Sep 152015
 

My mother seems to have had rather a lot of damsons on her tree this year. This heavy cropping combined with heavy rain over the last few days has lead to some immediate load-reduction on the broken limb. Fsck the impecunious nature of the (lack of?) pruning over recent years.

2015 broken damson limb

I think some kind of everything-damson is in order. But let’s start with a pie. Now, I cannot bake for toffee so this should be fun…

The process is play-as-you go. The measurements below are play as I went, and are accurate.

I’m gluten intolerant (yeah, yeah… whatever), so I’m using Dove’s GF self-raising flour.

Pastry Ingredients:

100g butter (unsalted)
300g Dove’s self-raising
75g light brown sugar
3 large egg yolks

Right. I half remember beating sugar and butter as the basis for pretty much everything that is (non-bread related) baking from home economics class. Yes, I am that old. So beat the sugar and the butter until creamy, then add the egg yolks. Delicious. Then add the sifted flour.

Dice! Dough. What sort, I do not know.

damson-custard-pie

Roll out with used wine bottle, and lay over tin/aluminium/kitchen foil, add another layer of foil on top then some bean-like things and bake for 10 minutes at 220 ºC. “It’s not smooth,” you say? “Bollox!” I say. “I’m new. It’s my first day.”

damson-custard-pie (1)

The jam-like bit:

Take damsons from tree. Rinse etc. Add some unkonwn apple specie from apple tree to the damson’s tree’s southern side— the sour-ish one where the tree swing is hanging. No idea how much of each… just mixed and simmered with brown sugar and a little water until it tasted good, and was reduced to jam. I added some xantham gum to thicken because time was running short. Oh, and some fresh vanilla pod scraping tat I’d soaked in water, but I realise that this was a pretty sill place to put it. It should have been in the custard topping.

damson-custard-pie (2)

The spread your jam on your blind-baked pie base. Simples. Meanwhile make custard.

Custard:

I was out of cream, so I took:

60g of clotted cream, and
300 ml of full-fat milk, and

heated both in the microwave,  gave it a good beating then added to 3 more eggs yolks and 1 egg (and some more vanilla) and took that to the stove to make custard.

The custard, of course, goes over the top of the jam once it is done. It is sprinkled with more sugar, and the whole thing is baked again for 20 mins at whatever temp. I mentioned above.

Result:

 

the pie...

Post scriptum:

Sweet base. Sweet jam. Not enough custard to balance the thing.
Too much sugar.

But it is damned tasty. And it is “honest” and homemade.

Oct 072013
 

We have been making miso soup for so long that, like many other cooked (rather than baked) dishes, we no longer follow recipes so much as we follow principles. Miso has been a winner in our house with the boys, and is a ‘go to’ soup. It is a relatively rare day when there is not a pot simmering on the stove. It works as a warming drink around about breakfast time, a soothing drink about bed time, and it works as a decent starter to any meal. ‘Porked up’ a little, it can even stand as a main, especially with a side of rice.

I cannot think of a dish that is lower in calories than this, but is equally filling. Like fresh tortillas the ingredients are simple (if you can get them), but there is some technique involved. If you cannot get the ingedients then don’t bother; instant miso soup is an abomination, and is without doubt the foulest thing you will ever taste outside of a cucumber.

Ingredients:
Konbu (kelp; dulse if youse is from Ulster)
Bonito flakes
Filtered water
Miso paste **miso paste is naturally gluten free, but some contain non-traditional ingredients, viz. barley (麦、mugi) or wheat (小麦、komugu)**
Firm tofu
Optional:
Nori/ wakame/ seaweed of choice
Scallions/ spring onions
Meat of choice– very low fat pork loin chops we find ideal

Method:
Again we are without accurate measurements, so these are ‘ballpark’ estimates.

1. Filter ~2L of cold water and set on a medium heat
2. Rdd ~100g of konbu and simmer until liquid is a pale green, and steam is rising from the surface
3. Remove the konbu and add a handful (50g ??) of bonito flakes
4. The bonito will rise then sink then rise again. At this point the broth (dashi) should be seived again, removing the bonito flakes.
5. The dashi can be used, at this point, for any number of things…. numer one here is that it goes towards miso soup, but we often use it instead of plain water to flavor rice
6. Remove some dashi to a separate bowl and slowly add ~50g of miso, whisking, adding back to the dashi
7. Add ca. 250/500g firm tofu that has been cut into 1cm cubes
8. Season with wakame or nori, slices into strips, and scallions
9. Add 1 cm cubes of VERY lean meat… we generally go for loin pork chops with all the fat removed. Not because we are squeamish about animal fat, but just because it detracts from the umami taste of the soup

May 052013
 

It’s been a while since we’ve baked cookies in this house. In honour of 5 de mayo, we decided to try our hand at some masa-based cookies. The result? Gluten free goodies that went down in the GF and non-GF corners of the house, and that were appealing to the sweet tooth and those who prefer things less sweet.

IMG_2487

The recipe I used for guidance was this one.

We tend to reduce the added sugar by about one half, so the resulting recipe was (roughly!):
* 225g (1 c.) unsalted butter
* 115g (1/2 c.) granulated sugar
* 105g (1/2 c.) brown sugar (we used dark brown sugar)
* 2 large eggs
* 1 tsp. vanilla
* 250g (2 c.) masa harina
* 1 tsp. baking soda
* pinch salt (optional)
* One bag (~340g or 2c.) chocolate chips (and/or nuts, other desired additions)

* Have all ingredients at room temperature; the butter should be soft (in our cold kitchen, I put ours in the microwave for 10-15 seconds)
* Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
* Blend together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; then add eggs and vanilla
* Gradually add masa mixture until just blended
* Mix in chocolate chips (and/or other additions)

* Drop small balls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet
* Bake for ~ 10 minutes, until golden brown

Apr 042013
 
Masa dogs

Masa dogs

Hmmm. 45 minutes until soccer/football practice. Warm-ish spring evening. We need something filling, something quick, so why not try something I’ve never made before: corn dogs. So, with Simply Red’s Fairground on loop in the background we begin…

Slice 4 lamb sausages lengthways, and fry. Remove them before they are fully cooked, and set aside to cool on an absorbent material to soak up the excess fat.

Sausages

Sausages

That was easy. Actually it is not that easy; it depends on where you live. Getting decent sausage can be devilishly hard sometimes.

Now the wrapping:

I mixed the harina with freshly ground black pepper, smoked paprika, salt and thyme, then added the stock (at room temperature) bit-by-bit until I had a masa/dough with roughly the consistency of kids’ play dough. This turned out to be about 250ml, but this will vary, obviously, on the ambient humidity and such.

Take one young child, and have him press the masa around the sausages:

Wrapping the dog

Wrapping the dog

 

Next we’ll deep-fry the “wrapped” sausages. I used peanut oil as it has a higher smoking point than other common oils, but I guess whatever you have to hand will do…sunflower, rape seed (canola), anything except perhaps olive oil. (Yes that’s a bottle of 95% ABV ethanol in the foreground– THE best grease/crayon/marker remover!)

Dogs ready for deep frying

Dogs ready for deep frying

Deep frying the dogs

Deep frying the dogs

Fried dogs

Fried dogs

And that, we thought, was that. Except eldest child had a wonderful idea. The wrapping around the sausage seems to quite easily slip off, not so much that one cannot eat these dogs off of chopsticks a lá fairground dogs, but easily enough for them to keep their shape, resulting in a semi-closed tube of cooked masa. Fill that tube with ice cream/sweet of choice and one has…. Mexican cannoli!!

Mexican cannoli

Mexican cannoli

All in all, for something so fast and so simple, the results were fantastic. The squeals of delight coming from the boys when they discovered that the masa wrapping would serve as a ice cream cone of sorts was nothing short of fantastic. We’ll be making this again!

 

Oct 132012
 
tortilladora de madera mezquite

Tortilladora de madera mezquite

Corn (maize) tortillas have to be the quintessential American bread. American as in ‘from the Americas’, not ‘USiAn’. Several highly organized civilizations flourished in North, Central and South America, all without wheat which was unknown to them. Maize was their staple, and alongside beans, a grass somewhat resembling rice, and potatoes in the South. With these sources of complex carbohydrates who would want for wheat (or barley)?

Of these cultures and culinary traditions practically only one survives, that of the Nahua (Aztec, if you insist), and that is amalgamated with Spanish traditions to form the wonder that is Mexican food. Stuck for a G-F meal? Look no further than Mexico.

We bought a tortilla press many years ago from Zabar‘s in NYC. It was made of aluminium, cost about $20 and broke on its first outing. Sad to say we never made tortillas again… until this morning and, like the granola and the oatcakes we are again finding our palms firmly smacking our heads. WHY did we not do this before? The difference in flavor between these puppies and the corn tortillas we have been subsisting on from Trader Joe’s is like the difference between cheese and chalk. These tlaxcalli are sublime, especially the first run off the comal, slathered with farm butter.

Ingredients:

  • Masa harina (very fine maize flour)
  • Salt
  • Warm water
  • Ratio of water to harina was ~ 1.2 : 1 (350ml : 300g)

Lest I upset any real Mexican that happens to find this page, we used Maseca (masa seca = dry dough, if you ask me) brand masa harina, but that is not real masa harina… it is itself an ‘instant’ dough (masa) flour (harina), that has some other ingredients added, most notably lard. But it is close enough for me. To be any more authentic we’d have to grow our own corn (done that, actually), and develop a nixtamalization process.

Method:

  1. Add water bit by bit until a dough resembling kids’ playdough is formed
  2. Break off small pieces of dough and form golf-ball sized spheres
  3. Flatten into a circle to your required thickness (our first batch varied a _lot_)
  4. Cook on a comal/griddle* until golden and delicious, or
  5. partially cook on a a griddle, making a batch that can be further grilled at a more convenient time.

* We were given a very thin steel comal by a Mexican friend several years ago that I swear was beaten out of an old trashcan lid, and this did the trick perfectly as it was very quick to heat up and cool down. That is rusting overseas right now, so we have co-opted an old cast iron griddle that has been used solely for making sincronizadas (quesadillas).

Ah, method. #3 is the one to watch out for here. Since we are without a tortilladora two alternate methods were tried.

#1 Rolling pin: The first was rolling out a tortilla on a floured surface. This was entirely unacceptable as the dough is very frangible and frequently tore, and even when it did not, the shape is irregular, and it makes a mess. We are looking for a quick and clean method so that making tortillas becomes second nature, making it next to no hassle to make a fresh batch for breakfast before the kids head off to school in the mornings.

#2 Ad hoc press: The second method was opening up a 1 gallon (US ~ 3.78L) zip lock bag, and placing a ball of masa between the layers. The ball was then pressed flat with body weight behind a cast iron skillet. This led to circular tortillas, but considerable stress on our work surface. It seems pretty clear that the real way to go is to get a tortilla press. Internet ‘research’ thus far seems to indicate that a heavy wooden press made of mesquite wood would be ideal– most reviews of cast iron tortilladoras indicate a problem with the handle snapping under compression, just like our old aluminium press.

And a little light reading: Breve historia de un invento olvidado: Las máquinas tortilladoras en México

ad hoc tortilla press

Skillet as tortilladora

Tortilla grilling on a comal

Tortilla grilling on a comal

 

Oct 122012
 

Well it does not get any simpler than this, well maybe the granola is, but it is yet another example of a face-plant. Almost every trip to the supermarket in the UK led to the purchase of several boxes of oatcakes. Why? Why did we not think of making these before? Again the impetus has been going gluten-free since, as you might have guessed, the majority of easily/commercially available oatcakes have wheat flour in them.

 

Ingredients:

  • 225g gluten-free oats
  • 10g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt (nix if using salted butter)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100ml warm water

Method:

  1. ‘Biltz’ the oats in a food processor to break them up into a meal/flour
  2. Add other dry ingredients, and give the processor a few spins to mix
  3. pre-heat oven to 180 ºC ≈ 350 ºF
  4. Add warm water to the butter to melt, and add liquid to dry ingredients to form a dough
  5. Roll out the dough to ca. 0.5cm thickness, cut using desired size of cookie cutter
  6. Place oatcakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 25 minutes

NOTE: It is important to move quickly with the oatmeal dough as it dries out VERY quickly.

Set to cool on a rack, and enjoy!

 

The following updated ratios lead to a more malleable dough. Much improved over the above, and just perfect with some damson jam and a glob of clotted cream.

Ingredients (2015-10-27):

  • 250g gluten-free oats
  • 25g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt (nix if using salted butter)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 130ml warm water
Oct 112012
 

Lest y’all think that everything works out in our GF kitchen, I’ve decided to add that the following did not. Well, not quite. The bread is darned tasty, and is wonderful toasted with a bit of fresh butter. We are BIG butter fans, especially locally made stuff (not Cabots or Land o’ Lakes, or anything ‘stick’ form, really), the sort of butter that is pretty close to tasting of cheese.

I think it is really just a question of getting the right flour combination down, and practising technique. Bread making is hard enough to get right with regular wheat flour, let alone with the added complexity of a bread sans gluten.

As it was World Porridge Day we went with the following:

Ingredients:

  • 80g GF porridge oats
  • 150g rice flour
  • 50g tapioca flour
  • 60g buckwheat flour
  • 1tsp GF baking powder
  • 1tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 packet dried bakers’ yeast
  • 50g butter
  • 30g sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
I should repeat again that we use a nifty electronic scale, which is just so convenient for baking. Place on a bowl, zero (or ‘tare’) it, add ingedient, zero once more… add ingredient. Rinse and repeat.

 

Method:

  1. Set the yeast in a warm sugar solution and cover
  2. ‘Biltz’ the oats in a food processor to break them up
  3. Add other dry ingredients, and give the processor a few spins to mix the ingredients
  4. Add honey and butter and rub in until one has what looks and feels like fine breadcrumbs
  5. When the yeast starter is starting to bubble, add it and 400ml of warm water to the dry ingredients and beat to form a batter. Cover and set aside to let the yeast get all saccharomycidal on those complex sugars, and the batter to rise
  6. Preheat oven to 200C
  7. Grease a 450g loaf tin, pour in batter
  8. Bake until golden brown and cooked through (45-50 minutes)

Gluten-Free Oat Bread

 

A few thoughts for next time… Higher oven temperature at least initially. Buckwheat is, we think, a little bit heavy. Perhaps 50g less rice flour, and replace that deficit AND the tapioca for 100g of potato flour. Maybe also leave out the sesame seeds (add a little sesame oil instead), and give longer for the yeast to really get going.

Oct 082012
 

One can’t have Thanksgiving without cornbread. This recipe comes as a surprise: I picked up a bag of almond meal whilst shopping and decided to try it as a straight substitute for flour in cornbread. Normally, I use some combination of tapioca flour, garbanzo flour, masa, or any of the other GF powders I have lying around.

With almond meal in hand, I surfed up a couple of recipes, and used this one for inspiration. The result? A nice, surprisingly moist, cornbread that was good enough to reheat and enjoy the following day. This one really hit the spot.

Moist, and not too cakey.

Ingredients:

  • 100g (1/2 cup) each of white and yellow cornmeal (could use 200g/1cup of either)
  • 75g (3/4 cup) almond meal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 250 ml (1 cup) buttermilk
  • 25g (2-3 tbsp.) honey
  • 85g unsweetened applesauce [NOTE: Recipe calls for: 60g (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and really this should have meant about 70g applesauce, but I had extra to use up.]
  • grease for the skillet (I used ~ 1 tbsp bacon fat)
  • Other possible additions: bacon bits, cheese, corn, hot peppers…anything else that strikes your fancy.

 Method: 

The batter will look nice and hearty.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F/218C
  2. Put 1 tbsp fat in the skillet and place in the oven to heat
  3. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl
  4. Mix the eggs, milk, and honey in a separate bowl
  5. Stir the wet mixture into the dry, then add the melted butter and mix thoroughly
  6.  When the fat in the skillet is sizzling hot, pour in the batter
  7. Cook until the bread is golden on top and firm in the middle. (The recipe said 15-20 mins, but with the extra applesauce, I cooked ours for 30 mins.)
  8. Serve straight from the pan! (Or not.)
And, voilà!

 

 

Oct 072012
 

Please, someone, tell me why I did not make granola earlier: for years, I have shied away from purchasing the stuff at the store because it all seems too “fancy” with artificial fruit flavours, etc., that simply do not appeal. What set me to work was seeing “GF granola” on our shopping lists, and realizing just how expensive it is. Really? For what is basically glorified oats? So, I set to; and behold:

GF granola made to order!

 

What I used (apologies in advance I did not measure out this recipe with the scale):

  • 4 c. gluten-free oats  (note that these should be “old-fashioned” oats)
  • ¼  c. chopped almonds
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • raisins and dried cranberries. Oh, and more almonds.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven 300F/150C.
  2. Mix together the almonds, oats, and brown sugar.
  3. Warm the oil and syrup, then pour it slowly over the oats mixture while stirring.
  4. Stir together with a spoon, then make it uniform by using your hands.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly on a baking tray (or trays).
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring the mixture on the tray every 10 minutes.
  7. Let the granola cool on the baking trays.
  8. Add nuts, raisins, or other dried fruit as desired.

Future variations:

  • Experiment with coconut, olive, and other oils.
  • For the liquid sugar, try agave, honey, molasses, or treacle.
  • Additions may include any variety of nuts, dried fruits, and other morsels: our favourites include cashews, dark chocolate chunks, macadamia nuts, and sunflower seeds.

Oct 072012
 

When we wanted a gluten-free graham cracker crust for our key lime meringue pie, we looked to Gluten-Free Girl because we wanted a recipe that included the making of graham crackers, rather than a trip to the store for ready-made, GF graham crackers. We followed that recipe pretty closely and came up with crackers that looked like this:

 

I am often imprecise with measurements, but note them as closely as I can. A few grams on either side should not make a difference. This is the recipe for graham crackers as I followed it, which has a few modifications from the one referenced above.

  • 70g garbanzo flour
  • 70g tapioca flour
  • 70g white rice flour
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ¼ teaspoon guar gum
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 100g melted butter
  • 85g honey
  • 3-6 tablespoons cold water

Method:

Preheat the oven to 325F/160C

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients
  2. Cut the butter into the mixture until the texture is mealy. It’s easiest to do this in a food processor.
  3. Combine the honey and a few tablespoons of cold water and pour it into the batter while mixing.
  4. Keep mixing until the dough sticks together in a ball: add more water if necessary.
  5. Roll the dough into two balls. Wrap each dough ball and cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out (one ball at a time) on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. The flattened dough should be about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
  7. Cut the dough to match the pattern you want for your graham crackers.
  8. Refrigerate the rolled out dough for 15 minutes.
  9. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
  10. Bake the graham crackers until they are golden and firm to the touch.
  11. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet. They should become quite crisp.

Verdict on the result: the kids liked them, but I’m going to work with the recipe. It’s probably me, or perhaps my mixture of flours, but I found them to be a bit dense. That said, we made them mainly so that we could make graham cracker crumbs, and for that they were great.

The graham cracker crust

  • 200g graham cracker crumbs
  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Method:

  1. Blitz the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar, in a food processor until uniformly mixed. The crumbs should hold together when pressed.
  2. Pour into a pie dish and press up against the bottom and sides.
  3. We did not pre-bake this, but it can be browned at 375F/190C for 5-10 minutes if desired.

Once pressed into the dish, the crust looked like this:

The pie crust, before pouring in the key lime mixture.

 

The pie was lovely, and disappeared quickly. I’ll still work to improve this recipe, though. The crust was a bit dense, which may be because my own measurements of butter and sugar were off, or because the graham crackers I worked with were dense.

 

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