May 20, 2009

Gluten free chocolate cake

I'm happily food-issue free, but I've some friends who do have trouble with a variety of things. Gluten's a common problem, as is cow dairy, so this cake has neither. It makes enough for two 9" rounds. It's also got as smooth a texture as a regular wheat flour cake (no rice flour grit!) and it doesn't even take much work to get there. It does take some time (the recipe takes about two hours, end to end) and some abuse (hence the blender).

Rice flour actually works pretty well in things you'd use wheat flour for but don't need gluten (so good for cakes and pies, bad for bread and cream puffs) but the stuff you can get at the market is damned gritty. (Check the ethnic food section -- my Stop 'n Shop has it for about half the price of the big box 'organic' food places) I've been told you can pick up food mills that'll get it as fine as wheat flour, but I don't use it nearly enough to warrant the expense, so I'm stuck with the rough stuff.

All flours you use in cakes work by hydrating, or soaking up water. How fast flour hydrates is largely function of the grain and the grind. Finely ground flour soaks in water faster than a rough grind, and different grains (wheat, rice, sorghum, or whatever) soak at different rates as well.

Rice flour is perfectly happy to soak up the water and get nice and smooth but the rough grind means it takes ages for the water to penetrate to the center of each piece and soften it up. Definitely much longer than you'll spend mixing and cooking a standard wheat flour recipe (it takes more water, too) so if you don't plan for that you end up with a gritty cake. Not horrible, but not great, and certainly not a texture I'd use for a birthday cake if I could avoid it. With some extra time and a blender, I did.

Grit-free, gluten free chocolate cake

2C Rice flour
1/2 C Sorghum Flour
1/2 C Potato starch
3 oz Chocolate
1C Cocoa
2C Sugar
1t salt
4t baking soda
1 1/2t xanthan gum
2/3 C flavorless oil
2T Vinegar (optional, but not bad)
1T Vanilla
2 eggs
2C water

Get the water warm but not hot to the touch -- a couple of minutes in the microwave is fine. (You're not cooking the rice, just taking advantage of the fact that warm water works better than cool for hydrating) Stir in the rice flour and the sorghum. It'll make a bit of a paste, but that's fine. Make sure all the flour's wet -- you don't want pockets of dry flour. Cover and let stand at room temperature for an hour, at least. (Longer is fine) If you want to stir it every half hour or so that's fine but not necessary.

After your hour's up, heat the oven to 350F. (And check! A cheap oven thermometer's probably cheaper than a bag of the rice flour, certainly a damn sight cheaper than the xanthan gum. Use it, because your oven dial lies!)

Line two 9" round cake pans with parchment paper. (No other pan treatment is needed, and don't grease and flour anything -- just the parchment, and it really doesn't even need to be all that exact a fit)

Dump the rice and sorghum mix into your blender. Blend (lid on, since cleaning the ceiling's a pain) for a minute or two. Add in the eggs, vanilla, vinegar, oil, and salt. Blend at least until mixed. Your batter will still be a little grainy, but that's okay, it'll cook out. Blend longer if you feel like it, the extra air helps make the cake fluffier.

Break the chocolate up into smallish pieces and melt. (probably a minute or two in the microwave -- do it in 20 second chunks, stirring between each nuking) The chocolate doesn't have to be hot, just liquid, so don't go overboard.

With the blender running, add in the chocolate. (That's what the little hole in the center that the cap's in is for, and why the cap comes out) Whiz it up until it's blended.

Now, if you've got a heavy duty blender (I don't) you can add the rest of the ingredients and whiz together in the blender. Otherwise dump everything into a mixing bowl and mix.

The batter will be a bit rubbery, so plop it into the pans and spread until everything's basically level.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. (If 30 minutes isn't enough then check every 5 minutes until they're done) Let 'em cool, then de-pan, frost, and eat.

Posted by Dan at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

Dairy-free chocolate buttercream

I made this as the frosting for a cake I made recently for a friend who can't do gluten or cow dairy. It's a pretty straightforward no-egg, no-cook buttercream. The goat butter, interestingly enough, has a really light flavor that doesn't actually taste at all of goat. If it wasn't so damn expensive ($5.99 for 8 ounces at the local store) I'd use it for all my buttercream.

It's also nearly white, something cow butter from the supermarket isn't. Close enough that I think you could reasonably do white buttercream. (Which I don't, as it means either lots of titanium dioxide or crisco. Either way, ewww)

8 oz goat butter
4C powdered sugar
3 oz chocolate, melted and cooled
1T vanilla
3-4T liquid (water or milk of some sort)

Melt the chocolate and let it cool. It should be liquid, but only barely warm. (Otherwise it'll melt the butter when you add it, which is no good) I find a minute or two in the microwave, in 20 second intervals, works pretty well.

Beat the butter until it's light and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar a cup at a time. (Or more, if you like the whole 'exploding cloud' effect) Beat in the vanilla, and the melted chocolate.

The frosting'll be a bit grainy, so add in the liquid a tablespoon at a time until the consistency is what you want it to be. Water works fine, as does milk from any handy mammal. Soy 'milk' or coconut milk work too, though I find they've each got a distinctive flavor they add to the frosting, so check to see if they match what you want.

This is enough frosting for the outside of a 9" cake. If you've got a 10" cake, or want to do between the layers of the cake with it (Why? Use a good jam instead. Raspberry, strawberry, and cranberry all work, and it's easy to cook up a quick fresh batch) then increase the amounts by 50%.

Posted by Dan at 08:54 PM | Comments (0)

Clearing out the cobwebs

Sheesh, it has been a while, hasn't it? Well, it's time to clear out the dust that's settled and trim back the weeds. Maybe even upgrade the blog software, but I suppose I wouldn't want to go overboard.

For folks following, I wouldn't expect updates with much frequency (past the next couple of posts) nor much computer talk. I do enough of that at work; it'll probably mostly be food and the occasional snarky grumble.

Posted by Dan at 08:52 PM | Comments (0)