Christmas Pudding Part 1 (Stir Up Sunday!) (Gluten Free)

Stir Sunday Board

I sat in the Brit’s dimly lit dining room and leaned back against the upholstered chair. We started the evening in the sitting room munching on starters, sipping Trappist beer, listening to Mr. Brit’s HiFi at deafening volumes and exploring the differences in holiday music from across the pond. I adjusted the paper crown on my head and wondered if I could possibly eat any more. The food seemed endless. Turkey, stuffing, parsnips, sausages, rosemary potatoes, and on and on.

My thoughts were interrupted by Mrs. Brit entering the room with a domed-shaped cake-like edible on a plate. She poured spirits over the top and promptly lit it on fire. As the flames fluttered out, they exclaimed with a long “Hey!” and we joined in.

She served us the tiniest bit on a plate – about a tablespoon’s worth – and introduced the options of brandy butter or brandy sauce along side. I was slightly confused by the small amount on my plate. Can’t I have more? Why so little? Did she only have this bit left to share?

I gingerly took a wee bite on my fork and eagerly tasted it. WOW. This was unlike anything I had ever eaten before. This had all the notes of a fruit cake, but oh, so much better. Stronger. Tastier. It hit my taste buds like a steam roller and filled my mouth with a deep, blooming flavor. How was it possible that such a small bite had such a big impact? I immediately understood the serving size. So rich, so bold, I would only need a little before my already full stomach begged me to stop.

Since that fantastically British Christmas evening, Mrs. Brit has thoroughly educated me on the traditions of Christmas Pudding. The translations of ingredients, quirky preparation, lengthy days of steaming, the meaning of Stir Up Sunday… they all culminated to fill my new found holiday craving. She patiently took me through the whole process several years ago, and I have tweaked and adjusted since then. After all, Mrs. Brit says “there are as many recipes for Christmas Pudd as there are Brits.”

Here is mine, and I hope you take the time to make it as least once. Just be warned, it could be your new found holiday craving.

Stir Up Sunday is November 22nd this year. You have a week to gather the ingredients and work up the nerve. You can do it – I believe in you!

Stir Up Sunday Christmas Pudding Prep (Gluten Free)

Strawberry Pie (with bonus gluten free dough recipe!)

Strawberry Pie 1

Finish tilling gardenIt has been more than twenty years since I sat in the garden at the farm house. The wide patch of strawberries sat perpendicular to the rows of onions, potatoes, green beans, and corn, and I sprawled out in the gap in between. With my Tonka trucks and dirt movers, die cast cars and a small trowel, I mounded dirt, made roads and dug rivers. My parents spent the day bent at the waist, weeding, planting, and tending to their precious crop, and our Black Labrador wondered about. She eventually ended up huffing and plopping right down in the middle of my ‘town’. Nosing my leg for attention, I complied and drove cars up and over her like a big mountain.

_______________________________________

I didn’t even give my husband a chance to think about it or plan something special. When I saw that my neighbor wanted to remove the neglected raised garden beds from his property, I eagerly made a deal that we (my husband!) would remove them if I could have all the (rich and beautiful!) soil they contained. “Hey, Honey…. you don’t have to worry about getting me anything for Mother’s Day! Just move these for me!”

“Fine, but you get to move the dirt.”

Raised Beds Before and After

(Here is a before and after of the rebuild/relocation.
It took me two weeks to play in, I mean move, the dirt.)

So now I have a garden. Tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, cabbage, oregano, basil, and asparagus. For those of you wondering how I planted all of that in just these two boxes? Well… I kinda, sorta, expanded to a third. And I might have two blueberry bushes now, too.

Is this my midlife crisis?

I better just eat this pie and think about that for a while.

(There are three – count em! – THREE recipes here. Two pie crusts, and the strawberry pie filling with topping.)

Strawberry Pie  (Adapted from From Cook’s Country Icebox Strawberry Pie – June 2009)

Serves 8

It is imperative that the cooked strawberry mixture measures 2 cups; any more and the filling will be loose. If your fresh berries aren’t fully ripe, you may want to add extra sugar to taste in step 2. Use your favorite pie dough or use the ‘Oil Pie Crust for Fruit Pies’ or ‘Gluten Free Pie Crust’ below. This pie is even tastier after living in the refrigerator for twenty four hours.

Ingredients

1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked and cooled (see recipes below)

Filling:

2 pounds frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (or two 1/4 ounce envelopes of Knox Gelatine)
1 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin

Topping:

4 ounces cream cheese , softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Filling Preparation:

Cook frozen berries in large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until berries begin to release juice, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula, until thick and jam-like, about 25 minutes (mixture should measure 2 cups, exactly). Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, water, and gelatin with a fork. Let stand until gelatin is softened and mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir gelatin mixture, sugar, and salt into cooked berry mixture and return to simmer, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Fold fresh berries into filling. Spread evenly in pie shell and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. (Filled pie can, and is better tasting, after refrigerated for 24 hours.)

Topping Preparation:

With electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth, about 30 seconds. With mixer running, slowly add cream in one continuous stream. Stop mixer and scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Return mixer to medium/high speed and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Serve pie with whipped cream topping. (I spread the topping over the entire pie and smooth with an off-set spatula. Others prefer to dollop the topping on each piece of sliced pie. Do what feels right to you – I won’t judge!)

Oil Pie Crust (for fruit pies)

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons milk
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set rack to the middle position.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, salt and sugar on low for about ten seconds. In a steady stream, slowly add oil and milk. Mix until dough is a sandy texture.

Transfer dough to a glass or aluminum pie pan. Pat dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Using a fork, prick the bottom four times, and evenly around the sides eight times. This will help prevent bubbling while baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is no longer moist and is starting to slightly brown.
Cool the baked pie crust on a wire rack for at least one hour before filling.

Gluten Free Pie Dough

Yields 1, 9″ Pie Shell

Ingredients
2 1/2 tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 tablespoons very cold sour cream
1 1/2 ounce white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
6 1/2 ounces gluten free flour blend**
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon zanthan gum
8 tablespoons frozen butter cut (with a very sharp knife) into 1/4 square inch pieces

**Gluten Free Flour Blend

24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, plus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)
7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)
7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)
3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)
¾ ounce nonfat milk powder (3 tablespoons)

Preparation

(Notes: Use a seven cup, or larger, food processor for this single batch. If you want to make a double crust pie, do not double this recipe in one food processor batch. Take the time to do it twice, trust me. This is experience talking. Do not skimp on freezing the butter. Again, trust me on this one.)

In a small bowl, combine the ice water, sour cream and vinegar with a fork. Place bowl in freezer while you prep the next steps.

Place flour blend, sugar, salt and zanthan gum in the food processor. Combine for five seconds. Scatter frozen butter pieces over top and pulse ten times. Dollop the (very cold) sour cream mixture over top and pulse until the texture is sandy, about ten times.

Spread a large piece of plastic wrap out on the counter top. Carefully dump the contents of the food processor onto the wrap. Gather the dough into the center and work it into a solid six inch round disk. Wrap the disk tightly with the wrap and refrigerate for one hour. (This one hour resting time is important. Your dough will be sandy and gritty if you skip this step.)

Rolling the dough:

Prep your pie pan. Lightly grease the very bottom of the pie pan – not the sides. Set aside.

First rule – do not add flour!

Adding flour to the rolling process negates the resting time to rid of the gritty texture. Instead, place two lengths of plastic wrap out on the counter top. Slightly overlap them to make a continuous 18″x18″ covered work surface. Unwrap the chilled dough disk and place it in the center of your prepare surface. Cover the disk with another two sheets of wrap, again, slightly overlapping to make a continuous 18′”x18″ sheet.

Using a rolling pin, start in the center of the dough disk and roll out to the edge. Bring the pin back to the center and roll out the edge in a different direction. Do this over and over again until the disk doubles is size. Sometimes the dough will not roll out in a perfect circle, leaving gaps and cracks. Stop, remove the top wrap and pinch the dough into a circle. Replace wrap and continue to roll from the center in all directions until you have a pie shell measuring about 12″ across.

Transfer the dough to the pie pan:

Remove the top layer of wrap from your pie shell. Lift the bottom layer of wrap and slide a flat hand under the dough to the center of the circle. With your other hand, invert the pie pan over your dough and carefully turn (slowly flip) both hands over, ending up with the pie pan right side up and the dough resting inside. Work the dough into the sides of the pan and very carefully remove the (now top) layer of wrap.

Gently roll the extra dough under the edge and pinch all the way around the pan, making the design of your choice.

Strawberry Pie 3

Loosely cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for one hour, or the freezer for thirty minutes.

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake 24-30 minutes, rotating half way through, until no longer doughy and slightly brown along the edges. Cool completely before adding fruit filling.

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Bread Pudding

I anxiously waited while peeking out the eat-in kitchen window. The drapes where brown and white and I would wrap them around my face and exhale on the window, making small moist spots, and watch them disappear. She always came to pick us up on Friday afternoons. I can’t remember a Friday in my childhood that her car didn’t climb the gravel driveway, and I didn’t bound to the back door to let her in. Grandma was taking us for a sleepover.

Our first stop would be dinner. One of our favorite places was a little green and white building in town along the route to her house. Empire Restaurant. My sister and I would fight over who got to sit by her, order soda, because we were never allowed soda otherwise, and I insisted on the fried fish with french fries. Again.

The end of dinner was always the same. “Eat more of your fish and you can have bread pudding”.  “No, I said fish, not french fries. You have to eat the fish.” I would do anything for the bread pudding and she knew it.

Unfortunately, Empire closed it’s doors and it would be years before the taste of perfect bread pudding would cross my mouth again. There were glimmers of hope along the way. A Mom and Pop cafe here, a chain restaurant there. I would see it on the menu and get all giddy with the excitement, then the let-down would come. Mushy, tasteless, drowned in too much sauce. It was never the same.

One day R & S called and invited us out to a neighborhood pub. We had been there before and I had seen the teaser of bread pudding on the menu, but had lost all hope and declined to order it time and time again. R & S insisted it was all that bread pudding was supposed to be, and who was I to argue – they are British after all. So, I took a chance.

The fork passed my lips and I suddenly felt like a child again, and for a moment I panicked because I hadn’t finished all my fish.

 

I found this recipe after our local Pub closed and I was missing this dessert. A extensive search for that recipe turned up an article written in the early nineties and there it was! I have since made a few changes, and the Pub’s other locations no longer serve it with this sauce. 

Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

1 loaf Challah bread, cubed (about 9 cups)

1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar

1 can evaporated milk (12 fl. oz.)

1 1/4 Cup Sugar

1 Small Can Crushed Pineapple (8 oz, do not drain)

3 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract

1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg

¾ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

 

Topping:

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Combine topping in a small bowl. Set aside.

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • Reserve 2 cups of bread cubes, set aside.
  • Using two baking sheets, spread remaining bread cubes in one single layer.
  • Toast in oven for 15 minutes, tossing once half way through, and rotating baking sheets to opposite racks.
  • Place in a large bowl, set aside to cool.
  • Melt the butter and pour over bread cubes.
  • In a medium bowl combine all remaining ingredients and pour over bread crumbs. Stir gently with a rubber spatula and let stand for ten minutes.
  • Pour mixture into well-buttered 8”x11” baking dish.
  • Spread reserved bread cubes over top, slightly pressing them in. Sprinkle sugar topping evenly over the pudding.
  • Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool for a minimum of 20 minutes before serving with Bourbon Sauce.

 

Bourbon Sauce

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons whipping cream

2 tablespoons bourbon

Pinch of salt

Preparation:

  • Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Whisk in remaining ingredients.
  • Simmer until thickened, whisking often, about 3 minutes.
  • Cool slightly and add bourbon. Serve over warm Bread Pudding.

Homemade Ice Cream

Homemade Icecream

The sun is shinning through the farm house kitchen window, stretching through the doorway, and casting an orange glow over the brown shag carpeting of the family room. The smell of cake lingers in the air, interrupted every so often with whiffs of lemon scented dusting polish. The lawn mower whizzes by the back windows with a growl, and it’s the only thing I can hear over the loud whirring and grinding of the ice cream maker that is nested in the laundry tub of the mud room.  The house has been cleaned, floors vacuumed, and a small card table for presents is set up in the corner along with a chair for the guest of honor. We are just about ready.

It’s a birthday party.

Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins will be here soon and the gathering will begin. It is not as formal as it sounds. The kids will arrive – ranging from seven years older than me to three years younger. The age differences disappear as soon as the car doors slam shut and we all run through the orchard for a game of freeze tag or balance on the porch railing like circus tight rope walkers. I bring out my rock collection (shoe) box and bug jars and my closest cousin and I comb the driveway for new additions.

An adult voice calls out from the house and we all run inside. Presents are opened and passed around, and a friendly wrapping-paper-ball fight ensues. The candles are lit, we sing the song, and the homemade cake in the shape of the birthday girl’s favorite character is cut. I carefully cup the bowl of cake with both hands and stand in line at the laundry tub as Daddy scoops from the now-quiet wooden drum. It starts to melt no sooner than it rolls down the slice of cake and nests in the bottom of the bowl.

This is the taste of summer. This is the taste of a birthday.

 

Home Made Ice Cream

 

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups whole cream

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1/3 cup plus granulated sugar

1/3 cup corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 large egg yolks

 

 

Preparation

1. Combine cream, milk, 1/8 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, corn syrup, and salt in medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is steaming steadily and registers 175 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat.

2. While cream mixture heats, whisk yolks and remaining 1/8 cup sugar in bowl until smooth, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk 1 cup heated cream mixture into egg yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers 180 degrees, 7 to 14 minutes. Immediately pour custard into large bowl and let cool until no longer steaming, 10 to 20 minutes. Transfer 1 cup custard to small bowl. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap. Place large bowl in refrigerator and small bowl in freezer and cool completely, at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. (Small bowl of custard will freeze solid.)

3. Remove custards from refrigerator and freezer. Dip the bottom of the frozen custard cup into warm water for easy release. Remove frozen custard from small bowl into large bowl of custard. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Stir and cut frozen custard until fully dissolved. Strain custard through fine-mesh strainer and transfer to an already-churning ice-cream machine. Churn until mixture resembles thick soft-serve ice cream and registers about 21 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer ice cream to glass bowl or dish (I use a pyrex bowl with tight fitting lid) and press plastic wrap on surface to prevent ‘skin’ from forming. Return to freezer until firm 3 hours.

(Ice cream can be stored for up to 5 days.)

 

 

Pineapple Up Side Down Cake (Gluten Free)

Pineapple Finished I felt yucky. My health issues were getting in the way of my day-to-day activities and I knew I had to do something about it. It had been eight months and it was time to admit there was a problem. I finally (and reluctantly) went to see my doctor. After a month-long process of tests, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in February. When I tell people about my health issue and my new diet restrictions I get two reactions. The first is a horrified look, and something along the lines of ‘Oh my God, I could NEVER live without pasta’. Followed by, ‘Wait, don’t you run a bakery out of your home?’ Ok, first. Yes, you can live without gluten-infused pasta. There are a lot of substitutions available and I am lucky to live in a country where they are so readily available. And second, yes, I do run a bakery out of my home and it is a big challenge. This is why I am slowly but surely transforming all of my products to be gluten free. While I am busy morphing my product line, there are still other very important items to attend to. Like cravings. This week I really, really wanted some Pineapple Up Side Down Cake, and it didn’t help that  this came in the mail. Pineapple So I got to work… Pineapple1 and this happened… Pineapple Slice Pineapple Up Side Down Cake (Gluten Free*)

*Make this from scratch like I did, or use a boxed gluten free yellow cake mix. The method remains the same.

Topping

1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored

3/4 stick unsalted butter

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

Batter

3 ounces white chocolate, chopped

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into four pieces

5 1/2 ounces gluten free flour blend**

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon xanthun gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs, separated

Pinch cream of tarter

3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup sour cream

 

**Gluten Free Flour Blend

24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, plus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)

7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)

7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)

3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)

¾ ounce nonfat milk powder (3 tablespoons)

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, set oven rack to middle position and grease a 9″ cake pan.

Make Topping

Use the handy dandy pineapple corer/slicer, or cut pineapple crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces.

Melt butter in sauce pan.

Add brown sugar and simmer over medium heat, stirring, five minutes. Pour caramel mixture into prepared cake pan. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in desired pattern.

Make Batter

Microwave chocolate and butter together in a bowl, thirty seconds at a time until melted (about 1 1/2 minutes). Set aside to slightly cool.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour blend, baking powder, xanthun gum, salt and baking soda.

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites and cream of tarter on medium speed for 1 minute. Turn speed up to high and whip for another 1 minute.

While the mixer is running, slowly add 1/4 cup sugar and whip until glossy, stiff peaks form. This will take 2-3 minutes.

Transfer egg whites to clean bowl.

Put (your now empty) bowl back and add egg yolks and vanilla. Mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

While mixer is running, add 1/4 cup sugar, then turn the speed up to high. Whip for 2 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium and add chocolate mixture and sour cream. Mix for 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Remove bowl from mixer and fold egg white mixture into batter until no streaks remain. Spread batter over pineapple/caramel mixture in baking pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center should bounce back slightly when touched.

Cool on a rack for one hour. Invert cake onto serving plate. Some puddles of caramel might be visible. These will be absorbed by the cake within minutes.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to two days.

A Revisit – Grandma’s Banana Bread

Banana Bread

This week we bury our wonderful Grandmother. While we are stricken with grief, we are thankful for her long and meaningful life and grateful she did not suffer long. We thank the team at Hospice for helping the family through her last days and allowing her to pass peacefully in her home. I wrote this post when she started taking a turn for the worse and re posting it today in her memory.

 

She was a young lady growing up on a small farm in southwest Ohio and the boy courting her was making his way around the fields at midnight. Her siblings where trying to gather the loose horses just as they returned home from their first date. Two hours into the hunt they finally had them on the way back to the barn by rattling buckets of feed and leading the way.

 

They married at the small brick Baptist Church and started building a home on her parent’s land. A three bedroom cottage with a kitchen facing east, to catch the morning sun. He traveled to town with his lunch pail in hand to manage the produce at the local grocer. After the house was finished they planted fruit trees with care around the property and started working the land for the start of a garden.

 

Still newlyweds, he took the call to travel to Wright Field. He packed his uniforms, and she went with him to say goodbye.
He would write letters every week, sometimes more, sometimes less. She had a good idea of where he was at the beginning with the post marks coming from the East Coast during his training, then across the pond. They slowed then, taking longer to travel the ocean to her. She wrote back – and one letter told the news of her belly growing with his baby. My father.

 

He returned to a toddler son, a happy wife, and silently put the months of the German Black Forest behind him. They had two more babies. A girl, then another boy.

 

We would stop over often. In the summer I would run to the back yard to find them weeding their impressive garden, or find Grandma up a tree picking apples while Grandpa mowed the grass. Tough as nails, she never slowed – even in her sixties, and we continually reminded her that climbing on the counters to reach serving dishes was not ideal. At her five-foot height, she ignored us regularly and smirked every time she was caught in the act.

 

Her sunny kitchen always had a hidden gem. She tore paper towels into quarters and placed them in front of my cousins and me – waiting impatiently. She would pull a foil package from the bread drawer, carefully unwrap and slice the treat into equal pieces. The Banana Bread was portioned onto the towels and we would eat it greedily, always asking for seconds.

 

After I moved away, she would sneak a foil covered package out of her freezer for me to take back to my college apartment.
She turned Ninety Five last week.

Happy Birthday, Grandma.
Esther’s Banana Bread

Ingredients:
¼ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups sugar, plus more for topping
1/2 cup shortening (not butter)
2 eggs
2 cups flour
3 over-ripe bananas
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation:
• Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
• Pour buttermilk into measuring cup. Add baking soda and stir. Set aside.
• In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar and shortening on medium speed for three minutes, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula half way through. • Turn the speed to low and add eggs one at a time.
• Turn speed up to medium/high and mix for 30 seconds.
• In a medium bowl mash bananas with a fork or meat tenderizer into little to no chunks remain. Add vanilla and salt to bananas.
• With the mixer on low, alternate adding flour and buttermilk to creamed mixture, ending with flour.
• Add banana mixture. Do not over mix. Streaks of flour should remain.
• Grease* the bottom and sides of a large loaf pan.
• Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle with sugar.
• Bake large loaves for 1 hour; until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the loaf.

*I grease the entire interior of the pan, then place a piece of parchment paper (cut to fit) in the bottom of the pan.

Note: Freezes very well.

 

Jessica’s Gluten Free Banana Bread

Ingredients:
¼ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups gluten free flour blend*
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-1/2 cups sugar, plus more for topping
1/2 cup shortening (not butter)
2 eggs
3 large or 4 small over-ripe bananas
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

*Gluten Free Flour Blend
24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, pus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)
7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)
7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)
3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)
¾ ounce nonfat milk powder (3 tablespoons)

Measure out all ingredients and place in a zip sealed bag. Mix well. Store in refrigerator for up to three months)

Preparation:
• Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
• Pour buttermilk into measuring cup. Add baking soda and stir. Set aside.
• In a medium bowl, combine gluten free flour blend, salt, zanthan gum and baking powder. Set aside.
• In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar and shortening on medium speed for three minutes, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula half way through. • Turn the speed to low and add eggs one at a time.
• Turn speed up to medium/high and mix for 30 seconds.
• In a medium bowl mash bananas with a fork or meat tenderizer into little to no chunks remain. Add vanilla to bananas.
• With the mixer on low, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk to creamed mixture, ending with flour.
• Add banana mixture. Do not over mix. Streaks of flour should remain.
• Grease* the interior of a large loaf pan.
• Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle with sugar.
• Let the batter rest for twenty minutes.
• Bake for 1 hour; until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the loaf.

*I grease the entire interior of the pan, then place a piece of parchment paper (cut to fit) in the bottom of the pan.

Note: Freezes very well.

Peanut Butter Pie (Mystery Man Part 1)

PB Pie

I was in need of an escape. Nearly nineteen years old, a full time student and holding two part time jobs, I really didn’t have time for a new hobby, but if I continued to be this anti social there would be a lot of cats and Wheel of Fortune in my future. Something had to be done.

I decided to start at the book store. Maybe I could find a good read, a book club, or someone who enjoyed coffee as much as I did. Wandering around, and just about to give up on my new ‘hobby’, I ran into a familiar face. James was the big brother of a girl I knew in high school. He and I crossed paths at the climbing gym the year before (another flash-in-the-pan hobby) and frequently met up there until he moved away.

We enthusiastically caught up and I was just about to breath a sigh of relief that I could re-up on an old hobby when he mentioned climbing was no longer his thing. Deflated, and flashes of cats and game shows in my eyes, I turned away and said goodbye. “Wait!” I heard from behind me. “I am teaching Swing Dancing now. You should come out tonight!”

I walked through the door at the Country Western club and paid my cover fee. The interior was not blaring boot-scootin’ music and there were no cowboys in sight. There were girls with hair pin curls and saddle shoes, and guys with suspenders and drivers caps, energetically jumping around on the dance floor to Zoot Suit Riot.

James waved me over and gave me a short dance lesson and sent me on my way.

I was hooked.

Week after week I returned to that venue, then ventured out to the other bars in town. Swing Dancing was hot, and there was a place to go four nights a week.

Night after night there was a man sitting at a secluded table drinking a gin and tonic. The club owners would stop by and share a handshake and smile. He moved from the table only when the music moved him, and he only danced with the ladies who were experienced dancers.  He never wore the suspenders and cap like the rest. The black fedora, four-button vest, and tasteful tie added to the mystery.

I was new to the scene and practically lived for the day I was a good enough dancer that Mystery Man would come my way and ask for a dance. Never missing a Swing Night, I was determined. Dancing with anyone who would say yes, I fine tuned my skills and had a blast all at the same time.

One particular evening I danced with a regular who was kind of known as the ‘know-it’all’.  Even though most of the girls rolled their eyes at his egoistical manner, I never turned down a dance. That is when it happened. He grabbed my hands to pull me into an aerial and did not follow through – dropping me on my head.

I was o.k. – hey, things like this happen and I picked myself up and looked into the face of Know-It-All. He was laughing. Laughing! Disgusted, I walked off the dance floor and recovered with the encouragement of my new found friends. The next song started and I immediately scanned the room for another partner, eager to get back on the horse. Turning on the bar stool, I swiveled into Mystery Man, who had is hand out asking me for a dance.

Elated on the inside, but trying to stay cool on the outside, I took his hand and we proceeded to the floor. Initially nervous, I wondered if I would be good enough, but found confidence in his leads. The nerves fading away, I started having fun. Not missing a step as the last bar of the song concluded, I decided  my first dance with Mystery Man was a big success. He led me off the dance floor and said “If you need a dance partner, please come and ask me – don’t dance with him.”

 

For Father’s Day Mystery Man requested this pie. This is a multi-step recipe, but don’t worry – I’ll take the lead.

 

First thing first – PIE DOUGH

You can use store-bought pie dough shells, use your own recipe, or give a Gluten Free Pie Dough (post coming!) recipe a try.

You will need TWO pie dough shells for this recipe – cooled to room temperature.

 

Peanut Butter Pie
Yields 2 pies

Ingredients:
2 baked pie shells

Step 1
Filling:
4 cups milk, scalded
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks, beaten with fork
2 teaspoons vanilla

Step 2
Crumbs:
2 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup peanut butter

Step 3
Topping:
4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

 

Preparation:

Step 1

Filling
• In a heavy medium sauce pan, melt the butter and peanut butter briefly and stir with a wooden spoon. Whisk in hot, scalded milk. Remove from heat until directed.
• In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, and vanilla with a fork until completely incorporated and as smooth as possible.
• Measure out 1 cup of the hot milk mixture. While whisking the egg yolk/corn starch mixture constantly, slowly add the 1 cup of hot milk mixture until smooth and silky with no lumps.
• Put pan of milk back on medium-high heat and add the smooth egg yolk mixture, whisking until smooth. Continue stirring. Bring to a boil and cook until thick and the whisk leaves trails through the pudding-like mixture.

PB Pie 2
• Transfer immediately to a medium bowl. Cool on the counter for 1/2 hour. Place plastic wrap directly on top of pudding to prevent skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for about 3 hours, or until completely cold.

 

Step 2

Crumbs
• Put the ingredients for the crumbs in a medium bowl.
• Using a fork, mix the ingredients together to make “crumbs”.

Step 3

Topping and Final Assembly
• In a stand mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy – about 45 seconds
• Add 1/2 cup sugar.
• Beat on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form. Set aside.

• Put 1/2 cup crumbs in each pie shells, spreading evenly. Reserve the remaining crumbs for the top of the pie.
• Divide the pudding between the two pies, spooning into the shells (and on top of the crumbs) spreading evenly.
• Dividing the egg whites, spread over top of the pudding mixture and make sure it is all the way to the edge for a good seal.
• Sprinkle tops of the pies with the reserved crumbs.
• Bake on low broil for 2-3 minutes until topping is light golden brown.

Chill for three hours, then serve.

Spreading the Baking Love, Part 2

I am fresh off my first ever culinary class where I was on the other side of the counter. All fourteen sets of eyes looked at me with expectation, wonder, excitement and (thank goodness) friendliness. There were all walks of life there. Five ladies, two of whom frequent nearly every class Jungle Jim’s offers (that wasn’t intimidating. at all.), two college aged foodies, a man with his mother – he gave her the class for Mother’s Day (yes, we all collectively ‘ahhhed’ when we found out), a mom and daughter team, and a single man who had never baked before. Ever.

JJ Baking Class 2

Two sous chefs, Ellen and Debbie, prepared a lovely spread of cheese, meat and fruit for the class to nibble on. See that salami in the foreground? It’s imported from Italy. I think I ate my weight in it – they may have to send me a bill.

JJ Baking Class

Ellen and Debbie also had everything set up for me when I arrived. This was a partial hands-on class, so the students got to make their own scone dough at the stations you see here. We sent the dough home so they can either bake it off right away, or freeze (all or some of it) for whenever they get a hankering for Raspberry Lemon goodness!

I then demonstrated making Chocolate Almond Biscotti and Scottish Shortbread.

JJ Baking Class 3The students had great questions, did a fantastic job making the scone dough and were so warm and friendly that I simply can’t wait to do this again! Now if I can only talk Ellen and Debbie into coming over to help me bake for Bites of Nostalgia

Warning: Shameless Plug Ahead

My next class at Jungle Jim’s will be on August 16th – I hope to see you there!

Here is the blurb…

…You will make her classic Apple Crumble with Walnuts – ready to take home, bake and fill your home with the aroma of freshly baked goods! She will demonstrate her pie dough and make a strawberry pie. Learn great tips from this talented baker!

On the Menu

  • Hands-On: Apple Crumble (with walnuts)
  • Demo: Family Secret Pie Dough
  • Demo: Icebox Strawberry Pie
  • Demo: Custard Tartlets with Fresh Blueberry Topping

Saturday, August 16 | 11:00am – 1:30pm | $65.00 per person

 

Chocolate Souffle and Espresso Creme Anglaise

I am risking something big.

Right now.

I am risking revealing something about myself that some of you might not know. I am exposing that I am spoiled. Rotten. I am confessing I am a food snob.

And spoiled.

Mystery Man and I have eaten at a five diamond restaurant in Orlando for every single anniversary. Named Victoria and Albert’s located at the Grand Floridian Re­sort at Disney World. The first year was a mistake of sorts. We were originally at Disney to skate an Inline Marathon. It happened to be scheduled during our anni­versary so we made a vacation out of it including dinner at V&A’s.

Year number two was the same story, only this time we brought friends, the mara­thon was rained out, and we scored the Chef’s Table.

“Chef’s Table?” You ask?

Literally in the kitchen. Where the Chef cooks for you.

and only you.

and comes to you and describes the dish in detail.

toasts you with Champagne.

and it is Heaven.

Year three the Marathon was no-more so we had no plans to travel to Orlando. About a week prior to our anniversary Mystery Man turned to me and asked where I would like to go, or what I would like to do for our anniversary. I playfully replied “ummm, duh. V&A’s.” He played along and said he would be game if I could find air­line tickets for a-hundred bucks.

I did.

We literally flew in, enjoyed our dinner, and flew out the next morning. That’ll teach him.

Year four we repeated year three. Yes, I am the master at finding air fare deals.

Year five we returned with another set of friends. The Chef’s Table was again at our disposal. It. Was. Wonderful.

And then there was year six. Oh, year six.

We just had our son three months prior and the plan was to stop the V&A’s trip at year five. After all, we should really branch out, right?

Mystery Man had a conference in Ft. Lauderdale the week of our anniversary, so the little one and I were going along to relax at the sunny resort while he worked. Sounded just fine to me.

I boarded the plane, sat down, and struggled to adjust the baby and a seat belt. I settled in and took a look at the stranger sitting next to me, waiting to get a look of “oh great, I have to sit by a baby…”  I found it was no stranger. It was my Mom.

“What the….!”

She handed me a piece of paper and snatched the baby out of my arms. The paper was an itinerary for a side trip to Orlando while Grandma watched the baby. A res­ervation confirmation for V&A’s was included. Mystery Man had pulled a fast one.

The years go on and on and yet we still return to taste the chang­es in the menu, the small tweaks in recipes and the newest fads in fine dining.

But, enough about how spoiled I am because you are about to benefit, and benefit big my friends. How do you feel about making a five star restaurant dessert right in your kitchen with all the steps laid out in front of you? “Bring it on!“ You say? Fine, but I don’t ever want to hear you talking behind my back about how rotten I am.

This is a souffle that I have created with helpful tips from the Pastry Chefs I have hounded in numerous restaurants, mainly V&A’s. I have this way of asking questions, mainly about method since I can usually tinker with ingredients in my own kitchen. It’s a wonder they don’t lock their doors when they see me coming. But, lucky for you they still take our reservation.

Chocolate Soufflé

Ingredients:

Unsalted butter and sugar for preparing dishes
8 oz bittersweet chocolate – chopped (the best you can find!)
6 large eggs (separated)
1/8 t. salt
½ t. cream of tarter
¾ c. sugar (divided into ½ c. & ¼ c.)
1 t. vanilla extract or 1 T. Cointreau

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat  400 degrees. 8 1-cup soufflé ramekins and dust the bottom and sides with sugar. Cut strips of parchment paper long enough to wrap around the ramekins and two inches taller than ramekins. Make a sleeve using chef’s twine around each one. Place on a large cookie sheet.

Melt the chocolate by placing in the top of a double boiler nested over barely simmering water (not touching). Heat, stirring often, until the chocolate melts. Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly. (Or melt in the microwave in 30 second increments.)

BY HAND:

In a large, clean bowl, whisk together the egg whites, salt and cream of tarter with a balloon whisk until soft peaks form. Slowly add ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

OR

BY MIXER:

In a large bowl, using a stand mixer fitted with the whip/wire attachment or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tarter on medium high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thick and pale in color. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup of the sugar and the vanilla.

Using a rubber spatula add small amounts of the chocolate to the egg white mixture and fold until completely combined and no white streaks remain. (Stirring will deflate the whipped egg whites and will result in a heavier souffle.

Spoon into the prepared dishes until nearly level with the top of the dish. When the souffle rises the parchment sleeve prevents overflow and encourage height for a light and fluffy souffle.

Bake the soufflé until set, puffed, and the center still jiggles when the dish is gently shaken. 8-12 minutes.

Using tongs, place souffles on cool dishes, remove string and parchment paper.

Serve immediately! With Espresso Creme Anglaise.

 

Anglaise1

 

Espresso Crème Anglaise

Ingredients:

2 c. heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
½ c. sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso (Jessica’s Note – or use a double shot of straight espresso)
1/8 t. cinnamon
2 T. brandy
1 t. vanilla extract

Bring the cream to a gentle boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until slightly thickened and  lemon-colored. Slowly whisk ½ c. of the hot cream into the egg mixture – careful not to cook the eggs. Whisk in the coffee and cinnamon. In a slow, steady stream, gradually add the egg mixture to the pan of remaining hot cream. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon or reads 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Put mixture through a fine mesh strainer, if needed.  Add the brandy and vanilla and mix well. Serve with Chocolate Soufflé immediately.

Note:

To use later, press plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent skin forming. Refrigerate.

 

Banana Bread (AND Bonus Gluten Free Recipe)

Banana Bread

She was a young lady growing up on a small farm in southwest Ohio and the boy courting her was making his way around the fields at midnight. Her siblings where trying to gather the loose horses just as they returned home from their first date. Two hours into the hunt they finally had them on the way back to the barn by rattling buckets of feed and leading the way.

 

They married at the small brick Baptist Church and started building a home on her parent’s land. A three bedroom cottage with a kitchen facing east, to catch the morning sun. He traveled to town with his lunch pail in hand to manage the produce at the local grocer. After the house was finished they planted fruit trees with care around the property and started working the land for the start of a garden.

 

Still newlyweds, he took the call to travel to Wright Field. He packed his uniforms, and she went with him to say goodbye.
He would write letters every week, sometimes more, sometimes less. She had a good idea of where he was at the beginning with the post marks coming from the East Coast during his training, then across the pond. They slowed then, taking longer to travel the ocean to her. She wrote back – and one letter told the news of her belly growing with his baby. My father.

 

He returned to a toddler son, a happy wife, and silently put the months of the German Black Forest behind him. They had two more babies. A girl, then another boy.

 

We would stop over often. In the summer I would run to the back yard to find them weeding their impressive garden, or find Grandma up a tree picking apples while Grandpa mowed the grass. Tough as nails, she never slowed – even in her sixties, and we continually reminded her that climbing on the counters to reach serving dishes was not ideal. At her five-foot height, she ignored us regularly and smirked every time she was caught in the act.

 

Her sunny kitchen always had a hidden gem. She tore paper towels into quarters and placed them in front of my cousins and me – waiting impatiently. She would pull a foil package from the bread drawer, carefully unwrap and slice the treat into equal pieces. The Banana Bread was portioned onto the towels and we would eat it greedily, always asking for seconds.

 

After I moved away, she would sneak a foil covered package out of her freezer for me to take back to my college apartment.
She turned Ninety Five last week.

Happy Birthday, Grandma.

 
Esther’s Banana Bread

Ingredients:
¼ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups sugar, plus more for topping
1/2 cup shortening (not butter)
2 eggs
2 cups flour
3 over-ripe bananas
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation:
• Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
• Pour buttermilk into measuring cup. Add baking soda and stir. Set aside.
• In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar and shortening on medium speed for three minutes, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula half way through. • Turn the speed to low and add eggs one at a time.
• Turn speed up to medium/high and mix for 30 seconds.
• In a medium bowl mash bananas with a fork or meat tenderizer into little to no chunks remain. Add vanilla and salt to bananas.
• With the mixer on low, alternate adding flour and buttermilk to creamed mixture, ending with flour.
• Add banana mixture. Do not over mix. Streaks of flour should remain.
• Grease* the bottom and sides of a large loaf pan.
• Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle with sugar.
• Bake large loaves for 1 hour; until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the loaf.

*I grease the entire interior of the pan, then place a piece of parchment paper (cut to fit) in the bottom of the pan.

Note: Freezes very well.

 

Jessica’s Gluten Free Banana Bread

Ingredients:
¼ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups gluten free flour blend*
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-1/2 cups sugar, plus more for topping
1/2 cup shortening (not butter)
2 eggs
3 large or 4 small over-ripe bananas
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

*Gluten Free Flour Blend
24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, pus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)
7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)
7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)
3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)
¾ ounce nonfat milk powder (3 tablespoons)

Measure out all ingredients and place in a zip sealed bag. Mix well. Store in refrigerator for up to three months)

Preparation:
• Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
• Pour buttermilk into measuring cup. Add baking soda and stir. Set aside.
• In a medium bowl, combine gluten free flour blend, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
• In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar and shortening on medium speed for three minutes, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula half way through. • Turn the speed to low and add eggs one at a time.
• Turn speed up to medium/high and mix for 30 seconds.
• In a medium bowl mash bananas with a fork or meat tenderizer into little to no chunks remain. Add vanilla to bananas.
• With the mixer on low, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk to creamed mixture, ending with flour.
• Add banana mixture. Do not over mix. Streaks of flour should remain.
• Grease* the interior of a large loaf pan.
• Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle with sugar.
• Let the batter rest for twenty minutes.
• Bake for 1 hour; until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the loaf.

*I grease the entire interior of the pan, then place a piece of parchment paper (cut to fit) in the bottom of the pan.

Note: Freezes very well.