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Archive for December, 2009

Ohhh, Pie Crusts.  Why do you have to be so difficult?

I came up with this pie crust on the fly, after I had already baked one from a recipe book (which will forever remain nameless) which couldn’t have been a bigger disaster.  I can’t even being to explain the horror that was that pie crust. 

So, since I needed a crust, I had to quickly improvise.  The end result was a pie crust that would work best as a savoury crust – maybe in a quiche, or a roasted red pepper and goat’s cheese tart.  I will admit outright that it isn’t a flaky crust – I’m not entirely sure yet how to achieve that effect without butter or shortening.  I know that there is vegan “butter”, but as I recall Earth’s Balance relies on soy and corn, both of which I try to avoid.   I may yet break down and use it, because coconut oil simply does not seem to give that flakiness that you really want in a crust.

I have been trying to track down something called Organic Palm Shortening, which is made from palm oil.  So far, no luck.  And to be honest, I have no idea whether or not it would add the desired flakiness to the pie crust.  But if anyone out there has any experience with this, drop me a line!  I would love to know more about it.

My savoury pie crust recipe is as follows:

1/2 cup finely processed almond meal – use store bought almond meal here, rather than home ground.  The meal must be very fine, or else the whole texture of the crust will be a bit of a disaster

1/3 cup millet flour

1/3 cup rice flour

1/2 cup arrowroot starch, or starch of choice

1 tsp xanthan gum

6 tblsp coconut oil (not melted)

7 tblsp ice cold water

Pinch of salt

Note: if you wish to use this crust with a sweeter filling, add 1 tblsp. of agave syrup (or sweetener of choice) to the ingredients

Whisk flours, salt, and xanthan gum together in a bowl to combine.  Add the coconut oil in to the mixture, and combine it in with your fingers.  The mixture should resemble coarse sand when it is thoroughly combined.  If you are adding agave, stir it in now.

Add the water in, one tablespoon at a time.  It is possible that you will not need all of the water.  Use as much as you need to make the dough hold together.  The dough will be very slightly sticky.

Press the dough into an oiled pie plate.  Bake for 16-18 minutes at 400°F for a pre-baked pie shell.  The edges of the crust will turn a golden brown when it is finished.

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I know, I know, the posting has slowed down here.  But in my own defense, it is the holiday season and things are a bit crazy here.  I am busy baking, but no new recipes yet.  However, I have tweaked a few of my older ones, so it might be worth a look if you’re planning on trying any of them this holiday season.

However, I did recently try this nifty little recipe for Gingerbread cookies.  I used to make the BEST gingerbread cookies (Cook’s magazine has the gold standard – if you eat butter, gluten, and sugar you simply must try their recipe).  Unfortunately, I can no longer eat them.  But, there’s no reason to give up; all is not lost, I am sure.

Since I don’t have a whole lot of time to experiment lately, I searched online for a recipe that I thought might work.  And I found one at The Vegan Chef.  The link to the webpage is on the sidebar to your right. 

The flour mixture that this recipe uses is bang on.  It provides plenty of mouth-feel/texture, which I like, but doesn’t end up being overly grain-y or nutty.  It’s a perfect complement to the strong flavours of the cookie.

Since it is the holiday season, and I only make gingerbread for the holidays, I decided not to play around with the sugars in this recipe.  It calls for sucanat and molasses.

The sucanat is great, because it adds to the depth of flavour of the cookies.  It also helps to hold the cookie together, and make it puff up.  There’s only 1 1/2 cups of sucanat to 5 cups of flour, so, really, it’s not that terrible for you, once a year.

It is difficult to omit the molasses from gingerbread cookies.  Molasses is the key to depth of flavour and complexity.  There’s really not a lot of it in this recipe (only 1/3 cup).  There probably are ways to omit this, but it’s such a small amount that I wouldn’t recommend it.  And don’t, for the love of (whoever you want), use blackstrap molasses!  I made that mistake on another recipe earlier this year.  Blackstrap is very bitter, and basically useless for baking.  Use Fancy Molasses.  Save yourself the heartache and learn from my mistakes.

One way I find that these cookies are a little bit lacking is in the ginger department.  Adding a couple of teaspoons of freshly grated ginger should fix that right up!  You can also used freshly grated nutmeg, if you have it on hand.  I would recommend keeping the proportions the same, though.

When I make these next year, I will likely play around a bit with the flavours, as my goal will be to replicate the cookies that I made with the Cook’s Magazine recipe.

The cookies do seem to dry out rather quickly.  I know this is often a problem with gluten-free cookies.  My best advice is to keep them in the freezer, and simply take out as many as you think you might need each morning.  They don’t take long to thaw – the lack of dairy really helps in this regard.

Without further ado, here is the recipe from The Vegan Chef –

2 cups brown rice flour

1 1/2 cups arrowroot flour, plus extra for rolling out cookies

1 1/2 cups amaranth flour

2 tblsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

2 tblsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 1/2 cups Sucanat, or brown sugar if you prefer

1/2 cup applesauce

1/3 cup safflower oil (Canola is fine, too)

1/3 cup molasses

2 tblsp vanilla

In a small bowl, stir together the brown rice flour, arrowroot, amaranth flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, and cloves.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, place the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.

Cover the bowl, place in the refrigerator, and chill for 1 hour or more.

Oil cookie sheets (2 or more) and set aside.

Sprinkle a little arrowroot over a work surface (instead of the arrowroot, I worked on wax paper, and changed the paper after every second batch.  Parchment paper would work equally well, if not better. It’s a bit easier this way).

Divide the chilled dough into quarters.  Work with only one quarter of dough at a time.  Keep the remaining dough covered and chilled (this is an extremely important point; the warmer the dough becomes, the stickier and more difficult it is to work with – keep it cold!)

Working in batches, roll out the quarter of dough to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thickness.  (I find that 1/2 – 3/4 inch is better, especially if you intend to ice the cookies).  Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.

Carefully (very carefully – it`s easier to do if the dough is a bit on the thick side), transfer the cut cookies to the prepared cookie sheet. 

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 6 minutes.  The cookies will feel slightly soft to the touch when you remove them from the oven.  Allow the cookies to cool on racks for 3 minutes before you remove them from the cookie sheets (all baked goods continue to bake as long as they are left in their pan or on their tray).  After 3 minutes, remove from tray and place on rack directly to cool.

Repeat until all the dough is finished.

I am having my niece over on the weekend, and she is going to help me decorate the cookies.  I will be sure to take a photo of them for the blog!!

P.S. – it`s now possible to subscribe to this blog – visit the sidebar on the right to do so!

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Coconuts.

Not only do they have a simply fabulous name, but they are also one of the best things that you can eat.

The word itself derives from the Spanish and Portuguese word “coco”, which means “monkey face”.  When coconuts were first seen by these explorers, the shape, colour, and the three eyes on the coconut reminded them so much of a monkey’s face, that that’s what they called it.  On a somewhat less interesting note, “nucifera”, the second half of the word, means “nut-bearing”.  Hence “coconut”.

Most people already know that coconuts are not nuts.  They are, in fact, a seed: the seed of the coconut palm.  So the coconut is actually a part of the palm family.

In traditional medicines, there is a long list of ailments that the coconut is said to be capable of healing.  In large part, it is the oil that is thought to be the most valuable for curing ailments.

The oil is in fact the most fascinating part about the coconut.  Coconut oil is comprised of approximately 66% medium chain fatty acid, called lauric acid.  Interestingly enough, human breast milk is also primarily lauric acid.  That lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acit is significant because the bulk of fat that we consume are long chain fatty acids.  Short chain fatty acids are consumed primarily through lactic acid, and do not generally make up a large part of our diet.

This distinction between the lengths of fatty acids is important because it helps to determine how our body will digest them.  Unlike long chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids can be digested by the body without breaking them down any further.   

Long chain fatty acids, on the other hand, need to be broken down further by the body.  This process is somewhat complicated, but in short long chain fatty acids affect the amount of triglycerides we have in our body. 

Medium chain fatty acids do not affect our triglycerides.  They are used immediately by the body, and do not require any further breaking down.  This can beneficially affect our cholesterol level. 

There are a number of claims that coconut oil can also help you lose weight.  I am not really qualified to assess these claims, so cannot comment, but it does seem like there is some new claim every 6 months about some food or another that can magically help you lose weight without any effort at all.  Generally speaking, these claims are sponsored by the same people who have a hand in selling you said product.  However, the unique properties of coconut oil does seem to suggest that it might not have the same effects as other fats.

It is important to use virgin coconut oil, rather than any other kind, as virgin coconut oil has been harvested from a fresh coconut.  It therefore is the most beneficial for you, as it has not begun to break down before being harvested.

The obvious and immediate drawback of cooking and baking with coconut is the distinct flavour of coconut.  If you like coconut, it should be absolutely no problem.  However, if you dislike coconut, there really is no way to disguise that taste.  My best advice to you is to slowly try to incorporate a good quality coconut product into your cooking, and go from there.

Coconut milk can easily replace milk in any recipe.  However, sometimes the flavour of the milk really is too strong for the dish.  It does tend to work best in curries, or highly spiced dishes.  The same can be said for coconut oil.  However, small amounts of coconut oil can be used in baking without totally affecting the taste of the final product.  Nevertheless, if you enjoy the flavour of coconuts, than this really should not be an issue for you.

Who knew the coconut was so wonderful?

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This is a quick and easy pudding that is sure to satisfy everyone.  The addition of the kuzu makes all the difference.  The texture is just like that of a pudding that uses dairy! 

(Visit my post Coconut Lime Loaf for a brief explanation of kuzu https://masteringtheartofwholesomecooking.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/coconut-lime-loaf/ )

 Vegan Chocolate Pudding

3 cans Light Coconut Milk (regular is simply too thick)

½ cup agave

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

8 tblsp kuzu, dissolved in 1/3 cup ice cold water

Pour coconut milk, agave, salt, and cocoa powder into medium saucepan.  Whisk mixture briskly until cocoa powder is fully incorporated.  Heat until the mixture boils, about 10 minutes. 

Once the mixture has come to a boil, add the kuzu mixture.  Whisk mixture rapidly to incorporate the kuzu; the mixture should begin to thicken fairly quickly.  Whisk for 1 – 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, and add vanilla.

Refrigerate mixture for at least 2-3 hours before serving.  It is best to let it sit overnight.

Once the pudding has set, it works well as a quick and easy pie filling.  I used it in my Chocolate Gluten Free Pie Crust and couldn’t be happier.  Or more full.

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I was a bit of a baking machine yesterday, and this pie crust is just one of the many things I experimented with.  I think I have Christmas on the brain.  This is my first gluten-free Christmas, and I’m trying to get as many recipes under my belt as possible.  

I am the primary (read: only) baker in the family, so people rely on me to get things done.  It is therefore absolutely necessary for me to ensure that my recipes are palatable not just as a “substitute”, but as something that is so good it needn’t be compared to desserts containing gluten.  Yes, this is entirely possible, trust me.  Most of my family is quite picky, so I know they are the perfect test subjects in this regard!

This is a flavourful pie crust.  It is therefore not really suitable for delicate fillings, like fruit.  Puddings and Cheesecakes (yes, even vegan ones) are the best choices for this crust.  Yay!!

Gluten Free Chocolate Pie Crust

2 ½ cups pecan meal

1 cup hazelnut meal

½ cup almond meal

1 ½ cups pitted medjool dates

Pinch of salt

Pinch of cardamom

1/8 tsp cinnamon

3 – 4 tblsp cocoa powder, depending on your taste

If you are processing the nuts yourself, be sure to do them in small batches.  Otherwise, the texture will be inconsistent.  A coffee grinder is the perfect size to process the nuts.  Resist the temptation to process the nuts in large batches; you won’t get a consistent grind this way.

In the meantime, process the dates in the food processor.  Slowly add the nut flour to the processor.  (Alternatively, if you are processing the nuts in the food processor in small batches, simply add the dates to your last batch).  Once all the nut meal has been added, process mixture until it is thoroughly combined, and there are no chunks left in the mixture. 

When the mixture is fully combined, add the salt, spices, and cocoa powder to the food processor.  Process mixture again until fully combined.

Lightly grease a pie pan.  Press mixture into pan with your fingers until it is evenly spread out over entire pan. 

This is a thick crust; this means that it will easily hold whatever filling you decide to put into it.  As a matter of fact, this recipe could make two thin pie crusts; if you want, just use half of the dough now, and simply freeze the rest for a later date. 

If you do not want a chocolate crust, you can easily omit the cocoa powder.

This crust tastes great unbaked, but you can bake it at 350° for 10 minutes to help it set, if you wish.  This will give the crust a tiny amount of lift, and will ensure the ingredients are thoroughly combined and meld with one another.

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This loaf has the consistency of a pound cake, without the dairy!  The lime helps to balance out the coconut flavour, so for once the coconut flavour does not overpower everything else, which is nice.

Kuzu (or kudzu) is available at most health stores or Japanese specialty stores.  It is an incredible binder and I now use it in anything that requires a significant amount of binding to set.  It is indigenous to Japan, although it was introduced to the States in the late 19th century as an ornamental vine.  However, the climate in the southern U.S. has allowed kuzu to almost literally spread like wildfire.  It is extremely difficult to destroy effectively. It has therefore considered quite a nuisance by most.  But it is a fantastic starch, and leaves absolutely zero aftertaste when used. 

Coconut Lime Loaf with Icing

1 ¼ cup coconut flour ½ cup arrowroot

¼ cup millet flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp stevia 

¼ cup melted coconut oil¾ tsp vanilla

½ cup agave

1 ¼ cup coconut milk (1 14oz. Can)

¾ cup lime juice

2 tsp lime zest

Preheat oven to 350°

Whisk dry ingredients together.  Whisk wet ingredients together.  Stir wet ingredients into dry.  The dough will be very moist, but not liquid; I will admit that it’s an odd dough, a bit sponge-like in texture.   Pour into loaf pan and smooth out top of loaf with slightly damp fingers or spatula.  Alternatively, you can use a cake pan (or two) to bake this mixture.  Reduce cooking time by approximately 25 minutes if you use cake pans.

Cover loaf with foil.  The coconut flour will brown very quickly, so it`s important that the loaf is covered.  Bake for 60 minutes on the middle rack.   The loaf will not rise very much, so it is okay if it is close to the top of your loaf pan.

Coconut Lime Icing

This recipe was inspired by the recipe found at www.elanaspantry.com

1 cup coconut milk

½ cup agave

Pinch of salt

3 tblsp kuzu, dissolved in water

1 ¼ cup coconut oil

¼ tsp stevia

Juice of one lime

1 tblsp lime zest

Heat coconut milk, agave, stevia, and salt in medium saucepan.  Simmer for ten minutes.  Add kuzu mixture after mixture has been simmering for ten minutes, and bring mixture briefly to a boil.

Remove from heat, and gradually mix in coconut oil.  Place pot in freezer for 30-40 minutes, or however long it takes for mixture to resemble slightly soft ice cream.  I have a very old freezer, so it actually took mine hours to set properly, so bear that in mind when preparing the icing.  Remove from freezer and blend mixture again, until it is moist and fluffy.

Ice loaf.  Serve, and Enjoy! 

The icing is a brilliant recipe (Elana’s original, I mean; mine’s only a variation).  I highly recommend that you give it a try.  And visit her site while you’re at it!  It is equally excellent.

I will admit that I will probably tweak this recipe a bit, so look for a Coconut Loaf Redux post in the future.  Nevertheless, it is quite good as is.  The slight tartness of the loaf juxtaposes well against the sweetness and airiness of the icing.  Next time, I am most definitely making it as a cake!

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Much like quinoa flour, Millet flour is high in protein, and will add moisture to the final product.  Millet flour will impart a subtle nuttiness to any baked good that you use it in.  However, the flavour is much less distinct than some other flours, such as quinoa flour.

Millet flour will add lightness and airiness to your baked goods.  It is therefore a great addition to many recipes, as it helps to give them a lift.  It also helps to give a bit of form to the final product, because of the high protein content.  Millet flour produces a medium sized crumb, so it helps to give a bit of texture to the final product. Nevertheless, if too much millet flour is used in the recipe, the final product will have an overly crumbly texture. 

It is adviseable to use millet flour as you would quinoa: it is a great flour to add when you need to add some moisture or structure to your flour mixture, but is not always an appropriate choice as a main ingredient.  If you do choose to use it as your main flour in a recipe, adding a nut or seed butter to the mix will help to cut back on the crumbly texture that millet flour can produce.

Generally speaking, millet flour works best when it comprises approximately 25% of the total amount of flour added to the recipe. 

But don’t let that discourage you from experimenting – the above is not a hard and fast rule!  I say this mostly because all of the information that you can find on flour seems to say that gluten-free flours must be used with caution.  This is true, but the thing to do is to work with the properties of the flour, rather than try to mask them.  It is not impossible to have millet flour as the main ingredient in a recipe, but it must be tempered by the other ingredients.

If you are using a flour with a distinctive taste, than use it in a recipe where there are other strong flavours present that will complement the taste.  For example, if you are making a banana loaf, than the addition of some millet flour is not going to overpower the entire loaf.

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