Friday, March 20, 2009

Speculaas (Sugar High Friday #53)

I got a message from Scrumptious, directing me to the next round of Sugar High Friday. For those who don't understand what I am talking about: Sugar High Friday is a blog event started by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess, with a new theme and host each month. It's all about desserts ! The theme this month is very original: The Test of Time - Desserts over a century old.

At first, I didn't have any inspiration. But then lightning struck me! Speculaas! It's a cookie, traditionaly baked for St Nicolas' Eve but nowadays available all year round, that is mostly eaten in Belgium and the Nederlands. It's very popular here. Wikipedia told me that speculaas is also known as "Dutch Windmill Cookies", if that rings a bell to you.

That traditional cookie must be over a century old. And a little research told me I was right. A baker from Hasselt (Belgium), Antonie Deplée, acquired a license for "Hasseltse Speculaas" on January 13th, 1870! He called it:
« une espèce de pain d'amandes connu sous le nom de spéculation » - A kind of almond 'bread' known under the name spéculation.

The cookies are thin, slightly browned and very crispy, but what makes them special, is the mixed spices that are used. It's a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white peper. Real speculaas have images or figures stamped on the front side. However, I have no such stamp, so my cookies are very plain.

I like speculaas very, very much. So you can imagine my relief when I found a relatively good recipe for a gluten-free version. It's not the same, but it tastes quite like it, and it's good and yummy too.

So, now on the recipe:
Gluten-free Speculaas

• 100g buckweat flour
• 100g rice flour
• 100g good quality butter
• 125g brown sugar
• 8g vanilla sugar
• a pinch of salt
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 Tbsp mixed speculaas spices
(to mix your own spices: 30g ground cinnamon, 10g ground cloves, 10g ground nutmeg, 5g ground white pepper, 5g ground anise seed, 5g ground coriander seed)
Simply mix all the ingrediënts and knead them into a ball. Put it away in the fridge for at least an hour.
Take a bit of the dough and form a small ball (rolling between your hands). Put the ball on a baking plate (covered with baking paper) and press it flat. You can also make figures, or basically anything you want.
Put the plate with the cookies in a preheated oven (175°C) and bake them for about 10min. They'll be soft when you take them out of the oven, but they'll get hard when they cool. So don't worry. Let the cookies cool until they are firm enough to handle. Put them on a cooling rack and let cool completely.

It's strange to bake these on the First Day of Spring, it's more of an "Autumn-cookie" :-)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cornmeal Pancakes (Gluten-Free)

I still have quite a lot of cornmeal left, so I decided to try some cornmeal pancakes (Next on my baking-list: cornbread :-P). I used this recipe as a base, but I altered it for sweet pancakes.
And O My God, Success ! This are by far the best pancakes I had since I'm eating gluten-free. I am so going to make these again, and try out different variations.

Gluten-Free Cornmeal Pancakes

• 250g cornmeal
• 1 teaspoon salt (but I'll add less next time)
• 2 teaspoons baking powder (GF)
• 10g vanilla sugar
• 190ml milk
• 2 Tablespoons melted butter
• 1 egg

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl: cornmeal, salt, baking powder and sugar. Add the milk and butter, and mix the batter until it's well combined. Add the egg and whisk.
Melt some butter in a saucepan. Pour some batter in the pan and bake on both sides, until ready. You can make the pancakes any size you want. The batter is quite firm, so you can even make figures if you like ;-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

We got a bunch of eggs from my 'father-in-law'. And I've got a pack of cornmeal that I have to use, because it's about to expire. So I thought I'd bake something... I asked T. what he would like. Oh, a chocolate cake, you haven't baked that in a while. Well, indeed I haven't. In fact, I haven't baked one since I'm gluten-free. So it was decided: I had to try baking a gluten-free chocolate cake. I searched for a recipe, found too much delicious-looking-cakes and couldn't chose. In the end, I picked a recipe for a regular chocolate cake that I had marked a long time ago.

It's good. It's chocolate cake, yet gluten-free. But there's room for improvement; the cake still is a bit dry, and I like a chocolate cake that really tastes a lot like gooey chocolate... But hey, it's good and I can eat it, I'm not complaining :-)

Gluten-Free Dark Chocolate Cake

• 90g coarsly chopped dark chocolate
• 115g unsalted butter
• 90g dark brown sugar
• 1 Tablespoon dark syrup
• 175g flour / I used 145g cornflour and 30g potato starch
• 25g cocoa powder
• 1 teaspoon baking powder (GF)
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 large eggs (beaten)
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 90ml milk

Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Melt the chocolate, butter, sugar and syrup in a heavy pan (with a thick bottom) on low heat. Make sure you stir frequently. Let it cool slightly.
Sift the flours, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Make a pit in the middle, and pour the mixture into it. Mix it carefully. Then add the eggs, vanilla and milk. Mix it with a wooden spoon, until everything is combined well.
Pour the mixture in a buttered cake mould. Put it in the oven and bake it for 40 minutes or until ready. Make sure you check it frequently.
Let it cool before taking it out of the mould.

Extra note: The cake is still very good after 2 days (kept in the fridge). I find it still very tasty. Also, the cake isn't too heavy. I had a bit for breakfast, and my stomach wasn't upset, even though I normally don't eat such things in the morning.