Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cooking Pizza with Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

I love pizza and I have to admit, since going gluten-free I have fared well when it comes to pizza. My wonderful wife has made it her part time job to make sure pizza is still a part of my life. She has tried a number of crusts recipes, nothing worth mentioning and we finally settled on store bought crust from either Udi's or Whole Foods. While they are not bad, not bad at all, they are a far cry from that traditional chewy crust with crisp toasted edges. When Shauna and Danny Ahern published their new cookbook, I was first in line to get mine, knowing full well there was a recipe for pizza crust. I was eager to give it a go. At first, there was some confusion when I couldn't find the recipe until I realized it was disguised as crackers. Then, disappointment, the ingredients included yeast. As accomplished as I am in the kitchen, yeast continues to intimidate me and I simply don't give recipes with yeast a second glance. However, my wife, is the far more capable baker in our house and she would do anything for me. So, I gathered the ingredients, which took some effort including stops at three different places to get all the flours I needed.

Beware people, while Bob's Red Mill has recently changed their manufacturing practices to make gluten free corn grains, some of the old product is still out on shelves. Take care to make sure the corn flour and the corn meal both have the gluten-free label.

This past Saturday I came home from work without a dinner plan. Well, secretly I guess I had a plan as I had gotten everything I needed for Tina to make Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef's pizza crust. She was game. While I ran to the store to get everything else to top the pizza Tina made the crust. Shauna and Danny suggest using parchment paper in the book, when rolling out the dough. We found the dough to be quite sticky, slightly wet, and hard to remove from the parchment. Plastic wrap worked much better, which is what they suggest in their pizza crust video on their website,, We also found it helpful to dust the counter and the dough with the corn meal before trying to work the dough. We divided our dough in half, using half for a pizza and the other half for the original cracker recipe.

After rolling out the dough for the pizza and getting it on our pizza pan we put it in the oven on a stone and baked it for about 15 minutes, it bubbled up in spots but didn't turn brown at all. Then we topped the pizza and put it back in the oven and cooked it another 20 minutes or so, until the edges of the crust started turning brown. We kept the oven at 500 degrees as directed, but it still took 20 minutes before the edges turned brown. The pizza crust was out of this world, worth all the effort! Crisp crust, kinda chewy and not too corny tasting. I was worried with all the corn flour and corn meal I used for dusting that it might over power the crust. It was perfect to say the least and as long as Tina is will, this will be our go to crust from now on. Danny and Shauna have hit the perfect combination of flours to turn out a perfect crust, company worthy!

The crackers, well, they just didn't seem to crisp up very well and turned out more like a flat bread, a very good flat bread at that! I loved the salt and rosemary seasoning and couldn't stop eating it, even after three pieces of pizza. But even after cooking it much longer than suggested it just didn't crisp up enough to break into shards as described in the recipe. The pizza held up very well over time. I reheated the left overs on a pizza stone a few days later and it was just as good as the having it the same day. I also froze a piece that reheated really well. The "flat bread" didn't hold up at all and was quite stale and chewy the next day.

If you are gluten-free, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef is a must have cookbook, it is full of well tested recipes and tips for living gluten-free. I give it five stars and am going to work my way through each and every recipe, just like Julie and Julia.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sweet Potatoes or Yams? You tell me.

This was to be a post about making Pumpkin Soup with Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. But I got side tracked. The recipe called for a sweet potato. I always get confused because anytime a recipe calls for a sweet potato and there is a photo accompanying the recipe, it is always a Yam. So really people what is the difference? I guess in reality we don't actually have Yam's here is the U.S. so both the orange flesh and white fleshed tubers are sweet potatoes. Since I was unsure, I got one of each and used half of each in the soup. As fate would have it, I didn't like the soup. I like pumpkin alright, pie, cake, bread . . . but the soup just didn't win me over. I pulled out all the stops, an organic pie pumpkin and homemade chicken stock, hoping for an over the top sort of outcome.

If it weren't for the left over yam and sweet potato halves I would have felt sorry for myself, having spent all that time and effort for nothing. Well not exactly nothing, after all I did find some friends to enjoy the soup. I know the soup was good, very good for that matter, it just wasn't a taste that appealed to me so I was happy to deliver it to friends. I am not exactly a fan of sweet potato or yams either but I do have a thing about waste so I decided to make sweet potato fries, oven roasted.

If you have been following my gluten-free tales you know I am a sucker for french fries and will go to the end of the earth to find safely fried french fries. Most restaurants fry their fries in a fryer that also fries breaded foods, thus contaminating what would otherwise be gluten-free. So sad! It is mighty hard to find french fries that have been fried in a dedicated frier.

I cut the tubers, drizzled them in olive oil and sprinkled them with kosher salt and pepper and then oven roasted them at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, turning once. They were gone in the blink of an eye and another yam and sweet potato have already been purchased for round two, this evening. When I get onto something, I get onto it. I will probably be having these for days to come. I don't care if I ever have french fries again. These are to die for!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Apple Tart

I am a big fan of Shauna and Danny Ahern, AKA Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. I started following Shauna's blog the day after I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I think I was drawn in by a mutual disposition of looking to what could be eaten rather than using deprivation as a framework. I have always gone to a place of what I can have rather than what is off limits.

When my copy of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef arrived I read it through cover to cover, twice over. I didn't want to miss anything, although I must admit the oh so controversial swear words didn't not jump out at me, during either reading. Honestly, there wasn't much here I didn't already know in terms of cooking and cooking well, but my own cooking practices were readily affirmed. I believe in cooking in season, I use good ingredients, I do weigh my flours, my approach to cooking is organized, anticipated, rehearsed. And I do screw up, all the time. I have forgotten key ingredients in a dish, forgotten to reduce or double a particular ingredient when cutting a recipe in half or doubling it. I have a plethora kitchen disaster stories. but, for the most part, I am successful and capable in the kitchen.

So in the spirit of cooking in season I set out to make an Apple Tart using the Asian Pear Tart recipe from my new cookbook. One of the request that Shauna and Danny make in the book is that the recipes be made exactly as written, at least once. I appreciate that advice and made the Asian Pear Tart. It was beautiful and it was awful, all at the same time. 100% my fault, my Asian pears were not ripe and I cut them to big. In addition, I don't actually like pears so I didn't have high hopes. What did turn out really really well was the tart crust! Fine, I did what I was told, now onto making an adaptation using the quintessential fall fruit, apples!

If you want the recipe for this crust your going to have to get the book. Let me just say this, the crust is flaky and easy to work with. It does make more than you will probably need. In fact, I was able to make a 9 inch tart shell and a mini free form crostata which was even better than the tart. It is also a very versatile recipe and could be used for a sweet or savory tart. After making the tart I simply cut my apples slightly less than a quarter inch and sprinkled them with some sugar, cinnamon and allspice. I covered the bottom of the tart with an apple compote I had on hand and put the apples on top in concentric circles and baked the tart. When it was time to serve I top each piece with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with homemade caramel sauce. It was a perfect fall desert.