Stories

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cherry Bread – Baked with Love

Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread

Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread

* Note: This post is sponsored by King Arthur Flour and Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs for their “Baking with Love” Pinterest contest! Details on this below!

——————

I feel fortunate to get to do so much of what I love. And this week am even more amply blessed.

I don’t bring this up much anymore because I consider myself somewhat “retired”, but I got my degree in stage acting, and for all of my twenties it was my main focus in regards to work. Looking at my resume you could even say I was rather successful at it. But my body couldn’t keep up with the crazy schedules and multiple jobs it took to stay afloat, and writing seemed a healthier career choice. While I don’t regret a minute I spent pursuing or taking the stage or my decision to focus elsewhere… I do really miss going from one creative project to another sometimes, and the sense of teamwork and community that goes into a production.

So I was honored when asked to perform again as Bird in Thin Air in the last year of the Universal Theatre Festival in Provincetown on the end of Cape Cod.

As Bird in 2006 at StageWorks/Hudson and then warming up last weekend in Provincetown.

As Bird in 2006 at StageWorks/Hudson and then warming up last weekend in Provincetown.

Bird and I go way back: I did the premiere of the piece at StageWorks up in Hudson, New York at the delightful age of 25 (along with four other parts). It’s a 16-minute solo short piece about a tightrope walker who’s trying to gather the courage to walk the wire after having lost her partner/husband only days before. There’s no way I could fully explain how much this piece has meant over the course of these 6 years as I’ve performed it in 5 productions: it’s the kind of piece that an actor rarely gets to call their own, and Bird grows with every year and every hundreds of experiences I go through as a person. By the end of those 16 minutes I’ve gone through a delicious range of emotions and am spent, sometimes to the point of near vomiting.

I could say it’s nerve-wracking to be on a small platform alone without an actor to share the performance with. But the older I get the less I worry about a memorable performance or “wowing” anyone. I care more about connecting with the words, the character, the writer, my director and the joy that is many eyes upon me as I step onto that platform alone and just talk. I’m completely unable to see the audience in front of me because of the blast of the spotlight a foot away. But I can sense them, and hear their reaction to points of humor or sarcasm or… at the end… my complete terror and anguish. And I could never describe my gratitude at the sighs, applause, “bravos” and – once – “hurrah” that comes when that spotlight goes down.

There’s really nothing like it. I love those opportunities. And I am so thankful that now and then I get to live them.

I spent this past weekend far from my kitchen at work, my kitchen at home, my dog and (for the most part) a computer. I stretched, I slept, I worked with my much-loved director, I dissected pages of text and made sure my body could keep up with the story while on stage looking out, blinded by light.

Clockwise from top left: sign at the beach, tech rehearsal, the view from my room, the empty streets after the last show closed, the farewell season banner, bouys in the cold.

Clockwise from top left: sign at the beach, tech rehearsal, the view from my room, the empty streets after the last show closed, the farewell season banner, bouys in the cold.

Pinterest Contest – Baking with Love

This post is a little late, because while I had planned to pen it over the weekend on my luxuriously quiet days before the shows, I came down with an upper respiratory infection and had to put all focus on muscling through the performances and my drive home. So this is a little late, but still full of love.

Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 1.38.08 PMI don’t normally do sponsored posts. But I actually like and use both of these products, so when asked to do a post with King Arthur Flour and Pete and Gerry’s eggs, I said “yes” with confidence. I love Pete and Gerry’s eggs because they’re free-range, organic, from somewhat nearby and rather affordable. Though I don’t often use flour blends King Arthur is my go-to gluten-full flour. And when it comes to using a blend, I love that there’s does not include xanthan gum – which is a plus in my book.

So we’re all coming together for a contest on Pinterest where pinners can pin their loving baked treats up until February 14th and win up to $250 in King Arthur products! Click here or on the image above to learn more (and click HERE to join me on Pinterest!).

Chocolate-Cherry-Bread1

Now I had intended to do something pink and heart-full and sweet for this contest, and I may do another by the due date, but performing and cold and what-not had me doing something simple and rich and warming. There’s something I adore about a quick-bread recipe. The fact that it’s two bowls and no electronics. The fact that a basic ratio is endlessly adaptable. The fact that it can be a loaf or a muffin. I love quick-breads. And this one tastes even better on day two, and day three.

And now, to quote Meg Ryan (who looked way more adorable with her cold in You’ve Got Mail than I do right now), “my head is getting fuzzy”. Back to the couch.

Lots of love,

– Jacqueline

Chocolate-Cherry-Bread2

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cherry Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup / 8oz King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour Blend
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 cup (4oz) white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, beaten
  • 8oz milk (I used unsweetened almond), warmed
  • 1/2 cup (4oz, 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a loaf or muffin pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, gum, powder, soda, sugar and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs thoroughly. Add milk and butter and whisk thoroughly to combine.

Whisk dry ingredients into wet. Fold in cherries and chocolate chips.

Pour into greased pans and bake 40 minutes for a loaf or 18-22 minutes for muffins.

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A Big Empty House and Early Grey Tea

I grew up in one house for pretty much most of my childhood.

When I was about 4 years old, my family bought a piece of property in CT consisting of a one-bedroom cottage and a lot of trees. Tucked into the corner of a small state park, wild violets would blanket the small yard in the summer and I recall my older sister Jessica once dragging me up the steep driveway after school one snowy day on a sled. We lived in that cottage – my parents, my three siblings, our two dogs and I – while my dad built on that land what would be our home.

For years trees fell, foundation was poured, sheetrock went up. My younger days were spent climbing up and down piles of various rocks, dirt and gravel with our neighbors; over a dozen of us around the same age would ramble between our houses, connected by paths through the woods and across our small suburban street. We would pretend we that we were Indians (nowadays we would politically-correctly say we were playing we were Native Americans),building sets of dishes out of bits of slate and wood, barefoot in the yard while rain poured down, trying to be at one with nature.

In the house that would become our home we picked our bedrooms, painted them the colors we wanted, each connectedto a sibling by a shared bathroom. We picked out spots at the kitchen table in the now huge kitchen. My parents bought a baby grand piano for the music room, and we would practice while sound echoed throughout the space etched out by high ceilings and open doorways. My sister would later get her PhD in music, and the sound of various instruments would be our soundtrack over the years.

In the house that was our home we held Sweet 16s, several weddings (though none for my siblings and I – us girls will always remember the dream of walking down the winding center staircase in white) baby showers (one only months ago for my best childhood friend, who is now the mother to a beautiful baby girl), around 15 years of fancy New Years Eve parties that welcomed often over a hundred people, clambakes, post-prom parties, and closing night bashes of casts from high school shows through when I was producing professionally as an adult.

My father’s mother spent her last years and last days in a bedroom off of the kitchen, and where my father rebuilt the guest bathroom with handicapped access for her. I can’t count how many cousins and friends lived with us over the years. My parents we never the kind to turn away someone without a home.

I’ve spent every holiday of my life but one in that house at some point throughout the day. I’ve picked dozens of daffodils, my favorite flower, from the hundreds upon hundreds my parents planted in the now open yards. When I’ve been very, very sick with my Lyme disease, I wandered the gardens slowly and sat in the shade, letting the peaceful energy of the house just hold me while I waited to heal.

The house grew over the years, and seemed to ebb and flow with people and sentimental items. When my mom moved out a few years ago the dynamic changed and my family shifted a bit. But my father and two sisters were still there, and other family members came and went, and my brother still worked in the office every day. So whenever I came home chances were we’d all still be together, even if in between transit to somewhere else.

My sisters recently moved out – both in the same week – and today is the first time I’ve been back to feel the absence. My dad is gone for the weekend, my brother taking a much-deserved day off, my mother (who now lives a mile away) is on the other coast, and a man who works for my father and lives here a few months of the year just left for the airport to fly back to Poland for the winter. Now, at this moment, I’m home to work in the office a bit. When I got here I put on the kettle and grabbed a tea bag from my stash in the pantry. I poured hot water over it into the yellow British teapot that I bought to leave here. The house is quiet. Too quiet. And I start to roam.

I walk through Lil Sis’ empty in-law apartment. To the library where Jess taught private flute lessons. Up to my room and through our shared bathroom, which is now empty and set up with guest towels and packaged toothbrushes. Through to her room, which echoes. Mitra pads along behind me, and I set her food and water down where I set Rusty’s before her, and Heidi’s before his. We walk outside and I look up at a tall pine tree, now 30 feet high, and remember when my dad planted it for Lil Sis after one Christmas, where she had decorated it at 2 feet tall, its roots nestled into a wrapped paper tub. Back inside, I sing while washing my teapot out, and the space feels wrong. I look past the kitchen table through the dining room and into the now-empty library. I feel my grandmother not being in the guest room off the kitchen, where she had been every single day until a few years ago. The kitchen where I’ve made countless gluten-free pies and cookies, and prepared meals for my family, is practically bare. I was told to lock up all the doors around the house, and its large emptiness seems, more and more… less like my home.

When did life speed up so fast?

Earl Gray Tea

Place one tea bag in a large mug or pot. Pour just-boiling water over it. Steep for 3-5 minutes to desired strength.

Sip while breathing deeply, giving thanks, being present, and letting go.

Happy Birthday, “I Love You”, and Chewy Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Post-post note! The day after this went live I was featured on America’s Test Kitchen for their Blogger Spotlight series! A few years ago my dear friend Thom turned me on to ATK and Cooks Illustrated in general, and I’ve come to refer to this incredibly knowledgeable source for any base recipe that I NEED to get right on the first try: basically they take a recipe and dissect it to the core, and then explain to you WHY certain combinations worked and others didn’t. I was honored, the day after my birthday, to be spotlighted by this incredibly well-known publication, especially with such an intro by their social media intern Belle Cushing.

Last night around midnight my dad woke me up to crack a huge bottle of champagne and have a chat in the backyard hot tub. I had literally just turned 31 – the age my dad was when he had me. We’ve renamed this occasion the “Better Champagne Birthday”. Climbing back into bed later after a text from my mom and a phone call with a good friend, I started mulling on the love in my life.

When I was 19, Ruark was the first man (of no familial relation) to say “I love you” to me. Or, at least, the first one of significance. It was New Years Eve of 2000/2001, and we were dressed formally and dancing at my parents’ house. Since then I’ve remembered every first “I love you” – where I was, if something as simple as making crepes inspired it, and how it felt physically inside of me to say and hear those words with someone for the first time. I remember this with all the men I’ve dated and all the women who’ve honored me with their friendship, giving their “I love you’s” so freely and fully that they’ve sometimes come for the first time at the end of a text or an email. The older I grow, the more weight those words carry. But a good weight – like a thick quilt in the dead of winter or stepping into a cool pool of water on a blistering summer day.

This week I was gifted with a new “I love you”. “I love you very much”, specifically. It caught me off guard. It was delicate, and genuine, and the kind of gift you want to wrap up and tuck somewhere safe.

I said “I love you” right back to this friend – and meant it – and the evening continued on, those words spoken and then left, sweetly, in the air. And then the next day they troubled me. And then the following day I found myself deeply introspective.

So I lay in bed in the first few hours of my 31st year thinking of “I love you”:

The way my father tells me – over and over again – that no one will ever love me as much as he does. The way my mother and I say it as we hug tight. The way my siblings and I say it easily and fully and often. The way Ruark and I end every phone call with it, still, though we’ve not been a couple for three years now. The way Lindsey’s “love you’s” have seen me through 15 years of growing pains. The way Abby ends a text with, “love you darlin”. Or Lyndsey’s “I love you’s” are so full and rich I feel her inside my heart though she’s hundreds of miles away. The way I now have to raise my voice to tell my grandparents I love them so that they can hear it. Or how I can say “I love you” over and over to Mitra, who doesn’t need words to know I do.

I was told recently that old souls say “I love you” first. I rarely have that courage, though I often say that them my head while holding tight or keeping a gaze. Once I’ve said them once, I want to say them again, and in any moment that feels significant.

But I think we often let fear stop us from expressing our love. Or at least I do. Not surface love or lust or social propriety, but real love and affection and attachment. Do we do this for protection or self-preservation? Or because once someone’s said “I love you” we immediately fear the day they’ll go away and we’ll be left to wonder what happened to that love?

And where does that love go once a relationship has ended? If we haven’t seen someone for a month, a year, a decade… where is that love?

Is it possible to love someone who said goodbye to me many years ago or to love someone who I’ve known for only a few months?

I guess the older you get and the more you experience, the more there is to chew on at 1:30 in the morning.

But, today, for me, love is everywhere. It’s in the people who, at some point on my birthday, will think of me with love. It’s in listening to the song that Ruark wrote me for my birthday last year. In wearing the pink chef coat that Erika gave me today. In flipping through the “Cook” Book that Dalane made me of all the menus and quirky texts I’ve sent him since starting my chef job out east.

It’s in Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. The new “I love you very much” person’s favorite sweet. I love making people’s favorites for their birthdays – cheesecake, Snickerdoodles, apple pies, brownies… they’ve been my way to say “I love you” when celebrating someone’s birth. Today, as I transcribe and clean and ponder on the conjunction of a few harmless, full words, I’m thinking “love” with butter, flour, and chocolate.

– Jacqueline

Chewy Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 18 cookies

Note: these are adapted from America’s Test Kitchen / Cooks Illustrated, which I find incredibly reliable when you want to nail something specific. They’re chewy and soft, but very sweet. In general I love subtle sweets, so while these are perfect for those who want bakery or Toll House-type cookies, don’t say I didn’t warn you if, like me, you prefer them with a bit of heft from nuts or oatmeal or almond butter. Sometimes love is baking outside your box.

Ingredients:

  • 10.5 oz gluten-free flour blend (mine was 6 oz brown rice flour, 3 oz. tapioca flour and 1.5 oz millet flour, more or less)
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or white sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate baking chips (regular or oversized, as I used here)

Preheat oven to 325°. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment.

Measuring out the flours in a medium bowl. Add xanthan gum, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment (or hand mixer), beat sugars and butter until thoroughly combined. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth and slightly fluffy. On low speed, add flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop into balls (about 1/4 cup or smaller, depending on how you like your cookies). Crack a ball in half and then fit the smooth sides together, so the rough dough from the middle makes the edges rougher and gives more surface area for texture. Place at least 3″ apart on baking sheets.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating halfway through, until edges are slightly crispy but centers are still soft.

Cool on baking sheets (this will help the insides continue to cook but the edges stop before getting too crispy).

Share with many “I love you”s.

Strawberry Rhubarb Layer Cake – Happy Birthday Mom!

Layers of Meyer Lemon Cake (gluten free) with strawberry rhubarb compote and (dairy free) liquid cheesecake!

59 Reason Why I Love My Mom

  1. She is the only person who reads almost every single thing I write.
  2. She’s seen every show that’s been important to me.
  3. She can really shake it on a dance floor.
  4. Her generosity knows no limits.
  5. She has an infectious smile.
  6. She is constantly learning, evolving, growing, and never giving up.
  7. She has spent years figuring out how to cook for me, with so much success.
  8. 60 miles in Boston.
  9. 60 miles in Philly.
  10. 60 miles in Atlanta.
  11. 60 miles in Twin Cities.
  12. A convertible and pink boas for all those other 60 miles.
  13. She flew to Tampa to surprise me after my 60 miles there.
  14. She knows my limits and helps me not to cross them.
  15. She’s a boobslinger, with pride.
  16. She can rock a red hat.
  17. She gave me my big sister.
  18. She gave me my little brother.
  19. She gave me my little sister.
  20. I see my entire life whenever I decorate my Christmas tree.
  21. She’s a great show-partner… and a brave one.
  22. She’s seen me partially clad onstage (twice) and commended me for both performances.
  23. She always sends a card, just when I need it, for no reason other than she knows I need it.
  24. She truly loves my pets and helps me best care for them.
  25. She’s by far my favorite person to shop for clothes with.
  26. Some of my most beloved things were gifts from her.
  27. She knows how to laugh at herself.
  28. Sometimes she says the funniest things! And then laughs at herself…
  29. She’s always there for her friends, 200%
  30. She can talk to anyone, and with genuine interest and respect.
  31. She’s just plain beautiful, outside and in.
  32. Dozens of now-adults still call her “mom”.
  33. She’s stepped in to sew, drive, cook, clean, pack, move, promote, organize…. she’s Everywoman.
  34. She made those awkward teen years exponentially less awkward.
  35. Even though we sometimes view the world very differently, she always listens to what I have to say and never responds with judgment or disappointment.
  36. She’s got healing hugs.
  37. She is endlessly curious about the world around her.
  38. She puts people above all else, especially when you need her to.
  39. She knows when to coddle, and when to let go.
  40. She cries with me when the world is too big for both of us.
  41. She is a great gift-buyer (not just for me!)
  42. She sings with her whole heart.
  43. She worships with her whole heart.
  44. She’s an incredible travel companion.
  45. She sees her fears and lets those who love her help her overcome them.
  46. She’s flown and driven countless miles, just to be there when you want her.
  47. She gives without expectation.
  48. She receives with humility.
  49. Her biscotti will always be better than mine.
  50. A heart full of love.
  51. She still comes to doctors appointments with me when I’m too sick to go alone.
  52. She’s a jitterbugginging queen!
  53. The woman can rock a karaoke night.
  54. You never leave her house without leftovers… no matter how old you are.
  55. She takes care of her parents with no complaint.
  56. People remember her for her joy, her laugh, her twinkling eyes, her friendship.
  57. She naturally inspires loyalty and love.
  58. She steps up, every single time.
  59. She’s a true, true friend, as well as an incredible mother.

I wish her much, much love and happiness in this, her 59th year.

Strawberry Rhubarb Layer Cake

Strawberry Rhubarb Layer Cake

Adapted from my Apple Pie Layer Cake adaptation for Milk Bar Mondays

I pondered several recipes for her celebratory cake, then found rhubarb at the market.  Strawberry rhubarb is one of our favorite pies.  I took it as a sign.

Components (in the order I made them):

  • Pie Crumb, 1/2 for frosting and 1/2 in layer cake (recipe follows)
  • Strawberry Rhubarb compote (recipe follows)
  • Rhubarb Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
  • Gluten-Free Meyer Lemon Cake (recipe follows)
  • Liquid Cheesecake (I reduced the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup from 3/4 cup and prefer it slightly less sweet, the rest of the recipe is the same)
  • Pie Crumb frosting

Assemblage:

Place a 6″ cake ring on a plate on top of a piece of parchment.  Prepare a piece of acetate 6″ high, fitted to the ring.

Use the ring to cut out two circles of Meyer Lemon Cake.

Use the scraps of the cake to fill in the bottom of the ring, pressing down with the back of your hand to form an even layer.  Use a pastry brush to wash with some Rhubarb Simple Syrup.  Spread 1/2 of the Liquid Cheesecake evenly on top.  Sprinkle with 1/3 of the remaining pie crumb, and tap down to secure.  Top with 1/2 of the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.  Gently top with one of the cake circles.

Fit the acetate ring gently in, coming just below the cake layer.

Repeat with more simple syrup and remaining pie crumb, Liquid Cheesecake and Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.

Top with second cake circle, frost with Pie Crumb frosting and sprinkle with remaining Pie Crumb.

Freeze overnight, and remove to fridge to defrost at least 6 hours before removing cake rings and serving.

Pie Crumb:

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 arrowroot starch
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp organic white sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
  • 1-2Tbsp water if needed

Preheat oven to 350°.  Fit a half-sheet with Silpat or parchment.

In the bowl of standing mixer with the paddle attachment, paddle all dry ingredients on low until fully combined.  Add butter in a slow stream and paddle until crumbs form.  If too dry, add water slowly until the batter starts to pull into crumbs, but before it pulls into a dough ball.  Bake for 25 minutes, tossing halfway through, until slightly firm.  Cool completely before using.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote and Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

  • About 6 short stalks rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1lb strawberries

Method:

Heat water and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat, whisking sugar to dissolve, and bring up to a low boil.

Meanwhile, trim ends of rhubarb and, if desired, peel of thick outer layer.  Quarter thick stalks length-wise if needed to make a uniform thickness, then dice into small pieces, about 1/2 inch.

Toss rhubarb in simple syrup and cook on low heat until soft, about ten minutes.  Strain, reserving simple syrup in a heat-safe bowl or Pyrex measuring cup.

Chop strawberries into 1/2 inch dice, and stir into rhubarb.  Stir until the rhubarb breaks down and forms a sort of coating around the strawberries.  Put aside to cool completely.

Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Cake

  • 3 oz arrowroot starch
  • 3 oz white rice flour
  • 2 oz quinoa flour
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 8oz organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract/oil
  • zest of one Meyer lemon
  • juice of one Meyer lemon

Method:

Heat oven to 350°.  Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper (I put a dab of cooking spray underneath to hold it in place, but don’t grease the top).

Measure out dry ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly.  Whisk in the lemon zest.

In a small pot over low heat, whisk the eggs and sugar.  Keep whisking while the eggs slowly warm, being careful not to let them curdle.  Once just above room temperature, transfer to bowl of standing mixer with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium/high speed until doubled in size and incredibly fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Fold in the dry ingredients, turning the bowl and gently incorporating together.  Add the butter and lemon juice and fold until completely incorporated and smooth.

Pour onto sheet pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set in the center.  Cool completely before cutting and filling.

Gluten-Free Pastry Puff Party!

photo Brent Herrig

I’ve been obsessed with a gluten-free cream puff recipe.

Having gone without gluten for almost twenty years (minus the occasional succumbing to a bowl of homemade pasta passed to me or the gloriousness of a chewy piece of bread on my family’s island in Portugal just last week), delicate, precious things like filled pastry puffs had long been far from my food thoughts.

But when I sourced a bakery for gluten-free Easy Eats magazine’s Sweet Surprise column in our most recent issue, those thoughts shifted.  As I assisted the food stylist on the shoot I fell enamored of the smooth, thick dough that puffed into crackly rounds.  I was amazed by how such seemingly simple ingredients and a rather quick process could make something so delightful.

So my proposal for FoodBuzz’s 24×24 dinner party – where 24 bloggers from around the world host and post on the same day – quickly centered around the thought: how much can I play with this in one meal?  The owner of the bakery and creator of the recipe, Geri Peacock, had mentioned that, growing up as a child, her mother and grandmother filled the shells with things both savory and sweet.  It was a bit of her heritage that she had adapted for the gluten-free community years later.

So I rounded up some friends, checked in about their dietary issues and cultural backgrounds, and set them in the living room with some cocktails and a really random mix of music, and got to stuffing.

The pastry recipe is below, with my thoughts about how to make each batch spot on.  Click on the images for links to the other recipes.

And please check out Easy Eats magazine for the original recipe and other beautiful gluten-free recipes, lifestyle tips and stunning photos – and my most recent feature of five gluten free pasta recipes! Oh, and coming out in May, my feature of six top-notch chefs give us their own food thoughts and easy-to-execute classic recipes made gluten free (two of the chefs even put gluten-free options on their menus after!).

Oh, and mucho thanks to my photographer, Brent Herrig, for plating and snapping away.  All images are his.

Brent Herrig © 2012

Gluten-Free Pastry Puffs

Makes about 36 puffs, depending on size

The original pastry recipe took a teeny tiny bit of playing with – things like the position of the oven rack and sheets used made a huge difference in how one sheet would either rise and become too thin or remain deliciously eggy but too dense.  Luckily they are rather quick to whip up, and once you get the hang of it you can start swapping flours and fats with relative ease.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, Earth Balance or lard
  • 2 cups Cherbourg Bakery flour blend
  • 8 large eggs, at room temperature
  • dash of salt

Method:

Heat oven to 400° with rack in the center / one notch down from center.  Line 3 baking sheets with Silpat (the original recipe says ungreased cookie sheets but mine continually stuck that way – could be my ancient oven).

In a small pot on high heat, bring the water and butter (once it’s melted) to a full boil.  Lower the heat, add the flour all at once, and mix thoroughly, using a combination of smearing together and folding to completely incorporate the flour into the liquid.  Cook until a smooth ball forms.  Immediately transfer to a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat in eggs one at a time, starting on a low setting then raising to incorporate.  About halfway through, beat until smooth, and then continue with the rest of the eggs.  Once all are in, beat for about one minute on medium-high speed.

Drop on sheets in smooth lumps, about one tablespoon for smaller puffs (what I used for dessert) and twice the size for larger ones.  Bake one at a time for 30 minutes (I was lucky to use a neighbor’s oven as well).  Once you put the puffs in, don’t open the oven for a good 25 minutes to check – they need the heat to rise properly.  Cool for a few minutes before removing to cooling rack.

Depending on the sturdiness of the puffs, I cut out small tops and filled them or sliced them in half and used them in a slider-type of way.  As they’re light, eggy and rather flavor-neutral, they worked well with strong savory and sweet flavors equally.

Puff Pastry Party Menu

Piri Shrimp

This is the one dish for which I’m not posting a recipe, because I totally cheated and just threw 1 pound of ethically caught shrimp (as in not from Thailand and labeled with certain standards) with 1 bottle of Very Peri Mild (I was sent some to test out and it’s quite delightful).  I marinated it overnight and then threw them in a hot pan with the juice of one fresh lemon.  YUM!

Lamb Stew

Garden Chicken Salad

Jerusalem Artichoke and Kohlrabi

Mini Banana Split with Dairy-Free Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mini Strawberry Shortcakes with Dairy-Free Liquid Cheesecake


Eating My Way Across Azorean Sao Miguel

For one week, I went without mobile phone and the internet, and it was lovely.

I spent that time driving a tiny rental car in standard gear around an island in the middle of the Azorean Atlantic.

I interviewed restaurant owners who had been cooking practically seven days a week for forty years.

I balanced on a ladder in the trees of my deceased grandparents’ garden, collecting a fruit for which we have no equivalent and I still don’t know how to spell.

I ate an incredible amount of fish, and fresh beef, and fruit, and drank more wine labeled “Red Table” than I would have though existed.

I found a vineyard behind a green tin wall.

I explored a pineapple plantation and questioned a fifth-generation pottery maker.

I held the last uncle of my grandfather’s generation so tightly.  His highly controversial political essays are still being published in the Azorean papers.

This weekend, a Foodbuzz 24×24 supper party and a Milk Bar Mondays Cinnamon Bun Pie adaptation, as well as interviews with Per Se’s Chef de Cuisine and one or two other chef names you may recognize.

Life is a juggling game, a balance.  I’m just trying to keep it all as delicious as possible.

Until my post on Sunday,

Jacqueline

Roasted Garlic Aubergine Spread (and an NYC story)

Roasted Aubergine Garlic Spread

Hello there friends,

I had one of those mornings that tougher NYCers would laugh at but that’s left me with a scrunched up feeling in my heart.

I awoke once again just feeling off.  Not full-blown sick, but really out of whack.   I muscled to the living room to do a low-key Qi Gong DVD, which definitely had me slowing down, centering, focusing, and returning to somewhat a manageable plane of energy.  I was feeling calmer, at least, and ready to tackle my morning.

Then the parking situation came.

In my neighborhood we have alternate side-street parking where you can’t park for 90 minute blocks certain days of the week so they can be cleaned.  It’s a fun little matrix I now know well.   It’s not rocket science (shout out to my friend Tim who is actually a rocket scientist), but takes some planning and moving your car quickly when the cleaning’s done on a street, so that you have a place before your time expires.

So at 10:05 I, feeling very grounded and quiet, took Mitra for a walk around the corner, stopping to tousle with her friends Scrabble and Checkers, before jumping in the car and pulling to a street a few blocks away.  There, a few cars were doubled-parked on the narrow one-way street.  Double parked!  It normally isn’t an issue, though, because they come and move their cars when the time changes.  So… you guessed it… 10:20 rolls around, usually when people are slipping in to park and waiting in their cars until go time (like yours truly and 3 other cars), and the squatters are no where to be seen.  10:30, nothing.  Two of the other cars want to park and leave, which is now creating a pileup of passing cars, including a school bus that can’t get through.  10:35, still those cars and now the legally parked people are waiting, having pulled onto the curb so people can pass.  By 10:38, I’ve dealt with plenty of yelling and honking people who are not happy.

So when the drivers finally come out, they’re met with grumpy people including me, who gives a lady an exasperated scrunch of the shoulders.  She fires immediately, “oh, I’m 3 minutes late, kill me!” to which I respond, “actually you’re 8 minutes late and have pissed off about 20 people” to which she responds as she walks to her car “ooh, 8 whole minutes, doesn’t something ever come up for you?  Welcome to New York baby, it happens” to which I go “I’ve been here ten years, no welcome necessary, it not an excuse to those 20 people backed up for you” to which she closes “I’ll tell my sick mother you said that”.

Scene.

I park my car and get out to start walking before she can follow in my direction.

To most NYers, no big deal, right?  Neither of us were obscene, and while she was yelling at my open window and looking very pissed off it was kept at that.  It was inconvenient, and even if only for 8 minutes, those two people were basically stating that their time was more valued than others.  But still, why did I have to engage? I usually assume that people are just having a bad day, or that something came up, and it’s only 8 minutes anyway.  What if her mother is really sick and she was dealing with something important?  What if she’s having a really low day and I made it lower?

I walked back into my building assessing my actions, not so much concerned at the severity of the situation – in reality it’s not that big a deal – but because I don’t want to present myself that way to the world. I don’t want to be a city-dweller who is insensitive to the fact that there are real people everywhere around me.  I want to act respectfully first and assertively second.

Maybe I’ll go leave a note on her car.  Just in case she actually cares.

So back inside, I make some coffee and start to work on this dish.  A purple-ribboned aubergine called out to me at the market.  I don’t normally eat eggplant (they’re a deadly nightshade vegetable and so not good for people with arthritic conditions) but in these cold winter NYC months I need smooth veggies, and lots of garlic, and my apartment smelling like cooking food and love.

To serve, I tried two ways.  First, by slicing a sweet long pepper and filling each half with half of the mixture.   And just because I wanted to see how it would taste as a munchie appetizer, I piped half into Tostito Scoops and topped with a bit of the chopped pepper.  I’m not a huge chip / snack fan, but had some leftover corn chips from our Superbowl gathering (um, yeah Giants!).  And when I do eat chips, they’re corn chips.

Already in my belly...

This plate?  Yeah, gone by the time I got to typing this sentence.

The spread is both incredibly savory with a huge waft of garlic, but also sweet in the aubergine and the roasted flavor that comes from cooking the garlic in this way.  It’s warm and filling without being heavy.  And so full of flavor for such a small list of ingredients.  I’m not a huge “party snack” fan, but this is definitely high on the list now.   And I now have the rest of the head saved for something else (why do I not roast garlic more?!).

And with that, I’m going to get to some real work today.  Cooking helps when mornings are cranky, and I’m fortunate to have set up my work lifestyle in such a way that I can go to the kitchen for an hour when I most need it.

Happy Thursday folks.

– Jacqueline

Roasted Aubergine Garlic Spread

Ingredients:

Warm, soft, roasted garlic

  • 1 small aubergine / eggplant, sliced thin
  • 1 entire head of garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used fleur de sel and an awesome 5-spice pepper blend)
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Place sliced aubergine on a cooking sheet and rub with about 1 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.  Eggplants/aubergine absorb a lot of oil quickly, so don’t expect it to be coated like most vegetables.
  • Place about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a small ramekin.  Cut off the bottom / root part of the garlic bulb and place cut side down in ramekin, then place on cooking sheet.
  • Roast for about 30 minutes, flipping the aubergine halfway.  After 30 minutes, check to see if garlic is roasted by gently lifting slightly and pushing down on a clove: if it falls out easily, it’s done.  If not, cook entire tray another 8 minutes or so.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  • Place entire aubergine in a food processor or blender.  Pinch out the garlic, and add a few cloves to start (I added 5 and eventually worked my way up to 8 large cloves).  Add chickpea and about 2 Tbsp olive oil.  Start to process mixture, scraping down sides as necessary and swirling in my oil to moisten as needed.  Taste, then add salt and more garlic to your level of taste.  Puree until completely smooth.

Smooth, silky, creamy...

Pomegranate & Coconut Golden Raisin Muffins – Guest Post from Free Spirit Eater!

Pomegranate Coconut Golden Raisin Muffins from Free Spirit Eater

Hello Bloggereaders!

I am so very excited to welcome Kym – the Free Spirit Eater – to my blog today!  A few months ago Kym asked me to guest-post on her site.  She was so sweet and humble in asking, where my reaction was something like, “Um, YE-AH!”

I love Kym’s incredibly warm and inspired love for food.  She’s a trained chef, and with her fiance Tim creates recipes for her site that look mouth-wateringly delicious.  If they lived closer by, theirs is an apartment I would randomly be stopping at during dinner hours, pretending I found one of her sneakers on the sidewalk or asking to borrow a cup of milk (which I don’t drink) or something.

I told her I only had one catch – she’d have to guest-post for me! I’ve never had a guest-poster on my site, so the idea of swapping made me super tingly excited.  Then the holidays came, and went, and Kym prepped for a big apartment move, and I got a new job, and our recipes got away with us.

Until today.  I welcome Kym to The Dusty Baker with open, hug-ready arms.  We met a few months ago through writing for Bromography.com.  Then Kym accompanied me to the Great American Pie-Off, lending some moral support for my entering my first pie competition where we took home 2 of 4 awards.   She’s a very talented cook and food photographer, and I’m sure she’ll continue to achieve incredibly great things.

Head over to FreeSpiritEater to grab my recipe, Kumquat Chutney Hand Pies.  And while you’re there, flip through her mouth-watering recipes.

Kumquat Chutney Hand Pies

From Kym, The Free Spirit Eater

When Jacqueline asked me to guest post on the Dusty Baker Blog for a recipe swap I immediately felt a sense of excitement. I love her site, am a huge fan of her writing and consider her a friend. I can only wish that one day my writing could be as intricate, descriptive, delicate and powerful while still being witty and quirky as Jacqueline’s writing style is. But I also felt my quick moment of panic. What did I get myself into? I am no stranger to gluten free cooking. I’ve altered dishes to make them gluten free by request when I worked as a line cook. But until this recipe swap, pretty much every baked good I had ever prepared requires some type of glutinous ingredient.

As someone who has never had a food allergy in her life and is a free spirit who simply consumes what is placed before her, working with restrictions was quite a challenge. Whenever I thought of a recipe to attempt, I stopped myself realizing it wasn’t gluten free. Through this challenge and experiment, I have gained a great respect for anyone with a food allergy.
Now onto the baking!

I found this gluten free muffin recipe online which asked for soy milk, sesame oil and oats among the list of ingredients. I used neither of these and altered it entirely where it does not resemble the original recipe in any way. I had never worked with white rice flour before, but purchased it for this special occasion. The texture was different, lighter, leaving a lovely scent as I plopped down the first cup full. Since pomegranates are still in season, I worked some seeds into the mix as well as sweetened coconut flakes and golden raisins. They didn’t rise as much as I wanted them to, so another ¼ teaspoon of baking powder wouldn’t hurt next time. A bite into the finished product resembled a mix between cupcakes and muffins in texture. Not overly sweetened, but a pleasant light feel with sparks of pomegranate, sweetened flakes and juicy golden raisins teasing your palate with each bite.

Attempting my first gluten free baking project was a mix of emotions. I think the point of this swap was to get your hands dirty while being thrown out of your comfort zone. It was a challenge, but a successful one none the less. The muffins are not that big and have plenty of natural ingredients adding a distinct lovely taste. For those with a dairy allergy, soy can replace the cow’s milk. Feel free to switch the coconut flakes for toasted sliced almonds, or other nuts and dried fruit. Enjoy!

Pomegranate & Coconut Golden Raisin Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cup of rice flour
  • 2 Tsp of baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup of coconut oil
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • Pomegranate seeds from half a pomegranate
  • ½ cup of sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup of golden raisins
  • (Extra flour and coconut oil or canola oil for greasing)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet ingredients in another (except for coconut oil, pomegranate, coconut flakes and raisins).
  3. Bring ingredients together by combining in one bowl, and then add coconut oil, pomegranate seeds, golden raisins and coconut flakes, mix well until fully incorporated.
  4. Divide into a greased and floured 6 muffin tin. (If you use coconut oil for this step, you will achieve a nice golden brown on the bottom part.)
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes or test with a toothpick to make sure it’s ready.
  6. Let cool, remove and serve. Cover in saran wrap to store.

Sticky Pumpkin Flax Muffins for a Grey Winter Day (gluten free)

Breakfast on a cold, rainy day in NYC.

Yesterday was one of those mornings.  I awoke to a barely lit room despite the fact that it was 9am.  Before I opened my eyes I could hear rain pitter-pattering on the air conditioner outside my window.  Yes, here there’s no lulling drop on shingles.  It’s a wet, alley cat kinda life.

I dragged Mitra along the sidewalk, battling to keep my oversized red umbrella from flying off into the Hudson.  Rain pelted sideways, and the poor dog kept tying to climb up my legs as I desperately implored her to “just pee, pee please, baby, and then we can go inside”.

Only seconds later, defeated, the dog unrelieved, I closed the umbrella and we sprinted back home.

Because in that tiny moment, it had hit me.

It’s here.

Those dark, wet, sticky months in the northeast when everything just feels damp.  When un-waterproofed boots mean feet will be molested by a foot of frozen slush that had somehow passed itself off as level sidewalk.  When subway tunnels become wind tunnels.  When snow somehow manages to fall horizontally.  When buildings are overheated and New Yorkers are steamed.

As we raced to my building we passed gourds and tiny pumpkins abandoned in windowboxes, their flesh sagging over the edges and most likely putrid inside with stank innards.  Discarded Christmas trees cried on the curb, fearing the moment when they would turn into mulch, most likely pondering on why they grew for years only to be adored for a scant few weeks.

At least that’s what I was thinking on their behalf.  I love trees.

Two years ago I spent the dark months backstage in a warm theatre on run crew: reading books, drinking tea, catching up with my dear friend Lily and occasionally holding a curtain for an exiting actor or moving a piece of prop furniture.  Not a bad way to spend the grey period.

Last year I spent most of my time downtown with the delicious man I was dating.  One night we walked to the Angelika, hated the film (Blue Valentine – yes, I hated it), then exited the theatre into 4 inches of snow.  Happy, bundled and loving NYC, we walked back to his place under fat flakes, stopping to take pictures for tourists, arriving home soaked.

This year I’ve got a  bundled-up pup, a fully outfitted kitchen where treats are rolling, good friends coming and going, and work that I love.  As much as I fear these post-holiday, dreary months, they’ve always brought me a sense of hibernation that truly is refreshing.  Next weekend I head out to the furthest corner of Cape Cod to do a show, get pampered in a posh B&B and walk on the frozen beaches.  In February I plan to bunker in my Louisa May Alcott attic at my friends’ in Southhampton, where I’ll walk Mitra and Mia on another frozen beach and gaze out romantically at the bay as I type.

But until then, I need this in my life:

Sticky Pumpkin Flax Muffins with apricot and blackcurrant jam (and butter... I'm bad....)

I was complaining to one of my editors the other day the agony that is going to a coffee shop and seeing a pathetic little shriveled gluten free muffin in plastic alongside their overstuffed, glutenous counterparts.  These muffins have now satiated that grumpiness.

I recently got a delivery of gluten free flour from Better Batter to test a recipe for an article I’m working on.  Yes, the flour will be used for it.  But after the seasonal revelation I couldn’t curb my impatience to try it out, especially as I always blend my own flours and never have the ease of one already prepared.  I’m a big fan of the Better Batter flour from this trial, so far. More info on that to come that I’ll link to down the line.

I used the oversized-6 muffin tin for these babies, and admit that I ate TWO AND A HALF of them yesterday!  And the one pictured above for breakfast this morning.  They’re sticky and dense, perfectly sweet, and inspire being layered with butter and jam and enjoyed along some strong coffee and a newspaper in print.  I wasn’t originally planning on posting them as they weren’t exactly what I’d pictured in my head, but a visiting friend couldn’t stop saying “mmm, these are SO good” as she at one.  She encouraged me to share.

Oh, I added some flax because it makes my body happy.  And used organic pumpkin so that I didn’t have to use butter so they’re dairy free and low in fat!

Happy January, bloggerreaders.  Hope you’re staying warm.

Jacqueline

My favorite with these was tart apricot jam

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour.  I used Better Batter, which already has xanthan gum in it and a lovely neutral-flavored mix of flours
  • 3 Tbsp ground flax seed meal
  • 1/2 cup palm sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin or sweet potato puree
  • 1 cup warm milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, optional

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly grease 6 oversized or 12 normal muffin tins.
  • In a bowl, whisk together flour, flax seed, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.
  • In another bowl, beat eggs thoroughly.  Add pumpkin / sweet potato puree, milk and maple syrup.  Beat / whisk thoroughly to combine.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined.  Fold in nuts.
  • Pour equally into muffin tins and bake for 30-35 minutes, until springy to the touch.
  • Try not to eat too piping hot – I dove right in and have a light burn on the top of my mouth to prove it.

50 Nonprofits to be Grateful for This Thanksgiving

50 Nonprofits to be Thankful For This Thanksgiving

I am thankful for…

My family – they’re such good people with huge hearts, and a bale full of fun.

My friends – like family, known for so long, and a bucket full of laughs.

My dog Mitra – she’s the bees knees (do bees have knees?).

This blog / selling my first article to my favorite food mag / working for my new favorite gluten free food mag / filming the DB cooking show / working with some stellar people.

My apartment and my roomate.

Seeing the hard work of my talented friends come into fruition as we work our tushes off.

People in my life who give back generously.

Click on the image above to a list of 50 incredible Nonprofits you can give back to this holiday season.

Happy, Happy Holidays.

Wishing you much peace, love and a sweet, sweet life.

– Dusty Jacqueline

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