Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Caramel Sauce

I first saw Cheese1227's recipe last year on Food52: Salted Pumpkin Caramels. Doesn’t it just glow with the possibilities of autumn? Every year, my parents-in-law throw a huge Halloween party and this year I’m going to bring these caramels. The only problem is the cream. I can’t eat it and neither will the vegans.

Coconut milk to the rescue! At least, that’s what I was thinking a few days ago.

I made this recipe, substituting a heavy-fat coconut milk for the cream, then proceeded to cook it without a candy thermometer. I have the most spectacular pumpkin caramel sauce, but not firmly set caramels.

May I recommend that when a recipe asks you to use a candy thermometer, you follow their instructions? The author usually knows what they’re talking about.

I have since acquired a candy thermometer and I’ll be trying this again. In the meantime, that spectacular pumpkin caramel sauce is excellent on Coconut Bliss Vanilla island ice cream. It also makes a delicious dip for apples, fresh from the tree, in the center of a circle of friends playing board games.

That’s what autumn’s all about anyway: circling up with friends for toasty snacks and games.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Apple Harvest

It’s amazing what you can glean from an apple.

Every time I peel a Gravenstein, its scent reminds me of my grandparent’s Bonny Doon house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. With the cupboard full of spam and the rocking chairs in front of the wood stove. The cedar and lightly mildewy scents on the back deck. The damp early morning grass and the bluejays who'd call you out to confront you about the state of the weather and their trees.

Apples in Bonny Doon started outside with Granddad, a ladder, and his applepicker stick. He’d fastened an old tin can onto the end of a long pole and would lift the can high, nestle a likely apple into it, and give it a lift and twist. The apples plucked neatly into the can to be lowered and set in the bucket. Granddad was an engineer. He ran the cider press on the back deck, cranking buckets of apples through the old wooden contraption and serving us more mugs of fresh apple juice than was strictly wise to drink.

Grammie ruled the Apple Kitchen. I helped her peel bowls upon bowls as we mounded them into homemade pie crusts and stirred enough sugar into the applesauce to make it dessert. We drank her hot instant flavored coffee, sitting on stools, racing to see who could make the longest single peel.

I still hate to break the peel’s journey around an apple. It’s like tearing a roadmap.

Apple Harvest Salad
Serves 10-12

1 small butternut squash (2-3lb)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp ground chipotle
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
9 apples, preferably Braeburn or Gravenstein
2 1/2 cup pecans
1/2 - 3/4 cup dried currants (to preference)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Halve butternut squash, scoop out seeds, skin, and chop into 1-inch cubes. Arrange on a baking sheet, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and roast in hot oven until tender (about 20 - 30 minutes).

In a large bowl, make the dressing by combining olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chipotle, salt, ginger, and allspice. Set aside.

While squash is roasting, spread pecans out on baking sheet and toast them in the same oven until fragrant. Keep an eye on them; they'll be done in about 5 - 8 minutes. Toss hot roasted pecans directly into dressing and listen to the delightful sizzle (this will cook off some of the vinegar so it doesn't get too strong).

Cut apples into quarters, remove the cores, and slice lengthwise into moderately thin slices (about 1/8-inch). Add apple slices and toss into dressing as you go to prevent them from discoloring. Toss in currants with the apples.

When butternut squash is tender, remove from oven and let it rest about 10 minutes. Toss it in with the rest of the salad and serve warm or cold, depending on preference. This salad will be best if you allow the apples, nuts, and spices to cure together at least 20 minutes while the squash is roasting.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Taste PCC & Avec Baking

I attended Taste PCC in Issaquah a few weeks ago. It’s a fun little fair where local vendors who sell their products at PCC Natural Markets can hand out samples directly to customers. I came for work (we ran the Tony’s Coffees &Teas booth), but I took a little time out in the day to chat with vendors and taste some new gluten-free products. Here are the two products you shouldn’t miss.

5/5 Spoons
 These deserve some attention. Wheat-, gluten-, and soy-free, many of the flavors are also dairy-free. I’ve never had a nutrition bar that is so well-suited to my dietary needs and tastes so delicious! They’re relatively high in protein and prove an ideal airplane travel meal. You know: the food stash those of us with allergies generally bring along on our travels. Add it to your list.

Avec Baking Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
5/5 Spoons
This is one of the best gluten-free all-purpose flour mixes I’ve tried. Denise Cooley, the creator, explained to me herself that she uses freshly ground flours from a mill in Bellingham, WA, and how this makes a huge difference in the flavor and function of the mix. It tastes wonderful, plus it includes whole grains such as sorghum and brown rice.

It passed my Fannie Farmer Biscuit Challenge. One of my favorite cookbooks is The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book, published in 1896 by Fannie Merritt Farmer. I love seeing how recipes used to function closer to their original form. There are over 56,700,000 Google results for “biscuits,” but Fannie has only 3. They’re simple recipes—a great starting place for gluten-free experimentation. Making her biscuits gluten-free requires a truly stellar gluten-free flour mix. I change very little about the recipe, but use the weight equivalent of gluten-free mix where the recipe calls for regular flour. (I also sub vegan butter for the butter and lard, and replace the milk with soymilk and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar to curdle it like buttermilk.) Only King Arthur Flour’s gluten-free mix passed it before. And I like the biscuits from Avec Baking’s mix better.

On the back of the Avec Baking mix, you’ll find a recipe for focaccia bread. This recipe includes xanthan and guar gums, but these are optional. You don’t need the gums, just some ground flaxseed. I’ve included the original Avec Baking focaccia recipe below, along with my own variation. I made it twice in a week and still can’t seem to keep it around more than a day. My husband, who digests gluten just fine, snatches it up the minute it emerges from the oven. Delicious.

Avec Baking Focaccia Bread
Makes 1 9x11-inch pan

1 ¼ tsp yeast
1 ½ cups Avec Baking Gluten Free Flour mix
½ tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp guar gum
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
½ tsp good salt
¼ cup apple juice
½ cup water less 2 Tbls
2 large eggs + 1 egg white
2 Tbls olive oil
½ tsp cider vinegar

2 Tbls olive oil, 1 12 tsp dried rosemary, sprinkle of good salt, kalamata olives cut in half. Optional: sprinkle of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Prepare a 9x11 baking dish with a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkling of Avec Baking Gluten Free Flour Mix and set aside. Put eggs and egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whisk attachment. Begin on low and whip the eggs. As the eggs start to break down, slowly increase the speed up to high and continue for 3-5 minutes or until the eggs double in volume and become frothy and pale yellow. While the eggs are whisking, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and the remaining wet ingredients into another bowl. Once the eggs are done, turn mixer down to low and incorporate your wet and dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated and no lumps remain. Turn dough out to prepared pan. Using an offset spatula spread the dough evenly. The dough will be sticky so work quickly as to not lose the air you have work to incorporate. Cover with aluminum foil and let rise for about 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 400F while dough is rising. Once dough has risen, remove foil and sprinkle with toppings. If using olives, place them gently on the surface without pressing them in too firmly. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack and enjoy!

Beyond Celery Variation on Avec’s Focaccia
Makes 1 9x11-inch pan

1 ¼ tsp yeast
190g (1 ½ cups) Avec Baking Gluten Free Flour mix
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried rosemary
Slightly less than ¾ cup water
2 tsp brown sugar
2 eggs
1 egg white
2 Tbls olive oil
½ tsp cider vinegar
2 Tbls ground golden flaxseed

Follow directions as above, stirring the ground flaxseed and brown sugar into the wet ingredients. I find plastic wrap works better than aluminum foil when the dough is rising.