Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Ring in the new year with gluten-free rum balls! The extra dark Theo chocolate in these makes them a perfect addition to a party table—they’re rich, decadent, and just strong enough. Recently, I made a new variation of these by grinding up gluten-free Gingersnaps from Trader Joe’s. That added a nice spicy undercurrent that paired well with the chocolate and rum. I’ve also included my recipe for gluten-free vanilla wafers, but really any dry gluten-free cookie will do the trick.

Have a fun and rummy New Year’s!

Rum Balls

Rum Balls (GF, DF)
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen

1.5 – 2oz Theo chocolate (74% Madagascar is best)
1 cup powdered sugar
28-30 vanilla wafers
3/4 cup blanched, toasted almonds
3 Tbls light corn syrup
2-4 Tbls dark rum, more as desired

In a food processor, grid together chocolate and powdered sugar until well-blended and chocolate is no longer in identifiable pieces. Add vanilla wafers and almonds, grinding until mixture seems like semi-fine crumbs.

Mix in corn syrup and rum until it holds together, but is not too wet or dry. Mixture should hold together in a ball when formed, but should not require a lot of pressing for it to hold together. Neither should the mixture be so wet that it is sticky or goopy. Add more rum if it is too dry; add more powdered sugar, almonds, or vanilla wafers if it is too wet.

Form mixture into 1-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar to coat. (If powdered sugar melts quickly into the balls, your mixture is too wet.) If you are making both strong rum balls and light rum balls, roll the light in powdered sugar and the strong in cocoa powder. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Store in sealed container in refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.

Note: If you are making the vanilla wafers fresh for your rum balls, be sure to allow them to cool thoroughly before grinding to crumbs. If they are hot, they will melt the chocolate and ruin the consistency.

Vanilla Wafers (GF, DF)
Makes about 5 dozen

1/2 cup DF butter, softened
1 cup white sugar (vanilla sugar if available)
1 egg
1 Tbls vanilla extract
3/4 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flours, baking powder, and salt. Mix thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Space them about 2 inches apart, as they will grow a bit.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes or until edges are just golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in sealed bags in freezer for up to 8 months.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blueberry Cornbread Muffins

Blueberries and cornmeal just work well together. I discovered this beautiful combination when I stumbled across an old Native American dish called Sautauthig. During colonial times, the Native Americans shared it with the settlers, who then began making their own variations of it. The Native Americans knew what they were doing; these flavors sing in beautiful harmony together. I wanted something a bit more portable than a pudding, so I created these muffins. Serve them hot out of the oven drizzled with maple syrup, for breakfast Christmas morning, or tucked into your lunch. You’ll smile with the first bite.

Blueberry Cornbread Muffins (GF, DF)

Makes 1 generous dozen

1 cup yellow cornmeal
Blueberry Cornbread Muffins
1 Tbls baking powder
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
2 Tbls tapioca flour
1/2 cup white sugar
2 Tbls brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup soymilk or apple juice
2 eggs
1 tsp maple syrup or extract, optional
1 1/2 - 2 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen, mostly thawed wild blueberries)
Brown sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the cups of your muffin tin. In a large bowl, mix together cornmeal and baking powder, mashing out baking powder lumps. Add flours, sugars, and salt.

In a glass measuring cup or separate bowl, measure out canola oil. Add soymilk, cider vinegar, molasses, and lemon juice. Beat in eggs and maple syrup.

Quickly mix the wet ingredients into dry, well enough so there are no dry pockets in the batter. Fold in blueberries and fill muffin cups about ¾ full. Sprinkle with a dusting of brown sugar if desired. Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into a center muffin comes out clean. Pop out of tin to cool.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Espresso Toffee

I make Almond Toffee every Christmas for friends and family. This year, I wanted to make it for one of my friends who can't have nuts, so I was puzzling over what I could add that would give it a satisfactory crunch. I work for Tony's Coffees and Teas and it dawned on me that crushed espresso beans might do the trick. Indeed, it's delicious! It's also stronger than regular toffee and will please those people who don't like candy super sweet.

In this batch, I used Espresso Noir beans. I think a dark roast balances best with the toffee's sweetness, though I imagine a medium roast would be delicious as well. I wouldn't use anything as dark as French, or you may run the risk of overpowering the toffee completely.

Espresso Toffee
Espresso Toffee
Makes about 50 small pieces

1/2 cup espresso beans, coarsely crushed
1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar or vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons very hot water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3 ounces 74% dark chocolate
(Theo's Madagascar is best)

Crush espresso bean with a mortar and pestle. You don't want any to be whole, but be careful not to grind to a powder or the toffee will become sandy. Chill in freezer about 1/2 hour before using. Grease a sided cookie sheet about 10.5" x 15.5" with butter.

Crushed Espresso Noir Beans
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, slowly melt the butter over very low heat (lowest setting or no higher than 2 on an electric stove). Do not allow it to discolor. Then add the sugar over low heat, stirring every few seconds until it is all dissolved and you see no separation between butter and sugar.

Once the butter and sugar have not bubbled but are completely incorporated, mix together the hot water and corn syrup, then pour it into the butter slowly, stirring just once or twice.

Keep cooking on moderately low heat. Do not stir, but gently cut through it occasionally. Cook until about 300 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer or until a small portion dropped into ice water is brittle and not quite tacky on the teeth. It will be brown and bubbly, fawn-colored. If it smokes, stop cooking immediately as it will burn very fast. When you think it's close to done, start tasting pieces from the ice water. This takes practice to find just the right color and consistency.

Once it's cooked, quickly remove from heat and fold in crushed espresso beans. Be gentle, do not stir, and mix as little as possible while still incorporating beans. The more you work it, the more likely it is to separate as it cools. Pour out into greased cookie sheet and allow to set at room temperature about 1/2 hour. Move to fridge and let it harden at least 2 hours before continuing.

When toffee is cold and hard, melt the chocolate over low heat. Spread in a thin layer over hard toffee. You may want to allow the toffee to rest at room temperature for 1/2 hour before doing the chocolate, so it warms up slightly and doesn't harden the chocolate too quickly. This depends on your method; if you work fast, you can put the chocolate on directly from the fridge. Refrigerate until very cold and hard, a minimum of 2 hours.

Break cold toffee into pieces and store in an airtight container in refrigerator. Serve cold or just at room temperature. If it gets too warm, the chocolate will begin to melt. It's just as tasty that way too!