cherry blintzes

breakfast today is cherry blintzes made from the crêpes i had leftover from the assembly of the mille crêpes cake.  i simply took the leftover crêpes and stored them flat in a gallon ziplock type bag in the freezer. i’ve found that they keep for at least two weeks in the freezer. it was early, so i used cherry pie filling as my filling. you could use pretty much any type of pie filling, jam or preserves, you like. feel free to add some farmer or cottage cheese to the blintz as well. Assembly and prep are pretty simple. on a cutting board lay out a crêpe, pretty side down and drop about a tablespoon full of your fruit or cheese filling just below the center of the crêpe and fold like an envelope. i griddle the blintzes on a hot buttered cast iron comal, flap side down first then turn. you’re cooking them just to crisp and heat through. sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream or sour cream. enjoy!

the crêpe recipe is here.

ring dings

a friend issued a challenge and a challenge is my very favorite thing. “i’ll bet you can’t make a ring ding!,” he said. well, i got your ring ding, right here, mister!

and with the help of some italian meringue and some dark chocolate ganache, here’s how i did it :

chocolate mille crêpes cake

i think this cake pretty much speaks for itself, but back when my diet was pretty much wheat-based, the “lady m cake” was one of my favorites. for this gluten free version, i built it with vanilla crepes made with Cup4Cup flour and filled it with chocolate pastry cream using cornstarch instead of wheat flour as the thickening agent in the pastry cream. take a look at the construction process, below.

Here’s the recipe. I forgot to do both weight and volume measurements, apologies.

Chocolate Mille Crêpes Cake

(Makes one eight inch cake)

Ingredients

Crêpe batter:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups milk

6 large eggs

1 1/2 cups Cup4Cup gluten-free flour blend

½ cup sugar

Pinch salt

Chocolate pastry cream:

2 cups half & half

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted (after measuring)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Assembly:

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Vegetable oil or butter to prepare the crêpes

Method:

Day 1:Prepare crêpe batter and pastry cream the day before you plan to assemble the cake.

Crêpe batter: In a small pan, cook the butter until brown. Set aside.

In a small heavy pot, heat the milk until it starts steaming. Set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.

In a heavy-duty mixer, combine the eggs, flour, sugar, and salt and beat on medium-low speed just until blended.

With mixer on lowest speed, slowly add the warm milk and browned butter. Then beat on medium-high until smooth and well-blended.

Pour the crêpe batter into a container, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Pastry cream: [If using a vanilla bean, split it open with a sharp knife, scrape out the seeds with the knife’s dull edge, and reserve bean and seeds.] In a small heavy pot, bring half & half and vanilla paste [or bean and seeds] to a boil. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate pieces and stir until chocolate has melted completely. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. [Remove and discard vanilla bean.]

Fill a large bowl (or the kitchen sink) with an ice bath and set aside.

In a medium-sized pot, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cocoa and cornstarch together until well-blended. Gradually whisk in the warm chocolate half & half. Place the pan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cream coats the back of the spoon.

Set the pot on the ice bath and stir until the cream is just warm enough to melt butter. Stir in the butter until melted and thoroughly incorporated. You should have a shiny, custardy mixture. Cool, cover and refrigerate the pastry cream overnight.

Day 2:Bring the crêpe batter and pastry cream to room temperature.

Line a large plate or baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place an 8-9-inch crêpe pan over medium heat. Coat the surface of the pan with the butter/oil, then add about ¼ cup of batter (I use a ladle) and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crêpe. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5-10 seconds. Carefully stack the crêpes onto the paper-lined plate or baking sheet.

Repeat, adding more oil/butter each time, until you have 20-30 perfect crêpes.
Set the best-looking crêpe aside for the top of the cake.

In a heavy-duty mixer, whip the heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar into soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream until completely incorporated.

To assemble the cake, place a crêpe on a serving plate. With an offset spatula, completely cover the crêpe with a thin layer (a few tablespoons) of pastry cream. Alternate layers of cream and crêpes until you have a tower of 20-30 crêpes, ending with the best-looking crêpe on top. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours but not more than 24 hours.

Allow cake to come to room temperature before serving. If you’re feeling wild and have access to a kitchen torch, sprinkle the top of the cake with a layer of superfine granulated sugar and caramelize the sugar with the torch.

mocha icebox cake

now for the main attraction! icebox cakes are one of my favorite types of cake. traditional icebox cakes are made of cookies or cake slices layered with whipped cream and refrigerated until they sort of meld together. it’s a fussy process as you can see by clicking on the thumbnails below:

i layered my homemade cocoa/espresso flavored faux famous wafers with a mocha whipped cream and refrigerated the cake for two days before slicing. it’s always a worry that gluten free baked goods won’t soften when soaked, so i held my breath as i sliced into the cake. i may have let a small squeal of delight as the pattern of the soften cookies in the whipped cream revealed itself. the finished cake has really a pleasing texture with a grown up taste profile. next time, i’ll add some liqueur to the whipped cream for an extra kick.

faux famous chocolate wafers

inspiration can come from the strangest places. in this instance, it came from my nana’s  basement, which is filled with a treasure trove of never used kitchen gadgets, most in their original packaging. i recently came across this icebox cookie mold, which reminded me how much i miss nabisco famous chocolate wafers and the ice box cake made from the recipe on the back of the nabisco box.

next, i needed to hunt down recipes recreating the famous wafer taste and texture and then set out to develop a gluten free version. the right blend of gluten free flour, black cocoa and espresso powder turned out to be the key ingredients for what turned out to be pretty labor intensive process of mixing, chilling, and precision slicing. all of this effort just to secure the base ingredient for a traditional icebox cake.

crisp with a deep dark flavor and all ready to  take a two day nap in a loaf pan filled with whipped mocha cream.

yeast raised beignets

lately, i have had doughnuts on the brain, a truly terrible case of doughnut obsession. i have wondered, for a while, if a gluten free fried yeast dough could possibly work. good news! it can! i fiddled and fiddled with proportions, flour blends, types of milk, amounts of yeast and came to the conclusion that full sized doughnuts were not going to end up with a taste and texture worth all the trouble. i wanted something not too heavy but with a crunch and good chew and not overly sweet. doughnut holes immediately came to mind, but then i thought, i really want something that feels more exotic.

et voila, beignets!

Gluten Free Yeast Raised Beignets

½ cup (4 ounces) lukewarm half & half
1/8 cup (7/8 ounce) sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
256g (2 cups) Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour blend

Combine the half & half, yeast and sugar in your mixer bowl and let sit 15 minutes. Once the mixture has proofed add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, and mix and knead them together—by hand, mixer or bread machine—till you have a soft, smooth dough. Set the dough aside to rise, covered, for 2 to 4 hours, or until it’s a bit puffy (it will probably not double in bulk). You can make the beignets right away, or place the dough in a covered buttered bowl or buttered plastic bag, leaving room for the dough to expand. Refrigerate overnight, or for up to 2 days.

Remove the dough from the bowl/refrigerator, and place it on a lightly greased or floured work surface; a Silpat works well for this. Do not flatten the dough, but instead start to cut 1.5 to 2 inch chunks of dough with a sharp knife. No need to be fussy or exact, rustic looking is fine.

Add a vegetable, peanut, or canola oil to a depth of at least ¾” in a 10″ cast iron fry pan or a deep, heavy-bottomed stainless steel or copper 10″ fry pan set over a burner, a windsor type pan would work, as well. Heat the oil to 360°F, and drop 5 or 6 chunks of dough into the hot oil. They will sink, then quickly float to the top. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the beignets for 1 minute, then use a pair of tongs or chopsticks to turn them. Fry for another minute, until golden brown, remove them from the pan quickly or they will burn and drain them on paper towels.

When the beignets have cooled slightly, dust them with confectioners’ sugar. For a fast dipping sauce, make a chocolate ganache and add a little butter to keep it loose enough for dipping. Enjoy!
Yield: about 15 beignets.

homemade sauerkraut

i’ve gone all “little house on the prairie”! today, i made sauerkraut, zucchini pickles and dilly beans. i just hope i don’t poison myself. last week, i saw a live demonstration of fermenting technique presented by sandor katz, at williams-sonoma. his book “the art of fermentation” has generated a lot of excitement and watching him make sauerkraut right before our eyes, made me want to give it a try.  i sort of went nuts and bought a bunch of jars and set about on my kitchen as laboratory day. i’m so looking forward to tasting all this stuff