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs.
  3. Add applesauce, oil, and vanilla to the eggs.
  4. Gradually add dry ingredients to the liquid ones.  If batter gets too thick, add milk.
  5. Taste batter.  If it needs more sweetening, add the remaining ¼ of artificial sugar. (The original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar, but I was conservative here.  I like this bread at ½ cup of artificial sugar, but you could add more sweetener if you think the bread needs it.)
  6. Spray 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with cooking spray.
  7. Scrape batter into pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  8. Bake in 350º F oven for 75 – 85 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers: Each one of 8 slices is worth 4 points on the Points plan and 4.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.  Points include soy milk.

(Adapted from “Zucchini-Spice Bread” in Gluten-Free Every Day Cookbook by Robert M. Landolphi)

Mmmm-Good Chocolate Pudding Cake

A warm, crusty chocolate cake on the top, dotted with chocolate chips, and a thick chocolate-coffee pudding underneath.  It’s rich and satisfying but not overly sweet.  Mmmm-good, chocolate-good!  (Sorry, but my inner chocaholic just got out and needs to be shoved back.)

Also, this is the first time I’ve used a gluten-free flour mix suggested by a cookbook author as a basic blend for baking.  It was so simple I made 9 cups; now I’ll have more on hand for the next recipe. 

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 8 servings (approximately 1/2 cup each)

The Basic Gluten-Free Mix (for 9 cups), courtesy of author Bette Hagman, is as follows:

  • 6 cups white rice flour
  • 2 cups potato starch
  • 1 cup tapioca flour

Cooking tip: The original recipe called for ½ cup of milk.  I found that adapting the recipe to gluten-free required ¾ cup.

Taste tip: When served warm, the pudding cake has no artificial sugar taste.  When the cake is cool, the artificial sugar is little less obliging.  Therefore, I suggest serving this warm.  Or you could use an artificial baking mix or use ½ real sugar, ½ artificial sugar.  If you do, remember to add the additional points to the dish.


  • 1 cup Basic Gluten-Free Mix (or approximately 2/3 cup of rice flour, 3.33 tbsp. of potato starch, and 1.66 tbsp. of tapioca flour)
  • 1/3 cup artificial sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ – ¾ cup soy or other alternative milk
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 1 and 1/3 cups brewed coffee
  • 2/3 cup artificial sugar


  1. In large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, artificial sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together liquid ingredients: egg, smaller amount of milk, oil, and vanilla extract.
  3. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well.  Batter should be thick but not “balled up” in the whisk.  Add small portions of milk as needed.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Spray a 1.5 qt. baking dish.
  6. Scrape batter into the baking dish.
  7. Mix coffee and artificial sugar in a measuring cup and pour over batter.  (This liquid should now be sitting on top of the batter.  During baking, the cake will rise to the surface and the pudding sauce will be beneath it.)
  8. Bake in 350º oven until top is solid, not wet, and pulling away from the sides of the baking dish, approximately 40 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.  Pudding will thicken during this time.
  10. Cut cake into eighths and dig all the way to the bottom to make sure each piece has its share of pudding. 
  11. Serve warm.

For Weight Watchers: Each ½-cup serving is 4 points on the Points plan and 4.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from “Chocolate-Fudge Pudding Cake” in The EatingWell™ Diabetes Cookbook by Joyce Hendley and the editors of EatingWell.)

Point Values of Mixes of Gluten-Free Flours

The authors of gluten-free cookbooks and online chefs often create their own flour mixes to take advantage of the properties of different flours.  Sometimes I’ve followed the recipes, and sometimes I’ve substituted a different flour.

Needless to say, calculating the final Weight Watcher point value of a recipe with a mix of flours is beginning to feel like rocket science.  So…what to do? 

I used the values that I calculated for the Point Values of Gluten-Free Flours and determined those for flour mixes that I have found in gluten-free cookbooks.  There may be many more such mixes, but these are meeting my needs for now. 

I haven’t tried all these mixes in the table below and can’t make any recommendations yet.  However, I assume that the mixes found in cookbooks have been tried and tested.  But gluten-free baking is a little like the Wild West.  Everyone is doing his or her “thing,” and there’s no definitive authority or even a wealth of experience to fall back on.

 A word about xanthan gum: Some authors include the amount of gum in the mix while others don’t.  I have been adding ½ tsp. of xanthan gum per cup of flour to most of my recipes when adapting a recipe.  It seems to be working.

 Sources for this table are:

  •  The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods by Bette Hagman
  • 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster
  • Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli and Peter Bronski

Printer-friendly table

Basic Gluten-Free Mix (Bette Hagman) 6 cups rice flour, white or brown2 cups potato starch

1 cup tapioca flour

11.5 15.5
“Featherlight” Rice Flour Mix

(Bette Hagman)  

3 cups rice flour, white or brown3 cups tapioca flour

3 cups cornstarch

3 tbsp. potato flour

10 14
Light Bean Flour (for breads)

(Bette Hagman)  


3 cups garfava bean flour3 cups tapioca flour

3 cups cornstarch

8.5 11.5
Four Flour Bean Mix (Bette Hagman)   2 cups garfava bean flour1 cup sorghum flour

3 cups tapioca flour

3 cups cornstarch

8.5 12
Sorghum Blend*

(Carol Fenster) 


1½ cups sorghum flour1 ½ cup potato starch

1 cup tapioca flour

9.5 13.5
Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Mix(Kelly and Peter Bronski)   1¼ cups brown rice flour¾ cup sorghum flour

⅔ cup cornstarch

¼ cup potato starch

1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. potato flour

1 tsp. xanthan gum

10 14

*The author indicates that cornstarch can replace potato starch.  However, the potato starch is lower in points than the cornstarch,

Lentil-Sesame Bread

Lentils baked into bread?  And spiced with curry?  This bread is an unexpected pleasure: slighly sweet and slightly spicy.  

It’s also chockful of protein and healthy ingredients, including lentils, applesauce, sesame seeds, and quinoa flour.

A particular benefit of this bread for dieters is that it is very filling. I’m one of those people who’s hungry in the morning, and my usual breakfast, fruit and yogurt, only carries me to 11:00 or 11:30 a.m.  When I add a slice of this bread, I can easily go until 1:00 p.m. before getting hungry. 

Diet Update: As I continue to make this bread, I keep finding myself having only 2½ cups of cooked lentils from even 1 cup of dried lentils.  Recently, I also decided to use a liquid egg substitute in place of the eggs.  These two changes don’t make a taste difference, but they do slightly affect the Weight Watcher point-value of this bread (see below).


Note: The bread in the photos is made with yellow lentils.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 8 slices


  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ½ cup artificial sugar
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. curry powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • 3 eggs or ¾ cup liquid egg substitute
  • 6 tbsp. applesauce, unsweetened
  • 2 tbsp. oil 
  • 2½ – 3 cups cooked lentils, drained and rinsed (if not using canned lentils, start with 1 cup dry lentils and prepare as necessary)
  • Cooking spray


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together all dry ingredients: rice flour, quinoa flour, sesame seeds, baking powder, baking soda, curry powder, xanthum gum, and salt.
  2. In a larger bowl, beat eggs until mixed or pour in liquid egg substitute.
  3. Add applesauce, oil, and lentils and mix until well-blended.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and mix well.  Batter will be thick.
  5. Spray 9″x 5″ bread pan with cooking spray.
  6. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly.
  7. Bake in 350º oven for 1 hour or until knife comes out clean.
  8. Slice while still warm.

For Weight Watchers:

  • With regular eggs and 3 cups of lentils: 5.5 points per slice on the Points plan and 6 points per slice on the PointsPlus plan.
  • With liquid egg substitute and 2½ cups lentils: 5 points per slice on the Points plan and 5.5 points per slice on the PointsPlus plan.

Nutritional information per 1 slice of 8 with regular eggs and 3 cups of lentils:

  • Calories 264 (65 from fat)
  • Fat 7 g
  • Carbohydrate 39 g
  • Fiber 8 g
  • Protein 12 g
  • Sodium 342 mg
  • Cholesterol 79 mg

This food is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, folate and manganese.

(Adapted from “Lentil Sesame Bread” in The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well Without Flour by Bette Hagman)

Better-For-You Brownies

We're made with chocolate chips, and we're delicious!

Were made with chocolate chips, and were delicious!

My first gluten-free, sugar-free brownie success (and dear Deity of Cooking, may there be more)!  Without chocolate chips, these brownies are cake-like and have a light, satisfying chocolate flavour.   With chocolate chips, these brownies are richer, moister, chewier, and just downright fabulous!

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Makes 12 servings


    • 2/3 cup rice flour
    • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
    • ½ cup sweetener (Note: Weight Watcher points for this recipe are based on the use of artificial sugar.)
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • ¼ tsp. or less salt
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 tbsp. coffee
    • ¼ cup soft margarine
    • 2 eggs
    • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
    • ½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
    • Cooking spray


  1. In bowl, mix flour, xanthum gum, sweetener, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In larger bowl, beat butter, eggs, vanilla, and coffee mixture for about 1 minute. (Butter will be broken into small bits.)
  3. Add applesauce to liquid ingredients and beat until blended.
  4. Gently beat in flour mixture.  Batter will be thick and springy.
  5. Add in chocolate chips, if using.
  6. Spray 8 x 8″ pan with cooking spray.
  7. Spread mixture evenly in the pan.  The top will be uneven.
  8. Without chocolate chips, bake 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until outside edges are firm.
  9. With chocolate chips, bake 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until outside edges are firm.
  10. Cool and cut into 12 servings.

For Weight Watchers:

  • Without chocolate chips, 2 points per serving on the Points plan and 2.5 points on the PointPlus plan.
  • With chocolate chips, 3 points per serving on the Points plan and 3.5 points on the PointPlus plan.

(Adapted from “Double Chocolate Brownies” in Lighthearted at Home by Anne Lindsay.)

Slimmed-Down Turnip Puff

Turnips can be tasty.  Really!

Turnips can be tasty. Really!

Turnips don’t get much respect, but they can be light and tasty as in this baked dish of mashed turnips, which are slightly sweetened and spiced and then covered with a breadcrumb topping.

Makes 6 ½-cup servings


    • 6 cups cubed turnips
    • ½ cup liquid egg substitute
    • 3 tbsp. rice flour
    • 1 tbsp. brown sugar, packed or sugar substitute
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 pinch nutmeg
    • Salt to taste
    • ¼ cup non-wheat, soft breadcrumbs (to make breadcrumbs, see video below)
    • 1 tbsp. shortening, melted
    • Cooking spray


  1. Put turnip in a large pot and cover with water.
  2. Boil until turnip cubes are tender (about 15 minutes).
  3. Drain and mash. (You will have lumps and that’s okay.)
  4. Add liquid egg substitute and mix well.
  5. In another bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt to taste.
  6. Stir dry ingredients into turnip mixture.
  7. Spray a 1.5 quart casserole with cooking spray.
  8. Pour turnip mixture into the casserole.
  9. Mix breadcrumbs and melted butter.
  10. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the turnip mixture.
  11. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until light brown on top.

For Weight Watchers: 2 points per ½-cup serving on the Points plan and 2.5 points per ½-cup serving on the PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from “Turnip Puff” by Tebo on www.food.com)

Ever-Forgivin’ Apple Upside-Down Cake

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

Is there anything better than cooking with apple and cinnamon?  (Okay, maybe chocolate.)  This cake definitely falls in the comfort food category, particularly if served warm.   Softened, slightly crunchy apples, lightly spiced, are covered with a lighter-than-expected pudding cake.  Yum.

I’ve called this cake, “Ever-Forgivin,” because when I was adapting it, I made all kinds of mistakes such as forgetting to add the salt until the end, etc.  Still, it turned out just right.

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Apple side up!

Apple side up!

Cooking tip: 

The original recipe required only ¼ cup of milk.  I found that this was insufficient for rice flour and ended up adding 1 entire cup!  I suggest adding milk in ¼ amounts until you have a thick batter that can be poured.

Flavour tip: The cake layer doesn’t have an artificial sugar aftertaste, but the apples do.  If you can handle small amounts of sugar, add 1 tbsp. of sugar to the cinnamon.  This amount of sugar spread over 8 servings isn’t going to affect a diet or alter the Weight Watcher point count.

Makes 8 servings


 Apple layer

  • 3 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced (3-4 cups)
  • 1 tbsp. artificial sugar or real sugar (see note above)
  • ½ tbsp. cinnamon

Cake layer

  • ⅔ cup rice flour
  • ⅓ cup artificial sugar
  • 1.5 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. xanthum gum
  • 1 tbsp. shortening (butter or margarine), cold
  • 1 cup soy milk, unsweetened
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Cooking spray


For the apple layer: 

  • Mix artificial or real sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
  • Add apples to cinnamon mixture and toss so that the fruit is coated.
  • Put this bowl aside until you’re ready to bake.

For the cake layer:

  1. Mix flour, artificial sugar, baking powder, xanthum gum, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Cut shortening into the dry ingredients with a fork, pastry blender, or a food processor until it forms small pebbles in the flour.  (If you’ve never done this before, watch the first 1.5 minutes of the video below.)
  3. Add beaten egg and mix.
  4. Add milk in ¼ cup amounts. (See note above.)
  5. Mix well until the batter is smooth.

Combining the two layers:

  1. Spray 8” x 8” pan with cooking spray.
  2. Put apples into the pan. (If you’re artistic, you can arrange them.)
  3. Pour batter over the apples and spread to coat.  
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes until knife comes our smooth.
  5. Cool for 5 minutes and then turn over onto a plate. 

For Weight Watchers: Each of the 8 servings is worth 2 points in both the Points  plan and the PointsPlus plan.

 (Adapted from http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=22701)

Seductively, Spice Cake

A dense and delicious cake with the heavenly aroma of cinnamon and cloves.  A sprinkling of icing sugar is optional but delights the sweet tooth and is pretty to boot.  I served this at an adult daughter’s birthday and it was pronounced delicious.

Printer-friendly recipe


  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup Splenda or other artificial sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. cloves


  1. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl.
  2. Beat eggs until smooth.
  3. Add artificial sugar and beat.
  4. Add milk and dry ingredients alternately to the egg-mixture, blending well after each addition.
  5. Beat in olive oil until smooth.
  6. Pour into 8 x 8 pan, sprayed with no-fat spray.
  7. Bake at 350o F for 25 minutes or until sides are pulling away from the pan.

Cut into 12 pieces

Weight Watcher points: Each piece is worth 3 WW points on the Points plan and 3.5 in PointsPlus.

(adapted from a recipe given to me in the 1980s by the owner of some B&B in Port Dover, Ontario)


Yummy, Tummy-Friendly, Sugar-Free Cornbread



I’ve served this re-fashioned cornbread to family and other guests, and watched a whole batch disappear.  The non-afflicted like to load a piece with butter, but it’s very tasty on its own and, especially, when warm.  It’s also good with a little bit of diet jam on the top.

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Tips to cutting and preserving:

  1. It’s easiest to cut into pieces when right out of the oven.
  2. It’s not greasy and dries out fairly quickly (2 days max) so to keep it as fresh for as long as possible, first cover it with a dishtowel while hot and then plastic wrap when cool.
  3. If it’s drying out, you can revitalize a piece by toasting it.


1.  Mix in 1st bowl:

  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • ½ cups soy milk, unsweetened
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp. oil or melted shortening

2. Mix in 2nd bowl:

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup Splenda

3. Add first bowl to second and whisk until mixed.

4. Pour into 9 x 9 pan, sprayed with oil-free spray.

5. Bake at 400o F for 22 minutes or until sides are pulling away from the pan.

6. Cut into 16 pieces. 

Weight Watcher points: 2 points on both the Points and PointsPlus programs.

(adapted from Canada’s Diabetes Meals for Good Health by Karen Graham, RD; published Robert Rose in cooperation with the Canadian Diabetes Association, 2008)