Monday, May 18, 2015

Blackberry Rhubarb Crisp - lower sugar, gluten-free

Everyone pairs rhubarb with strawberries, but sometimes I feel like strawberries are too sweet to really balance the tartness of the rhubarb.  I picked some mellow-tart blackberries to put with the rhubarb in this crisp.  This is my recipe, a conglomeration of and inspired by multiple recipes on the internet - Blackberry Rhubarb Crumble from The Kitchn, Strawberry Rhubarb Bourbon Cobbler with Ginger Oat Scones from The Bojon Gourmet, and Rhubarb Cobbler from The Pioneer Woman. I took their general ideas, made it lower-sugar and gluten-free, and called it crisp. I'm actually not sure of the difference between crumble and crisp but I've always called what this is crisp.

Now because I followed The Kitchn's baking time, my rhubarb was still crunchy. I would do what others have done and let the fruit cook by itself for 10-15 minutes and then add the topping. Nobody wants to be reminded that rhubarb started out looking like celery!

Blackberry Rhubarb Crisp

1 lb fresh blackberries, washed and picked over
1 lb - 1.5 lbs fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into 1/4-inch thick half moons
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup brown sugar Splenda (may use coconut sugar again)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

Heat the oven to 375°F and lightly grease a baking dish - 8x8 pan will work (I used a 10" oval casserole dish).

Toss the blackberries and rhubarb together gently with the lemon juice, coconut sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Spread in the prepared baking dish and bake without topping for 10-15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flours and oats with the spices, baking powder,  and salt. Whisk in the brown sugar Splenda, breaking up any large clumps. In a small separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and use your hands to mix the eggs into the flour. Let the mixture vary in texture.

Drop the larger, wetter clumps of dough over the fruit. Shake the drier crumbs over top, distributing the dough evenly over the fruit. Pour the melted butter over everything.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the crumble is baked through. Let sit for about 30 minutes before eating.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Raspberry Chocolate Clafoutis - Paleo, Low-Sugar, Gluten-Free

From time to time, I thumb through the cookbooks I have at home, looking for inspiration. I wanted to make an Easter dessert without going outside of our usual diet, so I consulted The Paleo Chocolate Lovers' Cookbook: 80 Gluten-Free Treats for Breakfast & Dessert.  The recipe for  chocolate clafoutis looked pretty good so I decided to give it a try.  Traditionally clafoutis is a batter that bakes up around fruit, usually more fruit than a coffee cake but less than a cobbler.  This isn't quite traditional in that way, but if you want to call it that, I can play that game.

We tend to be more interested in the low-sugar, lower-carb aspect of Paleo recipes so I will include the recipe below along with how I modified it based on what was in my pantry.  The end result is a fudgy-brownie type cakey dessert, quite tasty, not obnoxiously good for you.  Hey, sometimes that's saying a lot when you're trying to bake low-sugar.

Chocolate Clafoutis
from The Paleo Chocolate Lovers' Cookbook

Wet Ingredients
1 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup (about 8) soft, pitted Medjool dates
1/4 cup melted coconut oil (I just used vegetable oil)
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
3 oz dark chocolate, melted (I used sugar free chocolate chips)
1/8 tsp liquid vanilla stevia (can't stand the stuff, used vanilla extract, maybe 1/2 tsp)

Dry Ingredients
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt

Thinly sliced strawberries (raspberries looked better at the store)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. In a 12" cast iron skillet, add 2 tbsp melted coconut oil and set it aside. (I used butter, and a 9 inch pie plate. Cooking time was the same!)
3. In a blender, puree the wet ingredients - coconut milk, dates, coconut oil, egg yolks, whole eggs, melted chocolate, and liquid vanilla stevia.
4. Add the dry ingredients - almond flour, cocoa powder, coconut flour, coconut sugar, and salt - to the wet ingredients in the blender, and puree again.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared skillet.
6. Top with the sliced strawberries.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and serve warm.

Serves 8. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Portlanders Standing in Line for Donuts, Episode 2 - Blue Star Donuts

Last week I posted about Voodoo Doughnuts.  Many Portlanders like to claim that "only tourists" go to Voodoo Doughnuts. I had heard that true Portlanders had shifted to a more upper scale place with interesting flavors called Blue Star Donuts.  (Although now that it's not such a secret, I'm sure Portlanders are hoping for another new place so they can leave Blue Star to the tourists!) The location we visited was only a few blocks from the legendary Powell's City of Books. Blue Star is easy to access, but still comes with a line.

Blue Star has a different vibe than Voodoo - more classy, with flavors that are intended for a more refined palate. They offer some vegan options but nothing gluten-free at this time. Each donut costs between 2.50 and 3.50 so our box of 4 was over $12. 

Flavors are interesting and it was very hard to choose.  They offer both yeast and cake, with the yeast either being glazed with interesting flavors or filled and dipped in powdery substances. We ended up with a blueberry-bourbon-basil glazed, a Mexican chocolate cake, a Hard Apple Cider Fritter, and a key lime-lemon curd filled powder sugar glazed donut.  The flavors I didn't try that I regret include the passion fruit cocoa nib, the blackberry jelly filled peanut butter powder yeast donut, and the valhrona chocolate topped one that you see in the upper left corner below.

Verdict - these were tasty, especially the Mexican chocolate cake donut, which I definitely could have devoured more of. The flavors that sounded so dynamic were actually quite subtle, arguably too subtle, and I was left feeling I'd prefer the flavors in a different kind of dessert - maybe an opera cake, or a tart. They are clearly using high-quality ingredients, and it shows. If I were local I'd probably peek in from time to time to see new flavor creations.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Portlanders Standing in Line for Donuts, Episode 1 - Voodoo Doughnut

(In case you don't get the reference, the title is modeled after the brilliant show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee featuring Jerry Seinfield and friends.)

I was recently in Portland for a conference and despite three weeks in Oregon last summer, I had neglected a visit to the tourist haven, Voodoo Doughnut. This doughnut shop (and extensions) is open 24 hours almost every day, and often doughnut buyers have to stand in line.

Despite the line, and the cash-only requirements, you can get in and out pretty quickly. I found the ordering stage to be a bit overwhelming because while the names of the doughnuts are grouped by type, the descriptions are only found on their website.  A poke around the website reveals doughnuts named after regions (Portland Cream, McMinnville Cream), people (Gay Bar, the Rapper's Delight trio - Old Dirty Bastard, Marshall Mathers, and Maple Blazer Blunt), and other elements of quirk or theme (Voodoo Doughnut, Diablos Rex, Cock and Balls.)

Other librarians at my conference had trekked to Voodoo before I had, and a conversation I overheard pretty much sums it up. "Well, they taste like doughnuts!" Well, exactly.  It isn't as if they've reinvented doughnuts. They've been cheeky about them, and added more things on top than most people do, and they are in prime real estate right off the Skidmore Fountain MAX stop and Portland Saturday Market.  But when you put cookies or cereal (or even bacon) on top of frosting, it gets soggy. And they're... really just doughnuts.  They're cheap, not fast food doughnut cheap but not as expensive as another doughnut-trend Portland place I will review in my next post.  They are more kitsch souvenir than gastronomic miracle.

But still. I had to do it. And that explains the lines of people who stand next to the glitter bricks, waiting for their chance.

Monday, March 23, 2015

French Silk Pie

I have a vague food memory from my childhood of going to a restaurant (probably The Chalet somewhere in Oregon) late at night with my family and being able to choose from what seemed like five hundred types of pie. I remember that after painstakingly considering every option, I chose French Silk Pie.  For years after, I would say that was my favorite type of pie, even though I don't think I had it again until working at a tearoom in Indiana.  At that tearoom, the idea of eating that pie made me nauseous (once you know how much butter is in each mouthful, it's a little hard to fathom.)

For Pi(e) Day I wanted to do something with the big block of chocolate I had on my counter from Trader Joes and ended up coming back to this very traditional French Silk Pie recipe on Traditional is not always bad! This is almost like how I remember it, but this nut press-in crust is far tastier than a normal pie crust would be.  I substituted hazelnuts for the pecans since that's what I had on hand, and people raved over the crust!

A few pointers for this pie and similar recipes - chill the crust in the freezer 30 minutes before baking and it will keep its shape. The butter for the filling MUST be at room temperature. Give it the time it needs, don't put it in the microwave but don't try to make it cold. On the other side of things, the melted chocolate must be completely cool to the touch. If not you will end up with a freckled pie instead of it fully incorporating with the butter. DO NOT SKIMP on the egg beating time. Yes the recipe says 5 minutes AFTER EACH EGG.  Do it.  And do not feed this pie to people of risky health (pregnant people, children, elderly) unless you use fully pasteurized eggs.

Jean Webster's French Silk Pie
Recipe credit:


For the Crust
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
  • 1/3 cup pecan halves
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Filling
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • Whipped cream, for serving
  • Chocolate curls, for serving
  1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie plate; set aside. Grind pecans in a food processor, or chop very finely with a knife. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pecans, sugar, and salt. Cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press firmly into prepared pie plate. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  2. Make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add melted chocolate and the vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed for five minutes after each addition. Pour filling into cooled pie crust. Cover with plastic wrap, and transfer to the refrigerator to cool for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  3. Just before serving, top pie with whipped cream, and decorate with chocolate curls. JennyBakes note: Cut in smaller pieces than usual pie. This is rich!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lemon Cream Tart

This is a very popular little tart on the internet. It was one of the recipes the TWD (Tuesdays With Dorie) group made together as they were baking their way through one of the best baking cookbooks ever, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  It was featured on SeriousEats. And then Dorie herself improved on the recipe after doing some experiments in her own kitchen, when she discovered that many home bakers were struggling to get the cream to the right temperature. And here it is again, one of the stars of this year's Pi(e) Day.

You will have to indulge me if you have seen this recipe before! Dorie Greenspan was given the recipe by Pierre Hermé. It is similar to a lemon curd in ingredients but the technique turns it into a silkier, creamy divine mixture.  It didn't set up as much as I would have liked for a tart, but I was using a coffee thermometer... I really need to go buy myself another candy thermometer, one that isn't bothered by whisking like this one was.  There is a definite chance my mixture didn't make it to 180 as instructed.

The flavor, on the other hand, is amazing. If you have ever used any bath products that are lemon-sugar scented, this tastes like that smells.  Sweet and tart and creamy, wow. One very thin co-worker ate two pieces of the tart in one setting- that's when I know something is good!  Personally I'd rather find an excuse to just eat this by the spoonful than put it into a tart shell - I think it would be fabulous in a spring trifle or in between light white cake layers.

The recipe is in several of the links above, so I won't post it this time around. Seriously, invest in Dorie's cookbooks because she has never steered me wrong.  I also used her standard shortcrust recipe without nuts, because I knew lemon should be the star of the show.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Only Pi(e) Day

This post was published on March (3) 14th, 2015, at 9:26 am, for what should be obvious reasons.

I had great plans for Pi(e) Day this year, being the Pi(e) Day of all Pi(e) Days. I was going to have Pi(e) Month! Okay maybe Pi(e) Week! Well maybe I'll make a few pies.  That actually happened on Pi(e) Day Eve Eve Eve.

You still have time to make a pi(e) - anything round will do! The recipes for these will be posted on the next few Mondays on my regular posting time.