Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Still Amazing Angel Food Cake

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We’ve made this cake before. Many times. But I thought I’d make it again for a dual birthday celebration we had a few weeks ago. This cake was for the Pie’s grandmother, who recently turned NINETY. The next cake on our list I made for Papa John, her son, who turned SEVENTY at the same time. The Pie’s grandmother is a celiac and she’s also lactose-intolerant, so making her a special treat for her birthday was going to be a challenge I looked forward to.

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And why not actually go through the old traditional way where you make an angel food cake the same day as a devil’s food cake, so that you can use up all the yolks? So the devil’s food cake will be in my next post – stay tuned!

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Begin with your egg whites. Separate 12 eggs, saving the yolks for the chocolate cake coming up (you can freeze them), and bring them to room temperature. Normally I do this by leaving the bowl in a patch of sun on my counter but if you’re in a hurry, you can set the bowl in warm water and that’ll do the trick too. Don’t try to use pasteurized egg whites from a carton: they will not whip at all. I’ve tried.

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Plop your 12 egg whites in the bowl of your electric mixer with 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 2 teaspoons vanilla (or however much a generous dollop is. I never measure vanilla).

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Beat that with the whisk attachment until it’s nice and thick and foamy, and then slowly tip in 1 cup granulated sugar while you beat it some more. It’s the sugar that makes the meringue here stiff and solid, so don’t skimp on it!

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The meringue should be stiff enough to support the weight of the beater if you took it off the armature and set it on top.

Once that’s ready you can set it aside for the moment and whisk together your “flour.” In this case, our tried-and-true combination for gluten-free gorgeousness is 1 1/3 cups icing sugar, 1/2 cup tapioca flour/starch, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/4 cup rice flour, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 1/4 teaspoon (a pinch) fine salt.

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Fold that flour mixture into the meringue mixture very carefully. You have to be gentle enough that you don’t smush the bubbles in the egg white, but thorough enough that you’re not leaving pockets of flour in the batter.

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Good enough.

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Smooth the batter into an UNGREASED angel food pan (can’t stress that enough, never grease your angel food pan or it will fall out on you).

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Pop that in the oven for 35 minutes, until the top is golden-brown and dry to the touch. If you see cracks, that’s good.

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Fantastic. Now take it out of the oven and invert it over a bottle or if it has feet, stand it on the feet. This keeps the cake from collapsing under its own weight as it cools. Once it cools it’s a lot more firm. The gluten-free version is always way squishier than the gluten-y one so this is very important.

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Here’s my issue: my angel food pan is actually NON-STICK. So as I was inverting it, the bottom segment shifted away from the sides and I bobbled the whole thing, dropping it with a clatter. KABOOM.

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At precisely that moment and not ten feet away, the Pie had just put his elbow down on LongJohn’s plate, spectacularly spattering his lunch all over the floor and wall. Windows too. That’s the kind of day we were having.

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So I made another one. Which meant that we had not just 12, but 24 egg yolks. And a busted cake. “I guess that means we’re having trifle for dessert tonight,” said the Pie as he scrubbed hummus off the wall.

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So that’s what we did. But that’s neither here nor there. I made the other cake. And it turned out even better than the previous one.

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You can see that the pan is trying its best to screw me over by separating. Jerk.

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Once the cake has cooled you can decant it from the pan and decorate it as you see fit. I usually whip up some cream and slather it all over with some fresh berries, but the Pie’s grandmother is also lactose intolerant, so I decided to try whipping coconut cream instead.

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Coconut cream is a bit harder to find in Ottawa than regular coconut milk, but I eventually tracked some down in the local health food store. I was told by the cashier that the trick in getting it good and whippy is to make sure the cream, beaters, and bowl are all extremely cold. So the 2 cans coconut cream went into the fridge overnight and the beaters and the bowl went into the freezer.

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I tipped the cream into the ice cold mixer bowl together with a few tablespoons icing sugar and a dobble or two of vanilla bean paste and gave it a whirl with the whisk attachment.

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It takes a while, and it doesn’t get as stiff as whipped dairy cream, but it sure tastes good.

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Slather that all over the cake. It’s a bit slippery so make sure to keep it in the fridge until you’re serving. Does anyone know if there’s some kind of stiffening agent you could add to make it stay put?

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Pop some berries on top and in the hole in the middle and we are good to go!

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Gang Keow Wan (Thai Green Curry) with Eggplant and Bamboo

Green Curry

When I was in Ottawa a couple weeks ago, Krystopf and Atlas got takeout one night from a local Thai place.  There was one dish we got, the gang keow wan, that was so good I was determined to see if I could recreate it.  So here’s my best approximation, and it turned out pretty close to the original, minus the disposable aluminum serving dishes.

Get everything ready first, obviously.  The idea behind this is that if everything is sliced super thin and ready to go, the actual cooking of the curry will take less than fifteen minutes from start to finish.  Fantastic for a quick meal, which our Sunday dinners always turn out to be.

Start with your chicken (you can use beef as well, or leave it out for a vegetarian option).

Green Curry

Take 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, slice them into thirds lengthwise, and then slice them up again into thin little pieces.  It’s easiest to do this if the chicken is slightly frozen.

Green Curry

Wrangle yourself a leek.  Just one will do.

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Chop off all the dark green stuff, and hack it into thirds.  It goes without saying that you do this with separate implements than you did the chicken, unless you do all the vegetables first and then the chicken last, which is what I usually do.

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Cut each of those thirds up into matchsticks.  Remember to rinse off the dirt before you eat them.  If you want to know the real scientific way to clean a whole leek properly (which I forgot about until it was too late) then take a lookie here.

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Gather up a handful of hot peppers.  These ones are of the mildest sort, but you can go with whatever floats your boat and suits your fancy.  Cut the tops off, remove the seeds (don’t stick your fingers in your eye, OW OW OW OW OW), and make those into matchsticks as well.

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Grab some eggplant.  If you have those tiny Asian ones handy, or baby eggplants, use about five of them.  These are the long thin Italian ones, and I used three.  Slice the tops off and cut them into thin discs.

Green Curry

Bust out some lime leaves (kaffir).

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Grab a handful, and, if they’re frozen, let them thaw.  If they’re dried, give them a soak.  If they’re fresh, then you are a lucky person for living in a part of the world where you can get them fresh and you probably don’t need my instructions on how to make a green curry.  Go find something else to do.

Green Curry

When they’re ready, slice out the woody centre stem and chop them up finely.

Green Curry

If you have them handy, like, for instance, you are growing your own indoor herb farm (see tomorrow’s post!), then harvest some fresh cilantro and fresh basil. Chop those babies up as well.

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As well, crack open a can of slivered bamboo shoots.

Green Curry

Put them aside with your other fresh stuff.

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And you’re going to need an assortment of canned and jarred stuff as well.

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In a large, shallow saucepan or deep frying pan, heat up about 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Add to that 3-5 tablespoons green curry paste and 4 teaspoons minced garlic and sauté that at medium heat until the kitchen starts to smell really good.

Green Curry

Add in as well 2 tablespoons each ground cumin and ground coriander and 1 tablespoon powdered stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable — this is optional).  You can add in some salt and pepper as well, if you like.

Green Curry

If you’ve got it, add some lemongrass in as well.  This stuff came in a tube!

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Now add in 1 can coconut milk and, if you can get it, 1 can coconut cream (if not just go with two cans of the milk).  Make sure your cream isn’t sweetened before you dump it in.  I discovered that a little too late, so this curry was definitely on the sweet side, but still good.  Now you have this lovely rich greenish brownish soup.

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Slide in your chicken slices and the chopped lime leaves and allow to simmer for just a few minutes until the chicken is no longer pink.

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Raise the temperature and bring the liquid to a boil after adding all your vegetables.

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Allow the vegetables to soften, and the eggplant to go a bit brown.  Then add in your chopped basil and cilantro.

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Serve hot over rice, and eat it with a spoon in the traditional way.  I’m having some of the leftovers for lunch today.  I’m rather excited about it.

Green Curry

Creamy Coconut Lime Cupcakes

This is a recipe that I made for the Great Wedding Cupcake Experiment of 2009.  I have recently reinstated a “cupcake collective” at the office and I vowed to bring back this crowd-pleaser as my inaugural bake.

Seriously, this cupcake got so much hype when I brought it in the first time.  It didn’t make the final cut for the wedding but it’s the one everyone remembers with fondness.  I also remember it as being one of the few recipes I made where everything turned out exactly as it was supposed to, which is rare when you’re me.

These pale babies come from page 26 of Susannah Blake’s Cupcake Heaven, and I always double my recipes.  In my notes I took from last time, I found that the cupcakes were best if not allowed to brown, and that I used extra ingredients in the frosting, which was originally too cream-cheesy for my taste.  But that’s up to you.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Line a muffin pan with baking cups (the amounts are for the single version of the recipe, but the photos show me tripling).

Beat together 6 tablespoons room temperature butter, 2 tablespoons coconut cream, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a bowl.  The mixture should be pale and fluffy.

Beat in 2 eggs, one a time.

Sift in 3/4 cup self-rising flour (or add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder to 1 cup regular flour for the correct proportion and reduce accordingly) together with 1 teaspoon baking powder.  Fold that in.

Add in 3 tablespoons dried shredded coconut (unsweetened or sweetened, that’s your choice) as well as the grated zest of one lime and stir it in well.

Finally, stir in 2 tablespoons milk.

Use a table spoon to spoon the mixture into the cups, and bake for pretty much exactly 17 minutes until risen and golden.  A toothpick inserted in the centre will come out clean.

Flip them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat together 5 oz cream cheese (5/8 of a cup if you care, which is slightly over half of one of those 250g packages), 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar for the neophytes), and 2 teaspoons lime juice in a bowl.  As I mentioned above, I ended up adding extra sugar and extra lime juice, but that’s my own preference.

Swirl the frosting on top of the cupcakes, then sprinkle with shredded coconut or coconut shavings in a thick layer.

EAT!