Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gluten-Free Goodness: Desserts

Today's post includes two of my very favorite gluten-free desserts. In fact, they are so good, that they are worth making even if you don't have any gluten-free guests!

Pavlova is such a versatile dessert. You can invent any sort of filling combination that strikes your fancy. Most often we fill our pavlova with whipped cream and top it with berries like raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries. In the winter you can make a delectable version with poached Seckel (mini) pears and a caramel drizzle set on top of the whipped cream. And for a spring treat try mixing lemon curd with some whipped cream and topping that with fresh blueberries and/or blackberries. (Note: the picture below shows a double batch of the pavlova recipe made into one very large pavlova.)



PAVLOVA
(Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, Spring 2009)
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1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 large egg whites at room temperature
3 Tbsp cold water
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 300F with rack in middle. Trace a 7-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper and put on a baking sheet.

Whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until whites hold soft peaks. Add water (whites will loosen) and beat until whites again hold soft peaks.

Increase speed to medium-high and beat in sugar mixture 1 Tbsp. at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more.

Add vinegar and beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes (longer if using hand-held mixer).

Gently spread meringue inside circle of parchment, making edge of meringue slightly higher than center. Bake until meringue is pale golden and has a crust, about 45 minutes (the inside will be like marshmallow).

Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringue in oven 1 hour.

LEMON CURD FILLING
(adapted from Gourmet Magazine, Spring 2009)
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2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups mixed berries

Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a 2-qt heavy saucepan, then add lemon juice and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking, then continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 1 minute.

Lightly beat yolks in a small bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup lemon mixture, then whisk into remaining lemon mixture in saucepan. Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until curd is thickened, about 2 minutes (do not let boil).

Transfer to a bowl and stir in zest. Chill, surface covered with parchment, until cool, about 1  1/2 hours.

Beat heavy cream until it just holds stiff peaks, then fold 1/4 cup beaten cream into curd to lighten. Spoon lemon curd into meringue and mound berries on top. Serve remaining whipped cream on the side.

Meringue can be made 2 days ahead and frozen, wrapped well in plastic. Thaw before serving.

Curd can be made 2 days ahead and chilled.



Chocolate cake is always a popular dessert. This gluten-free version has intense chocolate flavor which is balanced by the cloud of whipped cream and fruit we like to top it with. The only tricky thing about this cake is the cooking time -- don't be tempted to overcook this cake as it will be dry and rock-like when hard. Pull it out of the oven while it still has a bit of wiggle.

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE
(adapted from Desserts by the Yard)
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8 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 Tbsp. butter (unsalted)
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 10-inch fluted tart pan or a 9-inch springform pan. The pan must be at least 1 inch deep or the batter will overflow.

Melt the chocolate and the butter in a microwave-safe bowl for 2-3 minutes at 50 percent power or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir together with a rubber spatula until smooth.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat together the eggs and the sugar on medium speed until pale and the mixture forms a ribbon when lifted from the bowl with a spatula, about 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in the cocoa powder and the chocolate mixture and combine well. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan from front to back and continue to bake for another 8 minutes, or until the cake is slightly firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack to room temperature.

Top with sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries or other fruit.