Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Cracker Problem, and Banbury Tarts

Very few crackers are available to the soy-free. Saltines have soy--even the fat-free ones had lecithin the last time I looked. Some varieties of Kashi "TLC" ("tasty little cracker") varieties are soy-free, though you have to (repeat after me:) read every label, every time. The last time I went grocery shopping, I found two varieties of Carr's crackers that were made with palm oil, the Whole Wheat Crackers, and the Table Water Crackers.

These last crackers made me happy. Yes, very little makes you happy when you are allergic to soy and you find something normal you can eat. But this made me happy for a specific reason: Banbury Tarts.

My mother made Banbury Tarts a handful of times when I was growing up. They are fussy to make, and she didn't do "fussy" in the kitchen. We make ours, not from some authentic British recipe, but from the Fanny Farmer cookbook. You can find it on the web here. It calls for "a slow oven," which means 300F.

It calls for crackers. Rather, it calls for "1 cracker." The last time I asked my mom to make these, she made them with 1 Saltine. Bummer. Couldn't eat them. No, Mom, not even if it only has "just a little bit of soy" in it. Sorry.

Now, could I make these with bread crumbs? Probably. Why didn't I? Maybe because not having soy-free crackers in the house gave me an excuse to not make Banbury Tarts. Since I don't have this excuse anymore, I think I will make Banbury Tarts for Thanksgiving, instead of mince pie, which nobody like but me (and Mom, of course, but she's probably not coming.) Then, because my daughter will be home for the 4-day weekend, I will pressure her into helping me take pictures of them and teach me how to upload them and then I will have my very first post with photos!


And Banbury Tarts.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

French Fries

Until 2 weeks ago, I hadn't had a french fry since 1999 when I moved back to the United States from Germany. Most french fries in the States are cooked in soy oil or generic "vegetable oil" which usually is a mix with some soy in it. But two weeks ago we went to Brasserie Beck, a Belgian restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C. My sister-in-law asked what they fry in, and they told her grapeseed oil. The waitress told us canola oil. No matter, it was not soy, so we ordered some. These fries were perfection. They were the size of MacDonald's fries (skinny) and came hot and crisp, with soft insides, sprinkled with salt and parsley flakes. They don't get soft and flabby, either, when they cool down. They are very popular, and the tables around us were ordering them as an appetiser, just like we did. They come with a trio of mayonnaises--plain, tomato, and curry--to dip them in, but I didn't ask what kind of oil was in the mayo, so I didn't try them. The potatoes were great on their own, though. Why paint the lily, or gild pure gold?

I hate frying (and, as my doctor reminds me, need to lose--ahem--a few pounds) so we don't make french fries at home. We make Oven "Fries" out of either white baking potatoes or sweet potatoes:

Oven "Fries"
serves 4

2 or 3 large baking potatos, or sweet potatoes
canola or light olive oil
salt and pepper OR
Old Bay Seafood Seasoning (particularly good with sweet potatoes)

Preheat the oven to 450F. Oil a rimmed baking sheet.

Scrub the potatoes and cut into wedges about 1/4" thick on the wide edge. Put them all in a sealable plastic bowl (like Tupperware) and add a tablespoon or two of oil. Cover and seal the bowl, and turn upside down. Shake vigorously.

Lay out the potato wedges in one layer on the baking sheet. If you have a few too many, lay them crossways on the others on the pan. Salt and pepper, or sprinkle with Old Bay. Bake for 15 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven, turn over all the wedges (you might have enough room for only one layer now, because they shrink a little), season again, and bake for another 15 minutes. Check them. Depending on the potatoes and on how thick they are sliced, they may be done (browned and semi-crispy) or they may need another 5-15 minutes.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Chocolate Cake

This week I dedicate to chocolate cake, because it is the reason I missed posting last week. I was making one Saturday morning to take out to dinner with me that evening. A big kitchen knife dropped and cut one of my fingers enough to have stitches, so I spent time in the emergency room instead of blogging.

Chocolate cake is one of the best things ever invented, in my opinion, but is problematical for the soy allergic because a lot of chocolate contains lecithin. Now, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network said for a long time that soy oil and lecithin won't cause allergic reactions, but I am here to tell you different. Apparently a bunch of us told FAAN that, too, because now they say to "check with your doctor" about soy oil and lecithin.

Baking chocolate doesn't have lecithin, though, so I set out to find a really good cake made with plain baking chocolate. I found one, but when we ate it we all agreed it didn't have enough frosting. Because the frosting recipe is a little fussy (but worth it, believe me), we did not want to mess with scaling it up, so I scaled the cake recipe down. The only problem is that you have to own 7" cake pans. The cake is easy to make, though, because it uses a "quick-mix" technique.

Little Chocolate Cake

2 1/2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
7 Tbs butter, softened
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 tsp baking powder (slightly rounded 1/4 tsp)
2/3 tsp baking soda (slightly rounded 1/2 tsp)
1/3 tsp salt
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbs water
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Put out all the ingredients to come to room temperature.
2. Melt the chocolate with 1 Tbs butter in a double boiler (or in the microwave) and allow to cool until almost room temperature (if it is too warm, and the batter is too cold, you end up with little speckles of unsweetened chocolate in the cake).
3. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 7" round cake pans, line with waxed paper or parchment, and butter again. (Or spray both times with canola oil from a Misto sprayer.)
4.) Put the dry ingredients in the mixer and mix for about a minute. Add the remaining 6 Tbs butter, 1 Tbs at a time, and mix until it looks like Bisquik or pancake mix--slightly grainy.
5. Measure the yogurt in the bottom of a glass 1- or 2-cup measure, then add the rest of the wet ingredients to the measuring cup. With mixer on low, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer and whip for 2-3 minutes. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the middle if the cake comes out clean.

Chocolate Frosting

4 1/2 oz usweetened baking chocolate
4 Tbs butter (1/2 stick)
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (use less if it is not whole milk)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a small mixing bowl, melt the chocolate and the butter over hot water--kind of like making your own double boiler--or melt it in the microwave and add it to the small mixing bowl.
2. Stir in the sugar, salt, about 3/4 of the milk, and the vanilla. Mix well.
3. Set the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and cold water, and beat the frosting until it is thick enough to spread--kind of like mayonnaise. Adjust the consistency with some more of the milk, if needed.