Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Morning Ebelskivers

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and warm wishes for whatever you may celebrate! I hope you are having a joyous holiday season!

I just returned to NYC from a wonderful trip to California to spend Christmas with Kristopher and his family. It is a place I love visiting. His parents, aunt, and uncle are incredibly sweet and always make me feel at home and part of the family. And I knew exactly what I wanted to bring them as a gift – home cooked food of course!

I carefully stuffed my carry on bag with seven or eight dozen cookies (gingerbread men, butter cookies, almond-dried cherry cookies), a loaf of homemade almond bread, and a batch of fluffy coconut banana muffins. But it still didn’t feel like enough to say thank you for their kindness and everything they do for me. Perhaps I could bake them a year’s worth of cookies? Or ship them fresh waffles every Saturday morning? The least I could do was offer to take over their big beautiful kitchen and whip them up a few delicious meals.

This brought about new challenges, mostly cooking in a kitchen that is not dedicated GF. Luckily, Kristopher’s mother, Dianne, is the nicest host in the world and bought me a special set of cookware that is always set aside until I visit. The other challenge deals once again with food intolerances – this time garlic and onion. This was tricky for me because I love fusing meats and naturally gluten free dishes with the flavors from these ingredients – the more the better! But of course my goal is always to accommodate everyone, so I set to work on meals that were gluten free, onion/garlic-free, and picky-eater friendly.

A sampling of my wonderful week and the food we made….


Christmas Morning Ebelskivers

Almond Bread French Toast
(http://tastymeditation.blogspot.com/2014/10/almond-french-toast.html)

Rosemary & Sage Risotto and Kale Salad with a Honey-Lemon Dressing

Fondue (having a glass of wine in the other hand is very important)

Rosemary Chicken with Broccoli and Bell Peppers

Pretzel-Jello!

"Who ate the last piece of pretzel-jello?....not me....."



"Already Been Chewed" Gingerbread Men
(http://tastymeditation.blogspot.com/2014/12/already-been-chewed-gingerbread-men.html)
Butter Cookies

Almond-Dried Cherry Cookies
(http://tastymeditation.blogspot.com/2014/12/almond-dried-cherry-cookies.html)

Gift from Dianne and Bob! It looks like I'll be making scones soon!

Another gift from Dianne and Bob. Can you believe how sweet they are?!

Kristopher and I on Christmas Eve

Needless to say, we ate like kings. Then came Christmas morning, and it was time for the Anderson family traditional ebelskiver breakfast. Dianne had gotten me a dedicated GF ebelskiver pan the year before, so I was ready to go with a new variation based on their family recipe.

For this recipe, I used Pamela’s Gluten Free Baking and Pancake Mix. I found it very helpful to get a pre-made flour blend this time (with all of the cookies in my purse, I had no room to lug potato starch, xanthan gum, sorghum flour and all the rest with me to California). I was very pleased with Pamela’s, but if you choose to use a different brand make sure you get a mix that has xanthan gum and baking soda/powder already in it. This is very different than an all purpose flour, which only contains flours such as rice, tapioca, almond, ect.

Jessica’s Gluten Free Ebelskivers



1 cup Pamela’s baking mix
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp buttermilk (can use cow/almond/soy/rice)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 egg, room temperature
1 ½ tsp almond extract
1 apple (I prefer honey crisp)
Extra coconut oil for pan

1.      If the coconut oil is in a solid form, heat it slightly so that it is easy to combine/mix with the other ingredients. Combine flour, milk, oil, egg, and almond extract in a bowl and mix until just combined.
2.      Dice one apple and set aside.
3.      Place a few extra tablespoons of coconut oil (make sure it is in liquid form) in a bowl. Dip a paper towel into the oil and spread on each depression of the ebelskiver pan, dipping the towel back into the oil as needed.
4.      Heat pan on medium/low heat. After a few minutes, splash water on it with your fingers. If the water sizzles, the pan is ready.
5.      Carefully wipe away the first layer of coconut oil from the pan with a clean paper towel.
6.      Dab a fresh layer of coconut oil onto the pan.
7.      Fill each depression halfway with batter. Add a few pieces of diced apples to the center of each. Add a very small bit of batter on top of the apple. The depressions should be about 3/4 of the way filled
8.      After a few minutes use a wooden skewer in each hand to gently lift up one end of an ebelskiver. If it has browned, it is time to flip them. Maneuver the skewers so that you are able to flip each ebelskiver completely onto the opposite side (see picture)
9.      Once the second side has browned, remove one ebelskiver and tear it in half to see if it is cooked all the way through. If so, remove from pan. Serve warm with syrup, butter, or powdered sugar

Makes 14 ebelskivers

Thank you, Dianne, for inspiring this recipe and teaching me proper ebelskiver flipping technique – I’m flipping like a champ!


Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Almond Dried Cherry Cookies

Gluten Free Almond Dried Cherry Cookies

One of my favorite Christmas traditions as an adult is to make cookies as a gift for all of my close friends. My apartment becomes cookie central – trays of cookies are dangerously balancing on my stove and tiny kitchen counter tops, and every spare inch of table (and coffee table) space in my living room is covered with cookies waiting to be decorated. Almond butter cookies, iced pumpkin, almond-dried cherry, and of course my angry gingerbread men.

When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease three and a half years ago, I refused to let that dietary challenge prevent me from continuing my tradition.

I could not find a satisfactory recipe for gluten free almond-dried cherry cookies, so this was perhaps one of the first recipes that I experimented with on my own. The structure for the cookie itself is inspired by the cookies in Carol Fenster’s 1,000 Gluten Free Recipes (http://www.amazon.com/000-Gluten-Free-Recipes/dp/0470067802).  However, I took the flavor profiles of my old gluten-filled recipe and incorporated new gluten free baking techniques that I was learning. The result – my new favorite cookies!

Note that with all of my cookies I use insulated baking sheets. They are well worth the minimal investment and turn out prefect cookies every time – no burnt bottoms!

Gluten Free Almond Dried Cherry Cookies



2 cups GF all purpose flour (I recommend Carol Fenster’s blend – instructions found in previous post)
1 tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
½ cup chopped almonds
¾ cup coarsely chopped dried tart cherries

Sugar icing:
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp (+ more if needed) water

1.      Toast the almonds by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange almonds in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 5-8 minutes until lightly toasted, being careful not to let them burn. Cool completely before using.
2.      In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Use a low speed and beat for about one minute.
3.      Add in the egg, vanilla, and almond extract.
4.      In another bowl, combine the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt. Mix together.
5.      Slowly pour the flour combination into the wet mixture and beat on low speed until just blended.
6.      Stir in the toasted nuts and chopped cherries
7.      Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log, about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours (you can place the dough in the freezer for future baking fun)
8.      Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
9.      Cut the log into ½ inch slices and place on baking sheet. Bake 12 – 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool for 2-3 minutes on baking sheet, then remove and let cool completely before frosting
10.  For the icing: combine the sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl and mix. Add the water a little at a time until you get the right consistency. The consistency of the icing needs to be thin enough to be able to drizzle it with a spoon, but no so thin that it spreads out all over the cookie. You want clear, distinct drizzle lines.
11.  Using a spoon, drizzle the icing over the cookies and let set in the fridge for at least an hour to harden.
12.  Store the cookies in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, or in the freezer for a month. 

More holiday recipes to come! Happy baking! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Already Been Chewed" Gingerbread Men (Gluten Free!)

“Already Been Chewed” Gingerbread Men

My favorite holiday tradition as a child was a three day process of creating a gingerbread house from scratch.

Day 1 – Bake the gingerbread house pieces and let cool. “Glue” the pieces together with a thick frosting made from sugar and water and let set overnight.

Day 2 – Use a combination of M&Ms, taffy, Dots, Tootsie Rolls, and whatever candy we had left over from Halloween to create a gingerbread house of epic proportions (at least for a 12 and 15 year old) where everything was edible. There wasn’t a toothpick in sight. Most years, being the Harry Potter nerds that we were/are, we themed the house “Hagrid’s Hut”. Did you know that when you put Tootsie Rolls in the microwave for a few seconds they become pliable enough to create “chocolate frogs”, Fang the dog, and even Norbert the dragon? Leave them in the microwave too long, though, and they pop, explode, and fizzle onto the plate (do not try this at home, kids). We made a stick pretzel fence, carefully gluing the thin pretzels together with sugar-icing and molding birds (more Tootsie Rolls) to sit atop of it. There was often a birds’ next inside the unused chimney which was made out of picked-apart Life cereal and Jelly Bellies. And of course, on the side of the house was a giant pumpkin patch (taffy) that Norbert the dragon was sneezing on and catching fire to (more taffy).

Day 3 – Clean off all the sugar that has caked itself onto the countertop – but Dad could do this job, right? Eventually, he tired of this duty and the only way we were allowed to continue our tradition was if we promised to complete the daunting cleaning task ourselves.

My sister and I haven’t seen each other for Christmas in several years, so unfortunately this tradition died out and a new one has taken its place. After moving away from home, I soon came across a miraculous find – “Already Been Chewed” gingerbread men cookie cutters. The cookie cutters themselves were made to look like they had bite marks taken out of them. Some were missing heads, others arms, and the rest legs. I bought two sets – one for myself and another to send to my sister, and from different states and time zones we set to work. After baking and letting the men cool, I spent hours hand decorating each one with toothpicks. Some had hats, scarves and mittens, and each had a different facial expression ranging from shocked to infuriated. One of my favorite parts of the process was creating inner monologues for them. “Ah, my leg!” – “Why, God? Why me?” – “Ooooohhhhh noooooooooooo!”

I soon began giving these out as gifts to my friends. Each decorative bag was met with a large smile and much laughter as the cookies soon disappeared, only crumbs remaining. “Your cookies were almost too cute to eat!” I began inviting friends over to my apartment for a massive cookie decorating party where creativity bubbled over. Some cookies started dressing in bikinis, skirts, or ties; others had veins popping in their eyes out of anger; a snowman or two appeared in the mix. And each cookie found a home for the holidays.

Moving, losing loved ones, creating new families – traditions may not stay the same forever. But we can adjust and create new ones that are just as meaningful.

Onto the recipe! You don’t have to make my “Already Been Chewed” cookies. You can use any cookie cutter you’d like. They are delicious even without the cookie massacre.

Carol Fenster’s Gluten Free Flour Blend

1 ½ cup sorghum flour
1 ½ cup potato starch (NOT potato flour)
1 cup tapioca starch

I use this as my primary flour blend. Whisk the ingredients together thoroughly and store in the fridge.

The following gingerbread cookies come from Carol Fenster’s book 1,000 Gluten Free Recipes (link above). This was my first gluten free cookbook, and I was thrilled with the tasty cookies it helped me create for my first gluten free Christmas. If you would like to have a shot at hand decorating the gingerbread men, I’ve included my technique. Also note that with all of my cookies, I use insulated cookie sheets. They are well worth the small investment and turn out prefect cookies every time.

Gluten Free Gingerbread Cookies



½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (room temperature)
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
3 tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cup + 2 tbsp GF all purpose flour (Carol Fenster’s blend recommended)
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
Extra flour for dusting/rolling

Sugar icing:
Powdered sugar
Water
Food coloring

1.      In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and brown sugar (beat on low for about 30 seconds).
2.      Add the egg, molasses, and vanilla extract. Beat.
3.      Gradually add the remaining dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just blended.
4.      Use your hands to knead the dough until it is soft and pliable (it will be sticky). Flatten into a dish, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours (you can put your dough in the freezer to bake another day)
5.      Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper
6.      Place an extra piece of parchment paper on a countertop and sprinkle 1 tbsp of flour across the paper. Roll out the dough on this parchment and cut out cookies using gingerbread men cookie cutters
7.      Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then remove them and let cool completely.
8.      When your cookies are cooled it is time to decorate! Place 2 cups of powdered sugar in a bowl and add water a few drops at a time, mixing thoroughly with a spoon. Note that if you add too much water the icing will become very runny very fast. This can be fixed by adding more sugar. You want a medium-thick consistency. Divide icing into separate bowls and add a different color food coloring to each bowl (I do red, green, and keep a third bowl white). Use toothpicks to decorate the cookies. If you need to place one color on top of another, let the first layer harden for a few minutes before adding the second color.
9.      Place all finished cookies on a plate (do not stack) and freeze for at least an hour or until the icing hardens. You can now store the cookies in a sealed container or plastic bag. Cookies can be kept in the freezer for one month or 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. Freezing is highly recommended.

As an extra fun bonus, I’m including a picture of what seems to be everyone’s favorite version of these cookies, definitely the one that gets the most laughs. If you have a bit of a gruesome sense of humor, you’ll love these!




Happy baking! Stay tuned for more cookies and holiday recipes!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Flourless Chocolate Cake

A Very Special Birthday – Part 2

The second half of Kristopher’s foodie birthday gift was a homemade dinner. Last year I crafted a meal completely made from scratch and inspired by our favorite Italian restaurant. I decided to do the same this year, only I’d base the menu off a wonderful risotto restaurant we stumbled upon last spring. On my menu – Rosemary and Sage Risotto paired with plenty of Pinot Grigio, followed by his favorite flourless chocolate cake and whipped cream.

Overall, the entire evening was lovely. Happy stomachs and happy hearts. I’m a firm believer that food is not just food. It is an experience. And a gift like this is truly one that comes from the heart.

The Flourless Chocolate Cake is originally from King Arthur Flour (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/flourless-chocolate-cake-recipe), though I have included my technique for creating beautiful single serving cakes along with an extra whipped topping of my own creation.

Flourless Chocolate Cake



Cake:
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (I recommend Ghirardelli)
½ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Glaze:
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (again I recommend Ghirardelli)
½ cup heavy cream

Whipped cream
1 cup heavy cream
Sugar (to taste)
Vanilla extract (to taste)

1.      Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with liners.
2.      Melt the chocolate and butter on the stove top over very low heat. Mix and transfer to a mixing bowl.
3.      Stir in the sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs.
4.      Add the cocoa powder and stir until just combined.
5.      Spoon the batter into the cupcake pan. Bake for about 25-35 minutes. The top will have formed a thin crust
6.      Remove from oven and cool in the pan for five minutes. Remove from pan and let cool further.
7.      One by one, turn each cupcake upside down and remove the paper. The top of the cupcake will now be the bottom. Let cool completely before glazing
8.      For the glaze: combine chocolate and cream in a sauce pan on very low heat. Mix until smooth.
9.      Spoon the glaze over the cake, spreading it with the back of your spoon and letting it drop of the sides a bit. Allow the cakes to set in the fridge for several hours before serving. Makes 10-12 cupcakes
10.  Before severing the cake, pour 1 cup heavy cream (use ½ cup if you’re having a more intimate dinner) into a mixing bowl. Add ¼ tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp sugar. Blend for about 2-3 minutes until you can clearly see it turning to whipped cream. Periodically taste the whipped cream and add more vanilla and sugar as needed. For a rich dessert like this cake you may want a whipped cream that isn’t too sweet. Serve on top of glazed cupcakes


Check back soon for holiday recipes including my favorite gingerbread cookies!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sourdough English Muffins

A Very Special Birthday – Part 1

What an exciting culinary weekend! It was my boyfriend’s birthday a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, personal circumstances took me out of town –  but I was determined to make it up to him. How? With food, of course.

Being from the San Francisco area, one of Kristopher’s favorite foods is fresh sourdough bread. After every trip home you would undoubtedly find one or two loaves of bread tucked away in his suitcase. As a gluten free baker who had never tried sourdough bread before (let alone true San Francisco sourdough) I took on the challenge to create what would hopefully be a quality gluten free version. In my secret correspondence with his family in California, I learned that what makes California sourdough so unique is actually the yeast from that region. Being in New York, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to compete, but I might be able to get close. The result of my experiment – English muffins, flat breads, and one happy boyfriend.



I was extremely pleased with the English muffins, in particular, and the sourdough tanginess oddly enough became pleasantly more pronounced the day after I baked it. I must say that one of my favorite parts of making these English muffins was that while I didn’t have English muffin rings to form their shape, I DID have heart and Christmas tree cookie-cutters! Thus, I made the cutest English muffins ever! (I admit to eating the Christmas tree ones before I could snap a picture)



The recipe for the starter and English muffins are both from King Arthur Flour, and can be found here:
http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2012/08/20/gluten-free-sourdough-starter-a-three-day-culture-shock/
http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2012/11/21/gluten-free-sourdough-english-muffins/

I purchased the KAF Sourdough French Starter along with a bag or two of their Ancient Grain Flour Blend. This blend is important in creating a good starter because the higher levels of protein in this particular blend help the starter activate properly. Many gluten free all purpose blends lack the protein of wheat flour, so it’s important to use a higher-protein gluten free blend in the starter recipe. However, I did not purchase the KAF all purpose blend. I simply used my own AP blend, and it worked well. I also adjusted the recipe so I could use active dry yeast rather than instant yeast.

Sourdough Starter
(Make 5 days ahead of time)

1/4 tsp French sourdough starter
3 cups (divided) KAF Ancient Grains Flour Blend
1 cup gluten free all purpose flour
2 cups (divided) water

1.      Day 1 – Whisk 1/4 tsp sourdough starter with 1 cup KAF Ancient Grains Flour Blend. Add 1/2 cup cool water and mix thoroughly. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.
2.      Day 2 – Discard half of the mixture. Add 1 cup KAF Ancient Grains Flour Blend and 1/2 cup water. Mix and set aside for 24 hours.
3.      Day 3 – Repeat step #2
4.      Day 4 – Discard half the mixture. Add 1 cup gluten free all purpose flour and 1/2 cup water and mix. Set aside for 24 hours. Your starter will be ready to use the following day.

Gluten Free Sourdough English Muffins

1 cup gluten free sourdough starter
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour
3/4 cup potato starch
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 cup water
2 tbsp butter (room temperature)
1 large egg
Rice flour for dusting muffin rings

1.      Heat 3/4 cup water to 110 degrees F. Combine yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl and set aside to foam for ten minutes
2.      Combine all dry ingredients in another bowl and mix until well blended
3.      Add the water/yeast mixture, butter and egg. Beat with a hand mixer on a high speed for 2-3 minutes. It will make a smooth, paste-like batter
4.      Cover, set aside, and let sit for 1 1/2 – 2 hours to rise. (Do not expect a dramatic rise; it will be subtle)
5.      Lightly preheat a stove-top griddle or nonstick cooking pan
6.      Dip edges of English muffin rings (or cookie cutters) in flour to prevent sticking. When pan is hot, place the ring on the pan and spread a spoonful of batter evenly throughout the ring.
7.      After about 3 minutes the bottom will have set and it will be okay to remove the rings and prep them for the next batch.
8.      Cook each side for 7-10 minutes.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of the birthday adventure and an extra chocolatey recipe!