Monthly Archives: December 2016

Ringing in the New Year in Style– Gluten-Free

I always throw a small dinner party every year for New Year’s Eve, and this year is no different. I am constantly pouring over recipes to see what I will make for dinner and then the piece de resistance (and my FAVORITE): dessert.

This year, I found a fabulous confection consisting of meringue and decadent mousse in Food and Wine magazine that was originally created by Gaston Lenotre, the famous French pastry chef. I have seen many riffs of this type of cake before in other restaurants over the years. As a matter of fact, the cake in Food and Wine was another riff of the Lenotre creation created by Breads Bakery in New York City!

I made three-inch diameter, round chocolate meringues that I sandwiched with a dreamy chocolate mousse, and then covered with chunks of meringue. With a blast of powdered sugar, this “no share” dessert is a great way to ring in the New Year!

I decided to make it as individual small cakes so no one would need to fight over who gets the last piece. The great thing about this dessert is not only is it delicious to eat (and spectacular to look at!) but it is also gluten-free. Trust me when I say this cake is yummy,  whether you are gluten-free  or not.

I’ll let you know how this goes over with my guests! Do you have any New Year’s Eve desserts to try tomorrow?

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

Best Doughnuts Ever

As promised, I just cut out my apple cider doughnut dough and fried my doughnuts, and all I have to say is “WOW!” They are AMAZING.

This Japanese bread-making technique, tangzhong, really works! Although the dough was very soft while cutting it, once fried, the finished doughnuts were soft and really fluffy (and ready to be dipped in either maple caramel glaze or apple pie spice and sugar!).

I have made my share of doughnuts throughout the years. Some recipes used yeast, some used chemical leaveners, but I have never used this unusual method before. I can tell you right now that I will certainly use it again when making a dough where a light texture is desired.

These were perhaps the BEST doughnuts I have ever tasted.

Happy Holidays and Happy Baking!

Chef Gail     

Time To Make The Doughnuts

Hanukkah will soon be upon us, which means it’s doughnut time!! I always make apple cider doughnuts, because I love them so much. And I love them so much because I rarely make them, so I yearn for what I don’t make that often. That way, they become a REAL treat.

This year I came upon a recipe in Food and Wine magazine by the owners of Curiosity Doughnuts that uses a Japanese technique to make the dough. The technique is traditionally used to make bread dough that bakes up light and fluffy. When I read through the doughnut recipe, I decided I am all for doughnuts that are described as “light and fluffy”, and I decided to give the recipe a whirl.

The technique is called tangzhong. To make a dough that uses this special method you first make a dough on the stovetop combining water and flour. The idea here is that the flour can absorb a hot liquid like water much more readily than if it were cold. This creates a dough-like blob that once incorporated into a dough will create lots of steam as the doughnuts are fried. The steam not only leavens the dough, but forms a light and fluffy texture. The steam formed within the dough is trapped due to the increase in gluten development from the extra water being absorbed. This increases the structure of the dough, helping the moisture to stay inside the doughnuts as they fry, creating those two lovely adjectives- light and fluffy!

For my doughnut dough, instead of water, I used apple cider, which is water based, and a little butter. Once it was cooked (it only took a minute or two) the dough was allowed to cool. I then incorporated it with some cream, sugar, eggs and chemical leaveners to get a nice, yet sticky dough.

The dough is now in my fridge, chilling on a sheet pan, until I am ready to cut the doughnut shapes out and fry them. I know it’s silly, after all, they are only doughnuts, but I am giddy as a school girl to try this technique.

In a few days, once they are made, I will post some pictures and observations and let you know how they turned out.  I am so excited!

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail


The Case of the Missing Bottom

It’s holiday time and life can and will get CRAZY!

This time of year involves all sorts of goodies from cookies, cakes, candies and other confections, not to mention savory dishes as well, that get made and brought to friends and family. It all sounds so simple and ideal. However, say you are the host or hostess of a large gathering and someone brought you their famous cheesecake still on its springform pan base. Don’t see a problem? I do.

When the last slice of cheesecake has been eaten and the party is over, will you remember that pan base and who it belongs to? Perhaps not. Especially after that rum laden eggnog and extra glass of wine or two.

I have witnessed ill will between good friends when someone forgot to return or worse yet, threw out a plate or pan base that should have been returned. In all fairness, it is easy to avoid such problems. After all, aren’t the holidays stressful enough??

The case of the missing pan bottom can be avoided. Do what I do. Bring anything you make on a pretty foil-lined, or holiday napkin covered, cardboard cake circle or an inexpensive holiday plate.

For cheesecakes or tarts that have those false bottoms, create a cardboard bottom to swap out so that the cheesecake or tart bakes right on the cardboard bottom and you won’t have to worry about the metal one getting lost or misplaced. I learned  to create these cardboard bottoms for pans when I worked in restaurants that had no matching bottoms to their false bottom pans.

To do this, just use the real metal bottom to trace its shape onto a piece of cardboard. Cut it out carefully, and then make sure there is a snug fit when you fit it into the pan.

Another tip, before baking any baked good that is baked in a false bottom pan place it onto a sheet pan. This way when the baked good is hot from the oven you can just take the sheet pan out and not worry that the false bottom will come out and burn you, and worse yet, ruin your dessert.

Happy Holiday Baking!

Chef Gail


Having Fun with Mochi Ice Cream


One of the many reasons the Japanese have the longest lifespans is their absence of sweet desserts. However, one of my favorite Japanese desserts is Mochi Ice Cream. Although I have enjoyed this dessert ONLY in a Japanese restaurant, I thought it might be fun to experiment and make it myself.

If you don’t know what Mochi Ice Cream is, picture a small frozen round of rice dough filled with ice cream. It reminds me of a Japanese ravioli, but much more fun. I actually made ice cream sandwiches with the Mochi dough and made rounds of ice cream to go in between two thin rounds of the dough. This became Mochi Ice Cream Sandwiches and they were so much fun to make AND EAT.

I first made three different flavors of ice cream that would work well with the rice dough. I made mango, green tea and coconut ice creams. After I processed them, I put them each into a separate square pan lined with plastic wrap. This would make it easier to use a round cookie cutter to cut out rounds to fit in between the Mochi dough rounds.

The Mochi dough was a bit more of a challenge. I purchased sweet rice flour from an Asian food market and combined it with water and coconut milk. Any thin liquid would work. I microwaved it until it became taffy-like. That is to say sticky, but not unmanageable. I then divided it and kneaded in some red food coloring to half the dough to contrast with the ice cream.

I rolled out the doughs on a work surface heavily dusted with cornstarch. I then cut out twice the number of rounds than I made with the ice creams. Be sure that the dough and ice cream rounds are both the same size.  I froze the rounds for a short time so they would stiffen. This would make it easier to assemble the sandwiches later on.

On a foil lined sheet pan, I placed some of the Mochi rounds and lightly brushed them with water so that the ice cream would stick to the Mochi round. After placing an ice cream round on top of each round I topped off each ice cream with another lightly moistened Mochi round. I froze them until they became firm.

For a great presentation, I halved two different types of Mochi Ice Cream sandwiches and served a combination to each person stacked half on top of another half. Garnished with a little whipped cream, ganache and some berries it was quite the dessert!

What a hit they were when I served them to a friend who has to eat gluten-free. She was so happy that I had tried so hard to make her a GREAT GF dessert, because let’s face it, GF desserts can be pretty bad.

What I love about Mochi, the actual rice dough, and ice cream together is the combination of textures. There is the chewiness of the rice dough and the cold and creaminess of the ice cream. It is one of the lightest desserts you will ever have and one of the most exotic.

You must try it sometime even if you use store bought ice cream. Your stock will rise with all of your friends.

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

Throwback Thursday- Making Pizza with Bekah


(this year’s birthday cake)

Yesterday was my daughter’s 29th birthday. I cannot believe the time has gone by so fast. I know this sounds so cliché but it really only seems like yesterday that she was just born. And in her case, she was. Being in the kitchen, and creating foods together was something she was raised on. She loved mixing ingredients and rolling out dough. The older she got the more she could do. It was so much fun to have her in the kitchen with me.

Every year I made a special birthday cake with a theme that varied depending on where we had her party. One year her party was at the NYS museum. The cake had a camping theme complete with campers with sleeping bags of fondant and a fire as well. I even made a little snake that crawled out from the bushes.

Her birthday on Thursday was no different. We had no party, but I did make a yummy Kahlua Chocolate Mousse cake in her honor that was enjoyed by our family!

One of my favorite memories and special times my eldest and I had was when she was about 4 years old. I made pizza dough and was planning on making a large pizza for the family. My daughter had other plans. She insisted on making her very own individual pizza.

I gave her a small piece of the dough and she went to work at her own work area. She pounded and pulled that poor piece of dough for at least an hour, clearly having a blast! When I approached her saying that her dough was ready for the sauce and cheese, she insisted she needed just a few more minutes to shape it.

Shaping was the operative word, since the gluten in the dough was beaten into submission and just fell apart. After I explained that her dough needed to rest for a few minutes, I quickly helped her form a small, yet tough pizza crust.

She topped it, and it was off to the oven. I must admit the kid had SOME attention span, even at 4. I was very impressed.

She enjoyed that pizza so much, and I am sure that her investment in its’ creation had a lot to do with it.

Bake or cook with your kids. It is well worth it. For you and for them!

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

Baking Class for The Sage Colleges’ Dietetic Interns–Time Well Spent

When I was asked to do a healthy baking class for the Sage Colleges’ Dietetic Interns only two days before Thanksgiving I didn’t know if I could do it. Right after the class I would have to pick up my daughter at the airport and start cooking and preparing for Thanksgiving. So much stress!!!! You can tell that I am a type AA personality!

I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to get everything done, but honestly, the interns and I had so much FUN!

There were 14 students, some of whom I had taught before and some of whom I had never met before. All were eager to learn. I thought it might be fun to make two versions of shortcakes– one recipe that was my original loaded with butter, and the other a healthier version I created with light butter and whole grain flour replacing some of the all-purpose flour. After baking, the students split the original shortcakes in half and they were filled with whipped cream and fresh berries.

The healthier version was split in half and filled with only half the whipped cream that had been folded in with some fat free vanilla Greek-style yogurt. The filling for the healthier version really decreased the saturated fat calories, but NOT the flavor, even though we only used one half the quantity of heavy cream.

I even had the students do a blind taste test. Everyone tried an original and a healthier shortcake, side by side on the same plate. They could not tell which ones were which.

I know that a healthier recipe is a success when NO ONE can taste a difference between that and the original. And even if there are minor differences between the two recipes, the healthier recipe should still taste as delicious or it was not worth making.

Teaching this class was the best thing I could have ever done. It was so relaxing that I felt like I had been to a yoga class. I don’t know who had a better time, the students or ME! Hopefully, it was a toss up.

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail