Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Turning Tricks in the Gluten Free Zone

Image: Sea Muffin Bakery. Thanks!

My sister in law just realised a few months ago that she is celiac. Suddenly a reason for why she was always tired, queasy and tended more than most...OK, ALL people I'd ever met. She had the most sensitive stomach of we know why. It's like a miracle - she's got more energy, feels better and as long as she cuts out the gluten she feels great.
Downside to all this tho - good gluten free baking is really hard to come by. Especially breads and can buy some premade gluten free rice bread in the local grocery store but have you actually tasted that sh*t? It's like stale cardboard that's been left out to get even more stale...unless you toast it or turn it into french toast you're pretty much out of luck for soft baking...or so I thought.

My brother and I have had a deal the past few years - he loves my muffins, so I bring by a dozen muffins at least once a month if not's an excuse to hang out and visit and he gets yummy baked stuff...fair deal really. I can make people happy with my food - how cool is that?Thing is, this changed when his wife was diagnosed- she'd look sadly at the muffins...often tempted enough to eat one. This was no good. I couldn't bear knowing I was making her ill with delicious foods, so I did some foodsearch, on the hunt for celiac baking recipes and ideas. There are some great gluten free cake mixes out there (honestly, better than a lot of regular cake mixes) but here is what I've come up with for a few gluten free snackeroos for my brother and his wife to make in your own home. I took my muffin recipe I've tweaked and developed over time and altered the volumes and leavening for gluten free baking. You can make your own gluten free flour or by the premade mixes...they're a bit pricey, but usually good. My sister in law recommended Knicknicks ,so I went with them.

Gluten Free Cranberry Walnut Muffins:

1 3/4 c gluten free flour (I used gluten free Knicknicks flour mix)
1 1/2 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg

2 eggs
1/2 c melted margarine
2/3 c brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 c milk

Mix wet together and then all the rest in together well... unlike regular muffins there is no gluten, so no worries about over mixing to get tough muffins (bonus)!
Add 1 overflowing c of cranberries (or any fruit really) and 1/3 c walnuts (or any other nut) and put into greased muffin pan with large muffin papers. Cups will be rather full...this is OK. It won't look quite like regular mix...just ignore it. It's all good.
Bake at 375° for 18-20 minutes until just done: tops will bounce back when you tap them and a toothpick will come out clean and they'll just be starting to brown on the edges. Watch them at the end so you DON'T over bake them...they get dry and crumbly if you do.
The result? Light, fluffy muffins...usually devoured before my very eyes. Gluten free baking is best eaten within 1-2 days or frozen for storage until eaten...putting it in the fridge makes it go all grainy and crumbly otherwise...and I dare ya to tell these are gluten free. They are indeed tasty-my brother can't tell the difference. Make the recipe 1T baking powder and 2 c regular flour for regular muffins...they are my universal muffin recipe. Add any fruit or nut and they are fantastic...Don't skimp on the butter if you can help it (you can add sour cream or yogurt for part of it if you must) really helps keep the muffins moist.

Also, thanks to the great Jennifer McGann over at Vegan Lunchbox, I found a great gluten free (sugar free) vegan cookie recipe this weekend. They are also pretty tasty - cakey and soft and very good for you:

Gluten Free Vegan Banana Oat Cookies:

2 c oat flour (gluten free oats ground to flour in a food processor or gluten free oat flour)
4 very ripe bananas, smooshed up with a hand mixer into a smooth gooeyness
1/2 c dates, chopped up fine
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1 t cinnamon
3/4 t baking soda

Mix up and drop onto a baking stone (or cookies sheet lined with pastry paper) by the tablespoonful - you get 24 cookies out of this. Bake at 350° for about 12 minutes, until they just start to brown up on the edges and spring back when you tap them. They will be soft and spongy, not hard. These cookies are yummy - not overly sweet, except for the odd bit of date sweetness. If you like your cookies sweeter, you could add chocolate chips or raisins (EVIL!) to these I'm sure...I really like them. I'm all for healthy treats.

So there you go - try out some gluten free nibbles.
If anyone out there in the interweb has any great gluten free recipes, please pass them my way. I'm interested to try them sister in law will tahnk you :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Another Mad Invention - Apple Gjetost Pie

Now that Magnus has explained the oddity that is gjetost, let me fill you in on our pie experiment. Magnus left a phone message about this whole pie combo a few weeks ago and since then I've been waiting for a time to have a few hours to try it out. First time we were thwarted by a lack of gjetost (tragic) at the local cheese emporium, but finally Magnus could find the cheese and I had a rainy sunday afternoon it was, indeed, time for pie.

Well, I've always liked toffee and butterscotch, but have an aversion to overly sweet things...gjetost is brilliant in that it taste like toffee or some sort of caramel...minus the sweetness. It has the consistency of hard cream cheese, and is delicious in little nibbly quantities. How it melted? We had no idea...which made it more intriguing. As a kid I liked toffee apples...I just couldn't eat a whole one from all the sugar...this seemed like a perfect combination. Cheese and pie? Well, I've seen and tried the cheddar apple pie combo, and it never really was my too many pickles on a sandwich, the cheddar was overpowering and, in my opinion, detracted from a perfectly good pie...and cheese. Any cheddar apple recipes I found called for grated cheese in the crust itself or melted on the top crust, so I had to improvise...mad science indeed.
I did a bit more piesearch before starting, looking in my trusty Joy of Cooking for a good apple pie recipe (this book has *never* let me down and has tonnes of references on methods of cookery). I found a good recipe, and (as usual) cut back the sugar a bit, to let the flavour of the fruit shine through. I also decided to not make the pie deep dish, as I usually do, as I wanted the ratio of apples to gjetost to be one that would allow the flavour of both to shine through.

I used my favourite pie crust recipe (same as in the peach pie post below). I made the recipe, divided it into 4 balls, as it is for 4 pies, froze 3 of them, and rolled out the remaining ball for crust. I rolled out the bottom crust and pressed it into the pie pan. Then I got to the apple filling, a variation on the Apple Pie I recipe from Joy of Cooking:

-6 peeled thinly sliced gala apples
-1T lemon juice
-1/2 c white sugar (less than the 3/4 c called for in the original recipe)
-1/2 t cinnamon
-2 T flour

I mixed this all together and spread evenly in the crust. Apples shrink when you bake them, so I filled it 1 1/3 times full to get a decently thick pie. Then I sliced the gjetost about 1/8 inch thick and laid it evenly over the top of the so:We had a brick of gjetost about 3 inches by 2 inches by 1 inch and used 3/4 of it...the rest of it went in our bellies while we waited. Yum. Then I layered the top crust over it all, wetting and pinching the sides with a fork and cutting some slits in the top.

Then it went in a 425° oven for 30 minutes, after which I turned down the heat to 350° and baked it another 20-25 minutes until the crust was golden and the filling was starting to bubble out the crust slits.
Not to shabby eh? We were looked delicious. We managed to distract ourselves for 15 minutes to let the pie cool and sit a bit before having some...with vanilla ice cream of course.


As it turns out, gjetost and apples go brilliantly together in a pie. the caramel flavour of the cheese enhances the fruit flavour, but isn't overwhelming, and the usual sugary sweetness of caramel was absent, making for a rich creamy flavour. Decadent.
The gjetost didn't melt as much as it sort of fused to the crust and went a bit soft, like low fat cheese does when you broil it on toast. I give it two thumbs up. I will definitely make this again...and I highly recommend you give it a try, if you can hunt down some gjetost from your local exotic cheese shop.

I love being a mad scientist...:)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Gjetost - Cheese Goes to Brown Town

CD in Play: PJ Harvey, White Chalk

Gjetost is a Norwegian whey cheese more commonly known as brunost ("brown cheese") within Norway itself. People I have met are often skeptical about gjetost (an archaic spelling of geitost, which is used in Norway today) because of its brown colour. Many North Americans seem ready to accept cheddar cheese dyed orange and pale yellow for no real reason - when authentic cheddar is actually an off-white colour - but leery of cheese naturally the same colour as toffee or caramel. When people try gjetost they are usually won over by those subtly sweet caramel/toffee like notes one gets when they finally taste it.
There are two varieties of of brunost:

1. Gjetost/geitost, which simply means "goat's cheese". Obviously made from goat's milk, Geo may have second thoughts about this cheese, given her highly irrational prejudice against goat's milk.
2. Gudbrandsdalsost is a cow's milk version and therefore slightly less sharp than gjetost. (which really isn't that sharp in the first place)

Gjetost is often used to top off an open faced sandwich or with lefse. (sort of a Norwegian potato crêpe that I have had rolled in butter, sugar and maybe cinnamon) As lefse is also eaten along with lutefisk (lye-cured white fish) I imagine that gjetost is eaten with that meal as well. Geo and I are about to embark in a different direction - apple pie with gjetost just under the top of the pie crust.
See, the idea of cheddar (specifically North American cheddar) and apple pie has never turned my crank. I know people who love it and could never think of having apple pie without it. Geo was talking about making apple pie a while back and I stated that I wanted a slice. Baking is a skill that eludes me and her pies are really good. I was thinking about apple pie while eating gjetost and it hit me - gjetost and apple pie is a natural. At least I think it is and Geo seems to be of the same mind. Are we on to something or just half-baked? We make the pie today so one of us will let you know soon.

- Magnus

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I, Food Whore

CD in Play: Mojo Presents - Acid Daze

I asked Geo if I could co-contribute to her food blog. She said no way. I asked her again the next day and she told me to forget it. I started staring at her and her husband in bed through the rather large window they have facing their back yard. They called the cops. I nailed a dead fish wrapped in newspaper to their front door. They didn't get it. I started working two floors above her with lots of sharp instruments and pathogenic samples. She threatened restraining order. I reminded her of my chicken cordon bleu and she kindly relented. Think, this could happen to you too if I like your blog.
My current thing are beet tops. More than just borscht, beet tops are a great in a stir fry. My most recent stir fry involved brown rice, ground beef, (optional) beet tops, spinach, cabbage, parsley, Serrano peppers, mushrooms and a whole head of garden grown garlic. I stir fry the veggies first and separately from the beef. (which contains 1/2 of that head of garlic) It takes a while for the beet tops to soften, so cook until you get them the way you like them - it doesn't seen to make a difference to the flavour. Once it is all cooked, mix it all together, let it stand and serve. I served mine with roasted carrots.

- Magnus