Category Archives: Homemade Ingredients

My All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend II

You probably already know I have a gluten free flour recipe on this site.  It’s a solid recipe.  It’s also one I no longer use.  I have streamlined my recipe and changed the ratio of flours to starches.  My original AP GF flour blend was 60% flours 40% starches.  I have found, however, that a 50/50 mix works better for sweet and delicate baked goods – cakes, cookies, pie crusts, quick breads – that kind of stuff.  The only savory GF bread I make with any regularity is my pizza crust, in which I use an entirely different formulation so I now only make my 50/50 blend for everything else.

It works for pretty much any recipe you want to convert to GF.  I use it for baking, for thickening sauces…anywhere flour is needed.  It’s simple, easy to remember, and relatively cheap.

For more information on GF flour formulations you can read my original post here.  It’s a bit more in-depth.

My All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend II

200 grams Potato Starch

200 grams Cornstarch

200 grams Sorghum Flour

100 grams Sweet Rice Flour (found in your grocer’s Asian section and/or the Gluten Free aisle if you have one)

100 grams Brown Rice Flour

Put all ingredients in a tightly sealed canister or ziplock bag and shake until uniform.

This recipe makes 800 grams AP flour.  This is as much as I can fit in my designated canister.  If you wanted to make more at a time (believe me I would if I had a bigger container and room to house it), just remember the ratio and you’re all set.

2 parts Potato Starch

2 parts Cornstarch

2 parts Sorghum Flour

1 part Sweet Rice Flour

1 part Brown Rice Flour

And that’s it!  Now you’re all set to get in the kitchen and bake!  ‘Tis the season!

 

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Sun (oven) Dried Tomatoes

Every year, starting around the last week of August, we are awash in tomatoes.  Beefsteaks, Romas, cherry tomatoes, you name it.  We plant a little bit of everything.  And for at least a month I eat a tomato at every meal.  I make salsa.  I make soup.  I make spaghetti sauce.  I make my mom take some.  (She says our garden tomatoes are the best she’s ever had, by the way.)  I’m constantly looking for new recipes in which to use my bags and bags of tomatoes.

And before you ask – no, I don’t can.  Why?  Because at the moment I don’t have the time to add one more thing to my plate, nor the money to buy all the stuff to start up.  Next year.  Every year I say next year.  I’m also a little more than a little worried that I’ll do it wrong and accidentally poison my whole family…

So until I get over my fear, and find some time and some money, this is what I do to make sure my tomatoes don’t rot in my kitchen.

When you make sun dried tomatoes yourself they turn out sooooo much better than the ones you buy at the store.  I make mine “dry” now (like the ones in the bags, not the ones in the jars packed in oil).  You can do them drizzled with oil and stored in a jar in your fridge but they spoil faster that way.

I’m gonna preempt this next part by saying this is the kind of endeavor you want to take on over the weekend.  At least your first time through.  The time element is quite variable depending on the size of your tomatoes and your oven itself.

Take your clean tomatoes and remove any remaining stems.  I tried to group them by size but it’s not even slightly necessary that you do that.  Cut them in half lengthwise, season them with salt (and pepper if you like a little bite), and place on a cookie sheet cut side up in a 200 degree oven.

Leave them in there until they are dried but not hard – like a raisin – chewy, with just a little plumpness left in them.  Most of these ones were done when I took this shot.  Some were not.  I know this because I picked them up individually to test them.  This is one of those things that you really have to go by feel.  When you can pick them up and the bottoms are firm (not squooshy, not hard) they are ready to come out.  Don’t worry – the temperature is so low you’ve got some wiggle room on the time.

The time varies greatly depending on the size of your tomatoes and on your particular oven.   I think mine runs a little cool because it always takes my oven longer than I think it’s supposed to.  If you have full size Romas, like the size you might pick up in the grocery store, you probably want to put these in before you go to bed.  I’ve read this takes about five hours but my smallest ones probably took eight.  The bigger ones took more like 14 hours.  At least for your first time…check them every hour or so starting around five hours to be safe.   (Like I said – weekend project.)

And here they are all done!  Try not to eat them all at once.  I actually ate two right off this plate after taking this picture.  The flavor of sun dried tomatoes is so very different from a fresh tomato.  So much more concentrated.  Sweeter.  Almost candy-like.  You have to try them to understand.

Once your tomatoes are cool, simply put them in a ziplock bag and toss them in your cupboard.   You can use them wherever sun dried tomatoes are called for in recipes.  Use them in pesto.  Chop them up and mix them into mayo for a gourmet spread.  Put them out alongside some olives, some bocconcini, some prosciutto and you have a first class antipasto.  Add them to pasta sauce, serve them with eggs, in sandwiches, there are a million uses.  They make adorable crostini (recipe teaser!)  And you know I adore them on my Balsamic Steak Gorgonzola Pizza.

Give it a try, I promise, they’re amazing.
Enjoy!

Sun (oven) Dried Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes

Kosher Salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Clean and stem tomatoes.  Cut tomatoes in half and season with salt.

Put tomatoes cut-side up on a cookie sheet and dry in the oven until dried chewy like raisins, several hours at least.  Test for doneness by pinching between your fingers.  The bottoms should be supple but firm – not squooshy and not hard as a rock.

Allow to cool completely before sealing in ziplock bags.  Store like you would any other dried fruit in your cupboard.

Makes as many as you want.

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Crispy Fried Shallots

If you’re gluten free, or cook for anyone who is, you’re going to love this.

If you’re a foodie, you’re going to love this.

If you’re a huge fan of French’s French Fried Onions and can’t imagine why anyone would want to do any unnecessary work when they could just open up a can of those – you might not be interested in this at all.

I came across this technique a couple years ago when I was making Green Bean Casserole for Thanksgiving.  One of the essential ingredients, the french fried onions, are full of gluten.  (As is cream of mushroom soup.  Thanksgiving is a marathon of prep for us, isn’t it?  Anyway.)  For a couple years I had substituted (gasp) Funyuns for the crunchy onion topping we know so well.  They’re GF.  Who knew?  And for the record, if you can get past the horror of seeing Funyuns on your Thanksgiving table, they’re not actually that bad of a substitute.

But after a couple years of Funyun Thanksgivings I saw someone on TV, I can’t even remember who, making their Green Bean Casserole with crispy fried shallots on top.  Plain onions with no coating can be fried and end up crispy?  I was intrigued so I tried it.

Never going back.  They’re seriously easy to make and are so impressive on top of a wide variety of foods.  I prepare them almost every time I make mashed potatoes.  So good, so easy, so impressive.  What’s not to love?

Here’s what you do.  Slice up your shallots as thinly as you can.  I probably have five shallots here.  Shallots are the little pinkish-brown ones.  They’re exceptionally sweet as onions go.  Our grocery store stocks them next to the garlic.

Next, heat a couple inches of oil until very hot.  You can reuse oil, did you know that?  Just strain it and put it in tupperware in the fridge.  That way you don’t have to feel like you’re wasting oil every time you need to deep fry something.  The oil will get darker with each use so when it gets too dark just toss it.

I didn’t use a thermometer this time but if you are, we’re  working in the 350-375 range.  Add your shallots, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  (This ^ is me not following my own advice.)  Toss the onions around every once in a while just to make sure they’re not sticking together.

You want to cook them until they are golden brown.  The onions are not going to be stiff and crispy when you pull them out of the oil.  That happens when you lay them on a paper towel lined plate to drain.

I use a strainer to pull them out quickly.  These are just a shade darker than I prefer but still absolutely wonderful.  At this point you can salt them or season them as you like – you don’t want to salt them beforehand, it’s not good for the oil.  I have no idea why, but that’s what I was taught when I worked at Burger King a million years ago.

These would be a delightful topping on any casserole, piled high on a burger, scattered atop mashed potatoes or meatloaf.  They would add a great salty crunch to a salad and would make a beautiful garnish on any number of soups.  Fried shallots have so many uses and it only takes a couple minutes to make them.  So please do.  Your foodie/gluten free/fried-food-loving friends will thank you for it.

Enjoy!

Crispy Fried Shallots

shallots, as many as you want to do, sliced as evenly and thinly as you can (mine were probably 3mm thick)

enough oil to cover your pan 2 inches deep ( you can use less than that, maybe an inch deep, but it’s harder to control the temperature of your oil the less you use)

Instructions:

Heat oil until very hot (350-375 degrees) and add in sliced shallots (add in batches if doing more than 4 or 5 so as not to crowd the pan.  The oil should sizzle frantically when you put them in.  Stir the pan occasionally to make sure the shallots are not sticking together.

Fry until golden brown (I have never timed this – I’ve always gone by the color – it takes a few minutes).  Using a small strainer, remove them to a paper towel lined plate.  The shallots will still be wiggly when you remove them from the oil, they will crisp up as they drain.

These are best used right away.  Refrigerating fried foods always makes them lose their crispness.

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Fresh Lemon Curd

Easter bunny?

Yeah, I know.  Easter’s still like  a month away.  But Wegmans has beautiful pastel displays featuring the most glorious looking chocolates so it put me in the mood to start Easter planning.

I start early every year.  We host 20+ people so it’s kind of a must.

Oh, and those Easter decorations?  Been sitting in my kitchen since last Easter.  Once it got to be November and I still hadn’t figured out where to store them I figured at least they wouldn’t get lost in the basement, right?

Right.  So anyway, lemon curd.  Not the most appealing name, I know.  But it is so wonderful.  Bright and tart, not too sweet, not too sour.  It’s basically lemon meringue pie filling but better.  I made it for the first time a couple years ago. I folded meringue and whipped cream into it to make a lusciously light mousse.  Then I layered it with cubes of pound cake and fresh raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries to make the most amazing trifle ever.

And did I mention how much cheaper it is to make at home than buy it in the little jars they sell at the store?  MUCH.  And I think we can use all the help in that area that we can get.

Here’s what we need to get started – 3 XL eggs, 3 XL egg yolks, a stick of butter, sugar, a teeny bit of salt, and a couple/few lemons.  My lemons were large so you may need more than two (up to four).  There are a ton of lemon curd recipes out there.  Some only use egg yolks, some don’t use butter, some use less sugar, etc.  This recipe is a combination of a couple that I’ve come across.

You’re also gonna need to set up a double boiler.  If you have a double boiler already, good for you, use that.  Otherwise –  it’s worth monkeying around a few minutes with different sized bowls and pots until you find two that work together well.  It’s important – you want to be able to put about an inch of water in the pot, set the bowl on top, and have the bottom of the bowl NOT be touching the water.  You also want the pot to come up the sides of the bowl high enough so that when you put your ingredients in they aren’t any higher than the pot line.  I know, that was awkwardly explained.  You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

Now that we’ve got that figured out it’s time to zest our lemons.  Remove all the yellow zest without grating off the bitter white pith beneath.  And please, try try try not to zest your finger.  Owie.

NAKED LEMONS!!!  Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

I don’t know about you guys but it drives me insane when I finish zesting a lemon and most of the coveted zest is hopelessly stuck in the zester.  I now keep a little toothbrush in my utensil drawer specifically for getting most of it out and into the bowl.

Next, we’re going to halve our lemons and squeeze out all the juice.  This is easier if your lemons are room temp.

There’s our lemon juice.  We should have 1/2 cup.  If you don’t have half a cup, squeeze another lemon until you get there.

Now, to our lemon juice and zest we’re going to add our egg yolks…

…our whole eggs, a pinch of salt…

…and a cup of sugar.

And we’re gonna whisk that all together.  Meanwhile, put an inch of water in your pot and set it over high heat.

Once the water is simmering, carefully set your bowl into the pot and turn the heat down to low.  We actually don’t want the water at a full boil (as the pic shows, I know, oops).  Double boiling is a gentle heating process.

Okay there.  See how my lemon mixture is right about at the line of the pot?  That’s good.  If it were higher, the mixture at the top wouldn’t be getting heated by the steam underneath.  Even with constant whisking that’s just inefficient.  This is good.  If I were making a larger quantity I’d need to grab a bigger pot and almost certainly a different bowl.  C’est la vie.

Now, we’re going to leave this on the stove, whisking (almost) constantly until it thickens.  The whisking keeps the curd from getting unevenly heated and lumpy.

And now, for your benefit, a quick bit of backstory (if anyone else just heard Doofenshmirtz’ voice in your head, cheers, you’re my kind of girl).

This is the point where I was sure I had done something wrong the first time I made it.  I watched a video where they said that this step would take about 10 minutes.  Ten minutes my butt.  It takes me just a bit over 20 to get the curd thickened.  I remember whisking and whisking, going waaaay, past the ten minute mark going, “I don’t know.  Is it thickened yet?  Is this the way it’s supposed to be?  It doesn’t look thick like when Tyler did it on the video.”  Trust me – when it thickens up – you’ll know.  It’s obvious.  This picture was taken at 20 minutes in.  Still thin and soupy as when we started.  But hot.  You’re almost there though you would never know it unless you’ve done this a few times.

Then suddenly, it changes.  And all is right in the world.  It becomes thick like hot pudding and paler in color.  You’ll be able to see distinct whisk marks in it when you stir.  Now, you can take it off the heat.  Hard part’s done!  Hooray!

Okay, last step.  Cut up the stick of butter into chunks…

…and whisk it into the curd, chunk by chunk until it’s all melted and incorporated.  Taste it now.  It’s totally divine.

As you can see, this recipe makes just a bit under 3 cups.  Now you can use the curd as a cake filling, a tart or pie filling.  You can mix it with meringue and whipped cream to make an awesome lemon mousse.  Or you can just eat it by the spoonful.  I made this yesterday in prep for a larger project which I shall share with you in a couple weeks in the Decorator’s Corner.  Until then –

Enjoy!

 

Fresh Lemon Curd

3 extra large eggs

3 extra large egg yolks

zest of 2 lemons (at least 2 teaspoons but more is okay)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup sugar

a pinch of salt

1 stick of butter

Instructions:

Set up double boiler.  Put an inch of water in a pot.  Set a mixing bowl in the pot.  The bowl should sit high enough that it does not touch the water but low enough so that the lemon curd will sit below the level of the top of the pot.

Zest and juice lemons until you have 1/2 cup of juice.

Add whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt to lemon juice and zest.  Whisk to combine.

Set pot of water over high heat until simmering.  This will only take a couple minutes with an inch of water inside.  Once simmering, carefully place bowl on top and turn heat down to low.

Whisk (almost) constantly until curd thickens.  Expect this to take around 20 minutes.  When the curd thickens it will have the consistency of hot pudding and it will turn a more pale yellow.  Remove from the heat.

Whisk in the butter, a tablespoonful at a time, until melted and fully incorporated.

Use as you would wherever “bottled lemon curd” is called for.  Stays good in the fridge for 3 weeks.  Makes just under 3 cups.

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Butterscotch Sauce

 

You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to share this one with you.  Well, I guess since I only started this blog a couple weeks ago it’s been, like, a couple weeks.  But anyway, that’s beside the point.

Butterscotch sauce.  Ahhh.  Why don’t we make this wonderful satiny, thick, sweet, complex treasure at home?  This cousin of caramel that goes so wonderfully with soooo many things?  It’s really not difficult at all.  Actually, if you’ve ever been confounded by caramel, (and, come on, who hasn’t?) then you’ll really be surprised how easy it is to make this similar sauce.  It takes literally five (active) minutes to make.

Caramel is sugar, heated until it turns brown and caramelized (duh), then mixed with cream and usually butter,vanilla, and salt.  Caramel can be a tricky beast to master because of the heat element.  The longer it cooks, the hotter the sugar gets, the thicker/harder the caramel will be when it’s done.  So if you’re planning on having caramels you can cut into little cubes you’ve gotta get it to just the right temp.  And I suck at using a candy thermometer so I’ve never quite gotten it right.  Also, white sugar tends to crystallize the second you touch a spoon to it in the pan.  Not good for a smooth sauce.

Anyway, in butterscotch, we use dark brown sugar in place of the white.  You know how I prefer brown sugar in my baking for that molasses flavor?  Well, dark brown sugar has an even more intense molassesy flavor than it’s lighter counterpart.  Could you use light brown sugar simply because that’s what you have in your pantry and you’re dying to make this RIGHT NOW???  Yeah, sure.  Go for it.  The flavor probably won’t be as strong but it will still be wonderful.

 

So let’s get started, shall we?  First, measure out eight ounces of dark brown sugar.  “Hello kitchen scale, nice to see you again.”

Throw the sugar and a stick of butter into a large pan over medium heat.  Stir it around every once in a while to make sure everything heats evenly.

While the butter and sugar melt on the stove measure out 8 ounces of heavy cream.  I wasn’t sure if one cup of cream weighed eight ounces so I measured to be sure.  It does.  Close enough anyway.  In case you’re wondering, eight fluid ounces of water (volume) weighs almost exactly eight ounces (on the scale).  “A pint’s a pound the world round.”  (2 cups = 16 fluid oz = 16oz/1 lb)  That little ditty only works for water.  And apparently heavy cream is pretty close.

Our system of measurement is dumb.

Now meet the supporting players.  Each adds an important element to the sauce.  The salt and the vinegar both enhance the sweetness while the vanilla adds, well, vanilla flavor.  Without them, the sauce is lovely and sweet but nothing that would create a lasting memory.  With them… it’s like the flavor is set on fire.  Like it’s brought to life.  Vibrant and fully actualized as the thing it is meant to be…  I don’t know any better way to describe the difference.

So while you’ve been pulling out your other ingredients and reflecting on what makes you feel alive and whole like our sauce will soon be, the sugar will have completely dissolved and the whole mixture will bubble and get thick like lava.  When it’s ready for the next step it will actually pull away from the sides of the pan when you stir it.

When that happens, turn off the heat and pour in your cream.  If you warm your cream in the microwave first it will give you a bit more time for the next step.

Quickly whisk the cream into the thick, hot sugar mixture.  Don’t do anything like take pictures in the middle of it.  Because then you might get little lumps of hardening toffee that never fully mix in to the rest of your sauce.

Good thing that didn’t happen to me.  Now, leave your sauce alone for 10 minutes to cool a little bit.  Go check your email or something.  After those 10 minutes are up then add in the salt, vanilla, and vinegar.

Here it is after it has had time to cool.  Mmm, lick some off the spoon.  You know, just to make sure it’s good.

Now, you can do anything you want with this sauce but I’m gonna show you what I had for my lunch dessert today.  Yes, I always have dessert after lunch.  I strongly believe in balance when it comes to diet, exercise, and life in general.  And for me, that means a small dessert after pretty much every meal.

See my beautiful, potassium-rich banana there?

I’m gonna pour some of our luxurious butterscotch sauce over it.  Bananas and butterscotch are BFFs.  Did you know that butterscotch sauce was first introduced to the US via the banana split?  Our beloved dessert was first invented in 1904 by a pharmacist near Pittsburgh, PA.  There’s your fun fact for the day.

Now, if we added ice cream this would be a banana split.  And actually, it would also basically be Bananas Foster (minus the blow torch and the rum).  But ice cream does not a lunch dessert make.  I do have some rules, you know.  So I added whipped cream.

Doesn’t that look wonderful?  Om nom nom.  Just blissful.  Go make some.

Now.

Butterscotch Sauce

8 oz Dark Brown Sugar

4 oz (1 stick) Butter

1 cup Heavy Cream

2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 tsp Salt

Instructions:

Heat a heavy pan over medium heat and add butter and sugar.  Stirring occasionally, heat until butter is melted and sugar has dissolved completely.

When butter/sugar mixture is thick and bubbly, turn off the heat, pour in cream and quickly whisk together until uniform.  Set aside for 10 minutes.

When cooled slightly, add vinegar, vanilla and salt.

Keep refrigerated.  Makes a little over 2 cups sauce.

 

 

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Fresh Peach Base

Millions of peaches.  Peaches for me.  Millions of peaches.  Peaches for free.  Okay, maybe not for free.  If you were alive in 1995 and listened to Top 40 radio at all you know EXACTLY what song I’m referencing and why it pops into my head every year about this time.  Yes, I do realize it’s now stuck in your head too.  Sorry ’bout that.

It’s not like we have a peach tree that actually produces anything in numbers that would require me to get creative with peaches.  I just always always buy WAY too many peaches the second they hit the stands.  I think it’s the feeling that this is it – the last hurrah of summer.  And that can’t be wasted.

These are my beauties this week.  They’re from local farms.  Smallish and fuzzier than the ones that are shipped in from I’m not really sure where –  and they are so good.  And buying them makes me feel like a good, responsible locavore (even though I am totally not, not yet, anyway).   So what to do with all these peaches?  Pie/crumble/crisp/cobbler?  Coffee Cake?  We’ve done a lot of that this summer.  Then I remembered all the coupons I have sitting in my purse for free Peach Milkshakes at Chik Fil A.  We got a ton of them at Relay for Life last July.  And have I used any of them?  Of course not.

But why drive to Chik Fil A when I can just make a fresh peach base at home and freeze it to use this winter?  What a lovely quick bread that would make… ohh, I’m just beginning to brainstorm the possibilities for this sweet, concentrated peach puree.  So let’s get started shall we?

Start by peeling, pitting, and quartering a bunch of peaches,  Keep going until you get about 5 cups.

That should do it.  This is my nine cup food processor so I just filled it a little over half full.

Add in a half cup of sugar…

…a tablespoon of lemon juice…

…a half teaspoon of vanilla extract (most are gluten free but check if this applies to you)…

…and a quarter teaspoon almond extract.  Imitation.  Cringe.  That’s all they had that day!  Alright, I’m done.

And puree it until all the little lumps are gone.  You could use a blender for this if you didn’t have a food processor.  I just got this little lady for Christmas last year.  I don’t know how I ever survived without it.

Now what we have is sweetened, pureed peaches.  But the water content is pretty high.  We’re gonna fix that without adding any thickeners here on the stove.  Pour your puree into a medium size pot and set it on Med High heat.  Bring the peaches up to a boil, turn down the heat, and let it simmer for a good 20 minutes at least.  You want to reduce it down by half, getting all that unnecessary water content out of there.

About 2 1/4 cups.  Perfect! Now, most of this is going in the freezer for use over the winter.  It will keep there for eight months.  Like it will last that long.  But for tonight, it’s going in a milkshake.

Just take half a cup of your peach puree, about 1 2/3 cup vanilla ice cream, and a quarter cup of milk and blend it up.

I LOVE my immersion blender for milkshakes.  I hate getting the entire blender dirty just for a milkshake.  Actually, I think I just hate my blender.  It all makes sense now.

And there we have it!  A perfectly balanced Peach Milkshake.  Now, if you wanted to get crazy you could TOTALLY add some booze in here.  Rum would be good.  (Making sure it’s gluten free of course if you are doing this GF).

Fresh Peach Base

5 cups peaches, pitted, peeled, and quartered

1/2 cup sugar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

Pit, peel, and quarter peaches and put in food processor.  Add sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and almond extract and puree until completely smooth.

Transfer to a medium sized sauce pot over Med-High heat and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes, until reduced by half (about 2 1/4 cups).  Refrigerate or freeze.

Makes 2 1/4 cups.

Peach Milkshake

1/2 cup peach base

1 2/3 cup vanilla ice cream (less if you like your shake thinner)

1/4 cup milk

whipped cream for topping

Blend first three ingredients and top with whipped cream if desired.  Serve immediately.

Makes one 16oz milkshake.

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