30 April 2008

Gluten free almond and orange cake

In a previous post I talked about this gluten free orange cake that I usually make and I thought I should also post it, contrary to the other recipe this one has butter in it and the egg whites are not separated and beaten (although you can do that for a lighter cake). This post is for Clare, it should make a nice and different graduation cake.

Almond and Orange cake
10"/25 cm long baking tin, round baking tin or you could also use a round spring form, I prefer the long or round tin as it makes it easier to cut slices


For the cake
200 gr almond powder (almond meal) - I usually powder the almonds myself as it is fresher this way
50 gr corn flour (not corn starch)
1 tsp baking powder
125 gr sugar
3 eggs
Juice and zest of 2 oranges (approx. 200 ml)

For the glazing
Juice and zest of 2 oranges (approx. 200 ml)
A dash of cointreau
125 gr confectioner's sugar (although I don't like using it in the US since there is corn starch in it, in this case I replace it with very fine sugar)

Mix all ingredients for the cake (almond, corn flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs and orange juice and zest), use a hand held mixer with the whisk on and whisk until you obtain a nice fluffy dough.
For even better result you can separate the eggs and beat the whites separately then gently fold them into your mix.
Pour into a lined 10"/25cm long baking tin and bake in pre-heated oven at 310 F/155 C for 40 to 45 mn.
While the cake is baking simmer in a pan the glazing ingredients (orange juice, cointreau to taste and sugar)
When the cake is baked place upside down in a serving dish and immediately (while still very hot) pour over simmering glaze, let cool and serve at room temperature.
This is a delicious dessert cake.
It is best to make it 1 day ahead.

Impromptu bread

The other day I had a craving for fresh grain bread, I had no recipe but since I make bread every week I had a feel for what to use and I already had all the ingredients I wanted, so I got started as follows:

7 grains bread
for 1 big loaf or 2 small ones

350 gr unbleached white flour
100 gr wholewheat flour
50 gr 7 grains mix (I used Bob's Red Mill 7 grain hot cereal)
1.5 tsp salt
2 tsp active dry yeast
300 ml tepid water

Dilute the yeast in water and let it rest for 5 or 10 mn, it will start bubbling up.
Mix flours, salt and grains.
Pour Yeast water on the dry ingredients mix and knead for 4 mn at speed 1, if not enough water you can add a little at a time, the final dough should be elastic and a little sticky, but not too much and not liquid.
After 10mn of rest knead again on speed 2 for 6 mn maximum, then cover with a towel and let it rise for about 1 hour at room temperature, it should double in volume.
Punch down to get the excess gaz out and shape in 1 big or 2 smaller loaves and lay them on a baking tray.
I also made incisions on the top with a sharp knife/blade.
Then let it rise again covered with a towel, for about 30mn.
Bake in pre-heated oven to 430 F/220 C, after 15mn reduce heat to 400 F/204 C and bake for a further 10 to 15mn.
Bread is cooked when it sounds hollow.
Let it cool down before enjoying with a hot bowl of home made soup.
This bread is also very nice toasted for breakfast.
It freezes well, as soon as it is cool place in a Ziploc bag and in the freezer, when needed take out, let it thaw and place in the oven at 350 F/176 C for 10 to 15 mn and you will obtain a fresh loaf.

23 April 2008

Elixir du jour

Too many good meals can add pounds and inches or should I say kilos and centimeters? which is twice as bad! To counteract this, especially approaching the summer (at least we hope it will eventually come, after 3"of snow last Saturday I start having doubts) a light meal is always a safe option. And what can be more satisfying than a home made vegetable soup. I have seen my Mom and Grand Mother make this recipe many a time and have adopted it myself as it is so easy to make and so tasty.

Vegetable Soup
2 medium size potatoes
2 or 3 leeks
6 good size carrots
1 big onion
3 or 4 garlic cloves
Salt and Pepper

Peel and clean all vegetables and chop them.
Sweat the vegetables in a bit of olive oil in a cast iron pot or other on high heat, then cover totally with water and more, salt and pepper to taste, keep in mind that it's always easier to add seasoning later, I also add celery seeds that give a nice taste.
Cover and let it simmer for at least one hour.
I like my soup without chunks so I always blend it.
Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream or pour some milk and grate some Swiss Emmentaler on top and a slice of home made bread.
Bon appétit

21 April 2008

Gluten and dairy free orange cake

Last part of the meal was dessert and there again I didn't want to use wheat flour or butter, I had a tried and tested recipe but wanted a change, so here goes this new recipe.

Gluten & Dairy free Orange cake

Serves 8


2 oranges
150 gr brown sugar
170 gr almond powder (I use full raw almonds that I grind)
6 egg yolks
6 egg whites
A dash of cointreau or any other liqueur you prefer

Juice and zest the oranges, mix with sugar, almond powder, egg yolks and liqueur.
Beat the egg whites and delicately incorporate them to the batter.
Pour into oiled form (I use a 24 cm/9"diameter spring form cake pan with a layer of parchment paper on the bottom).
Bake into preheated oven at 110 C/230 F for 40 to 50mn depending on your oven.

Totally gluten free & vegetarian pasta dish

As a main course for this gluten free dinner I wanted to make Cannelloni with Spinach and Ricotta, but I couldn't use the normal wheat cannelloni, so after some thinking and browsing I thought about making rice pasta, I came across this recipe and method, I slightly changed the recipe to avoid gluten. Then for the stuffing of the Rice Cannelloni I substituted the ricotta with goat cheese which gave a very nice taste.

Rice pasta
I obtained 6 "rice pancakes" 24 cm/9" in diameter
150 gr white rice flour
1.5 TBSP potato starch
2 TBSP corn flour
100 ml cold water
1 TBSP oil
1/2 tsp salt

Ladle a thin layer of batter in an oiled baking tray and place it in a steamer for 5 or 6 mn, when cooked take the tray out and let it cool, use a spatula to remove, continue until all the batter is used up.

Rice cannelloni with spinach and goat cheese
For 6 people
Inspired by Mary Berry's recipe in Complete cookbook
Tomato sauce
1 large onion peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 x 28 oz tin peeled tomatoes
1 small tin of tomato purée
2 chicken stock cubes if you do not have any fresh chicken stock
Thin with water (about 300 ml)
Salt and pepper
In some olive oil lightly brown the onion, garlic, carrot, celery then add the tomatoes and tomato purée, stir in the stock, water, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let it simmer for 30 mn or so.
When cooked purée the sauce with an immersion blender.

While the tomato sauce is cooking prepare the Spinach and Goat Cheese filling
1 medium onion or shallot chopped
3 garlic cloves chopped
700 gr / (1.5 pound) cooked spinach
225 gr / 0.5 pound fresh goat cheese
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (to taste)
In some olive oil lightly brown the onion and garlic, add the spinach on high heat for a couple of minutes, remove from the heat and let it cool a little, then add the Goat Cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
Assemble the Rice cannelloni with the spinach and goat cheese filling in a Pyrex dish, see picture, then pour tomato sauce (if I don't use all the tomato sauce I freeze the left over) and top with some grated Parmesan cheese and bake for 30mn at 200 C/392 F.

Let it rest for 5mn before serving.

20 April 2008

Totally gluten free Bread

The last meal we hosted presented a new challenge of being totally gluten free, dairy and meat free. So I started with bread, did a bit of research and found that if one makes totally gluten free bread it is important to use Xanthan gum as a substitute for gluten. I went to our local coop and stocked up on all the various flours I could find then went home to start my new baking project. The end result is a very dense and strong tasting bread, I wouldn't eat it every day but once in a while it is an interesting change. I guess for a milder taste you would need to reduce the buckwheat quantity and substitue with chestnut flour or hazelnut or almond.

Totally gluten free Bread
For a 10"/25cm long loaf pan
150 gr Buckwheat flour
150 gr Rice flour
50 gr Millet flour
50 gr Amaranth flour
100 gr Quinoa flour
1.5 tsp Xanthan gum
2.5 Tbsp grape seed oil (resistant to heat, not too strong in flavour)
2 tsp salt
400 ml tepid water
3 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp brown sugar

Dilute brown sugar and yeast in water and set aside while you measure the flours.
Place all the flours in a mixing bowl add the salt and oil.
Pour water/yeast/sugar mixture on the flours and mix/knead for 5/10mn you will obtain a very sticky dough, more like a paste.
Cover with a towel and let it rest/rise at room temperature for 1 hour, mix again and let it rest again for 1 hour, mix then place in baking tin, cover and let it rest for another hour.
Because of the lack of gluten this dough doesn't really rise, the yeast makes it a little more airy but definitely not like a gluten bread.
Bake in preheated oven at 360 F / 182 C for 40 to 50 mn (depending on your oven).
It will be a very heavy loaf, it doesn't really sound hollow like the wheat flour bread so it is more difficult to tell when it is baked, if you are not sure and extra 5mn in the oven won't harm it.
It is best fresh and for those of us who eat dairy it is delicious with butter, also the following morning for breakfast with some honey on it.
Happy baking

14 April 2008

Cinderella soup...

For the past couple of months I had this butternut squash hiding in the kitchen always avoiding the deadly blade of my sharp Sabatier knives, well tonight I finally caught it and threw a spell on it, that turned it into... not a pumpkin, but a delicious soup. You see winter seems to have come back here (after a false attempt at summer last Saturday with temperatures up to 27 C) and what better way to ward off the winter blues than a warm squash soup?

Pumpkin soup
1 medium size squash
6 garlic cloves not peeled
2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pinch of cumin powder
3 pinches of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley for decoration
Mix of sour cream and fresh cream (should be liquid)

Peel and remove the seeds from the squash then dice it
Place squash dices in an oven proof dish and sprinkle with olive oil
Place unpeeled cloves of garlic on top of squash
Bake in pre-heated oven 395 F for 40 mn, after approx. 20mn remove the garlic and set aside, toss the squash to ensure it is cooked through out and is not burning.
While squash is finishing to bake, in Le Creuset Dutch oven or any pan with thick bottom pour some olive oil and lightly brown the thinly sliced shallots adding the cumin and nutmeg, then pour over the squash adding chicken stock or water to cover completely (if you do not have readily available chicken stock 1 or 2 cubes of chicken stock in the water will be just as fine).
Add peeled roasted garlic then salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer for 30mn to an hour then use the immersion blender to purée the soup.
At this point taste the soup and adjust seasoning, a little brown sugar can enhance the taste.
Serve hot with cream mix, additionally you can sprinkle a bit of freshly cut parsley for presentation.
I usually freeze the left over (if any!), for the next winter day...

09 April 2008

Crème Brulée (for Nancy)

A few years ago I was in Chantilly (north of Paris - France) with 2 friends and we had lunch in a very quaint little restaurant "La Belle Bio" (serving organic food). For dessert I ordered one of my old time favourite "crème brulée", it was the best I had ever tasted and when I asked if they wouldn't mind giving me their recipe they agreed. Since then I have made it many times with some modifications, it is such an easy recipe.

Crème brulée
(adapted from La belle bio in Chantilly)
For 6 people
6 egg yolks - free range and organic preferably
96 gr honey (if you don't like honey you can do it with sugar)
150 ml whole milk (for a lighter cream use reduced fat milk)
450 ml liquid cream
Orange zest (you can replace this with edible lavender it gives a very subtle flavour, or with orange blossom water)
A dash of vanilla
Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk (hand whisk is enough).
Pour the liquid into each individual ramekin.
Place the ramekin in an oven proof dish and pour water around them (this is what we call in French a "bain Marie" - make sure the water doesn't get on your cream mix).
Place in pre-heated oven at 110 C/ 230 F
Bake for 45 mn to 1 hour (to determine when cooked the liquid shouldn't move anymore).
Take it out of the oven when ready and let it cool down then place in the fridge.
When ready to serve pour some muscovado sugar or any plain brown cane sugar will do and run a blow torch over it to caramelise the sugar (alternately if you do not have a blow torch you can place under the hot broiler for a couple of minutes, the inconvenience with this is that it also warms up the cream which is supposed to be cold)

It is best to prepare this in the morning for the evening or even the day before as it has to be totally chilled.
In case you do not have individual ramekin, no fear, use any oven proof dish that will fit in a bigger oven proof dish for the "bain Marie", just increase the baking time since the quantity is much larger to cook at once.

08 April 2008

French Dressing for Fiona

When ordering a salad you are often asked what dressing you would like to go with it, Italian, French... For some reason the French Dressing served in restaurants outside of France is always some sort of whitish creamy dressing that is all but French, at least not from the France I come from!
When in New York I visited my good friend Fiona and this post is specially for her of "My French Dressing".
The basic rule is quite simple 1/3 vinegar for 2 /3 oil.
I usually make more than I need and store the left over in the fridge. I use an old mustard jar ("Maille" is my favourite choice and can be found easily in the US). The below indications are for a 13.4 oz (380 gr) jar.

My French Dressing
2.5 TBSP Maille Dijon Mustard
2 or 3 pealed and pressed garlic cloves
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper (you can add more according to your taste)
1/3 of the jar Modena Balsamic Vinegar
2/3 of the jar Extra Virgin Olive Oil
When I say 1 or 2/3 of the jar you still need to leave a little space in order to shake properly the mix.
If I have fresh herbs in the garden I also add some (rosemary very finely chopped, thyme, lavender... I leave this up to your imagination and taste)

When all ingredients are in the jar in the order listed above, close tight and shake the hell out of it for 1 or 2 mn, it should become a thick darkish mix, if the oil doesn't mix totally with all add a little mustard and shake again, this time it should be just fine.
Enjoy over a freshly prepared green lettuce.

04 April 2008

Conversion tables

First thing that struck me when I started cooking and baking here in the US was the measuring system, cups and spoons and ... not quite as accurate, so I have battled a bit with this and can't help but using the old metric system I grew up with, as a result a lot of my recipes will be using grams and milliliters.
So to make it easier for you readers of various horizons I thought it would be useful to link here to an online conversion site.
Have fun

03 April 2008

Croissants, vous avez dit croissants?

Well after many trial and errors I am pretty satisfied with my croissants texture and taste.
I did a lot of research, read the book of Professor Raymond Calvel "The Taste of Bread" and picked up a lot of good info there.
So I think I am ready to post my croissants recipe at last.

Croissants (for 20 pieces)
500 gr / 3.5 cups flour
260 ml / 1 cup cold water (measure 250 ml and add 10 or a very little more if necessary)
50/60 gr / 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
7.5 gr / 2 tsp powdered milk
10 gr / 1 slight Tbsp unsalted butter
12 gr / 2 tsp salt
8.6 gr active dry yeast (2.5 heap tsp) + 20 ml / 1.5 Tbsp tepid water

250 gr per kilo of dough of cold unsalted butter (called "beurre de tourage" for lamination)
Approx. 2 sticks

* Regarding the powdered milk, I don't usually have any at home so instead I reduce the quantity of water to 200 ml and substitute the missing 60 ml with cold milk (For US fill up 3/4 cup cold water and top up with cold milk).
* Regarding the yeast, it is best to use cake yeast, unfortunately it is not readily available where I live, if you use fresh yeast quantity is 17.5 gr, and in that case you do not dilute it, so you put a total of 280 ml cold water (or water & milk mix).
The ratio of active dry yeast to fresh yeast is half quantity to be diluted in 5 times its weight (10 gr fresh = 5 gr dry + 25 gr water).
When using dry yeast to check if it is active when you dilute it add a little sugar and let it rest for 10 mn or so and it will start bubbling up, if it doesn't discard and get fresher yeast or your dough will not rise.
* Regarding the butter, after numerous experiments I found it most economical and best to use PLUGRA butter from Trader Joe's (as it is very close to French butter, creamier), of course if you find French butter and don't mind the price do go ahead with it.
* It is very important that the butter and the dough are chilled to work with.

Mix/knead on speed one for 4 mn only: flour, water, milk, sugar and 10 gr of butter.
Let this rest at room temperature for 20 to 30 mn.
Resume mixing/kneading on speed 2 for 5 mn only, adding in order the yeast (diluted if dry, not diluted if fresh cake yeast) then the salt.
Form a rectangle and place it in a plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.

While it is chilling flatten the butter, to do so place the mass between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and pound on it with the rolling pin, the total dimension of the flattened butter should be equal to half of the rolled out dough (butter = about 20 cm long by 15 cm wide).
Place back in the fridge.
After the 2 hours rest time of the dough take it out of the fridge as well as the flattened butter, roll out the dough in a rectangle about 50 cm (19.5 inch) long and 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 inch) wide, place the chilled flattened butter on the center of the dough.

Then fold and slightly overlap the sides of the dough sheet over the butter layer so that it is not possible for the butter to escape (this is very important).

Roll out the dough (with enclosed butter) into a rectangle 7/8 mm thick (1/2 inch), then fold the top third of the rectangle over the middle third and the bottom third over the top third, this forms the first "tour".

Let it chill in the fridge for 10 mn then repeat the rolling and folding process once and chill for another 10 mn. Start rolling the dough with opening seam on the right.

After the 10 mn chilling, roll and fold as described above.
Let it chill for another 15 to 20mn.
It is now time to makeup the croissants ("détaillage").
Roll out the chilled dough in a rectangle of approximately 60 cm (23.5 inches) long by 42 cm (16.5 inches) wide, cut it in 2 width wise and in 5 length wise, then cut out 20 triangles, each measuring approx.12 cm at the base and 21 cm in length.
Make a small dent at the base of each triangle (it will help in the proofing process) and roll out each triangle from the base to the top, leaving the point end on top.
At this stage you can either freeze the uncooked croissants or let them proof for approx. 1 hour 30 mn at room temperature (20 to 25 deg. C) and bake them.
Preheat the oven to 430 F (220 C) (this is for a conventional oven, for a convection oven temperature might need to be reduced a bit).
Bake for 15 mn, rest for a couple of minutes before enjoying with a nice cup of coffee.
If you freeze them, place them on a flat surface (Silpat, baking parchment) and let them rise at room temperature covered with plastic film for at least 1 hour, then place in the freezer and when they are frozen place in a Ziploc bag.
To use take out of the freezer in the morning, place on a baking tray in the oven at 100 F for 30 mn to 1 h, they will thow out and start rising, after they almost double in volume turn up the heat of the oven to 400/410 F (depending on your oven) and set the timer for 15 mn after which time you check them, they will probably need another 5 mn.
When baking them for the first time you might want to keep an eye on them as your oven is different than mine and the outcome might be different.
For an elegant brunch you can use these copper trays.
Bon appétit.