Monday, January 21, 2013

A Walk in the Woods and Baked Struffoli

When I have really thought about it, the world of food styling, photography, and blogging is a strange one to say the least. I have decided that as a food photographer, I must stay true to the philosophy, that much like a hunter, I have to eat what I shoot. This may sound funny, but in this day and age, it is actually quite common for a stylist to manipulate food in the way that makes it look its best- doing so in a way that compromises the quality of the food- and therefore must throw it away after a few snapshots. 

There is meaning behind the statement above. When baking, I have found that if something does not work, the only solution is to change directions to create something that has both an appealing taste and is appealing visually. This is something that I have not found to be easy to accept over the course of my little gluten free experimentation in the kitchen. But I think this is an appropriate time for me to discuss such issues, as my attempt at creating gluten free stuffoli had a much different outcome than I had expected. 

Even though I have never really been a fan of doughnuts, I came across a recipe for stuffoli and it captured my imagination as the perfect New Years dessert (the sprinkling of nonpareils reminded me of little fireworks). Yet once I finally set about trying to execute the struffoli, apparently the stubborn gluten free flour blend did not like the idea of being fried and disintegrated instantly. Long story short, I decided to make struffoli "cookies" instead, gluing them together with honey to make them spherical. Despite having wasted most of the day and lots and lots of oil, I have come to the conclusion that I made something much healthier, and possibly even tastier than the traditional treat. 

So after the stuffoli struggle, I had a sort of epiphany; perhaps I need to redirect my focus of the recipes that I post on my blog. As I suspect many of the recipes that I have posted in the past are not recipes the average reader would typically make on a normal busy day, I think my aim should be to offer more simple, healthy, fresh, yet still beautiful dishes. Since I am so fond of baking and trying to create artistic renditions of desserts and such, I am sure I will not abandon posts featuring the latter. It has just become clear to me that my blog does lack a lot of what I believe in-dishes in which locally-sourced, fresh ingredients can shine. 

Baked Struffoli (GF)
serves 8 to 10

2 cups Pamela’s Artisan Gluten Free flour blend
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks pasture butter, melted
2 teaspoons orange blossom water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon anise extract
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups honey
1/2 cup chopped almonds
Colored nonpareils, for sprinkling

1. Combine flour blend, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix together butter, all 3 extracts, and egg in another bowl. Pour into flour mixture. Mix well to create stiff dough.
2. Roll out dough to 3/16 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 3/16 inch wide strips, then into 3/16 inch wide squares. Roll each piece into a ball, transferring to a parchment- lined cookie sheet as you work. Place all to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the rounds of dough until the bottoms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Let cool.
4. Heat honey, 3 tablespoons water, and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in small saucepan. "Glue” each baked round together with honey to form a ball. Dip each ball into the honey mixture, then arrange on a platter and top with almond pieces and nonpareils.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living December 2009

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