Gluten Free

chocolate meringues


Chocolate Meringue Recipe

I want to give meringues the justice they deserve. I want to do a little tutorial on soft peaks, medium peaks, stiff peaks, and the different types of meringues. But I have these gorgeous pictures and a lovely recipe that I can’t keep on the back burner much longer! So, here is my meringue post, dedicated to my dear friend Sarah Grace. We share a love for these dainty special treats. We talk about how they crack because we just had to peep in the oven and touch one (me). Or how we didn’t think the temperature was right (Sarah). Despite their fractures, we both think they are the prettiest, yummiest treats suitable for a girly tea party! Plus, if you pile whipped cream and fruit on top you won’t notice if they do have cracks :)

I have watched Sarah Grace make black bean brownie muffins, with no recipe and without measuring anything (truly in SG fashion!). I was in awe. It was also about an hour before they needed to be ready! She was making them for a children’s birthday party of a family friend. Baked goods are a staple for special occasions. In these circumstances, we really, really, really, want the baking to turn out, and we really, really, really, want our guests to enjoy it. I love being able to share my baking, but I like it to be a “surprise”. No stress, no pressure, and if I am not satisfied I can keep them to myself and no one would know the difference!!

Sometimes, meringue recipes call for cream of tartar or lemon juice. Some say to use older eggs instead of fresh eggs. One thing is for sure, all the recipes beg you to use a clean, dry bowl.  I’ve made meringues many times, but I was curious to understand the merit (if any!) behind these suggestions. First, I wanted to understand what happens to the egg whites when you whip them.

Chocolate Meringue Recipe
Chocolate Meringue Recipe

Egg whites

Egg whites are about 90% water and the rest is made of proteins like ovalbumin, conalbumin, and ovomucin. The egg white proteins are polypeptide chains that have hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-hating) components. When egg proteins are cooked, they denature and new links are formed.

When egg whites are whipped, a similar phenomenon occurs where the proteins come apart and form new bonds. The proteins in egg whites are immersed in water. So, they arrange in a way to shield the hydrophobic tails from water. When we start to whip the egg whites, we force air into the water/protein arrangement. This causes a disturbance in the original structure, as monomer proteins break off and re-arrange around the air. As you whip, this process continues and your egg whites start to grow in volume.

Chocolate Meringue Recipe
Chocolate Meringue Recipe

Bowls & cream of tartar, old eggs & sugar

If your bowl is not clean, traces of oil will interfere with stabilizing the air bubbles in egg whites. Adding cream of tartar or vinegar will increase the stability of the egg whites because they are both acidic ingredients. Copper bowls create copper ions that react with the egg white proteins. This creates a soft, elastic, and moist long-lasting whip that coagulates at higher temperature. If you are making soufflé, it will rise higher because the egg whites remain this way for longer before they set. It is also more difficult to over-beat using a copper bowl, adding cream of tartar or vinegar.

The pH of a fresh egg is ~7.6. As CO2 diffuses out of the shell, the pH increases to ~9.2 after a few days. Fresh, room temperature eggs whip well because they are more acidic. Like adding cream of tartar, this acidity helps stabilize the egg whites when they are whipped. Further, fresh eggs are more viscous, therefore they form more stable but less voluminous whites than older eggs. Using cold eggs has the same effect (more stable, less volume). conversely, a pinch of salt decreases the viscosity, producing greater volume but lessens stability.

When you add sugar to whipped egg whites it causes the volume and lightness of the whites to decrease. However, it stabilizes air molecules in the whites and allows for stiffer peaks to form. Adding more sugar per egg white (for example, 57 g to 1 egg white) will create a very stiff meringue capable of holding custard. Adding less sugar (28 g to 1 egg white) creates a softer meringue that will caramelize to a golden-brown colour when baked, suitable for meringue that belongs on a pie. If no sugar is added, the whipped whites will deflate and when cooked will be flat and colourless.

Chocolate Meringue Recipe
Meringuesfordays.jpg

At the end of all this writing, I decided to make a table of what I know:

Chocolate Meringue Recipe

Honestly, after all this research, I will still use the age of eggs in my refrigerator, and will probably use them cold (because when I decide to make something, I can’t wait!). I suggest that you do the same! I think this is most useful when trying to troubleshoot or, if one day I decide to make my own recipes :)

Chocolate Meringue Recipe
Chocolate Meringue Recipe
Chocolate Meringue Recipe

chocolate meringues

6 large egg whites

pinch of salt

1 ½ Tbsp cornstarch

1 2/3 cup granulated sugar (330 g)

2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 275°F (135°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or use your silpat mat.

In a clean bowl, use your electric mixer with whisk attachment to whip egg whites until they hold medium peaks.

Add salt and whip. Add cornstarch and continue to whip. In a slow, steady stream, add sugar and continue to whip until whites are stiff and glossy (10-15 minutes total).

Sift cocoa powder over the stiff whites and gently fold in.

Make 10-12 meringues (5-6 on two trays) spaced apart.

My technique is to use a large serving spoon and a soup spoon. I “core” out a meringue using the serving spoon and then slide it onto the tray using the soup spoon. I then use the back of the soup spoon and swirl the meringue (adding additional cocoa on top).

Bake for 1 hour.  Switch off the oven and leave the meringues in it for 15 more minutes with the oven door slightly open. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

Meringues are best served on the same day but can be stored in an air tight container for up to 3 days. The first few days I eat them plain, and if I am worried they are getting dried out, I make chocolate whipped cream and serve on top. Have fun!

Chocolate Meringue Recipe
Chocolate Meringue Recipe

*Recipe adapted from the cookbook, A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson

vanilla marshmallows


Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Recipe

I want to start this post off by saying how much I love meringues. The marshmallow-y inside and how pretty and delicate they look. I also believe that if you can make something homemade it will taste better than store bought, by a million times. I guess I developed this notion during my childhood.  I yearned (yes yearned) for gushers and dunkaroos in my lunch but it wasn’t my mum’s thing. My mum made everything homemade. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, and was always excited to drink an Orange Crush as a treat at my Grandparent’s. It wasn’t until later that I started to notice that food outside my mum’s homemade cooking wasn’t as good: my mother’s biscuits were better than bisquick, ravioli from a can is terrible, what is cheese whiz?, why are store bought pies so thin?, and ketchup tastes sweet and weird (yes, I am a ketchup hater!). That being said, I don’t hate everything that is processed. Packaged chips, to die for. Lunch meat, irreplaceable. Sweetened condensed milk cooked into dulce de leche, muah. But I do believe for most things, if you can find a way to make it homemade, it will taste better. So, hopefully after this very long explanation, you will understand why I embarked on the adventure of making my own marshmallows. I can now tell you from experience, that they dooooo taste better, AND they were fun and easy to make!

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Recipe
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Recipe
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Recipe
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Recipe

Gelatin

In my grandmother's cookbook, many recipes explain the nutritional value, use, or history behind key ingredients. I like reading these little tidbits of information and have decided to do the same here. I was curious to learn what exactly gelatin is and its roll in mallow making. I picked up the Knox package to read the ingredients of gelatin. It says, I kid you not, "Ingredients: gelatin". Okay well that didn't get me very far. I turned to Google to do some research. Here is what I collected.

Gelatin is commonly used in cooking as a thickener (sauces), gelling agent (jelly candies), whipping agent (mallows), emulsifier (dairy products), and clarifying agent (wine), as well as in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Gelatin comes from extracting collagen of animals from their bones and tissues. The extraction process results in a powdered form of gelatin that needs to be "bloomed". Gelatin is a type of protein that swells and hydrates in cold water. After a few minutes it forms a squishy solid that looks like an agar plate you would see in a science lab. Gelatin have various bloom strengths (how much mass the gelatin can handle), which play a role in their wide range of uses. After the bloom, the gelatin can be melted by hot liquid. As the hot liquid and gelatin mixture cools, a soft solid forms.

Neat, am I right?! Interesting to note, the seemingly harmless marshmallows are not considered vegan. If you are looking to make vegan mallows, pectin is a non-animal gelatin substitute. You can use a substitution of 1 tsp pectin for every 1 Tbsp gelatin (or so I read! If you try it, let me know if it works out!). 

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Recipe

vanilla marshmallows

3 packages gelatin (3 Tbsp)

1/2 cup ice water

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla

dusting mixture

1/4 cup corn starch

1/4 cup icing sugar

Spray a 9x13 pan all the way up the sides or lightly coat with vegetable oil using a paper towel. Set aside.

In the bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment, sprinkle gelatin over ice water.

In a saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt. Using medium high heat, bring the syrup to softball stage, 240°F (about 10-12 minutes). If you do not have a candy thermometer, read below :)

Turn mixer on low speed and carefully pour hot syrup down the inside of the bowl. When you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. After 12-15 minutes add vanilla and whip for 1 more minute. 

Pour into greased 9x13 dish and dust the top with some of the corn starch and icing sugar mixture.

Leave uncovered for 4 hours and up to overnight.

Use a knife to cut the mallows into squares or cookie cutters to make fun shapes. Roll the mallows in dusting mixture to coat.

Store in an air tight container for up to 3 weeks.

If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the temperature by dropping hot syrup into a cup of cold water. Using your fingers, grab the ball of syrup out of the water. It should instantly flatten and run over your finger. Read here for more information.

*Recipe adapted from the Food Network

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Recipe
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Recipe

chicken satay with peanut sauce


Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce Recipe

Reading is something I love to do but rarely have the time. I know I am not alone when it comes to having hobbies but no time to do them! However, last year I was invited to join a book club and jumped on the opportunity. My thinking was I would have to make space in my life to read if someone was counting on me to do it. It worked! Yay! We meet once a month to socialize and nibble on cheese and crackers, ahem, to discuss the book! This month I was hostess and decided to share my blog idea with my girlfriends. To show them I meant business, I made a recipe from the cookbook. I settled on chicken satay with peanut sauce. I had never had it until that evening, at least not my grandmother's recipe.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce Recipe
Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce Recipe
Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce Recipe

I put them on mini skewers so that they would be easy to snack on, but the chicken could also be cut into larger pieces and put on regular sized skewers. It turned out to be a great appetizer and could be barbecued in the summer as a main dish alongside rice. Also, a friend in the group has Celiac, so this is a great choice if you are looking for something gluten free.

chicken satay

1 lb chicken (or sirloin beef or pork)

marinade

1 tsp grated lemon rind

2 onions

1 Tbsp soya sauce

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1/3 cup water

Cut meat into small cubes.

Blend the marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor.

Pour over cubes of meat, cover, and marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour or longer.

Soak small bamboo skewers in water for 1 hour to prevent burning during cooking.

Thread meat onto skewers and grill for five minutes on each side or until done.

Alternatively, place chicken skewers on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 15-20 minutes.

As a main, serves 4.

*Recipe from The Farm and City Cookbook

Now, onto the peanut sauce. Absolutely to die for! I have made my own peanut sauce many times before but this was by far the best. It is sweet, spicy, sweet, spicy, sweet! You have to try it! It would also go well with fresh spring rolls :)

Peanut Sauce Recipe
Peanut Sauce Recipe

peanut sauce

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup peanut butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp brown sugar

4 Tbsp soya sauce or tamari

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

salt

Stir coconut milk and peanut butter together in saucepan and cook over low heat until mixed.

Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients, adding water if necessary to thin it.

Makes 1 cup.

*Recipe from The Farm and City Cookbook