Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gluten Free Chocolate Coconut Cake with Garbanzo Beans

Yes, this luscious, perfectly textured chocolate cake is a gluten free, dairy free, high protein, healthy treat. The secret ingredient and star of this recipe is a 19 ounce can of humble garbanzo beans. Chickpeas work great in gluten free desserts as a stand in for all purpose flour. I previously posted recipes for Gluten Free Banana Oat Bread and Gluten Free Garbanzo Bean Pear Bars with Dried Cranberries, both made with garbanzo beans. Beans are an excellent alternative to sometimes hard to find gluten free flour mixes. Not only are they inexpensive, but they are a healthy high protein substitute for flour and produce a great crumb texture in your baked goods. I recently made this cake for a friend who took it to the office. None of the taste testers could tell that they were eating garbanzo bean cake. No lingering bean taste at all, just moist, delicious, chocolaty goodness! A tasty finishing touch for this cake is dairy free, gluten free ganache. I used coconut milk instead of heavy cream, but you could also substitute soy milk.

1 19 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup coconut water
1/2 teaspoon gluten free coconut flavoring
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 unsweetened coconut, shredded
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat an 8 inch cake pan with cooking spray. 
Using a food processor or blender grind garbanzo beans with coconut water and coconut oil until smooth and creamy. This may take a while and you'll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times. It's important that the bean mixture is as smooth as possible. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add beaten eggs, coconut flavoring, brown sugar, and granulated sugar to the bean mixture. Stir until well combined.
In a small bowl mix together shredded coconut, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to the bean and egg mixture and gently stir to combine.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 5 minutes and turn out onto wire rack.
Frost cooled cake with gluten free, dairy free coconut chocolate ganache. 

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Ganache with Coconut Milk
3/4 cup coconut milk
2 cups chocolate chips
2 tablespoons corn syrup

In a small sauce pan bring coconut milk and syrup to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips. Let stand for a few minutes and then mix until smooth. Let ganache cool slightly before using. Pour over cooled cake and use a spatula or knife to spread evenly. Let the ganache set before serving the cake.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Scalloped Potatoes with Leeks

I recently came across this recipe when I was searching for a potato side dish to go with roasted chicken. I wanted to recreate the creamy, comforting, and homey taste of childhood Sunday dinners. Scalloped potatoes with leeks, tested by Martha Stewart sounded just right. The original recipe was first published in the March 2008 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. I picked up young fresh leeks and couple of large russet potatoes on my usual Sunday morning trip to the farmers market and couldn't wait to get started. Imagine thinly sliced leeks sauteed in butter until soft and fragrant, layered with hearty rounds of potatoes, creating an almost perfect culinary marriage. Add Gruyere cheese and cream to the mix and you'll have a combination of textures and flavors that can't be topped. Your gratin will be buttery, soft, and creamy on the inside and deliciously crusty and golden brown on top.
The original recipe states that this is a "do-ahead" dish and can be assembled the day before. I tried it several times, and noticed that if prepared in advance the potatoes inevitably change color. Even though I made sure the potatoes were completely submerged in liquid and covered with parchment paper to avoid oxidation, the top layers turned grey. Take my advice and don't start preparing the gratin the night before. It takes very little time to put this dish together and you won't end up with unpleasant surprises on the day of your party. Make sure to keep the peeled and sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to assemble the casserole. Drain and dry the potatoes with paper towels before using.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing your baking dish
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, trimmed, washed, and sliced thinly
6 medium russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups Gruyere or Swiss cheese, shredded
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 12 cup baking dish (12 x 9 inches).
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and saute until softened and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Mix together cream and chicken stock in a small bowl.
In a large bowl combine sliced potatoes with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Using your hands mix well until spices are evenly distributed.
Arrange 1/3 of the seasoned potato slices on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with 1/2 of the leeks and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat two times and finish with a layer of potatoes. Pour cream and stock mixture over the potatoes and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Uncover dish and increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Continue  cooking until top is bubbly and golden brown and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. Let rest for about 20 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gluten Free Polenta Cakes with Dried Cranberries

You can see that this is not really a cake recipe, but a recipe for delicious, light and puffy cookies, very much reminiscent of tea cakes. On my gluten free quest I came across a recipe from Elizabeth Minett's blog Haute Appetit. I slightly modified her cookies and added brown sugar, cranberries, rum, and candied orange peel  to the batter. I also kept the cookies light and airy by sifting the dry ingredients, beating the butter only lightly, and gently mixing the dry and wet ingredients until the dough is just barely holding together. Remember not to overwork the dough when forming small walnut size balls, and keep baking time to 8-10 minutes.

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons  pure rum (do not use flavored rum as it may contain gluten)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup candied orange peel, chopped
1  1/2 cup brown rice flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup polenta
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until combined, but not fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and rum and mix until smooth. 
In a separate bowl stir together sifted rice flour, cornstarch, polenta, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
Add dry ingredients to butter mixture on low speed until just combined. Stir in cranberries and candied orange peel by hand.
Form walnut size balls and place on prepared sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes and let cool on wire racks.
Dust with confectioners' sugar.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Melted Ice Cream Cake with Espresso Butter Cream

There are times when I have to restrain myself from baking more than once a day. A new cookbook, a new website, a new recipe from a friend, or a new issue of my favorite cooking magazine, there are always plenty of reasons to bring out my mixing bowl and measuring cups. I have to remind myself that I'm only one person, and how much cake can one person possibly eat? With my kids out of the house, I'm no longer baking trays and trays of cookies to feed entire soccer teams. Friends are usually more than willing to help out and enjoy being taste testers. What's left over normally ends up in my freezer, cut up into small portions and stored in  plastic containers. Just imagine my freezer, there isn't much room for anything else, except maybe a few sticks of butter for some more baking.

Everybody seemed to love the recipe for melted ice cream cupcakes, probably because they're so easy to make and require only a few ingredients. This variation makes a light and delicate layer cake. It is filled with luscious espresso flavored butter cream and dusted with cocoa powder. I added finely chopped dark chocolate to the batter, which reminds me of Italian Stracciatella ice cream. The chocolate pieces create a nice balance and add a little bite to the smooth and soft texture of the cake.

Ingredients for Cake

1 box of  white cake mix 
3 eggs, at room temperature 
2 cups melted premium French vanilla ice cream
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped

Espresso Butter Cream
2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder, dissolved in 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Grease parchment paper with butter or cooking spray.
Combine cake mix, eggs, and melted ice cream in mixing bowl and beat with mixer for one minute on low speed. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and increase speed to medium and continue mixing for another 2 minutes. Add chopped chocolate and mix in by hand.
Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until golden and cake springs back when touched lightly. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes and turn out onto a wire rack. Let cool completely and cut into three sections.
To make frosting beat butter with electric mixer for 5 minutes until light an fluffy. Add sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time and beat for 5 minutes after each addition. Mix in espresso and liqueur mixture.
When making this cake for adults only, I suggest brushing the cake layers with additional coffee liqueur. Divide butter cream into three portions. Using a spatula, spread frosting evenly on cake layers, ending with a final layer of filling on top. Keep the sides unfrosted and trim the edges with a sharp knife if they don't line up evenly. Dust the top layer with cocoa powder.

Sugar Snap Peas with Lemon Zest and Fresh Mint

Fresh sugar snap peas are available only for a limited time in late spring. Even though you can find them frozen year-round, there's absolutely no comparison to the sweet and flavorful crunchiness of a fresh snap pea. Check out your local farmers market and look for young and tender snap peas when they're in season. Snap peas are less fibrous than regular English peas and are entirely edible, "pod and all". They are excellent raw as part of a crudites platter with your favorite dip or quickly blanched or stir-fried. Sauteing the peas for only a few minutes will help maintain their crunchy and crisp texture, yet fully release their subtle sweet flavor. Best of all, you'll have this delicious spring dish on the table in less than ten minutes.
Biting into a crunchy sugar snap pea laced with tangy lemon zest and fragrant mint leaves makes you taste and smell spring like nothing else. I like to serve this simple dish as a side with stuffed chicken breasts and a rich and creamy potato and leek gratin.

Serves 4

1 pound sugar snap peas, washed and trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons shallots, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped

In a large heavy skillet heat oil. Add shallots and saute for about 2 minutes or until translucent, stirring constantly. Add sugar snap peas and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes or until crisp tender. 
Stir in mint and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Apricot Sour Cream Cake

I haven't been able to post for couple of weeks. You could say that I experienced "technical difficulties", which prevented me from blogging. As the clock is ticking for my antiquated laptop, I have to deal with the occasional break-downs. Thanks to a good friend though, I'm back up and running. I used the down-time wisely and cooked, baked, and gathered more recipes. I'll soon be adding a gluten free section to the blog, and have been experimenting with different baking ingredients. Quite a challenge! I learned from my mishaps and perfected several great cookie recipes. So, stay tuned, if you are interested in gluten free baking (GFB). I have to admit that some of my time was spent on the Pinterest site, which can become somewhat addictive. Believe me, once you get started, its very hard to stop. Check out my boards, when you get a chance . . .  I've been busy pinning. Thank God for my iPad to get get me through the last two weeks.

I've been thinking of making apricot cake for a while now. It's something that reminds me of summertime, carefree childhood, and outdoor activities. Apricot trees in my parent's garden come to mind, with branches bent from the heavy load of ripe fruits. My friends and I trying to get the unblemished and most perfect ones from way up in the trees, but usually having to settle for the slightly bruised and blotched fruits on the ground. They all tended to ripen at the same time and had a very short shelf life. So, to spread the abundance, my mother had us kids deliver baskets full of fruits to everybody in the neighborhood.  For those few weeks of summer, apricots appeared on the daily menu in the shape of cakes, dumplings, cold fruit soup, strudel, and cobblers. The rest was transformed into countless jars of delicious homemade jam. The preserves came in handy during the holiday baking season, to fill tender butter cookies or spread between the rich layers of chocolate cake.  

Fresh fragrant apricots, rich buttery batter, and a velvety sour cream topping make a delicious spring time cake. Add it to your brunch buffet, serve it with afternoon tea, or treat your family to a sweet surprise on Easter morning. If fresh apricots are not in season don't hesitate to substitute with canned fruit. Drain and pat dry before using.

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 stick + 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon, lemon rind, finely grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons milk
1 pound apricots

1 1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons cornstarch 

Butter a 9" x 2" round baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon rind until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. 
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
Mix creamed butter with dry ingredients and milk on low speed, until well combined. Do not over-mix, as you want the end product to have a tender crumb texture.
Spread batter into prepared dish and top with apricots. Bake for 20 minutes.

In the meantime prepare topping. Mix sour cream, egg, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract, and almond extract until well combined.
Remove cake from oven and pour topping over the apricots. Return to oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until just set.
Cool on wire rack and dust with confectioners' sugar. Best served slightly warm or at room temperature.
Enjoy your apricot cake!

Spicy Mango Tomato Salsa

As promised here's another savory recipe. This one is for a delicious mango salsa. It's quick and easy to make and perfect as an appetizer with blue corn chips and cold beer. It also makes a great accompaniment for grilled fish, chicken or tacos. 
I have to admit that Mexican food is probably one of my favorites and that I could eat chips and salsa any time. To love spicy, flavorful Mexican food comes with the territory when you live in Los Angeles. We're lucky to have some of the best restaurants that serve food from south of the border. Monte Alban, located in a small strip mall in Santa Monica serves authentic Oaxacan food and some of the best Mole Negro. Try Lares on Pico Boulevard for their fantastic Margaritas, fresh warm chips, and spicy salsa. The original location of La Serenata De Garibaldi in the Boyle Heights area of  Los Angeles has been there for more than thirty years. The restaurant serves gourmet style Mexican cuisine, fresh, healthy and on the lighter side with an emphasis on seafood. Though it is a bit out of the way, the fresh hand-made tortillas are well worth the drive. El Cholo, another Los Angeles institution with five different locations has been around since 1922. Stop by for Happy Hour and enjoy one of their famous El Cholo Margaritas, followed by a generous plate of authentic, traditional Mexican food. Don't miss their excellent fresh green corn tamales, which are only served from May though October. This is only a small sampling of the many outstanding restaurants in town. You'll find truly authentic food in many Downtown and East LA neighborhoods, not to mention the numerous food  trucks and fast food places. One of the most popular ones is Tito's Taco stand in Culver City. Tito's serves freshly made mouthwatering tacos, burritos, and tamales based on secret family recipes. Be prepared to wait patiently for your food, because the lines in front of this LA institution can be very long.

1 ripe Mango, peeled and diced
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
5 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Allow flavors to blend for at least 30 minutes before serving.