Price Chopper Premiere Holiday Baking Class – Liveblogged

The Tech Valley Bloggers team was invited to the Price Chopper Premiere Baking Class at the Century House in Latham, New York. Meeting some “new” bloggers (i.e. we’ve never been introduced) as well – a handful of food bloggers at our table with us.

Maureen Murphy from Price Chopper is introducing the event. 1 in 100 people are being diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and many others are choosing to follow a gluten-free diet for various reasons, including autism and other conditions. Liz Lissuzo and Heidi Reale are also in the house, two very helpful women I’ve been in contact with for several different Price Chopper events.

Chef Gail Sokol is our first baking class instructor, a professor at Schenectady County Community College. She loves the girl power in this room, since baking has traditionally been a male industry since the old days when men who bake for kings and queens.

The first recipe we’ll be making is Chocolate Cranberry Walnut Babka. It’s made with a little bit of whole wheat flour, which she said you won’t even notice. (I love seeing how I can sneak whole wheat flour into my baking recipes.) When making this recipe, she’s using the paddle attachment with her electric mixer. We have a handout that includes the recipes, and I will be asking if I have permission to include them here. For the milk, she says the best way to check the temperature is to stick your finger in it and decide whether or not you would take a bath in it. If you wouldn’t bathe in it, the temperature isn’t right. Always keep your yeast in the fridge or freezer. Never buy it out of the baking aisle, because the yeast will die. The death point for yeast is 140 degrees.

The more protein a flour has, the more gluten it has. We’re getting a Cat’s Cradle demonstration to illustrate what happens with gluten and the fermentation of the yeast. And if you didn’t know, pure vanilla extract tastes better than imitation vanilla extract. (LOL) Her recipe also uses fat-free milk, and she says you’ll never miss the fuller fat milk. Always be sure to blend your dry ingredients well, too. Mixing will develop gluten, and that’s why overmixing dough can make it tough. She is not flouring her work surface, and it doesn’t look like you really need to with this dough.

The secret to the filling for this babka is a quarter-teaspoon of allspice. Fun fact: cocoa butter doesn’t raise your blood cholesterol half as much as a saturated fat like butter.

She also recommends using a French rolling pin – a longer rolling pin that doesn’t have the handles. And by not flouring the board, the dough will stick to the board and maintain its shape. Spread the filling all the way to the edges. Push down on the filling with the rolling pin so it stays put when rolling up the dough. She is not using butter to get it to stick; “if I won’t miss the fat, I don’t use it.” Pinch the seam to make sure it stays together, and then make a snake. In addition to nonstick cooking spray in her loaf pan, she’s also using a little square of parchment paper on the bottom; otherwise, it will be very difficult to get out of the pan. The dough needs to rise again once it’s in the pan. Most yeast doughs – whether sweet or savory – will need to rise twice. The butter she’s using for the streusel topping is light butter. You can make this recipe now and freeze it for Christmas. This is a very dense loaf.

Question from the audience: Can you use this loaf for French toast? Chef Gail has never thought of it before, but YES! It would be divine.

Next we’re going to be making Espresso Almond Biscotti, which is a recipe in her book. The only fat in a very hard biscotti is egg. This recipe uses oil. No one has a problem with chocolate dipping the biscotti. An electric mixer is not required for this, but much of it is being done mise en place, which means getting everything set up ahead of time before it all comes together.

Remember to use the proper measuring cups. Don’t use a liquid measuring cup for solids – and vice versa. She’s whisking the chemical leavening agents in to make sure they get evenly distributed. If you don’t like coffee, you could substitute mini chocolate chips, dried fruit, or different kinds of nuts. (Another audience member is allergic  to coffee. I just don’t like it.) The almonds she’s using are slivered, to be easier on the tooth. She likes the almonds with the skin on.

Why does sugar get clumpy and stick together? It’s hydroscopic – it sucks up water from the air. Sugar intereferes with gluten formation. Don’t bother with extra virgin olive oil, because you won’t really taste the difference in the biscotti. Don’t want to use eggs? You can use egg substitute. If you notice anything clumping, turn off the electric mixer before using your rubber spatula to scrape it down.

If you get a puff of dry ingredients, turn down the speed on your mixer. And though her instructions say to use parchment paper, Chef Gail says it’s easier to spray the sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray.

After the first bake, Chef Gail is using a serrated knife and cutting the loaf on a diagonal. Before baking the second time, stand up the slices on their sides so you don’t have to flip them.

For the chocolate dipping, she added a little bit of canola oil to the melted chocolate to thin it out. The finished biscotti makes a nice stocking stuffer or Hannukah present. The biscotti will keep for 4 or 5 months in an airtight container.

We just got samples of the baked goods. This babka is amazing. I don’t like coffee, so I’m not sampling the biscotti.

Next up is Elizabeth Barbone, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She is the author of two gluten-free cookbooks, one of which will be coming out next year. Price Chopper holds very popular gluten-free events, some of which they’ve had to turn people away from because of fire codes.

An aside first – Elizabeth has an amazing purple electric mixer.

We’re starting with a gluten-free Rustic Apple Pie (Galette). It is an open-faced pie. If you are not gluten-free, you can use a traditional pie crust recipe. She is not using a pie plate for this – it will be baked on a sheet pan.

The gluten-free pie dough is made with white rice flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, sugar, salt, butter, vegetable shortening, and ice water. She does not use gluten-free all-purpose flour because it’s pretty terrible. It’s made particularly for people who have been recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and want an all-purpose flour in their kitchens. But if you look in a commercial bakery kitchen, you won’t find bins of all-purpose flour. You’ll find bread flour, cake flour, cookie flour, etc. Gluten-free baking should be the same way. if you want whole grain in this recipe, substitute brown rice flour for the white rice flour. You can find rice flours in the Asian cooking section of the larger Price Chopper supermarkets.

 Elizabeth makes her dough in a food processor. If you don’t have one, whisk everything together in a large mixing bowl. Always make sure your butter is very, very cold when you make pie crust. Use a pastry cutter, two forks, or two knives to work the butter into the dry ingredients if you’re working in a mixing bowl. If you are dairy free, replace the butter with lard. Do not substitute a liquid fat for the butter when making pie crust.

When measuring liquid ingredients, don’t hold your measuring cup up at eye level. Put your liquid measuring cup on the countertop and squat down until you’re eye level with it to ensure proper volume.

Let the dough chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours – overnight works, too.

The filling for this rustic apple pie uses Granny Smith apples, cornstarch, sugar, fresh lemon juice, and cinnamon. She’s afraid of getting booed off the stage for choosing Granny Smith apples here in apple country, but I’m with her. Granny Smiths are my favorite baking apples. But she says if you like to bake with a different type of apple, use it. Cornstarch will not thicken unless it comes to a full boil.  If you have a corn allergy, you can use potato starch or tapioca starch in place of the cornstarch. (Tapioca flour and tapioca starch are the same thing. Potato starch and potato starch are NOT the same thing.) 

You need to taste your apples to know how much sugar to use. If your apples are particularly sweet, cut back on the sugar. If they’re a little too tart for your liking, add a little more sugar. This recipe also works well with blueberries in the summer.

I may try this recipe myself. Looks so much easier than attempting to do a traditional double pie crust.

The next gluten-free recipe Elizabeth is making: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. I’ll be honest… I don’t know if I like pumpkin. But for whoopie pies, I think I need to try it.

This recipe uses xanthan gum. Elizabeth thinks that too many gluten-free recipes  are heavy-handed on the xanthan gum. It helps provide structure to gluten-free baked goods. Too much xanthan gum can make bread that won’t toast. There is only 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum in this recipe. She prefers it to guar gum, because large amounts of guar gum can be used as a laxative. It can irritate gastrointestinal problems that are already present in people who follow a gluten-free diet.

Gluten-free flours tend to puff up more than wheat flours. This recipe uses pumpkin puree, which is not the same thing as pumpkin pie filling. If you are allergic to pumpkin (or don’t like it) you can use sweet potato puree instead. Imitation flavorings are always gluten-free. By law, if it’s labeled imitation, it is not created from a food source.

Store your KitchenAid mixer with the head down. If you store it with the head tipped up, the oil all runs down into the machinery. use a muffin scoop to ensure uniform size so it all bakes evenly. Cool on a wire cooling rack so they don’t get soggy.

For the filling, if you are egg-free, Elizabeth has not found an ideal substitute for the marshmallow creme. It won’t be the same, but you can use cream cheese icing instead. Cool the whoopie pies completely before sandwiching, or else the filling will melt. Don’t freeze whoopie pies filled. You can freeze the cakes, though, and fill them later.

If you ever spill xanthan gum, wipe it up with paper towels or something else that’s dry. If you try to use something wet, it becomes “reptilian.” It will be everywhere. You’ll have to throw away your sponge.

And here is the icing on the cake – so to speak. Elizabeth’s third recipe is for Make Your Own Chocolate Bark. It looks super easy, and you can choose whatever toppings you’d like: M&M’s, chopped up candy canes, nuts, coconut, dried fruit, marshmallows, crushed cookies, crushed pretzels… 1.5 cups of toppings for every pound of chocolate. This takes about 5 minutes to make, so if you need to give someone a gift and you don’t like them very much, this looks great without having to expend much effort on them. LOL.

Please bring on the chocolate bark samples.;

Thanks to Price Chopper for inviting me to this event. My registration fee was comped in exchange for tweeting/blogging.

Christina Gleason (976 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I'm a multiply disabled autistic woman doing my best in this world built for abled people. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including Twitch Sings and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead.


  1. I may try this recipe myself. looks so much easier than attempting to do a traditional pie crust. I love baking goodies especially this summer. There’s a lot of outing we usually do. But, we are always to buy in the goodies store. Because we do not know how to bake some.
    Trish recently posted..StretchMarks24My Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.