March 27, 2011

DB Mets la main à la pâte (meringue coffecake, done gluten-free)

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake. 
For this month's Daring Baker challenge we were given a recipe for a meringue coffee cake.  Ugh--I thought, this will be my first non-mix attempt at a gluten-free yeasted bread and it has to rolled, formed into a ring and filled with meringue!!  Seeing that I really could live the rest of my life without ever having another taste of coffee cake I should have known better and just made a wheat flour version and given it away.  But then that wouldn't be "daring" enough would it?

I began researching gluten-free brioche dough online.  I really wanted to try a coconut flour version but my searches found a very popular gluten-free brioche recipe from Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoe Francois, of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day fame.  I own that book and loved playing with the recipes in it (all with wheat flour) but I hadn't tried any recipes from their follow up book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Apparently there is a gluten-free section that had just the recipe I was looking for and it was available online.

The recipe online is already dairy-free, which was a plus, but I think I was tackling too big of a project to try a full sized coffee cake on my first try.  The dough was sticky and lacking the familiar structure that gluten provides.  I managed to wrangle it into a ring-like blob with the meringue and filling sorta sandwiched inside but there wasn't any need to score the dough because it was splitting apart everywhere!  It browned nicely in the oven but only barely rose and remained quite dense.

In the end I think the chocolate saved this from being a complete disaster.  Yeasty dough and chocolate are hard to resist, even with a pitiful shape and without the flavor of wheat flour.  It was super sweet to me and I'm not sure how I would easily alter the recipe to remedy that.  If I were going to try this again I would make individual cinnamon roll style buns and not try to form a large ring.  I don't really think I like the meringue part and because it adds a lot of sweetness I would probably not use it again.  Chocolate chips in my cinnamon rolls might be a new fad though.

I had a third of the dough left over and fermented it further in the fridge.  After a few days I baked it plain in a mini loaf pan with only a simple egg wash on top.  I thought it was really delicious but Alex thought there was a winy taste, not the sour yeasty flavor he wanted, and he didn't like it.  I should be ashamed to say I threw the half a mini loaf out for the birds so I wouldn't be tempted by it but right now I'm down a little over five pounds and quite happy about it. 

-For my dough, I made the gluten-free brioche found on Wasabimon!. The recipe is from the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoe Francois.  For my filling, I used Enjoy Life chocolate chips, the meringue and cinnamon sugar but I left out the nuts.  I made the 2 egg sized batch and then used two thirds of the dough for my ring.  For the filling amounts I used only one egg white and scaled down the chocolate and cinnamon sugar to match.
-To see what this cake was supposed to look like and find the original recipe take a look at the Chocolate Meringue Coffee Cake recipe on the blogs of our hosts, Ria's Collection and Life's a Feast.
-When I get over my baking trama, I want to try making this Gluten-free Sourdough Boule for Alex.  
-To see a dairy-free baker who truly enjoyed this month's challenge visit The Crafts of Mommyhood.  She made 5 different flavors!!
-Visit the Daring Kitchen to join up and do some of your own daring baking.  And don't forget to look at the Daring Baker Blogroll for the other delicious baked goods made this month.  I'm betting 90% are way better looking than my blob. 
A slice of my gluten-free chocolate meringue coffee cake

March 26, 2011

Penny is One! (gluten-free chiffon cake)

Today was all about Penny.  We woke up in bed together and almost immediately Alex, her older brother, came bounding in.  After a little snuggling Alex snuck off to help John/daddy wrap a present.  Once her gift was opened we rounded out our day with a lot of play time, some picture taking, dress-up, a little baking, a nap (which I also took) and of course singing and the cake ceremony.  Penny was eager to have tastes of frosting and nibbles of cake all morning.  After the actual singing she carefully tasted icing and a little more cake but wanted out of the chair so that she could play once more.  The rest of the cupcake fell to the ground and was quickly devoured by Karmal, our beagle mutt. 
I struggled with choosing a cake to make today but in the end decided to go ahead and give her a little white sugar.  The frosting was decent but nothing to write home about but this chiffon cake came out perfectly.  Ethereally light, just sweet enough and by no means compromised by not having wheat flour in it.  It is a keeper recipe. I plan on making them again for strawberry shortcakes when Michigan finally gets fresh strawberries.  Or maybe I don't have to wait that long and could serve them with rhubarb instead!

Gluten-free Chiffon Cake
This was good frosted but I think it would be best with a fruit compote or sauce or even plain.  Based on the recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, please take a look there for a wheat flour version.
 Makes 7 cupcakes

4 tablespoons brown rice flour
2 tablespoons potato starch, not flour
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1/4 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
a pinch of fine salt
3 eggs
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted but not hot*
2 tablespoons water

*Many coconut oils will give a strong flavor.  I like the expeller pressed oils from Tree of Life and Wilderness Family Naturals, both will give you richness but no strong coconut flavor.

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Set 7 cups on a baking sheet.  You can choose to use oven-safe mugs lined with parchment or unwaxed paper cups to tear away.
-Sift the brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, baking powder and salt.  Sift twice more and set aside.
-Separate your eggs.  The yolks should go into a stand mixer bowl with a whisk attachment and the whites into a clean medium-sized mixing bowl.
-Add three tablespoons of sugar to the yolks and beat with the mixer until pale yellow in color, scrape the sides as needed.
-Beat the whites until they reach soft peaks and then start adding your remaining sugar (3T) bit by bit whisking in between each addition.  This can be done by hand with a balloon whisk or with an electric hand mixer.
-Add the vanilla, water and oil to your beaten yolks and sugar and beat to blend together.  Then add in your sifted dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
-Fold in a third of the beaten egg whites and then after they are incorporated fold in the rest of the whites.  Carefully pour the batter into your prepared cups. 
-Bake for 25-30 minutes, until they pass the toothpick test.  Cooking time may vary depending on your choice of cup.
-After removing the cups from the oven invert them on a cooling rack.  When they are cool run a knife around the inside of the cup and give them a shake to release the cakes.

Penny's perfect lips
Lots of attention from Big Bro today

*More 1st birthday photos on this Flickr set
**To see my chiffon cake history check out these Mead Chiffon Cupcakes. I missed the honey flavor but liked the richer cake that the above recipe had. Perhaps a combination of the two is in order?

March 23, 2011

Raspberry-Oat Teacakes (gluten-free)

Psst, guess what-- I have a little girl!!!  And that means that I can dream of talking about clothes, of having tea parties and sleepovers and maybe even of playing together with makeup, when she's 18 of course.  In anticipation of all this we took the first step and bought Penny her first tea set recently.  So far she loves carrying around the cups and hiding things in the teapot but I thought I'd put it to better use and make some mini teacakes.

The idea came from the recent request from Foodbuzz for tea party recipes.  Foodbuzz is donating $50 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for every tea party inspired recipe created by a feature publisher before March 23rd and I'm making it just under the wire.   I really had no idea what a "teacake" was and in this case the internet wasn't much help, even Wikipedia struggles for an answer.  So I went to the source of all baking knowledge, Martha.

I based my mini teacakes on Martha's recipe but tweaked them to be nut and dairy free.  We are just beginning to try coconut oil on Penny and this is really her only taste of sugar so far, outside of a little maple syrup.  But it's her birthday week and I feel like being indulgent.  The mini cakes are not too sweet, a little denser than your average muffin with a slightly crisp exterior.  I love the oat and raspberry combination and it completely won over Penny and her older brother. Now we just need to whip up some deviled eggs, one of Alex's favorite things to make on his own, and a spot of tea to have our petite fête.

-Visit Kelly Confidential and you can play make believe and host an imaginary tea party at Kelly's Tea Party for a Cause. When you do, Electrolux will donate $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
-A friend runs a tea directory online at Now Serving Tea.  Take a look at her site for information on tea rooms, tea houses, tea shops, tea crafters, tea farms, tea retailers, and restaurants serving tea.
-How about some homemade chai tea with your tea cakes?  This recipe from intellectual relish uses black cardamom.  

Raspberry-Oat Tea Cakes
Based on the recipe for Tiny Cherry and Almond Tea Cakes from Martha Stewart Living, July 2007
Makes 12 mini muffin sized cakes

4 tablespoons coconut oil
8 tablespoons processed oatmeal*
5 tablespoons sugar, I used coconut sugar
4 tablespoons brown rice flour
3 tablespoons potato starch
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 frozen raspberries

*I ground rolled oats in a food processor to a cornmeal consistancy.  Please be sure that your oats come from a gluten-free source if you have health concerns.

-Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease and flour a mini muffin tin with coconut oil and potato starch.
-In a small saucepan, melt your coconut oil and then remove from heat.
-In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together your oatmeal, sugar, rice flour, potato starch and salt.  Set aside.
-In another medium sized bowl, whisk your egg whites just until frothy.  Add in the dry ingredients and vanilla extract and whisk until the batter is smooth.  Then drizzle in the warm coconut oil and beat until a uniform smooth batter is created.
-Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and then press a frozen raspberry into each cake, you don't need to push the raspberry all the way into the batter.
-Bake for 11-12 minutes until they toothpick test done.  Cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan and then remove to cool on a rack.
-Serve with tea and maybe some deviled eggs, if that tickles your fancy.
 Penny gives me staging advice, right before she made off with the teapot lid!
I'm adding these to Simply Sugar and Gluten Free's Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays

Food books: fun or fetish?

Happened across this post, Books I'm Not Going to Read, on Mae's Food Blog yesterday after I wrote Book Stuff.  It led me to read these two articles:  The Moral Crusade Against Foodies and Defending 'Foodies'

My thoughts: 
I'd like to think it's possible to have a passion for something like food, without being obsessed to the point of it being detrimental to your life or the lives of others.  I've read two of Steingerten's books and all of Bourdain's.  While I have never seen anything other than the persnickety curmudgeon persona from Steingarten, Bourdain has developed viewpoints further in his writing as well as in his TV commentary.  He asks the question, How can we be so enthralled with food when there are children out there starving?

March 22, 2011

Book stuff

Sometime in January I found a link to a food book reading challenge and in my head I joined in right then and there, but I neglected to post about it.  This year I'm committing to myself to read at the Glutton level of more than 12 food themed books.   I  know I'm unlikely to take the time to write more than a few quick sentences about each book but I would like the chance to add my picks.  For a slew of suggestions for food reading please visit the site Foodie's Reading Challenge built by Margot better known as Joyfully Retired
This is what I've read so far this year: 

Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker 
Confections of a Closet Master Baker
I know I've mentioned this book before (and it's sorta cheating because I just reread it in Jan) but I really loved her writing style and the recipes are beautifully written.  It's the narrative of a Hollywood exec, who just happens to be Sanda Bullock's sister, who drops out and turns to baking full time.  The author is releasing a cookbook called Sugar Baby next month, which I'm desparately trying to resist buying.

Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater
Hungry Monkey
This is a quick read but I liked the author's self effacing attitude and sense of humor.  There are recipes with each chapter and some creative ideas for cooking with your little ones.

The Primal Blueprint Cookbook: Primal, Low Carb, Paleo, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free

The Primal Blueprint Cookbook

 Full of a lot of fairly simple recipes this would be a good introduction book for someone not used to thinking outside the meat, starch, veg/food pyramid way of looking at meals.  There are quite a few slow cooked recipes that are a little time consuming and I was annoyed that despite it's promise there are recipes that call for dairy.  I like looking at it for ideas when I'm drawing a complete blank on what to make for dinner but I don't think it was worth the price.  Do go to Mark's Daily Apple and sign up for his newsletter so you can get the free downloadable recipe ebooks.  They are worth looking through. 

{WHY WE GET FAT} BY Taubes, Gary (Author )Why We Get Fat: And What to Do about It(Hardcover)
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
A follow up to Good Calories, Bad Calories, this new book by Gary Taubes definitely reads more like a diet book.  If you can't get your family to read his previous epic tome then maybe you can pique their interest and get them asking questions with this book instead.  That being said, I can't help but feel deep down that even if I was supremely healthy and vital, life would just be a little sad without some sugar.

Eating Animals 
Eating Animals
I felt I needed to interject another viewpoint and reassess things if I was really going to try eating lower carb, which inevitably means more meat.  I found this book well written and easy to read but often redundant.  I absolutely agree with his views on factory farmed animals but have a hard time agreeing with much of the rest of his arguments.

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability
The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability
I thought this would be a nice counterpoint argument to the previous book and I'm working on finishing it now.  The personal stories are interesting but I find her presentation of the facts to be a little dry.  It is a perspective that isn't readily found elsewhere and I'm happy to see it out there. 

Request for children's book suggestions

I'm pulling out more and more of our stashed away baby books for Penny now that she is old enough to be interested in them.  That got me thinking about my list of My Favorite Children's Books with Food.  I think it's been long enough since I wrote that post and since it gets a decent amount of traffic I'd like to make a part two.  I know there are many more books to add.   If you haven't checked it out before please do so and add any of your favorites that I have missed to the comments. 

*I came across this fundraiser yesterday and thought I'd pass word along.  I'm not sure if any of the bakers are dairy-free but there are several that are gluten-free.  Bidding is on March 30th at The Tomato Tart.
Online Bake Sale for Japan! March 30!

March 21, 2011

In anticipation of spring-- and Ramps!

Michigan's Spring has just barely poked her toe out from under the blanket of winter.  So when Shayne of fruitcake or nuts asked us to post about our favorite spring food it all had to come from memory.  As much as I'm enjoying tapping our maple trees what I really long for is the first green things sprouting up and one of the first is ramps!

In past years ramps have become something of a foodie cliche because of their rabid fans, but I think most of the adoration is well deserved.  Fresh and green with that pungent combined garlic/onion flavor, who could hate this gift that pops up from under the leaf litter.  My favorite part is the leafy greens.  Like garlic scapes, they have a verdent flavor that I love.  Here is my favorite quick meal to make with them.

Ramps and Beans 

Rinse and spin or pat dry a bunch of ramps.  Chop your ramp stems and bulbs separately from your greens.  Add the chopped bulbs and stems to a pan with a couple of glugs of good olive oil and salt and pepper.  Cook until softened.  Add in about two cups of cooked white beans (navy or cannelini) and cook to warm up the beans.  Add in the ramp greens and cook just until they are tender.  Add a splash of lemon juice, more olive oil and more salt and pepper to taste.  Great served with a fried egg on top or spooned onto crusty bread.

*See the other favorite spring foods on the group blog for Michigan Lady Food Bloggers at the end of this month.
**I'll also be remaking these Buckwheat Crepes with Ramps this year, but this time around I'm going to hunt down a wheat-free all buckwheat crepe recipe. 
***And since I have no pictures of the food, here's a little video of Penny pushing around her toy shopping cart.  (Please ignore the voice over at the end contributed by her annoying older brother.)

March 20, 2011

Maple Tapping '11

This is our inaugural year of maple syrup production on Dog Hill.  I purchased a kit from Tap My Trees last year but due to my very pregnant state at the time and John's desire to hurry and finish a project before the birth it never happened.  So the sap buckets collected dust for a year.

Alex was very eager to start and so we put in the taps at the beginning of this month.  In the first few days we got a small amount, enough to make a 1/4 cup of maple sugar, and then the temperature dropped.  Finally, this past week was wonderfully warm and the sap was flowing.  Unfortunately, I'm ridiculously stubborn and wanted to try judging the doneness of the syrup by look instead of being smart and getting out a thermometer.  Hence the three jars above of crystallized maple goo.

It doesn't matter though, it's been a tremendously fun learning experience.  In all we've collected enough maple sap to make over three pints of goo, which I think would translate to a little more syrup if I could master the last half an hour of sap boiling.  Now if I can just keep the kids (and myself) out of these jars so they last a little while, I may cook with some and use the rest to make maple sugar candies or some maple candied ginger.  
One of our sap buckets
Penny likes peeking
Perfect was helping too
I received no compensation from Tap My Trees but I do get some amount if you purchase through the Amazon links below.

March 19, 2011

The ongoing wheat-free saga

I never got around to posting further about my experiment cutting out wheat in January. Part of the problem is that I haven't yet tried to reintroduce wheat (yes I am aware that it is now the middle of March) and the rest of the problem is that I just have too many conflicting thoughts about the subject of food.  But my purpose for blogging, other than to have fun, is to share my food experiences and perhaps "talking" through our current situation here will be helpful.

The dynamics of food for my family is complex, let me begin with some up to date introductions.

Me:  Nursing (avoiding dairy, peanuts, most soy and spicy food for that reason) also trying out wheat-free/low sugar/low grains since the first of the year to see if I feel differently or the extra pounds melt away and I suddenly have Heidi Klum's physique. I want to lose some weight in a healthy way but gnerally, I want to eat real, whole foods from good, known sources and mostly seasonal and local.  Of course, I also really love to bake and baking without wheat is interesting but not nearly as fun, or as easy.

John (hubbie):  Off dairy and wheat for sinus issues/general health/weight, he flip flops between paleo and carb cycling (I think of the latter as paleo with regular cheating.)

Alex (my eight year old): Dairy allergic, tests low for peanut and peas but still has contact reactions so we avoid them. In the past six months, I've been trying to get soy out of his diet (especially the fake dairy processed evil) and lowering his wheat intake because we're concerned that he has digestive issues that may be wheat related. Also we've been lowering sugar, increasing nutrient dense foods. He's a serious ice cream addict.

Penny (will be one in a week!):  Very interested in food (way more than Alex at this age), has so far had rice, corn, eggs, meats, fruits, vegetables, potato and beans. Has not had nuts, soy, coconut, or dairy, yet. Has had wheat but only in communion. She loves bacon, raspberries and rutabaga.

When January came to an end, I was eating no sugar, only a little fruit and for the last two weeks of the month no grains.  Instead of going ahead and having a slice of real bread to kick off February I decided to try making a gluten-free sandwich bread mix I had been saving.  This resulted in major overindulging-- half the loaf in a day!  I then craved carbs like crazy even though I tried to go back to my low sugar/grain-free diet.  That was followed by the whole house getting sick and me personally knocked down for over a week.  As soon as I felt better I pushed myself to get back to exercising at least five days a week and started doing Weight Watchers lower carb and still kept wheat-free.  The exercise made me feel great and the WW wasn't too bad and I lost a few pounds.  Then Daylight Saving time hit me like a ton of bricks.

A baby with a sleep schedule all screwy, a whiny older brother, the hour in the morning that I use to exercise and keep things tidy-ish lost, and to top it off I weighed in and gained a half a pound.  This last week was a bit discouraging and a lot exhausting and I felt like I was losing the game of catchup in spite of all my best efforts.

So I can't make up my mind about what to do about wheat and grains and our food in general.  More than anything I'd like to introduce dairy in my diet (cheese is way more tempting than bread) but with Penny nursing that thought is anxiety inducing.  I don't believe that I can control whether she has food allergies but I can't stand thinking if I try dairy and she's fussy how do I know if it's the food?

Since I can't make up my mind the plan for now is to keep up with the lower carb WW and stay on my exercise routine.  Oh and somehow I'd like to find a way to take a long vacation somewhere warm and sunny, with no snow and green things growing.. someplace with beaches and fruity cocktails... That I'll have to make myself because I don't want that garbage, sugar filled mix-- Man, I'm ruining my own daydream!

March 18, 2011

Trying Black Cardamom (with a fish recipe)

This month's Spice Rack Challenge was cardamom.  Cardamom seemed like a simple spice to pick a recipe for but I've always used it in a prepared spice mix (like garam masala) or in a sweet baked good.  When I saw the many types of cardamom listed for the challenge I was determined to give a new one for me a try, black cardamom.  Not directly related to green and white cardamom, I'm still making up my mind about this interesting spice.  I love it's smokiness, especially since I'm avoiding my beloved spicy smoked paprika while nursing, but when I tried using the inner seeds ground I found it too camphorous and unpleasant.  I'm going to use the rest of my stash to make some homemade garam masala or maybe some more of this cod, which was my one success.

Black Cardamom Cod
Makes ~3 servings

1 lb Pacific cod or other firm white fish, cut into large chunks
1 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 small onion, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3 whole black cardamom pods
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom seeds
1/4 teaspoon whole coriander, toasted and then ground
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
salt and freshly ground pepper

-After you toast and grind your coriander, add the oil and onion with all the spices including salt and pepper to a heavy saucepan.  Cook to soften slightly.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
-Add the coconut milk and carrots and taste for salt and pepper.  Then bring up to a strong simmer, cover and cook until the carrots are almost done.
-Add the fish and cover.  Cook until the fish is just cooked through.
-Serve over rice or cauliflower rice. Either remove the black cardamom pods and bay leaf before serving or warn your diners that they are not to be eaten.

-Other cardamom recipes I have online are my Danish Braid and from way back these Cardamom and Candied Ginger Shortbread. I've been blogging for over three years now!
-I procured my black cardamom from The Spice House.
-Visit Mother's Kitchen next Wednesday for the collection of cardamom recipes.