The Weirdest Bread

My mother finds all these things on Facebook and tags me in them. I am always tempted to keep them open in tabs until I realise just how slowly they make my computer run. I’ve only recently started using bookmarks; my thinking has been that I’ll never actually go back and click on them. So far, I’m kind of right.

One post was intriguing enough that I didn’t have to keep it open for long. Here is the original post, though I should warn you that it’s confusing. I’ll fill you in on the details.

So, basically, “oopsie breads” start as meringues and ends as airy breads. I don’t know how it works. I put my scientist-analyst head on my shoulders (In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have a scientist-analyst head anywhere in my bag of tricks.), and I still didn’t really get it. When I tried it, I think I might have overwhipped the eggs whites, if that’s possible. The recipe suggests that you could make 6 large breads or 8 medium ones. I had 8 really big breads that, as I later learned, were probably a bit too tall.  You might want to smooth them down with the back of a spoon to make them shorter.  I probably could have made 10 of the right size had I known.  They are really light and airy and kind of felt like foam.  I did NOT have high hopes.

I’m happy and surprised to say that they were really nice. CB liked them, though I only let him have one and half. They work really well as hamburger buns. I even sprinkled sesame seeds on a few of them to harken back to childhood barbeques.

Oopsie Bread

Yes, one has a bite taken out of it already.  How else was I to know it was done?!

Yes, one has a bite taken out of it already. How else was I to know it was done?!

Ingredients:
3 eggs
100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cream cheese
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon psyllium husk powder

Hardware:
Stand mixer
Spatula
Spoon
Small bowl
Baking pan
Oven

Directions:
Separate eggs.  Place the whites in the bowl of the stand mixer with the salt and whip together until you achieve stiff peaks.

While the egg whites mix, place the egg yolks, cream cheese, baking powder, and psyllium husk powder in the small bowl and mix until combined.  When your whites are whipped, slowly spoon the yolk mixture into it and stir together with the spatula.  Try to do it with as few motions as possible to keep in all the air you have created.

Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet in dollops depending on your desired size.  Like I said, the recipe says that it will make 6 large or 8 small breads, but I had 8 large ones.  It’s possible that my eggs expanded in the mixer more than expected.  I imagine you could top them with any spice or herb you want; I only tried the sesame seeds on a few.

You can see they didn't expand much in the oven.

You can see they didn’t expand much in the oven.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.  I thought they looked like they would be done much faster, as they had a real shape after about 10 minutes, but they needed the entire time.  If they stick to the pan, use a metal spatula to pry away.

It doesn't feel like bread to the touch, but my mouth was fooled!

It doesn’t feel like bread to the touch, but my mouth was fooled!

4th of July

Happy 4th of July to my American friends! It’s a bit odd celebrating here, but I do it anyway. Tonight, we’re going to have a mini-BBQ on my father-in-law’s new grill — and it looks like we have been given a tiny dose of sunshine for the occasion!

Apple confetti cake with caramel buttercream frosting

As American as apple pie — Apple confetti cake with salted caramel buttercream frosting

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it!)
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup double cream
115g unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups icing sugar

Hardware
Medium saucepan
Stand mixer
Wooden spoon
Various measuring cups and spoons
Stove

Directions
Stir together the sugar and water in the saucepan.  Have the vanilla extract and cream ready beside the stove.  Place on medium-high heat and don’t touch it! (If you stir it, it’ll be harder to see when it turns dark, and it’ll burn if you miss it.)  Keep your eyes on it, and remove from heat as soon as it turns a dark amber colour.  Very slowly (exercise your patience), add in the cream and vanilla extract, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon.  Continue stirring until you have a smooth consistency and even colour.

You now have caramel!  Let it stand for 20-25 minutes until it is cool to the touch.  Avoid eating it by spoon.

Cream the butter in the stand mixer (paddle attachment) on medium-high with the sea salt.  It should take a few minutes and might require stopping to scrap the sides.  When smooth, lower the speed and add the icing sugar a bit at a time.  Once it is completely incorporated, pour in the caramel.  Mix until light and fluffy — at least 2-3 minutes.

This frosting is best if you let it stand at room temperature for a few hours before using.

How are you celebrating?

Peanut Butter and Better Labeling

There’s a new law involving gluten labeling working its way through the US government.  It sets guidelines about which products can be labeled “gluten-free” and which products cannot.

Well, it’s a start.  I think it’s very important that companies not put “gluten-free” on their packaging if the product is not, in fact, gluten-free.   What the US really needs is the requirement to label all gluten-containing foods.  I think the UK is behind the US in a lot of ways when it comes to dietary restrictions, especially when it seems no one understands that being vegetarian means that, no, you actually don’t want sausage. But it’s just a little sausage. No. You can pick it out. No.

What the UK does have going for it is an intense allergen labeling system.  I can go through the entire candy aisle and see exactly why I can’t eat anything but Dairy Milk. A Celiac with a milk allergy is just screwed — but they can easily know that they’re screwed!  I spend a lot less time in the shop, reading all the labels; I pick one up, see “contains gluten”, put it back down.  Now that I’m in the US for a wee while, I have to remember to be ever more vigilant.

I have always had a love-hate — okay, it was more like hate-hate, if I’m honest — relationship with breakfast.  For years, I never knew why.  The fact is that breakfast is mostly meats and breads in different combinations.  In the South, we had grits.  Grits I liked.  Grits I could stand.  I’m really iffy about eggs, I had to pass on the bacon and sausage, and I never knew why toast left me feeling gross.  Even the quick-and-dirty options were bad because they were mostly Pop-Tarts and pastries.  All of my reasons sounded like excuses to miss the most important meal of the day: I get tired when I eat breakfast; I get nauseous when I go to gym class after eating breakfast; If breakfast is supposed to increase and sustain your brain power, why can’t I concentrate when I eat it?  Even now, I never look forward to breakfast, and — horror of horrors! — I still usually skip it.

Not a paid advertisement. I just like the stuff.

Not a paid advertisement. I just like the stuff.

When CB and I were visiting my parents over Christmas, my mother opened her pantry to reveal a treasure so bright and shiny: Gluten-free Chex Cereal.  As I explained, I’m not into breakfast, and cereal is no exception.  Typically, my thoughts go to “Yes, I’d love a bowl full of that thing that makes me bloat up like a balloon!”, but there are a lot of flavours to try.  Plus, it reminded me of getting a bag full of homemade Chex Mix for Christmas (We called it trash.  I don’t know why.  It’s better not to ask these things once you’re grown.).  Get this: it’s actually good.  I mix different ones together in the same bowl — another no-no in the Sydney Book of Rules about Food — and dig in.

Since she opened the pantry that first time, my mother has been saying, “I thought you might could use them for a crust for something.”  Well, I finally indulged her. Hello, gluten-free peanut butter pie.

Peanut Butter Pie

If you don't like peanut butter, look away now.

If you don’t like peanut butter, look away now.

Ingredients:
For the crust:
3 cups gluten-free Chocolate Chex cereal
1 tablespoon honey powder
2 tablespoons almond flour
pinch of salt
1/2 stick of butter (57g)

For the filling:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
8oz cream cheese (usually 1 package), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 5oz whipped cream (I don’t know how to measure it. It was half a tub of Cool Whip — for shame, Sydney!)

Hardware:
2 mixing bowls
pie dish
small microwave safe bowl
wooden spoons or other stirring utensils
measuring cups and spoons
oven
refrigerator
microwave (for melting butter)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.

Crunchy.

Crunchy.

In one of the mixing bowls, crush up the Chex cereal.  I use my hands because I am classy.  You don’t want it powder-fine; you should still be able to see what it was. Add in the honey powder and almond flour and mix to combine. Melt the butter in the microwave and stir into the bowl. Spoon the mixture into the pie dish and press into the base and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes.

Crusty. I had a picture both before and after baking, but it looked exactly the same.

Crusty. I had a picture both before and after baking, but it looked exactly the same.

In the other mixing bowl, stir together room temperature cream cheese (Okay, I’ll admit that I didn’t leave it out to get to room temperature. I put it in the microwave for 19 seconds. Yes, 19. If you want someone to make sense, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you want pie, stick around. I like your style.), icing sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla. It’ll be a bit tough to stir, and you’ll probably wonder if you’re really just making a mess. Try to form as even a consistency as you can.

The point at which I thought it was a goner.

The point at which I thought it was a goner.

Much better.

Much better.

Add the whipped cream to the mix, bit by bit. You want to fold it into the peanut butter mixture. You do NOT want to stir or beat it together because the whipped cream has the air that gives the pie its creamy texture. Like I said, I used a bit more than half an 8oz tub of Cool Whip. I would say that I would have whipped my own if I had Ruby with me, but my mother has a stand mixer, and I totally didn’t do it.  Once you have it all mixed together, just make sure your crust (and the pie dish) is completely cooled and spoon it into the crust. Spread it around however you want.  I don’t make things pretty. I just make them tasty.

I think it would be good with shaved/grated chocolate or mini chocolate chips on top of it. We only had regular chocolate chips, and, since it doesn’t go in the oven, I thought they would be a little much.  Leave the pie to set in the fridge for at least an hour.  You’ll want to take this one somewhere you’ll have to share it, or else you’ll be tempted to eat it all at once.  Peanut butter is good for you, right?!

A Tale of Two Jars

I love glass jars.  They are perfect for storing the tons and tons of gluten-free flours necessary to be a real gluten-free baker.  I also keep things like pine nuts, chocolate chips, oats, lavender, and various rice pastas among their ranks.  Because there is such a range, my most important tool is my label maker.

CB thought I was crazy when I said I needed a label maker when I bought my first jars.  It soon became obvious just how necessary it really was.  I even have two jars which are not Celiac-friendly — regular oats and wheat flour.  Labeling has become more and more important as my kitchen and my skills grow.

And then there was this guy.

mystery jar
I had my mind set last night on a baking project.  It was part “I want to make it!”, part “This is a good excuse to put away some jars and get them out of boxes!”.  I fully admit it.  CB was helping me to get everything together, and he holds up one big, full jar.  “What is it?” he asks.  I suddenly realise that I have no freaking clue.

I do remember how it happened, though.  Several months ago, we were packing away all our earthly belongings for the great move that never transpired.  I saw an empty jar and a bag of flour.  I didn’t want the bag to burst open inside a box (Could you imagine the looks on the customs officers’ faces when they see a box covered in white powder?!), so I dumped it into the jar.  CB says, “But we’ve already packed your label maker?  How will we know what it is?” “Well,” I wisely explain, “We’ll know it’s X FLOUR because it’s the only one without a label.” “Good idea!” he says.

Good idea, my butt.  Months later, I’m sitting here trying to compare the weight, texture, and colour of the flour to fill in the blanks.  What are you?  There is the remnant of a label on the glass.  What did you used to be?  Why aren’t you that anymore?
 
At the end of the day, I am no more knowledgeable on what he is than what he is not (except almond flour.  He is not almond flour.).  It didn’t matter for my project, though.  Ruby and I went about our business and created a masterpiece anyway.

I got this recipe from Gluten-Free Goddess, which is a site I wish I had found ages ago.  I didn’t make my cupcakes vegan because, well, I’m not vegan, and vegan products are pretty expensive around here. I also played it pretty fast and loose with the smaller measurements.  I can’t say exactly why I did it, though.  It doesn’t sound like me.

Pumpkin Cupcakes


Ingredients:
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Hardware:
Ruby (okay, okay, a mixer of some sort)
mixing bowl (if you are using a stand mixer, you can use the bowl from it)
flexible spatula
cupcake liners
muffin tins
measuring cups and spoons
oven
wooden spoon
whisk

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Dump all the dry ingredients (sorghum flour, brown sugar, tapioca starch, sugar, almond flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg) into your mixing bowl.  Whisk by hand or with whisk attachment on mixer.  I suggest the whisk because, with so many dry ingredients, you want to make sure there aren’t any lumps and everything is well-combined.

Add in (melted! Always measure by melting! I can’t believe I haven’t said it earlier!  You can pop it in the microwave for a short time — watch continuously and stir every 10 seconds.) coconut oil a little at a time.  Switch to your wooden spoon and watch for it to completely combine before adding more.  The texture should be like wet sand when it’s all in the mixture.  Add your pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla extract.

Here’s where having a mixer saves the day.  Your end result is a thick and stretchy batter, so guess how it gets that way.  If you aren’t using a mixer, it gets there with hard work.  I let Ruby at it on Setting 8 (medium high) for about 2-3 minutes.  The original recipe said 1-2, but I found it wasn’t completely combined by then.  A hand mixer will probably take the same amount of time.  I don’t know how long if you’re just using a spoon, but I don’t envy you right now.

Fill your cupcake liners with your batter.  Since my oven broke two of my silicon muffin tins (I don’t know how; please don’t ask.), I’m down to only one muffin tin, so batches were in order.  I didn’t know how much the batter would rise, so, on my first batch, I filled the liners only halfway.  It didn’t rise very much, so the tops of the cupcakes were below the tops of the liners.  On the second batch, I filled them 3/4 to the top, and they were almost there.  Next time, I’m going to fill them nearly to the edge and cross my fingers.  The recipe also says to smooth the tops. I thought my batter looked pretty smooth and figured it would spread out when it got hot, so I didn’t bother.  It doesn’t affect the taste at all, but I wish I had listened because they rose unevenly.

Bake for 22-25 minutes.  Because I don’t yet have a good relationship with my ovens, I checked on them after 15 minutes.  20 minutes.  22 minutes.  I took the first, smaller batch out after 22, and I left the more full second batch in for the full 25. Watch carefully in these last minutes if you fill your liners higher and leave them in longer because I can’t guarantee any results.

Let them cool in the muffin tin until you can touch them without burning yourself. Move them to a wire rack to cool for an hour.

Time for your frosting!  I have to admit that I have never made frosting or used a piping bag.  It’s shameful, I know, and it’s not beautiful.  Again, I used a newly scrubbed Ruby to whip it all together.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, you’ll need to whisk it all together again.

Start with your powdered sugar and give it a good whisk before you add anything to it. Lumps will not be easy to get rid of once you add the other ingredients.  Alternatively, you could sift it into your bowl.  Add the cream cheese and maple syrup and whisk until thoroughly combined.  You can use a piping bag or spread it with a knife.

My icing was a bit too sweet for my tastes and didn’t taste enough like maple, so I will lower the amount of sugar and up the maple syrup next time.  It’s all to your taste. Give it a lick when you finish and you can decide what you need to do for your own.  I think I’ll just eyeball the sugar and go for 4 tablespoons of maple syrup next time.

Oh, there will be a next time.

pumpkin cupcake

Best Friends Forever

We are finally settling into the new house, just in time for everything to go topsy-turvy pretty soon.  I’m having what I refer to as my “nose job” in 11 days.  I know, I know, I can hear you already. “But, Sydney! You have the perfect nose! You have the nose every girl dreams about when she thinks of her fairy tale future!  Tons of women take pictures of you when they go to have nose jobs!”  Well, you can calm down.  It’s okay.  The outside of my nose shouldn’t change at all.

It’s the inside that is getting a makeover!  Ever since I was very tiny (Mum, care to chime in with specifics?), I’ve had chronic sinusitis and difficulty breathing at even the best of times.  Well, sometime last year (I’m being coy.  I know exactly when.), my nose stopped and never started again.  Antibiotic after antibiotic (which I hate — almost as much as excessive parenthetical comments!), nasal spray after nasal spray, nothing.  Doctors, scans, doctors not calling back, unfruitful follow-ups, and finally!  Someone decides that something needs to be done!  So, in 11 days, I’ll be having three procedures inside my nose — 1) removing two bits of bone that are making passageways too narrow; 2) realigning my party wall, which meets the bottom of my nose in exactly the right place but bends in the middle; 3) cauterizing the lumpy lining of my nostrils that prevents anything from draining down the right paths.  You see why I just say I’m having a nose job?!

One of the most exciting things about my nose job is: If you think Sydney Likes Food now, just wait until she can actually taste it!

Regardless, the house is coming together beautifully, if slowly.  I’ve been cooking, but it’s been mainly old standbys that don’t take too long.  We’re still acclimating to the schedule change; CB has never had a full time job!  He did do his PhD, which was definitely more than a full time job, but it typically involved him hunching over a desk in his home office/spare room/chinchilla abode.  This job requires him to be out of the house for more than 10 hours a day, and I have to figure out what to do with myself in the empty space.  (If I’m honest, it’s mostly academic for me, now, too.  I should be grading papers right now.)  I did make one new meal that was delicious, but the texture needs a little tweaking, as does my understanding of the new ovens.  I’m going to give it a shot again this week, so, if all goes well, I’ll photograph and properly document it here soon.

Ah, yes, but the title of the post.  I have a new kitchen friend.  I feel like I have known this friend forever because of how long I have wanted — nay, needed! — it amongst my tools.  I will never let it go.  We will make so many yummy things together.  You just wait.

Meet Ruby:

Ruby