Archive for food

Christmas Sweets
December 18th, 2011 | Link

My mom was a big Christmas baker when I was a kid: shortbread, sugar cookies, gingersnaps, Nanaimo bars, mincemeat tarts and chocolate-covered cherries (which had a crunchy nut layer between the maraschino cherry and the chocolate — I loved the nut layer and the chocolate but not the cherries, and years later we found a bunch of petrified cherry remains behind the piano). When I moved out of my parents home I continued that tradition for a while with my own specialties: miniature brownies, meringues, gingerbread.

I haven’t done much baking since I got married, since E. won’t (or can’t) eat most of it, and we were often at my parents’ place for Christmas anyway. Sometimes, though, we have a party or two to attend, and then I have an excuse to indulge my sweet tooth a bit. Yesterday was more about making candy than baking, but it was indulging nonetheless.

Pieces of peppermint bark

This peppermint bark recipe from the Food Network was super easy to make. I cut the recipe in half because I didn’t really need two pounds of candy(!), and I sprinkled a handful of leftover crushed candy canes on top for some sparkle. I melted the white chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds at a time at 50% power, stirring after each burst, until it was fully melted. Took maybe 15 minutes, including hammering the heck out of the candy cane.

Cut squares of chocolate fudge

I love fudge, but I don’t remember the last time I tried to make it — probably as a teenager, and I sort of remember it being a major fail. Perhaps because I didn’t have a candy thermometer at the time and was trying to cook to some “ball” stage that I had no reference point for. Candy thermometer and Alton Brown’s Chocolate Fudge recipe for the win! My one critical mistake was that I accidentally used semi-sweet chocolate instead of unsweetened, so it’s really, really sweet. But still edible!

In Search Of… Gluten-Free Pizza
September 11th, 2011 | Link

I have not given up on my plans to try one new recipe a week. It hasn’t quite been every week, but it’s been more than usual. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always worked out.

After my moderate success with the gnocchi, I decided to try some real baking: pretzels. That attempt ended in tears: the dough completely failed to rise and refused to be rolled (much less shaped into anything pretzel-like) and pretty much looked like anemic dog poop on the baking pan, and I binned it without even trying to cook it. That dampened my enthusiasm for the whole try-cooking-new-things thing quite a bit.

Friday I took another shot at it, this time with pizza crust. E. had been hiking all week and I wanted to surprise him. I used the Gluten Free on a Shoestring recipe (as I had with the pretzels), and again, epic fail. The dough failed to rise at all, and was pretty much a dense, heavy brick. I don’t know if it’s the flour (Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose), or if the yeast was bad, or if it’s because I clobbered it in the food processor, or perhaps didn’t clobber it enough. Fail, fail, fail.

When I was at the grocery buying flour for the pizza, I also picked up a box of Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix, figuring (apparently wisely) that if the scratch version went the way the pretzels had, I could try the mix and see how that went. So yesterday I tried it.

It wasn’t perfect. I followed the directions carefully, first dissolving the yeast in water (which the Shoestring recipe doesn’t say to do), then stirring in the dry ingredients by hand until it came into a ball, and turning it out on a board to (try to) knead it for 10 minutes. But it was so sticky I had to keep dumping more flour on the board to keep it from sticking. After about 10 minutes of swearing and punching at the dough (occasionally managing to knead it properly) and scraping it off my fingers, I put it in a bowl with a damp towel over it, and put it in the oven to rise (along with a bowl of hot water that I had placed in a few minutes previously, on a tip I’d found on the ‘web).

And… it didn’t. When I took it out 1/2 hour later it looked the same as when I’d put it in. It was, however, significantly less hockey-puck like than my previous attempt, so E. convinced me to bake it anyway. I think by this point I’d so tortured him with the idea of pizza–which he once loved but has not able to eat since long before before we discovered his wheat allergy–that he would have eaten it regardless of how it turned out.

Well, this is how it turned out:

The last slice of pizza in a pan

It wasn’t bad! The crust was slightly spongy (not dense and cracker-like, as I’d feared), and had sufficient structural integrity to pick up a piece to eat. We topped it with a can of pizza sauce, ground turkey, minced onions, half of a leftover tomato that was nearing the end of its useful life, and a mixture of grated reduced-fat mozzarella and fat-free cheddar (which we added after about 10 minutes of baking).

I had two slices and E. ate the rest, and was so pleased with it that he wants to make the second one (the mix makes two crusts, so we put one in the fridge) tonight.

And so I am emboldened to try again.



My name is Shannon Hale. This blog is on indefinite hiatus, but it contains archives of the last 10 years of posts about bookbinding, knitting, sewing. and other random things in my life.


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