Posts Tagged ‘Gluten free’

Downton Seder

Flourless Chocolate Napoleons

Flourless Chocolate Napoleons

It should come as no surprise that I am an unapologetic Downton Abbey addict. I was a huge soap opera addict too. If any of the words you’re about to read appear smudged it is because I am still teary-eyed over the loss of One Life to Live. The latter has only been gone since January 13, yet I continue to stare longingly at the list of scheduled recordings on my DVR praying for a miraculous return from the dead (hey, this is after all soap opera we’re discussing. Anything can happen…)

Downton Abbey was a wonderful diversion from my loss, although it was a bit like being given one of those tiny four-piece boxes of Godiva chocolates when you are used to having an enormous Hershey’s with Almonds: it’s delicious, but gone in a blink. Are you sneering derisively at my choice of programming? That, chum, was part of the fun of being a soap fan, so there. If you have any illusions about Downton Abbey, let me help you out: it is a SOAP OPERA. All caps. Period. That’s why you loved it and can’t wait for it to return.

Part of its distinction is the amazing attention to detail that goes into its production. Predictably, my eye is drawn toward the many dinner table and kitchen scenes—seemingly more than most shows. The kitchen and the cooks, Mrs. Patmore and young Daisy, figure prominently in every episode. The folks upstairs eat a lot, and they eat well.

I have always been fascinated by the women who ran the kitchens in those houses. They were from a class of society where they had to “go into service.” Mrs. Patmore is portrayed stereotypically as a bit of a drudge: short, stout, and frowsy. (In fact, Lesley Nichol, the actress who portrays Mrs. Patmore, recently joked in an interview that when she reported to friends that she’d been cast in a sort of upstairs / downstairs series she replied to the question “Which one are you?” with the answer, “What do you think?”)

Yet, think about the skill, judgment, and knowledge required to do the job. I’m not talking about long hours here; walk into any contemporary restaurant kitchen and you’ll see folks putting in some mighty long days. I’m talking about the juggling needed. The Mrs. Patmores of the world fed the folks upstairs and downstairs, and did so while keeping within the budget set by the folks upstairs. You can be sure that she planned every menu around what was available seasonally and had to be able to credibly prepare meals that more than pleased the master and his wife—even if the meal was hunted by the master on the estate (would you know what to do with mutton?)

You can also be sure that special occasions had to be met with a worldly, well-informed eye keeping up with what the more fashionable houses were serving; not just any cake would do for dessert. If Lord and Lady So-And-So served it you did too.

(Okay, yes, perhaps I get too involved with these stories. But good story-telling does that to me.)

So I was thinking it might be fun to bake something in tribute to Downton Abbey and Mrs. Patmore (geek!). I’ve also been on a jag about baking stuff that is Passover friendly and gluten-free. Hopefully there’ll be chocolate involved. (No calories or fat would be even better; alas I’m not a magician.)

Flourless Chocolate cake is certainly nothing new in either the gluten-free or Passover realms. It’s a good idea, but it’s been around the block enough times that it could already use a new outlook.

Surely a woman like Mrs. Patmore was no stranger to the roulade and the genoise. These are cakes that rely on air beaten into the eggs for their leavening rather than baking soda or baking powder and are more what we associate with European-style cakes or tortes than the big fluffy monsters (and I use that as a term of endearment) we bake.

Yes, there is usually flour involved, but eggs are sturdy little creations and if you ask them nicely and treat them with respect they’ll do triple duty for you by adding moisture, structure, and lift to cakes, giving flour the day off. Roulade is baked in a small sheet pan—a jelly roll pan—convenient because roulade is filled with jelly and rolled…usually.

But I have other plans for it.

Rolling a roulade can be fussy. My roulade (chocolate by the way) is simply turned out of the pan and cut into shapes with a knife. You could also pull out your trusty biscuit cutter and make little individual layered tortes…drizzle a touch of lukewarm ganache on top.

I stuck with something I thought Mrs. Patmore would be proud of, Napoleons. I piped a bit of sweetened vanilla whipped cream between two layers of the roulade, and finished with fresh raspberries and dusted the whole affair with confectioner’s sugar.

Gluten- free Passover at Downton Abbey anyone?

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Here’s the Flourless Chocolate Roulade recipe

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

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Almond Macaroons

Gluten-free, Passover-friendly, sauce on the side...

People throughout the ages have commented on the apparent similarities between foods of many cultures. Take pasta as an example. The Japanese have soba noodles; Italians have spaghetti. Chinese throw wontons into broth; Jews throw Kreplach into broth—and with this last example you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.

This year I am struck by the similarities between baking for folks on a gluten-free diet, and baking for folks observing Passover. Okay, calm down. Yes I know there is a glaring difference, but the higher-level view is remarkably similar.

Gluten-free folks avoid wheat, oats, barley, and rye. Passover folks avoid anything with leavening. But the similarity is that in order to bake something good for either group you must remove something (usually flour) and substitute it with something else. Believe it or not there are some substitutes that are perfect for both groups. No, what follows is not a recipe for gluten-free Matzos. I did see those in the market last year, so yes, they do exist. (Speaking for me and me alone, if I were gluten-free I’d just skip Matzo altogether.)

Many of the same problems overlap when you are baking for Passover or for Gluten-free diets. Flour can be a delicate item, and baking is (to be unglamorous for a moment) an exercise in chemistry. Upset the delicate balance and your end result will be (to use a highly scientific term) yucky.

If you’ve never baked for Passover before, allow me to introduce you to the traditional Passover substitute for flour: Passover Cake Meal. It is made by grinding matzo into a fine powder. Imagine grinding saltines (minus the salt) into a powder and using that to bake cookies. Imagine soaking a bowl of saltines in water. Mmmmmm. Smells good, eh? That’s what baking with matzo is all about.

Not that there hasn’t always been a certain “soul food” charm to the endeavor. I’m good for one plate of Matzo Brei (a/k/a, “Fried Matzo”—broken pieces of matzo scrambled with eggs) per year. It’s a treat and goes with the whole “fat and salt” aesthetic of soul food. More than one per year and I swear you are just looking for trouble.

Walk with me for a few minutes, would you? (it’s the middle of winter, we could use the air). Let’s walk down Madison…yeah, I know, I never get over to the East Side either. But there’s something over there I want you to see: les macarons. We won’t have to walk far because they are everywhere. You’ve seen them. You’ve likely even gotten a Groupon discount offer for them in your Inbox. They’re the beautiful, multi-colored, perfectly round macaroons that are usually filled with buttercream. They are to the 2010’s what Godiva chocolates were to the 1990’s. They’re also incredibly tricky to make at home. So I leave these to the pros. Trust me, I’ve tried.

But what I learned trying to bake macarons was that I can make a version that is less strict, and that is a happy treat for folks on gluten-free diets and folks celebrating Passover…and folks who fall into both categories.

It frustrates me that on paper they seem soooo easy. A few ground almonds, some sugar, a little egg white. But if the almonds aren’t ground just right, and the sugar isn’t mixed into the almonds just right, and the egg white doesn’t…well you get the picture. (Or shall I continue?)

But if your ultimate goal isn’t the perfection of les macarons, then you can combine the ingredients with abandon, add your own magic tricks, and end up with chewy, almond-scented macaroons that will make you skip the seder and head right for the dessert table.

I’ve taken some liberties here: well, a cheat actually. I’m using almond paste in addition to ground almonds. I’m also not expecting to end up with perfect disks, rather, I’m happy with toasty brown, irregularly-shaped cookies.

You can actually make these without the ground almonds, but using them adds a bit of structure to the batter that makes the job of dropping portions onto your cookie sheets less drippy and messy.

By the way there’s no dairy in these either, unless you include the egg whites. (I don’t.)

Amazing, eh? A “one-size-fits-all-except-those-who-are-allergic-to-nuts” cookie!

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Here’s the Almond Macaroon recipe

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

Let me email you when the blog has been updated! Opt in by clicking the biscotti at right or by sending your email address to michael@butterfloureggs.com

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Holiday baking with Sneezy

Gluten-free Chocolate Krinkles

fudgy, chewy, and gluten free...

I am no stranger to allergies; I am a drippy-nosed, scratchy-throated, itchy-eyed dweller of a city with questionable air quality. Snow White called me the other day to ask if I’d fill in for Sneezy while he has some minor surgery. (Rim shot. Heigh Ho…)

My glamorous self-portrait aside, I was baking Christmas cookies the other day and realized that someone I admire very much cannot indulge because she is gluten intolerant. This is often referred to as an allergy, but it is actually the result of Celiac Disease which manifests itself by making the body unable to digest the gluten in bread, cake, and cookies. Clearly I have ignored these folks long enough; it’s time to invite them over to the cookie table, eh?

I completely understand. I don’t usually bake with real butter because it upsets my stomach. I use Earth Balance sticks, an excellent substitute, yet I recognize that some allowances need to be made to compensate for the various differences. As an example, I would never make a plain butter cookie with Earth Balance. No matter what they do to the stuff, it will never taste quite like real butter. Luckily—or perhaps because of this—I am drawn to treats with slightly more intense flavors. The latter, I think, is the key to baking without butter.

Call it gustatory sleight of hand if you like, but the fact is, if you draw attention to other flavors in a cookie, no one will notice or care about the lack of butter. (I should mention that I have no opinion about how healthy one type of fat is versus another. This is purely—and predictably—about my personal comfort.) I would only warn you to use caution with whatever product you use instead of butter; some do not match the fat-to-water ratio of butter and will compromise the texture of your baking. (Stay away from tub margarine and hedge your health bets by looking for something with non-hydrogenated oils and / or no trans-fats.)

Anyway, why reinvent the wheel? This sleight of hand philosophy can be applied to gluten-free baking as well. The trick is to find flour that will produce delicious cookies—not just good for gluten-free, but good AND gluten-free. This is not quite as straight forward as substituting Earth Balance for butter. Flour is a tricky item: even substituting different wheat flours can make a drastic difference in your baking. This can be caused by variations in the type of wheat, the grind, or even whether the flour was bleached—the latter is almost always the rule with cake flour.

Then there is gluten which is the product of the protein in wheat, barley, rye, and oats. Here’s the big problem: gluten is what makes bread, er, “bready”. It’s the magnificent “chew” in that baguette you just gnawed you way through while leaning over the sink so the calories wouldn’t count. (Yes, that’s how I think.) One of the reasons cake recipes often tell you to not over mix is so that you won’t over develop the gluten; in cakes and cookies you only want the protein for the structure it can lend the finished cake. Over mix that tender chocolate cake and you get rubber. That cupcake you just inhaled? Flour gave it its structure, sugar gave it its bulk.

Yeah, well, anyway, Merry Christmas, where are my cookies, you ask? Who are you: Santa with a couple million more chimneys to hit before the reindeers’ union mandated golden overtime kicks in?

Okay, I’ll cut to the chase. I found a flour called cup4cup which was created by Lena Kwak, of Thomas Keller’s famed The French Laundry restaurant. These folks seem to know what they are doing (!) so I decided this may be good flour for me to experiment with a bit of gluten-free baking. It is a mix of cornstarch, rice, milk powder, tapioca, and a few other healthy ingredients. The texture is powdery, similar to cake flour. Oh, by the way, it’s a little pricey; a three pound sack retails for $19.95.

I just needed a Christmas cookie with an intense flavor that would distract from any mischief the new flour may cause. A perfect candidate is Chocolate Krinkles, a dark, slightly chewy, chocolate cookie. The fudgy texture and flavor make this a cookie that is hard to ruin. (Put enough chocolate on a football and it would be delicious.)

My main concern, borne of many years using alternative ingredients for Passover baking was that the flour would smell funny (Passover flour often smells like wet paper when added to the wet ingredients.) I’m happy to report that other than a very powdery texture, cup4cup flour handles—at least in this recipe—just like all purpose flour. I’m even happier to report that a select group of associates did not notice anything amiss with the cookies and were genuinely surprised to learn that they were gluten free.

The folks who formulated the flour don’t recommend baking regular bread with the flour, but biscuits, brioche, quick breads, and anything that doesn’t have to rely on gluten for structure all seem like viable candidates. I’ll test a few out and let you know.

In the meantime my gluten-free friends can pack on some holiday pounds with the rest of us.

Ho ho ho…

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Here’s the recipe for the Gluten-free Chocolate Crinkles, along with information about where to purchase cup4cup flour. And don’t forget last week’s regular Gingerdoodles, both perfect for your holiday table.

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Here’s the link to the Butter Flour Eggs Holiday Cookie Baking Primer 101. It also includes a recipe for Chocolate Pepper Cookies and some technique and equipment suggestions. Don’t start your holiday baking without it!

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

Let me email you when the blog has been updated! Opt in by clicking the biscotti at right or by sending your email address to michael@butterfloureggs.com

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Holiday Tweets are gluten-free too!

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