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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Catalan Spinach with Raisins, Pinenuts & Bacon (Espinacas a la Catalana)

Ever since I was a child, I have loved spinach, whether it's cooked or raw. Maybe from watching all the Popeye reruns. One of my favorites dishes that I would eat as a meal was Stouffer's spinach souffle, especially in my teenage years. My exposure to spinach dishes have been very conventional: spinach salad, sauteed spinach, spinach "souffle." That changed when I was working in Cataluña / Barcelona last winter. Espinacas a la Catalana was on every menu; and served at my work's cafeteria at least once a week. I instantly fell in love and have yet to grow tired of it. What is it? It's a sauteed spinach with rendered bacon, toasted pine nuts, plumped raisins, with toasted garlic. I never knew spinach could be so warm and soulful. Soul satisfying. Especially while the weather is chilly. Amazingly, this Catalan spinach is a perfect side with just about any protein: roasted salmon or chicken, pan-seared hanger steak, pork. You must try this! So easy and fast to make. The quality of the ingredients show through with such a simple dish, so pick the best!

  • 2 strips of thick cut smoked bacon, cut into small pieces (or 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 pound fresh washed baby spinach (or frozen: thaw & ring out water)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed with side of knife, skin removed
  • ½ cup pine nuts (Spanish, NOT Chinese)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • pinch of salt (to taste)
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes (to taste, optional)
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the cut up bacon and occasionally stir. Once the bacon starts browning, add the garlic, smashed without skin, and sauté until turns golden brown. Remove garlic and reserve. At this point, add in the pine nuts and the raisins. Frequently stir. The raisins will magically inflate and the pine nuts will turn golden brown. Add in the spinach in small batches, stirring, allowing any excess liquid to cook off. Repeat. Add salt and pepper flakes to taste. (Spaniards do not use black or white pepper in traditional dishes like this. They say it changes the flavor too much.) If you really like garlic, add the garlic in at this point. Cook with stirring until the spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes. Serves about 4 people.

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on is mighty spinach! Here are other delicious features on spinach:

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pan-Fried Apple Rings with a Cider Maple Reduction (Gluten-Free)

So continues the focus on seasonally bounty with Food Network Blog's feature on Fall Fest. Yay! This week, it's apples. How timely. Last Sunday at my local farmer's market I was overwhelmed with how many types of apples they had. They sampled all I wanted to taste. I ended up picking Courtland apples mainly for their appearance: nice and round with light green and pink skin.

Lately, I've been craving pancakes. I decided to feature these beautiful apples as close to unadulterated as possible by just coring, slicing, dipping in a pancake batter and pan-frying them into pan-fried apple rings. Leaving the skin on for nutritional quality and ease. It gets better... Why not incorporate my favorite harvest time beverage into this recipe? Hard apple cider! If you want to go non-alcoholic, go for the wonderful fresh ciders out now at the local farmer's markets. It adds the brightness and acidity to both the pancake batter, and reduced with maple syrup for the topping sauce. For the pancake batter, I liked the idea of using almond flour and millet for sweet nuttiness and adding in some spices for warmth and complexity. I'm loving mace lately. It is a lighter, brighter version of nutmeg. And it's the outside coating of a nutmeg. Enjoy! I sure did!


3 large Apples of your choice, cored and sliced thick, 1/4-1/2 inch.

For the Pancake batter:

  • 25 grams almond flour, blanched
  • 25 grams brown rice flour
  • 25 grams millet flour
  • 25 grams sweet rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 50 grams sugar of your choice
  • 100 grams (hard) apple cider of your choice, room temp.
  • 1 large egg (50 grams), room temp, lightly scrambled
  • 25 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

For the Cider Maple reduction:
  • Remaining cider, about 1 cup
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • pinch salt


For the Pancake batter:
In a medium bowl mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, spices until well mixed. Stir in the cider, mix until incorporated. Follow by addition and mixing of the egg and butter into the batter.

For the Cider Maple reduction:
In a medium sauce pan, reduce the cider over low heat. Allow to cook off most of the liquid without burning. Will become dark and thicker. Remove from heat. Put in butter and maple syrup. Stir and wait to top the pan-fried apple slices.

Heat up a large skillet over medium heat. Put in a minimal about of oil. Coat each apple slice with pancake batter. Transfer to the skillet. Careful not to overcrowd the skillet. Cook in batches. Turn once the edges have browned after a couple of minutes. Cook on other side for a couple of minutes. Serve with a drizzle of the cider maple syrup reduction.

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on is the glorious apple! Here are other delicious features on apples:

CIA Dropout: Apple-Roasted Duck
Cooking Channel: Add Apples to Your Salad
The Cultural Dish: Apple Cider Martini
And Love It Too: Fried Apples (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free and Vegan)
From My Corner of Saratoga: Easy Skillet Apple Pie (A Southern Living Recipe Reviewed)
Haute Apple Pie: Baked Apple Pancake
Virtually Vegan Mama: Slow Cooker Apple Date Butter
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Apple Pancakes
What's Gaby Cooking: Apple Cake
FN Dish: Savory Apple Recipes
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Apple and Caramelized Onion Soup
Zaika Zabardast: Chocolate Apple Pie Breakfast Pop Tarts
The Sensitive Epicure: Pan Fried Apple Rings (Gluten-Free)
Glory Foods: Caramel Apple Upside Down Cupcakes
Daily*Dishin: Apple, Bacon, Feta Salad With Maple Vinaigrette
Dishin & Dishes: Old Fashioned Apple Crisp
Cooking With Elise: Wholegrain Apple Oat Pancakes

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

Stuffed Pizza Pie: Spinach, Mushrooms, Sausage

Pizza, without a doubt, is one of those universal things you miss having to live a gluten-free life. Since I have been gluten-free, I make so many different iterations of pizza: polenta crust or a "quick bread" dough using eggs and baking powder. None of which are a traditional yeast leavened pizza crust. For this month's Gluten-Free Ratio Rally, Karen of Cooking Gluten-Free posed the challenge of traditional yeast-leavened pizza.

The Gluten-Free Ratio Rally is a group of GF bloggers, rallied by Shauna of GlutenFreeGirl.com, 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. In my recipes I only note ingredients by weight. I know as a scientist that measuring by weight, there is little to no error. Whereas, measuring by volume, especially in cups can lead up to 100% error. I believe this is a huge contributing factor of why most Americans fear baking. With this kind of error, baking from a recipe in volume is domed for failure and the garbage. Gluten-free or not. Please take some time to read this great article "Tipping the Balance for Kitchen Scales" in the New York Times. My favorite scale is the OXO since it can do negative weights, i.e., you can put a bag of flour on the scale, zero out and scoop until you have your target weight before adding to the bowl. This weighing technique you will find easier, cleaner, faster.

Ruhlman's ratio for pizza is 5:3/flour:water. My recipe is in line with that. I decided to make stuffed pizza pie. For me, stuffed pizza pie is the ultimate indulgence pizza. Yes, a bit more involved to make, but worth the effort in the heartiness. I stuff the pie with sauteed mushrooms, mild Italian sausage, garlic, and goat mozzarella. Once baked, top it with a traditional tomato marinara sauce and a sprinkling of pecorino romano cheese. It only one piece of this pizza to leave you satisfied. Perfect with a gluten-free beer!


For the tomato sauce:
  • 115 grams brown rice flour
  • 115 grams sweet (glutinous) rice flour
  • 115 grams tapioca flour/starch
  • 37 grams flaxmeal
  • 8 grams salt
  • 200 grams boiling water
  • 12 grams olive oil
  • 8 grams yeast, active or instant
  • 4 grams sugar
  • 30 grams warm water (100F)

For the sausage, mushroom, spinach filling:
  • 2 mild Italian sausage links, remove casing
  • 4 ounces fresh mushrooms, your choice, slice thin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 package of thawed, squeezed out spinach
  • 4 ounces grated mozzarella (I used goat milk mozzarella)
  • salt, pepper to taste

For the tomato sauce:
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Dried chile flakes, to taste (optional)
  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade (very thin strips)
  • Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, for garnish


For the pizza dough:
In the work bowl of your mixer, weigh in all the flours, flaxmeal, and salt. Using the paddle attachment, stir at lowest speed. While stirring, slowly add in the boiling water, followed by the olive oil. Allow to stir for a couple of minutes. Keep an eye on it. In a cup, mix together the yeast, sugar, and warm water. Mix with spoon until mixed and frothy. This should take a few minutes. Once the dough has cooled just warm, add the foamy yeast slurry.

For the filling:
In a large saute pan, start browning the sausage over medium heat while breaking it up. Add in the sliced mushrooms and garlic. Once sausage is cooked and mushrooms are tender, remove from heat. Drain liquid as needed. Allow to cool. Add in the shredded cheese and seasonings to taste.

For the tomato sauce:

In a wide pan, with low walls (I use a fry pan), sauté the garlic and olive oil over low-medium heat until aromatic. Add in the canned tomatoes. Bring up temperature to medium. Add in salt, pepper, and chile flakes. Stir occasionally. Once the tomatoes start simmering, use a potato masher to break down the tomatoes into a smooth yet hardy texture if using diced or whole tomatoes. Allow to cook, simmering and stirring occasionally, thickening for about 15-20 minutes.

Assembly & Cooking:
Preheat oven to 450F. Roll out about 1/3 of the pizza dough about 1/4 inch thick and place in oiled 9" cake pan leaving about 1/4 inch gap around the circumference. Poke dough with fork to keep from bubbling up. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Roll out the remaining dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cover with a damp towel.

Top the cooked, cooled bottom generously with the filling. Keep within the parameter of the dough round, pack about 2 inches thick. Carefully drape the large round of uncooked dough on top to the filling. Pick up an edge of the dough bottom and tuck the uncooked dough underneath. Working in small increments, work this around until it is all covered and tucked under the dough. Lightly brush the surface with oil and return to the oven. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from cake pan onto serving dish and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with the tomato sauce and romano cheese as a topping.

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

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure