29 July 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Gluten-Free or Not, Your Choice

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Gluten-Free or Not, Your Choice / www.delightfulrepast.com

Ultimate Gluten-Free (or Not) Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate chip cookies are the most popular homemade cookies, but that's where the agreement ends. People tend to feel pretty strongly about the texture, with some of us favoring soft and some, crispy. Fortunately, some of that is just a matter of baking time; so you can sometimes please both types with just one batch of dough. Just remember to store crispy cookies and soft cookies in separate airtight containers.

We prefer the soft (but not too soft) texture, but we have someone coming over who is adamantly in the crispy camp. So I'll be baking one pan a couple extra minutes for him. You have to be really careful, though, as they can go from crispy to burnt in a matter of seconds.

If I'm going to eat cookies, especially CCC, I have to make them myself. Every store-bought one and every recipe out there is waaaaaay too sweet for my taste. You can always add more sugar next time around, but do try it my less sweet way at least once. I think you'll be surprised. You'll wonder why you've been using so much sugar all these years!

I don't remember what year someone came up with the brilliant idea to make mini chocolate chips, but I remember trying them when they first came out and never looking back! The mini chips give a much better distribution of chocolate, making a vastly superior cookie, IMHO.

In a bit of a hurry when I was buying the chocolate chips, turns out the ones I selected, Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate mini chips, did not meet my #1 requirement: Fair Trade Certified. However, they might be just what you are looking for: dairy, nut and soy free; pareve; certified gluten-free; made in a dedicated nut- and gluten-free facility.

Though I love oatmeal cookies, even more than chocolate chip, I don't like a lot of oats in my CCC. But I've found that adding just that little 1/4 cup of oats, ground to a coarse meal, gives the cookie "a certain something."

If you are one of those people who has a nut allergy or simply doesn't like nuts in their chocolate chip cookies, feel free to leave out the nuts in my recipe. You can replace them with sunflower seeds, an extra cup of mini chocolate chips or anything else you prefer. So, tell me, how do you feel about chocolate chip cookies?

Ch0colate Chip Cookies (with directions for making them gluten-free, if you like) / www.delightfulrepast.com
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Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Makes 40 3-inch cookies)

3/4 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

OR replace those first four ingredients with
2 dip-and-sweep cups (10 ounces/283 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup oats (1 ounce/28 grams), ground to coarse meal in food processor
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces/227 grams) unsalted butter, cool room temperature
3/4 firmly packed cup (5.25 ounces/149 grams) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces/99 grams) sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 In small bowl, whisk together sorghum flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, ground oats, soda and salt. If you are not making gluten-free cookies, whisk together 2 dip-and-sweep cups (10 ounces/283 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, ground oats, soda and salt. Note: Measure the oats before grinding.

2 In large bowl of electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, vanilla and vinegar. By hand, stir in flour mixture, chocolate chips and walnuts. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

3 Preheat oven to 375F/190C/Gas5. Drop #40 scoops (0.8 ounces or approximately 1.5 tablespoons) of dough 3 inches apart onto ungreased parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. For crisp cookies, bake a bit longer, watching carefully so that they don't burn. Cool on baking sheet for 1 minute, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Note: The cookies in the photo above were baked on a heavy-duty half-sheet pan. The ones I baked on a lighter duty baking sheet did not spread as much and came out domed. And I baked the crispy batch for 16 minutes, which may not be exactly right for your oven and your baking sheet.


22 July 2011

Peach Cobbler

Peach cobbler is just one of the delicious ways I use peaches every summer. I go a little crazy for peaches and buy them, not by the pound, but by the 1/2-bushel box whenever I can. That's a lot of peaches! Enough for cobblers, pies, crumbles, upside-down cakes, shortcake, trifle, jam, ice cream and just eating out of hand, not to mention freezing. Aahh, comfort food!

Not all cobblers are created equal. Some are cakey, some are biscuity, and some are pie crusty. Though I am happy to eat any of them, I always make the pie crust kind because that's the kind my Southern grandma made. Sometimes I do a bottom crust as well (because in my world there's no such thing as too much pie crust), but other times (like when I'm pretending to watch my fat/carbohydrate/calorie intake) I just do a top crust. This time I just did a top crust because I was almost out of flour. I go through a lot of flour!

If you're one of those cooks who doesn't "do" pie crust (My sister-in-law, an excellent cook, doesn't even own a rolling pin!), don't worry. You can make this. Without a rolling pin. Seriously. Just do it. Then come back here and tell me all about it!

Peach Cobbler

(Makes 6 to 8 servings)

The Pastry

1/2 packed cup (2.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons almond meal (I use Bob's Red Mill) or flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water

The Peaches

2 1/2 pounds (about 5 large) organic peaches
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (No, that "1/8" is not a typo!)
1/8 teaspoon mace or nutmeg (I want you to taste the peaches!)

1 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal and salt. If you don't have almond meal, just replace it with flour. Add half the butter and with pastry blender (or large fork or two knives or just your fingers) cut butter into flour until mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Cut in remaining butter until the butter is the size of small peas. Sprinkle water over flour mixture; stir with large fork.

2 Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper and, with your hands, press it out into a 7-inch or so circle about 1/4-inch thick. Doesn't have to be smooth, doesn't have to be pretty. Cut into 6 to 8 wedges (however many servings you want). Refrigerate until ready to use.

Or press it out any old way and cut it into any shape you like, such as I did on my Blackberry Cobbler. Cobblers are supposed to be rustic.

3 Peel peaches (or not, if they're thin-skinned and smooth like these) and slice into a large bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure). You'll have about 6 cups of sliced peaches. (I slice them like this: Quarter peach, cut each quarter into 4 wedges, cut wedges in half.) In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt and spices; add to peaches and mix gently but well. Pour into 8-inch-diameter 2-inch-deep round baking dish that you've sprayed with cooking spray. Place pastry wedges on top.

4 Bake at 400 degrees for about 55 minutes until peaches are bubbling and pastry is nicely browned. Let cool one hour before serving with whipped cream or ice cream.

15 July 2011

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Strawberry frozen yogurt is something I made simply because it would be "better for us" than our luscious homemade Strawberry Ice Cream. Turns out, we like it every bit as much! You can use full-fat or low-fat yogurt, if you like, but that would have defeated my purpose of making this "good for us."

Did you notice the frosty jar in the photo? If you've read my adventures with fruit, you know I have a real thing about preserving summer's bounty to be enjoyed year round. So when I saw that organic strawberries were on sale, I thought I should prepare and freeze enough for a few extra batches of either strawberry ice cream or frozen yogurt.

I just measured 1 1/2 cups of the finely chopped (12 pulses in the food processor) strawberries into each of the pint freezer jars and stirred 2/3 cup sugar into each, put the lids on, let the jars stand at room temperature for an hour to dissolve the sugar, and then put the jars in the freezer. Now when strawberry season is just a memory, I can thaw a jar and whip up a batch of ice cream or frozen yogurt.

If you want to make this, now is the time. July is National Ice Cream Month, and the third Sunday of July--that's two days from now--is National Ice Cream Day. It's so easy that if you make it for the first time, you'll ask yourself why you've waited so long! What is your favorite flavor?

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

(Makes about 5 cups)

1 32-ounce container organic plain nonfat yogurt
1 1/2 cups hulled and sliced organic strawberries (1-pound clamshell more than enough)
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or triple sec
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 Strain the yogurt (I used Straus Family Creamery) for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. You can use cheesecloth in a colander set over a bowl. I just happen to have found, way in the back on a very high shelf in my kitchen, a set of two 16-ounce yogurt strainers I didn't even know I had! Getting all that extra liquid out of the yogurt will keep your finished product from being too icy.

2 By hand or in food processor, chop strawberries as finely or as coarsely as you like. (I did about 12 pulses in my food processor similar to this one: Cuisinart DLC-2009CHB Prep 9 9-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless) Place in a medium bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure to make pouring it into the machine easier); stir in the sugar. Let macerate for an hour.

3 Add strained yogurt and remaining ingredients to strawberries; whisk until thoroughly mixed. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. The only reason I added the liqueur is that a little alcohol keeps the frozen yogurt from freezing too icy and rock-hard, but the orange flavor is a great accent to the strawberry.

4 Assemble the Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbet Maker; turn it on. While it is running, pour the chilled mixture through the spout. Let mix until thickened, about 15 minutes.

5 Transfer the soft frozen yogurt to a freezer-safe airtight container and place in freezer for at least 2 hours. Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving.

08 July 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala / www.delightfulrepast.com

Chicken Tikka Masala is the first Indian food I've attempted. Actually, some say it's not really Indian food, but rather the national dish of Britain! A complete novice, I make no claims about authenticity (or anything else, for that matter!) as my recipe is actually just a mishmash of bits and bobs from dozens of different sources, including Cook's Illustrated.   

I left out the ever popular garlic because I didn't have any on hand (I'm actually allergic to it and don't use it unless I absolutely have to). And lots of Indian and Indian-style recipes call for cardamom, but I've never been a fan of cardamom so gave that a miss as well. There is enough cardamom for my taste in the garam masala (a pungent blend of ground spices).

If you like heat, you might want to increase the amount of serrano chile. You never know how feisty a chile is going to be, so taste it before you throw the whole thing in. I like just enough that, a few bites into the finished dish, I have to excuse myself from the table to blow my nose. (Sorry if that's more than you ever really wanted to know about me!)

I hope all of you reading this will leave a comment. Tell me about your favorite Indian foods and your experiences cooking them. Tell me where I went wrong! For all I know, this is to Indian food what T*** B*ll is to Mexican food! I won't be offended--because I like what I like, and I really liked this! It had me jumping around saying "Yeah, baby! I could eat this every day!"

Note: This is a good make-ahead dish. I don't want to be messing around with the broiler (smoke, smoke alarms, hotter than Hades) right before dinner, so I did the chicken the day before. And I used a disposable foil broiler pan. I'm normally not a fan of disposable anything, but cleaning up a broiler pan is next to impossible!

Update 11/28/19: Or you can try my new Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala!

Chicken Tikka Masala / www.delightfulrepast.com
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Chicken Tikka Masala

inspired by/adapted from many sources, including Cook's Illustrated

(Serves 2 or 3, can easily be doubled)

The Chicken

1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used 2% lowfat)
1 tablespoon organic canola or extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced shallot or 1/2 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs

The Sauce

1 tablespoon organic canola or extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 garlic clove, minced (I skipped it and didn't miss it!)
1 teaspoon finely minced serrano or jalapeno pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen organic fire roasted)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt (taste finished dish and maybe add another 1/8 teaspoon)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

1 In medium glass bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, ginger, shallot or garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne and turmeric. Add chicken to bowl, turning to coat well. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. (I used organic chicken, yogurt, cream and tomatoes for this dish.)

2 In 2-quart saucepan, heat oil. Add onion and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, chile and garam masala. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, loosely covered, for 15 minutes.

3 Meanwhile, position an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler (in my oven, the second slot), and preheat the broiler. Transfer the chicken to a (disposable!) broiler pan. Broil the chicken thighs for about 8 to 10 minutes on each side (or take them outside and throw them on the grill). Remove to a plate and set aside for 5 minutes. Note: You can cook the chicken ahead and refrigerate it until it's time to add it to the sauce. Just warm it up in the microwave for a minute before adding it to the sauce.

4 Stir the cream into the sauce and bring the sauce back to a simmer. Cut the chicken thighs into roughly 1-inch pieces and add them to the sauce. Heat gently for about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in half the cilantro or parsley just before serving, and sprinkle the rest over the top. Serve with plain basmati rice, a vegetable dish and naan. 


01 July 2011

Sweet Potato Pie - Classic Southern Comfort Food

Sweet potato pie is a Southern thing, and I've had Southern on my mind since my dear cousin Charlotte died a few months ago. Charlotte was from the Southern side of the family, and she and I enjoyed working on genealogy together. It would have been wonderful if the two of us could have made a trip to Virginia together to see where many generations of our ancestors had lived.

I wrote a few blog posts for Charlotte after we had been reminiscing about our grandmother's cooking. Isn't it amazing how strong taste (and smell) memories can be? I wrote my cream gravy post for Charlotte. We couldn't think of Grandma without thinking of that gravy. And her pies. It's been years since I last made this pie. It's a great finale for any Southern meal. Seems all my favorite childhood memories involve food! How about yours?

Sweet Potato Pie

(Makes one 9-inch pie)

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell, gluten-free or regular
2 large eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups mashed baked sweet potato (the orange kind)
1/2 to 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mace
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

1 Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a 13-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Line a 9-inch glass pie plate with pastry. Set aside; if it's a hot day, put it in the refrigerator.

2 In medium bowl, combine filling ingredients in order given. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees; bake 40 to 45 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for two hours. Serve at room temperature or chilled with whipped cream and, perhaps, a sprinkling of finely chopped toasted pecans.