12.10.2011

weekend breakfast::at home

::The night before, par-bake your favorite pizza crust.


::Next morning, preheat the oven as hot as it will go.

::Top the crust with your favorite breakfast items and bake it until everything is cooked to your liking.

::(Decide that next time, you should probably crack the raw eggs directly onto the crust.)

::Serve with hot coffee, grated Parmesan, and maybe even some sriracha.

::Breakfast pizza. A civilized way to start your day, despite the kids fighting in the background, the dog barking in the yard, and the cold wind whipping around your house.

12.07.2011

gluten-free ratio rally confessions


Maybe it's just me, but sometimes these Ratio Rally posts have a bit of a confessional air about them.

This is not a bad thing. It's nice, as a baker, to read about your peer's slip-ups in the kitchen, the flavor combinations that they thought would work but flopped, the recipes that they'd never before tackled for fear they'd be too advanced, or even the everyday challenges posed by equipment failure or last-minute ingredient substitutions. Knowing that others have had to deal with some of the same problems I've encountered during my baking career? It makes everyone seem that much more authentic, relatable, human.

It also brings into focus the "Rally" part of this endeavor. It's not merely about the rush and enthusiasm of everyone posting about the same topic on the same day. It's about reaching out to each other, and all of you, to share knowledge, swap stories, and expand our culinary repertoire through collaboration. It's a group effort, for sure.

I was reminded of this late last week, as I was throwing away an entire batch of black walnut shortbread.

Yes, a whole batch, trashed. I never do that. I can't bear to throw away food - it goes against all my sensibilities. And to be honest, rarely do I make anything that is so bad as to be unpalatable. Even if it's not great, we'll still eat it.

But man oh man, were those cookies bad. It all started with the walnuts.

I get crazy ideas sometimes. Randomly, I'll remember hearing or reading about some food or ingredient that I've never tried, never even seen, maybe, and I'll decide then and there that not only do I need to track some down immediately, but that I'm going to love it unconditionally, and will soon be trumpeting it's virtues to anyone who will listen. So it was with the black walnuts.

Everything I'd read made them out to be a gourmet delight, much better than conventional, English walnuts, and worth the splurge. So I splurged, and spent a lot of money on a tiny little bag of nuts, took it home and opened it, and . . .

Ewww. What's that smell? Have they gone bad? The expiration date's months away! But there's a sweet, almost alcoholic air coming from those nuts. Do nuts ferment? A taste reveals no answers, only more questions. Why are they so . . . funky? Is that really a trace of blue cheese under all those dusty, sweetly-stale layers?

Fortunately, I'd bought two bags (assuming, of course, that I would love them so much that I might need to start stockpiling them), so out came specimen number two. Also fermented-scented and weird. Why my red flags weren't waving wildly in my face, I don't know. But I kept going.

Convinced that all those online resources couldn't be wrong about the luxurious gourmet-ness of black walnuts, I toasted some, ground them up, and mixed them into a standard shortbread recipe.

While baking, the magic of butter and sugar managed to muffle any off-scents the walnuts were emitting, and I was genuinely looking forward to trying the cookies. I broke off pieces for myself and Josh, and took a bite. I immediately knew it wasn't right, but I didn't really have more than a split second to think about why before my attention was drawn to what Josh was doing. What Josh's face was doing, more specifically.

It had gone into convulsions. His mouth was twisting side to side in a truly unnatural way. His eyes were scrunched up, practically closed, and his cheeks were sucked in, even as his tongue made acrobatic tumbles in and out of his mouth.

He was, to put it mildly, in the throes of the most vile flavor he'd ever eaten.

Let me tell you, it doesn't feel good to know that you made a cookie that caused your husband to gag and choke and make references to all the disgusting, nasty things you're never supposed to write about on a food blog. Not good at all.

Clearly, there was no room for discussion, no nuanced debate over this cookie's traits. It needed to leave our kitchen now.

Stupefied (and chagrined), I took to Facebook the next day, wondering what others knew about black walnuts. Turns out, many people don't like them. "Odd," "vile," and "funky" were all mentioned. Huh. I started to feel a little bit better. It wasn't completely my fault that Josh had to wash his mouth out; black walnuts have a very peculiar flavor, and it seems they're one of those love-it-or-hate-it things. I wish I had known this earlier. (Our unscientific tests point to a heavy "hate it" trend, as everyone at the restaurant was also revolted by the nuts. We even ordered a box of them from one of our suppliers, just in case the grocery store inventory really was spoiled, and the response was the same. Maybe they're not so luxurious after all.)

However, I couldn't just chalk the loss up to experience and walk away. I needed walnut shortbread. I needed it for the restaurant, for a new dessert I'm developing, and I needed it for the Ratio Rally, which is all about cookies this month. I needed to make this work.


Luckily, all it took was using regular walnuts in the recipe. I'm normally not a big fan of walnuts; hence my excitement over a "gourmet" walnut that promised a different taste. But between toasting the nuts and using a high-quality butter, plus the addition of a hint of cardamom, the bitter, dry flavor I always associate with walnuts was nowhere to be found in these cookies.

And aside from teaching me that some foods are best left untouched, my failed batch of shortbread reminded me of a little baking trick, one of those things I seem to periodically remember and then forget again. When I had tried the black walnut shortbread, before being overcome by the awful flavor, I had noticed that the texture was just a bit too dry, too crumbly. (Even for shortbread, which is supposed to be a light, crumbly cookie.) I didn't want to tinker with the ratio by adding more butter, so I fixed the texture problem with an egg yolk. A hard-cooked, sieved egg yolk, to be precise.

Adding a hard-cooked egg yolk that has been pushed through a fine mesh strainer adds just enough protein and fat to the cookie dough that it becomes enriched in an almost imperceptible way. The flavor is still delicate and buttery, the texture crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth, but it holds together just a bit better, and feels just a bit softer on the tongue. It's a little bit of magic, taking an almost-there cookie to perfect.

Thank you so much to the lovely Caroline of The G-Spot Revolution for hosting this month. And please be sure to follow the links to all of the Rally-er's delicious posts. With so many incredible options at your fingertips, your holiday cookie planning can stop right here!

Amanda | Gluten Free Maui | Simple Shortbread
Amie Valpone | The Healthy Apple |
Grapefruit Sugar Cookies
Brooke | B & the boy! |
Candy Cane Shortbread
Caleigh | Gluten Free[k] |
Mulled Spice Cookies
Caneel | Mama Me Gluten Free |
Cardamom Date Cookies
charissa | zest bakery |
Coconut Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caroline | The G-Spot | Double Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies
Claire | Gluten Freedom |
Chai Latte Cashew Cookies
Erin | The Sensitive Epicure |
Spritz Cookies with Jam
gretchen | kumquat |
Classic Sugar Cookies
Irvin | Eat the Love |
Apple Brown Butter Bay Leaf Spice Cookies
Jean | Gluten Free Doctor Recipes |
Reindeer Cookies
Jenn | Jenn Cuisine |
Basler Brunsli
Jonathan| The Canary Files |
Vegan Salted Oatmeal Cherry Cookies
Karen | Cooking Gluten Free! |
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Lisa from Gluten Free Canteen |
Molasses Rum Raisin Cookies
Mary Fran | frannycakes |
Pinwheel Cookies
Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan |
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Meredith | Gluten Free Betty |
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
Morri | Meals With Morri|
Stevia Sweetened & Grain-Free Thumbprint Cookies with Apricot Preserves
Pete & Kelli | No Gluten, No Problem|
Belgian Speculaas Cookies
Rachel | The Crispy Cook |
Melomakarona
Shauna | Gluten-Free Girl | Soft Molasses Cookies
Silvana Nardone | Silvana's Kitchen | Old-School Italian Jam-Filled Hazelnut Cookies
T.R. | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies |
Cinnamon Lemon Cookies



Walnut Shortbread
Yields one 8-inch round shortbread; recipe can be doubled or tripled

The ratio for this recipe is roughly 3 flour: 2 fat: 1 sugar (The ground nuts are included as part of the 'flour' in this ratio.)

22 grams raw walnuts, toasted in a 325ºF oven for 8-10 minutes or until fragrant, and cooled
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
121 grams Tara's gluten-free pastry flour
½ tsp xanthan gum or psyllium husk powder
½ tsp cardamom
113 grams (1 stick) best-quality unsalted butter, room temperature
52 grams confectioner's sugar, sifted
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 hard-cooked egg yolk from 1 large egg, pressed through a fine mesh sieve
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Have ready an eight-inch tart pan, or other appropriately-sized baking pan.

In a small food processor or clean coffee grinder, combine the toasted walnuts and 1 Tbsp sugar and process until finely ground. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the pastry flour, xanthan gum or psyllium husk powder, and cardamom. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (alternately, you can use a mixing bowl and handheld electric mixer), cream the butter until light and creamy. Add the confectioner's sugar in three additions, beating well after each one and scraping down the paddle and sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla, salt, ground walnut mixture, and sieved egg yolk. Finally, add the pastry flour mixture, in three additions, mixing just until combined.

Press the dough evenly into your tart pan, and chill for 10 minutes. Sprinkle surface liberally with sugar, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until shortbread is golden brown and surface is cracked and crinkly. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into wedges. Shortbread keeps, wrapped airtight at room temperature, for up to 1 week.
 
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