Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bake Together - Piave Sables

So, with my usual efficiency (or utter lack thereof, which would be nearer the mark) I bring you my entry in Abby Dodge's Bake Together project for March.  The original recipe for Spicy Parmesan Sables appears on her blog.  So go check the original recipe, and then come back here.

My variation is gluten free, but still pretty easy.  I replaced the flour in the original recipe with 1-1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp GF AP flour., 1 Tbsp potato flour, 1 Tbsp whey powder, and 3/4 tsp xanthan gum.  I used left-overs from a variety of other recipes, including a batch of bread and a few other things, but any commercial blend will do.  King Arthur is a personal favorite of mine.
When it came to the cheese, I went to visit a local cheese monger and asked for a recommendation.  I came home with a block of piave.  So my sables contain 2 oz of piave:

I ran out into the garden, and while it's early Spring for west Michigan, the warm spell a week ago made it possible for me to find some lemon thyme and a little tarragon.

The dough worked up quite a bit better than I expected, shaping and forming into a brick easily.

They also browned nicely in the oven.  They did seem a bit more fragile than they should be, prone to crumble and slightly gritty.  Next time, I think I will make it a point to be sure that at least 1/3 of the flour mixture is starchy in nature, with most of that being potato starch.  But all in all, they were tasty and likely to be repeated.  Thanks again, Abby!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bake it Up Blue for Autism

It's almost April, and I'm sort of wondering how that happened.  But that also means that just around the corner on April 2 is "Light it Up Blue", one of Autism Speaks' awareness events.  I do plan to go down to Home Depot and grab a blue light bulb for the front porch.

And I'm also planning on doing one other thing - and I invite you to join me.  Let's Bake it Up Blue for Autism. Any time during the month of April, bake something "blue."  I'm game for anything.  You can use blue food color, or blueberries, or blue raspberry Jell-o - whatever strikes your fancy.  Post it to your blog and add the link to the Simply Linked widget below.  Or send me an E-mail and I'll add it to the Blog Hop list at the end of this post.  Don't have a blog?  That's OK, too.  Send me the picture and a little about your baked good and yourself, and I'll do a round-up at the end of the month.

Don't worry, not everything I post here in April will be blue.  But to get us started off, I give you:

Blueberry Vanilla Wafers

Blueberry Filling

1 c. blueberries (fresh or frozen)
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp water

Stir together sugar and cornstarch in a small dish.

In a small saucepan, heat blueberries if frozen until juice begins to release.

Stir in sugar/cornstarch mixture, water, and lemon juice.

Cook over medium-high until mixture boils and thickens.  Allow to cool, then blend with a stick blender to make more uniform.  Set aside.

Vanilla Batter

6 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 egg white
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 c. Fancy Flour Blend OR
1/4 c. millet flour
1/2 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a bowl, sift together flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together sugar and butter.

 Beat in egg white and vanilla.

 Scrape down sides of bowl, and alternately add flour mixture and milk.  Grab a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  Strip one side of the bag with the blueberry mixture.

 Fill the rest of the bag with the vanilla batter.  Squeeze out a little batter until the blueberry mixture and batter are flowing out together.  It doesn't have to be (and won't be) even, but there should be some of each.  Pipe quarter-sized dollops onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  It's OK if they are "cone heads" at the moment - they'll sink down during baking.

 Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until set and very slightly starting to brown.

Allow to cool on parchment paper a few minutes before removing to a rack to cool.
These were a big hit with my girls.  All in all, they had a good weekend.  My eldest got to go see Riverdance with her grandmother and I.  She enjoyed it, though the noise level did get to be a bit much for her.  The Princess, like many Autistic folks, has a sound sensitivity.  She has trouble filtering out noise so that she can focus on other things.  Have you ever been driving in a strange part of town, looking for an address or street and find yourself turning the radio off?  Eliminating the extra stimulus seems to help you concentrate, right?  Now imagine feeling like that all the time.  And consider joining me to Bake it Up Blue for Autism.  Again, just add your link to the list or drop me a note if you want to participate!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Meet Francesca

I don't spend all my time baking.  I also like to sew, among other things.  While I have a nice, computerized embroidery machine (not that I've ever used the embroidery unit), I've always wanted a treadle.  So I've been scouring the local antique stores, thrift shops, E-bay, and Craig's List.  As it turns out, treadle machines are common, but complicated to buy.  Every brand has different needles, shuttles, etc.
Today I picked up Francesca, a vibrating shuttle Damascus - made by the National Sewing Machine Company and sold from Montgomery Ward's mail order catalog.  I'm not sure just how old she is, since it's a bit too dark out to find the serial number tonight.

The decals are somewhat silvered and there is some wear on the top, but she does have all her attachments, shuttle, six bobbins, and the manual.

I promise, next post we'll get back to baking.  But feel free to comment:  Do you want to hear more about Francesca?  Or stick to the baking?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Luscious Lemon Drop Cupcakes

It was another 60+ degree day in the middle of March.  And, while it feels like Spring, actually messing around in my garden in any serious way would be foolhardy.  So lemon cupcakes will do for the moment, right?

I've got two versions for you.  The first is my version of Lemonhead candies in cupcake form.  The second is a GF, Dairy-free lemon pie cupcake.  Both use the same basic cupcakes, a riff on last week's cupcake recipe - sans kale.

Light Lemon Cupcakes

3 c. Fancy Flour Blend OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1/2 c. sweet rice flour
1 1/4  c. white rice flour
3/4 c. +2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
3/4 c. lemon/lime flavored carbonated water
1 tsp vanilla

Get all your ingredients together.  Two to three medium lemons should provide enough juice and zest.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
Sift together flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  (by the way, Mom got me these PourFect bowls for Christmas.  I love them.  Love, love, love.  They're spectacular for adding ingredients into the stand mixer while it's running, and for combining my dry ingredients to pour into another mixture later.)

Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and lemony.

Add the lemon zest, vanilla, and oil.  Beat till combined.  Add the dry ingredients alternately with the lemon juice and carbonated water, beating until smooth.

Portion into the cupcake liners with a 2 oz disher, and bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely.

Variation #1

Lemonhead Cupcakes


6 oz. chopped white chocolate
6 oz. lemon curd
4 Tbsp cream

Now, you can find many recipes hither and yon for lemon curd.  Any will work.  Or you can buy it.  Place your lemon curd and white chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler.  Heat and stir until smooth.  Whisk in cream.  Remove from heat and chill until cold.  Whip with a handmixer until light and fluffy.  Place in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  You can then insert the tip into the top of the cupcake and squeeze gently until it puffs up.


2 egg whites
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp corn syrup
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

In a stainless steel bowl, beat together the egg whites, water, sugar, and corn syrup for about 1 minute.  Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, add cream of tartar, and continue beating until frosting is fluffy and will hold peaks.  This takes about 7 minutes.  Place the frosting in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe onto each cupcake.


1/3 c. lemon juice
2 c. powdered sugar
dash salt
1 tsp vanilla
drop yellow food color

Place sugar and salt in a bowl.  Stir in vanilla, then begin adding lemon juice a little at a time until you reach a very thin consistency.  Stir in food color, if desired.  Dip each frosted cupcake into glaze, allow excess to run off, and set aside to dry.

These are fabulous cupcakes, with a tart, lemony exterior and a sweet interior.  Too much fun.

Variation #2:

Dairy-free Lemon Pie Cupcakes


1/4 c. lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
2/3 c. sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
3/4 c. water
2 egg yolks

Beat egg yolks with a fork, then whisk in 1/3 c. sugar.  In a small saucepan, combine remaining sugar and cornstarch.  Add egg mixture and whisk thoroughly - mixture will be somewhat dry.  Stir in lemon juice, zest, and water.  Cook and stir until thickened and just boiling.  Pour into a heatproof bowl, cover with plastic wrap - press wrap onto surface of filling, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.  With a sharp knife, cut a cone-shaped piece out of the top of each cupcake.  Fill with a small amount of lemon filling, replace just the very top of the cone piece that was removed.

Frost with the same frosting above, in the same manner.  Then, toast with a torch, if desired.  WARNING:  Be very careful doing so, and REMOVE THE PAPERS.  Unless, of course, you want to set them on fire.  Ask me how I know this.

Both versions are fabulous, lemony morsels.  Happy Almost-Spring!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TropiKale Cupcakes

I'll be honest, when leafy greens were chosen for the subject of this month's #lovebloghop I sort of went, "Arrrgghhhh!!!"  Let's face it, the sort of sweet baking I'm most fond of and the average leafy green don't go all that well together.  But it is almost St. Patrick's Day, and there was a little bit of inspiration with that.

TropiKale Cupcakes

8-10 oz. Kale
3 Tbsp lime juice
2 1/2 c. Fancy Flour Blend
1/2 c. millet flour
1 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca flour
2 Tbsp potato starch
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
dash salt
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
2 tsp lime zest
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
green food color, if desired
1/2 c. lemon/lime flavored carbonated water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake pan with paper wrappers.
Steam kale until just bright green and just starting to lose crispness.

Blend with lime juice to make a smooth puree.  Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, sift together flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat eggs until light and foamy.  Add sugar and beat until light and lemony.

Add 3 Tbsp of kale puree, lime zest, and vegetable oil, and food color if desired.  Beat until well combined.  Add flour mixture and mix until smooth.  Gently stir in carbonated water.
Fill cupcake papers with a 2 oz disher.  Bake for 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

3 oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp butter
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3-4 Tbsp crushed pineapple.

Cream together cream cheese and butter.  Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and beat until smooth.  Add remaining sugar alternately with pineapple until a spreading consistency is reached.  Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

So, sneak a little kale past your little leprechauns in some green cupcakes this St. Paddy's Day!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

After School Snack Cakes

I freely admit to being a child of the 80's.  Roller skating, neon shirts, headbands, the whole she-bang. And snack cakes.  You may also remember a certain brand of snack cake, named after a former First Lady and promoted by Snoopy and the gang.  Yes, that's right, Dolly Madison Zingers!
These days, they've been bought out by their competitor, Snoopy is gone, and they're just not the same.  Plus, my girls can't have them.  So I thought I'd make a homemade version.  These are based on a vintage recipe for Golden Cake.  But, rather than try to make an exact copy of the original cakes, I decided that I'd make a more decadent version.  They're not healthy, but they're not loaded with hydrogenated fat, either.  Especially if you use Spectrum shortening and Ghiradelli chips - neither of which contained hydrogenated fats.

Homemade Zingers

6 Tsbp butter
1 c. + 2 Tbsp sugar
2 ½ c. Fancy Flour Blend OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
3/4 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
3 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 c. milk
1 Tbsp vanilla
5 oz chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a mini loaf pan either by greasing and flouring, or with nonstick spray.  Now, normally, I don't like nonstick spray because it tends to be very difficult to clean off my pans and builds up in brown layers over time.  But I tried both, and had less of a sticking problem with the spray.  

In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and xanthan gum.  Set aside. 
Cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.

Add milk and flour mixture alternately, then beat on medium for about 2 minutes, until smooth.  Fill wells in mini loaf pan about 1/2 full.  A 2 oz disher made this easy and nearly perfect.

Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out clean.
Melt the chocolate.  Your choice of chocolate will determine how dark your chocolate cakes come out.    I used 70% Lindt chocolate, and got a medium chocolate. 

Now, if like me, you only have one loaf pan, stir the chocolate into the remaining batter, then wait until your vanilla cakes have baked, wash the pan, and regrease it.  Since our batter has been sitting for a while, stir in another 1/2 tsp of baking powder.  Then pour the chocolate batter into the pans and bake as before.
I filled mine with the Brave Tart's German Buttercream.  (Yep.  Again.  It's my go-to buttercream for lots of reasons.)  This time, I made a 1/2 batch, substituting 1/2 c. shortening for one stick of butter just for stability.  Load the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  This will allow you to poke into the cakes and gently squeeze in some filling.  Don't overdo it, or they'll "blow up."  I filled mine from the top, which will be covered by frosting anyway.

The original frosting isn't so much a frosting as a coating, and I didn't think that a sugar-based frosting was going to make an acceptable substitute.  So I went with whipped ganache, instead.

Whipped ganache

8 oz white chocolate chips
8 oz chocolate chips (I used 1/2 milk and 1/2 dark)
2 c. heavy cream

Place white chips in one bowl, and chocolate chips in another.  Heat the cream until it steams, and tiny bubbles form at the edges.  Pour 1 c. of cream over each variety of chips.  Allow to stand for 3-4 minutes, then stir until smooth.  Refrigerated until cold.  Beat on high speed until ganache is thickened and fluffy.  Frost cakes, then pull a serrated knife or a fork across tops to form the characteristic ridges.


You can store them in an airtight container, preferably in the fridge.  Though if your house is like mine, they won't last long enough to worry about it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

First on the First - Eclairs

OK, first confession.  It's not my first time making eclairs.  But it IS my first time with gluten-free eclairs, so that should count, right?
The recipe for these is a riff on the one in Chef Coppedge's Gluten Free Baking With the Culinary Institue of America.  The riff was mostly based on the fact that I don't keep his flour blends mixed up any more and I had to go with what was in my pantry.

1/4 c. unsalted butter
1/4 c. water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c. of GF AP flour (I used my blend, which isn't too different from the blend called for in the book. Any non-bean-based GF flour is probably OK)
2 Tbsp potato starch
1 Tbsp whey powder
1 Tbsp egg replacer
1 Tbsp guar gum
4 eggs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine flour, potato starch, whey powder, and egg replacer.  Set aside.
Bring butter, salt, and water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add flour mixture.  Stir until all liquid is incorporated.  Continue to cook and stir a few minutes more until mixture comes together in one mass, more or less.
Place batter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium until room temperature.  Sprinkle the guar gum over the top and mix to combine.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Transfer batter to a piping bag and pipe eclairs onto parchment paper.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until brown and crsipy.

And now it's maybe time for a second confession:  I'd forgotten all about First on the First until the 29th.  Oops.  And I get home from work on Wednesdays around 9 PM.  Also - I hate custard.  So what's a worn out girl with no time on her hands to do when it comes to filling her eclairs?
Maybe pull out the leftover German Buttercream from yesterday?

For the recipe, see the inestimable Brave Tart.
Thaw a pint of strawberries, and add 1/4 c. of sugar and 1 Tbsp of lemon juice?

Yeah, why not?  I did mash the strawberries, and then piped the buttercream into the sliced eclairs and spooned the berries on top.  You could drizzle them with some melted chocolate if you like.  I prefer my strawberries uncontaminated.

Next time I try these, I'll probably add about 1 Tbsp of sugar to the pate a choux - I think the eclairs would brown better.  I think I may also have overcooked the flour and butter mixture, as they didn't puff as much as I'd have liked and promptly fell as soon as they came out of the ove.
The still taste good, though!

See you next month!