Adopt a gluten-free Blogger Jan 2011: Stephanie of Wasabimon

I have been aware of Stephanie’s gluten-free Wasabimon site for quite some time now. The moment I saw it, I was attracted to the Japanese-inspired title and design. I also loved her adventurous take on gluten-free foods, and the international flair of her savory and sweet dishes. I was happy to finally adopt Stephanie for this month’s edition of Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger, but I found myself in something of a quandary. What dishes of hers should I make? It was so hard to decide! Finally I decided to make her baked falafel recipe and a version of her Curry Quinoa Salad. I love both falafel and quinoa, and it seemed a match made in heaven. The baked falafel turned out beautifully. I made them using chickpeas from scratch. The only thing that was a little complicated was that the recipe called for 1 cup of dry chickpeas OR a 15 oz. can of chickpeas. I made a double batch of chickpeas because I wanted to make Channa Masala with the second cup of chickpeas, and so I had to guess about how much was half. But oh, those falafel were delightful. I drizzled them with raw tahini sauce and had them with quinoa, on tortillas, and even put them on Elana’s almond biscuits in a falafel “burger”. I would make these again, and serve them to dinner guests whether they could eat gluten or not!
The Great Falafel Heist

Baby Yum gave them her seal of approval by stealing one from my photo shoot and nibbling on it. As is the way with toddlers, she only had a few bites since it was her first time with the flavor. These falafel “cookies” make a fantastic and very portable snack and would be great in a lunch box, so Baby Yum can expect to be seeing these in the future.

I also made Stephanie’s Quinoa Salad. Now, I have a rule that with our event, we try to follow recipes as closely as humanly possible so we experience the recipes as the author intended (and are reviewing them fairly). With this recipe, since I’d followed her falafel recipe to the letter, I took a little license and followed the dressing recipe exactly but substituted apple slices and grated carrot for the mango and red pepper, respectively. (I was out of red pepper and don’t care for mango.) It was an interesting and tasty recipe. Rinsing the quinoa didn’t quite work for me, probably because I initially overcooked the quinoa. I think next time I would just prepare the quinoa as I usually do by putting quinoa and water in the pot together, bringing them to a boil, lowering the heat and simmering them, covered, for 12-15 minutes. Anyway. The curry dressing was very pleasant and added a mild kick to plain quinoa. I also loved the addition of mint. This recipe has a lot of potential and I look forward to experimenting with variations in the future!

Now, I was planning to stop there, honest. That was, until I saw that Stephanie is something of a Macaron aficionado. Perhaps it has something to do with living in the Bay Area. Just this weekend I visited the Japanese pastry shop Satura and saw their lovely assortment of brightly colored macarons, all labeled “Gluten Free.” They have quite a few desserts labeled gluten-free, actually- their Yuna chocolate cake, a new sesame pudding type dessert, and a berry macaron delight. However, one always has to wonder about cross contamination from a gluten-producing bakery, and that weekend after I had the Yuna cake and the sesame pudding I did not feel well. I also ate gobs of raw garlic on pizza that same day, so who knows what resulted in ye ol’ rumbly tummy. But anyway. The point is, macarons are lovely. I saw them, and I wanted them. And what serendipity to find that Wasabimon is practically the headquarters of macaron design, having featured an entire week devoted to them at one point, and coming up with various lovely versions over the years she has been blogging. Wondering what the difference is between a Macaroon and a Macaron? Stephanie has the answer for you!

The most enticing version of all is her Rosewater and Vanilla Macaron Recipe. Can’t you just imagine how delightful that combination would be? I will admit that the fact that a candy thermometer was required gave me pause. And the requirement of beating egg whites into soft peaks sent a frisson of terror down my spine. Eggs and I have never gotten along that well, and I have about as light a touch with them as Baby Yum has with a porcelain goblet. (The latter met an unfortunate end and was smashed into bitty pieces onto the floor. Luckily we were able to whisk Baby Yum away before any pieces embedded themselves into her tender baby feet. But I digress.) However. With thoughts of rosewater and vanilla dancing in my head, I steeled my soul and prepared the kitchen for battle. I brought out my scale; a useful device that I rarely am organized enough to use. I measured and poured like a mad scientist, which is really the appeal of that scale and why I think American cooks like the Gluten-free Girl have been turned on to its use. I soft boiled the rosewater candy syrup. At this point, post soft-peak, was when Baby Yum decided it was time for Mommy to read to her. I turned her loose on the cat and continued my project. I didn’t have any food coloring, natural or otherwise, so I decided to go all-natural and grate some beets for the juice to use as coloring. Really a good idea, if I do say so myself. However, I should have reduced the water proportionately. Ah well. It was only a half teaspoon or so, but who knows where these things go wrong. I did have serious difficulty folding the meringue type stuff into the almond paste. The latter was so heavy and thick that I felt to get it truly incorporated I would have to destroy the puff in my marshmallow puff look-alike meringue. So, I will admit, I left it a little on the lumpy side. Just slightly. I piped out my macaron using the old Alton Brown standby- a quart ziploc bag with a hole cut out the corner. I should have cut a larger hole, I suppose, so I could pipe each macaron out in one lovely blob. Next time. I had three baking sheets worth of macaron, which I wasn’t quite expecting. I filled all my baking sheets and then had some left over, so I filled a heart shaped Madeleine mold for good measure. Not really a good idea, but I was experimenting. They sat on the counter. The recipe suggested they would be dry in 25 minutes or so, and I sat down to tweet about my adventure. Twenty-five minutes later they were still sticky to the touch. An hour later, they were still sticky. The darned things just wouldn’t dry out and form that lovely crust that keeps them together when they puff, forming “feet” at the bottom (a rough-textured platform). Finally one batch seemed relatively dry. I put them in the oven and watched them anxiously. They puffed- but not from the bottom, from the top, and cracked. I didn’t remember seeing any cracks in Stephanie’s gorgeous macaron. And, after the requisite time, when I took them out and tried to remove some of them from the baking sheet, the lids popped off revealing a wet interior. Tragedy! I looked online. It turns out the humble macaron is not so humble. Unlike its home cook friendly cousin, the macaroon, macaron have caused many a pastry chef to shed bitter tears of disappointment. Unbeknown to me, they are figety little devils that demand the perfect humidity, timing, and skill to form their deceptively simple little “legs” and transform into the French cross between a meringue and an oreo cookie. Apparently I might as well have tried to master the souffle in one try as these bad boys. Now they tell me.

To make a long story short, I didn’t manage to make a single perfect macaron. I did manage to make some that released cleanly from the parchment paper on the baking sheet, but every single one cracked on the top and failed to develop their feet. Alas! However, I plunged ahead, not one to let a disappointment stop me from making a buttercream vanilla filling for my little ugly ducklings. The frosting was divine. I added lemon juice along with the vanilla as flavoring, as per Stephanie’s instructions, and it provided that little something extra that made my mouth very, very happy. And caused my blood sugar to skyrocket. Whew. But lovely, nonetheless.

At long last, I took two of my un-macaron cookies, basted them with vanilla filling, and stuck them together. I did this delicately, because my ugly-ducklings were more fragile than they should have been. I took a bite, and swooned. If fairy princesses were to exist and eat cookies because they are fairies and not prone to expanding waistlines, they would live on these and skip the ambrosia. The rosewater made me feel like I was dining on delicately perfumed floral dew, and combined with the comforting and familiar vanilla ever so lightly spiked with tart lemon, I was in heaven. Stephanie was inspired when she created this recipe. Inspired. Now if she would just come to my house and make them for me so I could experience a perfect macaron. If I have to wait for me to master this recipe, it could take a very, very long time.

Even failures can taste divine...

To conclude, this adoption was an amazing experience and I feel that I really got to know another very special gluten-free blogger’s culinary point of view. Stephanie’s international savory recipes were right up my alley, and her European sweets recipes challenged me and took me back to my days as a participant in the Daring Baker event. I enjoyed this adoption thoroughly and look forward to seeing what else is in store for us at Wasabimon.

Other Enticing Recipes at Wasabimon:
Yellow Thai Curry
Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate
Chana Spinach Curry
Gratin Dauphinois
Lemon Verbena Macaron
Gluten-free Strawberry Pecan Pastry
Gluten-free Brioche Recipe

Too many to count!

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5 Responses to “Adopt a gluten-free Blogger Jan 2011: Stephanie of Wasabimon”

  1. A cross between a meringue and Oreo cookie, that is so perfect! I love that description. Sorry about the macarons not working out as they should have but it sounds like you had an adventure. I understand and sympathize with your frustration – yay many a time I’ve experienced that, too, albeit not yet with macarons. I’ve had the pleasure of eating them but not making them yet.

  2. Great job Sea! I love baked falafels and will have to check out her recipe.

  3. [...] under the line with this adoption, and I’m glad that I’ve seen so many other Adopt a GF Blogger posts, each of which have served as a gentle reminder that I needed to get my act in [...]

  4. [...] adopted Stephanie at Wasabimon and made her Rosewater and Vanilla Macaron, her quinoa curry salad and her baked [...]

  5. [...] love participating in Book of Yum’s Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger monthly roundups. It’s such a great way to try out other blogger’s recipes. Otherwise, us [...]

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