Search with Google


Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Licked It!

This months Daring Baker challenge was so sweet, it made me lick my camera!

We had an embarrassment of riches this month with three, count 'em, three hosts stepping into the fray. And they in turn recruited another baker to assist in the gluten free conversion. As part of an ambiglutenous (or would that be biglutenous?) family I am in their cheering section forever with this thoughtful gesture.

How can you not succeed with such a great team rooting for you?

Our hosts this month were Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food and Dolores of Culinary Curiosity. They twisted the arm of Natalie from Gluten-a-Go-Go as the resident gluten free expert and she certainly stepped up to the plate.

But these talented thoughtful bakers hadn't finished their recruiting drive quite yet. They contacted the chef, Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater about the recipe and... and... and... she offered to answer some of the Daring Baker's questions!!!! Forget about doing the wave in a sports stadium, Daring Bakers, stand up with your spatulas held up high and wave for this team!

Whew, too much excitement....

Now on to the challenge. Our hosts choose Shuna Fish Lydon's signature Caramel Cake as published in Bay Area Bites.

There was alot of buzz on the forums about this cake and I dragged my feet until the very last minute. I was waiting for someone to share a successful gluten free cake experience, then I was waiting for someone to successfully make the caramel syrup, then I was waiting for the icing..... it went on and on.

Shuna Fisher Lydon warned us in the most explicit and heinous terms, about the danger of cooking caramel. When we stopped the caramelisation by adding cold water, the caramel would sputter and burn a hideous path toward us if we weren't careful. It scared me into waiting a little longer.

But we have some geniuses in this group (if the geniuses are reading this, stand up and take credit because I couldn't find the posts again) who pointed out that pouring the water through a screen mesh would dampen the sputter but a piece of tinfoil with a small hole in the middle would solve the problem completely.

Armed with that information and the backing of a solid team, I finally went to work the day before the challenge due date.


Gluten free baking requires a little more science and attention. Since many Bakers posted that the cake was dense, I knew a gluten free cake would have an extra hurdle to remain light. So I beat the butter and sugar until it practically floated out of the bowl it was so light. I triple sifted the dry ingredients to incorporate even more air. Instead of a cake, I choose cupcakes to provide more structure to the sides.

Lo and behold, the Caramel Cake was light with a tender amazing texture. I really felt like this was the first gluten free Daring Baker challenge that I licked.

I nailed it, completely, to the wall.

Little wave for me.

I jostled the cupcakes around and split my icing bag trying to squeeze the viscous icing onto the tops. Somehow the caramel on my fingers got onto the camera and I absentmindedly licked it. That's right, I licked my camera! Good grief. Guess it was pretty successful if I licked the camera.

Lessons Learned

1) For a light cake, beat the butter and sugar for a very long time.
2) Sift the dry ingredients to incorporate more air.
3) Wash your hands before you pick up the camera.
4) Success is built on the shoulders of many bakers.
5) Cameras taste better in caramel.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Independent Munchkins

There is a brief time as a parent when you are a god to your children. The sun rises and sets on us because our children are completely dependent. Feels kinda nice.

It's a blessing to see our children become more independent but my heart contracts a little as they venture further and further from our arms. I try to keep in mind that it's my job as a parent to raise independent and responsible thinkers.

However proud I am of my children, I'm never completely prepared for the next step. Sometimes the next step seems like a leap into the abyss and sometimes they have reached the other side shockingly quick. It's an endless tug of war with my heart. Fortunately my husband rolls his eyes at me and supports the little munchkins to spread their wings and think for themselves.

The godlike adoration phase passes quickly, sometimes a little too quickly and we never know the direction their growing awareness will travel.

Years ago, when my oldest was in grade one I was helping him with homework. He asked me yet again, "What is the answer?"

My reply was a consistent and thoughtful "Hmmm, I don't know. What do you think?"

After weeks of this and yet another evasive reply my son turned to me. His eyes were full of a mix of adoration and pity as he politely stated....

"Mom, you're really nice but you're not very smart."


Friday, November 14, 2008

Tropical Sorbet

A tropical sorbet is as close as I'm getting to a balmy location these days.

Hunting the produce aisle for fruit from sunnier climes, closing my eyes, clicking my heels and wishing I were on a beach. Maybe wishful thinking will bring the tropics closer. Oops, not working ... and the people in the supermarket are no longer making eye contact as they reverse their wonky carts back up the aisle.

The package of mangoes that I bought for my planned sweet mango sorbet turned out to be mango skins with brown stuff inside. Not sure what type of trip they had on their way up to Canada but it wasn't good. So I switched to the good old tropical standby fruit - bananas.

Bananas are so common place in supermarkets that we don't appreciate their presence enough. My neighbour confided to me that when he was young, a banana was never seen in the markets during the winter. Now, we toss them into our carts without a second thought to the amount of time and distance they have travelled.

We always have a stash of super sweet frozen bananas on hand for smoothies, for shaving onto peanut butter sandwiches, and for eating straight up. You haven't lived unless you had a cold treat of sweet banana slivers and chocolate sauce.

My children have an aversion to artificial banana flavour since a lot of medicine for kids would have this doubtful additive. But the pure sweet flavour of ripe bananas churned into sorbet or smoothies... well, that's something else entirely. They have no qualms slurping up banana flavours like this.

Bananas, lime juice, coconut milk and a simple syrup are churned into a smooth creamy sorbet. Lime juice prevents the sorbet from turning into a "tan banana slime" so it's rather important. A strong muscle bound blender or ice cream maker is required to make this sorbet.

Banana Coconut Sorbet

About 3 very ripe and frozen bananas
1 cup simple syrup, cooled and refrigerated*
3 tablespoons lime juice, cold
1 can unsweetened coconut milk, cold (400 mL or 12 oz)

Serving dishes should be refrigerated to keep the sorbet cold since it is very soft and melts quickly.

Add the frozen bananas, cold simple syrup, and lime juice to the blender. Shake the canned coconut before opening and pour into the blender. Whiz everything until smooth. If you don’t have a strong blender that can crush ice cubes, use fresh fruit and puree the ingredients in the blender before transferring to an ice cream maker.

*Simple Syrup

2 cups sugar
1 cup water

In a medium saucepan over high heat, cook sugar and water stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and mixture reaches a full rolling boil. Immediately remove from heat and cool to room temperature. If you are making it ahead of time, store it in the fridge.

Simple right?

A lighter (less sugar) syrup intensifies the fruit taste but will yield a grainier sorbet and a heavier (more sugar) syrup yields a sweeter smoother sorbet.


You can freeze this sorbet in serving dishes but they will require a bit of warming before consuming. Unless you like chiseling away at your food; then by all means serve rock hard and frozen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lime Chiffon Cake

The days are getting shorter and a little greyer with each passing week. The forecast is calling for freezing rain, something that we are all too familiar with in this part of Canada.

Our meals are a little heartier, warmer, and comforting at this time of year. They often need a high note to round out the presentation. Fortunately, this is also the time of year when seasonal citrus fruits start arriving from our neighbours to the south. There is something sunshiny about grating the zest of limes, lemons or oranges and filling the air with a citrusy tang... and we need all the sunshine we can get at this time of year.

This recipe for a Lime Chiffon Cake originally came from a Lemon Olive Oil cake recipe on the Epicurious web site. Like all chiffon cakes, it relies on eggs for the structure thus making it a perfect candidate to convert to gluten free. Olive oil makes a fruity side note (and perfect if you can't eat dairy). This cake has all the things I love - melt in your mouth texture, outstanding flavour, simple ingredients... and lack of a million dishes to wash.

That said, this is a three bowl cake. One for whipping egg whites, one for sifting dry ingredients and one for whipping the egg yolks. But three bowls to wash is a small price to pay for a sunshine flavoured cake.

Lime Chiffon Cake
¾ cup Extra virgin olive oil
6 limes
3 tsps of lime zest
1 cup gluten free flour mix*, sifted
1&1/2 tablespoons lime juice
5 extra large eggs, separated
½ tsp salt
¾ cup white sugar
1&1/2 tablespoons white sugar to sprinkle on top of uncooked cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil springform pan, line bottom with parchment and oil parchment.

Finely grate lime zest to obtain 3 teaspoons.

Beat egg whites with salt until foamy. Add ¼ cup sugar a little at a time and continue to beat until the egg whites hold soft peaks. (If you beat the yolks first, you have to wash and dry the beaters in between. Save time, beat the whites first since yolks don’t mind a little white.)

Beat yolks and drizzle 1/2 cup sugar into the eggs at high speed until thick and pale. Reduce speed and add olive oil, lime zest and 1&1/2 tablespoons lime juice. Beating until just combined – mixture may look separated. Use a wooden spoon to fold in the flour mixture until just combined.

Gently fold one third of egg whites into yolk mixture to lighten. Then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to springform pan. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1&1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a skewer comes out clean, about 45 min – 40 min in 10 inch springform pan.

Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 min, then run a thin knife around the edge and remove from pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1&1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer to serving plate.

Cake can be made one day ahead and wrapped well or stored in a cake keeper at room temperature.

*gluten free flour - 2 cups extra fine brown rice flour, 2/3 cups potato starch and 1/3 cup tapioca starch from Annalise G. Roberts Gluten-Free Baking Classics


The combination of a grassy fruity green extra virgin olive oil and lime zest gives this cake a gentle green hue. If green is not your preferred colour palette, oranges or lemons can be substituted for a fabulous citrus cake of a warmer colour.