Friday, May 25, 2018

Toll House Pie (yes, really)

I know I’ve been on a Gluten-free kick on here, lately, and talking about ways to make some of your meals and desserts at least a little healthier (at least for your friends with food issues) with some basic swap-outs.

This week, however, has none of that.

This week has gluten-, soy-, and nut-based products. It has two kinds of sugar. It even has LARD (it's in the pie crust). And it is *so* good.

I mean, just look at this thing:
Yes, it would be better with a side of vanilla ice cream.

Let me explain what all we’ve got going on in that photo:

Yep. That’s right. This week we’re just looking at decadence in all its chocolate-chip-pie goodness. Let’s get right to it. Here’s the recipe:

And here are the ingredients.

I think the hardest part about this recipe is actually the melting of the margarine (or butter). You have to avoid splattering, obviously, while also getting it down to liquid. And then it needs to cool a bit before you use it. (If it’s too warm when you mix things… well… we’ll talk about that in a little bit.)
Well, that looks kind of disgusting.

While the butter is melting, it’s the perfect time to lightly beat your eggs.

Then add in the two kinds of sugar and the (NOT gluten-free) flour.
For the record, I know this is the exact wrong kind of whisk for this. But - if you use a regular whisk the chocolate chips get stuck in it later on. And I refuse to use two whisks just for that.

...moments later...

At this point, it does get a bit thick. But that will be taken care of when you pour in the butter:

Next, it’s time for the chocolate chips. This is where the whole “temperature of the melted butter” issue becomes important. If the mix is still overly warm when you add in the chocolate chips, they can melt. If it’s cool, they’ll stay solid, and you’ll have a pie with chips in it - still with a little solidity.

For the record, I’m guessing you could also add in nuts, or some other kind of chips at this point. Basically, when you come right down to it, you can put in pretty much anything that would taste good in a chocolate chip cookie.

Usually, I’m working on this in bits and pieces, and the chips go in when it’s a little cool, so they stay solid. I have to admit I like that about them.

At the same time, though, I also like the creamy chocolate texture of them being melted into the buttery mix. Which – as you can see – is what happened in this version.
See the brown on the top? That's melted chocolate.

Once this goes into your prepared (unbaked) pie crust, it goes into the oven at 325 degrees for about an hour. The main thing you’re looking for, here, is the top to be kind of golden brown – and the middle not to be too “jiggly” when you shake the pan.

Did I mention that this pie is really easy? So is the clean-up. This photo gives you literally every utensil I used to make it – including the rolling pin. How great is that?

Because I was doing other things (like dishes) and didn’t check it before the timer went off, the pie got a little darker than usual. Will that impact the flavor? No. Does it impact the look of the crust? A little. Do looks really matter in a Toll House Pie? Not at all.

The top, as you can see, puffs up just a bit in the oven...
I really wish that I could offer you a scratch-and-sniff blog post.

... but that flattens out once it cools.

How does it taste?

Yeah. Seriously. This recipe is so good. I highly recommend it if you have to take anything to a Memorial Day potluck on Monday. After all – it’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s sure to get raves from all of your friends (assuming they’re not allergic to it, at least).

Oh – and it makes your house smell amazing, too.

Have a potluck go-to that you want to share - or at least want me to try? Or are you looking for a potluck go-to that will win a blue ribbon? I’d love to hear about them!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Lemon Bars - The Gluten-Free Redux

I realize that I've been inundating with you with Gluten-Free recipes, lately. But I made these Lemon Bars last week and realized how easy they are to make with GF flour. Which means that - by swapping out that one ingredient (and using butter instead of margarine) - these were gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free.

All those -frees with just two really easy changes.

Unfortunately, just after I'd decided that these were the recipe of the week I mentioned the idea to Christopher, who pointed out that I've already made Lemon Bars on my blog, so... Well... This is going to be a really short post. Let me stall a bit to make it feel like it's worth your while being here:

So... Yeah. You really don't need to see the whole recipe a second time, probably. But if you missed it last summer, here is that original post: If It's Summer It Must Be Lemon Bars.

I promise to give you something gluten-filled next time.

And, if you'd like to see me work some kitchen witchery on some other recipe (removing gluten, removing dairy, or something else), be sure to let me know!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Chocolate Chip Blondies (in this version, they're Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, and Nut-Free)

I used to work at Williams-Sonoma, and we were always giving out recipe cards. One spring, we were selling "Easter" chocolate chips. (They were "Easter" because they were pastel colors and it was the nearest food holiday.) (Honestly, though, I think the "chocolate" probably also ought to be in quotation marks, because the chips were tinted white chocolate, which is only sort-of chocolate.)

The recipe they were suggesting was to use a food processor to make blondies, and add in those chips for an Easter-y flair.

I don't have any Easter chocolate chips. I also don't use my food processor for baking. And - in this version - I used Gluten-free flour, and Soy-free/Nut-free/Gluten-free/Dairy-free mini chocolate chips. And they turned out looking like this stack of goodness:

Let's look at the thought process behind them:

Here's a better view of the recipe card:
See the notes on the side? Those are from when I first made these using Gluten-Free rice flour - which meant I also needed Xanthan Gum. These days, using the Bob's Red Mill 1-for-1 flour, you can skip the Xanthan Gum. 

Ready with the ingredients this week?

Audience waiting to see what I might drop?

Yes! (I didn't drop anything, though that look may have earned her an extra treat when I was done baking.)

The recipe - even without using a food processor - is pretty quick to put together.

You cream the butter (and - since we were avoiding soy - I actually did use butter in these) with the dark brown sugar and vanilla.

Then you add in the eggs.
Yes, the recipe says to add them in one at a time. It also says to use a food processor. I'm breaking all kinds of rules! (Though - technically - I did add the eggs one at a time. I just didn't stir in between additions.)
I did add the (gluten-free) flour in two halves, along with the baking powder and salt.
No. I didn't sift them together in advance. Such a rebel. 
For anyone who thinks that Gluten-free (and all the other -frees that these are) means they're going to be missing something, just look at how many mini chocolate chips went into the bowl.
Definitely not doing that CDC poppy seed test thing. Eww. 
OH. Here's something I did at the same time that I was amassing the ingredients. I cut strips of parchment paper and placed them across each of the squares in my brownie pan.
You can tell I did it earlier, because there's still sunlight coming in through the window causing multi-directional shadows in the photo.
I used a slightly-rounded ice cream scoop-ful for each square. When you do that, you'll look at the squares and think "Oh, God. What have I done? They're going to rise and flow all over creation and become a burnt pile of muck in my oven!"

But, no. Even with the really shallow brownie pans filled almost to the top (maybe 3/4 full - at least), they did puff up, but didn't overflow.

No. Really:

Sorry. I got a little ahead of myself, there. The recipe says that these should bake for 30-35 minutes. Usually, when baking in small shapes instead of a big pan, things bake faster. So I started checking these at about 24 minutes. They looked (and smelled) incredible, but the recipe says that they're done when they start to feel "firm" on top.

So I waited. And checked them. And waited.

Finally, at about 31 minutes, they were becoming firm. And so I took them out and let them hang out in the pan for a bit, so that they'd finish up without getting any darker around the non-parchment-ed edges.

Note to self for future: Don't skimp on the parchment paper, and maybe use a spatula around the non-parchment sides before trying to take them out.

Why am I mentioning that? Well... Some of them came out a little more cleanly than others.

Of course, a really good way around that is to either put them in an actual 9x13 pan, or use cupcake papers and bake them in a muffin tin:

If you're counting (which I do in the video, below), you'll see that I ended up with a dozen brownies and 9 "cupcakes." I think that the last time I did them just in the round tins, I ended up with about two dozen. (I really wish I could have reminded myself of that before recording the wrap-up. Now that you know, please just ignore the momentary lack of expertise that I show...)

They looked - and smelled - so good that I broke into one before I even had a chance to record the wrap-up.

But I reminded myself that I these were all for the blog, and stopped myself before actually diving in, so that we could share the experience.

Now, really, who wouldn't want to see that waiting on the counter when they got done with a day of school (or work)? And - believe me - no one will complain that they're missing the gluten, soy, or nuts.
Yes, those are the other 10 blondies still in their "wrappers" in the background. Yum!

Is there some recipe that you used to love, but you have to avoid due to some food issue? Let me know and I'll try to modify it for you - no promises on how it'll turn out, but that's half the fun!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Coconut Macaroons - Two Days Late and an Ingredient Short (sort of)

I totally meant to get a blog post up last week. I cooked so many things - baked chicken in red sauce over pasta, Toll House pie, chewy chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips - and I kept forgetting to take pictures of anything.

I blame much of that on our weird weather. I mean... 17 inches of blizzard-y snow in April (just three weeks ago, now) was enough to throw off even the most stalwart of Minnesotans - and I do not fall into that category.

So now that it is aggressively intensely spring outside, I am back on track - if a couple of days late. This week with Coconut Macaroons.

Of course, I can only make them if I have all of the ingredients on hand, which is part of why this post is so late...

Now, to make sure we're all on the same page, we are talking about traditional Coconut Macaroons:

We are not talking about French Macarons:
Nor will we be dining with French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte:
Now that we're all on the same page, let's take a closer look at the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book recipe:
Ooh... Just look at all of the possible variations!
Since I took the extra day to go out and buy coconut, we can now do some mise en place-ing.

Wait. Let's look a little more closely at the ingredient list:

Remember how I said that one of the things I was making sure I had on hand was sweetened condensed milk? Notice the extreme lack of sweetened condensed milk in the recipe?

Well, I guess it's just good to know that I have it on hand in case of emergency. For now, we'll just put it in the back of the photo, like that one person who always shows up at family reunions, but you're not sure how you're related.

Seriously, though - 5 ingredients. How easy is this?
I don't know about you, but I had no idea how many egg whites make up a half cup. So I did some cracking and measuring and counting.
As you can probably tell by the 3 whole and one broken yolks, it took 4 whites to get me that half cup.
In case you're wondering how fluffy egg whites get within half a minute of beating, here's what I got:

The next few steps, honestly, couldn't have been easier. Add all the non-coconut bits:
Not really sure why, but that looks - to me - like an abstract "angry bird." Do we dare go down the Rorschach test road with this? (My guess is "No. No we don't dare do that.")
You have absolutely no idea how hard it was to not just stick a spoon in this mixture and eat it. It's sugar and vanilla, after all. But - yeah - raw egg whites, too. At least I could appreciate that it smelled good. 

These wouldn't be coconut macaroons without coconut, so here goes the 2.5 cups of it right into the bowl.

It looks a little like packing materials in this photo, doesn't it? Or maybe shredded parmesan cheese? 
This gets a little gooey as you stir it, but, no matter how much you want to taste it, you really shouldn't do that.
You can't tell in the photo, but as I was taking this, some of the mix kind of rolled off the spatula in the most tantalizing of ways.
According to the recipe from 1950, these are supposed to be dropped on "ungreased wrapping paper" - which I assume means "butcher paper" and not gift wrap - either way, I went with parchment paper.

And, instead of an actual teaspoon, I went for my small cookie scoop.
Again: You should not eat this at this point because of the raw eggs. However, if you did - hypothetically - get some on your fingers and lick it off, you'd find that it is sugary and chewy and just runny enough to get into your beard if you're not careful. (And - obviously - if you have a beard.)
As they were baking, they looked a bit like melting marshmallow Peeps. 

Meanwhile, you can begin attending to the huge pile of dishes you've accumulated. Or, rather, the incredibly easy to get through one bowl, 4 measuring devices, and 3 utensils you've used.
As a bonus, this is mostly all sugar and egg - hot water takes care of most of it as long as you don't let it set and dry.
When they came out of the oven, the outer edges "deflated" and flattened a bit.

This is where the recipe says to "use your fingers" to kind of smoosh the not-quite-325-degree flattened edges back toward the middle. Because, back in the 1950s, home bakers apparently had Asbestos-lined fingertips.

If you're like me and do not have Asbestos-lined fingertips, I recommend using a small spatula, instead, which works fairly well, if not with quite the same precision.

Mine ended up basically looking like this: 
Some I waited too long on, and so they stayed a bit flatter.
The recipe goes into detail about how to lift the paper (with the macaroons on it) out of the pan, place a wet towel on the pan, put the paper back, and let the steam help with the release of the macaroons from the paper. (It's the bottom paragraph on the left - it goes with the photo.)

Luckily, to make up for my non-Asbestos fingertips, I do have parchment paper which is considered to be non-stick. So I just waited until these had set up, and then removed them with my fingers. (I didn't even need a spatula, though I guess I could have gone that route if I'd wanted to.)
I moved them around on the sheet (from where they'd baked to "empty" spaces), but didn't move them off the paper. I figured they could dry just as well on the paper, without worry of getting stuck to the cooling rack. 
So, how did they turn out?

Yeah. They are really good. Even without any chocolate on them. Just a little crunch, a great amount of chew, and all that coconut-y goodness. Perfect for a spring or summer weekend. Or - heck - with only 5 ingredients and about an hour's worth of time, these could be an easy weeknight treat, as well. (Just make sure you have coconut on hand before your craving gets the best of you.)

Not a fan of coconut? What do you like to have as a summer treat? Is there something from your childhood that you still go back for? Or is it an adult-onset craving? Let me know what you've got a hankering for, and I'll see if I can find a recipe to try out!