Back from hiatus

Well, it’s been a while, but I’m back. As you can see, I spent part of my break remaking the site a bit. Please let me know what you think of it – I am trying to get it toward a more permanent/final version, and would love some feedback.

I was not wholly unproductive while away. I have about four or five new recipes that I need to post that are pretty awesome. But this will have to do for now, since I am rather tired.

Holy Shrinking Muumuus, Batman!

Welp, I have officially returned to California. This fact keeps creeping up on me at odd times, even though “California” and related words keep appearing. I think the one thing I find most startling and enjoyable is the sunlight. It feels so amazingly good. I will surely become less excited about the sun, and will eventually miss the rain, by for now life is good. It’ll be great once Mikal and Ginger get down here.

Way too much happening!

It has been a busy and exciting few weeks. I had an awesome interview with a company down in California, and I’ll be starting a new job three weeks from today. Totally mind-blowing! There is SUN in California c_c Real sun, not this sad imitation we get up here in western WA.

This is the reason I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks. I have done a slight bit of baking – I tried out a couple of banana bread recipes I had to remind myself which I actually liked – but nothing to really talk about. I do have over a gallon of banana mush that I need to do stuff with, so I will be posting a banana bread/muffin recipe here soonish. Also, Mikal’s birthday is next week, so I’ll probably post pictures of that and any interesting things I discover.

That is the news for the moment. Crazy moving packing crazy figuring-out-living craziness.

Gluten-Free Biscotti

Gluten-free biscotti seems to be one of the few GF baked goods that I have mastered. Biscotti is amazingly simple, and it’s a great little nibbler. As a kid, I didn’t like biscotti – not because of the hardness or anything, but I think it was because most biscotti seems to have anise extract, and I really don’t like the taste of licorice. It makes me vaguely nauseous, for whatever reason. But yeah, I didn’t like it as a kid, though somewhere along the way I decided that it was worth trying to make.

A few years ago I purchased a book called The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball. I found it at the UW Tacoma bookstore, of all places, on clearance for four dollars or something, and it looked pretty awesome. It has side-by-side grid comparisons on different ingredients in a particular recipe, showing the results of using x-amount of butter versus margarine, or white sugar versus brown sugar. It’s pretty awesome. And so far, the recipes I have tried in it have been really good, not bland or anything, but definitely a good basis from which to experiment. Awesome stuff.

I made these based on the biscotti recipe in this book, using Gluten Free Mama’s Coconut Blend and some xanthan gum. I had to add a little water to the original recipe because mine turned out a bit dry, even after adding another tbsp of butter to compensate for the generally dryer tendency of the flour. All-in-all, it’s a really awesome recipe to start out with if you’re new to the GF baking thing.

Gluten-Free Biscotti

2 cups Gluten Free Mama’s Coconut Blend
1 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup almonds (slivered, sliced, or whole)
2 large eggs, room temperature
4 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp anise extract or 1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp water

Adjust a rack to the center position and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nuts in a large bowl and stir to combine. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, butter, and anise or vanilla and whisk to fully combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, mix to combine until a rough dough forms.

Turn out the dough onto a work surface and knead a couple of times, or until the dough comes together. (This is where you would add the water if the ingredients aren’t sticking together enough – one tbsp at a time, make sure that all the water is incorporated before adding more.) Start to form the dough into a big, fat cigar and cut it in half. Form each half into a cigar shape or log about 1 inch thick, 2 inches wide, and about 12 inches long. Place logs onto the cookie sheet and press lightly with your fingers to slightly flatten.

Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The bars (cigars) will be firm to the touch and just slightly browned. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 300°F. Let the bars cool on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes.

Remove the bars to a cutting board using two spatulas. Using a serrated knife, cut the bars diagonally into slices about 1/2 inch thick to form the biscotti. Lay them back on the cookie sheet with either cut side down and place back in the oven for 15 minutes. Turn each cookie to expose the other cut side and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes. The cookies will take on the slightest bit of color and feel firm and dry. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Store in an airtight container.

I tried one of them, and it was pleasantly sweet from the coconut flour, but it seemed to be missing something, so I did an extra little something to make them all the more special.

20 pieces of Dove dark chocolate (I pretty much always have a couple of bags of Dove chocolate from the holiday bags that go on clearance. Doing the piece kind rather than the bars makes tempering chocolate using the seeding method much easier because you don’t have to worry about weighing things out)
glass or metal bowl
silicone spatula
candy thermometer
sauce pan

Unwrap 16 pieces of Dove dark chocolate and place them in the bowl. Place the bowl over a sauce pan that is just large enough for the bowl to sit on top of without touching the inch of water inside. Turn the water onto medium and stir the chocolate as it melts. As it starts to really melt, stick the thermometer in and keep stirring the chocolate until everything is melted and the thermometer reads 120°F. Remove bowl from the pan, and quickly unwrap the remaining four chocolates (you want a ratio of 1/4 the amount of chocolate you originally put into the bowl for seeding) and add them to the bowl. Stir the chocolate constantly, and as the seeding pieces become incorporated into the melted chocolate, keep an eye on the thermometer. Once it hits 85°F, you should have perfectly tempered chocolate. You’ll notice that it’s getting a bit thick and harder to stir. Go ahead and take the sauce pan with its cooling water off the stove and put the bowl back in it for a minute or so, stir the chocolate until it’s a bit more liquidy. You don’t want to heat it to more than 89°F or else you’ll lose your temper. Take each biscotti and dip the bottom/one end into the chocolate, gently scrape the excess off with the spatula without uncovering any particular spot, and put the biscotti on wax paper or a silicone baking sheet to set. The chocolate should take on a nice shine and set quickly. After that, go ahead and put them in pretty boxes or bags to give to people, or just scarf them down because they’ll make you so much happier than you can imagine.

Cinnamon rolls!

I keep making recipes that require my hands way too much, which makes it really very hard to take pictures with the very expensive camera. Thus no pictures once again.

I came to a startling realization last week when I was looking for a cinnamon roll recipe: I have absolutely no cinnamon roll recipes in all my cookbooks. None. At all. What’s up with that?! I mean, really? A good cinnamon roll is amazing. Eventually, probably sooner rather than later, I will learn the trick.

Mikal has been encouraging me to look at Cooking Light versions of recipes to get a feel for what methods they use to cut down on the richness of various foods. Since I’m planning on making quite a few of these and freezing them so that I can take them out for breakfast or a snack or something, I decided to make a slightly healthier version and go from there. There are just a couple of things I would change about this recipe to make it a slight bit better for my future batches. First, I stead of brushing melted butter over the inside of the dough so that the filling sticks and melts, I’m going to make a paste of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I know that cuts down on the whole “light” idea, but I found that this batch of rolls came out a bit dry. The second thing would be to reserve just enough of the filling spread to put a bit on top of the buns before they cook. Just a very light coating, I think, to give it a bit more oomph. I’ll post my findings as an add-on to this post at a later date.

Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°)
6 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 package quick-rise yeast
16 22/25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 3/4 cups)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

To prepare rolls, combine milk, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups. Add egg and remaining granulated sugar to bowl. Stir in 4.5 ounces (1 cup) flour; let stand 10 minutes.

Add 11.25 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) flour and salt to milk mixture; stir until a soft dough forms (dough will be sticky). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 6 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 35 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rise 35 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; roll dough into an 18 x 11–inch rectangle. Brush remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter over dough; sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture. Beginning at one long side, roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Cut dough into 18 (1-inch) slices. Arrange 9 slices, cut sides up, in each of 2 (8-inch) square baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 35 minutes or until doubled in size. I put mine into muffin tins to make them easier to store individually, and that worked really well.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Uncover rolls. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes in dishes on a wire rack. Turn rolls out onto wire rack; cool 5 minutes. Turn rolls over.

To prepare icing, combine 3 tablespoons softened butter and cream; stir with a whisk. Stir in vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar; stir until blended. Spread icing over rolls; serve warm.

Actually, there is another something I don’t really like about this recipe: the icing. If you check out the image in the linked recipe, it really doesn’t look very appetizing…. And that’s how it turns out. I think I’m going to find a different something to put on top… But maybe not. It doesn’t taste bad or anything, it just doesn’t show well, especially if you apply it cold or let it cool too much while eating. Looks kinda funny. >.>