My everlasting love: Asian Spicy Chicken

Anyone who knows me and knows a smidgeon about living gluten-free would understand my undying love for a certain chain of casual dining, quality-food Chinese restaurants.  Needless to say, though I had been there once before my diet switch, it was the first on my list after I cut gluten out of my life.  There is such a detailed routine to their gluten-free items, menu, preparation, and presentation that it takes much of the restaurant stress out of dining-out.  Before and after losing the gluten, I ordered the Spicy Chicken dish on the menu.  I’m a sucker for General Tso’s chicken and this fruity take was my instant favorite.

So it is not so surprising that I soon went looking for a recipe for recreating my favorite dish.  I found countless recipes and knock-offs, but this one looked the most likely.  Not too mention, I kept finding this recipe over and over again.  That’s usually a pretty good sign.  I also liked that I would not have to ‘use a flour mix’.  Instead of breading the chicken in flour, this only coats them with cornstarch.  That makes the end result very similar to the popular restuarant’s chicken.  As mentioned, I found this recipe several different times.  I, personally, followed it on Meemo’s Kitchen, the first time I tested the recipe, but, since then, her blog has been taken off line.

Can anyone guess the “secret ingredient”?  I never would have.  It wasn’t until I saw this fruity addition that I actually recognized the sweet flavor in the sauce…But, with further adieu:

Here is my adaptation for the perfect restaurant-style, Asian Spicy Chicken:

Restaurant-Style Asian Spicy Chicken (P.F. Chang’s Knock-Off)

Sauce Ingredients:

·2 tsp oil (canola, vegetable, or coconut)

·1½ Tbsp garlic, minced

·3 green onions, sliced

·1 c. pineapple juice

·1 Tbsp sriracha chili sauce

-1 Tbsp sweet-chili or garlic-chili sauce

·2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar

·4 tsp white sugar

·1 tsp tamari

·2 Tbsp water

·1 tsp cornstarch

Chicken Ingredients:

·2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

·⅓ cup cornstarch

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tsp oil over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and onion for a few seconds, until fragrant, then add pineapple juice, sriracha sauce, sweet chili sauce, vinegar, sugar, and tamari.

Whisk 1 teaspoon cornstarch intp 2 tablespoons water and add it to the other sauce ingredients in the pan. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, or until beginning to thicken. Remove from heat.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1/4 cup oil in the pan over medium heat. Toss chicken pieces with cornstarch in a bowl until all pieces are evenly coated.  Sauté chicken in the oil, flipping every few minutes until all sides are light brown. Do not overcrowd the pan.  Remove chicken to a plate and drain excess oil with paper towels.   OR place chicken pieces on a baking pan, mist lightly with cooking oil spray and bake in a preheated 425 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Allow chicken to cool slightly, then pour chicken pieces into the saucepot.  Toss with sauce until all pieces are coated.

Serve with cooked brown or white rice, a la classic restaurant presentation.

For extra vegggies and vitamins, or just to mix things up a little, try sauté-ing pineapple chunks and chopped red pepper, or even snow peas (as I did in the photo) while the chicken is baking/frying, and adding the vegetables to the sauce when mixing in the chicken.


Happy Pi(e) Day! — Gluten-Free Pie Crust

Ahhh, pie. One of the glorious inventions of mankind.  I’m suspecting more and more (with each pie made) that I am part of the group who believes pie is better than cake.  Cupcakes? Nah.  Mini pies.  Or tarts! (Tarts count, right?)  Birthday cake? Birthday pie.  At this rate, I might be asking for pie at my wedding.  Its just so good!  And lucky for everyone, especially beginning gluten-free bakers, I’ve found pie to be one of the easier gluten-free items to make.  My mother has said she prefer my gluten-less pie crusts to normal crusts.

Gluten-free Peach-Berry Pie

Think about it.  What are the big worries about making pie crust?  1) Warm hands.  Well, gluten-free crust can’t solve that, but a few rinses under cold water and breaks with an ice-pack can.  2) Light, flaky crust.  All of this hubbub about cold is to ensure that the butter stays cools and doesn’t melt.  Because in wheat-filled pie crusts, butter is the big solution to making a flaky crust.  But without the wheat and without the gluten, we G.F. bakers have to turn to the multitude of gluten-free flours and starches out there.  And starches are the key!  In fact, this pie crust is made entirely out of starches which makes for a wonderfully crispy, flaky crust.  (Just don’t throw away the cold butter because of it).  And finally (3) over-rolling the dough.  Over-rolling is always a worry when rolling out wheat-filled pastry dough and cookies.  For the same reason that kneading is good for bread: kneading and rolling activate the gluten.  And gluten makes for tough, chewy baked goods.  Awesome for bread, not as great for pie crust.  But our wonderful gluten-free dough doesn’t have that problem.  Roll and reroll if you need to (just keep the dough cold)!

Gluten-free Bourbon Apple Pie

Pie is wonderfully versatile, and pie crust even more so.  In addition to all of the fruit and pudding fillings, a pre-baked shell could work in a pinch for cheesecake crust.  I’ve used this recipe for quiches, for tarts, turnovers, cinnamon twists, and filo-type cups, even baked up in mini discs to top like a pizza.  This recipe is adapted from the marvelous Bette Hagman’s Dream Pastry Crust.  It is easily doubled or tripled, but the recipe below makes enough for a two 9″ pie crusts (one bottom, one top or two untopped filled pies)

Unbaked Gluten-free Pie Crust

Gluten-Free Pie Crust:

  • -1 cup sweet rice flour (not rice flour.  This is a starch and sometimes called Mochiko Rice Flour or Glutinous Rice Flour. Look in the Asian section of your supermarket)
  • -1/2 cup tapioca starch 
  • -1/2 cup cornstarch 
  • -1/4 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
  • -1 rounded tsp xanthan gum 
  • -1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c. ice water
  • -1/2 cup butter
  • -1/2 cup butter flavored crisco/vegetable shortening
  • -1 egg, cold
  • -1 Tbsp. GF vinegar (I’ve heard you can sub an equal amount of lemon juice, but I can’t vouch for those results) 

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk until well combined.  Add small cubes of butter and margarine and cut into flours with two knives or a pastry cutter.  Or, go with Shauna’s awesome idea and grate the stick of frozen butter into your flours.  Sadly, this doesn’t work quite as well with the Crisco.  The end result should have butter bits about the size of peas, or a tad smaller, but should be lumpier than cornmeal.  Lightly beat together the egg, water, and vinegar.  Add to mixture and mix with a fork or your (cold) hands until a dough forms.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 60 minutes, up to overnight.

 

Preheat oven to 425 degree Fahrenheit (for an pre-baked shell) or according to your filled pie’s recipe’s directions.  Remove dough from fridge, allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Divide in half and roll out one half into a disk about 1/8″-1/4″ thick.  Press into pie pan.  For pre-baked crust prick with fork and bake for 10-12 minutes until pie begins to brown. Or use pie weights.  Follow your filled pie’s recipe’s directions for baking your filled pie.

Gluten Free Cherry & Blueberry Mini Pies

Enjoy!

 


Chocolate-Peanut-Butter & Coconut-Caramel Knock-off Cookies

Can you guess what I’ve been working on?  Its is the season of delectable cookies sold by a certain leadership group for girls.  A delicious season.  Just when we begin to recover from the Christmas candy and the cookie swaps, these little babies come knocking.  Only, now, I can’t answer.  Last was not so bad.  I was still in school and it was ignore the delectable bites when they weren’t in my kitchen. But this year, I am back home.  And the rest of the family can eat those cookies.  Several boxes appeared in my pantry, and I knew I was facing the inevitable.  I needed some cookies.  So I had to make them.

I used the recipes from Nicole at Baking Bites.  As you can see, she already has a lovely collection of knock-off recipes.  Including a gluten-free Thin Mints recipe.  But if you look closely at my (unfortunately dim) photo, I didn’t make Thin Mints.  I intended to.  They were third on the list.  But I won’t mislead you:  these cookies are a little labor intensive.  The taste is worth it, absolutely, and a double batch (one for each cookie) made over six dozen cookies.  Thats right.  One batch makes three dozen delectable morsels of nostalgia.  So if you can find the time to put in the elbow work of rolling, baking, filling, and dipping; you won’t be disappointed.

Look at all that melting chocolate…

I want to point something out from the get-go:  The recipe for these cookies uses (A) a store-bought All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour (Bob’s Red Mill) and (B) that blend contains bean flour.  I know the controversies of bean flour in gluten-free baking.  I’ll readily admit, I hate the smell of raw bean flours, and made the mistake of tasting the dough.  Please don’t.  That metallic-penny grit haunts my dreams. Seriously.

But, when baked, that taste and smell disappears entirely.  And, the bean flour in this mix makes the dough very pliable.  That is worth it in such an involved process for these cookies.  Mixing, rolling, and cookies out the cookies was an absolute breeze!  Plus, I had a bag of Bob’s Red Mill GF AP flour languishing in my pantry (a thoughtful purchase from someone trying to help…I couldn’t tell them I usually wasn’t fond of it).   As far as the “Bean Flour Bloat”, I’ve never had any issues resulting from bean flour.  And, if you think about it, we probably shouldn’t be eating enough of these cookies at once to have that much of an effect on our systems.  If you absolutely do not want to use a bean flour mix, I would suggest trying a baking mix with some elasticity–I’ve found that Soy Flour is the next best choice in that area.  Unfortunately, I haven’t worked with it enough to give measurements for a good mix.

My modifications were directly in the cookie dough, and I used the same dough for both the Tagalong- and the Samoa-knockoffs.

I used Nicole’s filling without any modifications.  Please follow the link above to find those.

Knock-off Cookie Base

  • -1 cup butter, softened
  • -3/4 cup sugar
  • -1 3/4 cup all purpose flour mix (Bob’s Red Mill GF)
  • -1/4 tsp baking powder
  • -1/2 tsp salt
  • -1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • -1/4 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour mix, baking powder, salt) until thoroughly combined.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes until light, fluffy, and completely incorporated (the mixture will turn faintly yellow).  Beat in vanilla extract and milk, mixing thoroughly after each addition.  Slowly add in dry ingredients, mixing well.  The dough should not be too sticky, and should be malleable.

Roll dough out to 1/8-1/4in thickness between two pieces of well-floured parchment paper.  Cut into 1-1 1/2 in circles.  Gather scraps and re-roll, continue cutting out circles.  If dough becomes too soft, refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.   Place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  The cookies will not spread in the oven.  Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until they begin to brown.  Browning will be very slight, as the dough contains no eggs.

Allow cookies to cool completely, and follow Nicole’s instructions for filling/topping/dipping in the link above.

I’d say they look pretty close to the originals!