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Triple Chocolate Threat

Last night, despite the fact that the dishwasher is still broken, I had a hankering to bake something, anything. The past couple of days have been exhausting and I felt the need to do something that had nothing to do with crafty things, since most of my waking thoughts this weeks so far have been devoted to VBS crafts. I love crafting, but one can only take so much and it just has to be said that kids crafts, while great for them, does not always hit the same level of satisfaction for me as sewing or knitting. One can only take so much foamy shapes and magic markers.

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Anyway, I hit the kitchen last night and made chocolate chocolate chip cookies from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. I only made one change. I made them gluten free using the cup-4-cup flour that I talked about awhile back.

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These cookies hit all the chocolate buttons. Chocolate chunks from your favorite chocolate bar are added, along with chocolate chips, and a heavy dose of dutch-processed cocoa powder. They are dark, crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, with enough bits of chocolate to make one swoon.

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With all this chocolate, it’s really difficult to tell that they are gluten free. The husband said if I hadn’t told him they were gf, he never would have guessed. I agree. This makes me happy for my gluten free friends because I feel that I can serve these and be confident that I am not presenting a second class item. They are fabulous and just right for taking the edge off of a stressful day of crafting with 120 kids.

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Also, in case you are inspired to go buy the book and makes these, I made the cookies quite a bit smaller using a #50 scoop, which is probably a heaping tablespoon. At that rate, I was able to get about 2 and a half dozen cookies, instead of 6, which just means you can share them with more people and share the joy.

Little Cakes of Gold

Finally! I am back on track today. The last few weeks were busier than usual with field trips, holidays, and other events of life. Not to mention the time sucking nature of teaching a ten year old how to write a research paper. I have discovered that teaching someone how to write takes up far more time than my own writing, hence the rather sparse blog posts that have been happening lately. Fortunately, we are on the countdown to the end of the school year, yay! Unfortunately, several of the following weeks will have some more intense writing assignments for the elder, so the blog may continue to suffer a bit longer.

But, today, today, I am back and happily baking in the kitchen again. Today, I am making the FFwD recipe, Financiers, from Dorie’s book, Around My French Table. Surprisingly, I have never made these little golden cakes before, probably because I don’t own the right pan. In any case, instead of golden bars of cake that are supposed to mimic bars of gold, I made the cakes in a mini muffin pan and got golden cake coins.

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The hardest part of the recipe is making the browned butter. You just have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn, but it was hard for me to see because of all the foam on the top. Then, I strained it twice to get the little bits out, even though the recipe doesn’t say to do that. I wasn’t sure what those little bits would do to my final results. I have to say, when I started stirring the butter into the batter, the smell was amazing!

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Another change I made, was to make these completely gluten free by using the Cup4Cup flour I told you about here. Since the cake batter has so much almond flour, it was already halfway to being gluten free, so I just decided to go whole hog and see how it turned out. Basically, I substituted an equal amount of C4C for the regular flour.

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My batter only rested in the fridge for an hour. Next time, I’ll try to think ahead more. At the last minute, I decided to put a blueberry in the middle of each cake. Dorie says she sometimes likes to put a piece of fruit in and I thought, why not?

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I tasted one while it was still warm from the oven. Oh my. These are tasty. It’s lightly crispy on the outside, buttery, soft and almondy on the inside. The blueberry adds a touch of moisture and lightness that compliments the cake very well. If I did not make these myself and know that they were totally gluten free, I would not be able to tell. They are just plain delicious, and unless some of my gf friends show up at my door soon, they will be all gone.

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These little cakes are really easy to make and possibly worth their weight in gold. I encourage you to go make them now and see for yourself. The recipe is right here.

Hot Cross Buns, the GF Version

More and more people that I know are developing food sensitivies or intolerances. I can certainly relate, being lactose and tomato intolerant. It can be difficult to go out to eat or to eat in other people’s homes. This is why I always like to ask about any food issues when I invite people over to eat. I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble making something and then serve it to a person who really shouldn’t eat it. This is a dilemma that you never want your guests to have, right? To be polite, they might eat it, but they can’t enjoy it fully because they know they will suffer for it later. Wouldn’t you rather know ahead of time and make necessary adjustments so that everyone can enjoy the food and be happy?

Yes, I know, it can be hard and sometimes it means going out on a limb and cooking in a way that is unfamiliar, but isn’t it worth it for our friends and family? Yes, it is. Fortunately, there are more resources out there to make cooking for food sensitivities easier, especially for those sensitive to gluten. This year, for Easter dinner, I decided to try a new GF flour mix and make some Hot Cross Buns for our GF guests.

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The recipe is adapted from the GF brioche recipe that I found in The Bouchon Bakery. The Cup 4 Cup flour mix was developed by Thomas Keller’s staff and claims to be a good cup for cup substitute for regular flour. I have not yet tested this claim, but may in the near future. For now, I contented myself with adapting his brioche recipe to make, I hoped, a wonderful Easter treat for my friends.

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The recipe, like most GF bread recipes, is easy enough. Since there is no gluten to develop, you basically just want to make sure that all the ingredients are mixed well. One thing I noticed right away about the Cup4Cup flour is that it already has xanthum gum incorporated into the mix, so there are no other specially GF ingredients to buy or measure out. That’s a great convenience, especially if you only bake GF occasionally. The C4C flour is expensive, but at least you don’t have to buy 5 other things to go with it.

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The recipe has three rises, with a rest in the fridge during the second rise. My dough took twice as long to rise as the original recipe stated, but the extra ingredients and the temperature of my house could account for some of that difference. As with all yeast breads, you must be patient and wait for the dough to tell you when it is ready.

Was it worth the wait? I must admit to being a little nervous. I once made some GF muffins that looked beautiful and puffy when they came out of the oven, but deflated to about half their size after a few minutes on the counter.

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I need not have worried, though. They puffed up beautifully in the oven and kept their structure after they had cooled. After I brushed on the glaze, I could not resist trying one. After all, I had to make sure they would be ok, right?

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First, I cut it open to see the structure.

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I was impressed with the springiness of the bread. It was soft and fluffy on the inside, not dry at all. But, you ask, how did it taste? Well, I took a bite, and then another, and then another. Pretty soon, half of it was gone and I had to stop myself from eating the rest because I wanted the husband to try it to see what he thought. He said that it was quite good and difficult to tell that it was GF, which always a good thing.

My first reaction was that it could use a little less salt and a bit more sugar. The sugar part will probably be resolved once I put on the frosting crosses, though next time I would probably try adding a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the dough anyway. Aside from this issue, I thought that they were very good indeed. They were soft, but not pasty, like some GF foods can be. They also had very little grittiness. It’s still detectable, but not enough to get in the way. I was really amazed at the springiness of the dough. It was not as fluffy and light as regular brioche, but if I didn’t know it was GF, I might not have guessed that it was. In fact, it was tempting to eat them all up, but I behaved myself. I wrapped them up and froze them to await their Easter dinner debut on Sunday. I can’t wait to see what my GF friends think.

I am curious, now, to try the C4C in some of my favorite regular flour recipes, especially cakes and cookies and also to see how it compares to my other favorite GF mix from King Arthur Flour. Anyone want to come over and be a taste tester?

GF Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from The Bouchon Bakery

makes 12-14

Do you want your GF friends to feel comfy eating these? Of course you do! I cannot stress enough the importance of working with scrupulously clean equipment and ingredients when making GF foods, especially if your friends have Celiacs. Dedicated GF baking pans are best. Clean everything you plan to use, even if they are already clean, and use new packages of dried fruits or sugar or other ingredients if you are not absolutely sure that they have not had contact with gluten.

Also, the original recipe calls for a tablespoon of salt. I have cut this back by a third here. If you are using regular table salt, use just 1 teaspoon.

1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup currants
1 tablespoon dark rum

2 teaspoons instant yeast
5 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water at room temperature
3 3/4 cup Cup4Cup flour (535 grams)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 Tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup honey (80g)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (100g)

Egg Wash: 1 egg, well beaten and strained through a sieve

Sugar glaze:
1 Tablespoon water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon orange extract

Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine fruit with rum in a microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for one minute. Then, stir well and let stand until completely cooled and the rum has been absorbed.

Combine yeast, granulated sugar, and water in a medium bowl and whisk together. Let stand until the yeast has bloomed and the top is foamy, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the flour, salt, and spices into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk to combine.

To the yeast mixture, add the eggs, orange extract, honey, and butter. Whisk until all is combined.

Place the mixer bowl in the mixer and turn it on to medium low. Add the liquid in a steady stream. Once all the liquid is added, increase the speed to medium and mix for several minutes until it is nice and smooth. Turn the mixer off and, using a spatula, scrape the bowl thoroughly. Replace the bowl and mix for another 5-6 minutes on medium speed. Total mixing time will be ten minutes. The dough will be very loose, somewhere in between a pancake batter and a bread dough. It should be free of lumps.

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Turn down the mixer to low and add the fruit mixture. Mix until the fruit looks evenly distributed, about a minute. Scrape the bowl down again and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place until it has doubled. depending on the temperature of the dough and your house, this can be between 1-2 hours.

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Scrape the dough down again. Cover tightly and place in the fridge for two hours.

Prepare your pan: Spray a standard 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray. Do Not use a pan that you would normally use for regular flour muffins. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop out the dough into the wells of the muffin pan. I wanted to make at least one extra, so I also sprayed a ramekin and made 13.

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Brush the dough with the egg wash, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place to rise just until puffy, not doubled. This can take between 45-90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is ready, bake for 18-21 minutes or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

While they are baking, make the glaze. Combine all the glaze ingredients in a microwavable bowl and heat until just beginning to bubble. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.

Brush the buns with glaze as soon as they come out of the oven. Let cool in the pan on a rack until completely cool.

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At this point, they can be wrapped and frozen. Or, if you plan to serve them within a few hours, you can go ahead and ice them. If they have been previously frozen, make sure that you thaw them before proceeding with the icing.

To make the icing, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. It should not be runny. If it is, add a little more powdered sugar until it will hold its shape without dripping. Scrape the icing into a plastic bag or disposable icing bag. Snip a 1/4 hole in the tip or corner and pipe crosses onto the buns. Let stand to set for at least on hour or up to four before serving. If you have other foods that are not GF, makes sure to keep these separated from them. The last thing you want is to go to all this trouble to make something special for your friends and then have it cross-contaminated. Enjoy!