ITALIAN-STYLE CINNAMON & RAISIN BISCOTTI

By Wednesday, April 15, 2015 Permalink 0

Biscotti Picnik collage 1 bis

by Rosa Jeanne Mayland

“Biscotti” (pronounced “bee-scoat-tee”) are relatively new to me. Actually, a few years ago (about 6 years ago) I had no clue what they were. That is quite understandable if you consider the fact that I’ve lived all my life in Switzerland and never travelled to Italy (I passed through that country when going to Greece, but I doubt that this can qualify for holidays) nor to America where this speciality is widespread…

I was introduced to these Italian cookies when I received James McNair and Andrew Moore’s “Afternoon Delights” for my birthday in 2003. It was love at first sight. The very second I lay my eyes on the picture that illustrated their “Almond Biscotti” recipe I knew that I had to bake them immediately in order to satisfy my curiosity. Since then I have not seized being a big fan of this crispy treat.

Before I moved away from home and started cooking for myself, I had never really tasted any Italian pastry apart from “Amaretti Macaroons” and knew absolutely nothing about “Biscotti”. Here in Switzerland, the only biscuits that can be compared to them are oven-dried brioche slices called “Zwiebacks”. Although they taste more like sweet bread than cookies and are far from being as sweet or having an identical shape, I always enjoyed eating those delicious rusks.

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Swiss Food: Fribourg-style Saffron Bread

By Friday, January 24, 2014 Permalink 0

 

Swiss Food: Fribourg-style Cuchaule: Saffron Bread to Eat with Your Bénichon Mustard

by Jonell Galloway

From the archives

In my article, Bénichon Mustard, A Fribourg Specialty to Welcome the Cows Coming Home a few days ago, I talked about the brioche-like saffron bread cuchaule which is traditionally eaten with Bénichon mustard during the Bénichon fall fair in Fribourg, Switzerland.

I translated this recipe from the Delimoon site from the French and adapted it.

Photo courtesy of Moja Kuchnia with authorization.

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Food Art: Apple in a Cage, food photography by SandeeA

By Tuesday, January 14, 2014 Permalink 0

SandeeA is a top-notch food photographer and she runs the popular blog La Receta de la Felicidad, where you can find many of the recipes appearing in these photos.

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Gluten-Free Recipe Conversions – Strategies for Substitutions

By Friday, August 9, 2013 Permalink 0

Jenn Oliver, Culinary Chemist, The Rambling EpicureCulinary Chemistry: Gluten-Free Recipe Conversions – Strategies for Substitutions

by Jenn Oliver

From the archives

When my husband and I first started cooking gluten free in our kitchen, we mainly focused on one type of meal — those that were naturally gluten free.

The naturally gluten-free foods were the easiest to cook from scratch because they required no substitutions at all — risottos, fresh fruit, vegetables, custards & puddings, stir fry, roasted potatoes, homemade “chips”, salads, fresh steamed fish, bean stews, meringues, and even a macaron attempt or two. As a beginner to the gluten-free world nearly five years ago, I was thrilled with how many foods we could make without ever having to worry about an ingredient on a package label that could be harmful to my husband’s health.  As long as we cooked from entirely fresh ingredients and avoided anything that came in a package or required flour, we were fine — and what a great variety we had to choose from!

But it didn’t take long before my husband would say, “You know, I really miss pizza,” or “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a thick creamy gravy to go on mashed potatoes sometime?” It was inevitable, really, that shunning all things flour-related was bound to cause waxing nostalgia for the meals we no longer ate. While it was great to get our feet wet by starting with the easy gluten-free meals that didn’t require any substitutions or extra thought, it seemed wrong to deprive ourselves completely of other foods that we enjoyed.

I set out on a mission of sorts to figure out how to convert our favorite foods to gluten free, where I found a veritable “Wild West” frontier land when it came to recipes — myriad flour blends and formulas either in packages on grocery store shelves or listed in books, none of which explained how they came to be or why they worked, often calling for expensive and elusive ingredients. It all seemed like some esoteric recipe voodoo.

I decided instead to create my own blends, first categorizing the various alternative flours and ingredients by texture and coarseness, and then quickly realizing that while those aspects do play a role in the end product, the key factor was in fact not the texture, but the starch, protein, and fat content, as these are the things that determine most how a flour will behave in a recipe. I can’t say I get a perfect product every single time on the first try, but the turning point in my success was when I started looking into exactly what I was replacing with my gluten-free flour blends.

Sometimes it really is the gluten that needs to be emulated, such as in a bread recipe, where the developed network of gluten in conventional breads actively works to trap the air pockets made by the yeast, allowing the bread to rise. Techniques for mimicking this include adding other leavening agents to help account for the fact that some of the air will indeed escape before the bread is done, or adding binding agents to help trap the air that is formed — and maybe even a combination of both of these techniques.

Often this is why one sees gluten-free recipes that include extra eggs, or gelling agents like ground flax or chia seeds, manufactured gums, or incorporation of starches into the GF blend, such as tapioca or arrowroot. Once we understand why these ingredients exist in a gluten-free recipe, we can better judge how to make substitutions to fit our needs – for example, don’t have ground chia seeds? Maybe adding an egg in its place will do the trick. The bread fell flat a bit and was too dense? We now have options. We consider the properties of the ingredients we are using, and this information can be used as tools for determining how to logically go about changing our recipes to improve them.

Other recipes that conventionally use flour don’t actually care about the gluten at all. Take, for example, a roux, essentially made up of a flour and a fat that are cooked together and then used as a thickening agent in soups and stews, such as gumbo. In the case of roux, there’s no elasticity needed, and no air to be trapped – all we are looking for is thickening, which occurs thanks to the starch components within wheat flour. This is great news for gluten-free cooks; there are lots of starchy gluten-free ingredients at our disposal that we can use to replace conventional wheat flour!

All-purpose wheat flour contains, along with gluten, a fair amount of starch. So to create a 1:1 substitution (by weight of course), one would just need to come up with a gluten-free flour blend that is also mostly (but not all) starch. This can be done either by using flours with similar starch content to wheat flour, or by supplementing the GF blend with a pure starch (cornstarch, tapioca, arrowroot, potato, glutinous rice flour, etc.). Each type of starch differs slightly in its chemistry, but for the most part they all have gelling and viscosity properties – i.e. they help food thicken and stick together. In something like our roux example, it’s not going to matter a whole lot what kind of starches we use, because the only aspect of the starch we are calling upon in this case is its thickening power.

Obviously, for baking, things get a little more complicated, but I’m convinced the overall strategy remains the same. The first thing I ask myself when converting a recipe is, “what in conventional wheat flour is doing the work? What traits do I need to make sure I replace with my gluten-free mix?” And then we can use our knowledge about the various gluten-free ingredients available to reproduce those properties. Actually, I think once one gets a bit more comfortable with gluten-free substitutions, there is even more freedom and more possibilities for “customizing” than when working with conventional all-purpose wheat flour. This is because one has the ability to pick and choose from amongst so many great ingredients — not just for certain properties, but also for flavors. For example, I often incorporate chestnut flour, because I just love the earthy rustic qualities it lends to baked goods.

Gluten-free substitutions don’t have to involve some mysterious wizardry in order to have success. Sometimes it’s just a bit of recipe tweaking, and other times, a little knowledge about the science behind why a recipe works goes a long way.

 

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What to do with the last apricots of the season: jam, coulis, baked, purée

By Friday, August 9, 2013 Permalink 0

Jonell Galloway, Spontaneous Cuisine, Mindful Eating, Slow Food, Editor of The Rambling EpicureWhat to do with the last apricots of the season: jam, coulis, baked, purée

by Jonell Galloway

From the archives

How to Choose Apricots

apricots_valais_tree_switzerland_suisse_geneva

Photo courtesy of Ellen Wallace.

 

The first and most important thing is to buy tree-ripened apricots. By definition, this means local ones, since ripe apricots are soft to the touch and do not travel well.

If you plan to eat them fresh, they should be soft, but not blemished or bruised. The riper they are, the more flavorful they are.

If you are using them for cooking, the riper the better, and you can even get by with blemishes as long as they are not rotten-looking. As a general rule, the softer the sweeter.

You will often see crates of extra-ripe apricots discounted in farmers markets. Look them over, and if there are not too many black or rotting ones, they are actually the best for cooking purposes, especially for jams, cakes and sauces.

Recipe Ideas for Apricots

Note: With all apricot recipes, the amount of sugar used depends on the acidity of the apricots. The acidity depends on the ripeness, origin and variety. With so many factors coming into play, taste tests are indispensable and the quantity of sugar should be determined by taste, using the quantities given here as a guideline.

Apricot Jam Recipe

The basic formula is 900 grams/2 lbs of sugar for every 2 kilograms/4 1/2 lbs of fruit used. This holds true for apricots, apples, cherries, nectarines and plums. If you like your jam really sweet, you can put equal weights of fruit and sugar.

Use cane sugar for more taste. I often halve the quantity of sugar in dessert recipes, but with jams this can be tricky, since sugar is what makes the jam set. It also serves as a preservative. If your fruit is extra-sweet, you might try cutting the quantity of sugar a tad.

apricot_raspberry_jam_valais-switzerland_suisse_recipe_geneva
Photo courtesy of Ellen Wallace.

 

Wash and rub apricots until perfectly clean. Remove any rotten spots with a paring knife. Dry well. Cut in half and remove stones. Save about half of the stones for later use.

Place apricots in a copper confiturier or a large stock pot. Add sugar. Let it sit overnight.

If the apricots are not ripe enough, they will not render any natural juices. If there are no juices, add 500 ml/1 pint of water to the pan.

Slowly bring to a boil on low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. This can take anywhere from 1 hour to 2 1/2 hours, depending on the water content of the apricots and the type of pan and stove or cooker you are using. Scrape the sides of the pan from time to time so that the mixture doesn’t crystallize.

The jam is set when you can dip a wooden spoon in it and it completely coats the spoon. Let jam settle for about 15 minutes before putting it into jars.

Pour jam into sterilized glass jars. Leave to cool. If you see the jam hasn’t set properly, you can put it back into the pan and boil it again, adding a little lemon juice.

Add two stones to each jar. Cool. Seal jars.

Apricot Purée or Coulis

Once again, the amount of sugar you use depends on whether you want it to have a tart flavor or a sweet flavor. If you’re going to pour it onto a very sweet cake or pie, opt for a more acidic taste. If you’re eating with something that is itself a little acidic, you might want to make your sauce sweeter. And once again, the sweetness will always depend on the ripeness of your apricots, so you’ll have to do a taste test in any case.

Wash apricots. Remove stones.

Put 300 grams/10 ounces of cane sugar (labeled sucre de canne roux or cassonade in Swiss and French supermarkets) and a vanilla bean (cut open in the lengthwise direction) into a saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat until it begins to thicken and sugar has completely dissolved, i.e. until it forms a syrup.

Put 500 grams/18 ounces of apricots into a food processor, or run them through a food mill or chinois. Add apricots to the liquid sugar mixture and mix with a wooden spoon. Heat mixture until it is thick enough to completely coat a wooden spoon.

This apricot sauce can be eaten warm or cold, depending on what you are using it with. It keeps for several days in the refrigerator.

Apricot coulis is a perfect accompaniment to a dark chocolate cake, but can be used to make ice cream sundaes or parfaits just as easily.

It can also be used in savory dishes, for example with cold chicken breasts or cold pork roast. In this case, you would of course considerably reduce the amount of sugar.

Roasted Apricots

Preheat oven to 250° C or French mark 8. Wash apricots. Cut in half. Remove stone.

Lay apricot halves out on a roasting tin or broiler pan, or in a large casserole dish. Sprinkle lightly with brown cane sugar and just a tad of butter, distributed evenly in small bits, so that it will form a natural sauce.  (This can also be done on a barbecue grill, but you’d lose the juices.) Put in oven, and immediately turn temperature down to 220° C or French mark 7. Turn when top side is browned. If butter starts to burn, add a few drops of water.

When soft and slightly browned and caramelized, remove from oven or grill.

Distribute on individual plates. Serve with a scoop of salt caramel, coffee or walnut ice cream. Lightly sprinkle with vanilla powder (labeled poudre vanille or vanille en poudre in supermarket; easy to find in France, but difficult to find in Switzerland), cinnamon and a high-quality chocolate or cocoa powder. Drizzle a little maple syrup over it. It is now ready to serve.

Sugar-free Apricot Purée or Coulis

The great French chef Michel Guérard, who started the Cuisine Minceur movement in 1974, has a recipe for a sugar-free version of a coulis. This is adapted from the 1976 edition of Michel Guérard’s Cuisine Minceur, now out of print:

Wash, halve and pit 12 ripe fresh apricots. In a saucepan, add apricots, 1/2 cup of water, 1 vanilla bean (cut open in the lengthwise direction, down the middle) and artificial sweetener to taste, the equivalent of about 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, until mixture is reduced by about one third.

Remove vanilla bean. Put mixture in a food processor to make a purée.

This sugar-free sauce can be served in the same manner as the traditional apricot purée or coulis recipe above.

 

Related articles

This article was originally published on GenevaLunch.

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Coconut Pound Cake and Ratio Cooking

By Monday, October 15, 2012 Permalink 0

by Diana Zahuranec

It was soft and yellow-white with a thin, dark crust. The crust was not hard or chewy, but broke away perfectly from the rest of this pillow-y treat. It wasn’t a piece of bread, though it looked like one. Was it cake? It was on the end of a long table under a blue tent shading us from the summer sun. A gold cardboard plate presented perfect slices of this marvelous discovery.

I held the slice in my little sweaty hands, taking small bites that burst with butter, vanilla, and sugar. Its texture was half of the pleasure: smooth, moist, fine-grained, and soluble, I already wanted more. But the table was on the other side of the lawn now, and there were so many long tables laden with food with big people figures milling about, from one end to another. I never found it again.

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Food Art: 12-layer chocolate birthday cake, food photography by Rashmi Primlani

By Monday, July 30, 2012 Permalink 0

Rashmi Primlani runs the food blog The Primlani Kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Make Perfect Brownies like your Grandma’s

By Thursday, February 16, 2012 Permalink 0

How to Make Perfect Brownies like your Grandma’s

We love this beautifully illustrated recipe for making the perfect brownies. This is a keeper!

Brownies stacked on a plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The explanations are better than a video because they let you go on with your work and refer back to the photos when you need to.

Click here to go to the recipe.

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Portuguese Delights: Arbutus or “Tree Strawberry” Cream

By Friday, December 16, 2011 Permalink 0

by Gerês

I love to go to Gerês in autumn: The warm colors of the leaves. The tranquility of the surroundings and the breathtaking landscape always take me to another dimension, hard to define in only words. I lose myself in those glorious woods; I lose track of time too.

I take my time walking, enjoying nature’s generosity and gathering mushrooms and arbutus, also known as “tree strawberries”. And this year I was happy to discover that the arbutus trees were covered with vibrant yellow, red, and orange berries, most of them ready to be picked and eaten. They have a delicious sweet/tart taste and a singular texture. Soft but with very small pips, that give them a tiny bit of crunch, and perfect when dipped and baked in a smooth cream. They remind me of my care-free childhood in the hills of Gerês, when only the present existed and every moment had a magical aura.

When I returned home, I still had all these tastes and scents floating in my mind and I wanted to make them into some delicious concrete delight instead of just a memory. Once more, I found myself pottering in the kitchen, cooking a smooth fruity cream made out of memories.

Recipe

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Food Art: Azulejos 1, food photography by Mónica Pinto

By Thursday, December 1, 2011 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

I recently discovered Mónica Pinto’s beautiful food photography when searching for World Food Blogs for my Food News Daily column. Of Portuguese origin, her recipes are often traditional Portuguese, but her photography is firmly rooted in the spirit of cutting-edge food photography. Mónica runs the blog Pratos y Travessas, writtten in both Portuguese and English.

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