Monday, April 21, 2014

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Spicy Cheesecake Bites


Gluten-free Dairy-free Spicy Cheesecake-Bites

Before I went gluten free, I actually hated cheesecake, because it made me incredibly sick.
Then, two years ago, I made some terrific gluten free cupcakes with cream cheese topping - and they did not only taste wonderful, but totally agreed with me. The begin of a wonderful new friendship between me and cheesecake ...
One day, I actually wanted to make some fruit and spice cupcakes with spicy cream cheese topping. I put together the topping and then ran out of time - and all of a sudden the idea popped into my head to just make the topping, without the cupcakes.
I added some flour, poured the batter into cupcake tins and baked them.
They turned out fantastic!


Maybe because of the heart shaped tins.



Depending on how big your cupcake tins are, you'll get about 12-15 bites out of this recipe.
12-15 bites of joy, that is.

Ingredients:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (this works with "normal" cream cheese, vegan cream cheese and goat's milk cream cheese)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons chunky applesauce (equals about 1/2 peeled, cored and chopped cooked apple)
  • 5 dates, pureed (chop and simmer with 2 -4 tablespoons water until mushy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup white rice flour

Preparation:
  • Chop dates and simmer with 2-4 tablespoons water until completely mushy (the amount of water depends on how tough the dates are); let cool completely
  • Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C
  • Sift together cornstarch, rice flour and spices
  • Cream together cream cheese, egg, apple sauce, date puree and maple syrup
  • Fold flour mixture into cream cheese mixture
  • Pour batter into lightly greased cupcake tins or non-stick silicon cupcake tins, about 1 inch of batter per tin.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly brown on top.
  • Let cool in cupcake tins until only slightly warm, then remove and let cool completely or devour warm!

Makes 12-15 cheesecake-bites, depending on the size of your cupcake tins.
Do you prefer crustless cheesecake or cheesecake with crust?


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Castagnaccio - Tuscan Chestnut Flour Cake


Castagnaccio - Tuscan Chestnut Flour Cake

Today I'm going to take you on a trip to Italy. Tuscany, to be precise.
The Italian regions of Tuscany, Piedmont, Liguria and Emilia-Romagna are very rich in sweet chestnuts.
So, ironically, chestnut flour used to be a cheap staple for people there, while today it is one of the fancier and quite expensive naturally gluten free flours which celiacs use.
If you ever have tried roasted sweet chestnuts, you know the sweet flavour of the creamy-white flesh.
Sweet chestnuts contain very little fat, about the same amount of carbohydrates as wheat and rice, twice as much starch as potatoes and about 8% of various sugars which is the reason for their natural sweetness.



You'd expect me to tell you that I ate this cake in Italy one day and fell in love with it, but truth to be told, I never ate it before I actually made this one the other day.
I love to write - about food, about science, about nearly everything on the earth that catches my interest. And I love to write fantasy.
My favourite hobby (besides eating and drinking coffee) is to write an ongoing story which I started when I was twelve years old and which most probably will continue till I watch the grass from six feet under.
The heroine of this story grew up with me and I grew up with her, and as things go, we will get old together and share a place in a retirement home one day. She's my counterpart and represents everything that I'm not; and everything that I can't experience myself - like visiting the Otherworld or San Casciano in Val di Pesa - I experience through her.
In one chapter, I went on a trip with her to see Florence, which in reality I haven't seen yet. And discovering the Tuscan cuisine, she had this chestnut cake and liked it a lot.



My husband, who keeps reading the story as it grows, kept nagging that he wanted to try the cake in real life, so I purchased a bag of chestnut flour and got to work.

If you expect your normal piece of cake, you'll be terribly disappointed.
Castagnaccio is nothing like any dessert cake I have ever tried, but I did love it.
The consistency is slightly gummy, which at first bite might be weird. I'm really picky when it comes to weird food consistencies, but I got used to this after only three bites, and then I just concentrated on the unusual, yet pleasant flavour that exploded on my tongue.
It's not really sweet, because the only sweetness comes from the chestnut flour, which is slightly sweet itself, and the raisins.
So you can either eat it with ricotta or a piece of parmesan cheese, if you eat cow's milk produce, or pecorino cheese, which is like parmesan but made from sheep's milk, or you drizzle some good honey over it. Preferably chestnut honey, but any other will do fine, too.
Usually, the cake is served with a glass of wine like Beaujolais Nouveau or dessert wine like Vin Santo.
I've tried it with both, pecorino and honey, and I loved both. (I didn't have the wine with it, though, as I'm not fond of sweet wine. Coffee does the trick, too.)

If you're open for different flavour experiences and want some real Italian dolce vita in the middle of a busy week or on a lazy Sunday, try this recipe, it really has extended my culinary horizon.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 pounds (500g) chestnut flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100g) roughly chopped walnuts
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100g) pine nuts
  • 3 ounces (80g) raisins
  • 1 fresh sprig rosemary
  • 1 pinch fine salt

Preparation:

  • Soak the raisins in hot water.
  • Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C)
  • Sift the chestnut flour into a large bowl - don't skip this step, the cake will not turn out well if the flour is clumpy!
  • Add a generous pinch of fine salt to the flour.
  • Using a wire whisk, slowly add the water to the flour, whisking constantly, until you have a very liquid, even batter.
  • Drain the raisins and add about 3/4 of them to the batter, reserve the rest.
  • Add about 3/4 of the pine nuts and chopped walnuts to the batter, too.
  • Grease a 15 3/4 inch (40cm) pie pan (I only had a 13 inch pan and it still worked - but I guess 15 inches would be better; the batter should be only 3/8 inches (1cm) high when spread in the pan)
  • Pour the batter into the pan.
  • Drizzle 4 tablespoons of the olive oil over the surface of the cake and try to cover it as completely as possible.
  • Sprinkle rosemary leaves from the fresh sprig, reserved raisins, pine nuts and walnuts on top and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • Put on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the surface has the appearance of a cracked crust and is golden brown.


Let cool and serve with honey drizzled over it, or with ricotta, parmesan or pecorino cheese.
Enjoy!


Have you ever tried hot roasted sweet chestnuts?