Friday, May 25, 2012

Quinoa-Crust Pizza, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free


This recipe is a lot of fun. I think it's fun for anyone, but if you don't eat gluten, it may be extra fun. I saw it on Tasty Eats at Home, and the description of a chewy pizza crust with olive oil-crisped edges made with little more than quinoa and water sounded too interesting not to try.

You don't even have to steam the quinoa! Just soak it for at least 8 hours, then puree in a food processor or blender with enough water to make a batter. Then you pour it into a hot skillet with a slick of olive oil, listen to it sizzle and bake until golden brown. Add your toppings (I really loaded it up as you can see--maybe a bit too much!), heat 'em up and enjoy.

This reminds me of socca, the chickpea flour flatbread that I absolutely love, yet the flavor and texture are very different. Both are great (gluten-free!) alternatives to traditional pizza crust. Socca is usually eaten as a mostly unadorned flatbread, but I make a slightly thick version and use it as a base for all manner of pizza toppings. When it comes to this quinoa crust, I like the texture so much, I'd happily eat it plain.


Before I get to the recipe, I need to back track. The lovely quinoa pizza you see above was not my first attempt at the recipe. I had some red quinoa that had been languishing forever in my cupboard, so I used that. I always thought the red variety cooked in an identical manner to the more common light brown (blond?) variety, but in the case of this recipe, it didn't work. 

Actually, it sort of worked. After soaking overnight, it baked up into a cohesive base for my pizza, but the individual grains remained largely intact--more like a quinoa cake than a batter. There was no soft chewy center, like I was hoping for. I pureed the heck out of it, so that wasn't the problem. Maybe the red quinoa is naturally firmer, or maybe mine was way to old and dried out. Anyway, I was so curious to see if the light quinoa would be different, and it was! Happy ending:)

Here is the red quinoa version, half cheesy, half dairy-free.

You can see the individual grains--not ideal!

Quinoa-Crust Pizza, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
Adapted from Tasty Eats at Home
The quinoa must soak for 8 hours or overnight, so plan accordingly! You need a heavy, oven-proof skillet--cast iron is ideal. The quinoa batter should be the consistency of a slightly thin pancake batter. It will not be perfectly smooth, but the individual grains should not remain intact. You can season this with any dried or fresh herbs or spices you want. As far as toppings go, have fun!

Serves 3 to 4

1 1/4 cups light brown (not red) quinoa
7 to 8 tablespoons water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs (such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, herbs de Provence)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Add to a large bowl, cover with cold water and soak at least 8 hours or overnight. 

Place a 10-inch (measured across the base) cast iron skillet or heavy, oven-proof skillet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450 F. Rinse and drain quinoa. Add to food processor or blender. Add 7 tablespoons water, and salt, herbs and pepper to taste. Puree until individual grains are no longer intact and mixture is the consistency of slightly runny pancake batter, 2 to 3 minutes. Add additional tablespoon of water to thin if necessary.  

Take the hot skillet out of the oven and add the oil. Return to oven until oil is hot and shimmering, 1 to 2 minutes. Swirl the oil around the pan to coat and add the quinoa batter, spreading the batter and shaking the pan to form an even layer. Return to oven and cook until bottom side is golden, 10 minutes. Flip with a large spatula (crust should flip easily) and cook until opposite side is golden brown, 10 minutes more. 

Switch oven to broil. Flip again and add your toppings. Still in the center of the oven, broil until toppings are hot and cheese is melted, if you are using cheese, 1 to 3 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning. If you'd rather not broil, just return to the oven and bake until toppings are heated through. Slide pizza out of the skillet, cut into wedges and serve.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Duck Ragu, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free




I tried a new duck recipe over the weekend, and I'm making it part of my permanent repertoire. I have a favorite recipe for braised duck legs with rustic homemade pasta (the only homemade pasta I make, it's totally worth it, and requires no special tools), but this one caught my eye because it sounded like a nice variation on my favorite.

This takes time--you are slowly braising the duck to make it gorgeously tender--but I consider it an easy recipe. Why? There aren't a lot of steps or fussy prep work. It's just like any other braise or stew: sear the meat, saute aromatics, add cooking liquid (in this case, lots of red wine) and simmer, simmer until duck is tender and sauce is thick. You can get it started and then just hang out and relax while things get tasty.

To me, this ragu is best over polenta, so now we have a naturally gluten-free meal. One note about duck: unfortunately, you can't get it just anywhere (why?!), and it's usually sold frozen, even at the great little butcher shop I go to. Ideally, you'll buy it a day ahead so you have time to defrost. On the plus side, duck legs aren't expensive, and they're just about impossible to mess up when you braise them like this.

Anyone want to share a favorite duck recipe? Or if you know where to get fresh, not frozen, duck legs in Chicago, share!

Duck Ragu, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
Adapted from thekitchn
If you need enough to serve 4 or 5 people, add an extra duck leg (you will probably need additional wine for the cooking liquid). This is perfect over polenta—I like to make mine with good-tasting chicken broth (I love Kitchen Basics), and if you eat dairy, it’s nice with a little milk or cheese stirred in at the end.

Serves 3

2 teaspoons olive or canola oil
2 duck legs with thighs attached
1/2 large onion, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1 carrot, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon (scant) dried thyme
1 to 1 1/2 cups red wine such as Malbec, Merlot or Pinot Noir
1 (28 ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes (preferably unsalted)
1 rosemary sprig
1 dried bay leaf
Fresh chopped rosemary or parsley for garnish (optional)

Trim and discard excess duck fat, leaving the fat directly covering the meat intact. Score this fat, making 3 or 4 short slashes with a sharp knife, taking care not to cut all the way through to the meat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven on medium-high. Add duck and cook until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Turn off heat and pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pot (if you have a lot of burnt bits or pieces stuck to your pot—this happens to me sometimes—you can discard all the fat, clean out the pot and add 1 tablespoon oil).

Turn heat to medium and add onion and carrot to pot. Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic softens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the wine, turn heat to high, bring to a simmer and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and their juice, breaking them up with your hands as you add them to the pot. Add rosemary and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.

When duck is cool enough to handle, carefully trim away as much fat as possible (a small sharp paring knife works well). You don’t need to do this, but it means there will be less fat to skim as the ragu cooks. If you are making this a day ahead, you can skip trimming and easily skim the solidified fat once the ragu has chilled.

Add duck to simmering tomato mixture. Add additional wine as needed so that duck is just barely covered with liquid. Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, uncovered, until meat is very tender and easily comes away from the bone, and ragu has thickened, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Skim fat off the surface and turn duck legs once or twice throughout the cooking process.

Transfer duck to a cutting board. Continue to simmer ragu until reduced to desired thickness, 15 to 30 minutes more. Remove duck meat from bones and shred into bite-size pieces. Return to pot. Discard rosemary sprig and bay leaf. Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve over polenta and garnish with fresh herbs if desired.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Flourless Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)


If you like chewy cookies, this one's for you. These cookies are also full of peanut flavor, since there's no flour of any kind to dilute the nutty taste. It's another gluten-free and dairy-free recipe in honor Celiac Awareness Month. 

I do not have celiac, but I have tremendous empathy for people who can't eat gluten (in the case of celiac) or other common food allergens, like dairy. As a recipe developer, I find gluten-free baking fascinating because of all the gluten-free grains and starches there are to work with (although if I was forced to bake only gluten-free for life, I might be singing a different tune).


I'm happy that I can create and post some recipes for those with celiac or gluten intolerances. Unlike the scones in my last post, however, these cookies are SUPER simple. With just a few ingredients, and NO GRAINS AT ALL, they take no time to put together. I included weight measurements, but since there are no flours involved, you don't need a scale (but it does make measuring all that sticky peanut butter crazy-fast).

I considered skipping the chocolate and doing straight-up peanut butter cookies, but then I spontaneously regained my sanity and decided to add chocolate chunks. They are Enjoy Life brand, so  they're dairy free. I'm snobby about good chocolate, so I didn't have high hopes for this stuff, but I was oh-so wrong--they're great. I love how the chunks look in these cookies, but their large size makes it harder to form the dough into balls. Regular-size chips would probably make it easier, but as you can see, I muddled through. The dough is much easier to handle if it's chilled, so plan that into your baking time.

Flourless Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Adapted from Baking Bites

These cookies bake up crisp at the edges and soft and very chewy in the centers. They are ridiculously easy to put together, and without any flour the peanut flavor really shines. The original recipe calls for creamy peanut butter, so that will definitely work. I don’t know about natural nut butters, but they will likely produce a very different finished product. I didn’t measure out my chocolate chips by volume, but it should be about 3/4 cup.

Makes 20 to 22 cookies (recipe should double easily)

258 grams chunky peanut butter (not natural; I used Jif) (1 cup)
165 grams light brown sugar (3/4 cup packed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 ounces dairy-free chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine peanut butter, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, salt and egg. Mix on lowest speed until just combined (you can also use a handheld mixer or stir by hand). Increase speed to medium-low and mix until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Add chips and mix on lowest speed until combined.

Transfer bowl to freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Scoop rounded tablespoon-sized balls of dough, shaping them into balls with your hands as necessary (dough is very chunky, so you’ll have to press it together) and place on prepared baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart. Flatten balls VERY slightly. Bake in the center of the oven, one sheet at a time, until edges are light golden brown, 9 to 11 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Scones (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)


I could not be happier with these gluten-free, dairy-free scones! Baking with gluten-free grains and meals (like cornmeal) is challenging because they lack the elastic, chewy characteristics of gluten-full flours. Gluten helps hold baked good together, and is often replaced by xantham or guar gum to create gluten-free treats with a similar texture.

A lot of great gluten-free bakers and bloggers, however, don't rely on gums and make gluten-free flour blends that are heavy on nutrient-rich whole grain flours like teff, brown rice, amaranth, millet, almond meal and cornmeal, and light on starches. The starches are absolutely necessary parts of a good gluten-free blend, but I love that I can bake gluten-free with so many interesting, nutritious ingredients and still get a fabulous finished product.


The texture of these scones is soft and tender on the inside with a pleasantly substantial crumb. They are neither heavy nor rubbery.  The credit for the recipe goes to two sources: Gluten-free girl, whose blog is full of inspiration and resources for delicious, natural gluten-free cooking and baking. In her post on baking without gums and using more healthy grains, Shauna laid out her template for a flour blend that is 70% whole grains/meals and 30% starch. Blending a variety of gluten-free flours is often the best tactic because they all have different characteristics and perform differently in recipes.

There is so much to learn about gluten-free baking, and I'm just scratching the surface, so I'm not going to pretend to be an authority. But Shauna's approach is working for me, at least where scones are concerned, and that leads me to the second credit for this recipe. The original scones come from the book, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang.

A quick, but important, aside: After making this scone recipe, I bought the book. Not just because I loved the scones, but because all the recipes include measurements in grams. This is so incredibly important for success in baking, especially gluten-free baking, and it drives me crazy that every baking book doesn't include weights. Here's the thing: a cup of teff flour has a different weight than a cup of all-purpose, and a different weight than a cup of brown rice flour and a different weight than a cup of almond meal. You cannot swap cup for cup, but you can substitute an equal weight of gluten free flours for all-purpose and have a much better shot at a great finished product. If you'd like to read more about that go here. For more info on GF flours and starches, check this out, along with this and this. For baking tips in general, the Gluten-Free Goddess is full of wisdom here.  I've said enough for now, so here is my version of Joanne Chang's scones adapted by Shauna at Gluten-Free Girl.



Cranberry-Orange Scones (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang and Gluten-Free Girl

The original recipe makes 8 large scones. I cut it in half and made 6 medium-size scones. You can use your own gluten-free flour blend, but the best bet of course is to substitute flours and starches with similar properties to the ones below. My blend, like Shauna's is 70% grains and 30% starches. You'll see that I used a total of seven flours/meals/starches. I'm fairly sure that your blend needn't be quite so complicated, but this did work for me. 

Shauna's version is not dairy-free like mine, so it adheres more closely to the original, which gets extra richness from creme fraiche. I replaced the creme fraiche with soy yogurt, so I added an extra tablespoon of (vegan) butter to make up for some of the fat from the creme fraiche, giving my dairy-free version plenty of richness. I used sucanat for the sweetener, which has a mild molasses flavor, but I think either granulated sugar or evaporated cane juice sugar will work well. And, you can certainly switch up the add-ins! Use up to 1/2 cup of dried fruit and/or nuts of your choosing, as well as any citrus zest, spices or extract you like.

Makes 6 medium scones

71 g cold vegan buttery baking sticks, i.e. Earth Balance (5 T)
30 g plus 60 g plain soy yogurt
30 g plain almond milk
50 g superfine brown rice flour
30 g cornmeal
29 g teff flour
28 g almond meal
20 tapioca starch
20 potato starch
18 g sweet rice flour
35 g sucanat
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp (generous) salt
1/2 beaten large egg (25 grams)
Zest of 1 medium orange
40 g cranberries
For topping:
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut vegan butter into roughly 1/2-inch chunks and stick them in the freezer while you prepare the other ingredients.

2. Line a baking sheet (or something that will fit in your freezer, such as a plate) with parchment paper.

3. In a small bowl, combine 30 grams of the soy yogurt and the almond milk; set aside.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: 7 grains/meals/starches, sucanat, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: remaining 60 grams yogurt, egg, orange zest and almond milk/yogurt mixture.

6. Take the butter out of the freezer and add to dry ingredients. Mix with a pastry blender, your fingers or a fork until you have a shaggy mixture with some chunks of butter the size of small peas, and some a bit larger. Add the wet ingredients and fold with a spatula until moistened (mixture should not come together in a ball yet, and you may still have some dry bits at the bottom of the bowl).

7. Turn dough out onto a work surface lightly dusted with brown rice flour. Quickly knead dough into a ball with floured hands and pat into a thick disk. Lightly dust with flour and roll into a 1/2-inch thick circle. Cut into 6 triangles with a large, sharp chef’s knife. Transfer to prepared baking sheet or plate, about 2 inches apart, and freeze for 15 minutes.

8. If using a plate, carefully lift parchment and transfer scones and parchment to a baking sheet. Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until bottoms are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Fully cooled scones freeze beautifully in a heavy-duty zip top bag. Defrost at room temperature, or microwave on medium power for 10-second intervals until just defrosted and warmed, taking care not to over heat.