Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blueberry Maple Jam

I’m a blueberry fiend. Blueberry muffins, scones, bread, cookies; blueberry glaze on salmon; blueberries and sunflower seeds on a wilted green salad or scattered over a smiling plate of lime curd tart. This is a good season.

Besides, they’re blue(ish). As if nature looked around at all the luscious golds, greens, reds, and oranges and smirked: why not?

Last weekend, I bought 4 pints of this season’s ripe blue orbs from a seller at my local farmer’s market. I promised myself 1 pint to eat, 1 pint to freeze, and 2 pints for play. That’s just for this week; after next Saturday’s foray into the market, I should have enough for more eating, more freezing, and a blueberry lime tart or blueberry thyme scones. But my 2 pints this week went towards jam. I wanted to test a new idea, born out of The Flavor Bible’s conviction that maple and blueberries can sing harmonies worthy of Madama Butterfly.

A visit with my parents in Vermont last March left me with a lot of good maple syrup. One of their friends’ neighbors operates a sugaring house that he allowed us to tour while we were there. The process is fascinating! I didn’t realize until then that different grades of maple syrup reflect only qualities in the sap from the trees; there’s nothing in the process that can in any way guarantee or influence one grade or another. I already knew Grade B appealed to me most, but I learned that such dark, richly flavored syrup comes from sap either at the beginning or end of the day’s run—if it appears at all.

I used Grade B maple syrup in my jam. It isn’t the only sweetener, but gives a delightfully rich background to the blueberries. It adds the flats while lemon adds the sharps as the blueberries sing the main melody.

This recipe doesn’t need pectin; the blueberries contain enough natural pectin to make a decently firm jam by themselves, though it won’t be quite as jelled as a store-bought jam. (My vegan sister-in-law will be pleased.) Spread it over homemade oatcakes or cornbread for a heavenly breakfast.

Blueberry Maple Jam
Makes 1 pint

4 cups fresh whole blueberries
zest of 1 lemon (about 1 Tbls)
2 Tbls vanilla sugar
2 Tbls maple syrup
210g (1 cup) loosely packed dark brown sugar
85g (1/4 cup) maple syrup
2 Tbls fresh lemon juice

Combine whole blueberries, lemon zest, vanilla sugar, and 2 Tbls maple syrup in a pot and cover. Let macerate at room temperature about 2 hours. Stir twice during this time.

After 2 hours, uncover pot and add brown sugar and ¼ cup maple syrup. Mash blueberries with a potato masher until many but not all berries are broken. (You can mash more thoroughly if you like a smoother jam.) Mix well and heat over medium high heat until boiling.

Turn down heat to medium low and simmer uncovered about 35-45 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Near the end of cooking, add 2 Tbls fresh lemon juice and let it finish (about 10 minutes). You want the jam to be nicely thickened, but be careful it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

When jam is done, transfer immediately to a clean and warm sterilized glass jar. Process 10 minutes for canning or store in refrigerator.

Maple syrup grading kit

Measuring the density of the syrup

Straining the impurities from the syrup

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Raspberry Multigrain Muffins

I always want a fast, healthy, delicious breakfast during the week. Do I sometimes thaw out some store-bought gluten-free bread, slather it in peanut butter, and eat while getting ready to catch my bus? Of course I do. But when I have the time, I make a week's batch of healthy, gum-free, delicious breakfast muffins. The beauty of this recipe is that it’s infinitely variable: put in whatever fruit or nuts you happen to have sitting around and watch them bake to light tender clouds of breakfast heaven.

I love teff flour. When I met Shauna Ahern a few weeks ago at the Whole Foods cooking class, she asked me what my favorite new discovery was since going gluten-free ten years ago. I had trouble answering. You see, I grew up with parents who love food. Moroccan stews, bisteeya, baklava, homemade dill bread rolls, tabooli, and hummus graced our table. I already knew what quinoa, buckwheat, and teff were. But I didn’t really know teff. I’d tasted injera, the Ethiopian flat bread, but I didn’t start to bake with teff until the last few years.

It’s delicious. The fine flour nearly melts in your mouth while it lends a hearty nutty flavor to the muffins without attempting to overpower the rest of the ingredients. These wouldn’t have the same multigrain flavor and mouthfeel without teff. So I will amend my answer of a few weeks ago. My favorite new discovery since going gluten-free is teff flour.

Did I mention it makes love to fresh raspberries? Try it.

Raspberry Multigrain Muffins
Makes 1 dozen

110g (3/4 cup) sweet rice flour
30g (1/4 cup) amaranth flour
30g (1/4 cup) teff flour
30g (1/4 cup) almond meal
40g (1/3 cup) tapioca starch
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
30g (1/4 cup) gluten-free rolled oats
100g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
1 tsp whole chia seeds
½ cup canola oil
2 eggs
½ cup unsweetened soymilk or almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
¾ cup fresh washed whole raspberries

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease your muffin tin with coconut oil or shortening. Bring out your eggs so they’re room temperature when you use them.

Measure dry ingredients into a large bowl (use grams if possible!). Break up baking soda and brown sugar lumps, mixing flours well. In a separate bowl or glass measuring cup, measure out liquids and lemon zest. Beat in eggs very thoroughly.

Mix wet ingredients into dry. Gently fold in fresh raspberries. Fill muffin cups nearly to the top, dust each with a few whole oats, and put them into the oven immediately. They’re rise higher the faster you’re able to do this.

Bake about 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool at least 10 minutes before moving them from the tin. Store in a sealed container for 3 days at room temperature or up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beer-Battered Mesquite Onion Rings

I have a new toy: mesquite flour. A little sweet, a little nutty, and a little smoky, the moment I tasted it, I knew I’d make onion rings. Mesquite flour and onions gazed at each other across the kitchen and started to dance.

So what if they’re not the healthiest snack? I try not to deny my ingredients their whims. These make a wonderful spontaneous addition to a summer afternoon spent with friends in the sun.

This recipe is great with a yellow onion, but it’s awesome with a Walla Walla sweet onion. Try it. They’re in season right now. I also like to add a little coconut oil to my frying oil, in about a 1:4 ratio, coconut oil to canola oil. The coconut oil gives the onion rings just a hint of coconut, a sort of ghost in the background.

I’ve used Redbridge Sorghum beer with this recipe, but most recently made it with Estrella Damm Daura. (My husband surprised me with it one evening!) Any gluten-free beer will work, but Daura certainly gave the best flavor. Daura seems to be a little controversial among celiacs in the States, mainly because it’s made from barley and states on the bottle “Less Than 6 PPM Gluten.” We aren’t used to seeing gluten-free products claim to contain any amount of gluten, let alone be made from barley (usually off-limits), but the reality is that most gluten-free products are simply meeting guidelines for 20 ppm or less. Daura is significantly below that. Its brewing process strips the gluten protein from the barley, but leaves that true beer taste. Here's a review on, for more information. It’s delicious and I had no trouble whatsoever tolerating one. Individual reactions to gluten vary; however, Estrella Damm has done some very thorough research into this process to make their beer safe for celiacs. I encourage you to give it a chance.

Beer-Battered Mesquite Onion Rings
Makes about 30

1 yellow onion (Walla Walla or yellow)
60g (1/2 cup) sweet rice flour
60g (1/2 cup) mesquite flour
30g (1/4 cup) tapioca starch
30g (1/4 cup) amaranth flour, plus more as needed
1 Tbls brown sugar
1 tsp salt
dash black pepper (about 4-5 turns of a grinder)
12oz gluten-free beer
Canola and coconut oil for frying

Slice onion into 4-5 sections, depending on how thick you want the rings. Separate rings and set aside, discarding the onion center. Heat canola and coconut oil in a deep pot to medium-high heat. You'll need about 3 inches of oil.

In a medium bowl, combine all flours with sugar and salt. Gradually whisk in beer until the batter is the consistency of pancake batter. Add more amaranth flour as needed to create that consistency. The last inch or so of the beer is for the cook (you probably won’t quite use it all).

When oil is fully heated, dip onion rings in batter to coat and fry about 2 at a time, depending on the size of your pot. You don't want them to touch and stick together. Turn once while frying. Fry about 3 minutes total, or until rings are a deep golden brown. Lift out of the oil, shake off excess, and arrange on a plate covered in 1-2 paper towels. Dust with sea salt. Serve hot, while they're still crispy. The longer they sit, the more likely they are to get soggy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cherry Lime Pie (Party)

Cherry Lime Pie

I’m a sloppy cook and a risky baker. I like to follow the Creativity Trail, even if that means straying rather far from a recipe’s sure path. There’s a unique thrill to bringing ingredients together in new ways or methods. Or simply tasting something I’ve never before tasted.

Call it Kitchen Cliff-Jumping.

When I heard about Gluten-free Girl’s #pieparty, I knew I’d soon be standing in the kitchen with some grand idea, hoping it would turn out delicious. Fortunately, pies are forgiving.

Most cooks and bakers will caution you against using the pith—that white part just beneath the zest—of citrus. However, a recent recipe post to got me thinking about its possibilities. I love pie, but so many recipes pile on sweetness and ignore the fruit within. I wanted a way to kick the cherry flavor of my pie up a notch without disguising it in sugar. The blended whole limes in this recipe give the pie a lovely tartness that buoys up the cherries. It’s almost savory, if you use two limes as I did.

I admit the tartness here is a bit much for some people. I love it, as did a number of my friends; however, not everyone was quite as enthused. If you like your pies very sweet, use one lime. If you’re adventurous, kick the flavor up a notch with two. You’ll find the pie at the bottom of the cliff is delicious.

For this pie, I used Gluten-free Girl’s recipe for pie crust. I highly recommend it.

Cherry Lime Pie
Makes 1 pie

175g Aherns’ all-purpose flour mix (see my version below)
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick vegan butter
1/4 cup ice water, more as needed

2 cups (320g/12oz) pitted and chopped Rainier cherries
1 nectarine, chopped
1-2 limes (100g-200g), depending on how tart you like it
1 cup (220g) white sugar
1/2 cup (90g) brown sugar
1/4 cup (30g) cornstarch
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
pinch salt

1/2 cup (60g) gluten-free oats
1/4 cup (30g) Aherns’ all-purpose flour
3 Tbls (40g) vegan butter
1/3 cup (50g) brown sugar

If your oven takes a half hour to heat up like mine does, start it preheating now to 425F.

Sift flour and salt into food processor. Pulse twice to aerate. Cut very cold butter into small cubes. Add butter to the food processor and pulse 10 times. Add ice water and pulse 5 times. Add more ice water as needed to make the texture somewhat like cottage cheese (with large lumps of butter still throughout the dough). Form quickly into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes while you make the filling. For Gluten-free Girl’s full instructions, see the link here.

Chop whole lime(s), removing tops and any seeds, and whirl in blender or food processor about 2 minutes, or until it blends like a smoothie. In a large bowl, toss chopped and pitted cherries, nectarine, and lime pulp together. Add sugars, cornstarch, spices, and salt, and mix well. Set aside.

Roll out pie crust on a piece of parchment paper dusted with sweet rice flour. When it's the proper size for your pie dish, slide a cookie sheet beneath it, place your pie dish upside down on top, then flip in one smooth motion. Settle crust into pie dish, repairing as needed. Flute edges as desired. Store in fridge until ready to fill.

For the topping, mix together all ingredients and cut in cold butter until it's nice and crumbly.

Pour filling into crust, then top with crumble topping. Bake for 10 minutes at 425F, then lower heat to 375F. Bake for another 45-60 minutes, or until crust's edges are browned and pie has set. (It's okay if it's still a bit wiggly.) Cool at least 1 hour before serving so pie enough time to fully set up.

My version of Aherns’ all-purpose flour mix:
150g brown rice flour
100g sorghum flour
50g potato flour
250g sweet rice flour
50g amaranth flour
50g millet flour
150g potato starch
55g cornstarch
145g tapioca starch