June 2008


This month’s Daring Baker’s challenge, hosted by Kelly of Sass and Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’ was to make a braided Danish. The second I saw the challenge, I started sweating bullets. This seems to be a theme for me with Daring Bakers. I had no idea how gluten-free flours would behave in a laminated dough, and I planned for failure. Actually, I planned for multiple failures, going so far as to find an alternate recipe in case I really struggled. Surprisingly though, my braid came off without a hitch. I tried sharing my technique, but other gluten-free bakers using similar flours struggled (nobody used the exact same combination). Over the course of the month, it became clear that part of the problem was the way gluten-free doughs behave in the fridge. Sweet rice flour (also known as gelatinous rice flour) holds up to refrigeration better than most, but refrigerating a dough overnight or for five hours, might not be the best plan. Several other gluten-free bloggers had success cutting the fridge time down to 10 minutes between turns and 30 minutes in the freezer before the final shaping. I think these times sound a little quick… the butter needs a chance to harden again or you will lose the flakiness. If I did it again, I would still let the dough rest 30 minutes between turns. But I would definitely cut the final fridge time down from five hours to something more like one or two (or use the freezer for 30). I have changed the directions to reflect these changes.

For the record, I would definitely make these danishes again. In fact, I meant to, all month. But, I’m trying to look good in a bathing suit this summer, and I devoured my entire braid in less than 24 hours, with minimal sharing. Needless to say, a repeat performance was not going to help my waistline. Still, my braid was flaky and flavorful. I loved the flavor of cardamom and orange in the pastry and the simplicity of the cinnamon-sugar and walnut filling. I will play more with the filling next time, but sometimes combinations are classic for a reason.

You can almost see the flakiness in this picture:

Recipe after the Jump

Nothing gets this girl as excited as the words “pig roast” or “pulled pork.” I think I could live without chicken, and maybe even beef, but not pig. I love me my pig. So last weekend, I went with a friend to a pig roast. I imagined heaping platters of all you could eat pork, unfortunately, there was nothing “all you can eat” about this roast. Still, we happily licked our platters clean and moved on to the drinking portion of the evening. Until midnight rolled around and I exclaimed, “I want more pig.” We didn’t actually satisfy that craving on the spot, but the next day, still craving some good southern comfort food, I proceeded to make pulled pork. I don’t have a smoker, so I made my pork in the slow cooker. It still tasted great, and while it lacked a little smoky flavor, I will definitely make this again (though I’m curious what the effect of some liquid smoke might be). I also made the Gluten-Free girl’s arepas, and the combination was spectacular. So if you are craving some pork-y goodness, give this recipe a try.

Recipe after the Jump

So this post is officially almost an hour too late… But Kristen, I love you, and I wish I was there to bake you another cake like this:

Happy birthday darling! For those of you who are curious, what you see pictured is a chocolate cheescake, on a chocolate wafer crust, with chocolate chunks and a chocolate ganache. The raspberry is just there for color, after all, my Kristen is a chocoholic. Can’t you tell from her face?

Today I was trying to have a perfect day. I slept in, I spent a little time this morning relaxing on my deck and watching my garden grow. Then I read for a couple of hours, biked to the coffee shop, and read for a couple more hours, before allowing myself to venture out on a shopping mission. I explored a new (to me) bike route from Decatur to Little Five Points, bought my baby sister a birthday present, and biked home. Soaring along alone on my bike, I felt perfectly happy, and I was convinced the day was only going to get better.

After all, I was planning on seeing Casablanca at the Fox theater tonight. I’ve never been to the Fox, and Casablanca on the big screen in an old school theater sounded amazing. Unfortunately, life intervened in the form of unexpected and unwarranted ugliness, and before I knew it I was canceling on the movie and wallowing on my couch. But that isn’t really where I want to be, or how I want to feel. So I’m choosing to let go and move on. While it is too late to catch the movie, it isn’t too late to stop wallowing.

But before I get off my couch, I’m going to leave you with a recipe, or two. I made this dinner last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. The margarita shrimp taste perfectly summery and pair beautifully with the coconut rice. I found that I liked the rice best with both raw coconut and toasted coconut mixed in and spring onions sprinkled on top, but it is also good plain.

Recipes after the jump

I came across a recipe for saffron and cardamom panna cotta the other day and thought to myself, why make panna cotta when you can make ice cream? So, I played with the recipe a little bit and ended up feeling quite smug when I tasted the results. Imagine the best rice pudding you’ve had at an Indian restaurant, minus the rice, and cold. It was perfect for these 90 degree days we’ve been having, and also a great follow up to curry.

Recipe after the jump!

I know it has been a little while since I posted. But, I’ve run into a few problems in the kitchen lately. First, I made a lovely strawberry rhubarb pie… with crust I’ve had hanging out in the freezer since February. The pie gods smiled on me, both in February and last Friday, the crust rolled out like a dream, tasted divine, behaved wonderfully. The problem? I don’t have the recipe. February was pre-blog, and while I tried to type up my successes and save them on Tastebook, I wasn’t exactly consistent. I’m sure, somewhere on a scrap of paper, lies my formula, but all I really remember was that I had combined Rebbecca Reilley’s gluten-free pie crust recipe with Alice Waters’ pie crust recipe and played with the flours per some suggestions on Gluten-free Girl’s blog.

So, I decided that before I shared the pie, I would have to make it again. But first I tried a simple salmon “recipe,” which basically meant rubbing some ras al hanout on salmon, grilling it and eating. With the heat wave we’ve been experiencing it was about the closest I could get to “cooking.” Unfortunately, the salmon was less than spectacular. Certainly nothing worth sharing. But I did get a very nice email about this salmon recipe suggesting that I enter it in this contest. I would love to win a three month supply of wild salmon, unfortunately that recipe isn’t original, so I can’t enter it. But hopefully I’ll come up with something by June 20th. If you have a great salmon recipe, you should enter too, and send some salmon my way.

Last night, I started again on the pie crust. But right from the beginning things started to go wrong. First, I had European butter and no scale, so I used the only trick I knew. I filled a measuring cup half full of water, tossed what seemed like roughly the right amount of butter in and measured the water displacement. All of this would be well and good, but the water started to soften the butter. I thought about throwing it back in the fridge, but I wasn’t, um, patient. Then, I mixed up the dough, but I was worried of over-crumbling the butter and so left chunks that were too big. I think I might also have added just a little too much water. When it came time to roll out the dough, sandwiched between parchment paper and cling wrap, everything seemed fine, until I tried to put it into the pie plate. The dough stuck miserably to the parchment paper. Somewhere over the course of rolling it out it went from dough to goo. I stuck it in the fridge, it firmed up, I got it off the parchment paper and into the pie pan.

At which point I should probably have made an open-faced pie and called it quits. But, stubborn as I am, I was determined to make it a lattice top. I let the second portion of dough sit overnight in the fridge, and then tried rolling it out. I floured the parchment paper this time too. And it helped, I am firmly convinced that if I had just wanted a top crust, I would have been golden, but this dough did not want to be cut into thin strips and handled. Again, I quickly had mush on my hands, again everything went back in the fridge. Eventually a cobbled together something resembling a lattice top… a very rustic lattice top.

Now, I am sitting here smelling the intoxicating smell of strawberry rhubarb pie as my “ugly” pie bakes. This is the second “ugly” pie I’ve made in two weeks, as the first strawberry rhubarb pie was open-faced and not quite red enough to be showing that much flesh. I “beautified” the first pie by covering it with whipped cream. This one I will probably just serve as is. Apparently today the pie-crust gods weren’t smiling, but they aren’t the only pie gods that count. Unfortunately, I’m already itching to give the pie crust another try to try and figure out whether the real problem was in the recipe, the technique, or the fact that the kitchen was at least 80 degrees. I don’t really think it was the recipe. The little ramekin you see is sporting its own mini-crust, and I can tell you it tastes terrific. Next time around I might add a teaspoon of xanthan gum, just to help things along.

Recipes after the jump!

CSA box

This morning I picked up my first box of fresh organic local produce from my CSA. Back in the winter, I signed up for a summer subscription and paid for weekly deliveries of fresh vegetables (and sometimes fruit). My farm is called the Gardens of Huckleberry Hills and is located in Alabama (but still within a couple of hours drive of Atlanta). Ever since I wrote my check, I’ve been waiting with eager anticipation for the harvest season to begin. This first box is a little light (by the farmer’s admission), as the season progresses there will be more and more goodies in my box. But light as it is, this box still looks great. This week I got: squash, greenbeans, assorted greens, spring onions, oregano, mint and parsley. I can’t wait to start eating.

But first, I want to share a recipe that has been a favorite since college. In high school, I liked to cook, but as my mom would say, I liked to cook gourmet. I didn’t really have to worry about putting dinner on the table or staying within a budget. It wasn’t until college, that I really started cooking on a regular basis, and my favorite go-to cookbooks turned out to be the Weight Watchers’ Cook it Quick and Take Out Tonight. The Take Out Tonight book was my favorite of the two, by far. But this gem is actually from Cook it Quick. I now have many more sophisticated cookbooks, but when I want an easy, healthy, tasty meal, I often come back to Weight Watchers. The Tex-Mex Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Salad is best the second day and shines when you use good quality salsa, fresh corn, and well-seasoned chicken. I pan-fried my chicken with a little cajun rub this time, and really liked the result.

Tex-Mex Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Salad

Recipe after the jump

Next Page »