Category Archives: Desserts


Today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas and the feast of epiphany, the day the three wise men presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Holy Family. As a day of giving and celebration, it’s a good day for treats and desserts, such as muffins.

The Place of Baked Goods in the PHD

Our PHD Food Plate has a section for “Pleasure Foods.” It occupies the stem and leaves of our yinyang apple, indicating that these should be relatively small parts of the diet.

Baked goods are not mentioned, but it would be appropriate to list “Gluten-free baked goods and fructose-free sweets” among the Pleasure Foods.

These foods are made of PHD-compliant ingredients – rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch in the case of baked goods – but they have a few defects:

  • Low nutrient density. As a purified macronutrient, gluten-free flour is unaccompanied by micronutrients.
  • Low water content. Whole food starches, like white rice and white potatoes, typically have less than 500 calories per pound due to a high water content. But flours and foods made from them, like noodles and pizza dough and bread, lack water and provide 1300-1500 calories per pound.

The lack of water is potentially a problem because water is crucial to digestion, especially digestion of proteins. In the stomach, food needs to be dissolved in an acidic water bath in order for protein-digesting enzymes like pepsin to work properly. Dry foods are just not digested well.

Flour-based foods may be problematic for more reasons than their lack of water. Last year, Ian Spreadbury proposed that “acellular carbohydrates” – carbohydrates that are not surrounded by cell walls and embedded within a cytoplasm – may be unhealthy because the carbs can feed bacteria in the upper digestive tract which can then infect important organs like the pancreas, gallbladder, liver, and small intestine. Cellular carbohydrates would be digested lower in the intestine, helping to maintain an antiseptic and healthy upper small intestine.

We included gluten-free spaghetti and lasagna as items in the meal plan template of our book, but only on one day per week, and only in combination with sauces that provide water.

Due to their dryness, baked goods are probably best eaten as desserts – in combination with fat and liquids, but not much with protein, as they may interfere with protein digestion.

This means they are not good for a weight loss diet, but are excellent foods for those who naturally eat a low protein, high-carb-and-fat diet: children!

Baked goods are kiddie foods. Children eat a lot of calories per unit body weight, so they generally aren’t going to be malnourished; a certain amount of empty calories is just fine. And children’s diets should be lower in protein (7% protein at infancy, rising gradually to 15-20% protein in adulthood) and higher in carbohydrate (40% carb at infancy, decreasing to 20-30% carb in adulthood) than adult diets. That means less meat and more dessert type foods for the kids.

So here’s a recipe to please your children: muffins.

Gluten-Free Muffins

For some reason, gluten-free flours sold in stores are often far more expensive than their ingredients purchased individually. They also tend to have anti-caking agents and stabilizers that are unnecessary if you mix your own.

For muffins, we start by mixing our own gluten-free flour. For 3 cups of flour we use:

2 cups rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch

We recommend combining dry and wet ingredients separately. In a mixing bowl, combine:

2.5 cups gluten-free flour
1.5 tsp salt
0.5 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (0.5 tsp each for us)
1 stick (4 oz / 113 g) butter cut into small pieces

With your hands, kneed this mixture until the butter has merged with the flour into a consistent texture; squeeze any buttery blobs until the butter is well mixed. At this point, mix in a cup of your choice of flavoring ingredient:

1 cup raisins or blueberries or chocolate or ground nuts

In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients:

1 1/3 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

The final volume should be about 2 cups, add milk as necessary to achieve that.

After mixing the wet ingredients, combine them with the dry ingredients and mix well.

Pour the mix into a muffin sheet and bake at 350 F (175 C) for 20 to 22 minutes.

Eat the muffins with something fatty (butter, whipped cream, creamy cheese, or sour cream all work) and maybe a sweet topping (such as fruit, berries, jam, or honey). Note: the following photos don’t have enough butter!


Muffins are a great dessert or kid’s treat. Topped with 1-2 tablespoons of butter and accompanied by a drink to aid digestion, they taste great. They won’t help you lose weight, but they just may raise your spirits.

Ris a la Mande

Ris a la Mande is a traditional Danish Christmas dessert. Rikke gave us the recipe last December, and we’ve made it three times with some variations.

The name is derived from the French “riz à l’amande” which means “rice with almonds.”

Be careful – this is delicious. It’s great for kids, or anyone young at heart.


The first group of ingredients, which make a rice porridge, are:

  • 125 g uncooked short grain (sushi) rice
  • 1 liter (1 quart) milk
  • 1 vanilla bean (or ¼ tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

A second group of ingredients, completing the dessert, are added later:

  • 75 g (1/2 cup) almonds, skin removed (or macadamia or cashew nuts)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) rice syrup (or equivalent sweetener)
  • fruit, berries, jam, or other topping

We tried a number of variations:

  • Almonds, cashews, and macadamia nuts were all delicious;
  • Vanilla extract was nearly as good as using a whole vanilla bean;
  • Cranberries, pomegranate seeds, or other fruits and berries can substitute in part for the rice syrup, and add sour flavors (cranberries) or texture (pomegranate seeds)


Soak the uncooked rice in water for 10 minutes and then rinse through a strainer. This will let the rice absorb some water to start, and rinse off any surface contaminants and some starch.

Place the rice in a pot, add milk and salt, split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds; add both seeds and pod to the rice and milk. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir once in a while to avoid burning.

Remove the vanilla pod and let the porridge cool.

Chop the nuts and whip the cream until stiff. However (“!IMPORTANT!” says Rikke) be sure to set one whole nut aside.

Fold the whipped cream and chopped nuts into the cooled porridge:

When thoroughly mixed it looks like this:

Sweeteners and Toppings

Add rice syrup or equivalent PHD-compatible sweetener to taste:

Rikke tells us that in Denmark Ris a la Mande is usually served with cherry sauce on top. We tried homemade cranberry sauce (for a sour taste) and pomegranate seeds:

I am sure a wide range of fruits, berries, or flavors would taste great. I liked the acidic taste from the cranberries, so I might recommend the meat and juice of a half lemon as another idea to consider.

The Extra Nut

Why was it important to set one nut aside? Rikke tells of a fun game:

In Denmark, it is tradition to put the whole almond in the big bowl containing all of the ris a la mande. People help themselves to a portion (or more…) of the ris a la mande, and the one who gets the whole almond gets a little present! It is common practice to hide from others if you have the almond, and enjoy watching everyone getting frustrated with not finding it! 🙂

In our house Shou-Ching has won every time, but I’m not suspicious (yet).

Not Just for Christmas

This might make a good refreshment during today’s big game: Puppy Bowl VIII on Animal Planet:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

We have little baking experience, so we’re just beginning to learn how to make Perfect Health Diet compliant doughs and baked goods. This recipe turned out very well — unexpectedly well considering it was our first try. And it’s so easy; it takes less than half an hour.


Dry ingredients:

  • Rice flour 1 cup (optional: sticky rice flour)
  • Tapioca flour 1/3 cup
  • Baking soda 1/2 tsp
  • (optional) Beef gelatin 1 tablespoon

Wet ingredients:

  • Butter ½ cup (1 stick)
  • Egg yolks 3
  • Rice syrup 1/4 to 1/3 cup
  • Vanilla ¼ tsp


  • Chocolate chips
  • (optional) pistachios
  • (optional) raisins
  • (optional) pomegranate seeds


Melt the butter (we used the microwave, about 20 seconds) in a mixing bowl. Add the other wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Mix in the dry ingredients until the dough has an even consistency. It will look like this:

Then fold in some flavorings. We broke up some bulk dark chocolate and included pistachios:

In another batch we tried chocolate covered raisins:

Place cookie-sized batches on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet:

The aluminum foil prevents the bottom of the cookies from burning.

Bake at 375 F for 10-12 minutes. Remove the cookies and let them cool for at least half an hour; after they are cooled, refrigerate them.

This was the chocolate and pistachio batch:

The chocolate covered raisins melted and produced brown cookies:


The cookies were good – we were surprised how well they came out on our first attempt.

Shou-Ching really loved them, and so did our guests, but I thought the texture was drier and more crumbly than I would like. (Of course, I used to prefer uncooked dough to cookies, so I like things chewy.) This is a general issue with rice flour – it doesn’t hold together as well as gluten-containing flours. We tried both sticky rice flour and regular rice flour; I think the sticky rice flour might be very slightly better but it was difficult to detect a difference.

Here are some tweaks we’ll try next time:

  • Add more egg yolks. A little more fat might give a moister texture.
  • Try potato starch in place of tapioca flour.
  • Experiment with the protein. Most recipes either have no protein or use egg whites. We like the idea of a balanced mix of macronutrients, so we wanted to include a bit of protein. We tried the beef gelatin, partly because we have some around, and partly because gelatin mixed with water makes a good glue. We wondered if this might help the rice dough cohere. As yet we haven’t tested enough variations to know whether this was a good or bad idea.

We’d love to hear tips from more experienced cookie chefs – and reviews from the most honest critics, young children!

Crème Brûlée

Robert Evans once questioned whether crème bruelle (which I assume is another name for crème brûlée) was PHD-compliant.

It is, and we decided to make some. It turns out it’s real easy.


Here’s what we used: ¼ cup rice syrup, orange zest, 1 cup heavy cream, 4 egg yolks, and about 5 drops vanilla extract. The orange zest is optional; lemon juice or a bit of lemon zest could also be used.


Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C).

Combine heavy cream, rice syrup, orange zest, and vanilla extract in a sauce pan and warm it at low heat for 5 minutes or so until it is tiny bubbles appear but it is not boiling.

While the cream mixture is warming, whisk the egg yolk.

Transfer the cream mixture a little bit at a time into the egg yolk and continue whisking, until all of the cream has been transferred.

Then distribute the mixture into smaller containers suitable for serving, and place the small containers into a few inches of near-boiling water in an oven-safe pan:

Place the whole pan into the oven for 25 minutes at 325 F. After 20-25 minutes take a small container out and shake it; if the custard is firm then it’s done.

Remove the small containers and refrigerate them for at least 2 hours. We refrigerated them in this aluminum pan:

Once they are cold, the traditional recipe calls for sprinkling sugar on top and then caramelizing it with a blowtorch (or a broiler if the blowtorch is lacking).

Well, we didn’t have a blowtorch and didn’t feel obliged to caramelize our rice syrup, so we simply drizzled our custard with rice syrup or sprinkled it with cocoa powder:

It was delicious! Served cold, it’s great for summertime.