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4 Holiday (Gluten-free and Vegan!) Dessert Recipes

With the rising dietary restrictions of so many, we offer four desserts to please many a palate (and tummy)!

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Recipe developer and longtime vegan, Allyson Kramer first created a cookbook blog to share her veggie-based creations with the world. A few years later, she was diagnosed with celiac disease, leaving her eating options to foods that are meat-, dairy-, egg- and gluten-free. 

With childhood memories of devil’s food cake and Mexican wedding cookies still dancing in her dreams, Kramer was determined to recreate these treats in a way she could enjoy. Her latest cookbook, Sweet Eats for All, celebrates those quintessential recipes. They don’t have regular flour, butter or eggs—but they still taste “real.” Whether or not you eschew the same ingredients as Kramer, chances are good someone you’re baking for does, and these recipes will make everyone feel right at home.

Recipes from Sweet Eats for All by Allyson Kramer. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong © 2014

Chocolate Pistachio Tart
The contrast of deep chocolate filling against the salty pistachio crust is pure magic. This pie freezes beautifully and can be thawed in the refrigerator overnight the day before serving.
Serves 8

2 Tbsp. flaxseed meal
3 Tbsp. water
1 cup pistachios, pulsed until crumbly (plus additional crushed pistachios for garnish)
3 Tbsp. fine yellow cornmeal
2 scant Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil

2½ cups nondairy semisweet chocolate chips
⅓ cups coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the flaxseed meal with water and let rest until gelled, about 5 minutes. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the pistachios, cornmeal, sugar and salt until well combined. Evenly mix in the olive oil and flaxseed gel, using clean hands. Press crust into a standard-size pie pan, about 1/8 inch thick. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.

To make the filling, place the chocolate chips in a large heat-safe bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the coconut milk, vanilla extract, cumin and salt and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Once bubbly, pour over chocolate chips and mix well. Spread the chocolate mixture into the pie crust and let cool at room temperature, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios and transfer into the refrigerator to cool completely until firm. Store in airtight container in refrigerator up to 2 days.

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Mexican Wedding Cookies
These delicately crunchy cookies practically melt in your mouth.
Makes 15 cookies

¾ cup nondairy margarine ˙
½ cup confectioner’s sugar,  plus ¼ cup for rolling
½ tsp. salt
1 cup almond meal
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup sorghum flour
½ cup potato starch
¼ cup tapioca flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the margarine and confectioner’s sugar until smooth. Add the salt, almond meal and vanilla extract and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, potato starch, tapioca flour and xanthan gum. Gradually incorporate the flour mixture into the margarine mixture until a clumpy dough forms. Shape into 1-inch balls and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes in a preheated oven. Let cool about 2 to 3 minutes, then coat the entire cookie with the additional confectioner’s sugar. Let cool completely before serving. Store in airtight container up to 2 weeks.

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As beautiful as they are tasty, don’t be intimidated by the Florentine; they are a snap to make. Be sure to leave extra space in between each cookie, as they spread! Aim for about six per standard-size cookie sheet.
Makes 12 cookies

1¼ cups sliced almonds
¼ cup superfine brown rice flour
⅓ cup sugar
4 Tbsp. nondairy margarine
¼ cup agave
¼ tsp. salt
⅓ cup nondairy chocolate, melted
2 Tbsp. finely chopped
Candied Orange Peels (recipe follows) or orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine almonds and brown rice flour. In a small saucepan, mix together sugar, margarine, agave and salt and bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove immediately from heat and stir mixture into the almond mixture. Mix until totally combined and drop by heaping tablespoons onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, about 3 inches apart. Using a lightly greased fork, press down cookies into flat circles so that almonds are in a single layer.

Bake 5 minutes, rotate the cookie sheet and bake 4 to 5 minutes more, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Let cool completely and then drizzle with melted chocolate and sprinkle with orange peel. Let chocolate firm up be-fore serving. Store in airtight container up to 1 week.

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Candied Orange Peels
These bites are so nice to have for decorative purposes or to add a little zing to a dessert. This recipe also works nicely with lemon or lime peels, which add a nice color variation to the mix.
Makes 3 cups

4 navel oranges
1½ cups sugar
¾ cup water
Dash salt

Remove the peels from the oranges by slicing through the peel and quartering it, without puncturing the fruit. Gently cut off the top and bottom of the orange and then carefully peel the orange peel, leaving behind the pith and fruit. Reserve pith and fruit for another use (these make fantastic juicing oranges). Lay one section of peel flat onto a cutting area, light side up. Slice the peel into thin even strips, about ¼-inch wide. Place the peels into a medium saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water and salt very lightly. Boil 20 minutes, and then drain. Briefly place onto clean kitchen towel to dry.

Drain the saucepan and then wipe dry. Place the drained peels, sugar, water and salt into the pot and cook over medium heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer (or soft ball stage if using the cold-water method). Spread in an even layer onto a waxed paper–covered cookie sheet or silicone mat. Let harden 2 hours, and up to 12 hours before transferring to airtight container. Store up to 1 month.

Apple Cake
This dessert is perfect to bake when you want to “wow” without a lot of fuss. This cake is extra moist and flavorful with the addition of fresh apples. The secret is to slice the apples thinly and evenly. This cake is so chock-full of apples that they become a big part of its structure. Be sure to let your cake cool completely before cutting, or you may have an apple cake avalanche!
Makes 1 cake

¾ cup brown rice flour
¾ cup besan/chickpea flour
½ cup potato starch
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup melted nondairy margarine
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup nondairy milk
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 apples, peeled, quartered and sliced ¼-inch thick

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a standard-size nonstick tube pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown rice flour, besan, potato starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients except the apples, stirring after all has been added. Mix well, about 50 strokes. Fold in the apples until completely incorporated. Spread the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. If using a different sized pan, check for doneness around the 40-minute mark by using the knife test.

Let cool 1 hour, and then run a knife around the outside and inside of the cake to loosen. Flip over onto a wire rack. Dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving. Store covered up to 2 days.

Related: Good For You Holiday Cookie Recipes

Sweet and Strange
Not familiar with some of the ingredients in these recipes? Neither were we—but it turns out you can buy them all at natural grocery stores, like Whole Foods, or on

Brown rice flour: This is the go-to flour for gluten-free dishes. The “superfine” version is milled more to give it a silky texture.

Besan/chickpea flour: In Indian markets, this flour is an egg replacer and “has a buttery flavor when cooked,” according to Kramer

Potato starch: Unlike potato flour, which is made from whole potatoes, this is simply from the starch. Cornstarch or arrowroot starch are possible substitutions.

Xanthan gum: A bind-ing agent, this helps keep dough from falling apart.

Flaxseed meal: Grind flaxseed yourself or buy it ground to use as an egg replacer—1 egg is equal to 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed meal mixed with 2 Tbsp. water.

Sorghum flour: Compare this to wheat flour—a good thickening flour. You may substitute superfine brown rice flour.

Tapioca flour: You need this for its texture—think moisture and elasticity.

Agave: This liquid sweetener is extracted from the agave plant (just like tequila) and can sub for honey.