Tuesday, July 31, 2007

it's my party!

There's this weird thing about birthdays, makes you feel that its right that you have brownies for breakfast (lunch and dinner). Makes you feel it's okay to down a fishbowl margarita with 7 of your close mates. Makes you feel pretty darn justified that you should have awesome dinners everyday of the week. Scratch that, make that a fortnight. And really, it makes you feel that desserts should be ordered by the 'menu-ful' meaning: order 3/4 of the desserts available at the restaurant you happen to be at. YEAP, birthdays do that. I don't know about you but they certainly do that to me.

Because I still care about gluten and dairy and all that, I decided to bake myself my own birthday cake, birthday brownies, birthday tart and birthday cookies. So far I've only accomplished birthday brownies but that being said, because I have officially declared that birthdays oughta last for a MONTH, I still have a month to bake the rest. heh heh heh. The recipe for the brownies are from my Sweet Alternative book, which I am absolutely smitten with and needless to say, the brownies turned out fantastic, seriously un-gluten-free tasting and honestly, they tasted better than 'normal' brownies. When I took them out of the oven, I immediately plunged them into a cold water bath just to stop the cooking so it'd remain moist and fudgey. Gluten free baking can be tricky especially with KEEPING the product in it's 'original' condition (moist, fudgey etc.). Surprisingly, when I so easily and guiltlessly helped myself to the brownies this morning (duh! birthday breakfast!!!), they were still insanely moist and fudgey.

The brownies aren't dense, and certainly slightly more cake-like in texture compared to my favourite brownie recipe however, it was actually a nice change. It's got a lighter crumb but because of the ounces and ounces of chocolate and walnuts that I stirred in, it ups the chunky, dense and chocolate factor which if you don't know by now, absolutely fine with me. So right now, I'm relishing every bit of what's left. I might bake myself another batch veryVERY soon but then again, I've got that cake, tart and cookie to keep my birthdayself happy. Until then, I'm going to think of a way to FUDGE and DENSE this brownie up and hopefully come up with an exact replica of said favourite brownie.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Finally I got round to bake Amaretti and I had no problem deciding on using Cream Puff's treasured recipe because it looked so promising and seriously, no one can say no to a family secret recipe. Her recipe is designed to yield 50-70 cookies and rightly so since they are absolutely delicious morsels of delight but seeing that I'm about the only one who's gonna be eating them, I cut the recipe in 4 and ended up with 25! =) I suppose I made them a little smaller than intended.

Here's the recipe in 1/4
170g ground almonds
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used raw sugar)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
raw whole almonds
extra 1/2 cup raw sugar

1) Mix ground almonds, cocoa and sugar together
2) Add in egg and almond extract, mix well
3) My mixture looked a little crumbly but held together when I rolled them into little balls
4) Roll the balls in the 1/2 cup of extra sugar
4) Line them up on parchment paper and press an almond into each cookie
5) Bake at the bottom rack of the oven at 180 degrees celcius for 10 minutes, then move to middle rack and bake for further 5 minutes. Let cool and serve! =)

Monday, July 23, 2007

One birthday cake down, one to go...

I think a common trait that all people who cook share is that they are opportunists. Whenever anyone has a birthday or a gathering or a night in, they offer to take care of the food (HAH! I know you're guilty). And being as gluten-free and dairy-free as I can tolerate lately, I quite missed the feeling of baking with butter and wheat flour, what can I say, they do make cakes pretty darn good. So on Fred's birthday I appointed myself official birthday cake maker and decided I wanted to go all out, with the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, cream, chocolate, layers, frostings... and here's what I ended up with.

Burnt sugar cake with layers of milk and dark chocolate ganache and kahlua spiked cream topped with a rich buttery caramel frosting.

Notes for the cake:
I had to make the burnt sugar syrup 3 times because the first time I overlooked the part where I had to add in HOT water, and added in tepid water which make the caramel harden. Second time I cooked it for a tad too long and it became bitter. Third time lucky. =). I notices my syrup wasn't VERY dark brown but more like a rich hazel color.

Notes for the ganache:
I used this simple recipe of 1/4 cup cream: 125g chocolate. The top layer is a milk chocolate ganache while the bottom is a dark chocolate ganache. I did that because I ran out of dark choc. =P no other reason.

Notes for soaking syrup for cake:
Mix 1/2 cup water with 2 tbsp of instant coffee powder and 1/3 cup kahlua. Brush cooled cake layers with syrup after assembling. i.e. place the cake layer in place on top of the cake board and brush first layer, and then top with ganache and place second layer on top before brushing with syrup. Repeat.

Notes for kahlua spiked cream:
Simply whip 200ml of thickened cream until soft peaks form, add in 1/2 of icing sugar and 3 tbsp of kahlua, whip a little more until stiff, chill before spreading on 2nd layer.

Notes for the caramel frosting:
I followed recipe exactly except I reduced the icing sugar and used 2 tbsp of cream at the end to thin it out. It set pretty quickly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

HEEEEEEEEY everyone. I promise I'm not dead. I've just been swamped with learning how to drive, cooking un-photogenic food and working. Oh yes and who can forget-SHOPPING. My ultimate guilty pleasure. hehe! Uni starts soon which means I will probably get back into the frequent updating since I feel like there's more of a routine that way. Holidays are just bad for me, I go all sorts of topsy turvy with posts and all that. What can I say, I love losing track of life. =)

Right now I'm working my way through a few birthday cake options for myself. Seeing that it's gotta be gluten free and dairy free, I'm kinda in a rut. Suggestions anyone? =) I want something a little fancier which means bountiful swirls of icing and all that jazz but DAIRY FREE is killing me! Bugger.

Friday, July 6, 2007

me, myself and saturday

I realized that when you start working more often, you really and I mean REALLY treasure the free time you get off work. I don't remember a Saturday afternoon where I haven't had to go to work or at the very least, haven't had to think about work. And honestly, I like it very much. Lucky me it was sunny this morning so I woke up all bright and cheery, ready to go to the market. The market is good when it's sunny, actually the market is good whenever. As long as I don't have to rush around. It was good today, Fred came along and carried half the groceries I bought which means I could buy more. simple maths.

The past few days has seen me struggle with being good, avoiding the Haighs chocolate coated scorched almonds. I failed, gave in and ate 3. Just THREE. And I knew for sure that the next time the bout of chocolate want hits me, it'd be worse. So i decided to bake me something better, a chocolate tart of sorts. I don't know how it turned out because I didn't have much expectations. I just needed something that tasted like chocolate. I couldn't find a pie crust recipe to follow, so I made up my own. It turned out odd. Not in a bad terrible inedible way, just, maybe I should've blind baked it first. It's edible nonetheless, definitely would be good to improve upon, we've all got to start somewhere anyway.

It's not the most appetizing photo but it was the best I could get since I just really wanted to sink my teeth in. The crust is odd (like I said) so I won't be posting the recipe I used. Just use your favourite pie crust. The filling was taken from here, and maybe I should've baked it for a longer time (I left it baking for 45 minutes in a water bath) but it set up quite nicely, mousse-like and all. stable yet not hard. =) I'd say it's definitely good for a chocolate fix and most importantly, the guilt factor hardly creeped in at all!

And for my first entry for Presto Pasta Night, I decided that this little baby oughta do the trick!

Gluten-free Pasta with Avocado and Mushrooms

2 serves gluten-free pasta, cooked as per instructions on the box
5 big white button mushrooms (or however much you like, really)
3 big shiitake mushrooms (just 'coz they were on sale)
1/2 brown onion, sliced thinly
1 large clove garlic, bashed and diced
1.5 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper
1 avocado, diced and slightly bashed

1) heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, add in garlic and onion and saute
2) when onion softens and browns, add in mushrooms and a splash of water and salt, cook until tender
3) Add in balsamic vinegar and pepper and continue cooking until desired softness
4) Place pasta in a bowl, top with avocado and pour the hot mushrooms on top, serve!=)

Monday, July 2, 2007

I solemnly swear I am up to no good

I love the apartment that I live in. It's one of those new ones, all swanky and chic with a cool lobby. You know it's gonna be good when you walk into a lobby filled with mirrors and yellow lights with gold decorations and one of them swanky little moon shaped couches for your guests to wait. I've only ever had one real complaint: there was no supermarket nearby. I mean, what am I supposed to do when I need an apple? or butter? or worse, chocolate. Thankgod the people around the area decided that a Coles (supermarket chain) was needed to TA-DAH! I am now the happiest girl. =)

So yesterday while doing my usual daily walk around in Coles, I decided to buy the 'reduced to clear' organic apples for $0.99 to try making natural applesauce, the 'reduced to clear' organic bananas for $1.99 and the reduced to clear kent pumpkin for $0.45 to make PUMPKIN MUFFINS! I've been meaning to try a recipe from my 'Sweet Alternative' cookbook filled with glorious gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free recipes and a pumpkin spice muffin might do the trick. This whole gluten-free thing has gotten me finding interest in using vegetable purees and mashed fruits in my baking.

The pumpkin muffins were gorgeous, they rose sky high like normal muffins and were very fluffy with a very tender crumb. Fred had them for breakfast this morning without warming them up and he said they were yummy. Da-jie had them too and she liked them, which means alot coming from someone who finds the idea of pumpkin muffins quite revolting. I personally adored them, but then again I'm partial to my own cooking. HAHA!

Pumpkin Spice Muffin from Sweet Alternative by Ariana Bundy

1 ½ cup GF all-purpose flour ( 1 cup white rice flour + scant ¼ cup buckwheat flour + packed ¼ cup potato starch)

1 ½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp xantham gum

2 tsp cinnamon powder

½ tsp ginger powder (optional)

3 ½ tsp pumpkin spice/ all spice

2 free range eggs

½ cup maple syrup + 2 tbsp raw sugar

¾ unsweetened mashed pumpkin (boil until very soft and mash to make ¾ cup)

¼ cup sunflower oil

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside

  1. whisk the eggs with the maple syrup and add the vinegar, mix to combine
  2. blend it into the flour mixture and add in pumpkin puree
  3. stir in walnuts and spoon in 10 cupcake liners and bake at 175 degrees celcius for 18-20 minutes.
and because I DID solemnly swore that I was up to no good, here's some awesome peanut butter cookies, gluten-free of course.

Natural Peanut Butter Cookies (yields 2 1/2 - 3 dozen)

3/4 cup natural chunky peanut butter (the 100% peanut kind)
2 tbsp butter, unsalted or salted
2 tbsp natural almond butter (the 100% almond kind, I made my own)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (I would reduce this)

3/4 cup white rice flour, finest grind you can find
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 potato starch
1 tsp xantham gum
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2-4 tbsp water

1) Cream first 4 ingredients together
2) Sift the dry ingredients
3) Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine
4) Add in the flour mixture and mix using a wooden spoon, adding water if mixture is too dry
5) *this is optional* Stir in come chopped up dark chocolate or if using milk choc, reduce sugar in creaming step.
6) Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls and bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes if a chewy cookie is desired or flatten the cookie before baking and bake for 18 minutes for a crunchy crisp cookie.