My word, what a week it’s been. Full of ups and downs. Anyway, at the moment I’m investigating gluten and dairy free cake recipes. Zoe’s birthday is next week and with gluten and dairy allergies it sometimes becomes a bit of challenge – she’s managed to find usable workarounds for pretty much anything – Blondies, Banana Bread, Muffins, Cupcakes, Pancakes etc., but I really want to roll out the carpet on this one and cook a nice cake for her. I’ve been looking at all the different mixes, and all the different flours, including the OrgraN flours that are coming over to the US from Australia (the Plain Flour makes very good gluten free Popovers – but the OrgraN Egg Replacer isn’t something I’d suggest using in them – the Popovers I made with them came out very hard, not risen very well, and “gloopy” in the middle). Last year I tried making a Gluten Free Christmas Cake – following my mother’s family recipe, but substituting with Gluten Free flours etc. Wow. It wasn’t a great cake, but it would have made a fantastic man-hole cover 🙂 Very, very solid, so that one went in the bin, and since then I’ve shyed away from cakes generally.
But with a birthday coming up, I think that now’s the time to try again. There’s some wonderful moulds out there for cakes – I was in a Michael’s Craft and Hobby shop last weekend, and they had a whole aisle full of different moulds, shapes, ways to cut, carve, marble, etc., and it got me thinking. Really all I want to make is a Victoria Sponge, maybe put a jam filling – a got an amazing homemade blackberry jam as a gift on my birthday back in January – and dust it with confectioner’s sugar. Maybe add some fresh fruit like strawberries, etc., around it – nothing too ostentatious or over the top, but something we can stick a candle in for Zoe to blow out 🙂
So there I was in Whole Foods this morning, whilst my car was in being serviced, wandering up and down the baking aisles. I grabbed a couple of mixes I’d not seen before, and I’m surfing the gluten-free websites, so I’ll let folks know what I come up with. Frankly, it’s a great excuse to use my lovely Kitchenaid 90th Anniversary Stand Mixer that was a Valentine’s Day present (the colour – Candy Apple – is gorgeous, much nicer than their Empire Red, it’s more of a pearlescent colour) to make some cakes. I made a Banana Bread in it last weekend and that turned out really well, so I’m hopeful – I’ve got the tools, even if I don’t have the capability 🙂
I’m also looking at ice cream and sorbet. For Zoe’s party I’m going to be making a selection of curries. At the moment I’m thinking of Chicken Tikka Masala, Pork Vindaloo, a beef or lamb dish (maybe a Balti) and vegetable side dishes like Bombay Potato. I’ve also been asked to make an onion salad, and pear chutney, to go with the mango chutney and tamarind chutney that we already have. The pear chutney recipe came from Central Market in Mill Creek – they were having a cooking demonstration and making it and serving it with poppadums – it was just to die for – we’ve made it once since then and couldn’t stop eating it, so time to make it again. Our Organic food supplier (Eden Organics – they deliver a large box of fresh organic fruit and vegetables to us every Wednesday) has been giving us a lot of D’Anjou Pears both red and green, so we’ve got a few that are at the stage of ripening that we either need to cook with them or eat them as they are. They’ve been going in a lot of salads, but still, there’s plenty there for the recipe, so we’ll have some of that.
But back to the ice cream and sorbet. I bought a book called “The Perfect Scoop” a while ago, and have been drooling over the pictures ever since. The author, David Lebovitz, is an American living in Paris. He’s had all sorts of cooking and catering jobs, but his first love has always been ice cream, and boy does it come through in this book. Sure, there’s all the “normal” flavours like Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, etc., but there’s some more “interesting” ones as well – Olive Oil Ice Cream anyone? Or how about a scoop of Avocado Ice Cream? I can’t wait to try some of these, and as luck would have it, two things happened this week. Firstly, Zoe went and found her ice cream maker – a Krups one that makes about a quart, and secondly, I was in our local Target looking for something to put leaf tea in, clutching a $30 gift card which had also been a birthday gift, when I saw that the store had some Kitchenaid stand mixer accessories on clearence… unfortunately the food grinder I’d been looking out for to help make wonderful burgers in the summer had sold out (at the price they were selling it, I’m not surprised), but next to it they still had one of the ice cream maker attachements at a price so utterly bizarre that I had to scoop it up (oooh… scoop… ice cream scoop…. er… never mind) and double check the price on one of those little scanner thingy’s they have dotted around. Yup, it wasn’t a mistake, so I’m now the proud owner of one of them for a little under a third of it’s MSRP and I still had enough left over to buy some screen washer fluid for my car 🙂 Now this thing makes about 2 quarts, so with both of them, I can really start to try some of the recipes in the book. So, for the birthday party, after a curry, what to make? Well, at most Indian Restaurants in the UK, you’d have the option of a sorbet, usually orange or lemon, and usually crammed into half an orange or lemon as the container, or kulfi which is lovely (on a side note, my local Indian Restaurant back in the UK used to serve a lovely pistachio kulfi which had come out of a mould that looked almost exactly like a Dalek body, minus the sink plunger, gun and eye stalk – oh the fun I used to have squarking “Exterminate!” whilst pushing this slowly melting thing around my plate) but I wanted something a little different. So, I think I’m going to try and make Mango Sorbet – I grabbed a couple of nice looking Mangoes from Whole Foods – and a Toasted Coconut Ice Cream. I’m dithering at the moment as to whether to try and make the ice cream with dairy free alternatives, or for this first attempt follow the recipe fastidiously. I’m thinking the latter at the moment – it takes 24 hours to freeze the ice cream maker bowls, so I don’t think I want to mess around with this just yet. I think I’ll serve them separately, although the book shows them marbled together and tells you how to do it, and I have to admit….. Mmmm…. it looks amazing.
David Lebovitz has his own blog in his own witty style, packed full of stunning recipes – not just for ice cream – but for savouries as well as sweet. Check it out. Bookmark it. Then come back here, okay? His entry on Amnesty Cookies is fun, and I’m not only going to have to try making the cookies, but I like the sound of the E-Mail amnesty he talks about at the start of the article as well. Definitely sounds like it’s worth thinking about 🙂
Well, the weekend is rapidly approaching. I’ve put the strawberry plants and the fig trees back outside after the risk of more frost seems to have passed – the raspberry and blueberry plants seem to have survived, but the beets and carrots, well… I think they might be hibernating because there nothing from them even though I planted them three weeks ago. The Heirloom Tomato seeds I planted indoors at the same time have gone completely bonkers – they’re now at the stage when I should start to snip out the more straggly or weaker looking specimens and give the remainder a diluted fish/seaweed fertiliser (which I have no doubt will pong as bad as it sounds). At this rate I think I’ll be giving away tomato plants in a few weeks, as I’ve got waaaaaaaay too many to plant!
Tomorrow I’m going paintballing in the morning – a surprise event for a friend who’s celebrating his birthday – and in the evening seeing him again for the not-a-surprise party. It should be a fun weekend. Sunday I think I’ll start pulling together everything I need to start making the curries – to make the curry base and curry stock, and to start toasting the spices and grinding them to make the aromatic masala spice blend I use in making the Chicken Tikka Masala. I’ll let you know how I get on…
Until then, keep on smiling, and happy times and empty plates.