baking without butter and wheat

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i've been trying something a little new . . . gluten-free and/or vegan baking. this is partly because, well, i moved back to california. but also because my main baked goods audience has shrunk to the very lovely people who work for the somm.

and they HAVE to like my baking! it's a win win win.

just kidding. 

i'd already gone down the gluten-free road for the yogi. and after having read about how terrible wheat is for you.

plus there are so many fun types of flour out there! i now own about 10 varieties taking up precious freezer space. right next to my highly glutenized leftover bagel dough. whee!

i do not yet have an opinion on what type of flours i like best. luckily, there are many wonderful bloggers who regularly share their wisdom. i've been spending time with gluten-free girl who has many great recipes and some really lovely writing on her blog. she has a great post on how to put together your own gluten-free flour blend. it doesn't require you to buy anything that sounds too crazy (xanthan gum? seriously? isn't avoiding words like that WHY we bake at home?). 

almond and coconut were my gateway flours. who doesn't like almonds and coconut?

also, chocolate?

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i pulled this recipe from the new york times, which also likes them some gluten-free girl. i skimped on the bananas – don't do that! add plenty of chocolate chips. almond, buckwheat and rice flour are the stars here, but next time i'd cut back on the buckwheat. you want something lighter to really let the chocolate and banana sing.

served warm out of the oven, these didn't immediately seem gluten-free.  want a close up of that tender crumb?

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pretty normal, right? 

but do NOT give them to your vegan friends. there are eggs and buttermilk in there, the sneakers. plus, we've got something else for them.

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there are a number of vegan alternatives for eggs. so much good learning, and i would especially like to thank the kind woman who saved me from myself in the tofu aisle at the food co-op.

yeah, i'll pause to let that sink in. caleeefornia!

the tofu you want, that tofu is not in the refrigerator section of the market. it's the shelf-stable stuff. but i went for the flax seed slurry substitution. 

slurry! almost as good as shelf-stable tofu. 

just mix one teaspoon ground flax or chia seeds with three tablespoons hot water for every egg you're replacing. let the slurry sit, then add to the batter.

ground flax seeds can be found in the oatmeal and hot cereals section, NOT with the various gluten-free flours and starches in the baking section.

are you writing this down?

also, skip the honey and use agave. skip the buttermilk or yogurt and use unsweetened vanilla almond milk. 

double the blueberries. whip yourself up some blackberry jam.

have yourself a muffin fest.

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Vegan & Gluten-Free Buckwheat Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins

Adapted to be vegan from the New York Times

  • 180 grams (1 1/4 cups, approximately) buckwheat flour
  • 100 grams (3/4 cup, approximately) gluten-free all-purpose flour mix or whole grain gluten-free mix*
  • 10 grams (2 teaspoons) baking powder
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 3.5 grams (1/2 rounded teaspoon) salt
  • 2 eggs or 2 teaspoon ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons hot water
  • 125 grams (1/3 cup) agave syrup
  • 360 grams (1 1/2 cups) unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 75 grams (1/3 cup) canola or grape seed oil
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 10 grams (1 tablespoon) poppy seeds (more to taste)

*For the gluten-free flour mix I used about 70 grams of a mix of teff, almond and rice flour and 30 grams of arrowroot starch.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack adjusted to the middle. Oil muffin tins. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Add any grainy bits remaining in the sifter to the bowl.

In a separate bowl combine ground flax seed and hot water. Stir and let sit for a minute. Beat in agave, almond milk, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Do not beat for too long; a few lumps are fine but make sure there is no flour sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Fold in the blueberries and poppy seeds.

Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups to the top. Place in the oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned and well risen. Remove from the heat and if the muffins come out of the tins easily, remove from the tins and allow to cool on a rack. If they don’t release easily, allow to cool and then remove from the tins.

Best served with some sort of butter product (that means Earth Balance for you vegans) and jam.  

Yield: 12 muffins (1/3 cup muffin tins)

Advance preparation: These keep for a couple of days out of the refrigerator, for a few more days in the refrigerator, and for a few months in the freezer.


pretty darn good brownies

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we're back to baking with julia this week. i have so much catching up to do.

does this blog need yet another brownie recipe? probably not. but here you go! 

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julia, dorie and rich katz all seem to agree that these are the best-ever brownies. they are good. ridiculously fudgy. impossible to over-bake. 

the texture is light and creamy, in part from the technique, which has you hold back half the eggs and whip them into a fury. the bubbles help give the brownies structure without the weight of too much flour.

i threw in some walnuts at the request of a friend, and they added a nice crunch. 

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we've discussed my freezer issues before. in addition to loving to freeze unbaked cookies and all manner of other things for cooking, i love a good frozen baked good. the somm was the lucky recipient of various delightful thin mint treats for christmas that went straight to the freezer when we got home. there is something about the mint and chocolate combination that tastes right cold.

i really did try not to eat them all.

love you honey!

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anyway, the recipe promised that extreme fudginess would keep the brownies from fully freezing. thus making them supreme ice cream mix-ins. 

the frozen brownies lasted approximately five seconds in my house. so i pass the challenge onto michi, who has the added benefit of having her ice cream maker accessible in her home. rather than locked in storage container in the wild of the suburbs.

someday, dear ice cream maker, someday i will see you again. in the mean time, there is plenty of trouble to be had.

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want more fun tips on the recipe? new york times, to the rescue. in addition, this recipe was hosted by a beautiful mess through the tuesdays with dorie: baking with julia project.

Best-Ever Brownies
from Baking with Julia

1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour and salt together and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently and keeping a watchful eye on the pot to make certain the chocolate does not scorch.  Add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture and stir for half a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour the mixture into a large bowl. 

Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into the bowl of a mixer and whisk by hand just to combine.  LIttle by little, pour half the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don't set from the heat.  Fit the whisk attachment to the mixer and whip the remaining sugar and eggs until they are pale, thick, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.  Using the rubber spatula, delicately fold the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture.  When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients. 

Pour and scrape the batter into an unbuttered 9-inch square glass or ceramic pan.  Bake the brownies for 25-28 minutes, during which time they will rise a little and the top will turn dark and dry.  Cut into the center at about the 23-minutes mark to see how they are progressing.  They will be perfect if they are just barely set and still gooey.  Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack.  Cut into bars and serve.

The brownies will keep, covered, for 2-3 days at room temperature and can be frozen for up to a month!

 

Eggplant Phyllo Pockets

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real talk: cleaning out the fridge before a big move. i've admitted to my slight hoarder tendencies before. This summer, i've been forced to confront the true extent of my problem.

it's been a delicious problem to have. 

every get together I've hosted this summer has been catered by the results of a culinary scavenger hunt, with points to the dish using up the most cans, jars and icy treasures from the freezer.

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enter these adorable little guys. eggplants in search of a home. in my belly.

luckily, i found sheeets of phyllo lurking between last summer's pitted sour cherries, homemade chicken stock, and many small baggies of citrus zest, left over from my dalliance with middle eastern cuisine last year.

the tahini had already met its end with a can of garbanzos as very tasty hummus.

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this appetizer is extremely versatile. i used a martha recipe as a jumping off point, but ending up with a different flavor profile thanks to the jar of sun dried tomatoes that's been hiding in the cheese drawer of the fridge and the basil growing against all odds in vases on my counter.

the eggplant is a soft and silky complement to the crispy layers of phyllo, and the sherry vinegar gives it tang, the red pepper a bit of bite, and feta and tomatoes a salty undertone.

but this would work easily well with spinach and feta, for a variation on spanikopita, or ground lamb with golden raisins and lots of smoky cumin for a heartier snack.

any way you fill them, you won't regret having an extra roll or two of phyllo in your freezer. just don't try to move it cross country.

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Eggplant Phyllo Pockets
Adapted from Martha Stewart
  • About 2 to 2 1/2 lbs eggplant
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (3 ounces)
  • 4 to 5 sun dried tomatoes, drained of oil and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise, brush cut side with olive oil. Place cut side down on lined baking sheet and roast about 20 to 25 minutes until tender. Let cool just enough to handle, and scoop eggplant flesh from skins. Roughly chop and place in large bowl.

Add feta, tomatoes, spices, basil and vinegar to eggplant. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly oil 12 regular sized muffin cups, or spray with Pam. 

Keep your stack of phyllo dough sheets covered with a damp paper towel while you're working. On a very very lightly floured work surface, lay out one sheet of phyllo. Lightly brush with olive oil. Stack another sheet of phyllo on top and brush with oil, and repeat until you have 5 sheet of oiled phyllo stacked up. Cut into 6 squares.

Take each square and press into muffin cup, as if you were creating a small muffin sized pie. Fill with about a 1/4 cup eggplant mixture. Gather up ends of phyllo to create a little pouch and press to hold close. Brush with more oil.

Repeat with each square of phyllo, and with remaining phyllo sheets.

Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

pistachio honey ice cream with dark chocolate

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this is the fancy-pants dessert i made to go with the lamb tagine from the other week.

the cake was pretty good.  it was an olive oil cake.

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i spent at least fifteen minutes in the olive oil section at the whole foods, reading the back of olive oil bottles. trying to decide how crazy i really am.  am i $20 for a 10 ounce bottle crazy?  turns out, i'm $15 for a 16.9 ounce bottle crazy.  which is still pretty crazy. but the bottle promised "fresh herbal aroma and delicate fruity flavor."

i needed herbal. i needed fruity. it needed to go with my candied cara cara orange slices.

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its a lot of cake for an ice cream post, of this i am aware. the cake just ended up being so much prettier than it was yummy.

the ice cream, though? out of this world.

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salted, roasted pistachios. not actually moroccan. persian. close enough?

does it count if i know persia is iran? only a slight cultural competence fail.

and does it really matter where they came from when they are so tasty when roasted and slightly salted, so fantastically lime green?

i ended up having to buy unshelled pistachios because that was what target stocks and i'd hit my shopping limit for the day, but maybe we can just say it was because unshelled nuts are supposed to be fresher. it took awhile to get them out of their pacman shells, standing at the kitchen counter, but it had its rewards. by the end, my fingers were wrinkled from the salt, like after a day a the beach, only mostly because i couldn't stop a downward spiral of nut-cracking, finger-licking, and hand-washing. the container yielded the half cup needed for the ice cream and garnish, but just barely. snacking may have also occurred.

let me now impress you with my mad photography skills.

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for this ice cream, the pistachios get pulverized. they add just a hint of texture to the ice cream. i subbed the sugar and corn syrup out of the ice cream for an orange blossom honey (see! fancy pants!) and not just because i forgot to buy corn syrup.

it worked out. the flavors were both nicely earthy. the honey added a deep sweetness. the pistachios were just a bit salty. kind of like a peanut butter honey sandwich.

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another great ice cream tip from jeni's cookbook was employed – melting chocolate to add as a mix-in. you pour the chocolate into the ice cream maker near the end, when the ice cream is pretty well set up, but slowly, ever so slowly. it freezes on contact into tiny little shards – what jeni calls freckles – of chocolate that melt on your tongue.

if you are less patient, and ready to be done getting melted chocolate all over your ice cream making station (aka the bathroom counter because the door can be closed and that thing is LOUD), pour the chocolate fast and it will clump into larger bits that are fun too. and still less likely to break a tooth than chopped, frozen chocolate.

more amazing photography. isn't that ice cream just . . . totally devoid of focus? and the cake, so sparkling clear?

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i really did think i was going to share the cake recipe. it was good – honest! light, with an interesting crumb from semolina flour. but it's drenched in orange cardamom syrup. turns out, i much prefer orange cardamom syrup in prosecco, not cake.

plus, then i tried the ice cream. wow. you should make this.

Pistachio Honey Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate

Adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

  • 1/2 cup shelled, roasted lightly salted pistachios
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1 1/2 oz (or 3 tbsp) softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 – 3 oz dark chocolate, chopped

If your pistachios aren't roasted, toast them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes until fragrant and brown.  Let them cool for just a minute, then throw them in the food processor and pulse until they form a paste.

Mix 2 tbsp of milk with cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk cream cheese, pistachio paste, and salt in a medium bowl.  Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Bring the remaining milk, cream, sugar and honey to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture.  Bring back to a boil and stir until the mixture slightly thickens.

Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour into a gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge in ice bath until chilled, about half an hour.

Pour ice cream base into ice cream maker and start churning.

Melt dark chocolate in the microwave (carefully, in small time segments, stirring between) or in a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water (poor woman's double boiler).

When the ice cream looks nearly done – maybe 20 minutes in, slowly, slowly pour chocolate into the mixture. It should freeze as it hits the ice cream.

When ice cream is done, try not to eat it all. Pack into a storage container and freeze until firm. 

fudgy salty peanut butter brownies

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let's break these down.  layer of brownie (with peanuts).  layer of thick, chunky peanut butter frosting.  layer of chocolate ganache.  sprinkle of salted, roasted peanuts.

i mean, things have been too healthy on the blog lately.  too much summer produce, not enough butter. 

although, is too much summer fruit and veg possible?!?! i'm certainly doing my best to see.  for example, my current experiment is determining just how many pounds of cherries can one safely consume without turning into violet beauregarde.  i'll keep eating and report back.

in the meantime, these brownies are heaven on a plate any time of year.  it's a dorie greenspan recipe by way of epicurious.  and i really didn't change much.  other than adding more peanuts on TOP of the brownies despite the many layers of peanuts within, but i'm a glutton for a salty crunch.

you're going to have to melt a lot of chocolate for these bad boys.

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ok, i lied about not changing anything.  dorie says use a mix of unsweetened and semi-sweet chocolate.  i made these brownies as a part of a peanut butter & chocolate week of celebration (including a butterfinger layer cake.  to die for.) and i had two gorgeous blocks of callebaut milk and dark chocolate.  i used some of that.  and some ghirardelli and other assorted bits of chocolate around the kitchen i wanted to use up.  and i cut back on the sugar to compensate.  it worked out. 

there's also a lot of good peanut butter in this.  use jif.  always use jif.

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choosy bakers who love chunks choose jif.  choosy somms also choose jif.  but can someone please explain to me why all the dc-area grocery stores stopped selling reduced-fat chunky jif?  is it a conspiracy to make me start using full fat?  to make me drop peanut butter toast cold turkey?  to make me start buying grocieries through amazon? 

i probably could have made it through this post without showing you how i cut a corner out of the brownies before ganaching and frosting them.

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but, i am doing this as a public service announcement.  don't be like me.  don't eat these brownies without the toppings.  don't get me wrong, they are fine brownies.  especially warm.  but there is something about the package deal that is so much better.  the brownie stops being so cakey and and really does get moist and fudgy.  it's almost like candy – super rich. 

i thought the peanuts on top were a good add.  had these brownies lasted longer than a day, they might have gotten a bit soft, but the day-of they were a nice crunchy, salty contrast to the everything else.

you won't be able to have just one.

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Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts

Use this recipe, but add more nuts on top.  Do it.