Friday, July 27, 2012

Gluten-Free Fruity Buttermilk Cake

Family birthday time again and I was taking ideas from the birthday boy. His one request was to have something accompanied by vanilla ice cream. The ice cream is a snap--I'll just make this recipe. As for the other part, I wanted something that makes the most of the summer fruits we can get at the farmers' market and that also does not overwhelm the vanilla ice cream. In addition, I've been craving cake. Thus began my search for a raspberry cake recipe that I could transform using my usual trick to a gluten-free version. I came up with the raspberry buttermilk cake from Epicurious. I did a test cake last weekend to rave reviews from everyone, so this week I will double the recipe to fit into a 9x13 inch glass baking dish (and I'll more than double the raspberries). Interestingly, my friend Stacey made a blueberry cake the same day using an old Fanny Farmer recipe that she said was nearly identical. Just goes to show that there are very few completely new innovations in cooking.

This cake can be made with nearly any kind of fruit and the flavoring options are endless. You could add lots of lemon zest and use a milk soured with lemon juice instead of buttermilk. I'm sure that any berry or berry combination would be great. It may even work with stone fruits like peaches or nectarines (though the texture might be affected if they're really juicy). You could top it with cinnamon-sugar or oat-nut crumble. I love having an easy cake like this in my repertoire and suspect it will be in the rotation frequently, not least because it's as delicious for breakfast or tea time as it is for dessert.

My regular gluten-free flour substitution worked perfectly (and I forgot to add any xanthan gum, as per usual). I did some testing and now have weight equivalents for the flour mix and I also verified that one could use the GF mix gram for gram compared to wheat flour--no need to adjust the amount. I knew it worked from a volume perspective but was glad to see it would work going by weight, as well.

RICE FLOUR MIX (makes more than you will need for this recipe): 2 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca starch OR 282 g. brown rice flour, 98 g. potato starch, 36 g. tapioca starch

2 c. gluten-free flour mix
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 oz, 1/2 c.) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 c. evaporated cane juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 c. buttermilk
3-4 c. fresh or thawed raspberries (or other berry or fruit)
2-3 TBSP coarse sugar such as Turbinado or Demerara, a cinnamon-sugar mix or 1 c. crumble topping

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F; make sure the rack is in the middle
  2. Butter and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan
  3. Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy (you could use a mixer or food processor). Do not undermix--some Epicurious readers felt that the fruit was more likely to sink if the butter and sugar were not creamed well enough
  5. Add vanilla and then the eggs, pulsing to mix after each one
  6. Add the flour and the buttermilk in 3 stages, starting and ending with the flour. Mix well between each addition
  7. Spread batter in prepared baking pan and scatter fruit on top--the entire top of the cake should be well-covered for maximum tastiness
  8. Sprinkle with sugar or crumble mixture
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
  10. Let cool on a rack and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired

Kale Salad with Dried Cherries and Candied Walnuts

As much as I love kale (and I do love kale--we served it as the vegetable at our wedding, in fact), I had never really considered eating it raw until a recent trip to Victoria, BC. Our friend Becca was telling us how raw kale salad was the rage in Portland and she ordered one in Victoria for dinner. It had dried cranberries and I think some kind of nut in it, but I can't remember what. One taste and I was hooked. It might have had something to do with the fact that I was pregnant with our second daughter, but I could not get enough of this salad. I made up my own version immediately upon our return from BC and made it regularly until my daughter was born. I don't think that my love for the salad has diminished so much as my ability to prepare the kale and the walnuts has faltered with the sleep deprivation and newborn care.

I adapted the walnut recipe from the Natural Health Cookbook, a favorite of mine as regular EATS! readers will know. It's not difficult at all, but what struck me is the wisdom of toasting the nuts undressed and then adding the hot nuts to the syrup separately. This ensures that the whole concoction doesn't burn and make a huge mess.

Candied Walnuts (makes enough for many servings)

1 1/2 c. raw walnuts (halves or pieces)
1 1/2 TBSP rice syrup, agave nectar or honey
1/4 tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F 
  2. Whisk sweetener and salt in a bowl large enough to accomodate the walnuts later 
  3. Cover a baking tray with a layer of parchment or waxed paper and set aside 
  4. Spread walnuts in a single layer on a second baking tray 
  5. Toast walnuts until golden and fragrant, 8-10 minutes 
  6. Remove walnuts from the oven and add immediately to syrup bowl; stir to coat walnuts thoroughly 
  7. Spread mixture on the covered baking tray and set aside to cool; store in an airtight container
Kale Salad

1 bunch kale, washed, dried and shredded
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1-2 TBSP balsamic vinegar (optional)
1/4 c. candied walnuts
1/4 c. dried tart cherries, cut into smaller pieces if you like more bits per bite

  1. In a large salad bowl, whisk salt and vinegar (if using) to dissolve salt then whisk in olive oil
  2. Add kale, walnuts and dried cherries and toss with dressing

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Easier Orange Tofu

Back in 2009, I posted my take on Heidi Swanson's orange tofu. However, this never became a regular in our dinner rotation. I couldn't get an intense enough orange flavor without making way too much sauce. Recently, the PCC newsletter posted a link to "Steph's Tofu" and I immediately saw the brilliance of it. To get the proper orange flavor without making too watery a sauce, the key is to use frozen orange juice concentrate!

The only issue I had with the recipe as written is that it was too salty. Turns out, the "hippie" mirin that we use (Eden organic) is missing the high fructose corn syrup that many cooking mirins contain, but does contain salt. I resolved the issue by reducing the mirin and replacing with some chicken stock. Of course, vegetable stock would work just as well for a vegetarian version, I just happen to have small cubes of homemade chicken stock on hand.

I have now made this tofu dish four or five times and it's a hit with the whole family. We most often serve it with brown rice and a green vegetable. It's often accompanied by peanut sauce, as well.
The oven temperature is very flexible, I have found. The original recipe recommends 350 degrees F for one hour, but I prefer 425 degrees F for 30 minutes both to reduce cooking time and also to get a nice glaze on the tofu.

1/4 c. frozen orange juice concentrate
2 TBSP unsalted stock
3 TBSP mirin
2 TBSP soy sauce (we use Nama unpasteurized)
1 1/2 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP rice vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 TBSP grated ginger
1 block tofu (15-16 ounces) cut into 16 cubes and blotted dry

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Whisk all ingredients except tofu in a small bowl
  3. Place tofu cubes in a dish large enough so that it can all be in a single layer (but not so deep that the marinade is too shallow)--an 8 inch square dish should work well
  4. Pour marinade over tofu and let sit 30 minutes if you can, turning once halfway through if you have time
  5. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes, if desired. As the tofu is already cooked through, doneness is more about the sauce reducing and caramelizing slightly than anything else, so remove from the oven when it looks good to you
  6. Serve with brown rice and vegetables. Would also be nice with noodles

Vegan Vietnamese Noodle Salad

I make no claims to authenticity with this recipe. I have freely adapted traditional elements to suit my personal preferences and what I am likely to have on hand at home. For example, I am not a huge fan of lettuce, but I am nuts about kale, so I swapped out the usual lettuce for raw, shredded Lacinato kale. So, canonical or not, since finding the right caramel tofu recipe and the best vegetarian nuoc mam, I have eaten this dish for every lunch this week and am sad that I have run out of ingredients before Friday.

The vegetarian nuoc mam recipe comes from (unsurprisingly) Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The first recipe I tried, from the New York Times had way too much lime and sugar. The balance was totally off. Madison's version suits my palate perfectly. I didn't have any chiles around, so I omitted them, and it was still delicious. Madison specifies mushroom soy sauce in her recipe, and I'm sure that would be great, but as mine had expired years ago, I opted for our usual Nama shoyu and it was just fine.

There are no hard and fast rules as to what veggies to use and what proportions. That's one of the nice things about making this kind of dish. Instead of giving amounts, instead I'll just list the things I like to put in my bowl. The vegetarian nuoc mam makes enough sauce for about four generous servings.

Vegetarian Nuoc Mam (enough for 4 servings)

2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 serrano chiles, minced (optional)
2 TBSP light brown sugar (I bet palm sugar would be great, too)
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. soy sauce

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Ideal to let sit for an hour or so before using to let the flavors blend.

Noodle Salad (adapt portions to the number of persons served and preference)

Rice vermicelli, softened and drained according to package directions
Lettuce or kale, washed and shredded
Carrots in matchsticks or shredded (you could briefly cook carrots if desired)
Cucumber (peeled and seeded) in matchsticks or shredded
Fresh Thai or regular basil leaves, shredded
Fresh mint leaves, shredded
Roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
Vegetarian Nuoc Mam to taste
Caramel Tofu

Assemble all ingredients in a large bowl, toss with vegetarian nuoc mam and top with a few squares of caramel tofu

Tofu with Savory Caramel Sauce

One of our favorite dishes at a local Vietnamese restaurant is the rice noodle salad topped with delicious pork skewers. Not entirely sure what is in the pork, but it's sweet and salty and caramelized. Sadly, the restaurant isn't in our neighborhood so we don't get to indulge in the dish as often as we'd like.

I was determined to find a recipe but I thought it would be more realistic (and somewhat healthier) to find a tofu version. I know I can always have tofu in the house; it's less certain that I'll find the cut of pork I'd need from our favorite vendor at the farmers' market.

The first recipe I tried (from the New York Times) was okay, but way too sweet. It was good enough that I knew the concept was worth pursuing. Further Internet searching led me to the Herbivoracious recipe. The fact that it is made in one pan and that it called for less sugar had me hopeful that this was the savory laquered tofu of my dreams--and so it turned out to be.

I love Michael Natkin's one-pan technique and I simplified the recipe even further by omitting the onions and scallions. I'm sure they'd be good, but I didn't have any around and I so strongly prefer garlic to any other allium that I knew I'd be satisfied even without them.

You know that even while eating your breakfast, you're counting the minutes til you can eat your lunch that you've found a winner. This and the Easier Orange Tofu will be the recipes I return to again and again.

If you do not require a vegetarian dish, you could consider adding a tablespoon or so of fish sauce to add umami.

1/4 c. rice wine or dry sherry (I used Chinese Shaoxing rice wine but I'm sure you could use dry sake)
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 c. evaporated cane juice or white sugar
1 block (15-16 oz) extra firm tofu, cut into 12 pieces and blotted dry
2 TBSP vegetable oil
4-8 dried small chiles (optional--I didn't use)

  1. Whisk the first 7 ingredients together in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves. Set aside
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet, ideally cast iron, over high heat until the oil shimmers
  3. Add the tofu pieces in a single layer, driest side down (expect splutters)
  4. Fry on that side until nicely browned, about 4 minutes, then turn over
  5. Immediately add the sauce to the pan--it will likely spatter, so be careful
  6. Cook until the sauce has thickened, forming a syrupy glaze. It may help to gauge the consistency of the sauce to remove the tofu to a serving plate and then continue cooking the sauce if necessary
  7. Pour sauce over the tofu and then serve. Excellent atop Vegan Vietnamese Noodle Salad

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gluten-Free Choux Pastry

Ever-ambitious and endlessly confident in the gluten-free flour mix I've come to rely on, I decided to see what happened if I made a gluten-free version of choux pastry. It's family dinner time again and I decided that profiteroles were the way to go. Of course, I don't mess around with little mini choux. What a pain, especially since I'll only ever make one type of ice cream with which to fill them. I make cream puff-sized pastry and go from there. I used the vanilla toffee version of ice cream four ways as my filling and chocolate sauce for topping.

Now, I don't make choux pastry very often, despite my love for it. The last time was years ago. What I remember from previous batches is that it always seems to come together much faster than the recipe suggests. This was definitely the case with the GF version, as well. I had been worried that the GF version would be messed up because there is so much starch in the flour mix, but it didn't seem to be a problem. However, the butter continued to separate from the mixture a little even after I took it out of the pan to cool before adding the eggs, so my guess is that I didn't cook it long enough. The Joy of Cooking had me all paranoid because it said that overbeating and overcooking will cause puff failure. A cook can't win!

One thing to note is that I don't expect my choux pastry to be shatteringly crisp. In fact, I don't like it that way because I feel the flavor is lost. I like the taste of the pastry itself--otherwise why bother with it? For some, texture alone might make it worthwhile, but I delight in the egginess and always eat the innards when it comes time to clean out the puffs. If you're looking for super-crisp choux, it may be that GF isn't going to satisfy you, or that you need to do a better job than I of gauging how long to cook. If, however, you don't mind a softer texture (at its worst you could call it leathery, but I don't think it comes to that), this substitution should suit. After all, if you're going to fill the pastry with ice cream, it's not likely to retain its crispness for long anyway.

If you want to make regular choux pastry, simply use wheat flour in place of the GF mix and omit the xanthan gum (which I accidentally do in my GF stuff half the time with no terrible results).

I used my large, drop biscuit portion scoop for these puffs because I'm not the gal who is going to use a pastry bag. I sprayed it with cooking spray first; you could also just use neutral-flavored oil. I got 7 full-sized puffs (which is all I needed), and enough leftover to make 6 mini-puffs, that I plan to fill with chocolate pudding as a special Valentine's treat for the two Es and me. If you wanted all full-sized puffs, my guess is that you wouldn't get more than 8.

The butter separation aspect and the stickiness of the final paste made me very worried about the ability for my poor choux to puff, but I was thrilled to see that it puffed as much as my choux ever does and it tastes delicious (I know, as I ate every bit of scooped-out filling that my daughter would spare).

RICE FLOUR MIX: 2 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca
Some day I will also figure this out by weight!

1 c. rice flour mix or wheat flour
Scant 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 c. milk (or half milk/half water)
1/2 c. (4 oz./113 grams) unsalted butter
1 TBSP sugar if using for sweet things, omit if savory
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs at room temperature

  1. Place rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Have a baking tray ready. I put Silpat on mine, but the Joy calls for ungreased, so if you don't have Silpat, you might not need to butter or use parchment
  3. Mix the flour and xanthan gum and have at the ready
  4. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, butter, salt and sugar if using over medium heat until it comes to a full boil
  5. Dump in the flour all at once and stir constantly with a wooden spoon
  6. The mixture will be messy at first, but as you stir it will come together and leave the sides of the pan. At this stage, oozing butter isn't supposed to be an issue, but my guess is that the butter should be absorbed before you remove from heat
  7. Keep stirring. You're looking for a solid, smooth lump that shows the impression of a finger when you press it in
  8. Remove mixture from heat and put in bowl to cool for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice
  9. Put mixture in a food processor and beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure the egg is well incorporated before adding the next. My food processor did balk a bit at this but I had read online that it worked much better than a hand mixer or stand mixer (and is certainly easier than beating it with a wooden spoon!)
  10. Mixture should be firm enough to stand up when spooned onto a baking tray
  11. Scoop the mixture into the shape and size you like onto the baking tray. Make sure to leave lots of room for them to spread
  12. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and continue cooking another 20-25 minutes until deeply golden and firm to the touch
  13. Cool completely and then cut off the tops and scoop out any uncooked paste
  14. Fill with ice cream or pudding and top with chocolate sauce

Chocolate Sauce

This recipe is very similar to Chocolate Ganache, just a bit runnier. I also used whizzed up 70% Theo chocolate instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Surprisingly, I think I might prefer the chocolate chips, but this sauce is quite respectable.

I followed the Joy of Cooking method of using the food processor and it certainly all came together very easily!

I made the sauce in the first place for some profiteroles filled with the Vanilla Toffee version of Ice Cream Four Ways. I experimented with gluten-free choux pastry and was most pleased with the result.

4 oz. (around 113 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% cocoa, up to 75%). Chocolate chips are a fine substitute
1/2 c. half-and-half or a mix of whole milk and heavy cream
1-2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 TBSP dark rum or Cognac

  1. Break the chocolate into smaller pieces if using blocks. Put into the bowl of the food processor with the chopping blade and whiz until it's crumbs
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining ingredients (except vanilla/liquor) until boiling
  3. With the food processor running, pour the steaming liquid into the chocolate crumbs. By the time all the liquid is added, the chocolate will have melted and a sauce formed
  4. Pour sauce into a small bowl and stir in the vanilla or liquor

Serve warm or cold. Will keep refrigerated for 2 weeks. Thin with hot water as needed for serving.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rice Pudding

I used to make rice pudding somewhat frequently when I lived abroad, but for some reason it had fallen out of my repertoire for a few years. Elspeth was requesting black sticky rice the other day but we usually get it at the Thai restaurant near us and that didn't fit into our plans. I decided to make a more traditional Euro rice pudding to see if she liked it.

I turned to my standby in Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking. She uses vanilla bean and the zesty of lemon and orange to flavor the rice. Being short of lemons, I just used orange zest. Evan felt this gave it an "elegant Creamsicle quality" and I agree.

Rice pudding is such a cheap, simple and comforting dessert, equally good hot or cold. If you don't want the citrus notes, you could use only vanilla or you could add cinnamon. I think that American rice pudding often has raisins in it, so you could try that, too. I would use Wells' technique with any variation because I think the recipe is bound to work better using blanched rice and heated milk.

1/3 c. (65g) raw white rice. She recommends long-grain but I used arborio-style with great success
1 vanilla bean or 1tsp vanilla extract
3 c. (75 cl) milk
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon (or any combination, optional)
2 TBSP (30g) unsalted butter
1/4 c. (50g) evaporated cane juice or vanilla-infused sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F (165 C)
  2. Wash and drain rice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with water by an inch or two. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with warm water. Set aside
  3. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. If you want, you can clean and dry the empty pod and then stick in your sugar jar to scent it with vanilla
  4. Put the vanilla seeds, milk, salt and zesty in a large saucepan. If using vanilla extract, don't put it in yet. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to keep it from boiling over. (I didn't boil the milk. I felt scalding should be enough and it was)
  5. Take pan off heat and stir in the butter, sugar and vanilla extract, if using. Stir to dissolve the sugar and let cool slightly
  6. Stir rice into the warm milk mixture and pour into a 1 quart oven-proof dish. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour 40 minutes. Check at 1 hour 30 minutes. You shouldn't need to stir the rice. You know it's done when nearly all the liquid is absorbed
  7. Remove from oven and let sit a few minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm, or cold. Excellent for breakfast