Tag Archives: Gluten Free

A Sweet Little Thing Called Chocolate

A Sweet Little Thing Called Chocolate
A Sweet Little Thing Called Chocolate

It’s something we love, crave and simply can’t resist.

This delicious ‘food’ has been around for centuries, originally as a hot beverage. In its first instance the beverage was not sweetened but then the Europeans sweetened and lightened the drink with milk. In the 19th Century, John Cadbury developed an emulsifying process which created the common modern chocolate bar. And the rest, as they say, is definitely history!

The chocolate itself comes from a bean that is fermented, sun dried and roasted. It is then ground. This grinding process is very important – it liquefies the cocoa. During this stage, the precious cocoa butter (which is the fat  that gives that lovely “mouth feel” and determines the quality of the chocolate) can be removed as required.   This liquefying process results in a  thick, dark and bitter mixture known as cocoa ‘liquor’. It is an incredibly specialised process.

Good chocolate is  really all about the cocoa butter (or the ‘fat’ if you like) and the cocoa ‘liquor’ – the ingredients that give the colour and ‘bitterness’ and determine the quality of the chocolate. The higher the amounts of cocoa butter the higher the quality and the more “bitterness”, thus creating a good, dark, bitter chocolate.  

 chocolateThe chocolate line up:

Whenever possible I choose a good couverture chocolate – a superior quality chocolate with a minimum of 32% cocoa butter.  It has a rich flavour and superior sheen. I will also use good quality cooking chocolate (labelled as cooking chocolate and better qualities always advise the amount of cocoa solids as a percentage).  A good quality eating chocolate is a great option too. It too, should always have the cocoa solids percentage listed on the front of the label.

So what do I personally prefer? My preferred chocolate types are Callebaut, Valrhona and then Lindt. (I will normally purchase these from specialty food stores.) From the supermarket I will choose a good quality, dark, cooking chocolate in the Lindt or Plaistowe brands. Otherwise a good, dark, eating coverture chocolate works well.

Dark Chocolate:

Contains between 50-90% cocoa liquor  which gives it a rich, dark flavour.

The higher the liquor the lower the sweetness. If there is sweetness it has been added. You will find labels saying bitter or semi sweet. The higher the fat (cocoa butter), the better the chocolate ‘melts’ in your mouth.

Milk Chocolate: 

It contains both cocoa butter and cocoa liquor, with milk solids and often emulsifiers. There should be a minimum of 25% cocoa solids and it is sweeter than dark chocolate.

White Chocolate:

Technically speaking it is not a chocolate at all, but usually called it! The white ‘coverture’ should have a minimum of 32% cocoa butter.

Compound Chocolate:

Labelled as Compound Chocolate, it is cheaper to purchase and has vegetable oils added in place of much of the cocoa butter.  It is easier to cook with and melt, but does not have the intensity of flavour or wonderful aroma of a coverture chocolate.

Ok so now we know a little bit about ‘chocolate’ here are some tips on storage, melting and tempering.

  • Store chocolate in a cool, dark place and always, always covered.
  • Don’t freeze or refrigerate as this causes it to ‘bloom’. This is the white, grey look that can occur on the chocolate. Chocolate doesn’t like high or low temperatures.
  • In summer you can ‘chill’ the chocolate, for a short time, in the refrigerator before chopping or grating. Grating? Yes, it’s perfect to grate the chocolate before melting it gently.

Melting: Gentle is the word!

I hate to say it as I know many love to zap the chocolate in the microwave – but it’s much better not to. The old fashioned way is best!  But if you MUST use the microwave, use 50% power only and short 20 second bursts. Be patient and gentle and melt it slowly.

But this is the best way…..try it!

The best melting method:

  • Place the grated or finely chopped chocolate (you can do this quickly in a food processor if you like), into a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
  • Now make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl (as it will get far too hot).  Usually only fill the saucepan around ¼ full.
  • Take care to not let any water or steam at all touch the chocolate. It’s surprising how quickly the chocolate will begin to soften.
  • Gently stir the chocolate until it melts and is glossy and smooth.

Utensils:

All completely clean and dry – no moisture! For best results use a silicon spatula or metal spoon. No wooden spoons, they absorb moisture and hold other flavours (curry in your chocolate – yuk!).

Tempering:

This is the name of the process of ensuring that chocolate will reset to a beautiful sheen and ‘snap’ when it cools.   It’s a gentle melting and cooling process.  You only need to temper chocolate if you want it to reset (with a beautiful gloss, sheen and ‘snap’). Without tempering it simply will not set and may have a white cloudy look, known as “blooming”.

The quick and easy tempering method:   You’ll need a sugar thermometer.

  • Start with about 300g coverture chocolate, grate or chop it into small pieces.
  • Add about ¾ of the chocolate to a heatproof bowl. Place it over simmering water (as above), stir gently.
  • The chocolate must NOT exceed 45 degrees C for dark or 40 degrees C for milk and white chocolate.
  • Take care not to exceed this temperature as you will need to cool the chocolate and start again! The process must be gentle.
  • So gently melt ¾ of the grated chocolate over ‘just simmering’ water, stirring gently. When the thermometer reaches 40 degrees C, remove the bowl from the heat.
  • Stir in half of the reserved chocolate and keep stirring, then add the remaining chocolate and stir this in. The temperature will fall to 30 – 32 degrees C (for dark), 29- 31 degrees C (for milk or white).   It’s now ready….
  • The bowl can be popped back onto the just warm water to maintain the now correct working temperature …. Be aware however that if the temperature exceeds 32 degrees C at anytime, you need to start the process again! Be patient and keep it gentle.

gentle melting             adding next batch of chocolate             chocolate baskets

So what to do with all this beautiful melted chocolate? Hmmmmmm…..welll let’s see….

Dip plump strawberries into it! Make chocolate baskets! Create chocolate sauces! And use it in all your favourite recipes.

Here are a few of mine, created especially for KitchenAid Australia & New Zealand and of course, using our amazing appliances. There are Fudgy Gluten Free Brownies, Chocolate Almond Tiramisu Cake and of course a perfect Chocolate Mud Cake! Just click the image and you will visit the recipe on www.kitchenaid.com.au And don’t forget there are so many more gorgeous recipes on our website for you to explore. Enjoy!

                          Chocolate Almond Tiramisu Cake                            

Finally, remember that you can ask me your chocolate cooking questions, or any KitchenAid cooking question, below. Or you can find me on Facebook or Twitter by following @kitch_therapist. I’m always here to help!

Happy cooking

Jo.

Shortcrust That Will Make You Crumble (with delight!)

Shortcrust That Will Make You Crumble (with delight!)

I love a buttery short pastry – don’t you? Golden lightly crisp crumb with a soft buttery crumb that screams – “this is pastry is good”. Shortcrust can be sweet or savoury, or something in between – it really depends on the filling your using.

A sweet fruit filling only needs a touch of sugar in the pastry, a tangy lemon filling can have a slightly sweeter pastry. A savoury filling is better to have a dash of salt (and fresh chopped herbs or spices) added to the pastry.

The ingredients: They are very simple…. we all have them sitting in the pantry and fridge: Flour, butter, egg yolk, maybe a little castor sugar (for a sweet shortcrust) maybe a touch of salt and often a squeeze of lemon juice or some iced water – definitely nothing fancy or hard about those. But do your favour a favour and buy the good stuff particularly for the butter. The best quality butter (you can afford) is a must and makes such a different to the crumb.

For me, the best quality is a unsalted butter and the ‘better’ quality butters are sold in foil wrappers. The issue with some of the ‘cheaper’ butters is the amount of water added, (yes it is added to many cheaper butters), this does effect the end result.

Equipment: You can make it real easy on yourself and use the food processor or a standmixer. Both of these make pastry with perfect results, every time. The ‘old fashioned’ way of rubbing chilled butter into the flour with your fingertips, are you mad? Why it’s messy and our little hot fingers make terrible dense lifeless pastry – no don’t even think about doing that ‘rubbing in’ yourself. Use the processor or the standmixer every time.

20131021-202054.jpg

The Processor technique: Pop the multi purpose blade, into the processor bowl. Add the flour (and sugar / salt if using), and place on the cover. Pulse for a few seconds to aerate and combine the dry ingredients. Then set the motor running and drop several pieces of the chilled butter down the chute quickly. Allow it to cut into the flour before adding some more. Once the butter is cut in add the egg yolk/ iced water and or lemon juice.

The Standmixer technique: Attach the flat beater to the mixer and place on the food shield. (this shield helps prevent the flour flying out of the bowl and also forces the food being added to drop down right into the attachment, so it makes the standmixer even more efficient)

Pop the flour, sugar, salt (if using) into the mixing bowl. Turn to speed 2 mix briefly to aerate and combine the dry ingredients. With the mixer running, drop in several cubes of the butter adding them as they cut into the flour. Once the butter mixed / cut in add the egg yolk/ iced water or lemon juice.

The dough will form quite quickly forming a soft ball. Take care NOT to over mix as this stage as it will make your pastry tough. Often the mixture is just formed and you are best to remove it and gently form it into a ball.

ready to roll outWrap the delicious shortcrust in plastic wrap and refrigerate it allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. Resting is vital as it prevents shrinking.

Blind baking, well that’s another topic we’ll chat about soon.

In the meantime get baking by clicking the links to some yummy pastry recipes from www.kitchenaid.com.au below including gorgeous Egg & Bacon Pies and Apple Frangipane Pies! Delish!

KitchenAid Egg Bacon Pies      KitchenAid Apple Franipane Pies

Happy cooking,

Jo.

http://www.kitchenaid.com.au/au/recipes/item/54-traditional-deep-dish-apple-pie

http://www.kitchenaid.com.au/au/recipes/item/55-chicken-and-vegetable-pie

http://www.kitchenaid.com.au/au/recipes/item/95-egg-and-bacon-pies

http://www.kitchenaid.com.au/au/recipes/item/112-apple-frangipane-pies

http://www.kitchenaid.com.au/au/recipes/item/138-gluten-free-star-topped-minced-tarts

Hummus by any other name.

Hummus by any other name.

This delicious Middle Eastern dip can be called, hamos, hommos, hommus, homos, houmous, hummos, hummous, or humus. Which ever spelling is known to you, this luscious and very delicious chick pea dip / or spread – is a Middle Eastern classic that has spread it self throughout the world. The key ingredients are simple: cooked chick peas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. The optional extras: tahini, natural yoghurt, ground paprika, cumin or sumac.

For many of us only ever use dried chickpeas. These need to be soaked overnight and cooked until tender. Followed by a quick puree to the desired consistency with other ingredients. (see tip 4).   But for the quick cooks: a can of drained chick peas makes it easy work. yes you can buy many different brands of hummous, but they are often too thin and very boring in texture and flavour.

The ‘traditiona’l will only ever use dried (soaked and cook chick peas) and yes I must agree it makes all the difference to the end result.

Tips for success:

1. Soak the chick peas in double their weight of cold water over night.

2. Drain and change the water (a very important step) if you are wanting to reduce the ‘windy’ after effects of beans & pulses.

3. Using clean water, cook the chick peas until tender.  Don’t add salt as this makes the skins fall off.  Boil for 30 minutes to 45 minutes or until tender. The cooking time depends on the age and quality of the dried chickpeas.4. Drain and cool. Puree to desired consistency with your choice of flavours. I like at least 3 cloves garlic, 2 tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp natural yoghurt, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, finely grated juice & rind of 2 lemons and plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. To serve drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with either paprika or cumin.

5. Often I through in loads of parsley and chives too.   If using canned chick peasthe organic brands normally have great quality. Remember to drain well and use as above.

I serve hummus as a dip – with loads of fresh vegie pieces and or spread on wraps or a dollop on grilled lamb or big juicy grilled mushrooms. It is also sensational with avocado and fresh ripe tomatoes. Nutritionally chick peas are high in magnesium, potassium and have loads of fibre – an absolute winner for all ages, toddlers, teenagers and adults.

Grandma ‘s favourite cake – the classic Victorian Sponge

Grandma ‘s favourite cake – the classic Victorian Sponge


Who can resist a fluffy tender crumb good old fashioned sponge cake, complete with softly whipped cream, lashings of berries jam and fresh berries.  This fabulous cake is said to have been named for Queen Victoria in the mid 1860’s – when it was very so fashionable to be invited for ‘tea’ at around 4pm.

Many good old fashioned cooks today ‘cut their teeth’ learning the tricks of a great sponge. There are a couple of versions and many swear by their own technique. Some beat the egg whites with sugar and fold in the egg yolks and flour, others beat the whole egg with sugar and fold in the flour – which can be plain, self raising or cornflour.

Some fold in hot water, while others fold through melted better. There are also versions with no yolk (Angel cake) and French versions that beat the eggs and sugar over simmering water.

The Angel cake is also a fabulous cake, but with American origins. It has become very popular in recent times as it contains no fat. You need a large pan with a removable centre & base for this cake and preferably a proper ‘Angel’ cake pan. These are sold at good cookware stores.

My fail proof recipe for a classic Victorian sponge uses whole eggs and plain flour  and begins and ends completely in the marvellous KitchenAid standmixer – even when adding the flour. For my recipe above you can use plain flour or gluten free plain flour. I also always like to add my own baking powder and prefer to not use commercial self raising flour. Specialty ‘cake’ flours also provide a wonderful soft texture, as they contain less protein. They are opposite to pasta flour which contains more protein making it harder flour. Specialty flours are now available from good supermarkets and are labelled cake or bread / pasta flour.

Here are my tips for success:

  • Weigh & measure all ingredients and preheat that oven.
  • I like to bake without a fan, so if possible turn the fan off!
  • Butter and line the pans with baking paper.
  • I whisk the flour (gluten free for me), baking paper and salt in the standmixer ( but some prefer to sift by hand!)
  • Make sure the bowl and whisk attachment is sparkling clean & dry.
  • Whisk the (room temperature NOT cold) whole eggs & sugar until very thick and fluffy. Working quickly adds the flour and remaining ingredients and mix on speed 1 only – JUST until mixed. Remember the KitchenAid planetary action is amazing and mixes incredibly fast.
  • Divide the mixture between the pans (you can weigh each pan to make sure even) and quickly spread the mixture smooth.
  • Bake in the centre shelf for about 20 minutes. Do not over cook.
  • Invert onto a cake rack and cool.Spread with your favourite berry jam and whipped cream and sandwich the two together. Sift over a little extra icing sugar and maybe some fresh berries.

It just doesn’t get any better in my book oh except to serve with a fabulous cup of Earl Grey tea!

The buzz word is Quinoa

The buzz word is Quinoa

Last week I was part of an exciting food show in Brisbane. Not only was it fabulous to be up in that glorious warm temperature but part of the first Irresistible Gluten Free Food Show 2010. The line up included an incredible line up of Chefs, Nutrionists, Dieticians and of course a fabulous Home Economist – me!

As you might know I follow a gluten free diet, I am gluten intolerant. The official name if you are formally diagnosed is Coeliac disease. Many people now follow a gluten free diet for various health reasons not necessarily because they are formally diagnosed medically. Read the rest of this entry

What a Birthday Week!

What a Birthday Week!

Happy Birthday to me and yes what a week. Celebration after celebration has been the rule for the last week… goodness I hardly knows where to begin.

Birthdays are made even more special when you can choose all your favourite places to celebrate. This week has been very little cooking at home (I am sad to say) but I have loved every mouthful.

Melbourne has a huge amount in fact an enormous choice of sensational wonderful cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs and the list goes on.  In 100 birthdays I do not think I could eat at them all so.

So which meals where the highlight of the week, here are my top three. Read the rest of this entry

What makes a great Bolognaise?

What makes a great Bolognaise?

Every great cook, celebrity chef, family cook and ordinary cook I know has their own version.  This full flavoured simmered minced beef sauce originally from Bologna Italy and is famous through out the world.   There are versions everywhere – from Bologna itself to China and yes definitely a favourite meal in every home  I would think here in Australia too.

Versions include beef only, a combination of beef & veal, beef & pork, beef & chicken liver, Chinese slant recipes with Asian mushrooms &  ketchup manis  and vegetarian styles ( made with eggplant and mushrooms). I also have a recipe I make usually in the cold of winter  made in one pot which includes cooking the pasta in the pot with the sauce!  A true  ‘one pot’ recipe.

Marcella Hazan is known as the mother of good Italian food.  Her beautiful Italian Cookbooks, explain the basics and essentials of producing a great Bolognese. I have for years read every detail and eaten many versions in many countries, restaurants and homes.  From this I have produced many delicious huge simmering pots and have my own authentic set of rules……

So what does make a great Bolognese?  Here is my 12 step guide to my fabulous slow simmer Bolognese –   Read the rest of this entry

It’s Gluten Free!

It’s Gluten Free!

As a person who has a home that pretty well runs ‘gluten free’ I was delighted to be part of last weekends fabulous ‘Irresistible Gluten free Show here in Melbourne.

Whether or not you are a true Coeliac (a medically diagnosed condition of an intolerance to gluten in your diet) or simply someone who is intolerant to too much of this pesky protein…… and that’s me! The show was packed to the rafters with interested ‘irritables’!

My son Harry was diagnosed when he was just 18 months old and now that he follows a strict NO gluten diet he is super healthy, happy, very fit and active 12 year old.  Initially is it overwhelming the change in eating habits and even I a seasoned recipe writer found it a challenge – the variety of good quality gluten free foods available even at everyday normal supermarkets continues to grow daily – thank fully!

As part of the show I was responsible for the Coles Cooking Stage and worked amongst a terrific line up of presenters. As always KitchenAid appliances whipped, beat, kneaded, folded and processed –  purring away and performing the tasks at hand with ease.

The line up for The Irresistible Gluten Free Show …….

Tobie Puttock (of Restaurant 15 fame) presented some of his sensational Italian style favouites…. baked snapper with saffron, olives and fennel, a stunning ricotta alforno (torte) and a semi fredddo made on a luscious Italian marsala base. The semi freddo has quickly become an addiction in my house – I have already made this wonderful recipe twice since the show.

Read the rest of this entry