In his mind, there was only one good thing about the holiday, and he loved that one thing: cookies. As far as I was concerned, cookies didn’t have much to do with Christmas.
It took us quite a few years to work through this difference of opinion. When I made a few batches of cookies to humor him, it wasn’t enough to satisfy, which put us both in bad humor. When I refused to make any at all, he made them himself. When I felt guilty about leaving the cookie-making to him, I put on the baker’s apron again. Finally, about twenty years into our marriage, I was making a lot of cookies every year and, following his mother’s practice, making up tins and collections of my handiwork to pass out to family, friends, the mailman, and the paper carrier.
Then, four or five years ago, we discovered the reason Craig had been sick almost every day of his miserable life: he couldn’t tolerate wheat gluten. This was a life-changing revelation. It was Christmas-changing, too. Not being able to eat wheat closed a lot of doors where cookies were concerned.
This is not to say he can’t eat any cookies, because there are some gluten-free options. But most of his old favorites, the things that made Christmas tolerable for him, were now off-limits.
Over the years, though, I’ve learned to adapt some of those old favorite recipes so that he can eat them. Two of them are fruitcake (yes, good fruitcake is a true gastronomic delight. But too many of the perversions that call themselves “fruitcake” give all the breed a bad rep) and pumpkin cheese roll.
You know, the rolled pumpkin cake with the decadent cream cheese filling? I discovered I can make my old recipe with a gluten-free flour without ruining it. And I don’t make that claim lightly. I find most gluten-free baked goods—that is, things that are ordinarily made with wheat flour but are adapted to suit a wheat-free diet—barely edible. But in this case, the substitution yields a good enough result that even us gluten-eaters enjoy it.
The reason might have something to do with a combination of the small amount of flour in the cake along with the fact that the cake itself plays second fiddle to the cream cheese filling. In baked goods where flour is the foundational ingredient, wheat is too vital to switch out for another flour.
Are you interested in the recipe? I’m happy to provide it!
First, though, I’ll give you directions for making my handy-dandy gluten-free flour mixture. As noted above, you can’t just substitute this for wheat flour in any old recipe; but in some situations, you can use this mix instead of ordinary all-purpose flour. Simply combine:
1½ c. white rice flour
1 c. brown rice flour
1 c. potato starch
1 c. tapioca flour
½ c. cornstarch
½ c. bean flour (soy, garbanzo, or fava)
2. T. xanthan gum
I keep a container of this in my freezer at all times, so when I want a little bit of flour, it’s always available. Why the freezer? Sometimes, flours can get rancid over time if kept at room temperature. Because I don’t use them very quickly, I keep all my flours in the freezer so they’ll still be good when I want them.
Okay, now for the pumpkin roll recipe:
3 large eggs
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. pureed pumpkin (or whatever winter squash you have handy)
1 t. lemon juice
¾ c. flour (for the gluten-free version, use ¾ c. of the mix described above)
1 t. baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
½ t. nutmeg
¼ t. salt
1 c. finely chopped walnuts (these can be omitted if someone in your family can’t eat nuts)
powdered sugar for sprinkling
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (2 3-oz. pkgs or 3/4 of an 8-oz. pkg)
4 T. butter, at room temperature (use real butter—not margarine)
1 c. powdered sugar
½ t. vanilla
Grease a jellyroll pan (17 x 11”). Line with parchment or waxed paper. Grease the paper generously. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar until thick, light, and creamy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in pumpkin and lemon juice.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Fold it into the pumpkin mixture. Pour into the prepared pan; smooth top evenly. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the top.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pressed with fingertip and cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
While the cake is baking, place a clean dishtowel on the counter. Sprinkle powdered sugar onto the towel. When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and immediately turn it upside-down onto the towel. Remove cake pan and paper. Beginning at narrow end of cake, roll towel and cake together; set aside, seam-side down, to cool.
Make the cream filling:
In mixing bowl, blend cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in sugar and vanilla extract.
When the cake is cool, unroll and remove towel. Spread cheese filling over the top. Roll again. The nuts will be on the outside of the cake.
Refrigerate for several hours.
May be wrapped in foil and frozen for one month.