Adventures in gluten-free, dairy-free baking... all part of the fun and future of FLOURS & HUNNY Bakery

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Taoist, Winnie-the-Pooh

Quote for today:

"When having a smackerel of something with a friend, don't eat so much that you get stuck in their doorway trying to get out."
            -- Winnie-the-Pooh (from 'Pooh's Little Instruction Book')

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Birthday Cake Flop

I am thrilled to know that some of my friends think it impossible (or at least unlikely) that I could "screw up my own birthday cake."  But alas, my birthday status on Facebook is indeed true.

Upon finding my long-lost Bundt pan, I had kept it out to use it in the very near future. It's been exactly two cross-country moves of more than 5000 miles since I've seen or used that pan.  It's delicious curves begged to be filled with a cake fit for a special occasion, something destined to be covered in a sweet icing glaze.  And it's open center is perfect for gluten-free baking, which tends to brown on the outside much too soon.

I knew just what to make - it was my birthday, we had a couple of beautiful lemons in the refrigerator, and my recent lemon-cookie-recipe-experiment-turned-cake-recipe needed more testing.  As any good scientist knows, you must duplicate the initial successful result before you can say "by George, she's got it!"  So, I set out to finalize my recipe that should have made the perfect glazed lemon cake...

The batter was just right.  Oven temperature confirmed by the hanging thermometer inside.  Pan lightly greased with sunflower oil spray.  The lemony fragrance wafted through the house and down our hallways.  Each time I peeked through the oven window, I could see the cake rising nicely and the color turning a delicious shade of gold.  When the toothpick came out clean, I took the cake out of the oven and set it on a cooling rack for what was intended to be only a minute or two.  And that was the end of my lemon cake success.

I have a toddler in the midst of potty-training.  What more do I need to say?  She needed me, I was distracted, and then I forgot about the cake entirely. 

When I finally removed the cake from the pan to finish cooling on a rack, some twenty or so minutes later, it had collapsed onto itself and shrunk to half it's size.  The top looked nice and it slid effortlessly from the pan, but the bottom was now concave and I held little hope for the inside.  Once it cooled, a cut into the cake confirmed my fears - oohey, gooey, jelly mess.  Bummer.

So, there you go, my friends.  My birthday cake now sits on the counter, awaiting it's fate.  Once the rain stops, it will likely make a nice wildlife treat for our backyard birds, squirrels, and opossum.

The baking moral of the story?
 - Don't leave your cakes in their pans for very long.  They keep cooking and the bottom (top) starts to get moist and sweaty. 
 - Sunflower Oil nonstick spray works quite well to release your cakes.  I did not flour it, just lightly sprayed and wiped out any excess with a paper towel.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Press on!

And so it begins... I have decided to create a blog for my future bakery. Why today, when I have hours of to-do's in preparation for my little girl's 2nd birthday party? Why now, when I should be going to bed and getting some much needed rest?? Because my cookie press hates me!! And what better place to vent frustrations? The internet, of course! We can YELL in all caps, we can type words we wouldn't otherwise speak, and we can elicit feedback and comfort in the big, wide technology world of friends and insomniacs alike.

But back to my cookie press. It clearly has a mind of its own.

I am all too familiar with the difficulties of gluten-free baking. Cookies are grainy. Cakes are dry. Breads are like that 10-year old fruitcake no one eats (except my grandpa; he loves them). With a little art, a little chemistry, and a whole lotta love to guide me, I manage to do a pretty good job of creating baked goods that even gluten eaters like. But every once in awhile, I simply throw my flour covered hands into the air like white flags of surrender. It is one of those nights.

I had this grandiose idea of baking three different kinds of cookies - Sunbutter, Lemon Blossoms, and Spritz. I wanted to make them for the party this weekend, but also to have in time for Baby Ballet tomorrow morning. There's a little girl who was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and I bet she could use a cookie or three. The pressure was on.

These are all recipes I have created in the past, so it should have been straight forward and easy. Follow directions, right? Sure. But as cookie presses do - or at least my cookie press does - it made quick insanity of my otherwise quiet evening.

I got the press out, filled it with well-chilled Spritz cookie dough, brought the press to the clean and dry cookie sheet, pulled the trigger, and... the dough refused to stick to the sheet. I scraped it all clean and tried again. And again. And again. Remember, this is an existing recipe so I've done this before - same dough, same press, different climate (does anyone know if that could be some of my problem?). Eventually I got about ten cookies formed, plus a pile of leftover dough-turned-mush on the side. Despite all of my attempts at making the press do what it's supposed to do - you know, form pretty cookie shapes easily - it refused about 75% of the time. I chilled the dough again. I washed any residual oils off the cookie sheet. Chilled the cookie sheet. Yelled, cursed, and sweet-talked my way through the rest of the batch.

In the end, I got the cookies baked but most of them are formed strangely or not at all. At least they taste good. That's ultimately what matters, right?

If anyone has ideas or tips for working with a cookie press, I would love to hear from you. Heck, this blog is so new, I'd just love to know I have a reader. More than one would be cool too.

Press on, happy bakers!