Friday, 27 March 2009

Daring Lasagne

This month's Daring Baker challenge was quite unexpected but something I am very glad they picked as it made me finally try making pasta. So what does pasta have to do with baking? Well it's a dough isn't it when you think about it it's the same thing really as making pastry.

So what exactly is the challenge this month?
The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

The basic design is thin layers of pasta, layered with béchamel and ragu sauces, of course I can't use the normal pasta and béchamel sauce but they had thought of that and supplied gluten free recipes which was utterly fantastic of them!

With great regret I didn't use their ragu sauce as I couldn't get half the types of meat in it but do go and check out one of the hosts blogs to see the original recipe as it sounds fantastic. Instead I made my own sauce which I have added to the recipes at the end of this post.

So what was making fresh gluten free pasta like? Surprisingly unpainful and the end result was well worth it. Considering how time consuming lasagne is anyway making the pasta from scratch as well isn't really that much more time and while we were warned it would be much more brittle than normal pasta I still managed quite easily to make sheets big enough to cover the whole of my pan. The corn base made a very tasty pasta and I have plenty left to try other ways.

I also learnt a new way of making béchamel as I've always made a rouge. In future I will be using this method and certianly suggesting it to himself to use.


#1 Gluten Free Egg PastaThe choice of the first flour is personal. Mary suggested corn flour because the subtle taste blended well with the dish. However, this is a matter of personal taste – please feel free to substitute a different flour for the corn flour but don't subsititute a starch.

150 gr corn flour or masa in North America - yellow with a slightly gritty feel (250 mL, 1 cup) NOT a starch
100 gr corn starch* (3/4 cup, 187.5 mL)
100 gr tapioca flour* (225 mL, 9/10 cup or a little over 7 volume ounces)
150 gr of potato starch* (250 mL, 1 cup)
100 gr of glutinous rice flour* (200 mL, ¾ cup) (I didn't have this so subbed half and half corn starch and tapioca starch.)
10 gr of Xanthan powder (1.5 tsp, 7.5 mL)
10 gr of salt (1 tsp, 5 mL)

6 extra large eggs (60 gr each or 2.5 oz in weight, 1 fluid oz in volume)
3/8 cup of water (95 mL)
50 mL of extra virgin olive oil (1/5 cup)
Note: If you add cooked chopped spinach to this recipe, you may have to reduce the water. The recipe was not tested (yet) with the addition of spinach.

*fine white powder that squeaks when rubbed between fingers

Plastic wrap or parchment paper for your work surface
Aluminium foil to cover the lasagne

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.

Whisk together 3 eggs, the water and/or spinach, and the oil. Pour into the middle of the dry ingredients. Mix with a sturdy wooden spoon, gradually drawing more of the flour mix into the wet ingredients. Add each egg as needed. The dough will be crumbly at the beginning but will gradually come together as you add the eggs. You will need to use your hands to squeeze and mix the dough.

The dough will be firm and stick together when ready. It will not have the elasticity of gluten dough therefore it will crack when kneaded and pushed. Form it into a smooth ball, oil it lightly, and cover securely with plastic wrap. Let it rest for an hour.

Put a sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface. This is very important as the dough will not hold together very well when lifted. Have flour ready for dusting (corn flour etc) and dust the surface lightly. Cut a piece of dough about the size of really large egg – it doesn’t matter the size but start small for the first one to gauge how much space you need. Keep the remaining dough covered so it does not dry.

Roll the dough into a ball and flatten into a disc with your hands. Put it on your work surface and flatten with your hands. Use a rolling pin and gently push the dough down and out ward from the centre. You may have to place one hand on the plastic wrap as you push the dough down and away. Gluten free dough does not stretch like wheat dough therefore it needs gentle flattening and pushing. If it breaks, pat it back together. If it is too dry, dab a little water with your finger.

The gluten free dough will be thicker than wheat dough and you will barely be able to see your hand through the dough. Once it is flattened, cut into strips or squares that will fit your pan.

Set the dough aside on the plastic sheet. There is no need to dry the dough. But if you do dry the dough, it will not be able to hang because it will break. Stack the rolled out dough with plastic sheets in between.

Stack the sheets when dry and wrap securely. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Freezing will make the dough crumbly and difficult to work with – so freeze only as a last resort!

This dough does not need to be precooked before being assembled into the lasagne.

#2 Gluten Free Béchamel - White Sauce2 & 2/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or Extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons corn starch (fine white and squeaky) – another starch can be substituted
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg

Mix the corn starch with ½ cup of cold milk. Heat the rest of the milk in a small sauce pan until steaming but do not boil. Add the milk/cornstarch mixture to the steaming milk. Stirring constantly, raise the heat and heat the mixture until thick. Once it is thick, remove it from the heat and add the butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Have the béchamel warm or at room temperature ready to assemble the lasagne. Whisk the sauce occasionally if it becomes stiff or thick.

#3 Ragu - meat sauce

  • beef mince
  • bacon
  • a shallot
  • several cloves of garlic
  • passanda (tomato purée)
  • salt and pepper
I didn't remember to measure amounts and anyway it's really as you like it. Chop the shallot and garlic finely. Cut up the bacon into small bits then fry it off. Add the shallot and mince. then when browned add garlic. Let it cook a little then add the tomato and cook slowly till thick. Season to taste.

Assembling the Gluten Free Lasagne

The assembly is the same as the regular lasagne with the addition of water. Gluten free lasagne noodles need a little more moisture for the lasagne, so you will be adding a little bit of water to the lasagne.

Before assembly, pour plain water into the pan, enough to form a thin film of water over the bottom. A 9 x 13 inch or 25 x 33 cm pan required almost ½ cup (125 mL) of water.

Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese (I used cheddar). Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Once the lasagne is assembled, pour a tablespoon or 15 mL of water into each corner of the dish. Cover the lasagne tightly with aluminium foil. Be careful not to touch the top of the lasagne with the foil.

Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

This lasagne was baked in a glass baking dish. Adjustments in time and temperature may be needed if your dish is metal!

Sorry I've not been about

Week before last I went down with a bad stomach bug which rather knocked on the head any wish to talk about food! I'm fine now but very busy.. I know I've promised pictures of the kitchen but I am vain enough to want it to look it's best so watch this space and I'll try and blitz it soon.
However while you are waiting here is the inside of the fridge. Don't know about you but i love seeing what others buy :)

In other news I recently tried the tortilla from Delightfully Gluten Free and they are really easy and delish. They will certainly be a regular here in future.

Finally Daring Bakers has a lovely new home The Daring Kitchen and a new sister challenge Daring Cooks so if you aren't into baking you can join that instead. The challenge day is halfway through the month so if you want to join both they are spaced out. I shall be very interested to see what recipes get picked and I'm hoping less of them will need converting to be gluten free too !

Monday, 2 March 2009

Weekly Menu 2nd to 7th March 2009

Well I've finally finished clearing the main freezer so now I need to defrost it.. probably a job for tomorrow.

This week the Gluten Free Menu swap is hosted by Gluten free Goodness and she picked chickpeas for the ingredient of the week. As luck would have it I had them for lunch. I treated myself to a lunch at the museum cafe and had a plate full of salads, five different ones in fact the last one on offer was pasta based so no good for me. Very nice lunch indeed !

1) Chickpeas, peas, green beans, tiny bits of broccoli all in a light but chilli based dressing.
2) Mixed rices with dried fruit and nuts.
3) Aubergine slices fired in a wonderful slightly sweet spice mix that I really want to try and recreate. As it happens Cheryl mentions a spiced chickpea recipe which sounds like a good starting point for the spices as I definitely spotted cumin seeds and I think cinnamon.
4) lightly cooked fennel with garlic and fresh orange slices with some sort of light dressing possibly balsamic based.
5) Chicory, tomato, mushrooms and cress again dressed in a light dressing.

so on to the menu.

Monday - Baked potato with various toppings.

Tuesday - A cream based pasta sauce (with pasta) as I have cream that needs using as I failed to make icecream.

Wednesday - Barbecue spare ribs, with broccoli and cauliflower cheese.

Thursday - veggy curry, with chickpeas.

Friday - home made battered fish.

I might have another go at hummus this week as well possibly the beetroot one I tried a while back as it was very nice.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Daring Bakers - chocolate Cake

February's challenge was automatically gluten free because it was a flour free chocolate cake. The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

I must admit however I failed partly. I don't have an ice-cream maker and have been clearing the main freezer to defrost it so I never managed the ice cream.

I did manage the chocolate cake and I must say our hosts are right when they say the cake will taste just like the chocolate you use for it. I used a mix of milk and dark chocolate but if it did it again I'd use just milk or perhaps the honey milk chocolate from Hotel Chocolat which is fantastic though I'm not sure they do it in slabs current or if it was just in the tasting box.

The recipe has three ingredients and at one point you have three bowls !
I slightly over cooked the cake so the edge was a little burnt but it was hard to see as the cake is so dark. As soon as the cake came out fo the oven I topped it with chocolate buttons which worked quite well as the heat stuck them to the cake. I also got to use our new silicon cake tin for the first time which was very good.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.