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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gluten Free Opera

The Daring Bakers strike again!

The Daring Bakers' group consists of bakers united around the globe with the goal of furthering our baking education in a supportive fun environment. If we don't succeed at the challenge, we must at the very least, share our disasters for the benefit and belly laughs of all... and we have some doozies from time to time. But, if you don't succeed, embellish the tale and live to bake another day

This month's wonderful challenge was Opera Cake chosen by Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Lis of La Mia Cucina. Their cohorts were Shea of the blog Whiskful and Fran of the blog Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie.

This recipe is based on OpĂ©ra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

When I first looked at this challenge I hit the back button so fast my keyboard flinched. It took me three days to stop acting like a chicken baker and go back to the challenge post chanting

"I am a Daring Baker... I am a Daring Baker... "

A traditional Opera Cake has chocolate flavours but the Daring Bakers have no qualms about elbowing tradition out of the sandbox. We were instructed to have a light coloured cake. The flavours and combinations among the bakers were dizzying - green tea, mango, pistachio, passion fruit... Each choice was more inspiring than the next. So what did I choose? Almond and orange. I wanted to really bump up the flavour of the almond meal and balance it with citrus. It worked - it wasn't exotic but it worked!The Opera Cake consisted of 5 components that were prepared separately, then assembled for the final product.

1) Joconde - Sponge cake made with almond meal
2) Almond flavoured sugar syrup
3) Buttercream flavoured with orange zest and vanilla bean
4) Ganache or mousse flavoured with orange zest
5) White chocolate glaze

My joconde turned out perfectly thanks to advice and experience from the other bakers. I watched it like a hawk so that it didn't burn. I substituted the wheat flour for a rice flour combination with xanthan gum. No one would know the difference. I love sponge cake and this was my first gluten free sponge cake.

The sugar syrup was simple and straightforward.

The buttercream worked beautifully but I beat the eggs for at least twice the time required. It wasn't my intention. However, I couldn't hear the timer buzzing over the sound of the mixer. This mistake contributed to my success.

The ganache went grainy. An executive decision was made to brazen it out and use the grainy ganache. Coulda fixed it. Shoulda fixed it. Didn't.

My generous nature acted up and doubled the cream in the glaze. The glaze was a thin shellac that tried to slide off the cake and puddle on the plate.

Despite my snafoos, it was absolutely delicious! Because this was such a generous cake, I made it in two parts and froze half. It freezes beautifully. There is nothing like a shaved frozen slice of cake. Yum.The full recipe can be found at the host blogs.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Let's Play Tag

Graduate Knits has tagged me for this meme, which is the Peeps I Want To Know More About meme. Here are my responses.

The rules: Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

1) What was I doing ten years ago?

Studying biology and chemistry, thinking about med school, playing soccer, mom to two, choosing to be mom to three and dropping the med school idea.

2) What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today:

Pick up my two sons from camping and sleepovers, cut grass, make sure my children bathe today - especially after camping, take a long walk, and set mouse traps.

3) Snacks I enjoy:

Chocolate, but only really great chocolate.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Have plastic surgery to make me taller... If that's not possible buy a lot of totteringly high heels. Then "Giorgio" my cabana boy would carry me around because I'll never be able to walk around in them. Giorgio can chase my children too because, frankly, I would look ridiculous chasing children on the playground in Jimmy Choos.

Fly my friends into an exotic locale for a girl's away long weekend. We would coauthor a cheesy bodice-ripper romance novel full of all the schmaltzy lines we have read over the years. Then we would self publish and give copies to all the adults in our family. This would set a new standard for the family authors that I don't think anyone would surpass, er subvert, for a long time.

5) Places I have lived:

Sault Ste. Marie ON
Mississauga, ON
Toronto, ON
Kingston, ON
Florence, Italy
Ottawa, ON

6) Jobs I have had:

Babysitter & Petsitter
McDonald's Manager
Assistant Art Curator at an art gallery
Residence Don at University
Slide Librarian
Coordinator of Special Events for an arts festival
Researcher for Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee
Chocolate Truffle Maker
Property Manager

7) Peeps I want to know more about:

Take the Cannoli - I love that name. She is opening up a baking business!

Semi di Papavero - Poppy Seeds

So Many Flavours, So Little Time - A New Daring Baker this April

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pancake Fake

These gluten free pancakes looked gorgeous, cooked beautifully, and soaked up maple syrup like nobodies business but tasted, well, they had no taste. They were from a mix. This mix was an educational experience because I now know it is possible to have the fluffy consistency I love in a gluten free pancake. But, I crave a little more taste...

I will keep plugging away....

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Going Gluten Free

Going gluten free has been a real challenge and I wasn't sure how my munchkins would view a gluten free lifestyle. Except for a few wishing moments, they have taken to it like ducks to water. I resorted to a well-tested parenting ploy - bribery.

Oh, you can call it anything else that you want: setting a context, supportive environment, organization.... but we know it's real name.

I am not making light of a gluten free lifestyle. Not everyone in our family needs to adhere to this way of eating but everyone will be strictly gluten free for a month. This time has given us a new appreciation of the family members who must adhere to a gluten free diet.

Back to the bribery. La Famiglia would be so proud.

I purchased small stackable shelving containers of three different colours and labelled them with each child's name. This is called the "snack" stack. Each child has their own supplies of snacks and they are allowed one snack per day. They could trade with each other if they didn't like a particular snack.

The only criteria was that the snacks were gluten free, not healthy, gluten free.

Snack food in this house meant fruit, vegetables, and generally healthy unprocessed food. I'm a bit fanatic when it comes to food ingredients. Any food product over five ingredients is slung back onto the grocery shelf. This was a stretch to choose products solely on a gluten-free basis.

A really big s-t-r-e-t-c-h.

Gluten free gum, candy, chocolate, chips... the list of gluten free garbage is endless. I had to balance it with healthier options of dried tropical fruit, nuts, applesauce cups. I couldn't help myself.

My children think this is an adventure. They love the idea of choosing their indulgences. They think their mother is the greatest. They have no idea.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sharp Objects are Larger Then They Appear

A clean bandage is a fashion accessory.

Paper cuts have nothing on me.

Right now I'm typing with bandaged fingers and trying to hit the right keys.

I'm the only person I know who has cut her finger with a butter knife... cutting butter.

I'm the only person I know who has cut her finger with tongs... tongs!

Sheer necessity has made me use this product. But I couldn't help giggling the first time I saw a package.