Friday, May 27, 2011

Italian Almond Orange Cake

Also known as Torta di Mandorle con Arancia, this cake is naturally gluten-free.  The ingredients are few, leaving the full flavor of every ingredient to come out.  This cake has a substantial texture with a moist crumb.  Almond flour is the basis of this cake with the zest and juice of one orange,  lots of eggs to give it a sponge cake quality, and just enough sugar to make it sweet.  With all of the eggs in here, there is no need for added leavener such as baking powder.  Over leavening will result in sinking cakes.  This cake is guaranteed to please every cake lover out there, even without any frosting.

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature, separated
  • 210 grams (1 cup) sugar
  • 25 grams (4 tablespoons) potato starch
  • 350 grams (~2 1/3 cups*) blanched almond flour, packed
  • 1 orange, room temperature, zested and juiced
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350oF.  Scale all the ingredients (weigh into bowls, containers) and separate eggs.  In a bowl, combine the potato starch with the almond flour until thoroughly mixed.  Put the egg whites into a medium mixing bowl and the yolks into a large mixing bowl.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt with very clean and dry beaters.  Beat until they reach a firm peak, holding their peaks.  Put aside.

Beat the sugar into the egg yolks.  If it get too thick and seizes up, add a small amount of the orange juice.  Beat on high until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy.  Slowly fold in the potato starch/almond flour in three additions, slowly adding in remaining orange juice in between additions.  The carefully fold in the orange zest.  Followed by folding in the whipped egg whites, again in three additions to ensure fluffy batter.

Turn into a parchment lined and sprayed cake pan or springform pan.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch, and toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.  Dust with sifted powdered/icing sugar before serving.

Makes one 8-9” cake.  Serves 8-12 depending on size of slices.
Total time:  1 hour
Egg whites whip up better when warmer, and a little bit of salt holds the peaks better.  Sugar will “burn” egg yolks if not mixed immediately, so wait to add sugar until ready to beat.
* Remember, for best results - weigh!  When I did this cake for a class, my assistant first measured by volume (cups) and realized the measurements were off.  The way he measured it volumetrically - took 4 cups to weigh 350 grams.  Weighing is a lot easier, too.  Especially, if you use a scale with negative weight readings.  Just put a bag of the flour on the scale, tare, and start scooping out until the you hit the target weight.  My favorite scale is this one by OXO.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Salted Coconut Almond Cupcakes Revisited (Gluten-Free and Milk-Free)

With Easter just behind us, I can't help reminiscing about my childhood Easters growing up in South Florida. My stepmother Patti would make the Easter meal showstopper: her coconut lamb cake with jelly bean embellishments was the crescendo for all the kids. The cake was light, fluffy and with the sweetness of bountiful coconut. A couple of years ago I decided to recreate Patti’s masterpiece as a more approachable cupcake that's perfect for anytime of the year and any occasion.

Converting this recipe to gluten-free had its benefits through the use of almond flour in the sponge cake base, which added deliciousness and nutritional value. Coconut milk serves as a perfect replacement for all milk products making this dessert milk-free and enhancing the depth of the coconut flavor.

A sponge cake is one in which the eggs are whipped with a little acid (lemon juice in this case) to coagulate the proteins and set the eggs into a fluffy, pale yellow foam into which the rest of the ingredients are gently folded in, resulting in a delicate sponge-like texture. The acidity of the lemon also brightens up the coconut and almond flavors. With this large amount of eggs, no baking powder or leavener is needed because the eggs act as the leavers as well as providing the main structure of the cake. Too much leavening can result in a big dip in the cupcakes. Remember, it is always better to under leaven than over leaven.

The perfect frosting pairing for this coconut almond cupcake is a twist on a classic seven-minute frosting that resembles a marshmallow fluff. Coconut milk used here, too and topped with traditional shredded coconut. A small amount of salt is used in the frosting and a very light sprinkling of salt on top to bring out maximum coconut flavor.

For the almond coconut sponge cake:

  • 2 large whole eggs + 1 yolk (about 115 grams) eggs, large, room temperature
  • ½ cup (100 g) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh for best results)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup blanched almond flour
  • ½ cup arrowroot starch (or cornstarch)
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk (full-fat)

For the salted coconut frosting:
  • ¾ cups sugar1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 egg white 
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1 ½ cups coconut, flaked and sweetened, for garnish (chop if you want a finer texture)
  • ½ teaspoon your choice of finishing salt: kosher, sea salt, fleur de sel, pink salt, or blue/turquoise salt, for garnish

For the almond coconut sponge cake:

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Measure and combine the eggs, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla in the bowl of the stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip the egg-sugar mixture on high until the eggs have tripled in volume and turned a very pale yellow color, about a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, measure and combine the almond flour with the arrowroot starch well.  Remove the bowl with the whipped egg mixture. Fold in the flour mixture until just incorporated, and then follow with the coconut milk. Pour the batter into a lined cupcake pan, filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on rack before adding frosting.

For the salted coconut frosting:

Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, coconut milk, and egg white in the top bowl of a double boiler. If you do not have a double boiler, use a metal mixing bowl that sits on top of a saucepan securely with plenty of space between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the saucepan. Fill the saucepan with 1 inch of water and boil, then simmer on low heat.

Beat the mixture with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute at room temperature. Place the pan over the simmering water, being sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the top pan.  (If this happens, the frosting becomes grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and then beat in the vanilla.

To serve, use a small spatula or butter knife to frost each cupcake. Sprinkle with the shredded coconut, and, dust a very small amount of salt on top.

Makes about 14-16 cupcakes
Total Time: about 1 hour

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Millet Scones: GFree Rally

If you are not familiar with the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally yet, here's the low down. We are a group of GF bloggers recruited and coerced by Gluten-Free Girl, Shauna, on a mission to prove that basic baking recipes can be directed applied to delicious gluten-free conversions. The caveats are the most basic in pastry fundamentals: 1. recipes are most accurate in weight, and easily modified in this format; and 2. pastry recipes can be simplified by a simple ratio, i.e., the lowest common denominator of the primary ingredients being flour(s), fats (butter, oil, etc.), liquid (water, milk, etc.) and eggs (substitutes if needed). Funny enough, I have been doing exactly this while in culinary school and converting all my culinary labs and projects to be gluten-free. It was the first time I had seen recipes in weight as opposed to volume. Eureka! As a scientist, that made complete logical sense. To use volumes in the lab with accuracy and precision for proper lab procedures for desired experimental results, the density (weight divided by volume, e.g., grams/milliliter) has to be taken in mathematical consideration. Otherwise, the experiment is bond for failure. The same is true in the kitchen. I know I do not want to do the math to take densities in consideration. I view weighing my ingredients as the lazy way of baking. Really, I do. I just put a sack of ingredients on my scale, tare it (zero out) and start scooping out until the number on the scale display reaches my target weight. No second guessing, "do I have this exactly at the line?" or "was I supposed to stir, sift, etc. that flour/starch before scooping?" Easy is good. The hardest, finding a scale that you like. My favorite is the OXO that displays negative weights, as the technique I mentioned earlier. It is durable and super easy to use.

This month our challenge was scones. Lauren of Celiac Teen hosted and picked our scones theme. How utterly proper and a bit British of you, Lauren. Maybe just a bit excited about the royal wedding? Who isn't? For a bit of scone recipe background: Michael Rulhman does not cover scones in his "Ratio" book; so I based my scone recipe on the scone recipe from "Professional Baking" by Gisslen written for Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Schools. I decided to keep it very simple and focus on the flavor and texture of the flours and starches used. Add some character with turbinado sugar (natural brown sugar, AKA, Sugar In The Raw) coated on the outside before baking. Any dried fruits can be added (150 grams) to this recipe that you would like such as cranberries, craisins, raisins, currents, blueberries, cherries, even apricots or figs. If using larger dried fruits, chop into 1/2 inch pieces before adding at the end. To really punch up the flavor, citrus zest could be used sparingly. Yum, now thinking about it, a great flavor combo would be dried blueberries with pink grapefruit zest. The flavor options are limitless, especially when choosing your primary flour, too. I chose millet as my gluten-free flour of flavor because I love the delicate sweet cereal flavor it gives. Scones are traditionally cut into rounds in Britain but into triangles in the United States. British tea scones are usually moister and tenderer than American scones. By whatever inherent reason, this recipe gives a very moist, tender, and light scone than the traditional scones (gluten-filled) usually found in the USA. This is a good thing.

  • 100 grams millet flour
  • 100 grams brown rice flour
  • 50 grams sweet rice flour
  • 50 grams tapioca flour / starch
  • 45 grams sugar
  • 4 grams (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 22 grams (2 tablespoons) baking powder
  • 130 grams shortening or 1 stick (113 grams) butter, room temperature
  • 52 grams eggs, slightly beaten (1 large egg), room temperature
  • 150 grams milk, room temperature
  • a generous amount of turbinado sugar / Sugar In The Raw to finish.
Mixing: Biscuit Method. Chill dough after mixing if it is too soft to make up.
  1. Scale (weigh) all ingredients accurately.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl, using a whisk, fork, spoon, etc.
  3. Cut in the shortening, using the paddle attachment or the pastry you prefer, cut in the fat by hand, using a pastry blender or your fingers. Continue until the mixture resembles a coarse cornmeal.
  4. Combine the liquid ingredients.
  5. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Mix just until the ingredients soft dough is formed. Do not overmix.
  6. Bring the dough to the bench/counter and knead it lightly by pressing it out half. Rotate the dough 90 degrees between folds. (If too soft to work with here, form into rough log, wrap in plastic wrap and chill until hardened.)
  7. Repeat this procedure 6 to 10 times, or for about 30 seconds. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Dust with extra tapioca flour/starch if too sticky.
Makeup Variations:
  • Form dough into a long rectangle, flatten to 1 inch thick by about 4-5 inches wide. Cut into even triangle pieces using a bench scraper or knife.
  • Coat each triangle with a generous amount of turbinado sugar.
  • Place on parchment paper-lined sheet pans.
375F for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown

Store in an airtight container. Best eaten within 2 days.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

Check out what the rest of the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally did with their take on scones:
Amie | The Healthy Apple | Chocolate Chip n' Rice Crispy 'Muffin' Scones
Brooke | B & the boy! | Coconut Scones with Pineapple Curd
Britt | GF in the City | Blueberry Buttermilk Scones
Caleigh | Gluten-Free[k] | Carrot Raisin Scones with a Cinnamon Glaze
Caneel | Mama Me Gluten Free | Savory Jalapeno Cheese Scones 
Caroline | The G-Spot | Jam on top, or cream on top?
Charissa | Zest Bakery | Aamaretto Soaked Cherry and Almond Scones
Claire | Gluten Freedom | Strawberry Banana Scones with Lemon-Almond Glaze
Gretchen | Kumquat | Maple Oat Nut Scones
Irvin | Eat the Love | Green Garlic, Bacon and Thyme Scones with White Pepper Maple Glaze
Jeanette | Jeanette's Healthy Living | Coconut Pineapple Scones
Jenn | Jenn Cuisine | Apple Banana and Currant Scones
Karen | Cooking Gluten-Free | Oat Scones with Currants
Kate | Katealice Cookbook | Cinnamon Fruit Scones
Lauren | Celiac Teen | Multigrain Cream Scones
Lisa | With Style and Grace | Lavender and Earl Grey Lemon Scones
Lisa | Gluten-Free Canteen | Bisconies
Marla | Family Fresh Cooking | Avocado Scones
Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan | Simple Scones with Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam
Melanie | Mindful Food | Hazelnut Cream Scones with Blackberry Jam
Meredith | Gluten Free Betty | Cinnamon Raisin Scones
Morri | Meals with Morri | Yerba Mate Chai Scones
Mrs. R | Honey from Flinty Rocks | Classic “Cream” Scones & Almond Fig Scones
Peter and Kelli | No Gluten, No Problem | Mesquite Scones
Sea | Book of Yum | Classic British Currant Scones
Shauna | Gluten-Free Girl & The Chef | Currant Scones
Silvana | Silvana's Kitchen | Pecan Streusel Scones
T.R. | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies | Cinnamon Pecan Scones
Tara | A Baking Life | Crystallized Ginger Cream Scones
Wendy | La Phemme Phoodie | Red Velvet Scones
Winnie |Healthy Green Kitchen | Coconut Raisin Scones