Tag Archives: gluten-free

Brownies prompt a question.

I was searching for a different recipe when I ran across this one for brownies, which I decided to take to a potluck last week. In reading the comments on the recipe, on the New York Times cooking site, I came upon the question of whether one could use “regular” cocoa powder instead of cacao in this recipe. Because the spelling is so similar, I hadn’t even noticed that the recipe called for cacao. Cocoa is what I always keep in my cupboard, so I needed to know.

The question wasn’t answered definitively enough for me, and I soon found a long discussion of cocoa vs. cacao on a different site, comments long ago closed. Most of the chefs and cooks on that site said there was no real difference besides the spelling, though a few insisted otherwise. My take is that at least some brands of “natural cacao powder” likely retain more nutrients than cocoa. Everyone did agree that you don’t want “Dutch process” cocoa because that is used to make poor quality cacao beans saleable.

When I went to the pantry for my cocoa powder, I saw that it was cacao powder after all, a big bag I’d bought at Costco without wondering why they were using that spelling. So I didn’t have to substitute that ingredient. If I’d had both cacao and cocoa on hand, I’d have baked one pan with each ingredient, for taste-testing purposes. Maybe next time.

I loved these brownies. They seemed very rich in spite of having no butter or eggs. I ate one and a half, and felt buzzed by them, they were so chocolatey. But I slept well that night anyway.

MEXICAN BROWNIES

Vegan and gluten/grain-free; adapted from the NYT recipe which was adapted from Julie Piatt.

3 Tablespoons/14 grams ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons water
Coconut oil, for greasing pan
¾ cup chickpea flour (besan)
½ cup cacao powder
½ cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mild chili powder
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup almond meal
1 1/3 cups sugar
8 oz. Earth Balance vegan butter, softened
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 oz. dark chocolate chips
1 ½ oz unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons olive oil

1) In a small bowl, whisk together the flaxseed and water until mixture has an egg-like consistency. Set aside.

2) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

3) In a large bowl, sift together the chickpea flour, cacao powder, tapioca flour, cinnamon, chili powder, xanthan gum, salt and baking soda. Add almond meal and stir until fully incorporated.

4) In a double boiler or in the microwave melt the unsweetened chocolate and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.

5) Whisk the flaxseed “egg” again, then put in the bowl of a stand mixer along with the sugar, vegan butter, almond milk and vanilla. Stir on low. Gradually increase speed to medium-high and continue beating until mixture is fully combined and mostly smooth, 5-7 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and olive oil and beat for 15 seconds.

6) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula until fully combined and streak-free. The batter should be thick and gooey. Add additional almond milk if it seems too dry. Fold about half of the chocolate chips into the batter, then spread it in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with the remaining chocolate chips.

7) Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out mostly clean, 50-60 minutes.

The NYT recipe had more chocolate bar and chocolate chips. I added the olive oil to make up for the missing fat. I used unsweetened chocolate instead of a dark chocolate bar so I increased the sugar a tiny bit.

I doubled the recipe and baked it in a 9×13 Pyrex pan, which made for tall brownies and probably necessitated the full hour of baking.

For those interested generally in vegan cakes and brownies, this recipe, Chocolate Carrot Cake, is vegan, and has been accidentally, and then later intentionally, made into brownies. The brownie-eaters could not believe they were vegan. They are easier to make than the Mexican Brownies here in this post, but I like better the texture and complex flavors of the more involved recipe, the chili and cinnamon, almond and vanilla. Let me know if you try one or the other.

The Accidental Carrot Cake Brownie

Lenten combo – Spinach Pkhali and Himbasha

It’s been more than ten years since I was learning to make this exotic dish, which is perfect for Lent. My late husband did not keep Lent but he liked it very much, too. He had a hard time believing that there was no sour cream in the mix. I am re-posting the recipe and my notes unchanged since then. I hope I can make at least one batch this year.

The main ingredient is spinach, but the other ingredients in this dish, which can be a vegetable side or a spread for bread or crackers, make it very unusual and in my case, addictive. I know, eating in an uncontrolled manner is the opposite of what Lent is about, but maybe overdoing it on spinach is not as bad as some things. And to reduce temptation, so far I have made sure to take this dish to potlucks where I would be embarrassed to hover over the plate and reveal my piggishness.

The origin of pkhali is the Republic of Georgia. Though I have a Georgian acquaintance at church, I found the recipe on The Traveler’s Lunchbox blog, about a year ago. I’ve made it several times since then, at least twice using frozen chopped spinach, and most recently with fresh spinach.

The recipe, pasted from the link above:

Spinach Pkhali

Pkhali (the ‘kh’ is pronounced as a deep, guttural ‘h’) is a whole class of Georgian vegetable dishes that straddle the line between salad and dip. The constant is the walnut sauce, and the fact that the vegetable is cut very, very finely – almost (but not quite) to a puree. 

Beet pkhali is also very popular, and is often served alongside the spinach; to prepare beets this way, wrap 3 large ones in foil and bake until soft, then peel and finely chop (or pulse in a food processor) before mixing with the sauce. 

If you’d like to substitute frozen spinach in this recipe, I imagine it would work, though I’m not sure about the amount; maybe start with a pound (half a kilo) of the frozen stuff and add more as needed to balance out the flavors. [I used 2 -10 oz. packages, which was a bit much. -GJ]

p.s. After making this again, I’ve decided I like a slightly smaller amount of spinach, to let the flavors of the walnut sauce really shine. Alternatively, you could use the full 2lbs and make one and a half times the sauce. 

source: adapted from Anya von Bremzen’s Please to the Table
serves: 4-6 as an hors d’oeuvre or side dish

1.5-2 pounds (.75-1 kilo) fresh spinach, stems removed and washed in several      changes of water
1 cup (100g) walnuts
4 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
pinch cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or to taste
1 small onion, minced
3 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh tarragon
salt
pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the spinach and cook just until tender, about one minute. Drain well and let cool. When manageable, wrap the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze until nearly dry. Chop it as finely as possible (don’t use a food processor or blender, which may puree it; it should have texture) and set aside.

In a blender [I used a food processor. -GJ], combine the walnuts, garlic, coriander, fenugreek, cayenne and vinegar. Add 3 tablespoons of warm water and blend until you have a smooth, creamy sauce about the consistency of mayonnaise, adding a little more water if needed to get things moving.

Add the walnut sauce to the spinach and stir until thoroughly blended and smooth. Stir in the minced onion, cilantro and tarragon, and season with salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours to allow the flavors to blend. Taste again before serving and adjust the salt and vinegar if needed.

To serve, spread the pkhali on a plate and smooth the top with a spatula. With a knife, make a pattern of diamonds in the top, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds (or, in a pinch, walnut pieces). Serve with bread.

(Me again) Using the fresh vegetable took more time, though boxes of Costco baby spinach make it easy; the result was definitely a refinement of the dish, as it did away with the many pieces of stem that you get in the frozen greens. As to quantities of all the ingredients, they are fairly flexible, and I did a lot of tasting at the end to make sure there was enough salt and spreadability.

The last time I took it to a community dinner, I also brought along a loaf of the Eritrean flatbread called himbasha, which dark-skinned parishioners in flowing white gauze bring to our church dinners every week to pass around in baskets. I always make sure to reach in and tear off a piece.

It was the first time I’d tried making it at my house. My loaf came out a little thick compared to what I think are the best versions I’ve eaten, because I didn’t notice I was supposed to make 2 loaves with the dough, and I put the whole thing into one large skillet. But it was wonderfully chewy and flavorful all the same, and my tasters loved it still warm from the pan with some of the pkhali spread on.

Here is that  recipe from a book I helped to compile, a small collection of international dishes that are cooked and served by members of each ethnic community (we are truly a pan-Orthodox group) for my church’s yearly food festival.
Himbasha
Makes two 12″ round breads
3 pounds flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups water, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, yeast and sugar. Dissolve salt in water. Add oil and water/salt mixture to flour mixture, and mix until you have a stiff dough. Add raisins and mix until incorporated.
2. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Form into one or two large circles the diameter of your frying pans and up to 1″ thick.
4. Lightly grease electric frying pan or cast iron skillet or paella pan. Heat over medium heat (about 300 degrees on an electric skillet) until a drop of water dances on it. Place dough carefully in pan, cover and cook about 15 minutes, until bottom is golden brown. Turn and cook another 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack.


And at right, a photo of the last plate of pkhali I accomplished. Pomegranates were not to be found in the supermarkets in March, so I used the walnut option for garnishing.

You can see the little pieces of onion that I hadn’t minced finely enough….I thought they would overwhelm the dish, but no, it was as addictive as ever. Still, I might put the onions in the food processor with the walnuts next time.

Will I have time to make this again during Lent? Probably not — but we spinach lovers don’t need to be fasting to enjoy something so yummy.

Sesame Flax Crackers

Here’s the recipe a few of you were interested in:

SESAME FLAX CRACKERS

Makes about 25 crackers

1/2 cup (60g) ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup (80g) golden flaxseeds
1/2 cup (75g) unhulled sesame seeds
1 cup (240ml) water
1 1/2 tablespoons tamari
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
(optional: I added extra salt and some cayenne pepper; you could experiment with other seasonings.)

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients and stir well. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. [That’s what the original recipe says, but I think it gets too thick in that amount of time; try 20-30 minutes.] The mixture will thicken up considerably and form a gelatinous slurry that is pourable. Add a little water if it is too thick to pour.

After about 45 minutes preheat the oven to 350F (175C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Transfer the “dough” to the lined baking sheet and spread it as evenly as possible with a spoon or rubber spatula. Score the dough lightly with a pizza roller or knife to indicate the eventual cracker shapes, anywhere from 15-35 crackers.

Bake for 30-45 minutes until lightly browned. At this point you can turn off the oven and leave the crackers in there with the door slightly ajar, for them to finish drying and crisping. But I like to speed up the process; I turn the oven down and often break the crackers apart, then keep baking them as long as necessary to achieve the desired crispness.

When they are cool, break them apart if you haven’t already, and store in an airtight container at room temperature for as long as two weeks. If they absorb moisture just bake them at a low temperature for about 15 minutes to re-crisp.

The pictures show two baking sheets because I always make a double batch. They are too easy to eat!

Muddy creek and spicy cake.

gl-1-9-pine-branch-img_4080A big branch fell from my Canary Island Pine last night, just missing the lemon tree that we intentionally planted under its leggy canopy, hoping for a bit of frost protection; I hadn’t thought it might be a dangerous location instead. It’s been very blowy and wet in these parts – lots of flooding in the county, though not in my neighborhood. Today came a break in the rain, so I walked again along the muddy creeks.

gl-1-9-colors

 

 

 

I was surprised to see this tree looking like Autumn. How could it still hold on to its leaves through the gale? I guess our winter is very like some people’s Fall. gl-1-9-cotoneaster-with-robin-jan-9-2016

It was cool, not cold, the air as fresh as can be. A hundred robins would startle and rise up in a swirl out of the cotoneaster bushes when I walked past, and then settle back down to eat the berries. One is sitting in this bush but he is hard to see.

Big limbs had fallen from eucalyptus trees along the path, and in many places the pavement was strewn with redwood cones and needles. I was alone the whole two miles of my loop. gl-1-9-eucalyptus-downed-branches

Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty,
give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders:
the LORD is upon many waters.

gl-1-9-berries-privet
privet

A few of these words from Psalm 29 were quoted by our rector on Sunday, referring to the storms that, surprisingly, didn’t force us all to stay home. My youngest two children and I memorized this Psalm about 20 years ago. I think I picked it for them because of all the vivid imagery like skipping, flames, cedars breaking, hinds giving birth. It still thrills me, and is indeed a good Psalm for stormy weather.

The thought of gingerbread came to me out there on my winter walk. So I came home and put together yet another version of Wheatless Gingerbread. This time it was even gluten-free, because I used the flour mix from Minimalist Baker.

gl-1-9-cake

It came out lovely and light. This time I also added milk powder and used butter… I think I might still be able to improve on this recipe in various ways, so I should try to make some again soon.

We’ve been keeping the stoves busy in our house. Someone even cooked her chicken breast and handmade tortillas on the wood stove last week. Keepin’ cozy!

gl-1-9-kit-cook