Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuna Zucchini Cakes

I must say that I tried this recipe simply because I had the ingredients on hand.  I wasn't expecting much; my last attempt at a tuna cake turned out less than spectacular results.  This one on the other hand was very good.  I would and will make it again.  As a matter of fact, I fried up the rest of the cakes this morning and shared them with my three year old for breakfast.  And even SHE liked them.  And this is a girl who won't touch tuna salad, unlike her big sister who adores it.  Good with lemon juice or tartar, I was thinking that a spicy aioli would be fabulous with them.  That's what I'll do next time.  Just take your favorite aioli and add a shot or two of tabasco.  Yum.  If you use frozen shredded zucchini, which I did this time, be sure and squeeze it quite dry to avoid a watery mixture.  (And if you find your mixture too wet, just tilt the bowl and sop up the extra juice with a paper towel, it will turn out perfectly fine.)  ☺  I also used a whole sprouted grain, low carb bread for my crumbs and they were fabulous.  That made it a low/neutral carb dish for hubby and I.  Bonus!  You can use any oil you like for frying, but I recommend the refined coconut oil because it is good for you and yields a wonderfully crispy and non greasy crust on the cakes.  Or anything else you fry in it for that matter.  (Refined = doesn't smell like coconut.)  Serve with a salad for a lighter dinner or as an appetizer.

Update 9/12/13: With growing girls, six cakes is no longer enough for our family of four.  I will have to double it next time!

Tuna Zucchini Cakes
makes 6 appetizers, double recipe for main meal

½ cup finely chopped onion
1 tbsp butter
1 6.5oz can water packed tuna, drained well and flaked
1 cup shredded zucchini
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tsp lemon juice
dash of tabasco
½ tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 slices whole grain bread, crumbled into fine crumbs, divided
¼ tsp italian seasoning
1/8 tsp granulated garlic powder
2 tbsp refined coconut oil

Saute onions in butter in a small pan until tender.  Take off the heat.  Add in the tuna, zucchini, eggs, parsley, lemon juice, tabasco, salt, pepper and ½ cup of the bread crumbs.  Combine well.  In a shallow dish, combine remaining bread crumbs, italian seasoning and garlic powder.  Form tuna mixture into six ½" thick patties and coat with the bread crumb mixture.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium low heat.  Cook the tuna cakes for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Enjoy with lemon, aioli or your favorite seafood condiment.

Adapted from Billie Blanton, Taste Of Home

Monday, January 24, 2011

Don't fear the Divinity!

Update (4/13):  I recently picked up a tiny package of divinity from a great candy shop to give to my dad while we were visiting.  He said it was very soft and marshmallowy and too sweet and he liked mine much better.  This recipe, which I have now made dozens of times, was superior in all respects.  Woot!

There it is. Divinity: that aptly named, heavenly, ethereal, melt in your mouth confection. Kind of like a cross between marshmallow, nougat and fudge, but light as air. No mass produced, store bought divinity compares to homemade. It's just not remotely the same and it's bloody difficult to find anyway. And nothing compares to the memories of Grandma's/Mom's divinity. My Dad grew up with his mom's divinity and it was always a Christmas tradition when I was growing up to get him a little (ridiculously expensive) box of that particular candy for either his birthday or Christmas itself. (The days were close together.) I know it's terrible of me to post this right now when I'm de-sugaring and low-carbing it, but this is such a special treat. And I was always afraid of divinity, so having it turn out so well makes me want to crow a bit. ☺ Truly it is hardly more difficult than making an italian meringue, marshmallows or marshmallow fluff. And I'm really good at those now, having no choice but to make them from scratch to avoid the corn syrup for the corn allergy in the house. So in my confectionery frenzy this holiday season, I decided to tackle my Dad's favorite confection.

From all that I had read, the one thing that can make or break your divinity is humidity.  So I waited for a sunny day and was fortunate enough to see one before Christmas.  Then I checked a weather station website for a park 4 blocks away.  It said 55% humidity.  That was good enough to be safe so I went for it!  Apparently you don't even want to attempt this particular confection if the humidity is greater than 50-60%.  Honestly, I don't know how they do it in the south and this is a southern candy as far as I know.  Maybe cook the syrup a couple degrees hotter?  Who knows.  (I just learned something new - apparently it is not humidity that will sink your divinity and some other airy or tempermental confections - it is barometric pressure, which should be at least 30 inches or higher.  The batch I made today, 5/15/13 turned out perfectly at 30.01 inches!)  The recipe I used though, has some safeguards in it that I hadn't seen in others.  I don't know if it is no fail, but it sure was easy.  Required equipment: stand mixer and a candy thermometer.  Yes, you can use the ice water method to test, but a thermometer is easier and less subjective.  With one caveat: CALIBRATE YOUR THERMOMETER.  Even if it's brand spanking new, it could be off a few degrees.  And that makes a world of difference in candy making.  I realize now it's why I had so much trouble making the candy corn in October.  My thermometer was off about 5º.  It only took me a year to figure it out.  I hope to save you that heartache!  Stick it in boiling water and it should read 212ºF.  If not, adjust your recipe accordingly.

This recipe is seeded with a tiny bit of powdered sugar.  I believe this helps promote a velvety smooth, non grainy candy.  It passed the Dad test who proclaimed it perfect and delicious.  It's also not purely tooth achingly sweet, this one.  Very good.  It may need to be made again to deliver to the school staff room or work...  So here's the recipe, named for the flavor it approximates.  (You can successfully make a half batch.)

11-15-13 - Regarding barometer and humidity:  I love this recipe more and more.  It was raining and the barometer was 29.87.  I cooked the syrup a few degrees higher just to be safe.  The divinity, both batches, set up so well I had to scramble to get it all spooned out in time!  I really think the powdered sugar makes a huge difference in providing seed crystals to give the structure a significant boost.

Salted Caramel Pecan Divinity

2 large egg whites (room temp)
2 oz (¼ c) granulated sugar
½ tsp cream of tartar

1 lb (2 c) granulated sugar
6 oz (½ c) Lyle's Golden syrup
4 oz (½ c) water

Additions and Inclusions:
2 tsp vanilla
1 scant tsp fine sea salt
1 oz (1/8 c) confectioner's sugar
8 oz (2 c) roughly chopped toasted pecans*

Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Lightly sift powdered sugar over the parchment.  (Helps prevent the candy from sticking.)

Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar for the meringue in a 5-quart mixer bowl with a whip attachment.  Don't whip yet.  If your bowl isn't this big, do a half batch.  I filled two baking sheets with candies from a half batch!

Combine the sugar, golden syrup and water for the syrup in a 2 qt saucepan.  Heat over medium to boiling.  Cover and boil for 3 minutes.  (This washes down errant sugar crystals.)

Uncover, attach candy thermometer and cook without stirring to 230ºF.

When syrup reaches 230ºF, start whipping the egg whites on high speed.

Continue cooking the syrup to a final temp of 260ºF.

Pour the hot syrup into the whipping whites in a small, constant stream.  Aim for the outside so it won't splash off the whisk.  Continue whipping on high for 6 minutes.  (It took less time for mine to be obviously ready to add in and finish up, maybe 4 minutes.)

Add vanilla, salt and confectioner's sugar to the whipping egg whites to combine.

Remove from the machine and fold in the pecans by hand with a rubber spatula.

Using a spoon dipped in warm water each time, forget that, what a pain in the butt!  No water, just use two spoons, one to dip out the candy and one to scrape it off onto the baking sheet.  Go for whatever shape you like, egg shaped or more rounded with a flip on the top; whatever floats your boat.  You will need to work fast because it sets up very quickly - another reason possibly to do a half batch!  Another option is to pour it into a lined pan and cut it into squares later.  It will take longer to set up that way but might not be as fragile as individually formed pieces.  Nobody will care what shape it is when they taste it, believe you me.  (And with individual pieces, if there are some that don't look quite the right shape for giving or company, why that is a perfect excuse reason for some quality control measures and testing!)  ☺

Let the divinity set up for an hour or so at room temp before serving or storing.  The texture will change once it is properly set.  Mind the humidity at this point.  Divinity is highly hygroscopic and will almost literally melt on you.  Well maybe not melt, let's just say it will get darned sticky.

Store in an airtight container to protect from humidity.  Single layers work best to preserve the appearance of the candy, but you can always separate layers with waxed paper.  I understand you can freeze divinity well, but haven't tried it myself.

* An easy way to get perfectly uniform (beautiful) chopped pecans is to put a few pecans at a time (no more than three) through a veggie chopper. You know, the kind that were originally meant to dice onions. They make fabulously easy diced dried fruit too. Then you can quickly toast up the nuts for about 9 minutes in a 350º oven.

Adapted from Chocolates and Confections At Home with The Culinary Institute of America

Friday, January 21, 2011

BBB - Hildegard’s Spelt Bread

I was keen on trying this spelt bread out because I figured it would go over well with my youngest daughter and I had some spelt flour in the freezer to use up.  When I looked at it though, it was white spelt flour which I believe is refined just like all purpose flour.  It certainly didn't look like a whole grain flour.  I just remember picking it up in the bulk section at Whole Foods a long time ago.  So I picked up a bag of whole spelt flour at the little health food store where I get my milk and local eggs.  Very fresh and not too expensive; just $3.19 for about 28½oz.  Enough for two loaves.  Perfect. 

I was kind of surprised that I got such a round loaf since most of the BBBabes had flatter loaves.  The one biggest difference in mine I think was that I made a half batch but forgot to halve the milk.  So I did end up adding some more flour while kneading.  Maybe that helped out the structure since spelt has more delicate gluten than regular wheat.  It still wanted to spread a bit more than rise but I made my center cut a bit deep so it really split when it went in the oven!  Came out with a nice loaf though.  And this bread has the most amazing aroma and flavor.  Very complex with a hint of natural sweetness and "nuttiness" for lack of a better word, and a tiny hint of tang from the lemon juice.  And it smells fabulous when toasting.

I recommend a smaller loaf pan (8½x4½") to help give the spelt a boost in structure.  I used scalded milk cooled to lukewarm because I love the flavor and think it contributes to a better loaf.  And I found 1 tsp instant yeast to be sufficient for one loaf - a half batch.  My sponge never came together like the "cannonball" in Astrid's original post.  Even with double milk.  It looked like streusel topping.  During my short research on spelt flour I found that you should bring the dough together within 4 minutes of adding the liquids to protect the gluten structure, but once it is combined you may treat it like regular wheat dough.  I don't know if I hit those guidelines but I did end up adding another probably ¾c flour during kneading to deal with the extra liquid I added at the beginning.  I have a feeling that helped with the structure and rise.  Spelt seems to be particularly sensitive to moisture content.  Its gluten cannot handle over hydration.  Anyway, check out the original post at Paulchen's FoodBlog?!  for some great info and history on spelt and the recipe, and the links to the other BBB members to check out how their loaves turned out.

Hildegard's Spelt Bread

400 grams spelt flakes
600 grams whole spelt flour
15 grams salt
40 grams fresh yeast (I ended up using 1 tsp Instant Yeast for a half batch so 2 tsp for a whole batch)
200 ml milk, lukewarm
500 ml water, lukewarm
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

Sponge:  Mix spelt flakes and spelt flour with the salt. Dissolve yeast in milk and combine everything to a sponge. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 15-20 minutes. Add water and lemon juice to the sponge and knead for at least 15 minutes gradually adding the sunflower oil.

Dough: Form dough ball and coat with warm water. Cover again with kitchen towel and let double in size. Knead for another 2-3 minutes.

Cut dough in 2 equal halves and place each in a baking pan. Cut the surface of both breads about 5 mm deep and let rise again until doubled in size.

Bake the first 15 minutes at 200 °C (about 400ºF), then lower heat to 195 °C (about 375ºF) and bake for another 30 minutes.

Astrid’s Notes:
- The longer you knead the dough, the more air will be incorporated - but be careful not to overknead the dough!
- you can also soak the spelt flakes in the lukewarm milk a while before you assemble the sponge - if you prefer...
- Also: be careful that the dough will not overrise, especially at the last rising step. Spelt loves to overrise if you are not careful enough... at least it does that to me ;)
- It's recommended to place a bowl with water into the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking.
- You can also brush the finished bread with some milk and let dry for about 1 minute in the oven.

This loaf will be yeastspotted!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Post holiday diets - Almost sugar free almond joy bars

Yeah, I admit that I did some serious damage over the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Actually I think it was the two months of sweet baking and confectionary cooking leading up to the holidays.  I resugared myself up but good.  So along with my hubby I will be doing a month of low carb "resetting" of the system.  (Give my poor, sugared out pancreas a rest!)  Then another month of timed and specific carb counts for retraining the body.  Fortunately I picked up some fabulous recipes for low carb treats last time I took this plunge.  (And lost 40 pounds.)  This little gem is one of them.  And the great part is, it still fits into this relatively strict first phase.  They taste great; everyone who tried them (that likes coconut), liked them.  Mom said they were dangerous little things.  And with the lauric acid in the coconut oil to boost the immune system, and the thermogenic effects of the medium chain fatty acids in the oil as well, this is one healthful little bite of candy.  Especially for low carbers.  And the high quality fat makes them much more satisfying than their grocery store counterparts.  Once again, I'll mention that I pay the highest price for the only organic brand of erythritol because it is made from cane sugar, not corn (that darned corn allergy).  Corn based is much cheaper, but you also run the risk of it coming from GMO crops if that matters to you.  Depending on how dark a chocolate you choose to coat them, the net carb count runs about 4g per candy.  A good 70% cacao chocolate bar will get you there.  Really, the only meaningful sugar in the recipe comes from the chocolate.  I can live with that.  ☺

Guilt Free Almond Joy Bars
Makes about 20 bars

1½ cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut
5-6 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1/3 cup coconut milk  (not lite)
1/3 cup erythritol
a few drops to taste of liquid stevia
pinch of fine sea salt
Crispy or raw almonds (crispy nuts have been soaked and dehydrated for a delightful crunch)
2 3.5oz 70% cacao chocolate bars

Melt erythritol in a saucepan over medium heat - it melts quite easily.  In a bowl, stir together the coconut oil, milk, shredded coconut, salt and stevia.  Pour in the hot, melted erythritol and mix well until the oil melts and the mixture is paste like.  Scoop spoonfuls of the mixture onto parchment or waxed paper and shape into flattened logs with your fingers.  Top with the almonds, pressing down lightly.  Freeze or refrigerate until the filling is cold and quite firm.  Gently melt chocolate, adding a drop or two of Stevia if desired.  Dip centers into chocolate and return to paper to harden.  (I drop mine in, flip with a fork to coat and then transfer to the paper after tapping off the excess chocolate.)  Can be eaten cold or room temp, though I would say refrigerate for longer term storage.  Enjoy!

Adapted from Healthy Indulgences