…And a Cup of Good Cheer

My kids pulled in quite the haul this year. My daughter got a real canvas painting kit, a lot of clothes (both wearing and dress-up), a new recorder, a music box, a harmonica, and a keyboard, among other things. My son got a toy tool kit and drill set, a stroller, a tea set and some faux condiments for his play kitchen, lots of clothes, a couple of books, art supplies, and a toddler basketball hoop. My daughter is painting her canvas right now (and has been for the past 2.5 hours). I can hear my husband and son playing basketball. My son yells, “Goal!” and then squeals, and I can hear his little feet running across the carpet.

During the annual Opening of the Presents, we had hot spiced cider for the kiddos and hot spiced brandy wine for my husband and myself.

My friend Jenny passed along her recipe for spiced brandy wine (from Martha Stewart. Apparently Jenny and Martha are pretty tight). It looked good, but I didn’t have any star anise and didn’t feel like going out to the store for any yesterday, so I found a different recipe. I was skeptical because it came from a chef in Fort Lauderdale (Is Florida known for its delicious, warming holiday beverages? I would have felt more confident about a recipe from someone in, say, Finland). But my worries were unfounded because it was very, very yummy, and perfect for sipping as the children tore open their gifts and strew the paper all over the living room.

Maybe next year I’ll work up a gluten-free, dairy-free figgy pudding recipe to go with the brandy wine.

Hot Spiced Brandy Wine

Spiced Brandy Wine (in one of the cool cups I found at the thrift store more than a year ago)

(via Hot Spiced Brandy Wine – – FabulousFoods.com)

Ingredients

2 T brown sugar

1 oz lemon juice

1 c orange juice

3 to 4 whole cloves

8 to 10 whole peppercorns

5 whole cinnamon sticks (I only had three so I only used three)

4 cups red wine (preferably a Burgundy or Pinot Noir) (I lucked out and there was a Beaujolais on sale at the wine store the other day. Kind of wish I’d picked up two bottles now that I know how tasty this is.)

4 ozs brandy (Don’t waste the yummy stuff on this recipe. A less expensive, “good for cooking” variety works fine.)

Instructions

In a four-quart saucepan, combine all ingredients except the wine and brandy. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Reduce by half. Lower heat and add the wine. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not boil a second time. Strain through a fine sieve, or just skim from the top and watch out for peppercorns while you’re sipping. Serve hot and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Popovers

Popovers, batch #4: Journey's end

The story of these popovers is the story of a journey.

It began with a trip to the store to buy gifts for a family in need. I went to one of those big combination discount store/grocery store places. I needed a glass container for the homemade sugar scrub I’d made the mom. Once I’d found that and looked at all of the other sale items in housewares, I headed back upstairs. On my way, there between the freezer cases was a display of deeply discounted items. Among them, King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour. The box was really banged up, but the bag inside was intact. The price was marked down from $6.99 to $3.49 and the ingredients didn’t include sorghum (which I strongly dislike), so I said, “Sweet!” and tossed it in the basket.

The next morning, I noticed that there was a recipe for gluten-free popovers on the back of the box. It looked very easy, so I whipped some up. They were delicious! And they looked like this:

Popovers, batch #1

How convenient that they had those little dents in them to hold jam or honey or whatever else (I considered putting turkey in them for lunch, but decided against it).

We liked them so much, we ate the whole batch, leaving none for my husband when he returned home from work that evening. So I made some more using the same recipe.

Popovers, batch #2

I was so thrilled with the popovers, I wanted to blog about them. I visited the King Arthur Flours website so I could link to the recipe. There I found a picture of a popover much different than the ones I had made. The ones on the website were puffy. Huh. I wonder why they didn’t puff when I made them? I posted a note to the website about it, commented about it on Facebook, then went searching online for more information about popovers.

With all of this research, I came to the conclusion that popovers are very temperamental creatures, and that I was trying to make them with three things working against me:

  1. Gluten-free: this messes up many an otherwise delectable baked good.
  2. Dairy-free: this usually is a non-issue for me, I just use rice milk and fake butter and all is well. But apparently popovers have strong opinions about cows.
  3. High altitude: this was the big kicker, I think. I’d forgotten that we’re between 4,500 and 5,000 feet in elevation at my house. It’s not always enough to make a big difference (rice takes longer to cook and my sister huffed and puffed a lot when she jogged when she visited us, but those are the biggest differences I’ve noticed). But from what I read in the New Mexico State University High Altitude Cooking Guide, altitudes as low as 3,500 feet could require recipe modification.

By this time, it was almost 11 at night, but I was a woman possessed. I decided to modify the popover recipe from the high altitude cooking guide to make it gluten-free and dairy-free and make one more batch before bed. The other change from the other two batches: I mixed the batter in the blender rather than with a whisk. They were puffier and cakier, but not popover-y.

Popovers, batch #3

The next day, I took a break from cooking popovers. I realized that I was acting a bit obsessive and I thought the least I could do was try to get a handle on myself by taking a break from actually cooking popovers. So, I ruminated and searched the internet and solicited suggestions and dreamed about baking popovers. Based on my research and my experiences with my prior three batches of popovers, I decided to use the King Arthur recipe as a guide and make four main modifications:

  1. less fat, a suggestion for high altitude baking
  2. higher initial oven temperature, also for high altitude baking
  3. preheating the muffin tin, something that was recommended on several popover recipes and that I later found was suggested in response to my query on the King Arthur site
  4. using light coconut milk, to try to approximate the properties of cow’s milk without the lactose and casein

This morning, I made up another batch.

Yes, dear reader, they puffed.

Puffy Popover. (Proud? Perhaps.)

Here is the resulting recipe, the culmination of much research and experimentation. Those of you at sea-level will likely be fine with the King Arthur recipe. Those of you who are at altitude but not GF/CF will probably be fine with the New Mexico State University recipe. But for those of you who are GF/CF and living above 4,500 feet, this could be your path to popover bliss. For those of you who don’t eat eggs, I’m sorry I can’t help you. My obsession carries me only so far.

Imperfect GF/CF High Altitude Popovers (inspired by the King Arthur Flours GF popover recipe)

makes 12

Ingredients:

1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I used King Arthur multi-purpose flour blend)

1/4 t xanthan gum

1/2 t salt

1 1/4 c “light” coconut milk, at room temperature

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 T vegan margarine, melted and divided (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)

Preheat oven and muffin tin or popover pan to 450°F.

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Combine coconut milk, eggs, and 1 T melted butter substitute in the carafe of a blender and blend until combined. Add dry ingredients and blend until smooth.

Remove pan from oven and brush cups with the remaining 1 T melted margarine. If there’s any butter leftover, pour it into the rest of the batter and mix briefly until incorporated. Pour the batter into the greased cups, evenly distributing among all 12 of them (about 1/2 to 2/3 full).

Place in 450°F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and cook an additional 25 minutes. Popovers are done when they are a tad browner than golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool just enough so you don’t burn yourself when you eat them. They have a nice hollow inside for all of the yummy stuff you might want to put in them.

My 5.5-year-old daughter likes them plain, my 16-month-old son (who can now say, “popover”) likes them with raspberry preserves, I like them with fake butter and real preserves. My husband hasn’t tried them yet, but I’m trying very hard to leave him a couple. Or maybe one. Half.