Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Here There Be Monsters"

Alright. Hold your breath. We're doing this.
 I've got my weapon and my body armor. 

We're wandering blind into the world of Gluten Free.

Gluten Free baking is terrifying. It has a thousand obscure ingredients with names that make grocery clerks walk away when I talk, and a very steep learning curve. Baking with wheat flour seems like something grandmothers do, it's dainty, traditional, time tested. Baking with Sorghum, Xanthan and Guar, seems more like making jet fuel from scratch in a laboratory. In essence; much too tricky for a girl who eats ice cream for dinner.  

But guess what, it's happening.

In truth, baking is baking is baking. Be it gluten free, dairy free, or vegan, we're all making tasty delights in an oven, it's just that simple. This information, however reasonable, doesn't stop me being phobic of sticking a pan full of batter in an oven and 30 minutes later, retrieving a flaming rocket with bloody nubs where my hands should be. 

What can I say, I'm a worrier.

The very first gluten free recipe I ever tried was for gluten free vegan hockey pucks biscuits. It was... unpleasant. I came to realize that trying to tackle two new areas at once was too advanced for me to accomplish, so I told no one and double bagged the garbage. Skip ahead a few months and you'll find me once again optimistically bouncing around google, looking for a beginner level gluten free recipe to try. I got kind of upset though, when it seemed like this was all I could find;

Basic Gluten Free Pound Cake (SOOO EASY!!!) 
1/2 pound (2 sticks) Moon Rocks, softened
1 Eye of Newt (freshwater only)
2 teaspoons Red Grass of Gallifrey
4 large Bald Eagle Heads, at room temperature
2 cups Nettle flour, ground underfoot at midnight in a graveyard

Anyone have a babel fish? I had NO IDEA what I was looking at.What are all these things? I see 'flour' attached at the end but why are there so many different kinds? Too confused to even google the answer to this problem, I blindly did what any bewildered newbie would do, I went to Amazon and filled my digital shopping cart with one of everything.

Your subtotal before shipping is $108. 


Alright, round two. Let's consult Shauna. In case you didn't know, she's the gluten free Oracle of Delphi. She's also a Leo, Leos are magic. They ask questions all the time so they know everything. Ever watch Good Eats? Alton Brown = Leo.

Anyway after spending a few days reading most of her backlog of blog entries I found myself much more informed about all this jet fuel and space language but I was once again overwhelmed with options, and I still didn't quite know what I was doing.

So, I secured my helmet, loaded my weapon and climbed deeper into the crevasse.

I picked five flours to try, more or less at random. They were ones I'd seen turn up in most of  the recipes on Shauna's blog, so I took a chance and ordered some.

When they all arrived, I lined up each little bag all in a row and stood there.What next?

I flipped each bag over, read the little summary printed on the back of what was inside and what it was like, what it did, etc.WHAT NEXT?!

When I got to the last bag in the bunch, I found printed on the back label a recipe for pound cake. It was simple, and it called only for things that I had.

I didn't look up reviews, or worry about what was in it. I didn't freak out, or over think it, I just followed the recipe, stuck it in the oven, and waited (with weapons ready).

It was delicious.

We polished it off in two days, and it contained no test tubes or sporting equipment (as far as I know).

Fellow explorers of the gluten free world, if you're just starting out like me, I'll go ahead and tell you that I don't know what I'm doing. I still don't quite know what I'm looking at. But we've made it to our first camp safely. And I can assure you with good conscience, that this recipe won't make a hockey puck.

You know, if that's any help.

Gluten Free Pound Cake

1 cup Sweet White Rice Flour
1/2 cup Sorghum Flour
1/4 cup Cornstarch
2tsp Baking Powder
1tsp Xanthan Gum
1 cup Butter, room temperature
1 cup Granulated Sugar
4 Eggs
2tsp Vanilla extract (did you know, you can make your own?!)

Beat the butter until cream and smooth. Add the sugar and beat into the butter until light and fluffy,  about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add the vanilla and blend until completely incorporated.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, cornstarch, xanthan gum and baking powder and blend together with a whisk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend until fully mixed. Spread into a greased 9 inch bread pan. Bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool for about 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Rocky Road-ish" or "Life These Days"

~ no expensive textbooks were harmed in the making of this photo~

Hello Blogosphere it is I, your dear old friend/freshly minted culinary student/Kermit the frog!
Things have been a bit congested on my to-do list lately but, as usual I have my priorities straight and there is a brand new Ben and Jerry's flavor that we NEED TO TALK ABOUT. It's called Rocky Road-ish and it is a delight!

~Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream with a Toasted Marshmallow Swirl & Fudge Covered Almonds~
It starts out like your basic Rocky Road ice cream,  savory-sweet chocolate covered almonds (my favorite!), marshmallow swirl, buuut it takes a little turn and swaps out the chocolate ice cream for marshmallow. It was a strange surprise. I'm not one to reach for much over chocolate but this was one keen decision the boys made. It tickles the mind grapes in this tantalizing way so that even though you're expecting chocolate ice cream, and you still sort of want it, the fact that it keeps being absent with every bite you take is kind of fabulous. It's like tantric eating.

Yeah, I went there.

What makes the experience feel even more scandalous is chowing down on pints of Rocky Road-ish in-between classes about potion sizes, well balanced meals, and how many teaspoons of sugar it takes to kill a person (or something like that). It's enough to make you want to close the door and put on some slow jams.

Well done boys. Very well done.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"The AMAZING Leibster!"

What the what?! Some crazy lady has given me a blog award!

The lovely Heather over at Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes lost her mind and decided to nominate me for a Leibster Blog Award! Thanks Heather! I swear I was already totally crushing on her blog, I mean have you seen the pictures?! COME ON! But this just cements me as a fan for life. (We're bff's now right? We can braid each other's blog hair and everything! What's that? Weird! Who's weird?!)

To accept the Liebster Blog Award nomination one must:
~ thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
~ link back to the blogger who awarded you.
~ copy & paste the blog award on your blog
~ reveal your 5 blog picks.
~ let them know you choose them by leaving a comment on their blog.
 The Leibster Award is simply a way of giving recognition to newer blogs or those that have fewer than 200 followers, which I think is super awesome. I know I am always interested to hear a new voice and this is just the perfect way to find them!
My top picks ( in no particular order) are:
1. Arty McGoo - Liz makes the most amazing hand painted cookies I've ever seen, have some smelling salts ready when you check out her blog

2. C&C Cakery -  A hilarious, irreverent take on "manly baking"
3. Flower City Foodie - I've been reading Gretchen's blog for about a hundred years, she always seems to make just exactly what I've been daydreaming about.
4. Food, Je t'Aimée - I stumbled upon Aimée's blog when we were both participants in the Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I love her candid writing style and her unique recipes
5. Meandering Eats -  Marie's is another blog I discovered through the cookie swap, her blog is filled with elegant recipes and stunning photographs (I am too jealous).
Whew! Picking only five blogs to feature was really hard (it took me a whole week!) It's driving me crazy to leave off the other nine thousand blogs that I follow and love to death, but if you're curious you can find a full listing in the "Cool Kids" section up top.
I hope you love these blogs as much as I do!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Operation Pie Attack!"

Am I the only one having trouble starting forward motion on my new years resolutions?  I don't really know where to begin. I've got some ideas but it just seems like January flopped down at such an inconvenient time to get it all together. I know  the holidays have all passed by, and that now is the time to start your diet and organization plans but school hasn't started yet and I'm totally not finished stress eating. How am I supposed to get it together when I'm still sneaking booze into my hot chocolate and having fantasies about sleeping in a bed of warm spaghetti?

I do have a plan though, to combat my sloth (because I actually love new years resolutions) I am making my lists and setting up my plans with an intended start date of January 23rd. Lunar New Year!

What? Don't roll your eyes!

Okay okay so maybe not. I may be lazy but I have been working on a few goals, I promise. #1 is to stop using plastic shopping bags ( I know, I'm soo late to that party), #2 is to upgrade to a nicer camera (come on tax refund!) #3 is to dive head first into the world of gluten free baking ( I have a sister, a niece, and an aunt who all eat gluten free, it's time to get on this), and #4 is something I'm calling Operation Pie Attack!

Operation Pie Attack is this, whenever there is a party, or a birthday, or they have a charity blah-de-blah at work I will show up and bring a pie (or cake if the situation calls for it). It doesn't have to be a fancy involved dessert or even be a big deal holiday. I'm going to bring a baked good to everything until 2013.

Why wasn't I doing it already? Well, here's this;
I am one awkward person at parties ( and honestly just generally in life). I'm nervous, and I say weird things and I spend most of my time out in public worrying about my breath situation and if there is something stuck in my teeth. Bringing a baked good opens you up to conversation/scrutiny which is exactly what I try my hardest to avoid, PLUS there's always the slim chance that someone will disillusion me by announcing that my pie sucks and punching me in the face ( yes I worry about this. What? DON'T LOOK AT ME!).

I'm determined to get over this, in fact it leads right in to my fifth and final resolution for 2012;

#5 Stop being afraid of being wrong/ making an ass of myself. Life is too short to waste time being timid or worrying about how you come off. If my pie sucks, it's okay. I'll just make a better one next time.

So as my very first step towards achieving this goal I brought an apple pie to new year's dinner at my grandmother's house. All my relatives were there and it was... terrifying.  I was still awkward of course, and a couple things went wrong, the apples were too tart and the top crust browned funny, but I lived. And I'm still living.

The awkward feeling is merely growing pains I told myself, and while I busied  my hands looking at the vast collection of knickknacks around the room trying to remain cool, look at what I found smiling back at me...

Fate, right?

2012 I've got plans for you, and they include pie.

Apple Pie

2 1/2 cups flour
1tsp salt
1tbsp sugar
1/2 lb (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch peices
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp cider vingear

5 medium apples (whatever kind or combination you like) peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter (cut into small bits)
1/4 dark brown sugar 
1/4 cup  granulated sugar ( you can adjust the sugar to taste as sweetening fruit isn't an exact science)
3tbsp flour
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg +1tbsp milk whisked together for an egg wash
Demerara Sugar

1.For the crust:
Combine flour, salt, sugar,  vinegar and butter in a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Then slowly add the water to the mixture a little at a time until it starts to come together. You may not need all the water or you might need up to a cup just watch your dough and see how it does.
Remove the dough from the processor and separate into two equal peices. Form each peice into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

1.In a large mixing bowl combine apples, nutmeg, cinnamon, butter, the sugars and flour. Pour lemon juice, over apple mixture and toss gently to combine.

3.  roll out the bottom crust to fit a 9 inch pie pan leaving about an inch of rolled out crust hanging over the edge. Then put that bad boy (pan and all) back in the fridge to chill. 10- 15 minutes.

4. Remove bottom pie crust from the fridge and spoon in apple mixture. Set aside (  I personally like to work with a slightly softer pie dough, but if you don't you can set it back in the fridge at this point.)

5. Roll out the remaining ball of pie dough so it's big enough to cover all those lovely fillings in the pie, and roll it over the top. Trim any extra dough hanging off the sides so both crusts make about a 1/2 inch lip.  Join the crust edges together and crimp them in your favorite way. Poke some large vent holes in the top (no exploding pies please) and paint that baby with an egg wash. Top with sugar and wrap the edges with tin foil to prevent burning.

6. Bake at 425°F for 15 to 20 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack until crust just starts to brown. 

7. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Move the pie to the center rack and bake for 45-55 minutes more. Pie is finished when the apples are fork tender and juices are bubbling. Let cool 30 minutes before serving.