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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stretchless Strudel

Strudel was the challenge this month and visions of bakers stretching their thin glutinous dough filled my head... but not for me. Gluten free meant more research to recreate a thin, flaky crispy dough that would not break when rolled. It didn't look very hopeful.

A round of applause to Karen of Gluten Free Sox Fan - she helped with a recipe that recreated the thin flaky texture of a strudel dough. But the shaping and baking was very different from a traditional wheat flour.

First Step

Mix the thimblefuls of flour mixes (the amounts were very small) into a pasty dough. Not much to look at.

Second Step

Spread pasty dough into even layer on Silpat or parchment. Any wrinkles in the parchment become fissures through which all filling leaks. Silpat would be better.

Third Step

Cook until it begins to release from the paper. Gently fill and roll, then cook again.

Fourth Step

Photograph before devouring.

The recipe for the gluten free strudel can be found here in the book Gluten-Free Baking with Culinary Institute of America.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Lessons Learned

1) Baking gluten free strudel is possible with a great team of advisers. I surprised myself. Despite not being hopeful about a great strudel - it was amazing.

2) Gluten free strudel is faster to make then regular - no stretching required!

3) For a thin flexible and flaky dough, this GF dough is loaded with egg, whey and soy protein. Not a problem in this household but loaded with potential allergens for other households.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mystery Solved!

Thanks to some research, a few comments and an email from Jenny we solved the mystery of the package I purchased.

The package of Yerba Mate was right beside the Pan in the Mexican and South American food section. The label on the shelf was covered by a stack of food but the packages were peeking out over top.

See the resemblance?

What I thought was a bag of coarsely ground cornmeal (the package resembled the same type of packaging) turned out to be a kilogram of loose tea.

Um, we don't drink that much tea. Thankfully the kind cashier took pity on us (snickering all the while) and returned the package.

Wouldn't you have made the same mistake?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Gluten Free What?

This little sign got me so excited .....

Libre de gluten

Even I can understand that much Spanish and I bought a package of gluten free.... well, I didn't really know what it was until I Googled it.

Any guesses?

Daring Cook's First Challenge

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

I'm late, I'm late ... for a very important date!

The first Daring Cook's challenge from the Daring Kitchen and like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, I am late to post about it. Ironically I made the challenge twice because my family liked it so much.

This month our daring founders Ivonne from Creampuffs in Venice and Lisa from La Mia Cucina chose Ricotta Gnocchi from The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café.

Two thumbs up for this recipe and only a little tweaking was required to convert it to gluten free. For the original recipe, check out the Daring Kitchen or better yet, buy The Zuni Café Cookbook here.

Gnocchi rolled in a combination of cornmeal and potato flour.

Plump Lumps Ready for cooking.

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)
Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.

For the gnocchi:
1 pound fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves (optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
cornmeal and potato flour for forming the gnocchi

For the gnocchi sauce:
8 tablespoons (227 grams butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.
If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.
To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible. Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture. Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.
Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks.

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.
Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep. With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour. At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.... that would be a plump lump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them. Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.
Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside. In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously. Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi). When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking.

Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat. Your gnocchi should be cooked by now. With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.

Lessons Learned

1) Take pictures even if your first batch looks like albino poop.

2) Form the gnocchi using spoons to make quenelles. The dough is very delicate and will stick to your hands.

3) If you like ricotta, fresh milk and parmigiano, you will love these light gnocchi. If you aren't a milk and cheese person these gnocchi will not appeal to you.

4) We prefer the light texture of these gnocchi compared to some heavy pasty potato gnocchi we've tried.

5) Too much butter for the original sauce made the first batch too heavy. A lighter touch with the butter was our preference.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

House Party Masala Sauce

Spring is in full force here and the pink shoots of my rhubarb plants have unfurled into tender green leaves. It's heartening to have a robust plant that won't die no matter how I neglect it, and I do neglect it.

Why can't I appreciate this plant more? I guess familiarity breeds contempt and the bags of cut frozen rhubarb hibernating in my freezer remind me of last summer's bounty.

When we were children, we would grab a young stem of rhubarb and dip it repeatedly into a small bowl of sugar after each puckery bite. Each of us in turn would laugh at the sour faces we made as we gnawed on the pink stalks. Somehow repeating that experience as an adult no longer holds the same appeal, my children don't want to play that game either.

Our rhubarb plants are embarrassingly generous with their productivity and it just seems ungrateful to ignore the frozen chunks of rhubarb before our next harvest.

I must focus on the positive, the things we love to eat... Indian food and HP Sauce.

Our family has fallen in love with the complexity of Indian spice mixes and we generously douse HP Sauce on our food. How could I add rhubarb, Indian spices and the appeal of HP sauce into something delicious?

Experiment anyone?

House Party Masala was the result of adding everything up and cooking it into a sauce.

The sauce earned two thumbs up from the family. It had the appeal of HP Sauce, a touch more of a spicy bite and a lingering shadow of Indian spice. We loved it and the sauce is on our table just in time for barbecue season.

House Party Masala Sauce

11 cups rhubarb, diced (2750 mL)
2 cups onion, chopped (500 mL)
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1&1/2 cups water (375 mL)
15 whole cloves
1 tablespoon hot chili pepper flakes (15 mL)
1 cup white vinegar (250 mL)
3 cups brown sugar (750 mL)
1/4 cup black strap molasses (60 mL)
1 teaspoon salt (5 mL)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (2 mL)
1 tablespoon garam masala

Combine rhubarb, onions, garlic, cloves and hot pepper flakes in a large stainless steel pot. Bring everything to a boil and boil gently for 15 minutes. The rhubarb will begin fall apart.

Puree the mixture in a blender and return to the saucepan. Make sure the lid of the blender is firmly attached otherwise hot sauce may explode out of your blender when it is running.

Add vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, salt, pepper and garam masala. Stirring frequently, boil gently until mixture thickens - about 45 minutes. Pour into prepared jars.

Yields 4 x 500 mL jars (2 litres or 8 cups)

Note: For safe home canning techniques and food processing please refer to Bernardin's website here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Savour the Tulips

This weekend my husband and I had the chance to sample some food and wines at the Savour the Tulips event with fellow blogger, Quellia from All Things Edible and her husband. Hugs and big thanks to our long suffering husbands for being good natured and patient while we scribbled notes, snapped pictures and debated the merits of one tasty morsel over another.

The atmosphere in the Mirror Tent was lively and upbeat with crowds of serious foodies whose Spring Fabulous! attire ranged from high heeled silk elegance to socks and birkenstocks.

...and the food, oh my the food was gorgeous.

ARC Lounge & Restaurant

Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana

My husband and I settled on the top three products that were absolute shining stars in this tasty event. Not only did our taste buds sing when we sampled these products, but we made sure we had the information to find them again... and again!

The first dish that captured our attention was the smoked salmon from The Pelican Fishery & Grill, the second was the Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup from the Red Apron and the third was salmon and turkey sausages from Denis' Fine Foods.

The gentlemen in this picture from Pelican Fishery & Grill had a line up that never quit, and for good reason. Everyone voted with their plates for the mouthwatering smoked salmon they were plating up for the crowds. My husband snatched the program from my hands to draw stars beside the restaurant name.

The Sweet Potato and Coconut soup from the Red Apron had a gingery zing to it and we loved the flavour. Check out their gorgeous website for more information on their products; as the website does much more justice to their products than a snapshot of the soup on my plate.

The sausages from Denis' Fine Foods were an absolute delight. Both the turkey and salmon thai sausages earned thumbs up at the table. They were served on a slice of cucumber with a sliver of pepper which was a welcome crunchy counter part to the sausage. I spoke briefly with the team preparing the sausages to ask about wheat and breadcrumbs. Even though gluten is not a concern for me, I don't purchase sausage with fillers because of the celiacs in my family and fillers indicate a lower quality sausage.

Guess what? No gluten and no fillers in these sausages!

There are no pictures of the sausage. Unforgiveable really, but we inhaled them and only realised once we were home that we had no pictures. The best food distracted us from taking pictures of it ...

Denis' Fine Foods does not currently have a website but their sausages are currently available at Loeb in the Glebe, Thyme and Again in Westboro, the Red Apron at Gladstone on Bronson and the Pelican Fishery & Grill.

It looks like quality sticks together.