Author Archives: saltandserenity

The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

petal cake with candles 1I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS CAKE!! Sorry for the shouting, but I can’t contain my elation. As Joy would say, this cake is “Bonkers Awesome.” My search for a blog-worthy gluten free chocolate cake has been going on for quite a while now. My youngest son follows a gluten-free and casein-free diet. For special occasions he goes off the wagon, but he doesn’t feel all that great when he does. This week is his birthday and I wanted him to celebrate without feeling sick.sliced cake with glass of milkThe problem with most gluten-free cakes is that they have a dry and crumbly texture. They often fall apart when you bite into them. The main reason for this is that gluten is a protein that provides structure and strength to baked goods so they don’t crumble and fall apart. Gluten also forms air pockets in the batter which leads to light and fluffy baked goods.

The good folks over at America’s Test Kitchen have figured out how to get around these problems and created a stellar GF chocolate cake. I made the cake twice. The first one was served to my son’s co-workers at his office. No one could believe this was a GF cake. Unfortunately, I could not photograph the inside of that cake, because it would be kind of rude to serve a previously sliced up cake. I made the second cake to have at home with friends and family. To them I served a cake that had been hacked up and photographed, because that’s what you do with family.3 slicesThe cake batter comes together very quickly and does not require a mixer. I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour Mix. In gluten free baking, it is important to use a blend of different gluten free flours, not just one kind. Using both melted bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder provide the perfect chocolate flavour. Baking soda and baking powder give the needed lift and xanthan gum supplies strength and structure. Xanthan gum is a common ingredient in gluten free baking. Without gluten you need something to act as the binding agent for the flour. It keeps things moist and helps to hold the cake together without crumbling.

Vegetable oil, instead of butter is the perfect fat of choice as it keeps the cake incredibly moist. I substituted coconut milk for whole milk, as I wanted my version to be dairy free. Almond or rice milk would work too.

To keep the cake super moist, I brushed the cooled cake layers with a coffee flavoured simple syrup. For the frosting, I decided to make a mocha flavoured Swiss buttercream. I substituted unsalted margarine for butter, because I wanted to keep it dairy free. While the taste and texture of margarine will never beat that of butter, in this application, with the addition of chocolate and coffee to create a mocha frosting, the results were very delicious.Ingredients for Swiss Meringue ButtercreamA Swiss buttercream is a bit more complicated than an American buttercream. In an American buttercream you simply beat powdered sugar and butter, and any flavouring you like. With a Swiss buttercream, egg whites and granulated sugar are whisked and heated to 160°F and then whipped into a meringue. Softened butter (and any flavouring) is then added to the meringue. Swiss meringue is smoother, lighter and less sweet than American buttercream. Yes, it’s more work, but I think it’s worth it. You will need a stand mixer and a candy or instant read thermometer.cooking meringuewhites and sugar whipped to stiff peaksmocha buttercreamI decided to decorate the cake with a petal frosting technique. It looks quite impressive but is actually quite simple to execute. You will need a 1/2 inch round piping tip, some disposable piping bags and a small spoon or off-set spatula. First, pipe a vertical row of dots. Next, spread the buttercream dots with a small spatula or spoon. This creates the look of petals. Repeat, one vertical row at a time, until you go all the way around the cake.petal cake 1I have demonstrated the technique in this video.

sliced cake with milk pitcher

Click here to print recipe for The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake.

slice with milk

 

Carrot and Radish Slaw with Pistachios and Raisins

2 bowlsI am not exactly a fully immersed and loyal subject of the social media kingdom. While I do have an Instagram account, I came late to the game and don’t post very frequently. Like all social media, it sometimes leaves me feeling just a teeny bit jealous. Like when I see posts like thisthis, and this.

Local asparagus, rhubarb or spring peas have not yet arrived in my neck of the woods, but I am still craving something fresh and crunchy. Enter the humble carrot. Much like that shy kid you knew in school, carrots possess way more charisma than we give them credit for. One of mother nature’s most versatile creations, they can be juiced, braised, stir-fried, roasted, pureed, whipped and baked. Equally at home in savoury and sweet applications, carrots are an unsung hero in the kitchen.

Bonus points if you can find rainbow carrots, but regular carrots will be equally delicious. CarrotsStart with a quick pickling of a shallot and some raisins. If you have some fancy champagne vinegar in the pantry, now’s the time to bust it out. If not, regular white wine vinegar will also work. shallots and raisinspicklingGive the vinegar, sugar and salt some time to do their magic and get on with the rest of the salad. Julienning carrots is a breeze if you have a mandoline. If not, here’s the perfect time to practice your knife skills. I made a video showing you the safest and quickest way to do it. If you can’t be bothered to julienne, simply shaving the carrots with a vegetable peeler would be a good alternative. I just prefer the crunch that you get with julienned carrots.

julienned carrotsMint and Italian parsley add the verdant freshness I am craving this time of year. mint and parsleyThis salad touches all the bases. The raisins and honey add a welcome whisper of sweetness. Bitter radishes and spicy red pepper flakes punch back at that sweetness. Pistachios add a satisfying crunch. And bonus! This salad tastes even better the next day.white bowl 2

Click here to print recipe for Carrot and Radish Slaw with Pistachios and Raisins.

salad in black bowl

 

 

 

Almond Pistachio Lime Cookies

on wire rackAfter my last debacle with almond flour and citrus, you would think I’d be reluctant to go down that road again, but I guess I’m just a natural born gambler. Well, a gambler in the culinary sense, at least. I have never understood the appeal of real gambling. If I’m going to throw money away, I’d at least like to have a pair of shoes to show for it.on wire rack 625 sq3 stacks 625 sqWhen I saw this recipe for Flourless Almond Cookies with Cardamom, Orange Zest and Pistachios, I thought it would be a perfect addition to our Passover dessert table. I changed it up and used lime instead of orange and deleted the cardamom. It’s one of those flavours I want to like, but haven’t yet acquired a taste for.  I used to hate cilantro and now I love it, so there’s still  hope for cardamom.Raw ingredientsThese are a slice and bake cookie. They’re fast to make. You do need to allow time for chilling the logs before slicing, so plan ahead. The logs get rolled in finely chopped pistachios. When slicing, make sure you rotate the log 90° (a quarter turn) after each slice to keep from getting one flat side.chopping pistachiosslicing logsready to bakeI decided to glam up these cookies by adding a sweet-tart glaze. I finished them off with a sprinkling of lime zest and more chopped pistachios.glaze ingredientsglazing cookiesThese cookies are the perfect little bite to end the Passover seder with. Chewy in the center, crispy on the edges and an ideal sweet-tart balance. I also made a batch with lemon and they were fantastic.cookies with tea

Click here to print recipe for Almond Pistachio Lime Cookies.

Passover Party Mix

in 3 gold bowls On the next full moon, Monday April 10,  Jewish families, all over the world will gather to hold a Passover Seder. Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt over 3000 years ago, and the formation of the Jewish nation.

The word “seder” means “order” in Hebrew. It refers to the 15 parts of the Seder ritual which are followed in a very specific sequence. In the retelling of the story, the goal is to relive the Exodus, both symbolically and vicariously, with tastes, sounds, sensations and smells. We do this to link our past to our future, to teach the next generation. This is no mean feat and can make for a long night! 

Every family has their own unique customs and traditions. My youngest sister (I have 4) likes to decorate the table  with items that symbolize the 10 plaguesPlastic jumping frogs,  wild animals, cattle, and stale mini marshmallows (plague of hail). One year my mom covered the table in blue, green and purple jelly bellies to represent the River Nile. We have had Cadbury Cream Easter Eggs (much tastier than the roasted egg on the seder plate and the hard boiled egg dipped in saltwater we eat to represent the tears shed by the Israelites in slavery). I fully expect Dark Chocolate Moses this year.

That same sister is fond of making guest appearances at the Seder, dressed in various costumes. Some family members find this humorous. Others do not.Dressup Bunny 2Dressup Mascot 2Dress Up Steph and pigDress Up ProfessorThis year, I’m planning to get the party started by bringing little bags of Passover Party Mix to the table.

Salty, spicy, sweet and addictive. Not normally adjectives associated with a snack that contains matzoh and kosher for passover crispy o’s cereal! But, add mixed nuts, sugar, salt, cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, coriander and smoked paprika and magic happens.Ready to mixWatch the culinary alchemy occur.

Put them out on the table in little bowls, paper cones or little bags and let everyone munch. I doubt anyone will be offended.in gold bowlIn paper conesbags 2

Click here to print recipe for Passover Party Mix.

 

 

Bahn Mi Bowl

one bowlBánh mì is the Vietnamese word for bread. The origin comes from bánh (bread) and mì (wheat). Over time, because of French colonialism in Vietnam, the term Bánh mì has become synonymous with a baguette sandwich. This is no ordinary sandwich. It represents two cultures coming together to create something glorious.

The French contributed the baguette, mayo, and pork, but the Vietnamese brought the party with the addition of pickled vegetables, cilantro and jalapeño.

The idea for this lightened up version of Báhn mì comes from Amy Rosen in the 2016 Holiday issue of Food and Drink magazine. Replace the baguette with rice noodles and toss everything together in a bowl. I lightened up her version even more by using ground turkey instead of pork in my meatballs.

Start by making a Radish and Carrot Quickle (quick pickle!) with rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt pickled VegCilantro, green onion, garlic and Sriracha sauce are mixed in with ground turkey for the meatballs.making little meatballscooked meatballsSweet, salty, and sour come together in the dressing for this bowl. Lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar are whisked together for a simple sauce.

Fresh cilantro, mint, thinly sliced cucumber and chopped peanuts are sprinkled on top for a fast and healthy dinner. 4 bowls on marble counter 2

Click here to print recipe for Bahn Mi Bowls.

4 bowls on black backdrop