Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Empress Turns Four

My youngest little darling, The Empress of Cute and Grand Duchess of Adorability, turned four years old this past weekend.  She got to visit her Grandparents, run through the sprinkler, eat popsicles and generally have a good time.

Once we got home, it was time to make cupcakes and send them to school for her to share with her classmates.  This recipe is pretty easy to make casein-free as well as gluten free if you need to.

I give you:

Peach Princess Cupcakes

Start by making a batch of hard candy (I flavored mine with peach oil) and use faceted gem molds for your candies.

Note, in the background you can see some royal icing and sugar gem tiaras that I'd tried to make.  It was too humid and sticky out - they collapsed when I took them off the waxed paper.  But, make your decorations and set them aside.


2 small peaches
2 Tbsp lemon juice
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 c. Fancy Flour Blend, other GF AP flour OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1/2 c. sweet rice flour
1 c. white rice flour
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch

2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg whites, beaten until just foamy
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
Peel and slice peaches and toss with lemon juice.  Puree.  Measure out 1 c. puree.  If you are a little short, fill in the gap with a little milk.  Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together sugar and butter.  Add the egg whites in three separate additions, blending well.  Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the dry ingredients and peach puree alternately.  Scrape down the bowl again.  Add the extracts, and beat on medium for two minutes.  I also added a drop of ivory and a drop of copper food coloring.

Portion into cupcake liners with a 2 oz disher.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Cool completely.  

Almond Buttercream

1/4 c. salted butter
1/2 c. shortening
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/4-1/2 c. milk
1 tsp almond extract

Cream together butter and shortening.  Add about 1 c. of powdered sugar.  Blend well.  Add almond extract and about 1 Tbsp of milk.  Continue adding sugar and milk in alternating additions until all sugar is incorporated and a smooth texture is reached, soft enough for piping.
For these cupcakes, I added several drops of ivory color and one drop of rose pink.  I piped the icing on the cupcakes with a shell tip, then sprayed them with pearl spray.  Then I added the sugar pearls and hard candy gems.
Ta-Da!  Cupcakes fit for a Princess!  Or even an Empress.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bake Together - Peach Cornmeal Muffins

Tonight I present you with my interpretation of Abby Dodge's Bake Together recipe for May.  Go visit Abby for the original recipe and to find out all about her Bake Together initiative.  Since I'm a fan of "Once Upon a Time" and I sort of want to see "Snow White and the Huntsman" - I opted to do a "Snow White" version.  Not with apples, but with white peaches and white cornmeal.

Now, when I read the recipe I thought to myself, "It makes six muffins?  Hmmm, that's a lot of work for 6 muffins."  So I opted to double it - keep that in mind when you read through my variation.  And, by the way - I ended up with 24 muffins and still through out some batter.  Not that I expect them to last very long.

So, if you want to follow along, I took Abby's recipe pretty closely.  But I used chopped white peaches instead of strawberries.  If you (like my husband) are unfamiliar with white peaches, they're a bit less tart and maybe more "peachy" than yellow peaches.  You'll probably only find them fresh.  You can make peeling them easier on yourself by dipping them in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then placing them in an ice bath.  Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice over the chopped peaches and set them aside for now.

As Abby instructs, place all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  I replaced the yellow cornmeal with white, the AP flour with a GF AP flour, and added 1/2 tsp. of xanthan gum.  (I also added some of King Arthur's Cake Enhancer - GF baked goods don't always keep well, and this helps).

The liquid ingredients are where I made most of the changes.  And most of those are just chemistry in action.  Well, and the fact that I was out of canola oil, so I used 6 Tbsp of melted unsalted butter.  Substitute 1 1/4 c.  whole milk for the buttermilk (remember, this was a double batch.  If you're making a single bathc - 1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp).  The buttermilk is there both for it's flavor and for it's acid.  Since we've put lemon juice in with our peaches, we don't really need it.  For flavoring, I added 1/2 tsp almond extract and 1 tsp vanilla.  Yes, the milk will curdle a little.  That's OK.

Now stir the liquids gently into the dry ingredients.  Here's where GF baking helps us out - it's pretty impossible to build gluten and make the muffins tough.  But overmixing is still to be avoided.

Bake as directed.

I topped mine with stabilized cinnamon whipped cream.  To make it, bloom 2 tsp of powdered unflavored gelatin in 2 Tbsp cold water.

In a bowl, begin whipping 2 c. of cream with 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp vanilla.  Once the cream starts to hold it's shape, gradually add 6 Tbsp of sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form.

Zap the bloomed gelatin in the microwave for about 45 seconds (maybe less.  My microwave is distinctly underpowered).  It should be melted and clear.  Pour it into the cream in a steady stream while continuing to beat.  Very quickly your cream will stiffen markedly.  It IS possible to overbeat this, so be careful.  The gelatin will help the whipped cream from getting watery for longer - it won't keep it from turning to butter if you over do.
Pipe onto muffins.

To quote my husband, these muffins "taste like summer."
Thanks again, Abby, for another great recipe!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Bit of Housekeeping and a Request

First, one of my sweet, gentle readers has nominated me for the Circle of Moms Top 25 Foodie Moms.  THANK you!!  If you're feeling the love, still, please click through the link here (or the one in the sidebar) and vote for me.  You can vote once a day for the next nine days.  I'm not allowed to bribe you to do it, but you'll have my love!

Finally, you'll note the little tab that now exists that says "Recipe Index."  I'm working on that.  I SEEM to have the page built, but Blogger doesn't want to display it.  I am now open to suggestions on fixing the technical issues from anybody who's familiar enough with the platform.

Thanks again, and I'll be back with more recipes later.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stem Fest 2012 (AKA TulipTime)

Today, in honor of my Holland's Tulip Time, I give you - Tulip Cupcakes.  The base white cake is from an old recipe for White Buttermilk Cake.  This is the first time I'd ever come across a buttermilk cake recipe that wasn't chocolate.  And it's just fabulous - soft and pillowy.  On top is an American Buttercream - mostly because it was easily tintable to dramatic shades, with a Royal Icing center.
Read on, MacDuff.
I can't call Holland, Michigan my hometown.  But it's not far away, and - without any intention to - we seem to end up wandering down for the TulipTime festival every Spring.  The problem with a Tulip festival in Michigan is that the tulips don't always cooperate.  And, this year, the unseasonably warm snap of weather in March brought them out much too early.  Which means that by the time of the festival, the only tulips blooming were on my daughters' coats:

Scouring the downtown area did finally reveal a few remaining blossoms, doggedly holding on
But there's lots of other fun to be had.  As with most festivals, there are the ubiquitous food trucks everywhere.  Unlike most other places, you can actually buy olliebollen (Dutch fried doughnuts) at them - choosing your topping.
Grab one and go watch the Dutch dancers.

This is one of the few places you'll see Dutch dance these days.  A friend of mine from the Netherlands visited Holland, Michigan at one point.  She commented that traditional dance isn't much seen there anymore - there's been a stigma about any such cultural activities since World War II.  In fact, she'd never seen it herself until she came to the US.
Holland is a lovely city, and during the Festival the "cute" knob gets turned up to 11.  A lot of the residents dress their children in costume as well.  (Most of the adults in costume are part of the Festival staff for some reason...).  And, while I'm not local, I'm of Dutch descent myself and for me the city and it's heritage are as comfortable as an old shoe.  Maybe an old wooden shoe.

Notably, klompen (wooden shoes) are not allowed in the stores.  So the off-duty dancers leave them in front of the shops while they browse.  These two little darlings were just leaving the a cafe when I snapped their picture.  Next year, I definitely need to make outfits for mine.

However, I was still a little sad for the city that most of the tulips looked more like this:

So I decided to make some tulip cupcakes, in honor of the missing Star of the Show at this year's Tulip Time.

(Yeah, they should be on a Delft plate, but - believe it or not - I don't have one.)  By the way, if you need to make these dairy free as well as gluten free, just use shortening or dairy-free margarine for the butter, and 1 Tbsp vinegar + enough almond or soy milk to make 1 c. for the buttermilk.

White Buttermilk Cupcakes (ca. mid 1950's)

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 c. sugar
3 c. Fancy Flour Blend, other GF AP Flour, OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1/2 c. sweet rice flour
1 c. white rice flour
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 c. buttermilk
4 egg whites, beaten until just foamy
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.
Comine flour, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar.

Add about 1/4 of the flour mixture.  Blend until combined.  With mixer on low, add about 1/4 c. of buttermilk, again mixing until combined.  Continue alternating flour and buttermilk until all of both are integrated.

Add the egg whites, and beat on medium until all is smooth.
Portion into cupcake liners.  A 2 oz disher will give you a near perfect size, and nearly always 24 cupcakes.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool completely.


For the cupcake centers, I chose to make Royal Icing add ons, to represent the bold black portion in the bottom of a tulip blossom.  There are lots of recipes for Royal Icing, so go find your favorite.  I'm fond of the one by Callye of Sweet Sugar Belle.  Keep the consistency quite stiff, and tint the icing black.  Using a drop flower tip (the one that's shaped like a star, but has a metal rod in the center) pipe out 1" diameter "centers" for your tulips.  Let them dry thoroughly
Then, make a full recipe of American buttercream.  The one I usually use is below.  Again, if you want these to be GF and CF, use soy or almond milk and some dairy-free margarine.

1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
2 lbs powdered sugar
2-4 Tbsp milk
1 tsp almond extract

Cream together the butter and shortening.  Add about a cup of sugar.  Blend.  Add the almond extract and a tiny bit of the milk.  Continue alternating sugar and milk until all sugar is incorporated and the icing is a stiff, but pipable consistency.

Remove about 1 c. of icing and tint it green.  Place it in a piping bag with a large leaf tip, or just cut a parchment cone into a leaf tip shape.
Divide the remaining icing in half.  Tint half deep yellow, and the other half red.  Load a vinyl piping bag fitted with a large star tip with both colors of icing - placing one on each side of the bag.
Pipe a small star onto the center of each cupcake, and affix the centers.
Then pipe around each center with the red-and-yellow swirl icing.
Finally, use the leaf tip to pipe three large leaves around the edges of each cupcake.
So, even though this year was "Stem Fest"," you can still enjoy some tulips, wherever you are.

And next year, come visit Holland for Tulip Time.  We might even have tulips!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Full Moon Friday

I apologize for the radio silence over the last week or so.  May is a busy month around here as the kids' school programs wind down.  My birthday was this week, so I spent a little time doing girlie stuff - a make-up consultation and the like.  Then got a little ill.  Let this be a lesson to you:  If you bring your lunch to work, be sure that the fridge stays cold enough!

All that aside, I wanted to give you something fun this weekend.  Now, I'm not Southern by any stretch.  I'm a Michigan girl through and through, even pining a little when I get too far from the lakes.  But even I know about this Southern classic:

Moon Pies!  Gluten free, of course.
First, the graham cracker.  You could roll these and cut them out.  I'm lazy.  I give you my method.

Graham Crackers

1/2 c. teff flour
2-3/4 c. Fancy Flour Blend, other GF AP flour OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1/2 c. sweet rice flour
1 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c. butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp molasses
1/4 c. honey
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper
In a bowl, mix teff flour, AP flour blend, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Set aside
Cream together butter and brown sugar.

Beat in molasses, honey, eggs and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth and thick.  Place dough onto a large piece of parchment paper.  Form into a log about 2-1/2" in diameter.  Wrap in paper and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Cut log into 3/8" thick slices.  Flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in sweet rice flour.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set.  Allow to cool.

Chocolate coating

12 oz. dark chocolate
2 oz. coconut oil

Combine in the top of a double boiler until smooth and melted.  (If you're really feeling adventuresome, temper the chocolate.  You'll get that lovely glossy finish and characteristic "snap".  If you're not - do what I did and store them in the fridge).
Coat the bottoms of half the cookies with chocolate and put them in the fridge to set.


1/2 c. water, divided
1 pkt unflavored gelatin
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Place 1/4 c. cold water in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Sprinkle gelatin powder over the top and allow to bloom.

In a saucepan, combine the other 1/4 c. water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.

Cook until mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat.  Turn mixer on medium and pour syrup down the side of the bowl.  You'll find there is a "sweet spot" where you're not pouring the syrup down the full length of the bowl and yet you're not pouring it into the whisk, either.

Beat on high until white, fluffy, and able to hold soft peaks.  Place into a piping bag fitted with a smallish (Wilton #12) tip.  Remove the cookies from the fridge and turn back over.  Pipe marshmallow on the top of the chocolate-bottomed cookies.

Top with the plain cookies and press down slightly.

Place on a rack over a baking sheet and spoon melted chocolate over the tops, spreading with the back of a spoon.

So, get a Coke, have a Moon Pie, and enjoy the Spring!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

First on the First - Pretzels

I freely admit - I struggled this time.  Gluten-free pretzels are hard.  And I don't mean in a crunchy sort of way.  I tried a couple recipes for those wonderful soft pretzels.  Ick.  The major problem is that most gluten free doughs that I've worked with are more like batters.  I can pour my bread dough into the pans. I certainly can't knead it.  Let alone roll it into strips and wind it into pretzel shapes.

So after much tinkering around, I decided to ditch standard pretzels for krakelingen - Dutch sweet pretzel cookies.  My main source was this recipe from the Flourgirl.  I followed it pretty faithfully, replacing the flour with an equal amount of gluten free flour plus 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum.

And I cheated and used Geraldine.  Yes, kerchief and all.  (Remind me to take a picture of her soon with her little apron.  It's very cute, too.

I chilled the dough, as instructed.  Then found I had to let it warm up quite a bit before it was workable.  I did manage to roll it into "snakes" of dough.

I folded these into pretzel shapes, then dipped them into a small bowl of sugar.  Where they promptly fell apart and had to be sort of pushed back into shape on the baking pan.

Coming off the baking pan was no better.

I'd nearly given the whole thing up as a loss, but my smallest child was delighted with them.  She kept coming back to the plate and grabbing the broken pieces.  So maybe I'll try it again - doubling the amount of xanthan gum and possibly increaseing the ratio of starches to bulking flours in my flour blend.  (More tapioca/potato starch, less rice/millet flours)

It has also occurred to me that I might have some success going for a more traditional crunchy pretzel - if I pipe the dough into shape rather than trying to roll it.  I won't get the "twist" in the center, but I can get pretty close.

What do you think?