Tag Archives: gluten free

Gazelle’s Horns and Fiesta Friday: a party with a sugary snowstorm

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Out of your forehead branch and lyre climb,
and all your features pass in simile, through
the songs of love whose words, as light as rose-
petals…

The Gazelle, Rainer Maria Rilke

The party starts at ten to three.
On the second floor, room twenty two
two co-hosts who had come down from Crewe were wondering just what to wear,
to the shindig going on down there.
They collided, both decided to put on Dame Edna frocks,
this was not a ‘do’ for cassocks or for smocks.

Fiesta, a SG travesty, with apologies to John Edward Smallshaw

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This pastry is pretty, graceful, messy (if you add a snow of icing sugar as I did). Its names (for the variations of this pastry), in English, Arabic, French, are exotic, pretty, alluring: gazelle’s ankles, gazelle’s horns, kaab el ghazal, tcharek el ariane, tcharek el mssaker, cornes de gazelle.

I saw one variation of this pastry on Linda’s blog, La Petite Paniere, and it went to the top of the baking list. Almonds, orange blossom water, vanilla, cinnamon, and more orange blossom water, can you smell the gorgeous smells?

I used a different recipe from the NYT archives, because it used far less butter in the pastry and avoided a late-night dash to the shop (and here’s a butter-less version). The NYT recipe probably produced a pastry that is less melt-in-your-mouth than Linda’s butter-ful one. Instead, the pastry was shattering-crisp, and scatters icing sugar in all directions when you bite into one.

Messy, and fun, especially at work with colleagues trying to protect silk blouses and ties from the sugary snow storm.

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And a sugary snow storm always makes a party better, yes? That is why, as your Fiesta Friday host this week, I’m bringing a few trays of these pastries to crank up the party vibe a notch. If you haven’t been to a Fiesta yet, please do! It’s a lovely bunch of peeps that bring tantalising food, drinks, DIY, sausages, Harry Potter theme park photos, and lots of bloggy love.

Your co-host Margot and I, we’ve even dressed up for this party. Because the only thing better than a sugary snowstorm is a sugary snowstorm on fancy costume. Right my possums (and gazelles)? Ps, don’t you think Dame Edna’s glasses look a little bit like gazelle’s horns? Coincidence? I think not!

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One egg, two recipes: lemon curd and fabulous macaroons

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*When this post hits the blogosphere, and Fiesta Friday 21, I’ll be travelling. Since internet will be sporadic, I may not see your comments (or visit your blogs) for a while, but look forward to catching up when I’m back!*

Of eggs and introductions

How does one introduce a recipe? I’ve been wondering about this while scribbling up this post. And to double the trouble, how does one introduce two recipes that together use the whole egg? Chronologically? Alphabetically? Punningly?

I’ll go from the outside, starting at the eggwhite, finishing with the egg yolk.

The eggwhite

I’ve posted about the macaroons before, under the moniker ‘multi-tasking macaroons’. But these macaroons weren’t exactly the same. These, made with coconut chips rather than desiccated/shredded coconuts, were so pretty. This time, the coconut flakes looked like brown-tipped wings. The texture was different somehow, chewy in the middle, crispy on the outside, not too sweet, each coconut flake standing to attention. These, dear reader, were what Alice Medrich intended in her recipe.

But I took a shortcut. I mixed the coconut and egg whites, without half-cooking them as Ms Medrich instructs. These were a tad stickier, and maybe took a tad longer to cook, but they worked well with a fraction of the effort.

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And then, I dolloped rum-spiked dark chocolate ganache. And finished by sprinkling over flaky sea salt…

These macaroons were ready in about an hour, but they could have been eaten in much, much less time. Especially when I piled a few together and let the chocolate ganache pour over them. That was…well, fun, and decadent.

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Accidental healthiness: bird seed loaf

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While I was making this loaf, Mr Gander looked over my shoulder and made really helpful comments like ‘that’s not bread, it’s just a bowl of seeds’. And at Christmas lunch, he passed slices of the loaf to guests with the enticing words: ‘try some Bird Seed Bread? It’ll make you chirpy.’ So we and some of the family now know this as ‘bird seed bread’. Thanks Mr G….

(He will make an excellent eccentric uncle one day.)

Nonetheless, the bread was a hit with everyone, both on Christmas day and when I made it again a couple of days later.

And no wonder. It was golden with lightly toasted nuts and seeds on the outside, and slightly softer, just pleasantly crumbly, on the inside. It is dense and unexpectedly heavy (not unlike pumpernickel, real pumpernickel), and gently prompts you to eat slowly, mindfully, and enjoy the textures and flavours along the way.

While it went well with dinner, I actually preferred having the slices for breakfast, toasted and dolloped with some good quality ricotta.

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And why accidental healthiness? Because it’s one of those things that tastes really good, and also happens to be pretty good for you (it’s gluten-free, optionally vegan, possibly paleo, has apparently taken Denmark by storm, and was still devoured by a household that likes its traditional meat and three veg with lots of butter, ta). The bread held its own during the decadence of December, and still shines during the relative austerity of January. I can say those three words – good for you – without overtone of penance.

So, what goes into bird seed bread?

It uses loads of seeds, nuts, rolled oats, a small amount of sugar (or substitute) and coconut butter (or similar), and three ingredients that does magical things when soaked in water to bind it together: chia seeds, flax seeds, and psyllium husks.

The instructions couldn’t be simpler: mix all ingredients with water, leave mixture to soak in a loaf pan until it becomes a solid block. Bake for about 60 minutes. Slice, (toast) and eat.

This recipe comes from Sarah Britton of My New Roots. I can’t remember how I stumbled on her recipe, but from the moment I read this introduction, I wanted to make the loaf:

“When I walked into her apartment I could smell it. Something malty and definitely baked, toasty, nutty…when I rounded the corner to her kitchen, there it was. A very beautiful loaf of bread, pretty as a picture, studded with sunflower seeds, chia and almonds, golden around the corners and begging me to slice into it.”

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Baking notes

Make-ahead mixture: I wanted to make this in a holiday beach house, so I measured out the dry ingredients and mixed them together in a jar. Once I got to the beach, I simply added the wet ingredients and water. It’s like my box-mix brownies.

Ingredient substitutions: I made a few based on what was in our pantry —

Nuts & seeds: The recipe says to substitute like for like, so nuts for nuts, seeds for seeds. You could also try subbing a small amount of dried fruit or chopped dark chocolate. Two seeds I would try in small quantities at first are sesame seeds and pine nuts. because they both have quite strong flavours and could overwhelm the whole loaf.

Sugar: I used honey instead of maple syrup. I think other sugars, like coconut sugar or palm sugar, would probably work and would also add a caramel-ish undertone?

Oils: there was no coconut oil or ghee in the house, so I used a mixture of melted butter and olive oil instead. If you are worried about heating olive oil to a high temperature in the oven, you could probably use another oil with a higher smoking point – like peanut oil.

Chia, flax and psyllium: don’t sub these. I think they all become kind of gel-like when soaked in water (at least chia seeds and psyllium husks do), and help to bind the bread together. Another recipe uses eggwhite as a binding agent, so you might be able to get away with less of these ingredients.

Loaf pan: Sarah B recommends using a silicon pan. I used a non-stick metal pan with good results, and have included instructions for using a metal pan below.

Without further ado, here’s the bird seed bread that has apparently taken Denmark and our little corner of Australia by storm.

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Bird seed bread, previously known as life changing loaf of bread

(from Sarah B’s My New Roots)

Ingredients

1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds
1/2 cup / 90g flax seeds (sometimes sold as linseed in Australia)
1/2 cup / 65g hazelnuts or almonds
1 1/2 cups / 145g rolled oats
2 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp fine grain sea salt (I just added a fat pinch of coarse sea salt)
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia; also try shaved coconut sugar or palm sugar)
3 tbsp melted coconut oil or ghee (or a mixture of melted butter and a neutral flavoured vegetable oil)
1 1/2 cups / 350ml water

Method

1. If using a metal loaf pan, grease the loaf pan. You can also line the loaf pan with baking paper, but if you do, mix the ingredients (step 2) in another bowl, not in the pan.

2. If not using a paper-lined loaf pan, combine all dry ingredients in your silicon or metal loaf pan, stir well.  Whisk maple syrup/honey, oil and water together in a measuring cup (because you’ll use the cup to measure water). Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon or spatula. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight.

3. To check if the dough is ready: if using a silicon pan, the loaf should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it it; if using a metal pan, gently press the top of the loaf with your finger (or a spoon), it should feel solid and not leave a dent, kinda like pressing on a soft cookie…

4. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.

5. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes (note, I didn’t bother removing the bread from the pan, and it was fine, it may have been because I was using a non-stick metal pan which browns things more easily). Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely.

Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well (slice before freezing).

From German chocolate cake to truffle

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A couple of weeks ago, I made a gf Germany chocolate layer cake for a good friend.

I had a few bits of the cake left over, including bits trimmed off to make the layer cake prettier. I don’t know enough about baking and desserts to invent a Christina Tosi-like Germany chocolate birthday crumbs (German chocolate cake birthday crumbs. Now there’s an idea. It might be good in a chocolate-chip-german-chocolate-cake-crumbs cookie…) But I did come across a recipe for truffles made of chocolate cake and other things that make your dentist happy and are possibly not good for you.

Problem solved.

If having too much chocolate cake can ever be a problem.

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The chocolate cake was crumbled up into a large mixing bowl, mixed with extra butter, cocoa powder, chocolate ganache, and the coconut-custard mix that was used for the layer cake filling. The mixture was thick, dark, dark brown, buttery-cocoa-y smelling. This mixture is rolled into balls, which are covered in a thick, dark chocolate ganache and topped with multi-coloured silvery cachous and dried rose petals.

Not every truffle was a perfect round or perfectly decorated, but together, they made a pretty plate and exuded the most enticing chocolate-y smell.

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Layered birthday cake (gf)

David Lebovitz.

A name that acts like a comfort blanket in the kitchen. When I use one of David’s recipes, I relax and let my hands get into the rhythm of measuring, sifting, creaming, folding. Because I know it’s going to work, so well, and so easily.

Don’t get me wrong. I love reading and discovering new food blogs. I would be that much more productive and better informed about non-food news* if WordPress, Blogger and Google didn’t point me to all those food blogs and websites.

* Though I had to smile at twitter messages this week asking “Who was Margaret Thatcher?”. Or, maybe I’m just showing my age, and the company I keep?

But. When I am baking for a friend and it’s her birthday, and it’s a gluten free cake (and I have no idea about the chemistry behind gf baking), and I’m taking this cake into work, and there is no time to make a second cake when the first one goes wrong, the recipe just. has. to. work.

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That’s when I saw a recipe for a layered German chocolate cake on Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, which was adapted from David Lebovitz. Shauna Ahern + David Lebovitz = phew.

This is not the first time I’ve baked a gluten free cake, though my last proper gf cake was at Christmas, where the batter was more or less something to hold the brandy-drunken fruit together. This time, the cake will stand or fall by the taste and texture of the chocolate cake batter. What’s more, we all have our own idea of the perfect chocolate cake, our palates are honed since childhood to pick up the nuances of a chocolate cake that differ from our ideal.

So, attempting a gf chocolate cake? That was scary. But I muttered David and Shauna’s names like a mantra and boldly went where no saucy gander has gone before.

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Multi-tasking macaroons

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Do you remember when ‘multi-tasking’ became all the rage at work? The word appeared one day, and the human race has never looked back. Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to do one thing well, we had to be able to do several things at once. You know, like someone playing on their blackberry or iphone while not paying attention in a meeting.

Bleh.

But.

Last week, I used the word ‘multi-tasking’ for macaroons. Let me explain.

At 9pm, I began baking for a morning tea. There will be a couple of people who are gluten-free, and a couple who were observing Passover. Of course, I made macaroons (the American coconut macaroons, with two “o”, rather than the French almond macarons, with one “o”). Something that is gluten free and Passover-compliant*, is a cinch to make, and still gets wows from everyone? Now that’s what I call multi-tasking.

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Fudgiest fudgy brownies (GF)

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Of men and brownies

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are two camps of brownie-eaters: those who prefer cakey brownies, and those who prefer fudgy brownies. I am definitely in the fudgy brownie camp, especially if the fudgy part is ever slightly toothsome (i.e., not too soft or squishy) and comes with a crackly top. Nuts and chocolate chips optional.

This is one of those fudgy-crackly brownies.

The back story

Saturday was Australia Day, when we welcome new Australian citizens, have any number of backyard barbecues, and enjoy a public holiday on Monday. The long weekend was also a perfect opportunity for a trip away to beautiful Tasmania. But, after four nights away from home and eating out in restaurants, we were both hankering for a good home-made meal. I was also hankering for snacks that came from our oven rather than a cafe’s cookie jar.

I baked some super-fudgy brownies on our first proper evening back at home.

I usually take my baking to work, to share the love and the calories. Since a colleague and good friend is gluten-intolerant, I tried a gluten free version of Alice Medrich’s magical brownies recipe, from Gluten-free girl and the chef.

I have been captivated by Alice Medrich’s recipes since I stumbled on her book, Bittersweet, in a chocolate cafe in Canberra. Over the next few months, I went to that cafe every weekend, and lingered over my coffee while reading Medrich’s book. Sadly, that chocolate cafe had to close down when its landlord wanted to renovate the building, but my love affair with Medrich’s chocolate recipes endured. 

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