29 October 2010

Velvety Vanilla Cupcakes - That Just Happen to Be Gluten-Free

If you're like me, you don't just want a gluten-free cupcake that is "good, for gluten-free." You want a cupcake that everyone, GF or not, will enjoy. And, like I told you last month, I don't care if cupcakes (or fairy cakes, as they are sometimes called in the UK) have been declared by some to be cliché, passé and "so over." I'm going to just carry on as if I hadn't heard the news.

I developed this recipe to make for my gluten-free friends, but everybody loves them. It is so easy. No need to separate eggs and fold in the whipped egg whites--not that there's anything difficult about that, but it does mean another bowl and another beater, and who needs that! I like to keep the mess down as much as possible, but some days I have a tendency to make more of a mess than usual (and it's usually a day when I'm wearing black and decide to live dangerously and skip the apron).

The cupcakes are frosted with strawberry buttercream frosting. They would have piped more "sharply" and been prettier if I had added the strawberry jam before I added milk. But I had already made the vanilla buttercream when I spotted the homemade strawberry freezer jam in the fridge and decided to make it strawberry frosting. Oh well. Next time. And there will be a next time. This strawberry frosting was soooo good. It tasted like homemade strawberry ice cream.

Velvety Vanilla Cupcakes (that just happen to be gluten-free)
(Makes 24)

3 large eggs
1 cup milk, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 2½-inch paper bake cups in two standard muffin tins. In small bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, 1/4 cup of the milk and the vanilla.

2 In large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for one minute to "sift." Add the softened butter and remaining milk. Mix on low speed until combined. With mixer on medium-high speed, beat for a minute and a half. Scrape the bowl.

3 Gradually beat in the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape the bowl.

4 Using a 1/4-cup measure, fill the bake cups with a scant 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick.

5 Immediately remove from pans and cool on wire rack for an hour. They must be thoroughly cool before frosting.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound powdered sugar, unsifted
1/16 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons homemade less sugar strawberry freezer jam

In bowl of stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Scrape the bowl. Add the salt, vanilla extract and jam and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You will likely have to add the liquid ingredients before adding all the powdered sugar. With a pastry bag fitted with a 2D or 1M tip, pipe frosting on cupcakes in a classic swirl.

22 October 2010

Black Bean Soup

Black bean soup, made from dried beans, is my favorite black bean soup. It cooks down to a lovely smooth texture. Unfortunately, what I call a lovely smooth texture my husband calls something I won't even print here. He actually will not even taste that soup.

Honestly, his "texture issues" can be so frustrating! But I didn't want him to miss out on the wonderful flavor, so I decided to see if using canned beans (drained very well, of course) would solve the texture issue. I'm happy to report, it did! He LOVES this soup!

So tell me about your texture issues and other food quirks. And if you enjoyed this post (or the entire blog), be sure to tell everyone you know about it!

Black Bean Soup

(Makes 8 servings)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (Muir Glen organic fire roasted)
4 15-ounce can black beans, drained
4 cups lower sodium chicken broth
Juice of 1 lime

1 In large soup pot (I like the Le Creuset Round French Oven), heat oil and saute chopped vegetables until soft. Add salt, pepper, oregano, cumin and red pepper flakes; cook a few minutes to "toast." Add Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with spoon, until tomatoes have "cooked down" a bit, just a few minutes. Add beans and broth.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, with lid slightly ajar for 2 hours or until it's the consistency you like. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Just before serving, stir in the juice of 1 lime. Garnishes to choose from: sour cream, cilantro, round slices of lime, lime zest, finely diced red bell pepper, diced avocado, shredded cheese.

15 October 2010

Pecan Pie - Without Corn Syrup

Pecan Pie - Without Corn Syrup / www.delightfulrepast.com

Pecan pie is one of those things people are sooooo opinionated about. I don't mind whether it has more nuts or more filling, whether the texture is just right or a little too stiff or a little too runny. There are only two things I really care about--I don't want shortening (or lard, for that matter) in the crust, and I don't want corn syrup in the filling. I simply cannot ingest those horrible things. So, you see, I'm not opinionated at all!

Making pecan pie, a Southern classic, made me think of the Southern side of the family and some of their funny sayings. If your family has a Southern side, you're sure to have heard some of these: dadgummit, dadburnit, looks like the north end of a southbound donkey, looks like somethin' the cat drug up, higher than a Georgia pine (drunk), just talks to keep her head from rattlin', crookeder than a barrel of snakes, sillier than a pet coon. I'd like to make a whole collection of these Southern sayings, so send me yours! (I have a whole other collection from the English side of the family!)

I developed this pecan pie recipe to suit my husband--you see, he has "texture issues." You might find it too heavy on the nuts and light on the filling, but that's what he likes. And it has significantly less sugar than most. So if you're one of those people who doesn't eat pecan pie because it is too sweet, this one might change your mind.

For those who like to eat with the seasons, pecan pie is the quintessential autumn pie. And it doesn't take a lot of time to make, especially if you make your pastry ahead of time and refrigerate it (for a few days) or freeze it (for a few months). I usually have a few disks of pastry in the freezer. Then I just move one or two to the refrigerator the day before I'll be making a pie.

Update 12/01/16: Try my Gluten-Free Pie Crust and Pecan Tart - Without Corn Syrup.

Pecan Pie - Without Corn Syrup

(Makes one 9-inch pie, 8 to 12 servings)

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell in glass pie plate
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 packed cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup real maple syrup (Grade B, preferably)
4 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) chopped pecans

1 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Get pie shell ready and keep it in refrigerator until filling is ready. In 2-quart Pyrex glass measure, melt butter in microwave. Add brown sugar, sugar and salt to warm melted butter; mix well. Add hot water, stirring until sugar is dissolved (mashing out any lumps), and maple syrup. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well, until mixture is very smooth. Stir in pecans. Pour into pie shell.

2 Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 30 minutes, or until center of pie puffs up and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The center should feel set yet soft when pressed lightly.

3 Cool on wire rack at room temperature for at least 4 hours. If you make it a day or two ahead, refrigerate it until 2 hours before serving time; allow it to come to room temperature. Or warm at 275 degrees for 15 minutes before serving. Cut into 8 wedges and serve with a dollop of unsweetened or barely sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Pastry (food processor* method)

1 1/3 packed cups (6.66 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 10 minutes
1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon lemon juice or cider vinegar

1 With metal blade in place, add flour, salt and baking powder to work bowl of food processor. Turn on for three seconds to combine. Add half the frozen butter and process for 10 seconds or until mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Add remaining butter and pulse for six 1-second pulses, or until the frozen butter is the size of small peas.

2 In cup, combine lemon juice or vinegar and ice water. Pour over all of flour mixture; pulse for six 1-second pulses or just until dough will clump together; do not over-process. (The amount of water you will need depends on your climate and the moisture content of your flour. You may not need to use quite as much water as I do.)

3 Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten slightly into a 4-inch round disk; double wrap; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to three days. (Let thoroughly chilled dough stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.) Place in 9-inch Pyrex pie plate and keep in refrigerator until filling is ready.

* I have the DLC-10E, which (understandably after all this time) is no longer available. See Cuisinart DLC-2009CHB Prep 9 9-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless and other currently available models.

08 October 2010

Equipment Review - Zojirushi CV-DYC40 Water Boiler and Warmer

When I have a tea party for 12, I start with a 10-cup pot of black tea and a 6-cup pot of an herbal tisane or decaffeinated green tea. Right away, the pots are empty. I have the loose tea for subsequent pots measured out and the kettles back on the hob. It can get quite hectic keeping up with the tea-making whilst replenishing the plates of sandwiches, scones and pastries. So when Zojirushi offered to send me their Zojirushi CV-DYC40 Super VE 4-Liter Vacuum Electric Dispensing Pot, I said "Oh, yes, please!"

With its large 4-liter capacity, the Zojirushi water boiler and warmer comes in handy at tea parties of any size. I make my first pots of tea using my two teakettles, and then make subsequent pots from the Zojirushi. No constantly monitoring the stove and all that bother, which is especially a problem when I'm having a tea party in the garden. This particular model has the added convenience of optional battery-powered dispensing, so I could actually unplug it and take it out to the garden for table-side tea-making.

What the "VE Hybrid" means is that it has an energy-saving vacuum insulation, as well as electric, keep-warm system. An electronic feature I really appreciate--because I can be a bit of a hazard--is the "unlock" button you must press before the "dispense" button will work. And 10 seconds after dispensing, the "unlock" light turns off and the automatic dispense lock is activated. So even if I accidentally press the "dispense" button, hot water won't be dispensed.

There are multiple temperature settings: 175, 195, and 208 degrees F; re-boiling at 212 degrees F. It only takes about 35 minutes for the maximum amount of water to come to the boil, and you can refill at any point so you never run out. (That's what the pitcher in the photo is for, filling and refilling.) The control panel displays the actual water temperature at all times. At 8 3/8 x 11 x 13 13/16-inches high, it doesn't take up much more room on the counter than a two-slice toaster and fits easily beneath upper cabinets.

I won't go into all the features, but will finish by saying the Zojirushi has many other applications besides tea parties. When I worked in offices, people were constantly boiling water for tea, hot chocolate, soups and noodles. This wonderful invention would have been a real time-saver. And, of course, coffee drinkers can use it for their French press coffee.

(This photo shows the teapot sitting on the counter beneath the spout, but I actually held the teapot directly under the spout to fill. Couldn't hold the camera and the teapot and press the "dispense" button all at the same time!)

If you have one of these, or something similar, do leave a comment telling me what you think. If you like tea, leave a comment telling me what kind you like. If you have a question ... You get the idea--I just enjoy reading your comments!

01 October 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes and Book Review - 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes

Chocolate cupcakes (or fairy cakes, as they are sometimes called in the UK) are sooo good. I was going to make some from my own wheat flour recipe, but then found this great gluten-free recipe. When 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster arrived in the mail for review, the first thing I looked for was chocolate cupcakes. And there they were! Like I said before: Cupcakes - In or Out, Trendy or Passé, Who Cares? I was ready for some more!

Carol Fenster is an internationally recognized expert on gluten-free cooking and is the founder and president of Savory Palate, Inc., a company that provides information for the gluten-free lifestyle.

"The recipes in this book were selected from my award-winning 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes
, the largest gluten-free cookbook ever published. My goal for this smaller, very useful book," says Fenster, "is to give home cooks the 'must-have' recipes, the dishes people ask me for again and again, along with just-what-you-need-to-know information to make the book a go-to guide for people living the gluten-free life."

This book has delicious recipes in every category. I'm going to start with chewy granola bars, sun-dried tomato quiche, banana bread, chicken noodle soup, macaroni and cheese and basic pastry crust. After all, I am all about classic comfort food! 

A lot of the recipes call for a blend of gluten-free flours (I used all Bob's Red Mill products) that you can combine in quantity and then measure out for recipes.

Carol's Sorghum Blend

(Makes 4 cups)

1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 1/2 cups potato starch or cornstarch (I used potato starch)
1 cup tapioca flour
Whisk the ingredients together until well blended. Store, tightly covered, in a dark, dry place for up to 3 months. You may refrigerate or freeze the blend, but bring to room temperature before using. You may double or triple the recipe.
(The cupcake recipe below is written out a little differently from the book; for example, not offering the ingredient options that I didn't use or the layer cake directions. And, since I was using the oil rather than the butter option, I mixed the sugar with the oil and eggs rather than with the dry ingredients.)

Devil's Food Layer Cake

(Makes 16 or 17 cupcakes)
1 1/2 cups Carol's Sorghum Blend
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Milk to measure 1 cup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs, room temperature

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 2½-inch paper bake cups in one 12-cup and one 6-cup standard muffin tin; one or two cups will be empty.

2 In medium bowl, whisk together the flour blend, cocoa, xanthan gum, salt and soda; set aside. In glass measure, combine vinegar and milk; let stand 10 minutes to thicken slightly, and stir in vanilla extract.

3 In large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat sugar and oil. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

4 Using a 1/4-cup measure, fill the bake cups with a scant 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18 to 20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick.

5 Immediately remove from pans and cool on wire rack for an hour. They must be thoroughly cool before frosting.

(Recipes for Carol's Sorghum Blend and Devil's Food Layer Cake from 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipesby Carol Fenster - Wiley; August 2010; hardover/$16.95)

My Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound powdered sugar, unsifted
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk (I used rice milk)
In bowl of stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the powdered sugar, cocoa, espresso powder and salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk; beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You will likely have to add the liquid ingredients before adding all the powdered sugar.

With a pastry bag fitted with a 2D (sometimes I use a 1M) tip, pipe frosting on cupcakes in a classic swirl.

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