Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Speculaas (Dutch Windmill Cookies)

I just love holiday cookies. Who doesn't? After all, everyone is a cookie monster at heart. (Hint: they make great presents for neighbors, co-workers, party hosts, etc.) This year, I have recreated two of my favorite Christmas cookies my mother would have in the house time of year: spritz cookies with jam; and speculaas, aka Dutch windmill cookies. Spectulaas are a Dutch shortbread that are traditionally served for St. Nicholas day and spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and sometimes white pepper. Since this cookie will not rise, it's perfect to use a pretty mold for these. If you don't have one, like me, a cookie cutter will do the trick. I forgot how much I enjoyed speculaas. This recipe lived up to my expectations that my memory conjured up. In a way, they reminded my of those biscoff that they serve on airplanes. I gave a small bag to my Dutch friend and neighbor. She said I that I did a nice job with them, and the flavor was better than she remembered having as a child in Holland. The texture differs a bit since I used oatmeal and buckwheat flours which add more complexity to the flavor and texture. Since this recipe is in weight, it's easy to swap out flours to put your own personalization on them, say like almond flour. These cookies can be decorated in so many pretty ways, but in a rustic fashion, which has more character. They can be used for edible ornaments, too if you cut a small hole in the dough before baking.

165 grams sweet (glutinous) rice flour
165 grams brown rice flour
100 grams oat flour
100 grams buckwheat flour
270 grams butter, room temp
260 grams confectioners sugar
80 grams sugar
3.2 grams (2 tablespoons) grated lemon zest
5 grams (1 tablespoon) cinnamon
1 gram (1/2 teaspoon) cloves
1 gram (1/2 teaspoon) cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
50 grams (1 large) egg, room temp
garnish: egg wash & sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a medium/large bowl combine all the flours and mix well. In a large work bowl of a mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter, powdered sugar, sugar well but not fluffy. Add in the zest and all of the seasonings and mix until just incorporated. Add in the egg and mix until just mixed in. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the flour mixture until all added in well. The dough would be very thick and uniform.

The classic way to make these cookie is by molding the cookie dough. The dough is pressed into special wooden cookie mold, then removed and laced onto parchment paper. Alternatively, it can be stamped to emboss a design in the dough. Otherwise, make up the cookies wither as icebox cookies or as rolled cookies cut with cookie cutters. They should be rolled/cut to 1/4 inch thickness. Garnish with a light brush of egg wash and almonds. If making into ornaments, cut out a small hole before baking. This recipe makes a lot of cookies! About 3-4 dozen, depending on size. Merry Christmas!

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

We invite you to to our Virtual Cookie Swap with Food Network! Check out The FN Dish.  Follow the participating bloggers: and . Here are some incredible cookies that others are bringing to the on-line holiday communal table:

Thursday Night Dinner: Peppermint Bark Cookies

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

So continues Food Network's Fall Fest with winter squash. The first thing to come to my mind, as I sure most people's minds, is butternut squash soup. With good reason. It's comforting, warm, hearty, rich, and not that difficult to make. Most soups start with a mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery), which creates the aromatic foundation. Then add in cooked tender squash, stock, seasonings, and puree. That simple. Well, I find the most difficult aspect is the handling of the butternut squash. Every time I break one down, I curse at myself for not buying a cheap work horse cleaver from the Asian market. Hence I prefer to roast the butternut squash split in the oven. Then it works it easy to scoop out and add into the stock pan. Roasting adds a great depth of flavor from the Maillard reaction: the browning reaction (think meats, caramel, etc) that breaks down proteins and carbohydrates into small tasty flavor molecules. I add the mirepoix on the baking sheet to roast with the squash, too. That tends to get more browning, which means more flavor. Make up a big batch. It keeps well in the fridge and reheats well. Add a little flair by garnishing using your creativity. I prefer sour cream and chives. Other garnish ideas: roasted pumpkin seeds, celery leaves, thyme leaves, a sprinkle of chipotle or ancho chili powder....

1 medium butternut squash
1 medium onion, chopped medium
3 stalks celery, chopped medium
3 carrots, peeled, cut medium dice
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
dash nutmeg
salt and (white) pepper, to taste
1 quart chicken broth, not all will be used (or vegetable)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1/4 cup half and half

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the butternut squash lengthwise, remove the seeds with a spoon, coat with oil and salt, place cut side down on a jelly roll pan. Add the mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots) on the jelly roll pan with remaining oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes. Stirring the mirepoix a couple of times. Done when the squash is fork tender and some of the mirepoix is lightly browned.

In a large sauce pan or small stock pot, add about 1 cup of stock and heat on medium. Add in the roasted mirepoix to the stock while the squash cools off enough to handle. With a spoon, remove the skin from the squash, cut up in smaller chunks, and add into the stock. Top off with more stock until the level of stock is about 1/2 inch above the vegetables. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, add in thyme or seasonings of your choice. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion/stick blender. If you do not have one, blend in a blender or food processor in batches as needed. During this, add in the half and half. Taste and adjust seasonings per your palette.

This makes up to 2 quarts of soup. Adjust this recipe for your preference. I view a recipe like this as a guideline. Freezes well, too.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest, highlighting the produce that is in season. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on this week is winter squash. Come over to Twitter where we are discussing it on #cookingwith and #fallfest. Here are other delicious features on winter squash:

Spritz Cookies with Jam

While sharing cookie recipes with the rest of the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally (GFreeRally), I came across spritz cookies. You know, the kind that are piped out with a small dollop of jam in the center. What really caught my eye was almond paste was listed as the first ingredient and I just bought two packages of marzipan from IKEA. I also had a new jar of strawberry preserves. Nice, I didn't even have to buy anything to make these cookies. Spritz cookies have a strong association with Christmas. Frankly, it had been so long since I had them that I had forgotten what they tasted like.

Apparently spritz has been shortened from the German spritzgebäck. Per Wikipedia: "Spritzgebäck is a type of German Christmas  biscuit  made of eggs, butter, sugar, and flour. When made correctly, the cookies are crisp, fragile, somewhat dry, and buttery. The German verb spritzen means to squirt in English. As the name implies, these cookies are made by extruding, or "squirting" the dough with a press fitted with patterned holes or with a cake decorator to which a variety of nozzles may be fitted. Spritzgebäck is a common pastry in Germany and served often during Christmas season, when parents commonly spend afternoons baking with their children for one or two weeks. Traditionally, parents bake Spritzgebäck using their own special recipes, which they pass down to their children."

I brought out a plate of my freshly baked spritz cookies at the tail end of a heart-breaking football game we were watching. And our team was losing miserably. They perked up everyone's spirits immediately. "Erin, THESE are the best cookies you have ever made!" "These remind me of Christmas with chewy jam center." They were liking eating childhood Christmas nostalgia for me. The outside was a thin crust of sugar with a delicate moist almond crumb. And the chewy jam center... irresistible.

This month's GF Ratio Rally challenge is cookies & Caroline of The G-Spot hosted this month. The Gluten-Free Ratio Rally is a group of GF bloggers, rallied by Shauna of, where we put our on spin a a culinary standard. These culinary standards are known formulas, ratios, that professionals use. The caveat is that everything is done by weight, since weight is more standardized and much more accurate than measuring by volume. This is the foundation of the GFreeRally as started and explained by Gluten-Free Girl here. The book that we base our ratios is Michael Ruhlman's Ratio. Ruhlman's drop cookie ratio is a 3 parts flour : 2 parts fat : 1 part sugar recipe. Mine turned out to be a little more complex, 2 flour : 2 almond paste: ~2 butter : 1 sugar : ~1 egg, but so worth it!

133 grams almond paste or marzipan
67 grams sugar
1.5 grams (1/4 teaspoon) salt
113 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
50 grams (1 large) egg, room temp.
2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) vanilla extract
67 grams sweet (glutinous, but GF) rice flour
67 grams brown rice flour
1/4 cup your choice of jam, preserves, jelly, etc

Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium bowl, scale and mix together the sweet & brown rice flours. In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, scale the marzipan, sugar, salt, and butter. Cream on low until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla, and mix until incorporated. With the mixer running at the lowest speed, slowly add in the flour mixture and mix until uniform. Transfer all of the batter into a pipping bag equipped with a large star tip or a gallon plastic food bag with the very tip of the corner cut off. Use a cookie press if you have one. Pipe circles, or any shape you'd like onto a sheet of parchment paper, leaving ample space between. I recommend 12 x 1.5" diameter per sheet. Place a small dollop of jam in the center of each cookie. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden brown.

This recipe makes about 18-20 cookies and can double very easily. If you would like more "body" to these cookies, add another 10-15 grams of each flour to the recipe. Store in an air-tight container. Share with loved ones.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

Head on over to Caroline's host post to see her amazing Double Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies and all the other fantastic recipes brought to you by rally participants this month! Thanks again Caroline for hosting a festive challenge! Also, if you're on Twitter, search #GFreeRally

Amanda | Gluten Free Maui | Simple Shortbread
Amie Valpone | The Healthy Apple |
Grapefruit Sugar Cookies
Brooke | B & the boy! |
Candy Cane Shortbread
Caleigh | Gluten Free[k] |
Mulled Spice Cookies
Caneel | Mama Me Gluten Free |
Cardamom Date Cookies
charissa | zest bakery |
Coconut Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caroline | The G-Spot | Double Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies
Claire | Gluten Freedom |
Chai Latte Cashew Cookies
Erin | The Sensitive Epicure |
Spritz Cookies with Jam
gretchen | kumquat |
Classic Sugar Cookies
Irvin | Eat the Love |
Apple Brown Butter Bay Leaf Spice Cookies
Jean | Gluten Free Doctor Recipes |
Reindeer Cookies
Jenn | Jenn Cuisine |
Basler Brunsli
Jonathan| The Canary Files |
Vegan Salted Oatmeal Cherry Cookies
Karen | Cooking Gluten Free! |
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Lisa from Gluten Free Canteen |
Molasses Rum Raisin Cookies
Mary Fran | frannycakes |
Pinwheel Cookies
Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan |
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Meredith | Gluten Free Betty |
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
Morri | Meals With Morri|
Stevia Sweetened & Grain-Free Thumbprint Cookies with Apricot Preserves
Pete & Kelli | No Gluten, No Problem|
Belgian Speculaas Cookies
Rachel | The Crispy Cook |
Shauna | The Gluten-Free Girl & Chef | Soft Molasses Cookies
Silvana Nardone | Silvana's Kitchen |
Old-School Italian Jam-Filled Hazelnut Cookies
T.R. | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies |
Cinnamon Lemon Cookies
Tara | A Baking Life | Walnut Shortbread

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Simply Sauteed Beets

Beets, really? Food Network's Fall Fest ends with a beet recipe. More like a challenge to me. As a young teenager, my father would attempt to feed me beets. Those gross canned pickled beets that stunk. I would refuse. My dad would tempt me by saying, "Beets will make your boobs big." Blah. He never convinced me to eat them. And I developed into a well-endowed lady regardless of not eating my beets.

Foodies I trust praise beets. They must know something. Guess it resides in how beets are prepared. While scouting out the best produce at the farmer's market by the municipal airport, I found a small bumper supply of fresh beets. Nothing much to look at from the exterior: brown, shriveled, not uniform, with wiry roots. The farmer was tending to another customer. The conversation extended into small talk. That's when I asked about the beets, seeing that he purchased the giant basket of them. The both raved about how sweet and tasty the fresh beets are, telling me the best way to prepare them is simply - to bring out the natural sweetness. Boil until fork tender, then saute with butter and salt. Then my friend came for a visit who's been living in Budapest, Hungary. She saw the beets and told me I should steam the beets to keep as much color and nutrients as possible. Apparently in Budapest, beets are bountiful. These beets, I have to admit, I liked. They had a balance of delicate sweetness and earthiness. And the color. Just like gems.

1 basket fresh beets, scrubbed
2 tablespoons butter (I used goat butter)
1 teaspoon salt (I used gray salt)

Cut the tops and bottoms off of the beets. Place in a steaming apparatus of what you have. Cover and steam until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool enough to handle. Using a spoon, carefully remove the skin. Cut into even wedges.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add in the butter, the beets, and the salt. Stir/toss occasionally for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest, highlighting the produce that is in season. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on beets. Come over to Twitter where we are discussing it on #cookingwith and #fallfest. Here are other delicious features on beets :

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Maple Bourbon Glazed & Braised Carrots

I love carrots. Especially their bright orange color. Usually, I eat carrots raw as carrot sticks. But I often forget how sweet carrots are when cooked. Another one of my favorites is roasted carrots with potatoes. It is rare to find a dish where the carrots are the star. One of the standard culinary carrot dishes I learned to make in culinary school was glazed carrots. Unfortunately, it rarely lived up to its potential. I believe due to the technical execution which consisted of boiling the carrots in too much water in a narrow sauce pan, resulting in watery and mushy carrots with no color left. Herein lies my redo of this classic. Braising proves perfect for glazing. Braising is when something is cooked in a wide covered dish with no added moisture over medium to high heat. Here my seasonings consist of my seasonal favorites: maple syrup, Kentucky bourbon (yes, it is gluten-free, made from corn: my choice Eagle Rare), nutmeg, and butter. My favorite cut for carrots is oblique which is easy, making all cut about the same size, and very fancy looking. Here's a link of oblique cut demonstration video. Special enough for the holidays. Easy enough for anyone to make. Tasty enough for everyone to enjoy.

1 pound carrots, peeled, cut oblique
1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil)
2 tablespoons (real) maple syrup
3 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon
dash nutmeg
salt, black and white pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped (optional)

In a large skillet (make sure you have a tight-fitting lid for it), heat the butter, maple syrup, and bourbon over medium heat with occasional stirring, simmering for about 5 minutes to cook off alcohol. Add in cut carrots, a dash of nutmeg, pinches of salt and pepper. Stir. Cover with lid. Occasionally stir. After about 10 minutes, the carrots should appear darker and glazed. Check with a fork for tenderness and taste for seasonings. Once tender per your preference, remove from heat and toss in parsley if you would like. Serve immediately.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest, highlighting the produce that is in season. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on the carrot. Come over to Twitter where we are discussing it on #cookingwith and #fallfest. Here are other delicious features on carrots :

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oyster Dressing & Gravy

To this day, my mother is the best cook I have ever known. She has been gone for over eight years, and I still find myself trying to replicate some of her culinary repertoire. I consider myself fortunate to learn so much from her, growing up in the kitchen, following her around. Mom always made a big to-do for holiday dinners with some of her annual specialties. My favorites were her oyster dressing and basic gravy on Thanksgiving. Yes, also known as stuffing. Both were very simple, but seasoned perfectly allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves.

My mom know that the aroma of sweating onions in butter would get me in the kitchen. Quick. Then our Thanksgiving duty would start. The toasting and crumbling of the bread. My sister and I would set up a toaster in the breakfast room and work at this for what seemed like hours. Now, I cube of the bread and toast all at once in the oven on jelly roll pans. Using the only best gluten-free bread, Udi's, and fresh oysters do cost a pretty penny. However, the results are worth it. It's Thanksgiving! In researching oyster dressing, I found that most of the recipes have bacon and cornbread in it. I find that distracts from the flavor of the oysters. Keep it simple. I rely on the flavors of browned butter, a seared turkey neck (for extra turkey flavor), onions, shallots, garlic, celery, and fresh herbs.

I prefer to bake the dressing separately in a dish rather than inside the turkey. A few reasons: food safety - the inside cavity of the turkey does not get hot fast enough to cook the stuffing; when baked in its on dish, the top gets a nice crust. Inevitably, if one tries to cook dressing inside the bird, the turkey always ends up overcooked and dry, while the stuffing is wet, mushy, and overcooked. That is why I prefer to put only flavoring components in the cavity such as citrus, herbs, seasonings, etc.

My mom always made what is called a pan gravy. That is, taking the pan drippings, broth, etc, heating them on the stove top and adding in a slurry of water and cornstarch to thicken. Since I do not have a turkey, I use chicken broth to make the gravy. Using a turkey neck brings more of a turkey flavor into the broth. The addition of herbs adds more flavor, too.

Oyster Dressing:
1 loaf of Udi's gluten-free white bread
1 stick butter, 4 ounces
1 turkey neck, cracked (by the butcher)
1 large yellow onion, diced small
4 ribs celery, diced small
1 shallot, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped fine
2-3 bay leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups good quality chicken stock
16 ounces oysters (with the juice)

1/2 stick butter
1 turkey neck, cracked (by the butcher)
1 quart of good quality chicken stock
2-3 stalks of  fresh thyme
small bundle fresh sage leaves
2-3 bay leaves
salt and white pepper to taste
4 tablespoons cornstarch starch

Oyster Dressing:
In a 325F oven, toast up the 1/2-3/4" cubed bread laid out in single layers for about 15 minutes until golden brown. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and sear the turkey neck on all sides. Turn the heat down to medium and add in the onions, celery, garlic, shallots, a pinch of salt, and the herbs. Once the aromatics have sweated, becoming translucent, add in 1 cup of the stock. Remove the turkey neck and bay leaves after about 5 minutes of cooking. Turn off heat. Add in remaining 1 cup of stock. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Put the toasted bread in a large bowl. Pour the skillet of this goodness over the bread and gently mix with a large silicone spoon. Check again for seasoning. Then pour in the oysters and their nectar and stir until evenly distributed. Turn into a sprayed casserole dish and cook at 400F for 30 minutes.

In a large sauce pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Sear the turkey neck on all sides. Add in the stock and herbs. Allow to reduce with occasional stirring over 30-45 minutes. Taste for strength of turkey flavor and seasoning. Add salt and white pepper as needed. Stain using a fine mesh strainer. Return to heat, and put about 1/2 cup strained broth into a cup. Stir in the cornstarch starch into that cup, making a thick slurry. Add to the heating broth, stirring constantly over medium heat. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes to cook out any of the uncooked starch flavor. Once it is slightly boiling for 1 minute, the starch has been cooked out and has thickened completely.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest, highlighting the produce that is in season. Check out The FN Dish. In honor of Thanksgiving, Food Network is getting the entire food community together to celebrate a Virtual Thanksgiving, called The Communal Table. On twitter, join us by #pullupachair. Here are other delicious recipes that others are bringing to the table:

Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:
Sweet Life Bake: Pumpkin Margarita
Easy Peasy Organic: Thanksgiving Ginger Cocktail
Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bruschetta With Sage Pesto
Mooshu Jenne: Green Salad
Two Peas and Their Pod: Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Salad
Jones is Hungry: Roasted Vegetable Salad
Purple Cook: Pasta and Bean Stew With Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe
From My Corner of Saratoga: Curried Pumpkin Soup
CIA Dropout: Turkey and Stuffles Roulades With Squash Mash
FN Dish: Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey
My Angel's Allergies: Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens
Cafe Terra Blog: Cranberry Pumpkin Stuffing
Virtually Homemade: Twice-Baked Cheddar and Chive Potatoes
Easy Eats Magazine: Sausage and Dried Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing
The Sensitive Epicure: Oyster Dressing and Gravy
Daily*Dishin: Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes Supreme
What's Gaby Cooking: Rustic Herb Skillet Stuffing
Family Fresh Cooking: Coconut Brown-Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Silvana's Kitchen: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Mushroom-Rye Stuffing
The Cultural Dish: Cranberry Sauce
I Am Baker: Pumpkin Cake
Heather Christo: Pumpkin Vanilla Ice Cream Pie
And Love It Too: Pumpkin Custard (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Haute Apple Pie Girls: Double Pumpkin Mini Pies With Candied Pecans
Ladles and Jelly Spoons: Not Your Same Old Pumpkin Pie
Daydreamer Desserts: Cuban Diplomatic Pudding
Thursday Night Dinner: Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Caramel Apple Pie

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Roasted Turnips with Olive Oil and Rosemary

Looking for a way to spice up your dinner? How about turnips? Turnip greens are notorious for their pepperiness and bitterness. I tend to think about the bulbous root when I think of turnips. Turnips contain bitter cyanoglucosides (and lots of vitamin C.) Some people who are genetic "supertasters" and tend to be more sensitive to more bitter compounds in food and could find turnips too peppery and bitter for their delicate palettes. Turnips can serve as an opportunity to add a pungent peppery punch to cut through a rich meal such as a pot roast or anything with a fatty cream sauce. Adding balance. While in culinary school, I was introduced to the turnip and the parsnip in the root vegetable cooking lab. We simply roasted a mixture of root vegetables for something complex and extraordinary. I decided to roast plain turnips in olive oil and rosemary with some salt and pepper. Simple as that. Very easy to prepare, and turnips peel much easier than most root vegetables. The smaller the turnip, the more tender. I add the rosemary in stages throughout the roasting process to layer the flavors.

1 pound turnips, peeled, medium dice cut
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to bake at 375F. In a roasting pan, combine the diced turnips, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of rosemary. Mix until evenly coated. Make sure the turnips are in an even single layer. Total roasting time is typically 45 minutes. Every 15 minutes, remove, add another pinch of rosemary until 1 pinch is left, and stir up and redistribute turnips before placing back in oven. Turnips are done roasting once the edges have browned. Taste for salt and pepper; add more if needed. Add final pinch of rosemary and toss again. Serve immediately.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest, highlighting the produce that is in season. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on the turnip! Come over to Twitter where we are discussing it on #cookingwith and #fallfest. Here are other delicious recipes featuring turnips:

Virtually Homemade: Turnip Gratin With Parmesan and Nutmeg
And Love It Too: Turnip Pancakes
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Turnips, Really?
Purple Cook: Vegetable Biryani With Turnips
Glory Foods: Turnip Greens With Potatoes and Mushrooms
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Creamed Turnips With Their Greens
FN Dish: Simply Roasted Turnips

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cauliflower Souffle

Cauliflower proves to be polarizing. My husband does not like it, mostly due to its thio, sulfury, stinky compounds. I like it. Maybe if I made it baked with eggs, cheese, and other aromatic ingredients, he would like it better. I remembered my food-writer inspiration and friend had a recipe for souffleed cauliflower I wanted to try. Colman Andrews has a simple, beautiful recipe in his Country Cooking of Ireland. (This cookbook is so great, it won best cookbook of the year by the James Beard Foundation, beating out Thomas Keller last year.) This souffle turned out lovely: lightly, fluffy, tender cauliflower, slightly cheesy. It really highlights the cauliflower instead of covering it up. Nope, I could not get my husband to try it. More for me!

Cauliflower Souffle (Adapted from The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch
salt, white pepper, and nutmeg to taste
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
1 1/2 cups milk (hot)
1 large cauliflower, trimmed and divided into florets
2 large eggs, room temp, separated
1/2 cup (60 grams) grated Irish cheddar chesse

Put the cauliflower into a large bowl of cold salted water for 30 minutes. Drain out water. Cover and microwave for about 2 - 3 minutes until tender. Otherwise, boil the cauliflower for 10 minutes. Microwaving will retain the nutritional content of the cauliflower. Allow to cool.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add in the butter and arrowroot. Whisk frequently until lightly bubbling. Add in a pinch of salt, white pepper, and nutmeg plus the mustard powder. Turn off heat. Slowly pour in the hot milk while whisking all at once. Turn heat back on to low/medium and continue to whisk until smooth and almost boiling. Taste for seasoning and add more per your taste. The bechamel (white sauce) should be thickened at this point. If not, continue to heat until slightly thick. Remove from heat. Add in the grated cheese with whisking until smooth. Add the egg yolk one at a time, whiking theim in until well combined.

Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the souffle mixture in 1/3 increments.

Place the drained cauliflower florets into the bottom of the souffle pan(s) evenly. Spoon the souffle mixture over the cauliflower. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, or until the souffle has risen and just stars to brown. Serves 4-6.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest, highlighting the produce that is in season. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on the chouxfleurs cauliflower! Come over to Twitter where we are discussing it on #cookingwith and #fallfest. Here are other delicious features on cauliflower:

Big Girls Small Kitchen: Cauliflower Soup With Sharp Cheddar and Thyme
Dishin & Dishes: Cauliflower Gratin

James Beard Chess Pie

Pie crust was this month's Gluten-Free Ratio Rally Challenge, hosted by Lisa of Gluten Free Canteen. Keep up the our activities on Twitter #gfreerally and join in! I decided to make chess pie, because I really had no clue what exactly it was. In my research, chess pie is a Southern Pie that has custard filling thickened with cornmeal: butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and the cornmeal. Then I pulled out my tried and true culinary reference book, James Beard American Cookery to find a different story and ingredients. According to James Beard, chess pie was brought over from England and now (1972) found prevalently in New England and the Virginias. Beard's recipe does not contain cornmeal, but contains walnuts and raisins or dates in addition to a little bit of acid to coagulate the egg proteins. I choose to make the Beard version of chess pie. As culinarians, we are trained to understand the fundamental basics before tinkering. As far as the crust goes, I wanted to keep it basic. Trying to follow Michael Ruhlman's pie crust/pate brisee recipe as close as possible for the ratios used.

The Gluten-Free Ratio Rally is a group of GF bloggers, rallied by Shauna of, where we put our on spin a a culinary standard. These culinary standards are known formulas, ratios, that professionals use. The caveat is that everything is done by weight, since weight is more standardized and much more accurate than measuring by volume. Which is foundation of the GFreeRally as started and explained by Gluten-Free Girl here. The book that we base our ratios is Michael Ruhlman's Ratio. Ruhlman's pie dough is a 3:2:1/flour:fat:water recipe. Keep in mind that butter contains about 50% water/50% fat, whereas shortening, lard, etc is 100% fat and 0% water. My final ratio was 340g:113g:57g/flour:butter:water, which really equals 3:1:2/flour:fat:water. My ratio differs because of a couple of different factors: gluten-free matrices leech out a lot more fat than the standard gluten-filled doughs; and changing the order of addition, utilizing the adding water as boiling to gelatinize the starches requires more water for the same consistency of dough. Gelatinzing the flours gives a great elastic quality to gluten-free doughs as well as giving it strength so it does not break quite as badly, without having to use additional rheology modifiers, i.e., xanthan or guar gums.

I found the James Beard version of chess pie to be perfect for fall and winter. It is sweet and rich, having a thin almost burnt caramel crust on top with a messy and gooey filling, reminscensent of a light and fluffy pecan pie filling. The chopped walnuts, raisins, and dates add texture and more depth to this pie filling. I think this pie would be perfect for any fall or winter holiday. Especially a la mode, with some great quality vanilla ice cream or gelato on top. Someday, I will have to try what is modern chess pie. Until then, I will enjoy the "original chess pie." Wow, it really is addictive. Maybe a small slice with a cup of tea on this brisk morning...

James Beard Chess Pie:
Pie Crust:
120 grams sweet rice flour
110 grams blanched almond flour
110 grams cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
113 grams boiling water
113 grams (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter

Chess Pie Filling:
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins, currants, or chopped dates (I used raisins + dates due to pantry availability)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temp
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1/4 cup half & half, room temp
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup orange, lemon, grape juice or sherry (I used sherry)

Pie Crust:
Preheat oven to 325F. Combine the flours and salt in a food processor fitted with a blade. With the processor running, add in the boiling water. Mix for 2 minutes, stopping and scrapping the walls. Evenly distribute with spatula in work bowl, cover, and allow to cool to room temperature or a little cooler. Putting it in the fridge helps expedite this process. Return to processor, turn on, and slowly add in the cold butter cut into small pieces. Use a spatula to help work this dough, it can be unruly. Do not use your hands. The heat from your hands will melt the butter. The cold butter will remain in small chunks, giving a flakiness to the crust. Once all worked in, turn out onto a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Put another piece on top. Roll out until about 1/3 inch thickness, or large enough to fill a 9 inch diameter pie pan generously. Transfer to sheet pan and chill slightly until firm, yet pliable. Remove top sheet from dough, put that side down into the pie pan. Carefully work from the center out, forming the dough to fit the pan. Remove the other sheet. Using a butter knife, remove excess pie dough. To give a fancy scalloped edge, pinch the edge using forefinger between forefinger and thumb of other hand. Dock the pie crust by poking with a fork. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until just barely golden brown. Allow to cool before adding in pie filling.

Chess Pie Filling:
Have oven ready at 425F. In a large (dry) skillet, heated over medium heat, toast up the walnuts and dried fruits. This a a great way to add a toasty flavor to the walnuts, removing any bitterness, as well as rehydrating and plumping up the dried fruits. (Oh, I bet dried cranberries could be a great seasonal variation. I must try!) Stir/toss occasionally, do not let get too brown. Takes about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Cream the butter with the sugar and beat in the eggs. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Yes, it will look curdled and like a mess. It will all bake out. Pour into the baked pie shell/crust. Bake the pie (on a jelly roll pan for boil over) 15 minutes at 425F. Reduce the heat to 325F and bake for another 20 minutes longer. Cool on a rack, allow to set before serving.

Don't forget to head on over to Lisa's host post to see her amazing tart/pies and all the other fantastic recipes brought to you by rally participants this month! Thanks again Lisa! Also, if you're on Twitter, search #GFreeRally

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

TR from No One Likes Crumbley Cookies Chocolate Mousse Pie
Jean Layton from Gluten-Free Doctor Cheese Crusted Apple Pie
Irvin from Eat the Love Double Butterscotch Apple Pie
Kate from katealicecookbook Kale & Zucchini Tart
Jenn from Jenn Cuisine Sweet Potato and Duck Pot Pie
Caleigh from Gluten Free[k] Leek and Potato Pie
Karen from Cooking Gluten Free Pie
Rachel from The Crispy Cook Maple Walnut Pie
Claire from Gluten Freedom Autumn Pumpkin Spice Pie
Silvana Nardone from Silvana’s Kitchen Chicken Potpie
Caneel from Mama Me Gluten Free Green Tomato Pie
Meredith from Gluten Free Betty Blueberry Pie
Shauna from Gluten-free Girl and the Chef Fresh Pumpkin Pie
Brooke from B & the boy! Pot Pie
Lisa from Gluten Free Canteen Frangipane Apple Tart
 ~Mrs. R from Honey From Flinty Rocks Mock Apple Pie

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Molasses Marshmallows

Last year I jumped on the whoopie pie band wagon for a good reason. They are individual cake sandwiches with whatever frosting/marshmallow sugary goodness my heart desires for the filling. Since the gooey filling is on the inside, that means less mess on my hands. Most importantly, the only special equipment I need to make perfect whoopie pies are parchment sheets and a scooper for consistent portioning. This makes for professional looking cake/cookies that all cook at the same time.

As a Celiac, cake is on top of my most wanted list. It has been since long before forced to going gluten-free. Whoopie pies make cake more accessible and everyday in my mind. And a great way to share an indulgent treat without too much fanfare. This time of year, I want everything pumpkin, with lots of spices. For this cake, I love using Pamela's Baking Mix, which has all kinds of yumminess that works perfect with pumpkin cake: almond meal, brown rice flour, and powdered buttermilk. Pumpkin has more options with flavor pairing than I could have ever imagined. In a sweet treat, I like to pair pumpkin with full-flavored natural sweeteners. In my pumpkin cake recipe, I use brown sugar which has a richness to pair nicely with the pumpkin and spices. Pumpkin can pair up with even a darker, more complex flavor and sweeter: blackstrap molasses. I think it has more depth and complexity than chocolate. Molasses also is acidic in nature, giving a lightness and balance to the flavor profile. Since molasses is unrefined it has significant nutritional content: vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron; one tablespoon provides up to 20% of the recommended daily value of each of those nutrients. I decided to make the marshmallow filling using molasses. Perfect flavor pairing. It knocked my socks off.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie Batter:
  • 200 grams (1 1/3 cup packed) Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking Soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 100 grams (1 stick minus 1 tablespoon) of unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 110 grams (1/2 cup, packed) brown sugar
  • 85 grams (generous 1/3 cup) pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 grams (scant 1/2 cup) buttermilk, room temp (can use milk + 1 teaspoon cider vinegar)
Molasses Marshmallows:
  • 22 grams (3 x 1/4 ounce packets) unflavored granulated gelatin
  • 120 grams/mL (1/2 cup) cold water
  • 420 grams (2 cups) sugar
  • 195 grams (2/3 cup) blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 60 grams/mL (1/4 cup) water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla &/or bourbon
Pumpkin Cake Cookies:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a medium/large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, all the spices, and the salt and mix well. Set aside. 
  3. In the workout of the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and brown sugar; cream for a couple of minutes. One at a time, slowly add in the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. (At this point it may not come together. No fear.)
  4. Add in about 1/3 of the flour & spice mixture into the butter mixture at a slow speed. Allow to come together.
  5. Alternate with 1/3 of the buttermilk and allow to mix well. Continue alternating additions until all added.
  6. Portion out batter using a 3/4 - 1 ounce scooper onto parchment paper. About 12 per sheet.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes, until edges are golden brown.
Molasses Marshmallows:
  1. In the work bowl of the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sprinkle the gelatin over 120 grams/mL (1/2 cup) cold water. Let sit for 10 minutes for gelatin to bloom.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, blackstrap molasses, salt, and 60 grams/mL (1/4 cup) water. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil with occasional stirring. Boil rapidly for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Turn on the mixer to high with bloomed gelatin, and slowly pour the boiling syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into the gelatin mixture. Mix for 12 minutes. The mixture will become light (in color, too) and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla &/or bourbon; mix until well combined. Spray your scooper with cooking spray. Immediately portion 1 scoop marshmallow between 2 pumpkin cake cookies and press until the marshmallow comes to the edge.
  4. Work with the marshmallows quickly before setting. There will be plenty of leftover marshmallows. Perfect for hot chocolate, s'mores, etc. Lightly spray a small baking pan with cooking spray, line with plastic wrap, leaving a 2 inches overhang on all sides. Spray a silicone spatula with cooking spray. Spread soft marshmallows into prepared pan. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place, spray side down, to top of marshmallows. Let stand for 2 hours. Carefully remove from pan, removing plastic wrap. Cut marshmallows into squares using oiled knife. In a large bowl or ziplock bag, place powdered sugar. Working in batches, add marshmallows and toss to coat.
(Makes about 16 whoopie pies)

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest, highlighting the produce that is in season. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on the great pumpkin! Here are other delicious features on pumpkin:

What's Gaby Cooking: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars
The Cultural Dish: Pumpkin Waffles
Cooking With Elise: Pumpkin Chip Scones
And Love It Too: Creamy Pumpkin Fruit Dip
CIA Dropout: Pumpkin Panna Cotta With Gingerbread
Haute Apple Pie Girls: Pumpkin Bread Parfait
I Am Mommy: Pumpkin Pancakes
Dishin and Dishes: Maple Pumpkin Creme Brulee
Virtually Homemade: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins With Pumpkin Seed Streusel
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Pumpkin Pizza
Daydreamer Desserts: Pumpkin Fattigman
From My Corner of Saratoga: Baking Pie In The Pumpkin
FN Dish: The Ultimate Pumpkin Soup
Cooking Channel: Pumpkin Risotto
The Sensitive Epicure: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies With Molasses Marshmallows
Daily*Dishin: Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake
ZaikaZabardast: Pumpkin Jalebi
Mooshu Jenne: Pumpkin Nutella Bread
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Loaf

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Potatoes Anna with Fresh Thyme and Truffle Salt

This NFL football season, I have the honor to personal chef for an amazing running back, Cedric Benson, of the Cincinnati Bengals. (And the bonus is that he is a very nice and chill man.) One of our favorite meals I made for him was a steak house meal: potatoes Anna with olive oil, fresh thyme, and black truffle salt; pan seared hanger steak; and creamed spinach. These potatoes Anna looked so spectacular and Cedric liked them so much, that I had to remake it for my household.

Potatoes Anna or pommes Anna, is a classic French dish of sliced, layered potatoes cooked in a very large amount of melted butter. Potatoes are peeled and sliced very thin. The slices, salted and peppered, are layered into a pan, generously doused with melted butter, and cooked until they form a cake. Then they are turned upside down every ten minutes until the outside is golden and crispy. At the end of the cooking period, the dish is unmoulded and forms a cake 6 to 8 inches in diameter and about 2 inches high. It is then cut in wedges and served immediately on a hot plate, usually accompanying roasted meats. Yum. Meat and potatoes.

I wanted to make it more modern and flavorful. First off, I leave the skin on. So much nutritional value, flavor and texture is in that skin. I think the skin adds to a great aesthetic, too. And why waste the time with peeling? Olive oil proves to be a smarter choice over butter: more flavor; poly unsaturated fats, more heart-healthy; and using a brush will keep amount of oil to a minimum. Inspired by the truffle fries at Senate Restaurant, which to me are more of thyme and truffle, I incorporated fresh thyme and my favorite black truffle salt into my potatoes Anna. I always praise fresh herbs and use in just about everything I make. If you could see my herb garden... I ask my neighbors to come over with a pair of scissors and help themselves. They always bring so much flavor and dimension to the party. I am convinced fresh herbs have nutritional and homeopathic benefits, too. (My personal opinion.) Do not be intimidated to make this! This recipe is a guideline. Use the target of a two inch thickness depending on the size of skillet you use. I used one of those single egg skillets, which was perfect 1-2 people. And it's so cute. It is simple. Yes, technical and a bit artsy. The payoff is rewarding. Try it.

  • Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes (1 for tiny skillet, 2-3 for 6-8" pan) uniform in diameter, scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil    
  • truffle salt, to taste   
  • white pepper, to taste
  • fresh thyme, leaves separated with no stem, to taste
  1. Select uniformly sized potatoes in the diameter. The appearance of this dish is important, so the slices should be neat and even. (Do not used red potatoes. They have more sugar and will burn.)
  2. Cut into thin slices. I used a mandolin, cut into 1/8" thickness. Put into well salted, cold water. This prevents them from turning brown and removes excess starch so they will not be gummy.
  3. Put the olive olive into a small cup and have a brush ready. Set up the truffle salt, white pepper, and thyme leaves.
  4. Use a thick skillet/fry pan, or even better, a cast iron skillet. The skillet must be well seasoned or non-stick, so the potatoes will not stick. Brush olive oil on the bottom and walls of the skillet.
  5. Drain the potatoes and dry them well. Blot with paper towels. Select the most uniform slices for the bottom layer. Arrange the slices in circles in the bottom of the pan. Shingle the slices and reverse the direction of each circle. Brush the layer sparingly with olive oil, and season lightly with truffle salt, white pepper and sprinkle a small amount of thyme leaves over it.
  6. Continue making layers, oiling and seasoning each layer, until the thickness is 2 inches or the potatoes are used up. The potatoes will be mounded over the top of the pan, but they will compress as they cook. I put a weight on top, such a pan that has some heft to it.
  7. Place the pan over a low to medium burner.
  8. Cook for about 20 minutes. Test for doneness by piercing center with a toothpick.
  9. Carefully invert the potato cake onto a flat baking sheet or cutting board. The potatoes should have stayed intact in a round cake, but if any slices fall off, put them back in place. Set the potatoes back in the skillet, browned side up, and return to a medium heat for an additional 10 minutes.
  10. Slide onto platter, garnish with a sprinkling of thyme, truffle salt, and white pepper. Cut into wedges for enjoy.

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest, highlighting the produce that is in season. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on the humble potato! Here are other delicious features on potatoes:

What's Gaby Cooking: Smashed Potatoes
From My Corner of Saratoga: Potato Canapes
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Chorizo and Potato Tacos
Cooking With Elise: The Irish Boxty

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure