Thursday, January 26, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Torte with a Strawberry Glaze

Birthdays are very special.  However, grown-ups do not typically celebrate birthdays in the same fashion as kids.  My husband just celebrated his birthday, and I had prepared to make a cake and decorate it.  When I asked him what design he wanted, he said that he did not want a decorated cake.  So, I started thinking about what I could make.  I decided to make a Flourless Chocolate Torte with a Strawberry Glaze.  This recipe is simple, but the results are decadent.

Flourless Chocolate Torte

     4 ounces dark chocolate
     4 ounces milk chocolate
     2 sticks (1 cup) butter
     1 1/4 cup sugar
     6 eggs
     1 cup unsweetened cocoa

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Then use grape seed oil to grease the bottom and the sides of a springform pan.  Cut out a circle of parchment paper that will fit in the bottom of the springform pan.  Place the parchment paper circle in the springform pan, and then spread a little more grape seed oil on it.  Put this off to the side.

Place the chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat.  Stir it frequently to keep the chocolate from burning on the bottom of the pan.  Remove the pot from the heat when butter and chocolate is completely melted and combined.  Transfer the melted chocolate and butter to a large mixing bowl with a whisk attachment.  Turn the mixer to a medium speed and slowly add the sugar.  Then start adding the eggs, one at a time.  When the eggs are all added, stir the cocoa gently into the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes.

You will know the torte is cooked thoroughly when the center of the torte is firm to the touch.  Let the torte cool for 10 minutes.  Place a serving plate upside down on top of the springform pan.  Turn this over, so the plate is on the table and the springform pan is upside down.  Remove the sides of the springform pan, discard the parchment paper, and let the cake cool completely.

Then it is time to make the strawberry glaze.

Strawberry Glaze

2lbs strawberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Combine the strawberries, sugar, water, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan on a high heat.  Stir occasionally as it comes to a rolling boil.  Reduce the heat, and let it simmer for up to 10 minutes.  As it is simmering, use a potato masher to mash the strawberries and release all of the flavors of the fruit.  When the strawberry mixture has been reduced, and the strawberries mashed to your liking, add the cornstarch.  Whisk the cornstarch until it has been dissolved and the strawberry mixture thickens into a glaze.  It usually takes 3-5 minutes.  Spoon the glaze over the Flourless Chocolate Torte.

Baker's Notes:  If you do not want your glaze to have lumps of strawberries it, there are 2 possible ways to remove them.  You can strain the strawberries chunks out of the liquid, before you use the cornstarch to thicken the glaze.  Another option is to puree the strawberry mixture in a food processor before you thicken it with cornstarch.  I did not want to strain the strawberries, so I just left the pieces of strawberries in my glaze.  If I had more time, I would have pureed the strawberry mixture, but I wanted this to be finished before my kids went to bed.

This Flourless Chocolate Torte and Strawberry Glaze is a wonderful ending to any meal.  It might even make a special dessert for a loved one on Valentine's Day.  I even shared this dessert with friends a few days after I made it, and they loved it.  I hope you get as much enjoyment in this torte as much as we did.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gluten Free Cherry Blueberry Crisp

We had some friends over to celebrate my husband's birthday.  The dinner was wonderful, and the company was even better.  However, the few hours before the party were extremely hectic.  One of our friends was going to make a dessert, but there was a change in plans.  I had to come up with a dessert idea quickly, but I did not have any almond flour.  I ordered bulk almond flour last week, but it was not delivered until today.  So, I had to come up with something quickly.  I looked in my freezer to see if anything would jump out and bite me, and I saw bags and bags of fruit my family and I picked throughout the summer.  I spent many hours prepping the cherries, blueberries, and strawberries to freeze.  Now would be the perfect time to enjoy the ripe fruit even though it is the middle of the winter.  

My husband really likes blueberries, and I really like cherries.  I thought that combining the two fruits would make us both happy and make an amazing fruit crisp.  Now that I had a filling, I had to think about the topping.  Most of my recipes called for almond flour, but that clearly was not possible, given my lack of almond flour.  However, I had some gluten free oats in the freezer.  I decided to make my crisp with equal parts gluten free oats, butter, and brown sugar.  This is my recipe.  

Gluten Free Cherry Blueberry Crisp

4 cups cherries, fresh or frozen
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons tapioca starch
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, cold
3/4 cup gluten free oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the frozen cherries and frozen blueberries into a big bowl.  Add the honey, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and tapioca starch to the fruit.  Mix all of it together and put it into a greased 2 quart baking dish.  Put the brown sugar, butter and gluten free oats into a food processor.  Combine these ingredients and crumble over the fruit mixture.  Cover the Cherry Blueberry Crisp with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Uncover the Crisp and broil at 550 degrees for 5 minutes to brown.

Baker's Notes:  I used frozen fruit, because it is the wrong season for cherries and blueberries.  When you are using ripe fruit, you can likely reduce the amount of tapioca starch in half.  The food processor turned the blend of butter, oats, and brown sugar into a doughy consistency.  I crumbled it over the top of the fruit.    

This Cherry Blueberry Crisp was absolutely amazing!  I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Sooooo yummy!  The topping was slightly crispy, and it blended well with the fruit.  Taking a bite of warm Cherry Blueberry Crisp and cold ice cream is a definite comfort food.  Enjoy!




Monday, January 23, 2012

Adventures in Cake Decorating

I love making birthday cakes for my kids, but my cakes have always been unimaginative in the past.  My cakes were frosted, and I tried to write something simple or just use sprinkles.  I am not very artistic, but I wanted to create cakes that my children will love.  Fancy cake designs just seemed like they were far too advanced for my ability level.

When my son turned five, I decided that I was going to try to be more adventurous.  I made a hot air balloon cake.  

I cut the cakes to form the hot air balloon shape.  I added food coloring to vanilla frosting for the balloon's design.  I used Twizzlers and candy letters to decorate it.  It turned out a little messier looking than I would have liked, but my son loved it.

The next cake I decorated was a rainbow cake for my daughter's 4th birthday.  I used a bunt pan to make two cakes.  I cut the cakes in half and attached them together with frosting.  Then I stood it up on it's side.  My daughter wanted chocolate frosting and m&m's.  I used red, orange, yellow, green, and blue m&m's.  I needed a purple, so I added purple Skittles and white frosting to make clouds.  This cake was really easy to design, because all I did was place candies all over the cake.  I did learn an important lesson this time about cake presentation.  Professional cake decorators frost cakes twice.  When you frost the cake for the first time, cake crumbs get mixed in with the frosting.  Then the second layer of frosting goes cleanly over the crumb layer.  This definitely help make this cake look more clean than my previous attempts.

I have made a couple of cakes since the rainbow cake, but my favorite is the robot.  

I have been enjoying decorating these cakes for my children.  What cakes have you decorated lately?  Do you have any tips for those of us who are learning?


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Gluten Free Brownies

I had a very special afternoon yesterday in my kitchen.  I got to spend it baking with 2 very special helpers, and I loved every minute of it!  Every morning after I come home from dropping my son off at school, my daughter and I and spend a few minutes snuggling on the couch.  Yesterday she looked up at me while her arms were around me, and she asked if we could make some brownies.  I knew that I was running out of almond flour, but I figured that I could create a recipe that would work with the ingredients I have at home.  So, I told her that we could.  My daughter jumped off the couch and started dancing, because she was so excited.  We decided to wait until my son got home from school too, so that we all could do it together.  I had not found a specific brownie recipe using almond flour that I really like, so I decided to experiment with a few different recipes.  Here is the recipe I used.

Gluten Free Brownies

2 cups almond flour
scant 1/2 cup almond flour (I didn't have enough to make the true half cup)
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 8x8 square baking pan, and place a square of parchment paper on the bottom.  In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, tapioca starch, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder.  Mix all of the ingredients together.  In a separate bowl, mix together the grapeseed oil, eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Then mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients in the large bowl.  Add the chocolate chips and mix them into the batter.  Pour the batter into the baking pan and place it in the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a knitting need comes out clean.

I hate to sound cliche, but I am not sure which was better; the brownies or the time spent with my children.  The brownies turned out really well.  There is still a strong almond taste, but the center is nice and moist.  There is a nice chocolate taste, but they are not too sweet  The kids enjoyed them, and so did my husband.  He got to come home from work to a house smelling like brownies. Yum!  You can eat the brownies by themselves or put a scoop of ice cream on top.  I hope you have fun making these with someone you love.  Enjoy!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Gluten Free Macaroons Recipe

This week I made some scrumptious gluten free coconut macaroons.  This recipe was inspired by Alton Brown from the Food Network.  I  made them for Passover last year, and I had to make a second batch because my friends and family were eating them too quickly.  Since these macaroons caused such a stir, I do not save the recipe just for Passover.  So, when I was invited to a Holiday Cookie Swap, I decided that that was a perfect excuse to make the macaroons.  Unfortunately, the party was canceled because the host's children were sick.  Then I was going to make them when my parents were visiting, but my kids wanted to make a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for my father's birthday instead.  So, I kept putting the macaroons off.  Then a few days before New Years, I decided that this was the perfect excuse to make them.  They are really easy to make, and they turned out amazingly!  I have also topped them with melted dark chocolate, but I decided not to do that this time.   

Gluten Free Macaroons Recipe

16 oz sweetened shredded coconut
2 oz sweetened condensed milk
Pinch kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large egg white, room temperature
5 oz sugar

Place the small deep bowl with a rounded bottom from your stand mixer, along with the whisk attachment, in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  The eggs will whip more easily when the implements are cold.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut with the sweetened condensed milk, salt, and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl.

Take the bowl and whisk attachment out of the freezer and place on the mixer stand.  Beat the egg whites first at a slow speed and then gradually move up to medium until the eggs are foamy.

I have found that if you bring the eggs to room temperature, you will get more volume when beating the egg whites.  Egg whites can be brought to room temperature by setting the eggs out on the counter for at least 30 minutes in advance of your preparation.  

Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip the eggs whites until medium peaks are formed.  Do not overbeat them, they will liquify again.  When egg whites are perfectly whipped, they remain stable, even if you tip the bowl upside down.

Gently fold the egg white into the coconut mixture.  Scoop tablespoon-sized mounds onto a parchment lines cookie sheet.  I baked the cookies in a convection oven for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.  If you are not using a convection oven, I would recommend baking the cookies for 20-25 minutes.  Once you take them out of the oven, immediately take the parchment paper off the cookie sheet.  Leave the cookies on the parchment paper, because they will solidify as they cool.

These macaroons are amazing by themselves, but if you would like to fancy them up a bit you can top them with chocolate.  I have used 12 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate chips and 1 ounce vegetable shortening.  First you need to fill a 4 quart pot with enough water to come 2 inches up the side.  Put this on a medium heat and bring it to a simmer.  Combine the chocolate chips and shortening in a small glass bowl that can set in the pot without touching the water.  Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted, and then remove it from the heat.  Dip the tops of the cooled macaroons in the chocolate mixture and place back on the parchment paper to set.  It takes about 30 minutes for the chocolate to set.  Either way you choose to make them, I hope that your family and friends will enjoy these as much as mine.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!  Enjoy!