Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gluten free baking... saw this recipe in our newspaper...

and the photo was enticing me to try it out.

We don't have food allergies in our family but we have friends who have children with food allergies to peanuts, soy, wheat, eggs and dairy. The recipe is called Chewy Flourless Chocolate Cookies, it is gluten free and dairy free. The cookies have a soft and chewy texture and taste like a brownie.

Chewy Flourless Chocolate Cookies

1¾ cups powdered sugar
½ cup Dutch process cocoa (made with alkali)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 300F.
2. Mix together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add egg whites, stirring with a spoon until mixture forms a dough. (Mixture should be thick enough to form into balls; if not add more powdered sugar and cocoa). Add nuts; mix well.
3. Form dough into 15 balls. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 16 to 19 minutes, until glossy and crackled. Cool completely. Makes 15 cookies.

Recipe by Tamar Haspel, June 2010.
Nutritional Information
Per cookie: 110 calories, 7g fat, 0mg chol., 1g prot., 16g carbs., 1g fiber, 45mg sodium.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Making Potato Gnocchi ...

not the easiest thing to make. As a student, we made these in class, they came out usually over kneaded so they had a rubbery texture or under kneaded falling apart in the water when they were boiled. Ours today turned out fine, not rubbery, could still be more pillowy. They were soft and edible.

Potato Gnocchi

1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup (or more) all purpose flour
1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pierce potatoes in several places and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Cut potatoes in half. Working in batches, scoop hot flesh into potato ricer or food mill. Rice potatoes onto rimmed baking sheet and cool slightly.
2. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Prepare a work area and dust it with flour.
3. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Add the flour, toss to coat. Form a well in the center of the potato mixture. Add the egg yolks, salt, and nutmeg. Stir with fork until the mixture is evenly moistened and mixture looks shaggy.
4. Turn the mixture out onto the lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until it comes together, sprinkling dough with flour very lightly only if dough is sticky. Form dough into ball; divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece between hands and work surface into 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet. Using the tines of a fork or your fingertip, press lightly into each gnocchi, making an indentation in the pasta.
5. At this point, you can freeze the gnocchi by placing them into the freezer spread out on a baking sheet dusted with flour or lined with wax paper. Once frozen, place the gnocchi in a freezer bag. To cook them, place the frozen gnocchi into simmering water (next step).
6. Working in batches, cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water. Continue to simmer gnocchi until cooked through and tender, stirring occasionally, until they rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl. Serve with your favorite warm pasta sauce.

The best gnocchi we had was at a little hole in the wall cafe at the base of Whistler, Dec. 2009. They were the melt in your mouth texture sauteed in pesto sauce with a dusting of Pecorino cheese.


Friday, June 11, 2010

How to make Swiss and Italian Meringue Buttercream tutorial.

Once you learn the technique of making these two butter creams, you'll never go back to frosting out of a can. There are two basic techniques and they both involve cooking the egg whites. My method is to combine both the Swiss technique with the Italian technique.

Swiss/Italian Meringue Butter cream Frosting

4 large egg whites (about 4 oz)
1 cup granulated sugar divided (1/4 cup and 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup water
1 lb or 4 sticks of unsalted butter (room temperature)

1. Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces you can leave them on the wax paper or set aside in a medium bowl.
2. Put 3/4 cup of sugar into a heavy-bottomed 1-quart saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Gently stir to combine; I use the candy thermometer for this. Leave the candy thermometer in the saucepan, numbers facing down to balance the thermometer.
Place the saucepan with the sugar and water over medium-high heat. Partially cover with a lid to capture the evaporating water -- this helps to moisten the sides of the saucepan to prevent sugar crystals separating from the syrup.
3. Put the 1/4 cup sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly keeping the mixture over the the heat until it feels very warm and you don't feel any graininess from the sugar. (About 2-3 minutes.)
4. Put mixing bowl in a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment set to medium then increase to high speed. When the whites are at stiff peak you have a meringue.
4. At the same time, the egg whites are whipping. Raise the heat to bring the syrup to 245F. When the syrup is at 245 degrees, remove the thermometer and slowly pour the syrup into the meringue while is it whipping. Aim for the space between the mixer bowl and the revolving wire whip or if you are like me, just pour it down the side of the mixing bowl. If you aim at the revolving whisk, you'll have to clean your bowl and start all over from the beginning.
5. After 1 to 2 minutes reduce the speed to medium for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the meringue is cooled.
6. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to high for one to two minutes to fully combine the butter with the meringue.

The following flavorings can be added to the base recipe for Swiss/Italian meringue butter cream for cupcakes or a layered cake.

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, melted

2 to 4 tablespoons (to taste) dark rum

2 to 4 tablespoons (to taste) amaretto

1/4 to 1/2 cup fruit puree (raspberry, strawberry, mango, etc.)

2 tablespoons lemon liqueur (lemoncello)

1 teaspoon orange oil or lemon oil

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A good basic white cake recipe ...

for any celebration. This is my favorite recipe for a simple white cake. It is a moist and dense textured butter cake. It is a modified version from Dorie Greenspan's recipe "The Perfect Party Cake". The lemon cream filling is the perfect compliment to this cake. Fruit jams are also excellent fillings for this cake. My favorite jams have been Sunfresh Freezer jams, they come in many wonderful tasting flavors. I've also filled the cakes with a thin layer of chocolate ganache and a whipped mascarpone cream mousse with fresh berries.

The Perfect Party Cake
2-1/2 cups cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 cup buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 oz) unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract or vanilla

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake:
1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
3. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
4. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
5. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
6. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
7. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
8. Finally, give the batter a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
9. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
10. Put cake into oven, turn down temperature to 325F. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.
11. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
12. Invert cake and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months.

Happy baking!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A recipe for lemon cream cake filling...

it is a mixture created from a Lemon curd base or you can use any type of fruit curd you wish to make creamy for a cake filling. The creamy and light filling is a compliment to fresh seasonal berries. I like to spread a thin layer of lemon curd or jam to the cake layer, and then spread on a layer of lemon cream. From the photo below, I've added in fresh raspberries and blueberries.

Basic Lemon curd recipe:

3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
4 oz butter
3 oz lemon juice

1. Combine butter, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl set on top of a pot of water. (Bain Marie or Double boiler method).
2. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and yolks together.
3. When butter is melted, whisk/stir in egg mixture.
4. Stir constantly until mixture thickens; Do Not Boil.
5. Pour mixture into a pan to cool and cover with plastic wrap to keep a skin from forming onto the surface of the lemon curd. Cool in refrigerator overnight.

Lemon Cream cake filling
8 oz block of cream cheese (room temperature)
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup of lemon curd

1. Using the paddle attachment, whip cream cheese and sugar until creamy, drizzle in the heavy whipping cream at medium low speed. It should resemble the creaminess of soft whipped cream.
2. Add in the 1/2 cup Lemon curd and mix until combine and no yellow streaks from the lemon curd is showing.
3. Use right away or store over night in refrigerator.