Sunday, July 24, 2016

Maya Angelou's Caramel Cake

I’ll start this with an a parte about the last layer cake I made, in April. It was a coconut layer cake in Bon Appétit. The cake was absolutely beautiful in the magazine (of course!), but reality turned out very differently. Here’s the running commentary in my notes: “My cakes didn’t rise much at all, so next time, I would switch pans from upper to lower rack halfway through baking (as it was, I moved the lowest cakes to the top rack for an extra 5 minutes). I won’t split them, obviously. [At this point, I tried to unmold them.] Oh, for God’s sake, line the pans with paper next time! GAH! [I don’t believe I’ve ever had cakes come out of the pan in this many pieces.] I’m not soaking the layers in alcohol, nor am I adding alcohol to the frosting because it would be too liquid. Never mind, the frosting is an absolute disaster anyway. This whole cake is a disgrace.” Really, I thought I’d get better results with a recipe from Bon Appétit, but I was wrong. Thankfully, it takes more than one dud of a recipe to discourage me from layer cakes!

I finally, finally got the opportunity to make Maya Angelou’s caramel cake, from Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes (there’s a great story to go with this cake, obviously, but I can’t reprint it here without violating copyrights). The recipe was also published on It calls for cream, so I waited to get lactose-free cream in Quebec. However, as it turned out, that didn’t really matter because the main flavor profile in the frosting is browned butter – not lactose-free. (Vegan browned butter is iffy at best, though I hear it might be possible to make by adding soy milk powder to melted vegan margarine. I haven’t had a chance to try it.) That being said, the Lactaid was totally worth it for this! I could eat the frosting by the spoonful (and I sort of did).

Note that I recommend doubling the amount of frosting below, because otherwise you have about enough for the middle and top of the cake, but not the sides (unless you’re going for the naked cake look). Moreover, I found the caramel to be odd. Normally, I make caramel by mixing sugar and water, then not stirring until it’s amber in color, then I stir and add cream or butter or salt or whatever else. This recipe called for stirring just sugar over heat until it melts, then adding water. I thought it was odd, but who am I to criticize Maya Angelou’s grandmother’s recipe, right? So I made it the way I was instructed. That being said, next time I would make it the way I’m more used to, because it tastes better to me and the consistency is more viscous than watery, which is part of what makes a good caramel, in my opinion. Plus, since the recipe for caramel syrup makes a lot more than you need for the cake, you’ll appreciate having leftovers that taste extra good! We shared the cake with friends of ours, so there wasn’t too much lactose to deal with for me. :)

And on another side note (I promise I’ll get to the recipe soon, and it’s worth the wait): remember how surprised I was that Bergeron had the balls to write 100% soy on their margarine when it was actually something like 95% soy and there was lactose-full whey in the remainder? Well, S!gnal margarine takes the cake (no pun intended). Look at this label: the front clearly say 100% soybean oil, but on the list of ingredients, suddenly it’s down to 80%, and there’s whey in that too! We need better labelling laws! I did find Earth Balance sticks later, at Avril (a store that I love, possibly the closest thing to a Whole Foods I’ve seen anywhere), where it was on sale at $4.99 a package – more in line with the American prices, and certainly more affordable than the $8.49 IGA charges!

For the cake
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
1/4 cup caramel syrup (recipe follows)
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup lactose-free milk
2 large eggs
caramel frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Line two 8-inch layer cake pans with greased wax paper.

In large mixing bowl, beat butter and add 1 cup sugar gradually until light and fluffy. Beat in syrup.

In medium mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add sifted ingredients to creamed mixture, alternating with milk.

In separate medium mixing bowl, beat eggs about 3 minutes, until foamy. Add remaining sugar, and beat until there is a fine spongy foam. Stir into cake batter until blended. Divide batter between cake pans. Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove pans from oven. Gently press center of cake with forefinger. Cake should spring back when finger is removed. If it doesn't, return to oven for 10 minutes (5 minutes did the trick for me). Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and remove wax paper. Let cakes cool to room temperature before frosting.

To assemble: Center one cooled cake layer on cake plate. Cover top and sides with generous helping of frosting. Place second layer evenly on frosted layer. Repeat frosting procedure. Make certain that sides are completely frosted. Cool in refrigerator until ready to serve.

For the caramel syrup (see note above)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup boiling water

Heat sugar in heavy skillet over low heat. Stir constantly until melted to a brown liquid. When it bubbles over entire surface, remove from heat. Slowly add boiling water, stirring constantly. Pour into container and cool.

For the caramel frosting (I had to double this recipe)
6 Tbsp. (¾ stick) butter
one 8-oz. package confectioner's sugar
4 Tbsp. lactose-free (or heavy) cream
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

Brown butter in heavy pot over medium heat—be vigilant or it will burn. Allow butter to cool. In large mixing bowl, add confectioner's sugar, cream, vanilla extract and salt to butter, and beat until smooth. If frosting is too stiff, add a tablespoon of half-and-half or full cream to thin.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Goat Cheese Quiche with Hashbrown Crust

This recipe is from Martha Stewart. I had to go to my old Montreal neighborhood (Côte-des-Neiges) to find Damafro’s lactose-free goat cheese, but once I had that, I was good to go. And it was really good quiche! As it turns out, even though the Engineer doesn’t usually like goat cheese, he actually had seconds! He said that “the green onions make this hum”, and it’s true that it would be a bit boring without that green topping. It happens to be gluten-free and kosher for Passover (assuming the potatoes are as well), but you could make this in a regular crust, too.

2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, softened, plus more for pan
1 package (1 lb.) frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
12 large eggs (seriously)
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 ½ cups lactose-free sour cream
1 package lactose-free soft goat cheese, room temperature
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Brush a 9-by-2 ½-inch springform pan with butter. Line the sides of the pan with strips of waxed paper (the same height as pan); brush paper with butter.

Squeeze excess moisture from hash browns. Mix in a bowl with butter, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Pat into bottom and up sides of prepared pan, using a moistened dry measuring cup. Place on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until set, 15 to 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk sour cream, goat cheese, 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper until well combined; whisk in 11 remaining eggs. Pour into crust, and sprinkle with scallions. Bake until set, 45 to 50 minutes (the filling will still jiggle slightly in the middle, but not on the sides). Unmold quiche, and peel off waxed paper before serving.

Chestnut Chocolate Cake

This recipe for chestnut chocolate cake is from Food and Drink magazine. The frosting calls for mascarpone, so I looked up how to make it on Not Without Salt. However, the setup seemed impossible to achieve in my fridge (hanging cheese over a bowl – I really didn’t have that much clearance), plus I made it in the morning and planned to make the cake that afternoon, not the following day, so I only let it drain for a few hours, not overnight. I guess I’m too used to making ricotta (which, by the way, is ever-so-much creamier when made with a 1-3 ratio of cream to milk instead of just milk!). Since I thought my mascarpone was a bit runny, I didn’t use rum in the frosting, and I think that compensated a bit and helped me achieve the proper consistency. That being said, after a night in the fridge, the frosting had become hard, so maybe that’s where rum comes in handy. It’s very good cake, dense and not too chocolatey, and it just happens to be gluten-free, too. Enjoy!

Note that the original cake recipe claims that the size of the can of chestnut purée doesn’t really matter; the size listed here is the one most commonly found by the creators of the recipe, but a slightly greater or smaller amount would work fine, too. I actually weighed mine, but it’s not necessary.

For the mascarpone (see note above)
2 cups lactose-free cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Pour the cream in a saucepan and set it over medium-low heat. Stirring continually, so as not to let the bottom scorch, heat the cream to 190 °F.

Add the lemon juice – the mixture will immediately get a bit thicker. Heat at 190 °F for another 5 minutes, attiring often.

Remove from heat, cover the pan and refrigerate overnight, or until completely cool.

Once the cream has cooled, it will be nearly as thick as sour cream. Place a strainer lined with four layers of cheesecloth over a medium bowl. Add the thickened cream to the cheesecloth. Gather the corners and carefully tie the ends to form a bundle. Hang this in the fridge and let drain into the bowl for another 12-24 hours, or overnight. There should be a couple tablespoons of whey left in the bowl after it’s finished draining (I only had a few teaspoons, but as I stated I didn’t let it drain nearly as long).

Set aside for the frosting.

For the cake
4 oz. (125 g.) bittersweet chocolate
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
4 eggs, separated
1 can or jar (440 g.) chestnut purée (see note above)

For the frosting
6 oz. (175 g.) bittersweet chocolate
3 Tbsp. softened butter or margarine
1/3 cup lactose-free mascarpone (see recipe above)
2 Tbsp. rum (I omitted it)

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a 9-inch sprinform pan; line the bottom with parchment paper and grease again.

Melt chocolate on top of double boiler or heavy pot on low heat. Remove from heat to cool slightly.

Reserve 2 Tbsp. sugar. With an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and remaining sugar for about 3 minutes or until tripled in volume. Beat in cooled chocolate and chestnut purée.

Beat egg whites until frothy, then beat in reserved 2 Tbsp. sugar, whisking until mixture is thick and glossy, about 6 to 7 minutes. Stir one quarter of egg whites into cake, then gently fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon into springform and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely in pan (my cake deflated, but that’s normal), then turn out onto a wire rack.

To make frosting, melt chocolate in heavy pot over low heat (I did this in a double boiler again). Beat in butter, mascarpone and rum. Remove from heat. Cool for 15 minutes, then frost the cake with it.

Refrigerate cake overnight before serving (I only refrigerated it a few hours before serving it, but leftovers were stored in the fridge as well).

Friday, July 22, 2016

40-Clove Garlic Chicken with Creamed Spinach Mashed Potatoes

I had made a recipe for 40-clove garlic chicken once, years ago, and believe it or not, it was actually bland. (Crazy, right? Obviously, the cloves weren’t raw, but still.) I decided to try it again, though, when I saw this recipe online. The original recipe calls for pieces of chicken with the skin, but I chose to use cut-up skinless boneless chicken breasts. As it turns out, this dish was much tastier than my previous one, and we all enjoyed it very much! It’s not very photogenic, but it’s good, homey food.

For the chicken
40 cloves of garlic (about 3 heads), peeled
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
8-10 pieces of cut up chicken (you can use breast or thighs)
a small handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup lactose-free cream
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine
salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 °F.

Pat the chicken and skin dry with paper towels and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper (or to taste).

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or oven-safe skillet just until you start to see wisps of smoke. Place chicken in skillet skin-side down, and cook until the skin is well browned, about 7-10 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a plate (don’t try to pry the chicken off from the pan, if it is well browned, it will loosen by itself) skin-side up and set aside. Remove all the fat (the fat from the chicken will have rendered out and add to the oil you began with) until you’re left with just 1 tablespoon of oil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and cook until evenly browned for about 1 minute.

Add in the chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Scrape the brown bits off the pan and into the garlic. Add in the chopped parsley and cream. Return the chicken to the dutch oven, skin side up and remove from heat. Place the dutch oven in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the juices run clear.

Meanwhile, make the potatoes.

For the creamed spinach mashed potatoes
2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
½ cup lactose-free cream
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine
1 tsp. salt + 1/3 tsp. black pepper (or to taste)
6 cups baby spinach

Cover potatoes with salted cold water in a large saucepan and simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes (I prefer to boil mine, and it’s faster, too).

While potatoes are simmering, bring cream, butter, salt, and pepper to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and keep warm, covered.

Drain potatoes in a colander and cool slightly.

Stir spinach into warm cream, tossing to coat, and when slightly wilted (after about 1 minute), immediately add to potatoes. Mash potatoes and spinach until almost smooth. Season to taste and keep warm.

Once the chicken is ready, place the pieces on a serving dish. Mash the garlic in the dutch oven and stir in the unsalted butter. There will be more than enough heat to melt it and make the sauce glossy. Serve the chicken with the sauce and the spinach mashed potatoes.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ginger Scones with Chocolate Chunks

I tried baking with seasonal fruit for breakfast, but with mixed results. Rhubarb muffins were good, but there was a bit too much cinnamon, and the pieces of rhubarb exposed to air quickly became leathery-tough. Blueberry muffins came out all wrong – I think there just isn’t enough flour in the recipe. The best breakfast I made so far didn’t involve fruit at all, actually. It was these ginger scones with chocolate chunks.

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t have baking powder on hand and failed to notice until I had actually started the recipe. So I googled how to substitute for it, and I ended up using 1 ½ tsp. baking soda plus 1 Tbsp. cream of tartar. I also omitted the cinnamon from these. They were really good, though with Baker’s chocolate, there was that awkward moment when my breakfast wanted me to do math with fractions first thing in the morning…

3 cups flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 ½ Tbsp. ground ginger (or a bit less, to taste)
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch allspice
½ cup turbinado sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 ¼ cups non-dairy milk (or lactose-free dairy milk)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
about 5 oz. chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper or a silpat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, sugar, and salt.

In a small bowl, mix together the vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla extract. Add that to the dry ingredients and stir quickly until everything is just moistened (a few streaks of flour are fine). Gently fold in the chocolate chunks.

Using an ice cream scoop or a ¼-cup dry measuring cup, portion out the dough and place it onto the prepared baking sheet (I got a total of 14). Dust them with a few pinches of turbinado sugar (I think I forgot this step).

Bake for 15 minutes. These keep well at room temperature in an air-tight container for a few days, or you can freeze them.

Classic Chocolate Mousse

This classic chocolate mousse from Bon Appétit has both eggs and cream, making it very rich. That being said, it’s still only as good as the chocolate you use! I was stuck with Baker’s, but I would have preferred Ghiradelli. I decided to tackle this recipe before trying my hand again at a vegan aquafaba version (more on that in a later post). We really liked this version, though!

¾ cup chilled lactose-free cream, divided
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup espresso or strong coffee, room temperature
⅛ tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. sugar, divided
6 oz. semisweet chocolate (60-72% cacao), chopped
2 large egg whites

Beat ½ cup cream in medium bowl until stiff peaks form; cover and chill.

Combine egg yolks, espresso, salt, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a large metal bowl. Set over a saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water). Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is lighter in color and almost doubled in volume and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 160 °F, about 1 minute.

Remove bowl from pan. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until room temperature.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg white in another medium bowl on medium speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually beat in remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until firm peaks form.

Fold egg whites into chocolate in 2 additions; fold whipped cream into mixture just to blend.

Divide mousse among six teacups or 4-oz. ramekins. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. Before serving, whisk remaining ¼ cup cream in a small bowl until soft peaks form; dollop over mousse.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Gâteau au fromage cottage sans lactose

Ah, comme le temps file! L’été passe toujours trop vite à mon goût, et je finis toujours par bloguer moins que je voudrais… En gros, c’est de ça qu’il a l’air, mon été.

Quand même, étant au Québec, j’en profite pour faire des recettes que je ne pourrais pas faire telles quelles aux États-Unis, notamment celles avec de la crème sans lactose. Il s’agit ici d’un gâteau au fromage fait avec du fromage cottage et de la crème. C’était vraiment délicieux, et plus léger qu’un gâteau au fromage traditionnel. J’ai pris du fromage cottage sans lactose de la marque du Choix du Président, je crois que c’est le seul qu’il existe ici (Lactaid en fait peut-être aussi, mais alors c’est dur à trouver). J’ai pris la recette sur Les Carnets de Miss Diane (sa version est également sans gluten), qui explique que c’est à l’origine une recette de Margo Oliver.

1 ½ tasse de chapelure graham
2 c. à soupe de sucre blanc ou brun
4 c. à soupe d’huile de coco (il m’en a fallu 6 c. à soupe)
2 contenants de 16 oz de fromage cottage sans lactose
5 œufs
½ tasse de farine
1 tasse de sucre
2 c. à thé de zeste de citron
2 c. à soupe de jus de citron
½ c. à thé de vanille
1 tasse de crème sans lactose

Préchauffer le four à 350 °F et sortir un moule à ressort de 9 pouces de diamètre. (Je dois préciser ici que c’était la première fois que je me servais de ce four et qu’il y était écrit « four à convexion », alors je l’ai plutôt réglé à 325 °F. Cependant, cela n’était pas nécessaire, et j’ai dû le faire cuire plus longtemps.)

Mélanger la chapelure, le sucre et l'huile de coco et l'étendre au fond du moule, en pressant légèrement. Réfrigérer jusqu'au moment d'utiliser.

Passer le fromage au tamis dans un bol (c'est long, mais ne vous découragez pas). Ajouter les œufs, un à la fois, en battant bien après chaque addition.

Mêler la farine et le sucre et ajouter le tout au mélange de fromage, en battant. Ajouter le zeste et le jus de citron, ainsi que la vanille.

Fouetter la crème et l'incorporer à la préparation. Verser sur la croûte dans le moule à ressort. Cuire au four, 1 heure ou moins ou jusqu'à ce que le tout soit pris (dans mon cas, je l’ai sorti du four après 1 h 50 min, alors qu’il bougeait encore un peu au centre). Laisser refroidir dans le moule et réfrigérer ensuite (c’est normal si le gâteau s’affaisse un peu)

Servir avec des fruits (comme des fraises, des cerises, un coulis de framboises ou une compote de bleuets), ou encore avec de la sauce au chocolat.