Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Using up Egg whites and testing a new mixer

So what do you do when you have a bunch of egg whites left from himself making crème brulee and a new mixer to try out?

Make meringue would be the obvious choice but I already have some in stock all be it shop bought and anyway I didn't fancy anything that sugary so macaroons were out too as they tend to be very sweet indeed.

As it happens as I wrote this post Marye from baking delights announced a new monthly event about recipes for leftovers and the first one is EGGS.. it seemed fate to join in. Check out What to do with leftover ...Eggs.

In more general news Sunday was a good day, Treestump was very chilled out and happy to be with anyone apart from when he was having his feeds so I got a chance to potter in the kitchen for the first time in months. In fact as you will see I probably did rather too much and should have used some of the time to catch up on rest but I've had baking (and cooking in general) withdrawal the last few months!!

While I decided what to do with the egg whites I thought I'd try out the mixer with a tried and tested recipe. So out came the chocolate brownie recipe, now the best ever brownies are from Ryton Gardens and are gluten free as they use soy flour. I did have the recipe from there at one point as himself worked there for a while but we managed to lose it however a pretty good approximation is a recipe adapted from a Nigel Slater one I found on the internet, swapping the normal flour for soy again.

The mixer did well and it certainly speeded things up as the sugar and butter creaming is hard work normally. I ended up using 200g of dark choc and 50g of white which was chopped in chucks, the dark was melted. That worked well but next time I will do more chunks if I'm using a difference chocolate as it was a game of hunt the chunk, will I have one in this slice or not? A day or so later and I've remembered why I always do a double batch as I get told by the four year old I'm not allowed any more as he needs the last piece for his lunch box!!

So chocolate cravings sated and the mixer part of the machine tested I still have a bowl of egg whites waiting for me to use them, in fact the bowl is even fuller as the brownies use both whole eggs and an extra yolk!

While I go surfing for ideas I decide to cook up a bread mix I have sitting in the kitchen. So one quick wash of mixer bowl and paddle and the machine is in action again this time with a four year old in attendance to see how it works. Again it is SO much quicker and easier in the mixer. That goes into the the oven on bread proving mode.. yes I know a Celiac buying an oven and specifically picking the version with bread proving and baking modes seems strange but I had my reasons .. honest.. and I did stop short of the top of the range which has a steam oven feature as well!

On to surfing and I rapidly found a couple of sites with articles on using egg whites.
David Lebovitz had some fun ideas, though the volcano sounded a little to OTT for a Sunday afternoon, I do like any recipe that involves setting fire to things though!

The Gourmet Sleuth
had lots of useful eggy facts as well as recipes and I will try and remember the suggestion to use an ice-cube tray to freeze whites individually as that gives more options all round.

Then on I found the following suggestion
"Bake the potato, scoop out the flesh, mix with whatever you like - fried onions, mushrooms, cheese etc. Whip egg whites until stiff, fold into potato mixture, fill skins and bang in a hot oven. They rise up and go crispy on top. Very retro but tasty and look good."

I pencilled that in for tea but it wouldn't use up all the whites so first I decided to try out Financiers the recipe for whic
h I'd found following one of the links from the above sites. The original recipe is on the Eggbeater blog and I liked it as it is nut based and I have a bunch of small metal tins just perfect for cooking them in.
Before I discuss the cakes in more detail just to say the potatoes came out fine though next time I will use a stronger cheese because although I added peppers, courgette, ham and cheese they were still a little bland.

So Financiers. little nut and butter based cakes baked in fancy tins. The Eggbeater recipe called for coconut but al
so mentioned making them with all sorts of ingredients and while coconut appealed I only had the end of a packet available. So cue trying out the food processor attachment for the mixer to chop some brazil nuts finely.. again it worked very well and while I don't think i will get rid of my main food processor as it has a much bigger capacity I can see this one getting used for small day to day tasks partly as the mixer will be living on the top and the food processor is in the cupboard.

Then the flour component got replaced with a mix of soy (as it was still out from the brownies) and chestnut as I'd just received my first ever bag of it and it seemed to go.
Shuna's (who writes Eggbeater) post on the subject is well worth reading for various option and information about how they should turn out and the details below are based on that to a large extent.

They were extremly tasty and the mix of flavours worked very well. Shuna is right in that they do eat best fresh though they are fine the next day too, after that they lose something both in flavour and texture as they get too soft.

Most of them were cooked in small tins, some of them sugar coated and some not. Both were nice, the sugar ones unsurprisingly
crispier. I also did a few in ramekins which made a very good base for some rhubarb and strawberry compote and cream!

I think next time creme brulees are made these might be made to go with them, the type of nut being picked depending on the flavour of pudding.
Brazil nut and Coconut Financiere (Bankers Cake)

Dessicated Coconut 60g
Finely chopped Brazil Nuts 125g

Soft Brown sugar 110g
Golden Granulated sugar 120g
pinch of salt

egg whites 225g (about 6-7 ?)

Melted butter 200g

Chestnut flour 50g

Soy flour 75g

Mix first five ingredients together in a bowl till well mixed.

Add the whites and combine (they haven't been whisked or anything)

Add butter in stages mixing well each time.

Shift in flour in three lots and fold in.

Refrigerate over night.

Heavily butter the tins, ramekins etc to stop the batter sticking and coat with sugar to if fancied.

Fill tins 1/2 to 3/4 full as they do puff up some and cook at 190c (375F) on a baking tray. Bake till golden and a skewer comes out clean, check after 15 mins and turn, ours took about 20 and they do need to be well cooked or they don't turn out.

They unmold best while still warm, so only leave a few mins before doing so.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Weekly Menu 28th April to 2nd May

**** Daring Baker post next one down ****
Picture taken just before I cooked them down to a nice soft rubarb and strawberry mush which I shall be eating later with ice-cream ! One of my favorite spring treats, we have two new rubarb plants in the allotment and strawberry plants are on the list to buy but for now we still have to get both from the shops.

I seem to be managing menu planning every other week but I suppose that is better than nothing.

This week we are mostly using up stuff from the freezer that needs using plus trying to make sure we use the vegs we have from the veggy box we get each week.

The ingredient of the week for The Gluten Free Menu Swap is peas. We use peas every week so that's no hardship. It is one of the few vegs i think is best frozen that is because unless you are picking them off the plant and shelling them there and then it is impossible to get them as fresh because they freeze them within an hour or so of picking and as soon as they are picked they start losing flavor and sweetness. I will probably put peas in the chicken pie and possibly serve them with the smoked salmon bake.

What I don't tend to use is dried peas though I am trying to use more pulses in general, dried peas remind me of pea soup and mushy peas both dishes from my childhood I hated. One of these days I should try and find a way of eating them I do like i suppose.

Sunday - Souffle jacket potatoes, part of my using up egg whites which I'll blog later.

Monday - chicken and leek pie with scone topping
Tuesday - roast sweet pots, beetroots, chops, greens
Wensday - beef stir fry
Thursday - smoked salmon and potato bake (soak beans for Friday)
Friday - bean stew

For more gluten free menus check out Asparagus Thin who is hosting this weeks Gluten Free menu Swap.

Chocolate covered Snowballs

It's Daring Baker Challenge time again and unlike the last few months i have been able to join in for which i am very grateful. Partly I am physically more able even with a baby to work round and partly this months recipe was less intensive than most as far as making time and effort is concerned. That is not to say that it hasn't challenged me, the very concept of the recipe had me boggled to start with and i couldn't decide if it was a fantastic idea or bonkers. In the end i think it's both!

As Daring Bakers has grown we have gained more people who are gluten free or dairy free or vegan or other restrictions and we have gained a collective name so now I am not just a Daring Baker I am an Daring Alternative Baker !! This month we had an on-line cook along between a few of us to discuss the changes we needed to make which was great fun. This recipe wasn't really a problem for me as gluten free but those who are dairy free or vegan had a much more interesting time changing things about and some of the options they came up with sounded so interesting I am considering trying them just because.

Anyway on to my attempt.

The basic idea is small balls of cheesecake mix covered in chocolate and stuck on lolly sticks, told you it was a mad idea! However as it turns out it's also a fantastic idea. The recipe comes from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor and was picked for us by Elle at Feeding my Enthusiasums and Deborah at Taste and Tell.

I have put the original recipe at the bottom of this post so what follows is my notes on how it went assuming you have read either the recipe or other Daring Baker entries.

The cheesecake mix is made first and is meant to be cooked off as one large amount. Making the mix up went quick quickly and smoothly. There was very little I needed to do to make this gluten free because there is only a small amount of flour in the recipe just to stablise the mix a little i think and that i just replaced with a generic gluten free flour but I suspect almost any flour would work here.

The original recipe is quite large, enough for a party, so i made half the amount and cooked the mix off in two small bread tins, in common with most people I found the cooking time given was not nearly enough and I know it wasn't my cooker which normally takes less time than stated not more. In the end my two small tins took 50 mins each. The resultant cheesecake was set but still very soft and sticky in the middle, it did sink a bit after I took the pictures but stayed nice and fluffy. Even making half as much I still got 18 balls about of just over one tin of cheesecake so left the rest to be eaten as slices with fruit sauce and cream (which I recommend as an alternative).

Once the balls were made I froze them. If you try this do put the balls on grease proof paper and put the sticks in first I did neither and while it didn't stop it working I did have a few moments because if it. My sticks didn't stay in well and that is probably because I had to force a hole in the frozen mix though we decided we liked them just as much just as balls so it was no big thing. The sticks I used were actually packaging which had held sets of cutlery together we bought recently, I knew they would come in handy though I had been thinking for stirring paint not as lolly sticks!

Our chocolate mix didn't ever go as thin as i would have liked even hot so the layer of chocolate was little thicker than I would ideally like. We decorated some with sprinkles for the kids and some with crushed walnuts. Some of the decorating and other coatings Daring Bakers have come up with these bare checking out from what I've seen on the forum.

My official tester, my four year old is seen here with the test one. He sampled it carefully and declared that the inside was like snow.. in fact he went on at some length about this as he gradually polished it off. The other tester, his father thought them good enough he is considering making them for an upcoming event.

Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour (I used Dove Farm gluten free plain flour)
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Finally a mixer

I finally got my new mixer! I've been muddling along with a food processor and armpower but it hasn't been easy and with the baby often being in a sling currently i can't hold bowls to whip things and so forth. My food processor is really good at chopping things and the like but it's mixing blade isn't really up to much of what i want to do particularly the monthly daring baker challenges and things like bread making.

So after much consideration I have got myself a Kenwood Prospero from Argos, they had them the same price as mail ordering from Amazon or similar and I could pick up, also theirs came with the liquadiser (which they all seem to) and the food processor which many offers at this price didn't come with. Plus thiers was in silver not gloss white which most other people were offering. The Prospero is a compact version of the Chef which has a long and respected history in the kitchens of this country. I like it's triangular body shape which makes it shorter than the normal style. I did consider the Kenwood Patissier stand mixer as it's prettier and it's retro look would go well in the kitchen but the chef variants allow other attachments like a liquidiser and I don't currently have one of those either.

So fingers crossed it will allow me more chances to play... I mean bake!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Weekly Menu 14th to18th April

Gluten Free Menu Swap Monday - Cornmeal

I'm trying to get back into being a little more organized now the littlest is about a month old. However I'm not going to assign dishes to each day apart from a couple that have use by date on the meat.

This weeks ingredient is cornmeal which I use at times though as mum is allergic to it I'm trying to cut out of general flour mixes but when she isn't here the rest of us are fine with it. I do want to try making some none sweet corn bread but we will have to see if I get time this week.

1) meatloaf (monday or tuesday)

2) veggy pasta with mushrooms and asparagus or possibly polenta if I feel up to trying something I'm less familiar with.

3) Toad in the hole

4) tomato and eggs
(edit - we had this monday and added spinach, thrown on top after the eggs were set and before the cheese. Very good addition)

5) stuff from the freezer, pizza, stew or whatever else jumps out at the time :)

For those who want the know how the little one is doing. He's great, healthy and alert. He has been slow to put on weight but is getting there steadily apart from some colic which we managing fairly well with currently. So far things have been much more relaxed than with my first. My older one still seems pretty happy to have a brother as well which is a bonus as there has been little jealousy or other related behavior

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Parcel of Goodies

Naomi from Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried recently decided to cut out all grains from her diet not just the gluten ones. As she had been actively trying out various none gluten flours and grains she was left with a stash she was no longer going to use so very generously she decided to send it to another gluten free cook. I was the one privileged to win her draw and today the box arrived, as you can see from the picture it was full to the brim with various flours and grains many of which I have never used before.

Thank you Naomi I will have great fun trying things out and I promise to do my best to use everything at least once. It will certainly help me expand my knowledge of none gluten flours and baking. I expect I will be trawling past posts of yours for ideas !

Having my mum visit recently reminded me I need to sort a basic flour mix that doesn't involve maize as while she is fine with gluten she can't have maize and in fact we both get joint problems from our respective 'poisons'. As she is newly retired and with a new grandson to come and help with I hope she will be around more so it would make sense to make my staples maize free as well as gluten free. I have been happy to use Dove Farm's gluten free plain flour till now as it does a very good job as a basic flour replacement but it has maize in it. When mum was here recently she helped my four year old make biscuits which we then realised she couldn't eat. Then I made the wonderful cauliflower and broccoli lasagna from the recent Jamie Oliver book and relaised just in time she can't have my pasta either. Luckily there was extra veg mix and un-usually we had some normal pasta in the house so I made her an adapted pasta bake.

So I'm off to check out some of my favorite blogs to see what mixes they use to give me a starting point.