Dueling Cherry Shortcakes…

credit: me.  Back in the kitchen saddle again.  I had to dust my camera afterwards thanks to all the flour.

credit: me.
Back in the kitchen saddle again. I had to dust my camera afterwards thanks to all the flour.

One shortcake to rule them all. There can be only One.  Second place means–the circular file for you.  That would be the trash can for you youngsters weaned in paperless offices. :P So the stakes are high, and victory was absolutely necessary.  The challenge: please the N-GF palate with GF goodness. Can it be done? Can it be denied? Can it be dined upon?

First of all, I have some people to thank. Yes, my variations are distinctive, but would ever have been a success so quickly had it not been for the brave efforts of Amy over at Simply Gluten and Sugar Free, and Karen Robertson at glutenfreecooking.com

Beautiful-megamart-Cherries_tn

Photo credit: me

Yep, this is gluten free– no potatoes or corn either. It’s not as healthy as I would like, but gosh darn it, I wanted a baked good that worked. I’ve been batting .1000 for a while now, and I needed something vaguely related to morale in the kitchen or I’d never enter the cursed place again.

Furthermore, I have lived for more than a week without hot water, and it’s hard to do things like clean dishes properly when you have to set a pot on the stove for at least an hour to get enough boiling water to cut bait. But frankly, I’ve been hiding from cooking even beyond the difficulties at home. Let’s just say the cook found me.

So I searched the internets for promising desserts. I figured that the dense loose crumb of a decent shortcake would be relatively easy to replicate in GF mode.   Well… okay. It’s a bit more of a challenge without corn in one’s life.

The cabinet was bare in a few major areas, but I finally came up with the idea of using oat bran, after somebody suggested using ground oats.  Because, you know, grinding up oats in a spice grinder was too much work. :)

ACTUAL MIX, now dubbed Margo’s Mostly Rice AP Flour

  •  1 cup of tapioca flour
  • 2½ cups of Brown Rice Flour
  • ¾ cup of white rice flour
  • ¼ cup of arrow root
  • ½  cup of sweet white sorghum flour

This is roughly based on this recipe from Karen Robinson

Multi Blend Wheat- and Gluten-Free Flour

  • 2 ¼ cup brown rice flour
  •  ½ cup potato starch flour
  •  2/3 cup tapioca starch flour
  •  ¾ cup sweet rice flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch

So after I mixed up a batch of a pretty good GF flour recipe, heavily edited for my selection of Things On Hand… see above!

I then used it to  whip up some shortcake.  Here’s the original recipe from here….

To Make the Shortcake

  • 1 ½ cups All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, stone-ground 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • scant 1/4 cup agave nectar

Here’s the Unofficial Edited Version, based on what I can eat…

Margo’s hack of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free Amy’s Shortcake

  • 1 ½ cups All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix
  •  1/2 cup GF oat bran (use WG, GF oat flour instead)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3/4 cup almond milk, plus 3/4 teaspoon of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • scant 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • +¼ teaspoon of orange extract (both cakes)
  • +/- 1/2 teaspoon guar gum– this is the only difference between the two cakes

I used the same directions for making the dough and whatnot found there. I will post them for your convenience.  The only other difference is that the guar got to sit out a bit more before going into the oven, because I could not put the two together simultaneously, not having evolved eight arms just yet.  Also, next time I’m trying Amaranth flour instead of the cornmeal.

The directions:

Adjust a baking rack to the middle position of the oven. Preheat oven to 425F. Spray a 8″ round cake pan with baking spray. Line with parchment paper and spray again. You can also use a 8×8 square pan. Set aside.

For the Shortcake

To make the shortcake, place flour blend, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a sifter. Sift the dry ingredients together. Put dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

Mix wet ingredients together in a large measuring cup. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until just combined and dough comes together. Place into prepared pan and spread with a spatula so that the top is flat. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. The shortcake will pull slightly from the edges of the pan.

Place on a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Then remove from pan and place on a clean kitchen towel on the wire rack and let it cool further.

I used cherries because the first bumper crop just hit my local Megamart, and they are magnificent. It seemed strange to go back to the store just to retrieve some greenish, off season strawberries.

Cherries-of-my-labor_fs

Photo Credit: me again.

I mean, cherries are also naturally superior, or maybe that’s the Michigander in me talking. Her and the cook fight a lot– but cherries are the one thing they agree on.

By Lazanahoria (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The reason why there are two shortcakes instead of one is that I reached an impasse decision that required forking the project. You see, I wasn’t clear on whether or not I should add some guar gum.  Because my sub for corn wound up being GF oat bran, I was alarmed at how heavy it would become (I did not need to worry. Keep reading.) with a whopping 1/2 of a cup of oat bran in there per batch.

So, I made not one, but two.  The guar decision was based entirely on a hunch… okay, maybe it was good advice, too.   The second batch I kept pretty much constant, hoping I could rely on the unique properties of oats to help bind the universe– I mean,  the shortcake together.

Sifting-Closeup_tn

Photo Cred: you betcha, still me.
Sifting made all the difference for this recipe.

So… first I mixed the flours together. This is the flour recipe I used for both. I think it’s a good AP substitute. I certainly haven’t had baked goods turn out this good before.

Then, I placed each measured flour in a bowl. I added all the dry ingredients to each bowl, and an egg plus the “butter milk”– in this case 3/4 cup of almond milk plus 3/4 teaspoon of lime juice. I let them set together for a bit after stirring, but before adding other ingredients.

Note: Do not add almond milk plus acid in a plastic measuring cup, as convenient as it might seem. If necessary, do the measuring in your plastic cup, then move it to something glass for the main event. The chemical reaction looks underwhelming at the time. But, later, when  you are washing, you will discover a 1/4 inch wide ring of cloudy gunk permanently etched into the plastic of your once pristine measuring cup. You have been warned.

Meet-the-Wet-Team_tn

Photo Credit: Is I.
One egg for each batch.

By Dvortygirl (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Then I added the rest of the wet works.  I beat the eggs with a plastic stirrer– which worked really well in these tiny bowls. A fork would have slopped egg on the countertop.  I did also add to this recipe one other thing– 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract, and I replaced the lemon zest with orange zest. I could probably have used as much as 1/2 teaspoon, but I did not.  You could sorta taste the orange in the cake, but the lime from the “butter milk” was even stronger.  I thought the two went nicely together.

Next time I want to try this with RealLemon or RealLime (or maybe make it RealLemon/Lime) which would add the flavor without adding any more added bitterness than absolutely necessary. Though I should experiment to see if it would unbalance the acid balance and put the bake off.  I’m not sure I even understand the balance factor of acids enough to be confident in this.

I sifted the flours into a second bowl. I used a sieve with the following technique.  I also managed to sift about half of the oatbran back out.  Basically, anything heavy was sifted out. Woo hoo. Somehow, I still got lots ‘O lumps anyway. In the end this did not turn out to be a  bad thing.  The resulting flour was astonishingly light. I made a well as lightly as I could without disturbing the air that was incorporated into the pile.

At about this point I noticed that I had NO Parchment Paper whatsoever. I shrugged and just added a bit more spray to the bottom of each pan.  This worked amazingly well.

I poured in the liquid into the bowl with my little flour piles and folded loosely.  I stirred the Guar Gum batch a little bit more than the un-Guar-ed.The liquid was absorbed in the Guar-ed batch that I was concerned if I didn’t stir I’d have pillows of raw flour distributed throughout my baked good– which did not sound good.  I did ‘t incorporate all the lumps, but I did at least try to get it pretty smooth. But I was still pretty conservative.

Photo:@me Shortcake about to be fired.  Now you know why they turned out so uneven. Hint: don"t blame the recipe.

Photo:@me
Shortcake about to be fired. Now you know why they turned out so uneven. Hint: don”t blame the recipe.

I dumped the batter into each pan then put them both in the oven. I set the timer for 15 minutes and looked pleadingly at my little icon to St. Lawrence.  Then I washed some boring dishes.

At around 10 minutes I started staring at them to see how they were. Now the differences between each of them was vividly evident. The Guar baked good was all puffy and solid looking, starting to brown just a bit on the edges.  The un-Guar-ed  batch was still soupy looking and pale.

These also did not rise quite as well as expected. So it’s possible that my subs were not quite right. YMMV.  Also, my oven is horribly unbalanced in terms of even height– that’s clear from my results. I guess I will have to figure out how to even it out.

Baked-Top-No-Guar_fs

Eventually, the Guar-ed caught up and started browning. It did not get as brown as Amy’s did, probably because I was using rice flour instead of bean flour.  At 15 minutes exactly I pulled out my Guar-ed batch and turned it over on the rack.  It bounced and did not break. It smelled wonderful, and looked great. I was hopeful.

Baked-Bottom-Plus-Guar_tn

At about the 18-20 minute mark, I pulled the unGuar-ed out of the oven. It also bounced, and smelled wonderful.  I was surprised, and even more hopeful. Then I let it rest under a tea towel for a while… came back and made crazy desert for Husband and myself.

you know the drill.

you know the drill.
Guar-added on Left. No Guar on the right.

Oh, yeah, Baby.

closeup-compares-texture_fs

Once again: Guar added on the Left. No Guar on the Right. That is the only difference… except that the Guar added good also tasted better– even to the non-GF taster– namely my husband, who doesn’t go in for “hippy food”.

This time it really was as good as it looked.  As you might guess, the Guar-ed came out much better… even by Husband’s standard. He said that the unGuar-ed tasted funky (in not a good way) just like Dave Arnold said it would.  The Guar-ed did NOT taste funky, and he thought it made fine substrate for a cherry and pseudo-ice cream dessert. He couldn’t tell the difference texture wise, and was mystified that I could.

Winner-shall-rise_fs

Well, he did not see these photos. The texture I thought was dramatically different. Not as noticeable with the cherries. If you are going to be eating straight, it definitely matters.  Personally, I noticed even with the cherries, but I’m perhaps a more sensitive hedonist than my husband is.   The thing that the Guar makes possible is that you can get-R baked in 15 minutes or less.  If you have to wait it out until 20, your flours intensify in all the flavors you don’t want.

pretty-dessert-parade_fs

There is a heavier “protein and whole grain” flour that I really want to try. They recommend it for crusts and the like. Hrm. Maybe for quiche? A whole grain empanada?  Or a nice chicken pot pie? I’ve made some nice creme sauces with coconut butter and mimicreme.  Coconut fat is key for those sorts of things.  Alas, that’s another show. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!  Maybe next time I can go off the deep end and crash and burn in an amusing way. :)

...

My only regret is that I disturbed the guar batch by stirring the sifted flours after sifting. That might be why it was more uneven than the other, and had less lift than it should have considering the  lightness of the dough.  It still tasted VERY good, and had a great texture!

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