Friday, January 29, 2010

Chocolate Fudge Icing

Since being bitten by the baking bug of late, I have become more and more aware of how the correct tools make the job so much easier. One of the ironies of having been a professional chef is that, because I had access to any possible kitchen implement as part of my job in industrial kitchens, I never really bothered to buy any for home use. Also, the last thing I usually felt like doing when getting home from a sixteen hour split-shift was cooking/baking, thus adding to my lack-of-basic-baking-implement chagrin.

So for Christmas 2009, I bribed close family with the promise of baked goods if they bought me some nifty kitchen gifts. Subsequently, they obliged, and I made out like a bandit garnering:
  • a rustic Jamie Oliver cookbook from my hubby;
  • a hardcore Soehnle digital kitchen scale from my parents;
  • a workhorse Philips electrical hand mixer from my brother/sister-in-law;
  • a funky Boston Warehouse Cake Walk Lazy Susan shaped like cupcakes from my aunt and her partner.
On Monday, I treated myself to a trip to Binuns for the first time, which sells all manner of catering equipment, and was shocked at the price of things! For instance, a chiffon cake pan was close to ZAR400 (roughly USD52)! So I drooled (metaphorically) up and down the aisles, and eventually walked out a half hour later with a blue spatula, a little cake skewer and a little (and relatively economical at ZAR50) non-stick cake pan (pictured below) which I think is just the cutest thing!


I found a cheaper shop around the corner where I managed to buy a well-priced plastic cake storer/carrier, a baking sheet and one round/one oblong wire cooling rack.

Obviously, I just HAD to try out my new toys! I made a chocolate cake using this recipe (FYI: the recipe turned out one cake and 10 cupcakes), substituting a mix of rice flour/potato flour instead of the pre-mixed gluten-free flour. It turned out beautifully moist and uncracked.


Then, as the title of today's post suggests, I decided to play around with the icing and made the following:

Chocolate Fudge Icing
Gluten-Free


Ingredients:
  • 50g butter
  • 3 level tablespoons cocoa powder (without anti-caking agent)
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 200g caster sugar (without anti-caking agent)
Method:
  • Melt the butter and caster sugar over low heat on the stove.
  • Add the milk and cocoa powder, and continually stir the mixture until a thick and fudgey consistency is reached.
  • Ice your cake immediately before the fudgey topping sets (this made enough for a thick layer on the cake, as well as a thinner layer on all 10 cupcakes).
Quick, easy and ever-so-yummy! As ever, born-up-a-gluten-free-tree, and have a great weekend :-)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes

When I was little, my mom baked cupcakes like crazy - for birthdays, for bible club, for sunday school, for scripture union, for school, for friends, etc. They were delicious little vanilla things, to be sure, but the problem was that I have always been a chocolate lover of note.

Enter celiac disease, and my taste for chocolate grew even more rapidly because, before there were fantastic gluten-free flour mixes (the correct ratio of gf flours is paramount for a successful outcome), there were excellent Lindt chocolates that were gluten-free.

Times have changed in recent years, with a greater variety of finely-milled gf flours available in South Africa. Therefore, more and more often, I find myself turning my hand to baking as a weekend hobby, as well as a healthier option to store-bought sweeties (I figure, at least I know what I'm putting in it and how much!)

It was with great joy that I stumbled upon a blog called He-Eats while googling for chocolate cupcake recipes, and boy did I hit the mother load! Obviously, I had to de-gluten them, but nevertheless, these cupcakes came out so moist and chocolatey that it's difficult to do them justice in terms of a description (and they get even yummier if stored in an airtight container overnight in the fridge).

So now I get to have my (gf) (chocolate) (cup)cake and eat it too!

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
Gluten-Free:
Adapted from an online Martha Stewart recipe
(made 21 cupcakes)


Cupcake Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup (187.5ml) cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup (187.5ml) flour (Nature's Choice GF Cake Flour works reliably)
  • ½ tsp (2.5ml) baking powder OR ½ tsp (2.5ml) bicarb (acidity of sour cream/yoghurt is sufficient to activate the bicarb)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup (1½ US sticks = 169.5g) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1 cup (250ml) caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (125ml) sour cream OR full-cream yoghurt (I have made a batch using each option, and the change to yoghurt does not affect the moistness of the final product)

Method:


  • Preheat oven to 350F / 175C. Line 12-Cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  • Sift together the Cocoa, Flour, Baking Powder and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.
  • Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • With the mixer on low add the flour mixture in two additions alternating with the sour cream .
  • Divide the batter into cups filling about 1/2 full. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean (original recipe says 20-25 mins, but mine only took 15 mins at 175 degrees Celsius!)
  • Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer the cakes to cool completely, on a wire rack. Ice the cupcakes with ganache or your icing of choice once fully cooled. Typically, ganache is dark chocolate (50 - 70% cocoa solids) and cream in a 2:1 ratio, slowly melted over a very low heat, sometimes finished with a dot of butter for a nice sheen.

Pre-icing...


Post-icing & dusted with cocoa powder...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lemony Goodness


I love the versatility of lemons. From salad dressings to lemonades to cakes, these yellow beauties never disappoint in dispersing their characteristic zing.

Lemon Yoghurt Cake Recipe
Gluten-Free:
Adapted from a recipe out of The New Cook by Donna Hay

(serves 8)


Ingredients:
  • 125g butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup thick, plain yoghurt
  • 3 Tblsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tblsp lemon rind, finely grated
  • 2.5 cups gluten-free flour
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Method:
  1. Place butter and sugar in a bowl, and beat till light and creamy.
  2. Add eggs and beat well.
  3. Stir yoghurt, lemon juice, lemon rind, flour, and bicarb into the butter and eggs. Mix lightly to combine.
  4. Spoon into a greased (or lined) 20 - 23 cm round cake tin. Bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes (inserted skewer must come out clean).


Ingredients for Lemon Syrup:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tblsp lemon juice
  • rind of 1 lemon, finely grated
Method:
  1. Place ingredients in a pot and stir over a low heat till dissolved.
  2. Simmer for 4 minutes then pour over the cake while it is still hot and in the cake tin.
  3. Allow cake to stand for 5 minutes and then remove from the tin.
  4. Serve with a dollop of thick, plain yoghurt.


Born-up-a-gluten-free-tree!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Good Things: T - Z

Tea

Umbrellas

Verandahs

Xmas

Yams

Zucchini

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good Things: F - I

Foxenburg Estate's Goat's Milk Strawberry
F
romage de Chevre

Greenness

Hats
Ixia

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Good Things: A - E

Awesome views

Butterfly tablecloths

Monday, January 18, 2010

More cinnamon please...

This has got to be one of my all-time favourite healthy gluten-free breakfasts/desserts/snacks, which when made by my sweetie-pie hubby always tastes a million times better than if I had to make it myself (it must be the love).

It consists of:
  • slices of organic banana;
  • lots of cinnamon;
  • crushed pecan nuts; and
  • a dollop of double-cream plain yoghurt.
Go ahead and try it - you might just be pleasantly surprised at how tastily it destroys sugar cravings!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

HB Pencils and Nostalgia

My thanks to Miss M over at About Last Night for inspiring today's post...
I used to collect pencils when I was little. Everywhere I went, I collected decorated HB pencils. My parents continually bought me whole sets of stationary after a new Disney movie had come out just so that I could get the one or two pencils included with the themed ruler, eraser and pencil bag.

This particular collecting-mania stopped around the age of eleven (end of grade five/beginning of grade six), the fateful age where my dolls were packed away because I considered myself a 'big girl' now. So, too, the pencil collection met the same fate and was packed away into some dark recess of my childhood bedroom cupboard.

At around the age of twenty, I found my collection of around 80 or so pencils during a cleaning spree and decided to donate them to my Mom, who at the time was teaching life-skills classes at underprivileged schools where kids couldn't even afford a pencil. Out went the pencils without a second thought.

Eight years later, at the age of 28 and now a teacher myself, I often find myself bemusedly scrounging for an HB pencil to correct Biology drawings with in practical classes because I now only own one (and I often forget it at home!)

Reading Miss M's post, I thought back with nostalgia to my quirky pencil collection...the Tiggers and Poohs, the hedgehogs and horses, the Mickeys and Donalds and Pocahontases. I thought about how often over the years I had purged items from my past to various charities, only to think back about it with a twinge of regret; while at the same time knowing that in the moment, it was the best decision to get rid of the extraneous "stuff" in order to feel lighter.

I like to think those pencils went to good homes. That they were sharpened and chewed and dropped and broken and used down to little stubby stumps of lead, instead of just being kept in a childhood cupboard. But most of all, I like to think back to the fact that each one had a story attached from my childhood without the new owner even knowing it. And even though I may not have the pencils now that I need them, I do have the memories of how I came to own each one, and that's enough.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Red

I love the colour red.
It reminds me of passion; vibrance; romance; and daring;
as well as the very essence of our life-force, our blood.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Homemade tomato soup


As a child, I used to adore instant tomato soup with slices of buttery toast as lunch after school. As a teenager, I became wary of preservatives and MSG and started avoiding packet soups (reading the label can be quite scary!)

It was while training as a chef at Prue Leith's in Centurion that my love of making homemade soup emerged. I guess it's because making a soup is the antithesis of the type of food I would spend my days preparing, namely simple; quick; easy; delicious and comforting.

So here is a fat-free recipe I threw together the other day from ingredients on-hand. It turned out to be oh-so-good, and churned up a bevy of childhood memories of many a day spent sitting at my parents' kitchen counter with toast and soup mug in-hand.

Homemade Tomato Soup

Ingredients:
  • 8 tomatoes
  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • salt
  • black pepper
Method:
  • Keep the sweet potatoes unpeeled if you are using the whole, fresh kind but just make sure to scrub them well, so that you don't get any grains of sand in your finished product.
  • Roughly cut up the sweet potatoes and red pepper, and get them on the stove boiling in just enough lightly salted water to cover for 10 - 15 minutes or until soft.
  • Add in your tomato chunks and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Take the pot off the heat, add the rosemary and then blend everything together.
  • Once blended, season the whole batch with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Estimation: this should be enough to serve three people as a deep-bowl main course, and six people as a shallow-bowl starter.
As always, born-up-a-tree! :-)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Veggie Kebabs

If you're looking to braai this weekend, or are just feeling lus to up your veggie quota in an uber yummy way, then I have just the thing for you.


These pre-made skewers are part of the Freshline range from most Super Spars. They include butternut, red pepper, yellow pepper, onion and zucchini pieces. The package includes instructions for both braaing and oven-roasting.

I roasted these with a basting of olive oil, lemon juice, olive salt and fresh rosemary at 180 degrees Celsius for 1 hour.


Delicious doesn't adequately begin to describe how they turned out!

For those readers who are interested in knowing more about celiac disease, here is a link to a concise and informative article in the Huffington Post. Who knows, you may even discover that those achey-breaky symptoms YOU'VE been feeling for years are related to gluten too!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Beautiful broccoli

Image from thenewwellness

Today's blog post was inspired by two things:
1 - How beautiful and green gardens and grass look in Pretoria at the moment after all the rain the city has had; and
2 - This post by Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.

I thought I'd share two recipe ideas for making this simple and often-hated green vegetable shine epicuriously.

Recipe Idea Number 1:
Broccoli and Blue-Cheese Soup

This is a dish best kept for those Wintry days when you need something warm and comforting. It languishes on the tastebuds and tempts you to have yet another bowlful.

Ingredients:
  • Oven-roasted red onions
  • Steamed/boiled broccoli
  • Blue cheese
  • Seasoning
  • Cream
I have purposely left out exact quantities because soup is one of those magnificent things that you can add and take away from depending on what YOUR fave ingredient is and how many people you are cooking for, and it rarely ever flops. My only tips are: to save the boiling water from the broccoli to use for blending the soup together (unless you want to use a seperate stock); to add the blue cheese off the heat to the soup (at the blending stage); and to add the cream very last to the blended soup.

Recipe Idea Number 2:
Broccoli with Flaked Almonds and Caper Vinaigrette

I made this recipe up one day when my tastebuds were craving a zing-experience. It can be served hot or cold because either way - it's sublime!

Ingredients:
  • Broccoli florets (steamed/boiled till al dente)
  • Flaked almonds (dry pan-fried till slightly browned around the edges)
  • Vinaigrette (made from balsamic vinegar [or lemon juice], olive oil, capers, salt and black pepper)
It just occurred to me that peppadews would be yummy chopped up into the vinagrette too, if you like them. So just toss the ingredients together and munch with all your might.

I hope these ideas inspire you to eat and enjoy these green little trees which pack a fantastic anti-cancer punch!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hillcrest Berry Orchards

Situated just outside Stellenbosch lies this berry orchard gem - especially so for the magnificent views, contemplative environment and delicious gluten-free deserts.

Their crustless cheesecake is a must, topped with your fresh berry coulis of choice (I love the cherry topping) and served with cream or ice-cream (the cream is decadently thick). I dream of this cheesecake - if I close my eyes I can imagine the melt-in-your-mouth smoothness and accompanying berry tartness to balance the sweetness.

If you're craving something chocolatey, their gluten-free torte is rich, heavy and comforting.

Their menu is well-stocked for a variety of options, service is good (and friendly) if you go when it isn't packed and the shop is full of tempting treats such as jams, honeys, frozen berries, etc.

I highly recommend this for an outing the next time you are in Cape Town. It's lovely.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Cat sightings

Joey and Chandler are complex cats.
They also happen to be friends.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Cape Town International Airport

The parking is a little confusing at the moment but the new departure hall is a phenomenal improvement.

There are a lifetime of very high windows to be cleaned and recleaned, and I'm SO glad that's not my job!


P.S. FREE wireless internet access COULD be so easily achieved on that scale and would be so much appreciated by travellers, but alas, it is not so...

P.P.S. Three points for me for using 'so' so much in the above sentence!