Delightful Daffodil Cake

I know I promised to write about pie every week this whole year but sometimes it is all about using the ingredients you got.  I had some egg whites in the freezer and had to use them up. Defrost and I had everything else in the fridge or pantry: go cake. This post is an exception to my pie a week for 2016 rule; ‘cause it is so freaking delish. Looks mostly like an angel food cake but it is an old fashioned confection known as a daffodil cake.  I found the recipe in my 1970s Betty Crocker, a great standard of a cookbook.  Was making it for many years before my diagnosis with celiac so once I got comfy baking gf I figured I could make it gf and it is perhaps even better than it was with gluten based flour.

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I made one this weekend, it turned out perfect and I dropped by with two slices for my mom, suddenly she started talking about how I should learn to make gf cake so I can have some too! Apparently this cake (and ones in the past) have been so incredibly good she can’t believe any of them are gluten free!! I assured her, again, that I only bake and cook gluten free. Not sure she believed my words; a measure of how incredibly good this cake is as I’m generally known for my honesty.

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So all you gluten free disbelievers, this cake will change your mind. It is tender, moist and delicately flavored, not to mention very pretty and perfect in spring.  It is after all, a daffodil cake and spring is the only time in the year they bloom. Make some now folks! It makes a wonderful birthday or party cake; you could put a thin vanilla powdered sugar glaze on top to make it fancy for such an occasion.

Notes: I save egg whites; in a Tupperware container in the freezer, until I have a cup of them.  Then I am ready to put this beauty together. Or just use enough eggs to make a cup of whites. If you don’t have guar gum you can use xanthan gum.

A few words on separating eggs: this can be tricky and I have learned via bad experiences not to separate directly into the measuring cup full of whites; do it into a small bowl and dump. You can NOT get ANY egg yolk in the whites or they won’t beat properly.  Best to set any egg that breaks or becomes contaminated with even a speck of yolk aside and make an omelet for supper! I crack each egg on the edge of my counter, split its shell in half and dump it over one cupped hand. The white flows through into the bowl underneath and I drop the yolk into the mixing bowl. Be gentle so the yolk does not break  Don’t use old tired eggs or the yolks are more likely to break; fresh is best but they need to come to room temperature before cracking so the whites beat to a high volume.  FYI: When baking gf all ingredients should be room temperature unless the recipe tells you otherwise.

Put the yolks in the medium mixing bowl and add those six whites in with the other cup of whites: 1 ½ cup total egg whites.  I know, a crazy lot of eggs in this but remember, no fat what-so-ever! Angel food cake is a good choice for your diabetic friends, or so they say. I just think those folks love a good angel food cake. This cake is even better, a masterpiece of delicate melt in your mouth cakey delight.

 

Angie’s I Can’t Believe it’s GF Daffodil Cake

1 cup egg whites (room temp)

6 whole large eggs (room temp)  separated

1 ¼ cup powdered sugar

1 cup brown rice flour blend (recipe below)

½ tsp guar gum

1 ½ tsp. cream of tarter

¼ tsp salt

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

½ tsp. almond extract

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Put baking rack on second slot from the bottom.  You need a ten inch tube pan with removable bottom, do not spray.

Mix well and sift the powdered sugar, flour, guar gum into a bowl, at least once. Or twice.

Pour the egg whites (should add up to 1 ½ cups) into a stand mixer bowl, add cream of tarter and salt.  Start at medium speed.  Beat until foamy, increase speed until high, wait for soft peaks and add the cup of granulated sugar a tbsp or two at a time as it beats.  No bowl scraping or stopping.  Beat at highest speed until you have stiff peaks.  Beat briefly after adding the two flavoring extracts. Set aside.

In small bowl beat the 6 egg yolks about 4 minutes until thick and lemon yellow colored.

Fold the flour mixture into the egg whites, I do about a quarter cup at a time sprinkled all over the top and I fold it with a spatula or spoonula.  A spoonula is a rounded spatula, great for lifting up stuff in a mixing bowl and scraping it clean. Be gentle and smooth; don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly smoothly mixed.  Put about half of the mixture into a separate large mixing bowl.  Add the beaten egg yolks; gently fold until it is pretty well blended.

Put big glops of the plain mixture into the baking tube pan; I like 3 big ones.  Put three big glops of the yellow blended mix between them. Top with more glops of the mixes, using it all up.  Gently stir through the pan with your spoonula to swirl it a bit and smooth the top with the spoonula.

Put into preheated oven, bake 35 minutes, until when you press gently on the top it springs back.

Remove from oven, turn it over and hang on an empty wine bottle neck or a big funnel. Let cool totally in this upside down state before cutting it out of the pan. I use a sharp serrated bread knife, cut around the outside edge and the center tube. Lift it out and then slice under the cake all around.  Place a cake plate over the top and gently flip it.

I store it in a plastic cake saver or just in the microwave away from breezes and hungry folks.  You could wrap it in plastic wrap too. It is best eaten within 3 days.  It generally doesn’t last that long around here.

Brown Rice Flour Mix base mix 

(This mix is the same as King Arthur’s basic gf blend)
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

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This recipe is a variant of the angel food cake you will find in Annalise Roberts’ Gluten-Free Baking Classics cookbook.

 

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Josh’s Giant Muffin

In the interest of friendship and my natural curiosity I finally baked a very special muffin for my friend Josh, lover of the giant muffin!  I know some of you folks are fans of huge muffins. It was a gigantic banana nut chocolate chip muffin and it took enough batter for two regular muffins to fill each giant muffin portion: that’s a lot of batter! They were baked them in this oversized muffin tin someone gave me years ago, never used, so no worries on gluten filled crumbs in crevices.

I used my regular recipe with no alterations and baked them a few minutes longer.  Success!  Moist flavorful muffins with perfect texture.  And they were gorgeous, bakery worthy looks. Still, I was only able to eat half at a time.

Not sure I will be always making giant muffins, I tend to like small snacks but for you big muffin lovers; just know that you will get half as many muffins and I suggest you bake it 5 extra minutes, test it with a skinny cake tester and let it cool about 10 minutes in the pan before removing them to finish cooling on a cake rack.

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The giant muffin is on the left; two small ones on the right.  All tasty!

I ate a giant one the day after baking, it was still so fresh and tasty.  I froze Josh’s muffin so it would be fresh for him.  I did tell him that it was frozen a few days and that he should plan to eat it that day.  He misunderstood and waited a day more. It was getting crumbly but he said the flavors were fantastic, especially the chocolate chips.  Gluten free baked goods has a shorter shelf life plus mine have no preservatives.  That’s why I freeze them and defrost the day I am consuming.

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In conclusion, giant muffins are no big deal; no more work, just need that honking big muffin pan and you are set to go.  Bake them 5 to 7 minutes extra; I put in my cake tester and eye balled them just to be sure; they looked done, tester said done. Done.

Tasty.  But, that big muffin was too much food for my normal snack size.  Still, for company; they might be just the ticket for breakfast.  If you love giant muffins; feel free to use any of my multitude of muffin recipes for those big boys.  Test for doneness and let them cool longer in the metal pan as they are so big they will take longer to be ready to safely lift out of the pan. Enjoy!

Buckwheat Gnocchi with Clams and Rabe

Anyone who eats at my house knows my deep love of authentic Italian food.  I love many different dishes from spaghetti with meatballs to risotto to homemade pasta and sauce.  This post is about gnocchi. Specifically gnocchi made with ricotta cheese rather than potato.  I love their delicate flavor, light texture and how much easier they are to make than the potato version. I make plain ones with rice flour and will share that recipe some other post. Just don’t ask me how to pronounce gnocchi!

These are buckwheat gnocchi and are served with clams and broccoli rabe.  Yeah buckwheat.  No wheat in it; buckwheat is a relative of rhubarb and it has a homey flavor that somehow matches perfectly with the clams and bitter greens.  I have been making this dish for more than ten years; gf the past three years.  It is a traditional spring dish at my house and much loved by my daughter. Not that tricky, I promise you can make it, no fancy pasta machine required. No long process.  Roll, cut, press with fork and briefly boil.

It is a spring dish as broccoli rabe is best right now, bright green, snappy flavor and so good for you.  I cook it a few minutes in boiling water before draining and sautéing briefly in olive oil and garlic. Yumm!

You could use fresh clams but I never bother; if you do – please get tiny ones and save a bit of the cooking water to add to the sauce.  If you want to make it not gf; just use all purpose flour for the white rice flour. Most grocery stores now carry buckwheat flour; store the bag in your freezer please so it keeps longer.

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Gnocchi in my mini wok and ready to serve.

Buckwheat Gnocchi with Clams and Rabe

For the gnocchi

1/3 cup buckwheat flour mixed with

½ cup white rice flour or any blend

1 15 ounce jar of ricotta (whole milk is best)

¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese; fine grater side

1 ½ tsp. sea salt

Sauce:

1 lb broccoli rabe

1 large can tiny whole clams or 2 small cans chopped/minced clams

¼ cup EVOL

2 garlic cloves minced

1 tbsp. butter

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions: Heat a big pot of salted water.  While it heats, rinse the broccoli rabe and remove any yellowed leaves.  Cut the very bottom of the stems off and discard.  Cut the stems into 1 inch lengths. Do the same for the rest of the rabe; I set aside the stems and cook them one minute extra.  Throw the rabe stems in the boiling water, cook one minute and add the rest.  Cook maybe 3-4 more minutes; you don’t want it overcooked but not firm either.  Drain and set aside.

Mix all the gnocchi ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Turn out onto a rice floured bread board, knead briefly to form a dough. Do not add a lot of flour or your gnocchi will not be light and pillowy. Take a half cup or so at a time and roll it out on a rice flour dusted bread board; as thick as your middle finger (read ¾-1 inch).  I usually only roll out 5-6 inch lengths at a time.  They don’t have to be perfect looking, a bit irregular is just fine. Cut into 1 inch lengths (one knuckle long).  Using two forks press gently on the top and bottom to form small ridges.  This will somewhat flatten the gnocchi but the ridges are to hold sauce. Lay on cutting board that you dusted with rice flour. Don’t pile them on top of each other; one layer so they don’t stick together. Form all the dough while a big pot of salted (1 tsp) water heats.  I like a wide pan so I can easily fish out the gnocchi with my flat skimmer.  Put ¼ of the gnocchi in the bubbling water.  Let them slowly rise to the top; I leave them in about 3 minutes. I put them into a glass mixing bowl as I do the batches.

While they are cooking, heat the olive oil in a big sauce pan. I like to use my mini wok for this.  It is great for finishing a lot of pasta dishes.  Add the garlic and stir, cook 1 minute.  Add the drained greens, cook 1-2 minutes, adding the clams as it cooks, all the can juices too. Add the cooked gnocchi, the butter and if they seem dry; add a bit of the pot water; maybe ¼ cup. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

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They warm up nicely for a meal the next day, keeps 1-2 days in the fridge.

The original recipe is from Italy Al Dente by Bibi Caggiano; adapted to be gf by me. I love this cookbook, use it often; my fav Italian cookbook.  SO many good recipes; has risotto in it as well as homemade pastas and sauces and recipes that use factory pasta.  It works quite well with gf pastas.

Kefir Grain ABCs; Easy and Cost Effective

Back around Christmas I posted about making kefir for improving the health of your digestive system. I was making it with dehydrated kefir powder I got at a health food store. I had heard about kefir made from “grains” that could be reused. Again and again.  Sounds kinda magical doesn’t it?

Well, I did some research online and found that yes, there is such a thing as kefir grains.  They are not grains like we think of, more like a starter clump.  I couldn’t find the grains at any local stores but I found a guy on Craig’s List who was selling enough to get started.  We met in the parking lot of a Dunkin Donuts in Montgomerville, PA. Seemed somehow illicit swapping kefir curds in a baggie for my $10!  He turned out to be a very nice young man who enjoys making and drinking kefir with his wife.  He gave me some advice and coaching on the process for a couple of weeks via emails.

Basic directions: all you do is put the gently rinsed grains (they look like soft cauliflower cut into small flowerets) into a glass or ceramic jar, pour in milk; no need to heat.  Best is raw milk, next best organic whole milk or try two percent. I don’t suggest you make it with skim milk.  I do the raw milk but my quart of it doesn’t keep very long…as I only make a pint of kefir at a time.  Anyway, pour in the milk, put a loose lid on it and let it stand on the kitchen counter top for a day to 36 hours.  I stir mine occasionally as I walk by.  It will clump up – the curds rise to the top. Plastic or wooden stirrer….no metal.

Once it gets thickened you strain out the curds, being gentle with them.  Put the jar of kefir in the fridge to chill and put the curds in a glass jar and just cover with milk, put that also in the fridge; retards the kefir grains; basically brings the process to a halt. For detailed information check out this site: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-milk-kefir-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-202022.

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I drink it cold for a snack.  You can mix it with fruit juice. I sometimes have it over crushed pineapple. It is sort of like buttermilk and yogurt had a baby; thick liquid, tangy flavor.  Great for your gut.  Full of far more probiotics than the stuff you can make using the powdered kefir. Which is what I did before.  Now I have my kefir grains and I don’t need anything but the milk to make it with.  And it is better for you.  I did buy a small plastic strainer; you shouldn’t really use metal in connection with making or storing kefir.

If you have celiac or any sort of gut issues kefir is a great healthy choice to incorporate into your life style.  I hear you can even make it with coconut milk.  Not tried that yet.  Maybe someday…  Meanwhile I have tasty, healthy authentic kefir when ever I want it.

Super Spring Salads

Early spring is not known as the season for great salad but it could be! I am giving you several salad options in this post. Try your own blends but it is best not to throw everything in the fridge in it.  Try to be selective and highlight only a couple ingredients.  Simple ones I enjoy have only three – five ingredients and I use my homemade vinaigrette dressing.   They are pretty healthy and probably fairly low in calories yet high in nutritional value.  These are basic recipes which you can tweak depending on the ingredients in your fridge

Avocado Celery Salad (serves 1)

½ an avocado

1 celery stalk

3-4 leaves of green loose leaf lettuce

2-3 tbsp. fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)

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Or try this yummy salad which shows off citrus flavor and color:

Citrus Fennel Salad (serves one or two)

1 inner stalk of celery cut in 1/3 inch rounds

1 navel orange

1/2 cup fennel bulb, cut in ¼-1/3 inch slices

Peel the orange, either by hand or using a paring knife.  Cut across into rounds about ¼-1/3 inch across.  Cut again across into halves.

Fennel has a sweet crunch to it, faintly tasting of licorice, kinda sort of and it marries really well with citrus.  I also like to use tangerines, Clementines, blood orange or cara cara navel oranges in this recipe.  Even grapefruit slices are great.  Cara cara oranges have an interesting orange-pinkish cast to the fruit and a lovely sweet flavor. My local Giant grocery store has them on display right now.  You can also mix two citrus in your salad; a navel and a blood orange.  Fantastic!

I also make this same salad but instead of an orange I use a half to 3/4 cup of cubed fresh peeled ripe papaya; gives a lot of color and great flavor in this salad.

Finishing directions for these salads:

Place the salad ingredients in your salad dish; I have some very low sided ceramic bowls I got a long time ago that I love for salad. Then sprinkle the salad with vinaigrette which you just shook up one more time! Please don’t add too much salad dressing or you will have soggy salad.

Margie’s Vinaigrette

I named this after my older sister who passed away three years ago.  She made fantastic vinaigrette.  Mine is not quite like hers but close enough to masquerade as it.  She would approve….

So, I like to use one of those Good Seasoning’s jars but add my own ingredients, use a pint jar if you like; the main thing is a tight fitting lid.  Fill it to the vinegar line with red wine vinegar, not the cheap store brand (skimpy 1/4 cup).  Then some filtered water to the water line (about 1/3 inch more or two tbsp.). Next I add 1 tsp Dijon mustard, ½ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp dried oregano or dried thyme, one garlic clove (peeled and mashed down a bit to release flavor), 1 tsp mayonnaise, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper and ½ tsp sugar. Then add extra virgin olive oil, stop a bit before the oil line and finish it with lighter olive oil (1/2 cup plus one tbsp of combined olive oils).  Shake it up really well. Then shake it some more, you need to get the mayo to blend in as completely as possible. It tastes best at room temperature and plan ahead – let it rest for at least an hour before you use it the first time.  Keep it in the refrigerator if there is any left over, lasts like a month in there. The mustard adds snap and the bit of mayo helps the dressing stay emulsified (fully blended) longer than it would without the mayo.  If your salad is delicate and you don’t want as much olive oil flavor use only mild olive oil and skip the EVOL.  If you chill the dressing you will need to let it warm up before using it; ten seconds in the microwave can help with that process.

Note: You could up the nutritional value with a few almonds or walnuts if you like nuts in your salad.

More ideas: I make any number of salad combos depending on what is in my fridge.  Two of my favorite ingredient combinations are: shredded carrot, sliced radishes, chickpeas, romaine and half rounds of European cucumber or a mixture of torn kale leaves, shredded raw Brussels sprouts, scallion rounds and julienned raw summer squash.  Both mixtures are great with this vinaigrette.

Last thought: I avoid tomatoes in winter or spring although some of the grape tomatoes are decent in flavor; use them if you feel the need for tomatoes. One last note: I don’t use tomatoes with citrus or papaya; sort of weird together.

So, go get your healthy green on and enjoy a fruity salad anytime of the year.

Peanut Butter Beauties

Making a batch of these tonight; just what I crave. I searched long for this old fashioned peanut butter cookie recipe and making my own version turned out to be a great move. Yummer!

My World Without Wheat

I keep hearing about recipes for three ingredient peanut butter cookies. I wanted something a bit more actual cookie texture (think less greasy) and with less sugar than the versions I have come across. So I decided to play with the proportions and I wanted to add some gf flour. I cut the sugar by one fourth and dumped in a small amount of flour. To make sure my results weren’t like a brick I added some baking powder and to keep them from being incredibly crumbly messes I tossed in a touch of xanthan gum. The resulting dough was still a tad crumbly but when you scrunch up about a tablespoon with your fingers it forms a ball that can be flattened with a fork dipped in granulated sugar in the traditional cross hatch of all great peanut butter cookies.

The results: simple but tasty = peanut butter heaven…

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Easy Cherry Berry Muffins

People may wonder why I post muffin recipes fairly often.  Well, it’s simple: those cute things are so easy to make and so delicious… They are my go to gf snack.  They never turn out heavy or gummy: always tender and delightful not to mention healthy.  Best of all they taste much better and are cheaper than most readi-made store gf snack bars.

Turning to my trusty muffin recipe I decided to try a new variant; cherry and berry because I got a bag of frozen dark cherries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. I was thinking I would get a similar texture to previous berry muffins especially using my basic, easy to dump together, recipe. It’s so easy; I think I can almost do it in my sleep! Plus the frozen berries might actually be of better quality than fresh ones in the produce section at the grocery store right now; it is not berry season yet, hardly seems like spring at the present folks!

I’m emphasizing how simple they are to bake so that you can feel comfortable making your own muffins even if you have never done it before.  Why buy them when you can make your own: tasty and far cheaper than GF muffins you can buy? Seriously simple and a big reward; 14-16 tasty treats for less money.

This batch of muffins did not disappoint: delicate texture yet slightly crunchy outside with zingy cherry, blackberry, raspberry and blueberry flavors and just enough sugar for me.  I used the bag of mixed fruit I got from Giant grocery store straight out of the freezer -don’t defrost them before adding.  I suggest you use a paring knife and chopped up the larger fruits for this recipe. You can buy a bag of what ever berries float your boat or fit your budget. That’s the beauty of this recipe, flexibility.

The streusel topping insures that they look gorgeous and adds an extra layer of flavor.  There are walnuts in them to so you get some really great nutrients from the fruit and nuts.  Not much guilt in eating one of these treats! You can swap the white sugar for coconut palm sugar as I do: it barely raises blood sugar levels, unlike white sugar.  Loving the envious looks people give me whenever I chow down on a berry muffin as they eat some noxious bag of salty/sugary snack full of preservatives and who knows what. People are envying ME and my GF treat…Loving it! Much better than the pity party I can face when there is nothing safe for me to eat at school or at gatherings.

As always I taste tested a muffin from the batch while they were still warm out of the oven: at the moment of perfection.  This version is up there with all the other flavors of muffins I am addicted to.

It is smart to freeze any you won’t eat in two days time; a zip lock freezer bag works great.

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Cherry Berry Muffins

2 cups brown rice flour mix (see below)

2/3 cup granulated sugar or coconut palm sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

¾ tsp. xanthan gum

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp. dried ginger

1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 large eggs

½ cup milk, 1 or 2 percent

½ cup canola oil

Topping: Mix the following in a bowl, make sure the butter is in tiny pebbles; use your fingertips to blend.

½ cup rolled oats

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. almond meal

1½ tbsp. butter

¼ tsp. cinnamon

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Directions: Heat oven to 375 degrees, placing the rack in middle of oven.  Spray muffin pans with cooking spray.  One batch makes 14-16 muffins.  I got 16 when I made them but if you make them really full I am guessing it will make a dozen.

Mix all dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer or big bowl Add fruits and walnuts; stir to coat them with dry mix.  Combine milk and oil in a a small bowl.  Beat in eggs, add vanilla.  Add liquids to big bowl; stir just until blended.  It is a very thick batter. If you used the coconut palm sugar be sure to add ¼ cup extra milk.

Fill muffin pans 2/3 full.  I use a big serving spoon and fill it about half way to dump in each muffin space. Sprinkle the top with the topping. Press it in a bit so it won’t all flake off after baking. Bake 21-23 min until golden brown. Do not over bake or they will taste dry.  Remove immediately from the pans and cool on a rack.  They freeze well for a few weeks, if they last that long.  Keeps in fridge (well wrapped) or an airtight cookie jar for two days.

Brown Rice Flour Mix base mix 

(This mix is the same as King Arthur’s basic gf blend)
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

This recipe is a variant of the muffins you will find in Annalise Roberts’ Gluten-Free Baking Classics cookbook.