Monday, December 15, 2008


The birthday celebration of someone special demands cake. The birthday celebration of someone who recently graduated pastry school and is quite accomplished in the kitchen substantially raises the bar. I have been feeling the pressure of trying to come up with something that would be more than adequate; something that would be amazing.

My friend shared with me his recipe for a Dacquoise - a French cake made out of layers meringue augmented with nut flour and buttercream. After finding out that traditional recipes are naturally gluten free... well I really couldn't resist trying it out. The birthday cake recipient is a big fan of salted caramel, so I thought and thought and came up with the concept of an almond Dacquoise with a salted caramel buttercream and at least one layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache. After some more tinkering and discussion, it seemed more appropriate to do layers of the merangue and buttercream and enrobe the entire thing in chocolate ganache.

My friend's recipe, Pecan Dacquoise with Carmelized Honey Ganache was the launching pad for this idea. The buttercream is an adaptation of a recipe in the magazine Chocolatier, which was for Praline buttercream and worked off this recipe for Salted Caramel Frosting. The ganache is a modified version of the online Joy of Baking Ganache Recipe.

This cake is very involved, with lots of steps, but again, I think its worth it to splurge for days of celebration. If you are going to attempt this, I recommend pre-measuring and laying out all of your ingredients ahead of time and making the dacquoise and buttercream the night before, so that assembly the day-of is much faster.

Almond Dacquoise
7 egg whites
1 cup of almond meal
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Prepare 7-8" parchment rounds. Take a piece of parchment paper and with a pencil, trace a circle with an 7-8" diameter on the paper. Allow at least 1" between circles. Flip the parchment paper over onto a cookie sheet. (These pencil marks will be your guide for spreading the batter.)
3. Mix the almond meal and 3/4 cup of sugar in a bowl. Set aside.
4. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with a whisk until they form soft peaks.
5. Sprinkle in 2 tbsp of sugar into the egg whites and beat until shinny and hold stiff peaks.
6. Using a rubber scrapper, gently fold in the almond meal and sugar mixture.
7. Gently spread the mixture out onto parchment circles.
8. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
9. Allow to cool completely before peeling off the parchment paper.

Salted Caramel Buttercream
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups of unsalted butter, softened until shiny (butter that is too firm will cause the buttercream to have a separated appearance)
1 vanilla bean
2tbsp vanilla extract

Special equipment: Parchment paper or Silpat, candy thermometer, mixer with wire whisk attachment and paddle attachment.

1.Caramelize 1 1/2 cups sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan. You are looking for a dark amber color, but once it reaches a golden amber hue, pay very close attention. (Do not answer the phone, door, or turn your attention away from that pot! The sugar is very very hot and burning quickly and will go from luscious caramel to charred mess in seconds. I am serious about this.)
2. Once the you have reached the appropriate color, pour onto a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper.
3. Allow to cool completely, then break into pieces.
4. Place egg whites in a grease-free mixing bowl of a mixer. Place this bowl in a larger bowl filled with warm water. Swirl the egg whites around a few times. Leave them alone while you make the syrup.
5. Place the caramelized sugar, salt and 1/2 cup of water in a small, heavy bottom sauce pan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Dip a clean pastry brush in warm water and wash down the side of the pan to remove any sugar crystals clinging to the side of the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a bowl. Cook the mixture for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the syrup registers 240°F (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer. When the syrup reaches 230°F on a candy thermometer, start preparing the beaten egg whites.
6. Remove the bowl of egg whites from the bowl of water. Using the wire whip attachment, beat the egg whites at low speed until frothy. Gradually increase the speed to medium and continue to beat the whites until soft peaks begin to form.
7. At this point the sugar syrup should register 240°F on the candy thermometer. While continuing to beat at medium speed, gradually pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the beaten whites. Continue beating for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture is cool and forms stiff, glossy peaks when the wire whip is lifted.
8. While the mixture is beating, open and scrape the seeds and pulp of one vanilla bean. In a separate bowl, combine vanilla pulp and vanilla extract. Mix well until most of the vanilla seeds have separate and there are no clumps of pulp remaining.
9. Change the wire whip to the paddle attachment. In three additions, at medium speed, beat the softened butter into the meringue. Scrape down the side of the bowl and continue beating for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the buttercream no longer has a separated appearance. Slowly beat in the vanilla. Beat for 1 minute, or until thick and smooth.

Cake Assembly
I recommend using a cake round or making your own by cutting cardboard to the size of your cake and covering it with aluminum foil. For frosting purposes, its helpful to use little pieces of parchment paper tucked under the bottom layer to help in the transfer of the cake to its final presentation plate.

If you make the buttercream ahead of time, and refridgerate it, you need to bring it to room temperature before attempting to frost with it. THIS IS A MUST. If you try to mix it cold, you will break the emmulsion and the frosting will separate. To bring back to room temp, place the frosting in a mixing bowl, submerge the bowl into a second, larger bowl filled with hot water for a few seconds. Remove from the hot water for a few seconds, then submerge again. Doing this a few times and then beating it with paddle attachment - stopping and dunking it in the hot water again - will warm the buttercream and make it workable.

1. Place a small dab of buttercream on your cake round.
2. Center one one merangue atop the buttercream, press down gentely.
3. Add a thin layer of butter cream (a little less than 1/4 of the batch) atop the merangue. Place buttercream in the center and work out.
4. Repeat until all the layers have been added. Try to keep they layers as level as possible. It will help when it comes time to pour on the ganache.
5. When you add the final layer, use the remaing buttercream to cover the top and sides.
6. Place frosted cake in freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a glass or metal bowl.
2. In a saucepan, heat the milk till it just begins to boil.
3. Pour immediately over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. (Do not futz with it, leave it alone.)
4. Whisk until smooth. Add in vanilla and stir until incorporated.
5. You can allow the mixture to cool slightly if its hot to the touch.
6. Remove the cake from the freezer, place it on a cooling rack with a pan or cookie sheet beneath it to catch the excess ganache.
7. Pour the ganache over the cake. Using a spatula push off the excess from the top and allow to poor down the sides.
This is tricky because the cake is cold and the ganache is hot. Do not worry, it will not melt the cake, but it will start to freeze to the sides and if you play with it too much, it will begin to lift the buttercream off the sides of the cake.
8. All the ganache to set for 20-30 minutes after it stops dripping down the sides.
9. Decorate.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Santa Lucia

A friend of a friend celebrates Santa Lucia day each year with Swedish foods and carroling. This year I was lucky enough to get an invite. I was not really sure what to make until the googler turned up: Rose Hip Soup Recipe (another version Rose Hip Soup Recipe) and deiced to make that and spiced cabbage as a just-in-case dish.

The soup was not what I expected. I thought it would be more floral and tart, but it was light and refreshing.

International Travel

I am going on a trip! I am very excited, but a bit nervous about long flights and snacks. I have called the airline, twice, requesting a gluten-free meal. (The first call, lasting a half hour ensuring that I was "all set" apparently didn't work because the second time I called they had no record of a dietary request. This has lead me to believe that calling a third time to check, perhaps the day before the flight, is also a good idea.)

Do you have any stellar travel snacks?

Any recommendations about what will and won't survive the security check?
(fresh fruit, open containers are out... but I am thinking that a package of almonds should be ok)


Cuchi Cuchi

Dinner at Cuchi Cuchi restaurant was a big surprise.

A group of 7 of us went out to celebrate a double birthday and had an amazing time. There cocktail list was not only impressive, the drinks were really good and not cloyingly sweet. The Lime Ricky Ricardo was subtle and played up the sourness of the raspberries and lime, with just a hint of sweetness. The drink was the first of many served to us at the LED light table, which has sensors and responded to the hover of coasters and waving of hands--oddly but perfectly fit into the decor of reverse painted glass lampshades, bejeweled kitsch and vintage or vintage-inspired dresses that graced the front of the house employees and life-size mannequin that was perched in the corner of the room.

Much to my surprise, they also had a list of gluten free menu options. Set up as "small plates" dishes spanned the globe, and I was able to choose from over 12 options, plus homemade ice cream for dessert. We ordered and ordered a lot, and dishes came out of the kitchen at a steady pace. The pauses between dishes were well timed to sneak in more conversation before the next round arrived.

I am going to omit the dishes I did not eat, because I do not think its fair to comment on appearance and aroma alone (but I would say that the Mexican tomato and fried artichokes made me drool). I sampled the baby beet salad, seafood filled avocado, grilled eggplant napoleon, grilled Indian lamb, sizzling shrimp, and gratin Dauphinois. The true star was the baby back ribs (with apple fritters on the side). Upon close examination, accompanied by some oohhhs and ahhhs, diners came to the conclusion that the ribs tasted like they had been just dusted with some cocoa powder. Slightly sweet, savory and fall-off-the-bone-tender, these little bit-sized morsels were a real treat.

A trio of ice cream finished the meal: Cuchi nougat, Mexican chocolate and pistachio served with a garnish of kirsh cherries and caramelized sugar.

One item that we ordered was forgotten, but appropriately did not grace our bill. With that exception, service good. The repetitive clearing of plates was welcomed to make room for more to come. Cuchi Cuchi is very clear about the fact that they are not tappas, but all about small plates and their portions reflect this very well. 3 dishes per person were recommended. Our server politely tried to warn us that we requested too much, but it was a birthday and going a bit over the top was to be expected.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cereals & Waffles

I am not a huge breakfast person, but lately I have consuming breakfast for dinner, a lot.

Here are some of my favorites, which vary depending on what is on sale:

Envirokidz - Nature's Path
Gorilla Munch - like Kixx but crunchier
Peanut butter Panda Puffs - The above munch coated in peanut butter (so good!)

Erewhon Rice Cereal
Crispy Brown Rice - makes me want to make krispie treats with it, but I eat it too fast
Crispy Brown Rice with Mixed Berries - totally awesome!

Maple Buckwheat Flakes from Arrowhead Mills
Super loud and crunchy and delicious.

Trader Joe's gluten free granola. I have had the maple and one other kind; the maple wins, hands down.

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Waffles were my all time favorite, but I have not seem them around lately. I know there are some big fans of Van's but they taste weird to me. Mesa Sunrise Waffles fall apart a bit once toasted, but they have a pretty decent flavor.

I know I should get a move-on on testing out homemade waffles, but I lack a maker - so hunt shall continue for the perfect frozen waffle.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Apple Pie, Flaky Crust

I slightly modified, and doubled, the recipe for gluten free pie crust on and it is the best pie crust I have ever made!!!!

Flaky Pie Crust
2/3 cup sweet rice flour
2/3 cup tapioca starch
2/3 cup potato starch
6 tbsp corn starch
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1. Mix all dry ingredients together.
2. Cut cold butter in to pieces, cut into dry ingredients until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and vinegar.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into butter mixture. Mix together.
5. Wrap in plastic or place in zip-top bag and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
6. Divide dough in half. Roll dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Dust the dough first with tapioca starch if a bit sticky.
7. Form and shape pie.
8. Bake at 350 till golden brown, about 1 hour for apple pie below.

8-10 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
pinch salt
1/2-1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tbsp potato starch
juice of half a lemon

1. Combine all in a bowl and mix well.
2. Fill bottom pie crust.
3. Add top crust, crimp edges and poke holes in top to vent steam.

This seriously was the best gluten free pie I have made. It was NOT gritty! It was flaky and even browned!
We ran out of pie plates, so I used this square, glass pyrex and it still worked!
The dough was very thick and would have easily filled a 12" round.
The filling was a little runny when warm, but firmed up a bit after cooling. I might consider bringing back the arrowroot powder + apple cider thickener from the last pie. Combined, it could create the best pie ever! Mwahahahahahaha!

Pumpkin Pie

Originally I just wanted a cookie crust, but I used more butter than I had cookies, so I added in some gf flours to help absorb the extra. It was good, but next time I would probably just half the butter and use just butter and cookies.
The filling is a modified version of my vegan pumpkin custard. I added eggs, since there were no vegans attending this year, and it really helped the middle set nicely.

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 bag of Gluten Free Mi-del Ginger Snaps, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp potato starch
2 tbsp tapioca starch
2/3 cup sorghum flour
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
1/4 cup brown sugar

1. Combine all ingredients, mix well.
2. Form into the bottom of a pie plate.
3. Bake at 350F till the crust begins to take on some color at the edges, about 20 minutes.

1 can pumpkin
1 can coconut milk
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
pinch salt
2 eggs

1. Combine all ingredients, mix well.
2. Pour into cooled crust.
3. Bake at 325F until the center has set (if you tap the side of the pie plate the center should no longer jiggle and look liquid in the middle). Approximately 40-60 minutes.

The filling was really good. The crust needs some work.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Growing up we always had stuffed mushrooms, but they were filled with marinara sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese. After making a Better Homes and Gardens recipe for breadcrumb-based stuffed mushrooms for a cooking class in high school, they too were added to the Thanksgiving roster.

This was my first attempt at making a gluten free version and I think I knocked it out of the park.

Stuffed Mushrooms
2 packages of button mushrooms, cleaned and de-stemmed
6-8 slices of gluten free bread (I used Food for Life gluten free Millet Bread)
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter
1 small onion diced
1 rib of celery diced
6 of the mushroom steams diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp+ Italian seasonings
2 tbsp grated Romano cheese
salt & pepper to taste
water or vegetable broth

1. Toast bread and cut into small cubes.
2. In a pan, sautee onion, celery, mushroom steams in olive oil and butter.
3. Once the vegetables soften and onions become transparent, add in Italian seasonings and garlic. Cook until garlic is no longer raw.
4. Add the dried bread cubes/crumbs to the pan. Turn off the heat. Stir well.
5. Add enough water to bring the mixture together. (This is going to vary upon the type of bread you use and how toasted it is.)
6. The mixture should stick together and be soft. Add in cheese, salt and pepper.
7. Fill each mushroom, pressing the stuffing down.
8. Bake at 375F till the mushrooms are brown and cooked through (so that you can pierce the middle without resistance). Approximately 40 minutes.

These were really good. Really, really good.

Cranberry Sauce

I made a double batch because I really love cranberry sauce. Sometimes I will eat a small dish of it on its own as dessert.

Cranberry Orange Sauce
2 bags of fresh cranberries, washed
2 cups of sugar
zest and juice of 2 oranges
1/2 cup water*

1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil.
2. Lower to a simmer and continue cooking, uncovered, until all cranberries have burst.
3. Remove from heat, cool and store in the fridge.

*You might need more or less water depending on the size of the oranges you use. I like a really thick sauce, so I usually go scant on the water, but you can add up to a full cup of water or more, if you like.

The Turkey

Brining all said and done, it was time to cook the bird.
Weighing in at 17.65lbs, I started off cooking it (on a rack, stuffed with aromatics) at 425 to help dry the skin. This worked, but 20 minutes in it also set off all the smoke detectors in the house. (Burning turkey fat and butter = lots of smoke)

I opened all the windows, fanned the smoke detectors with the broom and turned the oven down to 325 and continued baking the turkey for 4 hours.

I was surprised at how few juices were actually released - so too was the gravy maker, who was hoping for more. We took the bird out, tented it with aluminum foil, and let it rest for about 30 minutes while the stuffing and green bean casserole were in the oven.

Then came the carving...

I need to seriously invest in a serrated knife before this time next year.

The turkey was moist and delicious. I would say that the only part that was noticeably salty was the meat right next to the skin, but it was not overwhelming, just well seasoned.

My roommate was in charge of the gravy, thickened with cornstarch, which was awesome!
(Stock made from the giblets, neck and heart with celery, onions and some other secret ingredients + turkey drippings + the meat from the neck, giblets and heart + cornstarch slurry + salt and pepper to taste)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

This is only my second gluten free Thanksgiving, but I have to say that it totally demolished last year's, in terms of awesomeness!

There was way to much food, but all of it was delicious. Besides the turkey, the highlight was the apple pie. The crust was actually flaky!

Here are some stunning shots, I will break down recipes in separate posts.

Drooling may commence, consider this your warning.

Seafood stew with clams, tuna, salmon, crab, leaks, tomatoes, garlic...

Bacon, pecan brussel sprouts.

Millet bread stuffed mushrooms.

Cheesey brussel sprouts and candied squash and sweet potatoes.

Green bean cassarole (made with coconut flour as thickener and topped with crispy shallots fried in butter and chick pea flour); brown rice bread stuffing with apples and chestnuts; & the turkey.

Kale with garlic and lemon.

Pumpkin pie (pecan, butter, sugar crust); apple pie (gf muffin mix & chick pea flour crust); pumpkin pie with cookie crust.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Brining the Bird

Working off of Alton Brown's turkey brine recipe, with a few adjustments from last year, I created the following brine:

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp brown mustard seeds
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
10 allspice berries
boiling water
5 lbs ice
[turkey, remove the heart, neck and giblets]

1. Add spices, sugar and salt to a few cups of boiling water.
2. Stir to disolve sugar and salt. Allow to steep for 20 minutes.
3. In a large, clean container, combine water and 5 pounds of ice.
4. Submerge the bird, adding more cold water if needed.
5. Store in a cold place, like fridge, or in a cooler, pack with ice if necessary.
(It was cold enough outside that I was able to keep it out there, topped with some bricks so that animals would not get into the 5-gallon painters bucket that housed the brining bird.)

The day-of

brined turkey
2 onions, quartered
2 ribs of celery, quartered
2 carrots, quartered
6 cloves of garlic
2-4 tbsp butter, optional

1. Remove bird from brine and rinse. Make sure to dislodge any stuck spices.
2. Thoroughly dry the skin of the bird.
3. Stuff the cavities with aromatics (I used onions, garlic, celery and carrots)
4. Liberally rub with butter.
Bake at 325F for the time allotted for your size turkey.

All the bird to rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pumpkin bread

I modified the pumpkin bread recipe in Rebecca Reilly's Gluten-Free Baking to work with a whole can of pumpkin.
(This was also the "lets see if mixing lots of different flours means really awesome bread.")

2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp molasses
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup almond meal
3/4 cup potato flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup chick pea flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch kosher salt
1, 15oz. can pumpkin
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup almond milk
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350F
2 greased loaf pans

1. Whip butter.
2. Add sugar and whip until fluffy.
3. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix.
4. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin and milks.
5. Alternating dry and wet mixtures, slowly add to butter.
6. Once combined, stir in fruit and nuts.
7. Spoon out into greased loaf pans.
8. Bake at 350 till a toothpick comes out cleanly from the center (about 1 hour)

Out of the oven it looked so good.
10 minutes of cooling later, it sunk.
The flavor was off, not sweet enough and noticeably gritty.
(I think this is because of the chick pea flour)

But... the next day the texture was markedly improved! I think the rice flour must have hydrolyzed enough to no longer be gritty.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vegan Pumpkin Custard

Last year I was having a really tough time with dairy, but was missing pumpkin pie in the worst way. Working off of an idea of a friend's vegan coconut rice pudding recipe, I started testing pumpkin pie filling recipes and here is my favorite result. (It also works well in a cookie crust as a whole pie, the consistency is bit looser than traditional pumpkin pie, but the flavor is really good.)

Pumpkin Custard
1 can pumpkin
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup + 2tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt

1. Add all to a sauce pot, simmer 45 minutes, stirring regularly so the bottom doesn't burn.
The mixture should darken in color.
2. Pour into serving dishes, cool & serve.*

*It will set up and be thicker once cooled.

You can also use brown or cane sugar instead of maple syrup. Start with a 1/4 cup and add more to taste.

Cornbread Recipes

Last January and February I was testing cornbread recipes, and I ran across my notes yesterday. Tis the season for gluten free stuffing/dressing bases, so I thought I would post them up and share.

The original recipe I was modifying was posted on the "gluten free forum" of

Cornbread test 1

1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup chick pea flour
1/4 cup sugar (ONLY USED 2 tbsp)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (used RICE MILK)
1/4 cup drippings, vegetable oil or melted butter
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spritz a 9-by-9- or 8-by-8-inch square pan with nonstick baking spray. Combine the cornmeal, chick pea flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Combine the milk, oil and egg in a glass measure and whisk to combine.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix just to combine. Dump the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes until the cornbread begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and is golden in color.

*good texture
*chick pea flour a little nutty
*Re-test with corn flour... see how that goes

Cornbread try #2

1 cup corn meal
3/4 cup corn flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1tbsp sugar
1/2 cup creamed corn
3/4 cup rice milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 egg
2tbsp canola oil
(plus 1tbsp to grease pre-heated skillet)

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl.
Mix wet ingredients in another, and combine with dry
Bake in a cast iron skillet @ 400 degrees for 20 minutes

Overall, good texture, a little drier/crumblier than first recipe
Batter much thicker than first recipe
Could use more creamed corn (but worried about throwing off the baking powder)
Could use more sugar if a sweater bread desired

Cornbread (3rd try - VEGAN & GF)

1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup corn flour
1/4 cup potato starch
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup creamed corn (replaced egg)
1 cup rice milk
1/4 cup canola oil

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl.
Mix wet ingredients in another, and combine with dry
Bake in a cast iron skillet @ 400 degrees for 20 minutes - until toothpick comes out clean from center

Lighter & fluffier
Took longer than 20 minutes to cook... at 30, center still not perfect, fell a little
Taste much better

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It is not often that someone seeks me out to want to try to recreate one of their favorite dishes gluten-free. My friend, who grew up in Germany and also blogs about food, really wanted to see if we could make spaetzle, from scratch. When comfort food is involved, the answer is always "yes!"

She grew up eating them with lentils and hot dogs, and I had a craving for green beans. Spaetzle + lentils + green beans + hot dogs = really really good dinner.

Spaetzle (the recipe is a modified version of this)
1 cup potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch
1 cup sweet rice flour
2 tbsp corn starch
3 eggs

1. Combine dry ingredients with 3 eggs and mix well.
2. Add enough water for the mixture to come together and be able to form ribbons.
3. Bring a few quarts of well-salted water to a boil.
4. Stir mixture and place between 1/3 and 1/2 cup on a cutting or spaetzle board.
5. Smooth out dough, and draw a small portion of it down towards the edge of the board.
6. Using a butter knife or spaetzle cutter, cut and fling the spaetzle into the boiling water, dipping the blade of the knife in the water after each cut (to help prevent dough from sticking).
7. All to boil for 2-3 more minutes after last spaetzle is in the pot. (they will float when they are done)
8. Remove from water with slotted spoon.
9. Repeat #4-8 till no dough remains. (If the dough starts to dry out, add a little more water to help loosen the batter, but just a little)
10. Serve warm with lentils.

Dough is forming ribbons, this is looking good.

Place some on the cutting board:

Cutting into water:

It is totally working! (much to our surprise)

First batch is out!

1+ cups of lentils
1 carrot, cleaned and quartered
1 rib of celery, cleaned and quartered
1 small onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
vegetable or chicken stock
Red wine vinegar

1. Wash and sort lentils (remove any stones)
2. Add oil and lentils to pan, toast over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add in carrots, celery, onion, bay leave and enough stock to cover.
4. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook until lentils are tender 25-40 minutes.
5. Add a few tsp of red wine vinegar (or more to taste).
6. Serve warm over spaetzle.

Green Beans
1 package of frozen green beans (you can use fresh if they are in season)
1 tbsp water
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil

1. In a microwave save bowl add green beans and water. Defrost until beans are almost warm but not hot. (If a few are still cold that is perfect)
2. Stir in lemon zest, juice, oil and a pinch of salt.
3. Serve at room temp or chill.

Hot Dogs
Steam or grill to hot. (We added them to the spaetzle water to steam while prepping the rest of the food.)

"German Style Wieners"

The full spread:

Verdict: The spaetzle were far better than I expected. (I honestly thought they would be a giant blob at the bottom of the pot, not formed, recognizable dumplings.) They did stick together after they started to cool, so if I made them again I would put some oil or butter on them in between batches to make sure they stayed separate.
The lentils cooked a bit unevenly, but I think that is because our eyes were focused on the spaetzle. Next time I would add a little bit more water and cook them longer and slower.
The wieners were a nice surprise. They were very mild and reminded me of summer sausage.

I will absolutely make spaetzle again!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Coconut Cake, take 2

After the first attempt turning out less than perfect, I tried out the following adaptation.

Coconut Cake

4oz. (1 stick of butter)
1 cup sugar [decrease]
1 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1/3 cup sweet rice flour
1 tsp baking powder [increase]
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/3 cup coconut milk *full fat*
6 egg whites [increase]

325F oven for 40 minutes

1. Creamed the butter, then added sugar and creamed both till light and fluffy.
2. Alternated adding in the wet (coconut milk) and the dry (coconut flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, rice flour, baking powder, kosher salt all pre-mixed together) into the butter and sugar.
3. In a separate bowl, whipped the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
4. Fold in egg whites.
5. Bake in a greased pan at 325 degrees F for 40 minutes.

Verdict: Batter much easier to work; it did not seize up like the first one.

I followed Alton Brown's 7 minute frosting (following all steps this time - with coconut water not coconut milk) and it turned out shiny and beautiful. The only problem was that it was raining out and very humid and I think it is what cause the frosting to ooze and start to fall off the cake during transport.

Honestly, I liked my "mistake" icing a lot more than the meringue frosting which tasted a lot like coconut flavored marshmallow Fluff. (I love Fluff, don't get me wrong, I just didn't want it on the cake.)

The cake was consumed and enjoyed!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Apricot Chicken

Inspired by a Recipe of the Day, off of Mark Bittman's blog, Bitten.

1tbsp olive oil
1/2 chicken
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk
1 carrot
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water+
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 shallot sliced
2 bay leaves
1 cascabell chili (stem and seed removed)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
5 whole allspice berries
1-2tbsp rinsed capers

1. Soak apricots in vinegar and water.
2. In a heavy-bottom pot, brown chicken in oil.
3. Remove chicken, add onions, carrot & celery. Cook till vegetables begin to take on color.
4. Add chicken back to the pot. Add in apricots, vinegar and spices. Add enough water to almost cover the chicken.
5. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.
6. Cook for 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
7. Remove chicken from pot, bring sauce back up to a boil and cook until reduced by half. (Stir regularly to prevent scorching.)
8. Return chicken to pot, add capers.
9. Serve over steamed grain of choice (I chose millet.)

Browned chicken:

Cooking veggies:

Apricots, vinegar & spices:

Everyone in the pot:

Dinner is served:

Verdict: This was good, but very sour and I am not sure that all of the spices were necessary because the vinegar pretty much overpowered the dish. I would probably try less vinegar and perhaps follow the recipe and use wine as well.

Veggie Planet

Veggie Planet is one of the few places to grab lunch for under $10 in Harvard Square. The fact that they will make any of their pizzas on brown or coconut rice (white rice steamed with coconut milk) and make everything to order AND allow for substitutions, well needless to say, I have become a big fan.

I have been vowing to try more of their specials, but its hard for me to stray far from the "Lunch for Henry" on coconut rice, swapping out the cheeses for spinach. It only gets better with a few squirts of Sriracha.

Mmmmmm, lunch for me.

Nuovo Gnocchi

I made Nuovo gluten free basil gnocchi for an event this evening. I par-boiled them last night, covered them in olive oil and butter. I then reheated them for about a minute and a half in boiling water and tossed with the olive oil and butter and served.

They held up surprisingly well.

I had tried their plain version before and found it a bit off-tasting, the way that Pringles don't exactly taste like potatoes. The basil version was much better and I am dreaming up ways of doing a baked dish with them!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Test Coconut Cake

I have been feeling a little out of sorts lately. I used to be able to read recipes and have a good idea of what they would taste like or what changing the quantity of an ingredient would or would not do. To an extent I can still do this with old recipes, but I cannot for the life of me gauge how much of xanthan gum does anything!

I found coconut flour at Whole Foods and I started to get ideas.

I really want to make a coconut cake for a party on Saturday. Not having a solid coconut recipe (or any cake recipe for that matter) under my belt, I decided to try to modify 3 and see what I could come up with.

Cake recipe 1 - Alton Brown's
Cake recipe 2 - Gluten free coconut cake
Cake recipe 3 - a composite of instructions found in Reilly's Gluten-Free Baking & Hagman's Gluten-Free Gourmet

I really wanted to stay true to the gf recipe from Epicurious, except that I have almond meal, not almond flour, so that was out.
I am a big AB fan, HUGE, so I thought I would half the recipe and throw in some gluten-free flours instead of the wheat flour.

4oz. (1 stick of butter)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1/3 cup sweet rice flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/3 cup coconut milk *full fat*
3 egg whites

1. Creamed the butter, then added sugar and creamed both till light and fluffy.
2. Alternated adding in the wet (coconut milk) and the dry (coconut flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, rice flour, baking powder, kosher salt all pre-mixed together) into the butter and sugar.
3. In a separate bowl, whipped the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
4. Fold in egg whites.
5. Bake in a greased pan at 200 degrees F for 40 minutes.

The biggest problem I had with this was that once the wet and dry ingredients were added, the batter seized up. Halving the recipe should have only called for 2 egg whites, but I did three and then after folding those in, I whipped another 3 egg whites and folded those in. [6 egg whites total]

The batter was still pretty dense, but I tried to bake it off and see what would happen.

40 minutes at 200F resulted in a raw center.
20 more minutes, still not cooked.
I cranked the heat up to 350 and 25 minutes later, the cake was done.

The only smart part of this whole thing was that I lined the pans in parchment, so removal was pretty easy - but you can see some significant browning where the batter was not protected by the parchment:


I decided that since meddling with recipes was not going so spectacularly, that I was going to stay true to a frosting recipe so that I could at least get that down. I decided to make Alton Brown's 7 minute frosting and was plugging along with my homemade double boiler (metal bowl over sauce pan, with a folded side towel to be able to hold onto the bowl) and after 5 minutes of mixing became a little frustrated when no meringue was forming. I switched to an electric mixer and another 3 minutes of mixing, still nothing was happening.

Then I realized that I has used the last of the coconut milk in the frosting not the "coconut water" that the recipe calls for. My "duh" light bulb went off when I acknowledged that IF YOU ADD FAT TO EGG WHITES, NO MERINGUE SHALL FORM!

(Fats "get in the way" of the proteins in the egg whites being able to form a foam. No foam, no capturing of air bubbles and no increase in volume, aka no meringue.)

Frustrated beyond belief, I just laughed and though "um, ok, what am I going to do with this slightly opaque, sugary, egg white syrup?"
Butter! Butter could be the answer!

I beat 1 stick of unsalted butter until it was well whipped, lighter and fluffier.
I slowly poured in some of the cooled egg white-sugar-coconut milk syrup. (about half in total)
What formed was an icing, about the consistency of a cream cheese icing.
I refrigerated it for about 45 minutes while the cake was cooling.

1. I leveled the cakes with a serrated knife.
2. I put down about 1/3 of the icing on the first layer and spread it out with an off-set spatula, making sure not to lift up with the spatula! (Lifting up off the cake picks-up and pulls off crumbs and its easy to loose a chunk of cake. Holding the spatula parallel with the cake and slowly sliding it off the side lessens this.)
3. I put the second layer, cut side down, atop the first.
4. I frosted the rest of the cake. The frosting/icing was not super thick, so I allowed it to drip down the sides.
5. I covered it in shredded coconut.
6. I cut and served with a pool of pomegranate molasses. (The cake was really sweet and needed a little something tart to contrasts.)

Verdict: More work needed. I am thinking about cutting the sugar in the recipe down to just 1 cup. Others have tried it and said its not that sweet, but I like the idea of maybe pairing it with a key lime sauce.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rice Milk Chocolate

I tried Enjoy Life's dark last week and tried the boom CHOCO boom rice milk bar with rice crisps today.
(Their Snickerdoodles are one of my all time favorites!)

It was not bad, but there is a really weird mouth feel. Its slightly astringent, but without the other characteristics of having a lot of tannins, and it doesn't really melt in your mouth, but it doesn't crumble either.

I am wondering how the dark holds up in baking...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beer steamed Brats

I had some pretty stupendous bratwurst last weekend, but some skunked New Grits beer prevented the full beer-in-brat experience. It was pretty important that this be rectified. Strolling down the isles a the grocery store, this new line of 'wursts proudly proclaimed to be "gluten free" and I knew the time was right.

Side dishes are almost as important as the brat itself - they need to compliment the meat without overpowering it. Pretty tough feat considering how essential spicy mustard is! For some reason, I really got excited about radishes and thought that a carrot-apple-radish salad could work.

Step 1 - steam brats in beer
Since they came fully cooked, I sliced a medium onion, added it to a hot pan with a tablespoon of oil and cooked the onion till it caramelized.
I then added in the brats and enough gf beer to come up half way on the brats, then covered and reduced the heat to a simmer.

Step 2 - salad
I shredded 8+ baby carrots (on a box grater)
Diced one apple.
Sliced 3 radishes into thin rounds.
I added a good pinch of sea salt and a splash of apple cider vinegar and olive oil.

Step 3 - condiments
Spicy mustard (dijion is what I had, but I really wished I had found a good stone ground)
Sauerkraut. I am a big fan of Real Pickles brand of sauerkraut.

Step 4 - pour remaining beer into fun glass

Verdict - There was a lot of sour on the plate. I could have mixed the salad in with the kraut and probably would have worked out fine. The brat was mild and had a really great texture. The onions were crucial, but I probably would cut them smaller next time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chicken nuggets & Swiss chard + Surprise Dessert

Sometimes one must answer the call for some good old fashion comfort food. I felt like chicken tonight. So I picked up some Bell & Evans and doctored up some bbq sauce (Bone Suckin' Sauce is good, but a little too sweet, so I add in some Siracha and apple cider vinegar).

While the chicken cooks, I prepared some swiss chard (on sale!). I caramelized some onions:

Chopped the chard:

And added it to the skillet. (The chard had enough water on it from being washed that there was enough to steam the greens and steams.)

I had to weigh down the greens till the ones on the bottom started to cook, but they all fit in and combined to make a lovely meal.

This was also on sale:

... and it was delicious!!!!!! Ribbons of dark chocolate that break off into thin shards when you dive into grab a nugget of slightly salty cookie dough; this stuff superseded my expectations.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Old corn tortillas = awesome breakfast

An episode of one of Nigella Lawson's tv shows had a recipe for a fry-up that used soft corn tortillas, peppers and eggs. I had one of those "why-didn't-I-think-of-that?!" moments and haven been making a version of this recipe at least once a week ever since.

The basic idea is to pan fry some soft tortillas (stale ones work really well) in some oil, cook till crispy, add in cooked veggies, or other left overs till they are warmed through, then add eggs and eat.

Tortillas crisping in oil over medium-high heat:

Since I used a cast iron skillet, I shut off the heat, then added the eggs:

Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, or hot sauce and you have breakfast.

(The additional space on the left is where the cup of coffee goes.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Purple Cauliflower "curry"

I really enjoy Nigella Lawson's recipe for aloo gobi from her cookbook Feasts. I did not have half the ingredients last night, but I did have a head of purple cauliflower and decided to make a modified version.

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 head of cauliflower, cut into chunks
salt to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1. Sautee the onion, mustard seeds and cumin seeds in oil until the seeds begin to pop and the onion begins to brown
2. Add cauliflower and sear over high heat until pieces are browned.
3. Add salt, garlic, ginger, turmeric and apple cider vinegar plus a few tablespoons of water. Stir, cover and reduce heat to med-low to finish cooking the cauliflower. Stir occasionally. (Add a few more tablespoons of water if the bottom becomes dry and the cauliflower is still not fork tender)

(Yes, this photo was mostly taken to show off the spoon.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ice Cream Sandwiches

There are a lot of great gluten-free substitute products out there, but I have yet to find gluten-free ice cream sandwiches. I decided to test out this recipe.

The first batch didn't turn out flat - even though I did flatten the dough balls down slightly.

Batch 2 I flattened a lot more.

I filled them with gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free "ice cream."

They turned out like this:

Verdict: the cookies alone tasted like they needed more cocoa, but sandwiched with the coconut milk ice cream they were really good. I just want them to be a little thinner... perhaps more butter in the recipe next time.