Friday, December 19, 2014

Yule Log or Buche de Noel - Gluten Free

Yule, Winter Solstice, or however else you'd like to refer to it, arrives on December 21.  You still have a day to consider making this very traditional yule log cake! I have made a version very similar to this one before, using Nick Malgieri's recipe start to finish (except the marzipan). I still prefer his cake but it has flour, and this year I was going to a party where two people eat gluten-free.  Most of us have friends and family where this is an issue, so I dug through recipes online to find a combination that would work for even our gluten-free friends.  If you're just now thinking about it, the mushrooms are easy to make a day or so in advance. The rest of it is best if it is made the day of, because I prefer this silky buttercream never chilled in the fridge.

Cake: Nigella's Yule Log (naturally gluten free as it does not contain flour, only cocoa powder!)
Icing: Nick Malgieri's Coffee Buttercream (the silkiest around!)
Mushrooms: Meringue Mushrooms from Joy of Baking (simple but impressive)

Since recipes can't be copyright protected, and I am always worried something I have used will get taken down, I will copy them all here, but with complete respect and credit to their originators.

Cake from Nigella's Yule Log Recipe
6 large eggs (separated) 
¾ cup superfine sugar 
½ cup unsweetened cocoa 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF.
  2. In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites until thick and peaking, then, still whisking, sprinkle in 50g / ¼ cup of the superfine sugar and continue whisking until the whites are holding their peaks but not dry.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining superfine sugar until the mixture is moussy, pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract, sieve the unsweetened cocoa over, then fold both in.
  4. Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the egg whites, folding them in robustly. Then add the remaining whites in thirds, folding them in carefully to avoid losing the air.
  5. Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving a generous overhang at the ends and sides, and folding the parchment into the corners to help the paper stay anchored.
  6. Pour in the cake mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool a little before turning it out onto another piece of baking parchment. If you dust this piece of parchment with a little confectioners' sugar it may help with preventing stickage, but don’t worry too much as any tears or dents will be covered by icing later. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel.
Coffee Buttercream

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on the buche about 2/3 across the top. Cover the buche with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer the buche to a platter and decorate with the mushrooms.

Meringue Mushrooms

2 large (60 grams) egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup (100 grams) superfine (caster) white sugar

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Have two pastry bags ready (one for piping the caps and stems and one for gluing them together). Fit one small pastry bag with a number 3 (1/16 inch diameter) (.2 cm) round plain tip (used to glue the stems and caps together) and one large pastry bag with a number 6 (1/2 inch diameter) (1 1/4 cm) round plain tip (for stems and caps). Fold down the tops of the bags to form a deep cuff on the outside and place each bag in a tall narrow glass for support. This will make it easy to transfer the meringue to the pastry bags.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F (100 degrees C) and place 2 oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

In bowl of electric mixer, at moderately slow speed, beat the room temperature egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until soft peaks form. Continue beating (increasing speed to high), gradually adding the superfine sugar, until the whites are very stiff and glossy. (You want to make sure that the sugar has dissolved completely - to test rub a little of the meringue between your fingers.)

With a rubber spatula place approximately 1/4 cup of the meringue in the pastry bag with the small tip (used to glue the caps and stems together). Place the remainder of the meringue in the large pastry bag.

To Pipe Caps: Holding the pastry bag upright and close to the parchment paper, pipe the meringue with even pressure, into even rounds building up the meringue to form a 2 inch (5 cm) round that is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) high. Sharply twist the bag and stop the pressure as you slowly move the tip off the meringue. Try to make the top as smooth as possible but use a wet fingertip to smooth out any bumps.

To Pipe Stems: Holding the pastry bag upright and close to the parchment paper, pipe the meringue with even pressure, into a cone-shape, making the base of the stem a little larger than the top. The stem should be about 1 inch (2.54 cm) high. Try to keep the stems as straight as possible. Some of the stems may fall over on their sides during baking, so it is a good idea to make extra.

Bake the meringues for approximately one hour, or until the mushrooms are firm enough that they can be lifted from the baking sheet without sticking. Rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back (about three quarters of the way through) to ensure even baking.

Remove from oven and with a small sharp knife, make a small hole in the middle of the underside of each mushroom cap. Using the small pastry bag fitted with the 1/l6 inch tip, pipe a little bit of meringue in the hole and gently press the top of the stem into the hole.

Place the mushrooms, caps down, on a parchment lined baking sheet and return to oven for about 15 - 30 minutes, or until the mushroom are dry. Remove from oven and lightly dust the tops of the mushrooms with cocoa powder. Use a small pastry or paint brush to smudge the cocoa powder, if desired.

Store in an airtight container for several weeks.

Makes about 24 - 30 mushrooms (depending on size)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Homemade Mint Marshmallows

I had a bit of a caramel-making mishap in my holiday baking spree weekend this year. It's not that much of a surprise, as caramel is my nemesis. But then I had to figure out something to make for the people who couldn't have gluten or didn't like molasses (the rest of the recipes I was making were gingerbread themed.)

I have had my eye on this marshmallow recipe since I saw this beautiful book last year, and decided to make the mint variety.  I made them slightly green but I think next time would do red/pink and sprinkle in some crushed candy canes for increased visual appeal. The green along with the spongy alien texture was slightly off putting but they were still delicious!  This recipe is so easy! I gave all of what this pan made away but I was tempted to squirrel it all away for a cocoa krispies rice krispie treat with the mint marshmallows!

I will be making these again!

Butter's Famous Marshmallows Recipe, mint variety
from the Butter Baked Goods, which I reviewed in January

Serves: 64 1x1-inch marshmallows
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • a few drops green or red food coloring 
  • Generous amount of icing sugar to coat the marshmallows, about 2 cups
  1. You will need: 1 (9- × 9-inch) baking pan, buttered
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, pour in 1⁄2 cup of the water and sprinkle with the gelatin.  Set aside to allow the gelatin to soak in.
  3. In a medium saucepan over high heat, add the sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 1⁄2 cup of water.  Bring to a rolling boil and continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
  4. Turn the mixer to low and mix the gelatin once or twice to combine it with the water.  Slowly add the hot sugar mixture, pouring it gently down the side of the bowl, and continue to mix on low.
  5. Turn the mixer to high and continue to whip for 10 to 12 minutes until the marshmallow batter almost triples in size and becomes very thick. Scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently to avoid the batter overflowing as it grows. Stop the mixer, add the vanilla, peppermint extract, and green food coloring, and then whip briefly to combine.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and use a spatula or bench scraper to spread it evenly in the pan. Work quickly, as the marshmallow becomes more difficult to manipulate as it sets.
  7. Grease a sheet of plastic wrap with butter and lay it across the top of the marshmallow. Press down firmly on the plastic wrap, to seal it smoothly and tightly against the mixture.
  8. Leave the marshmallow to set at room temperature for at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight. The marshmallow will be too sticky and soft to cut if you try too soon.
  9. Sprinkle a work surface or cutting board with the icing sugar. Run a knife along the top edge of the pan to loosen the marsh­mallow slab. Invert the pan and flip the marshmallow out onto the counter or board. Scoop up handfuls of the icing sugar and rub all over the marshmallow slab.
  10. Use a large knife to cut the slab into 1- × 1-inch squares. Roll each of the freshly cut marshmallow squares in the remaining icing sugar to coat them completely. (In this picture I cut into 2-inch squares 1-inch high, about the size that would fit in a mug of hot cocoa. Be creative!)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gingerbread Blondies

Of the holiday treats I gave out this year, I definitely think these gingerbread blondies were the best. Soft, full of flavor, and a nice contrast to some of the other more typical cookies.

Gingerbread Blondies
adaptation of a recipe by Martha Stewart, because all the reviews claimed her recipe was too greasy
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips, 10 oz.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment cut to fit, and coat parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  2. Beat butter and brown and granulated sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate.
  3. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares or desired shape.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cranberry Snacking Cake

I always end up with leftover fresh cranberries after Thanksgiving.  I buy more than I need for fear that they will sell out like they did a few years ago in this area, so then I have extra in the fridge that usually shrivel up into craisins in the back of the produce drawer.  I could freeze them but never remember in time.

This recipe is based on a recipe I found for cranberry torte in Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman, still my favorite cookbook focusing on winter ingredients in baked goods. I made a few tweaks and it is my version of the recipe you will see below.

Cranberry Snacking Cake

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
splash of Amaretto
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained (or whatever is left in the bag)
1/2 cup - 1 cup chopped nuts, optional (I had pecans leftover from another recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare a 9" springform pan or a 9" square pan. (A 9" cake pan can be used but if it's anything like what I used, you will end up with a few renegade cranberries gleefully tumbling to the bottom of the oven, coated in sugary batter.)

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. Mix in Amaretto. Briefly blend in dry ingredients. By hand, stir in cranberries and nuts.

Bake 40-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

This is a delicious, chewy-crunchy cake.  I sprinkled it with white coarse sugar before baking just for kicks.  I will be having this for breakfast, and refuse to be ashamed!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Paleo Gluten-Free Cranberry Orange Pecan Muffins

I have a cranberry nut bread that is a Thanksgiving staple in my family.  I made a loaf yesterday, to give to the family who invited us over for the holiday meal!  This morning I was craving this bread but didn't want to make something just for me.  Poking around, I came across a paleo cranberry orange muffin recipe that I tweaked slightly for our breakfast.  These were great muffins!

Paleo Gluten-Free Cranberry Orange Pecan Muffins

Yield: 8-9 muffins


2 cups almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 orange (optional)
3 eggs
1/4 cup coconut sugar (you can use honey, we just like a bit lower sugar version)
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or any nut)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line muffin tin. 
  2. Combine dry ingredients and orange zest in large bowl.
  3. Combine wet ingredients in medium bowl. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, then fold in cranberries and nuts.
  4. Using a large ice cream or cookie scoop, fill muffin cups 3/4 full. 
  5. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 
  6. Cool on wire rack.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

We were invited over to a friend's home for Thanksgiving, and in our discussion about food, she mentioned her mother usually makes the rolls, but she will not be there.

"I can bring rolls!" I said.

Later, when I got home and started thinking about everything I said I'd bring, I realized I have never in my life made rolls.  It is possible I have made everything but rolls.  I did a little research and picked two recipes out - pumpkin dinner rolls shaped like pumpkins and Alex Guarnaschelli's Parker House rolls.  I got enough butter and flour to make both recipes on Saturday, but ended up liking the pumpkin rolls well enough to just stop there. 

As far as shaping rolls like pumpkins, well, they're cute and would look nice in a basket, but they are a bunch more work, something not a lot of us have time for around Thanksgiving.  And they can't function as much like biscuits when they have slices around the sides.  So when I bring pumpkin dinner rolls on Thanksgiving, they will just look like rolls.  Rolls with a vivid yellow color due to the pumpkin in the dough, which I think it just beautiful. I also like that part of the roll that is feathery from the rolls being baked next to one another. They will be fantastic with apple butter, I think.

I know which desserts I'm making, but now I need to figure out something green to bring. Any ideas?

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Recipe from Beyond Kimchee, based on a recipe from Delicious Dishes

  • ¾ cup whole milk, scalded
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (1/2 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 15-20 pecan halves, sliced into 3 vertical sections
  • ¼ cup melted butter, optional 
  1. Pour hot milk in a mixing bowl, add butter and stir to melt. Add sugars, pumpkin puree, salt to the milk and combine well.
  2. In a small bowl proof yeast in a lukewarm water with a teaspoon sugar. When it gets foamy add to the pumpkin mixture, and add the egg, mix well.
  3. Add in flour gradually and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined. The dough will be sticky.
  4. If using electric mixer, attach a dough hook and beat the mixture until the dough itself pulls from the side of the bowl.
  5. Turn the dough out to a wooden board dusted with a little flour. Knead with hand for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball shape, place in a greased bowl and cover with a cloth. Let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hr.
  6. Punch the dough to deflate and knead it for a few seconds on a wooden board. Cut the dough in half. Cut each half into about 15 pieces.
  7. Roll each piece into a ball shape with your hand. Flatten the piece with palm of your hand a little. Using a knife, give 8 cuts on the edge to mimic flower pedals but the leave center uncut.
  8. Poke the center with your finger to give a deep indentation, and repeat the same procedure to all the other pieces.
  9. Place them, 2" apart, on a baking pan lined with parchment paper or baking mat, and let them rise again to be doubled, about 45 minutes.
  10. Preheat oven 350ºF for 20 minutes.
  11. If the center indentation is not obvious on the rolls, poke them again with your finger.
  12. Brush with egg wash, if you wish, and bake for 9-12 minutes until the top gets slightly golden.
  13. Brush the rolls with melted butter or a little honey diluted with water to make it shine if you wish.
  14. Insert pecan slices on top to mimic pumpkin stem.
  15. If you make these into regular rolls, they will need a bit more baking time. Just keeping watching them!  I think I did about 15-16 minutes.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Pumpkin Praline Cake

Warning: You must read this recipe carefully or you will be spending time cleaning out your oven the way I have done this week.  :)

When made properly, this pumpkin praline cake should look more like an upside down cake, a beautiful praline that starts on the bottom of the pan topping the beautiful layers of the cake.  When made improperly, the batter forces the praline mixture up and over the sides of the pan into the bottom of your oven.  It still tastes good and can end up looking like a beautiful design for the side of the cake (as pictured), but keeping the praline in the pan is the best way to go! Don't bake like me, and learn from my mistakes!

Even with mistakes, this recipe is good.  I had people exclaiming over its moistness and flavor (although this could also be a result of taking it out 10 minutes early due to the smoke pouring out of my oven.)

This recipe comes from the Almost Home Tearoom cookbook, from Greencastle, Indiana.  I worked there making desserts for a year or so before going back to grad school, and this was a hugely popular cake in the autumn months. 

Praline-Pumpkin Cake

Combine in a heavy saucepan:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter*
1/4 cup whipping cream

Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Pour into two 9x1.5 round baking pans. (Jenny's note: Please line the pans with parchment paper or you will have a plating disaster.)

Sprinkle with:
3/4 cup chopped pecans

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

In a separate bowl, beat:
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cup sugar

Add to egg mixture alternately with dry ingredients:
2 cups pumpkin (Jenny's note - I start and end with dry)

Carefully** spoon over praline mixture in pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until done. Cool five minutes.*** Invert pans onto wire rack. Stack cake layers when cool.

Drizzle with heated mixture of:
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp milk

Yields 12 servings

*(recipe says margarine, I wonder if that would have stopped my problem, hmm)
** SHE MEANS CAREFULLY.  The idea is to get the batter on top of the praline.
*** Do not wait longer than this or the praline mixture will cement the cake to the pan.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Shoofly Pie

I received a copy of a new cookbook from the publisher to take a look at: Me, Myself and Pie : Amish Recipes by Sherry Gore.  I lived in Indiana for six years, and had easy access to Amish-grown vegetables, Amish-made cheeses and furniture, and Amish pie!  There was one restaurant in Northern Indiana, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, that feeds over 1,000 customers a day with Amish cuisine, mostly pie.

Why pie?  I imagine because it is simple, and there are endless varieties for seasonal fruits.  This cookbook is a good representation of the Pennsylvania Dutch recipes, including some very traditional ingredient-stretching recipes like one using dried apples and another using raisins.

When I was in sixth grade, I went to Outdoor School at Camp Yamhill. One of the best parts of Outdoor School are the campfire songs, and one of the songs we sang with gusto was about Shoofly Pie, complete with different silly voices and motions.

"Shoo-shoo fly pie, and apple pandowdy
Makes your EYES light up and your stomach say howdy...."

I had no idea what Shoofly pie was, but it was fun to sing about.

I can't find a camp version online, but here is a much more sophisticated version.

There is another version that I found while poking around the internet, which I will include for your listening enjoyment.

So what is this pie, that demands so much attention over the decades?  Why are people singing about pie?  I've never heard a song about apple pie or banana cream pie.  Okay, there is that one song about cherry pie, but I'm not sure that counts.

Shoofly pie is a very traditional recipe, a molasses pie.  In this version of the recipe (and looking around the internet, I believe this to be pretty close to the traditional recipe), you make a streusel of sorts, then mix  half the streusel with an egg and a cup (!) of molasses.  Then you top the pie with the remaining streusel before baking.  It bakes up into a dense, sticky, almost cookie-dough like consistency.  I really liked it, and it reminded me in flavor to the treacle tart I have been known to make for Harry Potter events, only without the complexity of ginger and lemon.  This is straight molasses.  If you don't like molasses, this is not the pie for you. I was pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Apple Slab Pie

Apple Slab Pie is not a lot to look at. I found the recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog (follow link for recipe) and wouldn't change a thing - the crust is perfect, the filling is perfect (I used mutsu and shizuka apples). I brushed the top with cream because that's what I had and it browned perfectly.  I baked it exactly 45 minutes.

Slab pie feeds a crowd. Slab pie uses at least 8 cups of apples (if I were to change anything, mine could easily have used 10 cups!).  Slab pie is simple and doesn't require any fancy skills except maybe a light hand with pastry.  I'm not sure I'll make regular apple pie anymore. 

ETA: I did glob on some dulce de leche from a can, on top of the apples before applying the top crust. I'm not sorry!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

On the first cool fallish day, both Nathaniel and I start craving pumpkin chocolate chip bread. I went looking for untraditional versions of the recipe and found a gluten-free, vegan cookie recipe. I didn't need it to be vegan.  I didn't particularly need it to be gluten-free, but I still had a shelf of non-gluten flours from a cookbook review project I had done, so I decided to make a version of it.  From the original recipe, I added an egg (no longer vegan) and used non-vegan butter for the fat. I went with coconut sugar instead of palm sugar, and used sugar-free chocolate chips.  By the time it was mixed together, it was too soft to form into cookies, so I baked it in a 9" square pan. I'd probably add an additional egg next time for better binding of ingredients, but I liked the texture afforded by the three different flours. I also always amp up the spices because I like them! If you want to try her recipe, go for it! But my take on it will be listed below.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

  • ½ cup butter, melted, or vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or some mixture cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
  • ½ teaspoon EACH baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt
  • ⅓ cup EACH tapioca flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour
  • ½ cup (or more) chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together the sugar with the wet ingredients.
  3. Sprinkle in the cinnamon, baking soda, powder, and salt.
  4. Continue with the flours.
  5. Beat well, and then reduce the speed and mix in the chocolate chips as preferred.
  6. Pour into a greased 9" square pan, or a round 9" cake pan.
  7. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

I came across this recipe for pumpkin protein pancakes and made a version based on what I had in hand.  Follow the link for a slighty higher-sugar yet lower-fat version.

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

  • 2 scoops protein powder (I used unflavored but vanilla would be better)
  • 1 cup pumpkin canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I used pumpkin pie spice, being out of cinnamon)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 jumbo eggs (could use 3 large eggs, 4 egg whites is what the original said)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 tablespoons milk (used almond milk)
  • 3 packets Splenda (original recipe used 1 tbsp honey)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
Blend all ingredients except butter in blender, scraping down sides. Batter is quite thick and may need to be spooned into the pan. Cook as you normally cook pancakes, using a bit of butter and non-stick spray for each.

I found that I had to really make sure the center was cooked, and those a bit darker on the outside were a bit better.

We had these with sugar free syrup.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Crepes of the South Carolina Upstate

I'm not sure if the upstate of South Carolina has been having a crêpe-olution or if I simply haven't been paying attention.  Regardless, there are (at least) three tasty places you can enjoy crêpes in the upstate!

1. Mon Amie Morning Cafe
2601 East Main Street, Ste. 21
Spartanburg, South Carolina 29307
Wednesdays - Sundays from 8 am to 3 pm

Mon Amie features an extensive meal with breakfast, lunch, and dessert served during all open hours.  Menu items range from traditional French dishes to American twists on French dishes to sweet and savory crêpes.  Of all the crêpes in the upstate, these are my favorite in texture, and the cafe is so charming on the inside, along with extensive covered outdoor seating.  (Withhold judgment from the strip mall parking lot with paving in need of repair and step inside!)

I ate at Mon Amie with Nathaniel, who had the Garbo Crêpe for lunch while I had the New Orleans Nicoise Salad.  We split the Raspberry Tru ffle Crêpe for dessert, and it was decadent, filled with a homemade raspberry cream and Nutella.  I'm sad Spartanburg is an hour from where I live because I can't wait to go back. Highly, highly recommended.

2. The Passerelle Bistro Crêpe Cart
Falls Park, Downtown Greenville
Wednesdays - Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm

What is it with crêpes and Wednesdays through Sundays?  I work 10-15 minutes from downtown, so I zipped down one Wednesday at lunch to try out this crêpe cart.  That day they were only offering very traditional crêpes - lemon sugar and nutella.  The website says the menu for the cart includes Nutella, ham and Gruyere, roasted pork, chicken salad sandwich, and drinks, so it is definitely possible that the expanded their offerings due to popularity.

I have no picture. I got to talking to the crêpe-maker, who is a student where I work, and completely forgot.  But if you know where the Falls Park Bridge is downtown, it is just at the entrance to the bridge where Passerelle the restaurant is located.  These are sold like typical French crêpes would be - as street food, intended to be eaten with your hands as you walk around.

2 South Main Street
Travelers Rest, SC
8 am - 8 pm Tuesday - Thursday
8 am - 10 pm Friday - Saturday
10 am - 3 pm Sunday

This brand new restaurant just opened a week ago unofficially, and just this week officially. We had contributed to their kickstarter and got invited early. The hours are generous and the space is inviting (I prefer the outside, because the inside gets a bit loud!).  The same menu is served all day long, with sweet or savory crêpes, waffles, and coffee from Counter Culture.  

I've gone three times, and they are really getting into the groove even when it's busy (and it has always been busy!)  The best deal is called "Together is Best," which is their slogan - a lemon-sugar crêpe and a cappuccino.   One of my co-workers really loved the fiesta crêpe, which has beans, corn, chicken, salsa, and sour cream. I love that we have a place like this in Travelers Rest!  If the parking lot is full, you can park across Main Street near the tourism bureau and walk. The outdoor area is great, even in the rain, and you can choose from tables or benches.

The first time we went, pictured below, Nathaniel had the Chocolate and Caramel crêpe with a latte, and I had the Banana Nut with a cappuccino.  I've heard the salted caramel latte is also amazing, so I will try that next time!

Do you know of more Upstate crêpes?  Leave me a comment and I will go exploring!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Brownie Baked Alaska

For our 14th anniversary, I wanted something fancy that didn't take very much time.  I made brownie baked Alaska and it was delicious.

It's more of a concept than a recipe, although I consulted a bunch of recipes in putting it together.

In the end, this is mostly storebought stuff, ha!  I think the best brownies are the Ghiradelli double chocolate, but you could use any brownie.  I cut the 9x9 pan into four squares, and then used biscuit cutters roughly the same width.  I split those in half to have thin layers.  I built the layers in a similarly sized ramekin to add structure to the sides while preparing, but you could use rings, cans, anything.  I bought two kinds of icecream and used one on each, since there were three layers of half brownies.

The cylinders of brownies and icecream were wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen four hours. When we got home from dinner, I whipped up a meringue and spread it generously around the cylinders (without the plastic wrap), making sure no ice cream was showing.  I baked them at 500 F for about 4 minutes, but should have gone for 5 and browned it a bit more.  If you do it right, the ice cream shouldn't melt. 

Highly recommended, fancy preparation of what is really simple ingredients inside.

Oh heck, might as well count this for my Around the USA challenge although I have yet to read a book set in Alaska. :)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pönnukökur: Icelandic Pancakes

I was up early this morning with the dog and read about how another member of my World's Literature group had made some Icelandic dishes.  I haven't done much of that this year, so I started poking around the internet.  When I stumbled across pönnukökur, I decided to make a quarter recipe to try it out.  Icelandic pancakes are similar to crepes, with a slightly spongier texture due to the addition of both baking soda and baking powder.  Traditionally they are not served in the mornings, but for afternoon tea or dessert.  I broke tradition for time of day but did prepare them the two traditional ways - rolled up with sugar sprinkled on one side, or folded in quarters with jam and whipped cream.

I learned how to make them from Grandma Margrét as shown in this video, although I had to make do with a normal saute pan.  This pan is cool and I'm going to try to find one - heavy base, completely flat surface - perfect for making pönnukökur.  While pönnukökur is not as tell-your-friends amazing as pannukakku, I think I need to make every pancake from every cold northern country. Don't you?
(Recipe below.)

How to Make Icelandic Pönnukökur from Iceland on Vimeo.

Icelandic pönnukökur

2 cups flour (scant)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
2-3 cups milk, as needed for consistency
4 tbsp butter

Mix dry ingredients, beat in eggs and milk.  You want enough milk to make a rather thin, soupy batter.  Melt butter in pan on medium-high heat and pour it into the batter before it browns!  Cook like crepes, and if you can find a special pönnukökur pan, all the better.

Serve by sprinkling one side with granulated sugar and rolling up, or spread jam thinly, globbing on whipped cream on one quarter, and folding pönnukökur around it.   

I divided this recipe by 4 and that made 4 smaller pönnukökur.  

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Eating Asheville High Roller Tour

This may come across as a paid advertisement post but isn't!  We went on the "high roller" tour from Eating Asheville on Saturday and had a great time.  We go up to Asheville a lot but don't always try new restaurants because we have some favorite places.  The tour took us inside six restaurants, none of which we had eaten at before.  They were very accommodating for dietary needs - we asked for no meat, another woman asked for no alcohol (although I'm pretty sure that's the higher cost for the 'high roller'), and one person didn't want shellfish.  Letting them know in advance allows them to fully prepare for these specific situations.

The first stop was Battery Park Book Exchange and Wine Bar.  I had been here before, but only to look at books, not to eat.  We were served a rosé wine and mini toasts with goat pimento cheese from Sunburst Trout Farms (no trout included) and spinach hummus from the wine bar.  The others had smoked trout paste instead of hummus, which is on the menus of several Asheville restaurants. 

The second stop was Cucina 24, a restaurant I must have walked past on many occasions and never really noticed.  This was my favorite stop on the tour. It made me feel nostalgic for the restaurant I worked at years ago, with a similar sized kitchen and crew (and even more creative food!).  The menu changes daily.  Vegetarians got farmer cheese topped with service berries, lemon olive oil, saba, basil, and a little flatbread.  We had short glasses of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo alongside.

Third on our tour was Zambra Tapas, Asheville's "original" tapas place.  We have eaten at Cúrate on multiple occasions but hadn't tried this one.  Funny because it's on the way to Malaprop's, one of my favorite bookstores.

The veggies got grilled tofu with preserved lemon, harissa, and hummus (SO good and from the current menu), and everyone got spiced sangria.  This place was a close second and we'll be back for sure.

 I loved the kitchen and decor for Zambra.  The kitchen is bulb shaped, wider where all the food gets its final preparation and to allow for a pizza/flatbread oven (I think?).  They would not stand still for their picture! There is a lot of space inside and I bet it gets very busy and loud on a good night.

Up fourth was another restaurant I hadn't noticed - Strada Italiano.  They have a full-throttle bake house in their basement that makes all their bread and desserts, and bread for other restaurants in town.  Since we were there post-brunch, it seemed like they decided to serve us food that used up leftovers - french toast out of chocolate cherry bread with basil and berry coulis.  It was fine, but didn't seem to really represent their cuisine and I still have no idea what eating there is like!  They do a cool family supper on Sundays where everything is served family style, meant for people on a budget.  They served us what they call "marinara wine" but I don't think I wrote it down right - cabriaggiano is what my note says but it doesn't seem to exist.

The last time I went to a concert in Asheville, it was at the legendary Orange Peel.  Right up the road is Chestnut Restaurant, known for it's craft food and craft cocktails (we were to hear the phrase "craft cocktail" many times on the tour, as it's the newest trendy trend.)  We had an energetic speech by the executive chef who was as excited about the food as the space, which they've only been in for 18 months.  He also owns The Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village, another place I don't remember seeing but probably should try.  After all, the Obamas ate there!

I love this black and white version of the photo because you can see the 19 people on the food tour, the tour guide Stewart on the end with his NY Yankees hat, and the beautiful beautiful window along the back of the dining hall.  The chef said they do 500 people on a normal busy day, which must be a feat of organization indeed.

We were served a golden and red beet salad with orange reduction, pistachios, and a very thin crostini.  It had a dab of goat cheese in there too.  I love goat cheese with beets but it is something I've had often at various restaurants.  I'd like to take them up on their challenge to make anything with what they have on hand!  Meat eaters got a smoked brisket hash with hollandaise, clearly a remnant of the Saturday brunch.  Oh well, I'm glad they're not wasting food, and everyone completely cleaned their plates.  I'd go back here for lunch, on a day where I could also get one of their marvelous sounding craft cocktails.  But I'd rather come when it was not as busy as it gets at night, personally.  I just don't like crowded noisy places, and I think Chestnut must really get there.  It's to their credit. A noisy restaurant is likely a successful restaurant.  But I want my rhubarb cocktail.

After Chestnut we went to Chocolate Gems, a chocolate shop I had not yet graced with my presence.  I say that somewhat sarcastically because I love the chocolate shops of Western North Carolina, from Black Mountain Chocolate to French Broad Chocolate Lounge to The Chocolate Fetish.  There's also a random place I've encountered in the mountains around a bend but it might have been a mirage.  We were served baby scoops of blueberry lavender sorbetto and vanilla bean gelato, and sent on our way with a pink peppercorn truffle to enjoy at the end of the meal.  I loved the sorbetto, but thought the gelato tasted too much of vanilla alcohol, probably extract.  I really loved the owners/chocolatiers.  Every time he asked if we had questions, I only wanted mine to be, "Please may I work here?" I restrained.  I also came back and bought a cardamom ganache chocolate, which had cardamom infused into the truffley chocolate as well as a cardamom brittle broken up on the inside.  SO good.  Not enough people work with cardamom.  I would have liked to get more of a sampler but we had more walking in the hot sun to do, and I didn't suspect the chocolate would hold up.

We went back to Strada and headed to their rooftop social lounge to end the day. We had samplers of their Mediterranean plate and a craft cocktail that was like a hybrid of a Manhattan and sangria. What a great time!  And even though we were tired, I made Nathaniel pose in the beard corner.

They don't go to the same restaurants every time, so it would be fun to do this in a different season and see where we ended up.  I love Asheville.  It's a great food town with a very walkable downtown, and I'm happy to live just an hour from there.

More fun with rhubarb jam

One of the downsides to making a batch of jam without canning it is needing to use it faster than one person can consume it!  There is a recipe I've been making since I found it in Vegetarian Times in 2008 - [Insert fruit name] Oatmeal Bars.  It's an easy bar cookie that has the additional merit of using up a cup of jam, preserves, marmalade, you name it!

Since I had about two cups of rhubarb-vanilla-earl grey jam, I doubled the recipe and brought it in to work!  Here's what they looked like:

The worst part about using up homemade jam is that you don't have any more.  Who knows what interesting concoction I'll make next!

By the way, I posted this to Instagram almost two weeks ago.  If you want to see my food pictures earlier, including places I go to eat, you can follow me there - sh1mm3r.  I also post a lot of book and beagle pictures.  That's my life!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Food in Jars and Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam

I received a copy of this a year or two ago in exchange for an honest review. I'm sorry it has taken so long, but I've thumbed through it with longing on multiple occasions. I declared 2014 to be the year of food in jars!

Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-RoundFood in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marisa McClellan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If Marisa McClellan wanted to consider another profession, I think she would take easily to perfumer. Her flavor combination ideas just in this book alone make me want to try every recipe and stock my pantry with little batches of goodness.

The recipes catching my eye the first time through:
-Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam with Earl Grey
-Chunky Fig Jam
-Apple Pumpkin Butter
-Orange Vanilla Curd

You get the idea. I've had some of these recipes marked for a year and finally had a chance to make the Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam, and instead of Earl Grey I used my Reading Envy tea which is part Earl Grey, part coconut. This is a lovely light but intricately flavored jam! I've been putting it on toast this week but will bring it to work in the form of oatmeal jam bars.

The recipes in this book include directions for small batch canning, but the recipes aren't in great quantities, so it is just as easy to consume what is made. The idea behind small-batch preserving is to eat some, save some. Many of the recipes could also be frozen. If canning intimidates you, you could either simply not do those steps or allow McClellan to instruct you in your first attempts.

She also has a fabulous blog, Food in Jars, with additional instructions (I went to it to find out how to substitute powdered pectin for liquid in the recipe I was trying, to great success.)

Just a personal note: Marisa McClellan is the sister of Raina Rose, a singer-songwriter from Portland who I first encountered on the streets of Memphis (during an art walk) and lives in Texas. It's a small world out there in internet land, and I had followed both before knowing they were connected.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Low-Carb Biscuits (also gluten free)

This is just a non-sweet version of the shortcakes I posted yesterday, since they were a great success.  They don't exactly taste like biscuits but still pretty close, more biscuit-like than English muffin-like. 

These are flatter; I used the same recipe and baked it in four 6-oz ramekins with vertical sides.  It was pretty hard to get them out without breaking; perhaps next time I'll just draw some circles on some parchment paper and do it that way.  And there will be a next time.  The insides of breakfast sandwiches are already so easily low-carb, we were only missing the outsides!

Low Carb Biscuits

3 tbsp butter, melted
3 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sifted coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Combine dry ingredients, and mix in the wet ingredients.  Scrape batter into greased muffin cups, ramekins, or spread in small circles on parchment paper. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Makes 4-6 biscuits depending on your container and size.  Gently split in half to use for a breakfast sandwich.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Low-carb Shortcake (also gluten-free)

Strawberry season is almost a month late in South Carolina, but as soon as Swamp Rabbit Cafe started selling strawberries from Beechwood Farms, we were there buying a gallon. 

People who are diabetic may not indulge in the number of strawberries that we do in the Colvin household, but the shortcakes themselves are indeed low-carb, so your mileage may vary.  I adapted a recipe I found online, so I guess at this point it's all mine.  I made them in silicon muffin tins because the batter wasn't stiff enough to roll out, but I think next time I'll just make drop biscuit versions to allow them to be a little larger (this picture has three!)

Low-Carb Shortcakes

3 tbsp butter, melted
3 eggs
3 tbsp brown-sugar Splenda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sifted coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Combine coconut flour with baking powder, salt, and Splenda. Make a well, and pour in melted butter, eggs, and vanilla. Pour batter into greased muffin cups. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Makes 6 cakes.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Low-Carb Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

Nathaniel brought home Bob's Red Mill Low-Carb Baking Mix, so I made one of the recipes off the back to give it a try.  It wasn't free, so this isn't a plug or a review.

I couldn't bear to have "just muffins," without a flavor other than "muffin."  So I added cinnamon to the dry ingredients and made a low-carb streusel with brown sugar Splenda and cinnamon for the tops.  These were decent as low-carb baked goods go, I just wish I had a better sense of what else I can do with the mix.  I'm not sure exactly what it can substitute for.  The texture of these muffins weren't any better/worse than some of the paleo banana bread I have made in the last year.  Which means you can use the mix instead of starting from scratch, but I'm not sure it is as cost effective.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Paleo Mock Cornbread

For the second day of ramp experimentation, I sauteed the last bunch (stems and leaves), then added to scrambled eggs and goat cheese.  Since this was dinner, I decided to try the mock cornbread recipe from The Paleo Chocolate Lovers Cookbook.  The recipe is all almond and coconut with a few other ingredients.  It was pretty decent for two people who just don't eat most breads anymore.  It was a nice addition to a very springy meal, despite the rain outside.

I got this cookbook as a gift, so there is no disclaimer needed, except to say this is where you go for the recipe.  I need to experiment a lot more with this one!

And of course somehow I made the only non-chocolate recipe in the entire thing.  The author claims you can make french toast out of this cornbread but I'm a skeptic.  Maybe I'll try it next time!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ramp Gnudi

For several years now, I have been on the hunt for ramps.  Foodies and bloggers would rave about them and I would hear how they sold out from the farmer's market by the time I arrived, or they'd be available at my local market for such a short time that I'd either miss it or the selection remaining would be too wilted for any good.


And I did!  A local market that I seem to spend a lot of time at lately, the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery, posted a picture of ramps right around closing last Saturday, so you'd better believe I was at their front door at 9 AM on Sunday!  Nobody else was pounding down the door to get to the ramps, but better safe than sorry.  I picked up three bunches to experiment with - two to make ramp gnudi and one to use with eggs. 

What are ramps?  Ramps are a variety of an onionlike vegetable that grows in the wild.  This requires it to be foraged and resold for them to end up in my hands.  You can eat the leaves, the stems, and the bulbs, but the picture you are seeing above is after extreme cleaning.  The bunches I picked up were caked in mud and the bulbs were covered with a protective skin.

I had been coveting the Ramp n' Ricotta Gnudi I had seen at the Hungry Tigress blog, so that is the first place I turned when the ramps were burning a hole in my ... fridge.  She instructs you to add the greens to the gnudi mixture, but cooked first.  I have a feeling her homemade ricotta had less moisture than what I bought (although I did strain mine), because to get mine to stay together in the boiling water, I had to add parmesan cheese and a bit more flour (I was trying to keep them as low-carb as possible.)

The recipe instructs you to save the stems and bulbs for another purpose, but I couldn't fathom not making this dish as rampy as possible.  So I sauteed them in some olive oil, and served the ramp n' ricotta gnudi with the ramp stems/bulbs, also drizzled with local truffle olive oil.  The flavors of spring!

It tasted pretty good, but I have a weird texture issue with anything dumpling like.  I probably wouldn't make them again but my husband liked them!  Still, I'm just happy to finally get a chance to experiment with ramps!