Sunday, December 18, 2011

Almond Shortbread

It is Christmas in a few days, and therefore I wanted some delicious cookies. The best cookie ever in my opinion is a delicious butter shortbread cookie. We used to buy Walker's shortbread a couple of times each winter as a special treat; at the time six dollars seemed like an exorbitant price for a box of cookies (but is pretty typical for GF cookies). Much of the beauty of shortbread is in its simplicity: just flour, butter, sugar, and a little vanilla and salt. When I tried to de-glutenize (I have decided that this should be a word) my original shortbread recipe, I got a hideous melted mess. I tried again, with a recipe adapted from this, and had success. In time for Christmas.

Almond Shortbread

Dry ingredients
½ c sorghum flour (66 g)
¼ c almond meal (30 g)
¼ c cornstarch (33 g)
¼ c brown rice flour (33 g)
¼ tsp sea salt (use 1/8 tsp if your butter is salted)
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1/8 tsp baking powder

½ cup butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (70 g)
½ tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients. In a separate, larger bowl, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla together with an electric mixer (or use a stand mixer). Don't overmix the butter and sugar. Add the flour mixture to the bowl about ½ cup at a time, blending well with the mixer each time. Eventually, you will end up with a crumbly mixture of dough.

Crumbly dough.

You can combine the dough together, roll it out then chill it, and use cookie cutters, but I thought a roll of cookies would be easier. To do this, I piled the dough-crumbs on a piece of parchment paper, and used the paper to help roll all of the crumbs together in a cohesive lump. Squish the dough into a fairly-even log shape.  

Squish the crumbs together using the parchment paper.

Log of dough.

Once you are happy with the shape, wrap it up and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes Edit 7/14/12: chill at least 30 minutes to avoid a melted cookie mess. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into ¼ inch rounds. Carefully lay these on a baking sheet lines with a silpat or parchment paper.

Pierce the cookies with a fork several times, this will allow steam to escape, which makes for a crisper shortbread. Edit 7/14/12: Chill the cookie sheet and cookies for another 15-30 minutes, this will help prevent spreading cookies.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Err on the side of an oven that is too cool rather than too hot if you have an unreliable oven like I do; if the oven is too hot, these melt and spread and fall apart into crumbs.  

This was a very tasty cookie that reminds me a lot of Walker's shortbread that I used to love.

Ruby Cakes Review

Dear readers who don't live in Oregon: feel free to skip this post, as it is about a local business.

This weekend, The Man and I tried out a new bakery in the area. That sounds a bit mundane, until it is pointed out that the bakery mentioned is a dedicated gluten-free, nut-free, vegan place. “Wait, so I can eat every single thing?” was my reaction when I first heard that this place was opening.

Ruby Cakes in McMinnville was a fantastic experience. They had quite a variety of baked goods, and each thing that we tried was amazing. Moreover, there was something wonderful about knowing that the treats were perfectly safe for my food intolerances, as well as many other people in my life. The staff were friendly and knowledgeable, and genuinely interested in providing the community with allergen-free treats. I was also pleased that the prices were quite reasonable; comparable to what I have paid for things at glutenous bakeries.

 These little doughnuts were delicious.

This cinnamon roll was huge; I split it with The Man. I never expected to be eating a cream-cheese frosted cinnamon roll again, and I could not tell that it was vegan or GF! Saturdays are cinnamon roll day at the bakery.

There were 8 kinds of "milk" for the coffee, only two of which contained any dairy. This was fantastic!

I am very happy that this business has opened, and I will most assuredly be visiting again in the near future. If you live near McMinnville you should try this place, even if you don't have any allergies.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Red Curry

Delicious curry. Also, that table is from South Africa, which does not pertain to the Thai food. I just like the table.

Even before my GF-DF days, I really loved Thai food. I love that distinct flavor-profile of ginger, basil, lemon-grass and coconut; the mixture of savory and sweet. I have enjoyed Pad Thai and curries for a long time, perhaps influenced by the fact that my family lived in Bangkok for a while, (before I was born) and my parents used to take us out to Thai food. Now, though, I like this cuisine even better, because Thai-food places are generally already gluten and dairy-free. At the restaurant I go to, they even make my iced tea without the condensed milk in it.

I don't always feel like going out to eat in order to get my fix, though, so sometimes I make curries at home. They never seem to be as good as what you get at a restaurant, though, and I decided that maybe this was partially because I never actually follow a recipe with this kind of thing. So here is what I made for dinner recently (I can't only post recipes for baked goods, can I?) adapted from this recipe by Thai Kitchen. I tend to use a lot of their products anyway, because they are clearly labeled gluten-free. Disclaimer: Thai Kitchen doesn't know who I am, I just like their stuff.

Red Curry

1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 Tbs of GF red curry paste
1 can of coconut milk
1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
1 tsp brown sugar
1 ½ tsp GF soy sauce or fish sauce
½ tsp sirracha sauce (optional, adds some heat)

½ pound of chicken or beef, cut into ~1/2 inch pieces
½ large or 1 small red pepper, chopped into ~1/2 inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into diagonal slices
1 cup snow peas, cut in half
1 small bunch of bok choy or napa cabbage, cut into ~1 inch squares
other options: onion, Thai or regular eggplant, bamboo shoots, baby corn, whatever vegetables you like!

 Cut the meat and vegetables into the sizes indicated above, and set aside.

A whole pile of vegetables. You can make substitutions using vegetables that you like and have on hand. 

This was probably more like 1/3 pound of chicken.

Heat the oil over medium in a medium-sized stock pot. Stir the curry paste into the pan and heat for about a minute. Add the broth and coconut milk, then bring to a simmer, increasing heat to medium-high. Add the sugar and soy sauce, and stir well.

Stirring the curry paste into the hot oil. It splatters a little bit.

Coconut milk is amazing. If you want this to be lower calorie, you can use the lite milk, or even the coconut milk that comes in a carton. It will not be as rich, though.

Add the milk and broth. It looks a bit low here because at first I had only half of the can in the pot. Later I added the other half.

Add the meat and vegetables to the sauce, and stir periodically. The curry is done when the meat is cooked through, about 7-8 minutes of simmering.  

The pot was a little crowded.

The vegetables cook down after a few minutes.

Finished curry! Put it over rice and you have a good dinner.

Serve over rice or rice noodles. Serves 3-4.

Next time I will probably add in some basil leaves, but otherwise I really liked this!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Meyer lemon baking

I am perhaps one of the last food bloggers to have discovered the joys of the Meyer lemon, but I am glad to have baked with them finally! I love cooking with lemon because of the way the citrus can brighten a sweet or a savory dish; especially because many varieties only appear in stores in the winter, where they are like an edible ray of sunshine. Meyer lemons, though, are especially fantastic. They are a bit sweeter than a normal lemon, and smell somewhat floral. They are also only in stores for a little while in the winter here in the Pacific Northwest, which made me eager to cook with some.

I picked up a bag of Meyer lemons last week, mostly to juice and zest them, because I like to keep a little stash of lemon zest in the freezer for convenience. I then ended up making two different lemon-based baked goods. Both recipes turned out to taste quite pleasant.

First, some almond-lemon biscotti, made almost exactly the same as this recipe by the Gluten-free Girl. The main differences were that I used different flours (swapped brown rice for sweet rice and tapioca, and switched potato flour instead of potato starch) and almonds instead of pecans. I think the one thing I will change next time is to use more like a half-cup of sugar, these are more like a desert then a snack.

I also modified my scone recipe slightly. I swapped out the potato flour for buckwheat, and used 1/4 cup lemon juice instead of coconut milk. Also, I added the zest of a lemon into the dough, and added in an extra tablespoon of sugar. I felt like these needed something else, maybe poppy seeds or almonds, but they taste good regardless.

So, you should go make something with Meyer lemons while they are still in stores! They are a fantastic fruit.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pumpkin bread, gluten, dairy, sugar-free

 Yesterday was my six-month anniversary of going gluten-free. On June 2, I got a phone-call from my doctor, going over the results of some bloodwork, and was told I should stop eating gluten as soon as possible. I resolved myself to a life without gluten, and hopefully some relief from almost-daily joint pain, which on a bad day made it hard even to walk across campus. Now, months later, I have learned a lot and feel amazing compared to where I was in June. Like, I can go on hikes and don't need to spend two days recovering. I have more than two hours of energy each day. Not all of my symptoms are gone, but I am very happy with where I am at compared to just a few months ago. Cooking gluten-free still isn't intuitive, but I think I have gotten a lot better at it. There are very few things the Man has deemed inedible, anyway. So in conclusion, life is pretty awesome right now.

But gluten isn't the whole story. I am dairy-free now too, and I was a lot less dignified when I found that out in July. There were tears, and anger. Now, though, when someone finds out that I am gluten and dairy-intolerant, the reaction tends to be “That sucks, what do you eat?” I am happy to say that there is a lot I can eat. I just have to be a little more creative now. Creativity was part of what inspired this bread recipe.

This particular bread was my response to trying to accommodate a family member with a more limited diet then myself, so that she could eat some bread at our Thanksgiving gathering. There are a lot of good reasons to limit one's sugar intake, and if you make this using the stevia as a sweetener, then the only sugar in the bread is the little bit naturally in the pumpkin. When stevia-sweetened, the bread is almost savory. With the agave or honey, it is only slightly sweet. I enjoyed it both ways.

Pumpkin Bread

Gluten, dairy, and sugar-free

2 Tbs ground flax seed
3 Tbs near-boiling water

15 oz pumpkin puree
2 eggs
3 Tbs agave nectar or honey (see below for stevia substitution)
2 Tbs vegetable oil (or olive oil or melted butter)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup almond flour
½ cup brown rice or sorghum flour
½ cup buckwheat flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ginger
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large glass bowl, mix together the flax and hot water until they form a paste. Allow it to sit for a minute or two.

Flax seed paste replaces the need for xanthan gum, and adds structure to the bread.

Add in the pumpkin, eggs, agave, oil, and vinegar, and whisk together with an electric beater for a minute.  

Wet ingredients together. I know this is a whisk and not an electric beater; using the latter helps the bread rise more. A whisk works, though!

 Add the flours, salt, spices, baking soda and baking powder and stir together. The batter should be like somewhat fluffy muffin batter. Add a little extra water if needed.

Finished batter 

Grease a baking pan (or line with parchment paper) and pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, and allow the bread to cool before slicing, otherwise it will crumble.

Modifications: if you have a nut allergy, the almond flour can be replaced by another flour like sorghum or quinoa. An extra teaspoon or two of oil may be needed, though, as almond flour has a lot of fat in it.

To make this truly sugar free, replace the agave with two or three teaspoons of steavia powder, and add an extra egg white in with the wet ingredients.