Sunday, January 1, 2017


The Ultimate (Gluten-Free) Crumb
Adapted and modified from David Lebovitz by My Little Blue Heron

Crumb is why we bother to eat crumb cake, any crumb pie, crumble, and why Entenmann’s “Fine Baked Goods” one-upped their crumb coffee cake to  “Ultimate Crumb Coffee Cake".  

Sbrisolona is from Mantua, Italy, and it dates back to about the year 600. In its local dialect, brisa means (give up?) "crumb." In 600, basic ingredients were used: corn flour, lard and hazelnuts. (Almonds were a luxury item.) 

My preference is to add anise seed. Gluten-free baking tastes better, even shines, when strutting strong flavors. Grind the seed (coarsely) in your spice grinder (If you don't own one, get a coffee grinder .. the blade kind, and label it, “for spices only”), with a mortar and pestle (did you know that you pronounce it : pɛsəl?), or with a Japanese suribachi. This Japanese mortar and pestle is my favorite grinder. Its greatness lies within its ridges. Because of its design, you can effortlessly grind spices, seed, other dried or semi-dried foods, and sesame seeds into a paste. Here's a link for one in the U.S. on Amazon. 

If you make your own GF blend, I recommend using superfine brown rice and superfine white rice flours. 

Still in its youth, gluten-free baking and flours have begun to grow up. Superfine flours have eliminated that mouthful of sand quality to baked goods. Balancing rice dominance with softer flours and varied starches are producing flour blends that are finally merging taste with texture.

You can substitute wheat flour for gluten-free flour (that felt great!) 

The only dairy I include in my diet is butter, and this recipe screams butter. If you don’t use butter, use the finest butter substitute you can find. I haven’t made this dairy-free, but there are excellent quality non-dairy butters available. If yours has sodium (I haven't seen any "sweet" or "salt-free" non-dairy butters, have you?), omit the salt in the recipe.

If you don't like touching things, you'll need a helper. If you loved Play-Doh, this is like getting the blue. You can use a pastry blender, but there’s no way out of using your hands for the final step of putting this wonderful dough together.

To achieve excellent crumb, be vigilant and patient; and make sure you bake it until it’s golden-brown.

from my little blue heron’s kitchen to yours,
with peace and love,

R. Crumb


1 ½ c./170 g. almonds, toasted for about 6-8 minutes in a preheated 350º oven, until lightly toasted, then cooled

1 ¼ c./175 g. gluten-free flour mix of choice (xanthan gum added)
If no xanthan gum has been added, add ¾ tsp. xanthan gum

¾ c./110g. stone ground cornmeal

½ c./100 g. granulated white sugar

¼ c./45 g. packed, light brown sugar

¾ tsp. Kosher salt

8 oz.(2 sticks)/225 g. unsalted butter, CHILLED and cubed

2 large egg yolks (you can freeze the whites for later use)

½ tsp. each: vanilla extract I highly recommend Baldwin's of West Stockbridge, Mass., almond extract, Fiori Di Sicilia (click here for link to this fantastic flavoring, a distinctively Italian combination of vanilla, orange and citrus.)

zest of one unsprayed or organic orange (JUST the zest .. no white pith)

1 tsp anise seed, coarsely ground optional (but highly recommended)

L-R, Back to Front: whole anise seed, Baldwin's Vanilla Extract, King Arthur Flour "Fiori Di Sicilia"
Japanese suribachi (grinding bowl)

Getting ready: Preheat oven to 350º F. (180º C.) Butter a quarter sheet pan, or a 9-10” square or a round cake pan. Cut butter into small cubes and refrigerate. The butter must be very cold.

Remove 1 c./110 grams of the almonds and ¼ cup/35 g. of the GF flour blend and put in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until almonds are in small pieces, but are still recognizable as almonds. Don't go all perfectionist about getting them all the same size. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. MLBH Truc: When you pull out a mixing bowl, return it and pull out a bigger one. Always.

Place the remainder of the almonds in the bowl of the food processor and pulse several times until they are in large(r) pieces. For now, leave them in the bowl.

Add the remainder of the dry ingredients to the large bowl that has the first batch of chopped almonds that you pulsed with the flour, mixing well (with a whisk or with your hands.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the orange zest, egg yolks and extracts. Set aside. (If you do this in advance (mise en place), cover with plastic wrap to keep this mixture nice and moist.

Add the cold, cubed butter, and with your hands (or with a pastry blender), cut in the butter or rub with your hands into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles small peas. Again, irregular pieces are fine. What is important is that the butter doesn’t soften too much from the warmth of your hands (work quickly and with your fingers and not the ‘warm’ part of your hand.)

Now, dump in the larger almond pieces and the orange zest/egg yolk/extract mixture. Use a spatula to get every last drop of the wet ingredients into the dry/butter mixture.

With your hands, mix together, squeezing gently, until dough comes together in clumps.

Transfer into your prepared pan. DO NOT pat down the mixture. Leave is in clumps. It’s okay if there’s space between the clumps .. like a crumb topping. It’s critical that you don’t press down or compact the mixture. 

N.B.(If you like raw dough, this recipe is fantastic because it isn't highly sugared. Next time, double the recipe and mix this into vanilla ice cream or some chocolate sorbetto. Three cheers for your next binge/pity party decadent/comfort-food blue ribbon Americanized dessert!)

Bake in preheated oven until golden-brown, approximately 30-40 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely before breaking up into uneven pieces. 

Store in an air-tight tin/container for about 5-7 days at a cool room temperature. Freeze Sriboslona for up to two months. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dairy-Free Parmesan-Style Cheese

Dairy-Free Parmesan-Style Cheese
My Little Blue Heron

If you're not familiar with nutritional yeast, this recipe will change this. Nutritional yeast is a great product for those who don't eat dairy. It tastes great, it's fortified with tons of amino acids, B vitamins and protein, and it has a great many applications in the dairy-free, vegetarian/vegan culinary world. You may think it’s yeast, but it’s deactivated. 

From Wikipedia:

            Nutritional yeast has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It is often used by vegans in place of cheese,… for example in mashed and fried potatoes, atop of "scrambled" tofu, or as a topping for popcorn.

In Australia, it is sometimes sold as "savoury yeast flakes". In New Zealand, it has long been known as Brufax. In the United States, it is sometimes referred to as "hippie dust", "nooch" or "yeshi", an Ethiopian name meaning "for a thousand".


It is fantastic on popcorn.
Please read labels and buy fortified nutritional yeast. it packs a nutritional punch, supplying B vitamins, amino acids and protein. It’s low in calories, keeps well, is a decent sub for cheesy tasting things (it's what you need to make vegan mac and cheese), and how can you not be the tiniest bit curious about a food called "nooch", "yeshi" and “hippie dust”?

This vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free “Parmesan Cheese" recipe doesn't taste like Parmesan cheese. But everyone who tastes it likes it. Texturally, it’s exactly like grated cheese (that you’d buy already grated.) It's a legitimate replacement. I use it as I would use Parmesan cheese. Its taste is round, nutty, distinctive (and gosh-darned delicious!)

I’ll be sharing a salad dressing that you'd swear is a “mustard/mayonnaise” and is eggless and mustard-free. It has nutritional yeast hippie dust! You'll find it at most markets these days, or in the "alternative" (oy) aisle that has those fake planked wood floors in your mainstream mega supermarket. Bragg (the apple cider vinegar people) makes it. But I prefer to buy KAL brand. KAL is tastier, less expensive and fortifies their product in a much bigger way. Bob's Red Mill is another resource for hippie dust. 

Please check out this link for resources. Vitacost is one of my favorite online vendors in the U.S.

Commercial vegan Parmesan cheese substitutes are vile. Take some time to put this recipe together. It's worth it. 

MLBH Truc: I usually opt to use my Vitamix, but this recipe will be much easier to put together in a conventional food processor.

Today's last tray of Hippie Dust Parm is in the oven now and the house smells divine. 

Kept as “flaked” or grated (actually, pulverized in your power blender or in a food processor), it will keep, sealed air-tight in a glass jar, for a month at room temperature. It'll keep longer in the fridge, and you can freeze it.

Sprinkle this topping on pasta, pizza, veggies, baked potatoes, omelets or on salads.

You’re going to love this condiment!

peace and love from my little blue heron's kitchen to yours,

Dairy-Free Parmesan-Style Cheese

(partial for first step, which requires waiting time of 6 hours to overnight)
1/2 c. (70 g.) raw sunflower seeds
1/2 c. (60-63 g.) blanched almonds 


N.B.: If you don't have blanched almonds, after raw almonds with skins have soaked for this long, they'll simply pop out of their skins.

Popping almond from their skins is:
tedious 囗
meditative 囗

Ingredients (continued):
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 Tbsp./15 g. Nutritional Yeast
1 tsp. Soy Sauce/GF Soy Sauce (my choice)/Wheat-Free Tamari Soy Sauce/Coconut Aminos (if you avoid soy, this is a wonderful substitute!)
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 250º F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (you will remove the parchment from the sheet and then slide it onto the sheet once you've prepared the mixture for baking)

Drain the soaked nuts and seeds well.

Spread them on tea towels or paper towels and pat them, removing as much water as possible (don't make yourself crazy.)

Place soaked nuts/seeds and all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a fairly smooth paste comes together. The texture will be semi-smooth. It doesn't need to be silky. It should have some coarseness to it.

Spread 1/2 of the mixture on one piece of parchment. Place a piece of waxed paper, the size of the sheet pan/parchment over the mixture, and with a rolling pin, roll it as thinly as possible.

Slowly, peel the waxed paper from one end to the other, revealing an exposed sheet of paste atop the parchment. Slide the parchment on the baking sheet and repeat for the second sheet.

Pop them into the oven and bake until the sheets of paste are dried, but not brown. The edges may begin to darken, ever so slightly.

Remove from oven and cool on racks. When slightly warm, free the sheets of 'cheese' from the parchment to cool completely. This will prohibit moisture from collecting. (You don't want this to be bone 'dry', but if this is too wet, it'll be gooey and gummy.)

You can 'flake' the 'cheese' or pulse in the food processor or in your Vitamix/power blender, 'grating' the cheese coarse/medium or fine.

If your flaked 'cheese' becomes soft, you can spread it on a baking sheet and pop it back into a preheated 250º F. oven to crisp it up again.