Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gluten free scones, revisited

I have attempted scones before, and they were good, but not quite right. I sat down with 5 cookbooks and mulled over my options. I decided to forgo the buttermilk and yogurt, and up the fat in general. The results, I think, were worth the hemming and hawing.

Raisin Scones
1/4 cup sugar (plus 1 tbsp for dusting)
3/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup arrowroot starch
1/2 cup corn starch (plus a few tbsp for rolling)
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
8 tbsp (1 stick) of cold butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup half and half (plus 1 tbsp for tops)
1/2-3/4 cup raisins soaked in warm water, then drained

1. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
2. Cut in the butter. Mix until the butter is about pea-sized.
3. Combine the eggs and half and half, mix and then add to the flour/butter mix. Gently combine but don't over work. You want to keep the butter pieces whole, but make sure there are no lumps of flour.
4. Gently fold in the raisins.
The mixture is going to look too wet, its not, trust me.
5. Chill the dough for at least 20 minutes.

6. Dust a counter or board with a few tablespoons of corn starch. Roll out and shape the dough into a rectangle, about 1/2" thick.
7. Cut the dough into strips and then into triangles.
8. Place them on a baking sheet, brush with remaining half and half and sprinkle with sugar. 
9. Bake at 475F for 7-15 minutes (depending on the size of your scones) or until the tops are golden brown.

These were better than my last attempt. Moister, better flavor, better color. Overall a crushing blow to the first recipe. IMPROVEMENT!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Homemade Lara Bars

Panforte was the medieval travel food of the crusaders. It was a dense, spicy fruitcake that was made to withstand travel and nutritionally very calorie-dense; though "calorie" wasn't a vocab word back then. It was a combination of dried fruit, dried nuts, sometimes a little flour, and spices, lots of spices. If you are lucky, you can sometimes find round disks of this delicious treat in specialty shops around Christmas time. Its sometimes translated into English as "fruit cake" but panforte is dense, chewy and delicious, more like a LaraBar than those holiday bricks filled with florescent cherries.

Most panforte comes from Sienna, in Tuscany, and contains some flour, I decided to modify a friend's homemade LaraBar recipe to see if I could concoct my own. I began with pitted dates, raw almonds, dried apricot past (I found it at the Halal butcher shop) and a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.

The apricot paste was much stiffer and sticker than I expected. Thicker than a fruit roll-up and stickier than honey, it was not easy to tear apart.

I did my best to pull it into chunks and combined it with the 20 oz. of dates and a few cups of almonds.
I added a small amount to the meat grinder, with the largest holes and the whole thing jammed.
I took everything apart and then ran the mixture through without the disk at the end:
After it was basically coarsely chopped, I put the plate back on, added some cinnamon and ground the mixture:
With my hands, I pushed the strands into a uniform paste:
Traditionally, the bars are cut, but this mixture was too sticky, so I lined muffin trays with plastic wrap:
Then I added a ball of the mixture to each plastic wrap square and loosely folded over the edges:
I then covered the muffin tin with another:
Then PRESSED DOWN, gently.
Take out the pucks of deliciousness, flip them over and push again, for an even disk:
Stack them up:
Save them for a rainy day, or a hike, or whatever. They will keep nearly indefinitely.

The flavors were subtle, and next time I will probably add more spices and more almonds to help the whole thing go faster. I am saving a bunch up for airplane snacks.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tahini is ground, roasted sesame seeds. Its the unsweetened peanut butter of sesame seeds. Its rich, nutty, and smooth. Its what makes hummus smooth and halva delicious. A few months ago, Gluten Free Gobsmacked posted a recipe for cookies made with tahini and I was intrigued. I modified her recipe and made these tasty treats.

Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup tahini
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup arrowroot flour
1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 325F
1. Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy.
2. Add in the egg and mix until combined.
3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in the vanilla and the tahini and mix until well combined.
4. Combine all the dry ingredients, except the chocolate, in a separate bowl. Mix well.
5. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet. Three additions works well.
6. Stir in the chocolate.
This mixture was very loose so I threw it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
7. Form the dough into balls, place them on cookie sheets and bake for 9-12 minutes at 325F or until the edges just begin turning brown.
8. Allow the cookies to rest on the sheet for one minute before removing and allowing to cool.

The final cookies had a hint of salt (I used salted butter and added salt to the mix) but in the best way possible. The tahini flavor became more intense after the cookies cooled... though it was hard to wait and not eat them while the chocolate was still melty.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blueberry Rhubarb Brown Butter Almond Tart

I was inspired by some rhubarb.  Fruit has not looked great at the store lately, but then I saw it, the first signs of spring: rhubarb. I love the long, thin pieces that appear to be stretching, arching backward. Red, pink and a little green, this steam is weird and wonderful. Its more complex than just sour and tart, there are some great earthy things happening. I decided to mix it with some frozen blueberries and make a pie. The pie idea quickly turned into the desire to instead make a tart. Staring at a stick of frozen butter, not wanting to delay this plan further, I decided to brown the butter rather than waiting for the stick to slightly defrost. Then there was the balance of the pie filling, which wasn't quite right. It screamed for some lemon juice, but cider vinegar was all I had. A dash of vanilla extract helped round out the flavor.

The recipe is a serendipitous hodge-podge of last minute ideas that came together better than expect. The crust, even though it puffed in the oven, was crisp, crumbly and just barely sweet.(I used this recipe as a starting point.) The filling was warm, sweet, tart and floral from the vanilla. It probably would taste great with a scoop of vanilla or sweet cream ice cream but I loath hot desserts with cold ice cream. (I know, I am weird)

Melt and brown the butter:

While the butter cools, make the filling:

Adding the tapioca starch to the frozen berries helps keep it from clumping.

While the filling cools, make the dough by creaming the cold, brown butter:

Cream in the sugar and then add in the other ingredients:

The mixture is going to look crumbly, but its perfect. Just push it together with your hands till it forms a dough and then pat into the tin:

Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or until the dough is cold:

Bake @ 350F for 9-10 minutes or until the dough is starting to brown:

Cool and fill:

Bake again:

Blueberry Rhubarb Brown Butter Almond Tart
Tart shell:
1/2 cup butter, browned & cooled
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 tsp baking soda

2 cup frozen blueberries
1 1/2-2 cup diced rhubarb
5 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1/2-1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

You could order the steps differently, make the filling first or the crust a day ahead.
Make the dough:
1. Melt and brown the butter. Allow it to cool and resolidify.
2. Whip the butter. Add in the 1/2 cup sugar and cream until fluffy - the mixture should more than double in size and lighten in color.
3. Add in the egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix to combine.
4. Combine the dry ingredients and slowly add them to the butter/sugar mix.

5. Press the mixture into a few ball shapes and then press those into the tart shell.
6. Put the tart shell in the fridge to cool before baking.

Cook the filling:
1. Sprinkle the tapioca starch over half the frozen blueberries and shake them to coat.
2. Put the all of the berries, rhubarb and sugar into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer. You want to cook this till the rhubarb is just cooked through.
3. Remove from the heat, stir in the vinegar and cider.
4. Set aside and allow it to cool.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Remove the tart shell from the fridge and dock the dough (stab it gently with a fork all over).
3. Bake at 350F for 9-10 minutes or until the dough just starts to brown.
4. Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.
5. Pour in the fruit filling. Using a rubber scraper or off-set spatuala, push the fruit to the edges but try not to get any up on the top edge of the crust (it will burn there).
6. Return it to the 350F oven for another 9-10 minutes or until the shell is just beyond golden brown at the top edge.
7. Remove from the oven and wait. Seriously. You need to give the tapioca time to set and gel and for the crust to cool before cutting.

5 Corn Cornbread

There is a pretty clear north (sweet) vs. south (not sweet, dry) divide when it comes to cornbread. Here is my attempt at a middle ground... and well, a way to use up the small amount of masa I had sitting around. 5 corn cornbread combines creamed corn for added moisture and a hint of sweetness. They worked really well as a side as is or slathered with honey butter.

5 Corn Cornbread
3/4 cup masa harina
1/2 cup corn flour
1/4 cup corn starch
3/4 cup corn meal
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup creamed corn
2 egg
1/4 cup oil
1 cup water

1. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
2. Add the wet ingredients and mix till combined.
3. Allow the batter to rest 20 minutes.
4. Spoon into well greased muffin tins.
5. Bake at 375F for ~30 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the middle of a muffin and comes out dry.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Zatar Popcorn

Popcorn might be my second favorite snack. Nothing will ever take over the #1 slot held by potato chips, but fluffy, crunchy and salty popped corn sometimes tries to usurp the throne. Caramel corn has its place, but I prefer the savory to the sweet. Lately, I have been trying to add different spices to the mix. Smoked paprika is strong, but good, herbs are ok, but usually fall off. Zatar has been my hands-down favorite. The mix of the finely ground spices plus sumac and toasted sesame seeds works amazingly well as a popcorn topper. [WARNING - many zatar spice blends contain roasted wheat as an ingredient. Please read carefully!]

Zatar Popcorn
hot air or stove pop your popcorn
toss with 2+ tablespoons of melted butter or margarine
(you really need to coat it well)
sprinkle on the salt and zatar spice, you can be as generous as you like here, but the trick is to add about 1/4-1/2 tsp and toss, then add a little more and toss again.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Cilantro & Jalapeno hommus

I recently tried Cedar's new hommus "cilantro with jalapenos" and goodness it is awesome. Its not hot or spicy but its really delicious. I dipped some rice crackers in as a snack, but I am thinking it would be delightful as a spread on a sandwich. I am feeling like a hobbit, ready for second lunch and some more.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Newsletter News

I have talked, blogged, reblogged, facebooked, cajoled, and exclaimed in glee about working on the community cookbook: Cook Food Every Day. So when I was interviewed by the Greater Boston Food Bank for their newsletter I found it really easy to talk about the 50 writers, artists, editors, printers and volunteers that made the book, show and bake sale possible. It wasn't as easy to talk about when I was on the receiving end of a food donation. Part of me wanted to ask that they retract it, but in the end I think it belongs, even if it does make me feel slightly uncomfortable.

I have been very lucky in never knowing what true hunger is; that even when things have been financially difficult I have always had access to food, and a lot of it. But there was a time when several bags of food were anonymously dropped off at our door, the year my dad lost his job just before Thanksgiving. I remember feeling really odd about it. At first I thought it was really nice, but then my parents got really uncomfortable and kept repeating that there were those who were in greater need than we were, and there were tears.

The reason I choose the Greater Boston Food Bank as the recipient of the proceeds of the cookbook is because they keep food within communities by distributing it to existing pantries and shelters. They help make it possible for people to help one another out in their own neighborhoods.

There are about 80 books left if you want to grab a copy and see if we can send another $1000 to the GBFB.

Friday, May 7, 2010

USA Today

USA Today's Friday, May 7th issue contains this media supplement about Celiac Disease. Its one of the better pieces in the media I have seen to date.

Thanks to Gluten-Free Fun for posting this.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Banana Bread revisited

Banana Bread
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup chopped dates large dates chopped
1/3 cup pecans
1/3 cup sweet rice flour
1/3 cup millet
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 buckwheat flour
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Cream together the butter and sugar.
3. Add each egg, one at a time, beat well.
4. Mash the bananas and dates together and add to the butter, sugar and eggs.
5. Once incorporated, sift together the dry ingredients and slowly add to the wet.
6. Pour batter into a loaf pan.
7. Bake 75-90 minutes until you can insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clear.
8. Remove the loaf from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Overall, the bread was good. Not too sweet, but I sort of wanted it denser, so maybe more banana or less flours next time.

I have an alter ego

I have a secret. Being not that great at keeping them, I have started to let it slip... I miss being in a kitchen. My quasi-professional stint was short lived extremely brief, but as of late I am missing working with my hands. (Typing does not count.)

Kitchen work is something you only can envy when you are not in one, when you don't need to be standing for 10+ hours with out a break, when you don't have to think of quick, on-the-fly ingredient substitutes or dealing with angry customers who deem yelling as the means of getting their way. Kitchens are scary, dangerous, often ugly, sweltering spaces that are never large enough. I can miss it all because I have the liberty to daydream, something not afforded to those whose minds and bodies are in more dangerous situations than the occasional worry about remembering to bend at the knees when lifting a box of copier paper.

I want to make something that feeds people. They are not always going to be happy, but the end result is tangible, even if fleeting. I miss the smells, the calloused hands, the sculpted arms that know the weight of 50lbs of sugar not 8lbs. dumbbells.

I know I am romanticizing this.
I am thinking I might stag a few places to get this out of my system and allow reality back in.