I have made a few attempts at focaccia; some are too bready, some are heavy and it has been rather disappointing. Until now! I just made a great focaccia last week; so fluffy yet crisp on outside and with delicate crumb, really light and a delightful flavor. It is topped with fresh rosemary, grated parmesan cheese, kosher salt and fresh black pepper. I am crazy for it! Best the first day; maybe freeze the leftovers? It does reheat nicely. It makes 2 so you can do 2 12 inch breads or make pizza out of the second half. I have my half in the fridge; making pizza shortly.
Here are the ingredients if you want to make sure you have them on hand. I had this flour in my freezer but since last week I made a new batch; easy enough if you have a good scale. I love mine; can do grams or ounces and it will zero off the container you put the flour in which is super helpful. This is definitely a white bread flour. I think you could sub in a bit of brown rice flour; it wouldn’t be quite so fluffy but that would add more flavor to the breads you make with it.
This is Valentine’s Day weekend. At my house we had a cozy dinner tonight for two. For dessert I made my chocolate mousse recipe; been making it since college days. I haven’t served it in a while and when we enjoyed our cups of light chocolately deliciousness I wondered why on earth I hadn’t made in the last year or two. Joe happily took home two of the cups. I used to have a married couple who loved it so much that if either came by without the other and I served mousse and sent one home for their spouse; it never made it there; eaten on the way or shortly after arrival. Sneaky business!
I love that I can whip it up in a few minutes – just a few easy steps; no double boiler necessary or stirring for endless minutes. All you need is a bit of strong hot coffee, some eggs and some chocolate chips. I add a bit of brandy and that makes it special! Be sure to chill it at least 2 hours but preferably 4 before you enjoy it. I love it with a bit of whipped cream but my favorite is some plain heavy cream, light cream or even half and half poured on top. Delish!
You can sub in some dark chocolate chips for part of the cup of semi-sweet chips. Works perfectly, even mini chocolate chips will do fine. You could leave out the alcohol but it really deepens the flavor; could use a teaspoon of real vanilla extract for it.
3 large eggs, separated
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup strong hot coffee (I use enough instant coffee for one cup and add it to the 1/3 cup hot water)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-2 Tbsp. cognac or French brandy
Directions: Heat a kettle of water to boiling. While it does that separate the eggs and put the whites in your mixer bowl. Beat until still; as it gets closer gradually add in the tablespoons of sugar. Set aside. Pour the really hot water into your blender and let stand 1-3 minutes, it warms up your blender container to help melt those chips! Dump out the water and immediately pour in the chocolate chips and the hot coffee. Cover. Turn on blender; run on medium for 30 seconds, leave running and add the egg yolks (through top feed hole) and then the brandy or cognac (best quality you can afford). Blend up to 30 more seconds and then spoon over the merengue and gently fold in until no white streaks remain. My new Blendtec blender made it super thick and creamy in that minute of blending. All depends on your blender’s strength. Scoop into 6 4–6 ounce size dessert dishes. Chill 2-6 hours; preferably 4-6. Serve with whipped cream or just plain cream or half and half. Store any leftovers in the fridge; cover with plastic wrap; keeps 3-4 days tops but never lasts that long in my house. Enjoy!
This week I discovered an old college friend has suddenly developed an allergy to wheat and to gluten. When his wife tried to bake gluten free using xanthan gum, he hated the after taste he noticed (I personally have never noticed that phenom but it sure could be so!) and guar gum made him break out in a nasty rash. She loves to bake and just was dismayed with a number of recipes she tried. Terrible texture and heavy especially without the gum. Generally disheartening. I decided immediately that I had to help them out. So after some research here are a few of my ideas, resources and general thoughts to help them.
Of course I wanted to help them out; I love a good challenge and to help friends is a true joy. So, I looked in my cookbook collection last night and discovered that my book by Nancy Cain titled “against the grain” is chock full of gluten free recipes that have no xanthan or guar gum in them. I haven’t made many of her recipes but I think they could work well for my friend. Bonus points as she takes a rather natural approach to baking gf and I am all for natural foods.
My second cookbook choice is “The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, Volume 2” by America’s Test Kitchen. This book contains two gf flour blends neither of which has a gum in them. I have made several recipes from it and can say they are tasty and worth making again. Not all the recipes avoid gums but they mostly use a tiny amount; ¼ of a teaspoon. I feel this could be replaced by several choices.
For that I did a search and found this: bakingkneads.com/substitutes-for-xanthan-gum-in-baking/ by Sarah. This is a wonderful post and I highly recommend you visit it. Here is a brief summary: you can use chia seeds softened in water, egg whites, cornstarch, konjac powder, agar -agar and flax seeds mixed with water (the flax seed “egg”). For cornstarch you use the same amount as a gum. For the flax seed or chia “egg” I believe it is a tablespoon of chia and 2 tablespoons of hot water. Let it stand about 5 minutes. You can grind the seeds up if you want a smooth mixture as whole seeds can definitely add texture or pop to your bread. I can’t wait to try a few of these ideas out. I have used the flax seed egg in the past and it works okay in a cake. I think it would work better in a whole grain bread which would more disguise the seedy texture and flavor.
Another cookbook I like is “Gloriously gluten-free cookbook) by Vanessa Maltin. It focuses on three cuisines: Italian, Asian and Mexican. The red velvet mochi cupcakes with ginger buttercream icing recipe looks amazing and no gum. There are dozens of gorgeous sounding ethnic recipes. I am wondering why I haven’t cooked from it lately!
I constantly use Annalise Robert’s book: “Gluten-Free Baking Classics” I feel you could use one of those six substitutes I mention and alter her recipes to make them gum free. She uses a simple flour blend of 3 flours but you can buy it too; it is King Arthur’s Basic Gluten Free Flour. There is no xanthan gum in it. I is comprised of brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. Has a nice “wheaty” taste to the pie crusts she shares. I won’t make any other pie crust. I get a lot of complements on it. A suggestion from fb; add cinnamon to your baked goods to hide the taste of xanthan gum. I actually do that for a number of my recipes; will do it even more now that I am thinking on it.
Two more choices are “Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking” by Kelli and Peter Bronski and “‘The Gluten-Free Table” by Jilly and Jessie Lagasse. Most of the Lagasse sister’s recipes are naturally gf recipes, there is some use of xanthan but now armed with my knowledge of several gum replacements I feel I could make them gum free successfully. Ditto with enthusiasm for the Bronski book. It is chock full of interesting and mouthwatering ideas. Definitely work the look and maybe the buy!
I buy a lot of gf items at Aldi’s and sometimes Trader Joe’s or Wegmans. Aldi’s has a bread that is fairly new; it is a multi grain wide pan loaf. I find it life changing. Makes amazing grilled cheese and ham sandwiches. About to try french toast with it. So tasty and the bigger slices are the best!
Other advice to newbies; read my original early posts on switching to being gf. Look at my 2014 posts: for most of 2013 I posted on Patch. I do not thing those posts are still available but I reposted most of them in my first few months on my new blog location. Critical to success: new bread pans at 8.5x 4.5 with taller sides, new cake and pie pans unless you scrub the heck out of them. You need to read up on cross contamination as it is a really serious problem. You should invest in a new toaster for only gf breads and bagels. Your cutting boards and rolling pins must be incredibly free of all old flour; maybe if you are going to still have gluten in your house buy a new bread board and rolling pin for gf use only. You will absolutely need a new colander for gf pasta. Mark it so or get one very different in color so you can easily distinguish it. Ditto for wooden spoons. In fact, you need to run everything you plan to use for gf cooking through the dishwasher several times or hand scrub a LOT. I found it too difficult to keep both gluten-based flour and my new gf flours around. I have a few burger buns and a loaf of white bread in my basement freezer for Joe or Aiden. No more do I keep gluten-based pasta or mixes.
In short, eat clean, eat organic when you can, don’t buy packaged gf foods if you can make it yourself and avoid the processed gf treats full of fats, sugar and preservatives. DIY is always healthier if it avoids excesses of those demons especially hydronated fats and all sugars other than coconut palm sugar which is low on the hypoglycemic index and possibly use honey, maple syrup and agave syrup but in moderation. Being gluten free is a journey, an adventure in experimentation and can be surprisingly delicious. GF foods have gotten a bad rap and often folks eating my cookies, brownies, pies, tarts and cakes are shocked at how delicious they actually are. I am generally very happy to be gf. Rarely, on visiting people I find them being insensitive; like baking gluten filled muffins right in front of me and offering me no substitute or alternative. I think that behavior is obnoxious; you knew I was coming. Couldn’t you put off your wheaty muffins a few days and buy a gf mix treat to make while I was there? My pet peeve…. oh well. I survived it and I love to bake gf and we eat darn well around here!
I used to get these lovely uncured German bratwurst at Aldi’s and enjoyed them often. Then disaster struck; couldn’t find them at Aldi’s for months and months. No idea why they never have them. Last week I found some very similar brats at Lidls in Wilson Boro near the Aldi’s there. They are out of their smoked brats in all varieties but I saw these uncured brats; they looked remarkably like those at Aldi’s and the flavor is pretty much identical to what I remember. They are pricy for Lidl’s; around $5 but you get five of them; a buck a piece is pretty decent these days. If you loved the ones from Aldi’s go get these as they will satisfy your bratwurst dreams! They brown up nicely and their delicate flavor is very authentic. I had one sautéed tonight along with some Italian peasant soup; great combo. Go get some, you know you want them!
I hereby confess to an open fondness for fruit tarts. Free from the tyranny of top crust making and lower in calories by that very lack of an upper crust. They can be as fancy as you wish or humble and rustic when limited time is an issue. Full of ripe berries, nuts and caramel, of custard, of apples, pears or plums. Pretty much anything that can be pied can be tarted. In my house there is a running teasing argument as to pie or tart. I am of the tart persuasion and he is of the pie love affair. So he calls my tarts pies with great delight and I snicker at his silly ways. Either way it is a win win. Tarts can be useful too when you have limited amounts of filling material; a 9 inch tart doesn’t take that much to fill it to an acceptable level. My old-fashioned 10 inch aluminum pie tins take more than twice that amount to be considered appropriately full. Don’t get me wrong; I adore pie in so many versions it could be considered an obsession but this post is all about the tart.
This is a Meyer lemon masterpiece of a tart. I bought a bag of 6 Meyer lemons for less then $3 at Lidls and they were lovely looking. For your edification I will advise that a Meyer lemon is like a lemon but also like an orange; in fact, it is a species created from both, sort of. Actually, to be technical it is half mandarin orange (those sort of flat small tangerines) and half citron which is a genetic parent of the common lemon. Meyer lemons were introduced into the US in 1908 and they are sweeter than lemons, slightly deeper yellow and rounder than a lemon. The juice is a tad darker and the skin is tasty enough to be extremely sought after by many chefs. Okay, enough on the ancestry of my beloved Meyer lemons. Just know that they are no common citrus and that you can buy them in many grocery stores locally. Please do not attempt this tart with any sort of regular lemon; it must be made with Meyer lemons as the normal lemon’s white pith is way too bitter and even the juice isn’t sweet enough for this treat.
This tart uses every part of the lemon except the seeds. I make a lemon jam that is similar in this respect. So when I made this tart it did remind me of my lemon jam only more roasty yet zingy somehow and the crust’s flaky texture really amplified its charms. I made mine in a 9.5 ceramic tart pan. You could make it in a 9 inch one and make a hand pie or two out of the spare filling. I saw the recipe on someone’s fb post and made a few changes and threw one together this past weekend since I already had the lemons and was intrigued by how it uses the whole fruit. Definitely a keeper of a tart. You could make it with a regular pie crust and regular flour in filling if you are not gf. Enjoy!
Meyer Lemon Tart
One GF tart shell; prebaked about 10 minutes at 375 degrees:
1 c plus 2 Tbsp. brown rice flour mix (King Arthur basic gf blend)
2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp salt
6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into 6 chunks
1 lg egg
2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice
Mix dry crust ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer. Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal. Add egg and lemon juice. Mix briefly until it comes together into big chunks. Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 10-15 minutes. Roll out and line a 9.5 tart shell. Prick surface with a form in many places to keep it from puffing up. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Let cool at least 10 min before filling.
5 Meyer lemons
1 cup sugar plus 2 Tbsp. divided
1 medium to large egg and 1 egg yolk
A pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp flour (I used my King Arthur Basic GF Mix)
8 Tbsp. butter melted and cooled for 5-10 minutes
Directions: cut up the lemons into halves, quarters then eighths, remove seeds. I got over 5 cups of chunks. Put all the filling ingredients into a large food mixer and pulse until it is a coarsely chopped yet cohesive filling. Just don’t completely puree the lemon chunks; you want a bit of size difference not a puree. Pour into the tart shell and sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp of sugar. Then bake at 325 for 20 on the bottom shelf of your oven. Turn heat up to 350 and bake another 30 minutes. I think I could have left it in for a few more; the filling should darken a bit and crust will be nicely browned. The filling should be jiggly but will set as it stands. Chill for several hours and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Or by itself. Enjoy!