Friday, September 26, 2014

Fresh Black Raspberries in Season

Fresh Black Raspberries: Yum!


Bushes full of berries...

There has been an absolute abundance of wild berries this year here in the southwest United Kingdom, especially blackberries and black raspberries.  The image below shows a typical wild black raspberry bush, or patch — perhaps better described as a hedge of raspberries or nearly a forest of raspberries — that I keep running into all over the region along footpaths, bridal paths, hiking trails, biking trails, and so on.
Wild Black Raspberries on the bushes

These berries are simply everywhere: I call these berries the "national weed of the UK" due to how widespread they are.   I definitely do not mind, as unlike most "weeds", these plants produce a very useful crop — a delicious fruit that is quite versatile and can be used in many of my gluten-free recipes.  I used to pick these same types of berries in Ohio in the United States, but I never encountered them in such abundance as I have seen here.

...but, picking still takes time.

Even with so many berries on so many bushes, I have found that my ability to pick them peaks out at about 1 quart per hour.  The black raspberries are quite a bit smaller than the nice big plump fresh blackberries I was picking earlier this year (compare the picture below to the pictures in the blackberry blog-link — shown in same size pan); in fact, it probably takes 6 or 8 of these small berries to equal the size of a medium blackberry.

Next, there is the issue of the thorns on the bushes that must be avoided; those do not feel so nice and/or can get get your clothing all caught up in them.  If that were not enough, so often where these wild raspberries are growing, so grow large patches of stinging nettles around them and/or mixed throughout them — and if you have experienced the "sting" of those stinging nettles, you will soon realize why it is with great care (even if it slows down the harvest) that I work my way through the wild berry patches.

Fresh-picked black raspberries - much smaller berry than blackberries.

Lovely treat worth the effort

Even with the effort required to pick these lovely little flavorful berries, it is so worth it!  Much like with the blackberries, I eat these black raspberries fresh and I also freeze any extra ones.  I freeze some of the berries whole and others I cook down a bit prior to freezing the resulting very thick puree (many of the berries remain nearly whole).  I use these in some lovely gluten-free berry pies and other dessert recipes too!

One characteristic of the black raspberry I very much prefer to the larger blackberry is how it stays much more solid and has less liquid (per volume) than the blackberry when cooked — this denser and more solid texture makes for a much nicer berry pie, berry crisp or crumble, and so forth (the dessert does not succumb to sogginess).  And, they are simply loaded with flavor!  This all makes for them being quite a treat when placed in the morning granola or yogurt.  Hope you have a chance to enjoy some where you are.


Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Gluten-Free Recipe: Fresh Hazelnut Butter

Simple Recipe for Homemade Hazelnut Butter


It does not get any easier!

I have been putting my freshly picked and roasted hazelnuts (aka, cobnuts or filberts) to use in a variety of ways in my gluten-free baking and cooking. My last blog posting was about how to make your own Nutella (type) hazelnut / cocoa spread.  This time, things get even easier since my hazelnut butter is just a simplified version of the last recipe — basically just leave out the cocoa and sugar.

Ingredients / Directions

Hopefully you have access to a nice chopper, food processor, or heavy duty blender (e.g., a Vitamixer) into which you can place your roasted hazelnuts. Choose whatever quantity of hazelnuts you want and grind / chop the nuts until they are as coarse-ground or fine-ground as you prefer (I opt for a more coarse-ground version, as shown in pictures here).

Once chopped to near-final desired, add some gluten-free vegetable oil to your mix to make it somewhat "spreadable" — I chose sunflower oil.  The amount you use will depend on how thick / thin you want your hazelnut butter to be.  Now, you can mix in the oil by hand (to preserve the coarseness of your ground nuts), or if you are going for a creamier butter, you can use your Vitamix or other suitable appliance to further chop the nuts down along with the oil until you have a creamy product.

Although I do not personally use these, optional ingredients  (to personal taste) can include a touch of salt and/or sugar.  That's essentially it, and your fresh-made hazelnut butter should be absolutely delicious!

Fresh Ground Roasted Homemade Roasted Hazelnut / Cobnut / Filbert Butter

I placed the end product of my recipe into some recycled Greek Yogurt containers I cleaned up, and the butter has been fine for a week or so outside of refrigeration.

Next recipe using these lovely fresh-picked and roasted hazelnuts: I will combine them with some fresh-picked black raspberries, some gluten-free oats, and a few other ingredients to back up a "crumble" that is just lovely.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Recipe : Nutella-like, but better, Hazelnut / Cocoa Spread

Chocolate Hazelnut Enjoyment


Simple Recipe for Nutella-like Hazelnut / Cocoa Treat

I just recently harvested and roasted some fresh Hazelnuts / Cobnuts for gluten-free recipes I think they will work well in.  I am starting with some very simple ways to use them, beginning with a variation on the Nutella (brand) chocolate-hazelnut spread.

My version is quite different from Nutella — if anything it is much closer to what a premium / gourmet brand of chocolate hazelnut spread called Rawtella is like. That is, simple core ingredients without the extra junk I do not want.  I found Nutella's recipe online to be the following:

Ingredients. Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Hazelnuts (13%), Skim Milk Powder (8.7%), Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder (7.4%), Emulsifier (Lecithins) (Soy), Flavouring (Vanillin).
Compare that to something like Rawtella which is just Hazelnut, Cocoa Nibs, and Sugar — they keep it all "raw" by using dehydrated hazelnuts, but I will roast mine since I have no easy way to dehydrate them.

I much prefer Rawtella's idea of getting rid of Nutella's skim milk powder, the masses of sugar and oil, and the soy lecithin that Nutella uses (not to mention improving upon that paltry 13% hazelnut and even less cocoa Nutella uses).  And, like Rawtella, my version is not just gluten-free, but also dairy-free / vegan.

Ingredients / Directions

Here is what I chose to use in my own recipe for a rather "coarse grind" chocolate hazelnut spread / butter:
  • approximately 2.5 cups of roasted hazelnuts / filberts / cobnuts
  • between 1/2 cup and 1 cup of muscavado sugar — to taste preference
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil to smooth things out a bit
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
I used my Vitamixer to grind the nuts down to a slightly-coarse meal. Next, I added the sugar, cocoa, oil, and vanilla and ground the combination a bit more, stopping the mixer quite frequently to manually churn the mixture a bit since I did not plan to grind to a fully-smooth butter.  You can certainly grind to any degree of smoothness you prefer, and you may want to up the oil to help in this process.

That's really about it.  The final result is shown here — both in close-up (to show texture) and after I placed it in a plastic container.   I have found I like this stuff plain and absolutely love it on coffee-flavored ice cream!

Hazelnut Cocoa Spread - semi-course texture
Hazelnut Cocoa Spread - ready for use!

I now need to put some of my hazelnuts to use in some brownies, tart-crusts, and other gluten-free recipes, but for now I am going to very much enjoy this cocoa-hazelnut treat.  I also made some plain hazelnut butter which I will feature soon.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Monday, September 08, 2014

Fresh Hazelnuts Harvest and Preparation

Harvesting and Preparing Fresh Hazelnuts


Hazelnuts / Cobnuts / Filberts in Season in the UK

I very much enjoy the flavor of hazelnuts.  Hazelnut (the nut of the hazel tree) is also referred to as cobnut or filbert nut according to species.  I do not know the specific species of hazelnut I have harvested this year, but they sure do taste good!

I really have no idea how many hazelnut trees are in the UK since they do not appear terribly abundant  — I have only found a few so far (Turkey is the big commercial producer in the world with about 70% of the total, though in 2014 the hazelnut crop was 90% lost due to frost and such).

I encountered some trees located right along a paved public bike-trail nearby in the Southwest of the United Kingdom, but only located them by chance when I saw all the pulverized nut shells and mashed (by bikes) filberts on the trail.  There is a bit of work involved in manually collecting fresh hazelnuts.

It was not too difficult to locate the source cobnut tree(s) based on where the nuts had rolled to on the ground — just a bit of back-tracing.  But, then came the fun of dealing with stinging nettles growing all around the base of the trees! (ouch!)  With careful movement, I was able to collect about a kilogram of nuts with only a few nettle stings.

Hazelnuts Nutritional Value — Healthy-Eating

Hazelnuts are a rather healthy nut and a great gluten-free ingredient.  They are high in dietary fiber and low carb.  In fact, they have more protein than they do "net" carbs (carbohydrates less fiber portion of carbs). They are rich in vitamin E especially (100% daily requirements in 100g of nuts)!

In addition, the nuts contain a nice balance of minerals and other vitamins: B1, B6, and folate are notable vitamins; manganese, magnesium, and iron are noteworthy minerals.  Furthermore these nuts contain a lot of healthy unsaturated fats (especially oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat) that may even help lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol.

Hazelnuts in Pictures (in husks, clusters, loose, and shelled) 

Here are some pictures that show the hazelnuts in their varied states, along with a look at the tree leaf that may help you identify a hazel tree along the way:

Hazelnuts / Cobnuts : on tree, in husks, and husked

Shelled Hazelnuts / Filbers / Cobnuts -- ready to toast / roast

Roasted Hazelnuts

How to Roast the Hazelnuts

It took a few hours to shell all the hazelnuts.  I chose a pair of pliers to crack the nut shells with and my wife opted for the meat-hammer to crack them open with.  Shelling the hazelnuts is the hardest bit of work in the entire process — it takes time and my forearms and hand muscles can still feel the aftereffects of squeezing pliers for hours.  Perhaps there is an easier way, but this worked I guess.

Roasting is optional.  You may prefer the nuts raw — the flavor at this point is much milder and the consistency is rather like fresh coconut.  Roasting really brings out the hazelnut flavor that you may be used to tasting in hazelnut praline and similar products, and I really like that well-developed flavor.

Once the nuts are all shelled, simply place the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet (or jelly-roll pan with a slight edge — as I have done — so they do not roll off) and put them into a 150-degree-Celsius (300 degree F) oven for about an hour or just over.  You can decide how long to bake them based on the desired consistency.  I like them nice and crunchy, but I do not mind them slightly soft in the center either (still with that coconut-like consistency).  You can test them by pressing down on them with a fork or other utensil and observing whether they "give" yet — a crunchy nut will not give at all.  My preferred crunchier nuts took about 1 hour and 10 minutes in a convection oven.

Coming up: Using Hazelnuts in Recipes

I have been using these fresh hazelnuts in a variety of gluten-free recipes lately. The simplest of these recipes is a nice nutty granola with toasted whole hazelnuts, fresh coconut, almonds, raisins or currants, and some gluten-free oats.

I have been making homemade hazelnut butter with the roasted nuts. Another favorite is my own version of "Nutella" (brand) hazelnut / chocolate spread but without all the sugar and with a LOT higher percentage of hazelnut and cocoa — here is a link to my gluten-free Nutella-like cocoa hazelnut spread recipe.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Wild Cherry-Plums Season: time to cook and freeze some.

Cherry-Plums In Season


Sweet Treat on Local Trees (Somerset, UK)

The summer fruit harvest continues.  Soon after my recent blog about preparing the wild blackberries harvested this year, the (apparently) wild plum trees in the area really started to hit their peak for ripening fruit. 


Fresh Cherry-Plums (halved / pitted)

I suspect these trees grew on their own (wild) since they are growing immediately along a public bike path that is carved through some varied, and otherwise rough, terrain.  As the plums were littering the paved bike trail and being turned to puree by passing bikes, I figured I might as well collect some and puree them myself at home.  So, now it is time to enjoy these fresh plums and cook some up for freezing in a very similar manner to how I prepared my blackberries for longer-term storage.
 

There are so many different varieties and cultivars of plums that I am not 100% sure which type of plum(s) we are harvesting — I believe these plums are all "cherry plums" of some sort.  These wild plums have been nearly perfect even without any pesticides or other treatments applied to them.  We have encountered only 2 wormy ones out of a couple thousand plums so far.


The cherry plums coloration is quite similar to some Victoria plums, but those tend to get much larger.  Whereas these plums are all 2-3 cm (an inch or so) in diameter with a very small pit, the Victorias (from what I have read) get as big as 5-6 centimeters in diameter, much more like a normal commercial plum you would see at the grocery store. 


We also have what I believe are Mirabelle plums growing wild nearby, though they were not fully ripe yet — I plan to harvest some of those in a couple more weeks. If you want to see the wide range of plums and related fruits available, check out the incredible variety of Plums, Gages, and Damsons that are offered for sale on fruit-tree dealer sites like Pomona Fruits and Orange Pippin Fruit Trees


Recipe : Simple Cooking and Freezing Process

Much like my blackberry cooking process, this plum-preparation cannot get much simpler.  I just halved the plums, pitted them, and tossed them in my trusty large stainless steel 6-quart pot with perhaps 1/2 cup of water and brought them to a boil.  After that, I reduced to a simmer and stirred every so often for an hour or so until the puree / sauce was thickened to desired state.   After that, I waited until the sauce cooled down and then froze portions of it for later use while keeping about 1/2 of the sauce in the fridge for use in my morning yogurt over the coming week (with a bit of honey and vanilla added). 

Fresh Plums : in the pot, ready to cook down

Cherry Plums (after cooking down into a puree)
I sure hope these plums return in full force next year!  I am definitely a fan of fresh plums and naturally-occurring gluten-free treats that I can use in my own recipes.  I will definitely use these in yogurt, but I also think they are going to be quite nice in my cakes, pies, and other dessert recipes (whether as a sauce / topping or whether directly in the baked goods).  Yummy!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Fresh Blackberries : Simple Cook and Freeze Method

Extending the Fresh Blackberries Season


Blackberry Puree Ready-to-Use for Many other Recipes

This year I have been fortunate enough to encounter a bumper-crop of fresh blackberries growing wild where I live. There have been so many blackberries ripening at once that eating them all while fresh is just not possible — I can eat perhaps a quart of berries a day, but something has to be done with the remainder.

So, time to cook these berries up for simple storage (and reduced storage space in the freezer too).

The steps to this "recipe" cannot get much easier:

  1. pick berries, unless a very nice neighbor or friend donates some to your cause;
  2. rinse them off well in a colander
  3. place the berries in a nice large pot in which you can cook down a substantial batch on the stove top at once.  If you have very ripe berries, there should be no need for any additional water in the pot (to prevent burning or such), since they should have a lot of their own natural juice
  4. bring the berries up to a light boil — if your berries are as ripe as the ones I am using, your pot should have plenty of liquid in it just from mashing a large stirring-spoon through the berries a couple times.
  5. reduce the heat to a simmer and be patient — stir every so often to prevent any burning and let the batch cook down as much as you desire.  This can take an hour or more to off-steam enough liquid to thicken the mixture considerably.  
  6. Let cool and place into containers of your choosing and freeze (and, perhaps keep some in the fridge for the coming week or so) 

Fresh Blackberries ready to cook down on stove top

Although I could freeze the berries whole, I have limited freezer space and this process allows me to greatly reduce the volume of the berries.

I have kept a bunch of cleaned, used, pint (1/2 liter) size plastic yogurt containers into which I place my cooked berry sauce.

Then, I place these containers in the freezer for easy retrieval and thawing when I need blackberries for any other recipes I am planning, or simply for my morning yogurt.   I make my own flavored-yogurt by simply adding about a 1/2 cup of this cooked blackberry sauce to a cup of greek or plain yogurt, along with a bit of honey and slight bit of lemon juice (or couple drops of lemon oil).  This is the way a blackberry-yogurt should be — loaded with berries and full of flavor!  

I also use this puree in some other gluten-free dessert recipes, like: cheesecakes (right in the batter), other cakes (in batter, or in the frosting, or both), berry pies (used along with some other fresh/frozen berries), my morning pancakes (in or on), and much more.

This is one of my favorite gluten-free recipes / treats that comes along during a limited season each year.   I hope you are able to find some fresh berries nearby to try this yourself.

Nicely cooked-down blackberry puree / sauce
Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Awesome Gluten-Free Bread : Genius Brand Spiced Fruit Loaf

Genius Spiced Fruit Loaf is Simply Excellent Gluten-Free Bread!


Fantastic Gluten-Free Bread at Reasonable Price

Genius brand Gluten-Free Bread : Spiced Fruit Loaf Variety
This bread is simply fantastic, gluten-free or not!

When I first encountered this gluten-free bread, with a brand-name of "Genius", I could not help wondering if the bread would live up to its name.  Without a doubt, it definitely does!

This is one of those rare gluten-free breads that I enjoy without toasting (worth noting, since toasting is a "requirement" for so many GF breads if you want the bread to have a decent texture and taste).  This sliced spicy fruit loaf review does not require any additional bread preparation in order to achieve optimal taste: just eat it, and enjoy.

Genius brand Gluten-Free Bread : Spiced Fruit Loaf Variety (close up of slices)


As you can imagine, the bread tastes very nice toasted too, though it is wonderful even fresh and untoasted.  I find myself eating it plain, or with a bit of almond butter on it, or occasionally toasted with a bit of butter.  In all cases, the texture, crumb, and taste are very nice and I am thoroughly enjoying the fact I am eating tasty bread.

One of the keys to the fantastic texture of this Gluten-Free Spiced Fruit Loaf bread (apparently) is the fact it does not rely on the old-school and more traditional gluten-replacements — such as Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum — but instead it uses Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose, which is an inert polymer used as an alternative to animal gelatin (and, somewhat related to and along the same lines as the carboxymethylcellulose (i.e., Dow Wellence gluten-free gluten-replacement product), which I first wrote a blog about in September, 2012).  And, I am please to further report: this stuff does not bother my GI tract like Xanthan Gum (which generally causes me pain).

This was my first encounter with a gluten-free product that used this particular gluten-replacement additive to mimic gluten, and I must say it does a fantastic job of doing so (best I have encountered in commercial gluten-free breads).

The full list of ingredients is as follows (quoted from their site):
Water, Tapioca Starch, Sultana (12%), Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Sunflower Oil, Yeast, Raisin (4%), Currants (4%), Caster Sugar, Psyllium Husk Powder, Humectant: Glycerine, Stabiliser: Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose, Dried Egg White, Cinnamon, Maize Flour, Salt, Maize Starch, Mixed Spice (Coriander, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Fennel, Clove, Cardamom), Rice Starch, Preservative: Calcium Propionate.
Notice that Psyllium Husk Powder too: more fiber and texure!  And, the dried egg whites are certainly going to help with that gluten-replacement also.

Reasonable Price for Great Gluten-Free Bread

I am actually tempted to call this not just "reasonably priced", but rather low-priced gluten-free bread — especially given the absolutely ridiculous price of some gluten-free breads I have encountered in the United States (I have seen a small loaf of gluten-free paleo bread at Whole Foods Market for $11.00!! ouch!!).   In fact, most commercially available gluten-free bread in the US is absolutely absurdly overpriced with typical tiny loafs costing in excess of $6 or $7, which is just crazy given that the base ingredients are usually quite cheap (potato starch, rice starch, etc).

Price is where the Genius Gluten-Free Bread shows its genius again: this loaf is only £2.50 (i.e., about US $4.25/loaf) and it is a nice sized loaf (400g, or approximately 14 ounces).  Basically, it is pretty similar in size to a "real" loaf of raisin bread or similar fruit loaf.

Hopefully you will have a chance to try this bread.   My product-review bottom line: Genius gluten-free bread is highly recommended!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available