Posts tagged “Baking

My Thanksgiving…

Like the last several years, my Thanksgiving will be spent at work.  The place I work will have over 200 people for lunch.  That means I will be in early, and out at about the normal time.  It also means that I don’t prepare my own turkey.  Amy will be doing that for her family, and keeping as much of it gluten-free as possible. (Everything that will be prepared here, and any leftovers will be gluten-free!) My family will be having dinner when I get there.  I’ll get off work and head to mom’s for dinner.  Pretty much as soon as I get there I will be carving the turkey, and eating.  For the last several years I have brought something to dinner. This year I have decided that I am going to make a pumpkin cheesecake! The obvious problem is the crust, but a lot of recipes also call for a little flour in the filling.  This recipe handles all of the problems, and it tastes great! Everybody who tried it really enjoyed it!

I wanted something that would taste similar to the traditional graham cracker crust.  I decided to go with some Honey Nut Chex. The Chex are a bit sweeter than the graham crackers so I left out the extra sugar that gets added normally.

The first thing you need is a spring form pan, roughly 9 inches across. What I did is put a piece of parchment paper in the bottom so it was held in place by the two pieces. This should help it not leak, and also make it easier to deal with later. (At least that is my theory. We’ll see how it works when it comes time to serve it.The first thing we’ll need to do is make our crust.

1 cup Honey Nut Chex crumbs (This took quite a bit more than one cup)

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Like I mentioned before I used Honey Nut Chex, they are gluten-free, and taste great. Since they are a little sweeter than graham crackers I didn’t add any extra sugar to the crust. Crush the Chex so you end up with a cup of crumbs.  I poured them into a zipper bag, and used a wine bottle to crush them. Once you have fairly fine crumbs, mix them with the melted butter, and mix well.  You want the mixture to just stick together a little. Then press the mixture into the bottom of your spring form pan.  I tried using my fingers, but I ended up with more on my fingers than in the pan.  I ended up using a fork to spread the crumbs evenly.

Bake the crust for ten minutes in a 350F oven, and then allow it to cool completely.  This will give you a nice solid crust for the cheesecake.

This is the first cheesecake I have ever made, so I did quite a bit of searching to find a recipe that I liked.  I knew that I was going to have to skip the crust no matter what recipe I used. I found one that I liked on Good Housekeeping’s web site. I did slightly modify it, but it was nothing that would affect the way it baked. I also doubled it, so Amy’s family could  have one, and mine could have one too.

For the filling for one cheesecake:

2 8 oz packages of cream cheese (softened)

1 1/4 cup sugar

15 oz can or half of the 29 oz can that I had (Libby’s is gluten-free and what I used)pumpkin not pumpkin pie mix

3/4 cup sour cream

2 Tablespoons of bourbon or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (I used the bourbon)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (my tweak)

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

First thing, put the cream cheese in the bowl of your mixer, and beat it for a minute.  Then with the mixer on low add the sugar, and mix until  it is blended.  Next add all of the other ingredients except the eggs. With the mixer on low make sure that everything is well mixed. Next add the eggs, one at a time and allow each one to be completely mixed in before adding the next.  I’d let it mix a little longer just to make sure everything is combined.

Here is where things start to get interesting. Place your spring form pan in a larger pan.  Pour the pumpkin filling into the spring form pan.  Open the oven and set the whole thing on the rack of your oven.  Pour hot water into the outer pan, about an inch up the side of the spring form pan.  This will help keep the custard from cooking too quickly since the water will never go above 212F.

Close the door and set a timer for 1 hour and ten minutes. DO NOT open the door until the timer goes off.  When it does, gently move the spring form pan without removing it from the water.  If the center just giggles a little you are good to go.  Take the whole thing out of the water bath, and allow it to cool on a rack.  After a couple of minutes take a thin knife, and run it around the side of the cheesecake to release it.  This will help prevent cracks on the top as it cools. After a little while pop it in the fridge and allow it to cool over night. (This will be hard, it is going to smell fantastic!)

There was a sour cream topping that was included in the recipe, but after doubling the recipe I didn’t have enough, and decided that whipped cream or Cool Whip would be fantastic as well.

Leave it in the spring form pan until you are ready to serve. What I did (because I didn’t want to scratch my new non-stick), is open the sides and lift it off, and then take the parchment and slide the cheesecake off of the bottom very gently onto something I could cut it on. After we had all had a piece I just slid it back on to the base and put the sides back on.I had a great Thanksgiving, and I hope you did as well.  This turned out to be a lot easier than I expected, and certainly worth the time and effort to make it!


Can you use a recipe? Part 2 – Baker’s Percentages

While I was researching a post I am working on, I was reminded of something that is helpful for all of us when we bake.  Professional bakers use a different format for recipes.  It is known as a baker’s percentage, and it gives them a lot of flexibility, and also allows them to be very accurate.

Bakers use percentages to express quantities, and this gives them the ability to scale a recipe pretty much at will to whatever size batch they need.  It also allows them to make changes based on a recipe. Each ingredient’s quantity is expressed as a percentage.  The flour is stated as 100%.  From there everything else is a percentage of the flour. For example, if your recipe calls for flour and water, and the water is 25% when you have one pound of flour you need 4 oz of water.  If you have 100 pounds of flour you need 25 pounds of water.  Like I said it is easy.

They are not something I use often at work, but it is always good to have an understanding of different recipe formats.  I have some baking books that use percentages, or in the case of Alton Brown‘s I’m Just Here for More Food, a somewhat modified version of it.  His recipes are set quantities, but he works with weights, and lays things out in a similar way.  If you wanted to modify one of his recipes you could figure out the percentages and scale to your heart’s content.

When you bake, accuracy is important in your measurements.  The most accurate way to measure most ingredients is by weight.  Flour, in particular, can compress quite a bit and a cup of flour can weigh 6 oz or it could weigh nearly a pound.  A scale eliminates this variability.  Speaking of accuracy, when you weigh things, grams are a lot more accurate than ounces.  There are 28 grams in an ounce. That means there are 454 grams in a pound.  Even going by .1 ounce or single grams you will be better off in grams.

Depending on the scale you have, you may be able to get nutritional information as well.  The scale I have allows you to input a code for an ingredient, and it will give you calorie/fat/carbohydrate information.  It is a nice feature, but not strictly needed.  Pretty much any scale will allow you to eliminate the weight of the container and weigh each ingredient using the tare feature. When you put the bowl on the scale, it will weigh it and when you press tare, the bowl is eliminated. Now you can weigh the ingredients.  If you press tare between each ingredient, you don’t even need to take the weight of everything else into account.

Gluten-free Madeleines

This story starts a ways back when I first started working in a kitchen.  I was able to try things that I had only heard of, or in some cases had never heard of.  I had heard of madeleines.  I think they were in one of the Transporter movies.  I had no idea what they were.  Then one day I was setting up a dessert platter, and the chef handed me a couple of boxes.  Madeleines, one orange, and one chocolate.  I got the tray set up, and once I finished I took a bite of one of the orange ones.  Tender, and cakey, but with a little more chewiness, almost like a cookie.  I wanted to make them, almost instantly.  Once I went gluten-free my quest to make them went into high-gear. Sort of.  I have had a bit of adversity as far as baking goes.  I destroyed my mixer trying to make focaccia, and that kind of killed my baking ambitions.    Then for Christmas I got a new mixer, and it is a damn good one.   image
I decided that I should do something that I have been wanting to make for a while.  The other day I ran across the Gluten-free Girl’s post about honey spice madeleines, and they looked and sounded so good I had to try them!  First, I needed a madeleine pan, of course.

I decided that I wanted to make more than 12 so I doubled the recipe from her post.  I made a few other slight modifications based on what I had at hand.

The dry ingredients should be mixed together in a bowl, and set aside.

210 grams  gluten-free all purpose flour (1 and 1/3 cup, I did the math so you don’t have to!)

1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp kosher salt

a few grinds of fresh black pepper

The wet ingredients go in your mixing bowl.

2/3 cup sugar

finely grated zest of one orange

4 large eggs at room temperature

1/4 cup honey

2 tsp vanilla extract

12 T butter, melted and cooled

Put the sugar and orange zest in the bowl of your stand mixer, and mix together until the sugar is scented with the orange zest.  The add the eggs one at a time with the mixer running on medium high, until the eggs have lightened in color and are nice and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and the honey while mixing on low.  Then fold the dry ingredients into the wet very gently using a rubber spatula.  Resist the urge to use your mixer for this part, you’ll overbeat the eggs, and just have a mess.  Once the dry ingredients are folded in, mix in the butter.

Now, cover the batter and put it in the fridge, and leave it there for a couple of hours.

Once that is done pre-heat your oven to 400F and, prepare your pan.  Mine was non-stick so I didn’t really need to do a lot.  I sprayed a paper towel with Pam, and wiped the molds.  Then I spooned the batter into each mold.  I had a bit of a hard time judging how much needed to go into the molds, but I did my best.  Remember, they will puff up quite a bit, so don’t go crazy.  Pop them in the oven, and eight minutes or so later they will be golden brown.  My first ones went a little longer, and a couple got too done.  They still taste good though.  Pop them out of the pan, and onto a cooling rack.  While they are still a bit warm dust them with a little powdered sugar.  They are so good!


I hope you all have a Happy and safe New Years, and with a little luck 2011 will be an even better year than 2010!

This is turning out to be a doozy!

Well, now, for a quick bit of trivia?  What does Doozy refer to?  Give up?  Dusenburg were at the time the most expensive, fastest, most powerful and most advanced American built cars.  Thus the expression, “Its a Duesy.”  Why I know this is a good question, and I have no answer.  Why I titled this post this way, well…  let’s just say, “Its a doozy.”

I’ll start by giving you the plan.  Use the CIA’s gluten-free baking book, and adapt to what I have on hand to make the focaccia recipe.

Here’s what is in the CIA’s book:

1 packet instant yeast

1/2 tsp rosemary

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups Flour blend #1 (their weakest blend)

1/2 cup Flour  blend #3 (medium strength)

1 1/4 cup sparkling water (room temp)

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp white vinegar

olive oil and coarse salt for garnish

As it stands, right now I have broken my mixer.  The motor literally was smoking!  So I continued mixing it by hand to the best of my ability.  It proofed, but didn’t look like it did much to be honest.  It is now in the oven.  We shall see what happens.

So, what I did as far as the recipe goes

1 packet of yeast

1 1/2 tsp herbes de provence

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill AP Baking Flour

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

3 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/4 cup sparkling water

1/3 cup canola oil

I would have added the vinegar because I was looking at the recipe while mixing, and suddenly I smelled ozone, then smoke, and the mixer stopped dead.  I grabbed a spatula, and started mixing by hand as well as I could.  I was a bit nonplussed, but decided to continue.  So I put it in the pan I had chosen for this particular adventure (an old skillet I have), and let it proof for about 35 minutes.  Right now, it is in the oven.  It smells good, but I’m a bit dubious at the moment.

It just came out of the oven, and since I don’t have any olive oil at the moment I used a little bit of the smoked Extra Virgin rapeseed oil I have and a little kosher salt sprinkled on top. What does it taste like?  I have no idea right now.  My plan is to let it cool fully overnight, and see what it does in the morning.  Of course, right now I’m thinking about new mixers.  I’ve hated the one I had, and now that it has finally bit the dust I can justify a new one that will hopefully be able to stand up to what I am trying to do!   So, this didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned, with any luck it will still be tasty!

Edit: 6:45am

I decided I would take a shot at eating a piece of the bread.  I should have thrown it like a frisbee into my neighbors yard.  You could tell that there was almost no leavening going on, which may have been because it wasn’t fully mixed, but also because the buckwheat was cold and didn’t let the yeast really do anything. Or the yeast may have been dead, that was an old packet of yeast.   I’ll try it again, but for now I need to find a new mixer!  It didn’t taste bad, but it is just kind of a slab of cooked dough.

Time to start baking again.

As the temperature starts to drop, and I no longer have to contend with the temperatures in my apartment soaring when I turn the oven on for more than a few minutes I start to think about baking.  Baking is not something I do a lot of, but I know how.  I’ve even been fairly successful at it, but I don’t know that I will ever really call myself a baker.  I’m not sure why.  I was always very good at science in school, but they exacting nature of baking has just never been something I have been concerned about.  Since going gluten-free, and abandoning the easy and cheap availability of breads, cookies, cakes, brownies, etc., I have started to become more interested.


Between my personal life and my professional life I straddle two worlds.  Personally, there is nothing in my home that includes any gluten whatsoever.  Professionally, however, I am a line cook in a club.  My job is to prepare whatever I am asked following any recipe that is put in front of me, and in certain situations create dishes (This tends to be soups mostly, in my case.).  This means at work I am making soups that are thickened with roux, dredging things in flour, and from time to time I even bake things.  All of this involves flour, and has in some ways made the transition to gluten-free baking more difficult.  Although it is a good thing to understand what is going on from the other side so to speak I find it harder to wrap my head around the maze of flours that are required in gluten-free baking.  Of the various cookbooks I have, each has at least one flour blend unique to that book.  The CIA book I have is great, but has five flour blends.  Those five are designed to give various levels of protein to approximate various types of (wheat)flours.  Those blends are then used in various combinations!  It is all a bit too much.

Because I kind of crave the simplicity of using one type of flour I have considered working on some things from the Babycakes cookbook. It uses Bob’s Red Mill AP Flour. This is a bit problematic as well.  It is all vegan(but not all gluten-free), and this means that I am either going to go on a quest for interesting items like coconut oil, agave nectar, and a few others, or I will be working out how to sub plain white sugar for evaporated cane juice.

I guess I am going to have to do a bit of truly experimental baking.  What I’m going to try (to start with at least) is to use the recipes from the CIA book, which seems to work more along the lines of a normal baking book, but with the Bob’s Red Mill Flour.  Essentially, I am going to try to cut through some of the confusion!


There are a few hurdles I have to figure out how to clear, and I’m sure that there will be mistakes along the way, but hopefully none will be so horrible that I won’t even be able to eat them!  I’m pretty sure I will have a pretty good idea if this is going to fly or not after a few attempts.  Wanna watch?