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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Sunday, March 24, 2013

So Nasty!

Once tasted, some things can not be untasted.  Such was the case with the gluten free sourdough bread that I made last night/ this morning.
The recipe is from Bob's Red Mill, but they got it from somewhere else.  It called for a sourdough starter (made from yeast, water and rice flour), and included eggs, cottage cheese, and dried milk powder, as well as their gluten free flour blend.  I was intrigued by the high protein content of the bread.  Unfortunately, I never had the flour blend before. The main ingredient is garbanzo bean flour.  I love garbanzo beans and hummus, but for some reason I don't like the flour. It also had fava bean flour. Maybe it would be fine in things with a lot of spices/sugar, so that the beany flavor is masked.  It wasn't fine here.
I made the dough as directed, let it rise, and then poured it into pans for a second rise overnight in the garage.  It didn't overflow the pans or collapse, so that was good.  It even smelled good as I baked it - not like sourdough but more like a butter roll or brioche.  The loaves darkened up quite a bit, probably from all the sugar.  Fortunately, I decided to eat breakfast early rather than wait for them to be done.  That turned out to be a wise decision.

Upon cooling, one loaf collapsed and the other maintained its shape.  After they cooled most of the way, I cut them open.  The one that maintained its shape actually had an air pocket running the whole length of it.  The texture was moist, sort of like a sourdough, but the flavor was just so wrong - too sweet and eggy, but the brioche like nature was completely ruined by the beany taste of the garbanzos and favas.
I fed one loaf to the crows.  The cats are sitting out there guarding it. I'm saving the other loaf to see if it tastes better after being in the fridge, or as french toast.  I kind of doubt it will improve with age, though.  I have had a few baking disasters in my life, but they are usually things that get burned or recipes that have the wrong proportion of things.  I would have to say that this is the first that was just completely wrong. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tasty Slow Cooker Tapioca pudding

I bought some medium size tapioca pearls last week.  Although I've made tapioca pudding before, I've never used the large, non-instant type.
I also didn't want to make anythin.g that required a double boiler, lots of stirring, or folding in beaten egg whites.  I found a recipe from Alton Brown that used a slow cooker.  That was good enough for me. 

3 1/2 ounces large pearl tapioca, approximately 1/2 cup
2 cups cold water
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup half and half or cream
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla

Place tapioca in a medium mixing bowl along with the water, cover, and let stand overnight.

Drain water from tapioca. Place the tapioca into a slow cooker along with the milk, heavy cream, and salt. Cook on high for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and sugar. Temper small amounts of the tapioca into the egg mixture until you have added at least 1 cup. Then add this back into the remaining tapioca in the slow cooker.  Cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring at least once. Transfer the pudding to a bowl. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Cover the surface with plastic wrap. Allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour and then place in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.
The tapioca pearls had to be soaked overnight.   I would suggest letting it go a full 24 hours - it was still a bit tough after 12 hours. I also added about 1/2 cup more than called for.  BikerDude, who is a new OKCupid guy, called right after I put everything in the crock pot, so got distracted and forgot to stir it for the first hour and a half.  Not a problem, I think the stirring isn't that important until the end.  But your crockpot may be different so give it a few occasional stirs just to be on the safe side.
Anyway, it was totally delicious.  It was extremely rich and creamy, and not grainy at all. It was ultra decadent and even gluten free.  If I would make it again, I'd use the recommended amount of milk/cream but may use a whole egg or two yolks just to see how it turns out. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Gluten Free, "Magically Moist" Almond Cake

I've started reading about gluten free baking and have begun accumulating the various ingredients.  From what I can tell, it's not a simple one-size-fits all replacement for wheat flour.  People seem to use different blends for different purposes, although one can buy pre-made mixes.
I haven't ventured much beyond making things that are normally gluten free and the recipes on the various flour packages.  The all-buckwheat pancakes came out ok, but weren't nearly as good as my usual ones.  Today's buckwheat and sorghum pancakes were a lot better.  I'll post a recipe when I have optimized everything.
On the back of a package of Bob's Red Mill* almond flour, there is a recipe for "Magically Moist Almond Cake".  Despite the cheesy name, which makes me think of the movie Magic Mike (yes,  my mind is in the gutter), it sounded really good - almond meal, coconut flour, eggs, butter, milk, vanilla, and sugar.  The coconut flour is the only concession to gluten free.  It otherwise seems pretty much like a flourless almond cake.  I added a bit of almond extract for good measure.
The batter tasted great but the cake was just so-so, when it was still warm.  After it had cooled completely, it improved greatly.  It's very moist and almondy; indeed, you could describe it as magically moist, but given the ingredients the moistness seems pretty obvious.   Perhaps magically delicious would be a better description.  It would be great with berries and whipped cream.  I'll definitely make it again.  It was too tempting so I ended up taking most of it in to work for the grad students.  I hadn't planned on taking them of my gluten free experiments because the ingredients are more pricy, but I had to get it out of the house.

Tasty Gluten-Free Almond Cake

1 1/2 cups almond flour (or grind your own)
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a 9" x 13" baking pan.  Mix dry ingredients together.  Cream butter until fluffy.  Add sugar and mix well.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well.   Add milk, vanilla, and almond extract, then stir in dry ingredients and mix.
Transfer batter to pan and bake for 30 minutes.  Cake will be golden.  Allow it to cool completely, preferably overnight.

*Bob's Red Mill, I love you!  Not only do they have a ridiculous assortment of weird-ass gluten free flours, hot cereals, etc, are reasonably priced, and have good recipes on the back of the packages and on their website,  Bob (yes there is a Bob) gave the company to his employees when he turned 81.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


When I was in grad school, my advisor had a butt-ugly pair of bright green pants which he wore often.  He would pair them with either a shirt in the exact same shade of green, or, when his wife was out of town, he'd wear a bright raspberry colored shirt.  He is tall and skinny, and was in his mid-40's at the time.  It was not a good look for him and we were kind of amused by it.  I suspect he knew this and did not care.   Green was his favorite color.
Now that I am almost the same age, I kind of understand the motivation behind the green pants. I went to the outlet mall today.  It is my excuse to take a drive along the lake.  Anyway, I needed a new pair of jeans since my favorite ones got threadbare and developed an embarrassing rip at the crotch.  I wasn't too thrilled with the ones I tried, but on a whim I tried on a pair of purple micro-corduroy jeans from the sale rack.  I bet you can figure out where this is going.  Sure enough, they fit well and I liked them.  A lot. I don't think I would've paid full price for them, but they are fucking awesome.  I'm going to wear them to work and I know the students are going to be amused by it and I do not care.  Yes, it's true, I am turning into my PhD advisor.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Gluten free update

I've been gluten free for three weeks.  It is going ok. I'm trying not to be too vocal about it other than in here and to my closest friends.   It hasn't been particularly difficult when I am cooking for myself (which is most of the time). I no longer eat bread with meals, but I probably did that less than half the time when I wasn't watching what I ate, or less than a third of the time when I was being careful.  This is a habit left over from when I lost weight following the "Zone" diet.  I have also been avoiding all the work snacks, which is not an insubstantial amount, since 'free carbs' seems to be the modus operandi of the department.  I have neither gained nor lost weight, since I've been indulging myself as a payback for my dietary changes.  That will stop soon.
It was somewhat more difficult when I was on vacation.  The resort was good about labeling stuff and providing gluten free options, but it was definitely harder when there was good stuff available that I wanted to try.  Meals at the airport were a bit of a challenge, but not too bad.
The biggest issue is actually baking.  I miss it.  I've made some almond macarons and sesame candy for myself, as well as various permutations on gluten-free pancakes, but I'm still accumulating all the supplies I need for hardcore gluten free baking.  I'm not sure how much I'll do, but it will be entertaining to learn a new baking skill set.
Anyway, I noticed a big difference in how my knees felt when I first started, and seemed to debloat a bit.  I then proceeded to beat the shit out of my knees on vacation, and then once I came back the ongoing presence of deep crunchy snow and ice and the omnipresent stairs and hills haven't helped matters.  I might be tempted to abandon my experiment, but I have noticed that my skin looks a lot less ruddy and I look younger.*  Sure enough, a quick Google search revealed that some people with rosacea have noticed an improvement upon going gluten-free.  For now, vanity wins and I will continue.  However, I will probably still eat sourdough bread when I go to California in late April, knees and skin be damned!

* I had noticed the same thing,  to a lesser extent, when I was following a Zone diet and eating very little gluten.  I assumed it was from eat fairly low carb, but that's not the case now, so I'm going to assume it's the gluten.