Monday, November 9, 2009

Celebrate! Good Times?


Last Shabbos, we had two celebrations to attend. One was a shalom zachor, the celebration on Friday night to welcome a new baby, and a bar mitzvah the following day. Both are known for endless tables of baked goods and other goodies. So, of course I came prepared. For the shalom zachor, I packed up two luscious, sprinkle ridden cupcakes for Lillie and Rosie, I even put them on their own plates. So, when we arrived, I was able to pop out their desserts and place them in front of the girls. It was not an issue of trawling the dessert table to maybe or maybe not find something acceptable for their dietary needs (more likely not).

They happily licked and munched their cupcakes, but as children will be children, their eyes are bigger than their stomachs. And, their big eyes spied an artfully arranged bowl of blue chocolate lollipops. "Can we have them?", they asked hopefully, knowing my usual answer of, "No, they're allergic and/or have gluten," was coming. But it didn't. I thought long and hard. Knowing they were homemade, and knowing that only one store in my neighborhood sold the blue confectioner's chocolate, I wracked my brain trying to think of any offensive ingredients. I decided it was worth trying, praying silently Lillie wouldn't be moaning with pain the next day, and I would go to the head of the list for Most Irresponsible Parent of the Year award. Their eyes lit up when I said yes and they eagerly grabbed for the blue chocolate teddy bears and baby shoes. They ripped off the cellophane and carefully curled blue, shiny ribbon, and chomped eagerly into this rare treat. It gave me joy to know they could choose something off the dessert table, like all the other children. But, I know that being a "good" parent doesn't mean doing what necessarily makes your child happy, rather it means making the responsible choice---I hope I had.

The next day Lillie was fine, and I breathed a sigh of relief. One point for me. I was floating on the cloud of satisfaction about the prior night's event going so well, that I didn't see the figurative wall that loomed in front of me at the bar mitzvah. Once again we set off with the girls' food packed in a small tote bag, along with the Epipen and Benadryl. Usually we can find something for Rosie in the form of fruit or potato chips, and we weren't disappointed. But, we recently were told to be more circumspect with Lillie at parties as potato chips for example, could be cross contaminated with crumbs from the pretzels clinging to someone's hand as they reach into the bowl. We gave the two older girls fruit, and Rosie had some pretzels. Daisie was given a cookie I hoped wouldn't make too much of a mess and Hubby and I helped ourselves to kugel and salads. Then the trouble started. I paused as I was spooning some apple kugel into Daisie's mouth, and when I reached down to give her another spoonful, Rosie was in her place. I panicked, the egg laden kugel had touched Rosie's mouth, but not gone further, as far as I could tell. I wiped it off, then we waited. I watched her like a hawk for an outbreak, but thank goodness, nothing appeared. In the meantime, Lillie kept staring wistfully at the displays of gorgeous chocolate and nut cakes, and trays of cookies she couldn't have. Then the whining started. I pointed out a large bowl of tortilla chips (hopefully uncontaminated) I felt were alright for her, but she wasn't interested. At eye level were bowls of chocolate pastilles. Once she got hold of the idea, she roped Rosie into the whine fest. "But we had candy last night at the party, why can't we have today?" went the argument. "Well, I said, these have decorations and I need to look at the ingredients, also most dark chocolates are produced on equipment with nuts." I made my way into the kitchen to try to find the containers for these chocolates. No luck! I returned to my kids and had to deliver a firm no, and point out what they could have. The protests ensued, loudly. The "unfairs" flew like bullets at me. I turned toward Hubby and strongly suggested he finish up and we head home. I was deflated. I was the "mean mommy" that afternoon. But, I knew I was really the "responsible mommy", and that means doing what is necessary for your kids well being, not what is popular with them 100% of the time.

In general, I try to be well prepared so my children don't feel a "lack" at social functions. For an upcoming party at school, I asked the director what will be served, so if for example they are having chocolate chip cookies, I will try and send in permissible chocolate chip cookies, so they don't feel so different. For birthdays, I like to make really great decorated cakes, so their isn't a feeling of having a "nebby" allergy-free or gluten-free cake. This year, I had a joint party for Lillie and Rosie (their birthdays are one month apart), and I made an egg free, dairy free chocolate cake to accommodate Rosie, and a gluten-free vanilla cake for Lillie. Both butterfly cakes looked fabulous and received rave reviews. No one could tell they were "special" cakes. For Lillie's cake, I decided to try a "regular" recipe and put Jules Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour to the test. It passed with flying colors. I used a recipe from Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard, Spago's pastry chef. The cake has more eggs than most birthday cake recipes, so I feel they really gave the gluten-free flour the structure that it needs. I made the cake the day before, and it was buttery tasting and light the next day.

Here is my gluten-free, (and optionally dairy-free) version of Sherry Yard's favorite birthday cake. You can experiment with your favorite gluten-free flour blend, but I cannot guarantee the results will be the same as mine.

My Favorite White Birthday Cake with Chocolate and Butter Fudge Frosting
from Desserts by the Yard, p. 7, by Sherry Yard

For the cake:
3 cups Jules Gluten- Free All-Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter or Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks margarine
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk or soy or rice milk

For the frosting:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, or Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks margarine

1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven, and pre-heat to 350F degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together two times and set aside.

3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or use a large bowl and a hand mixer, and beat together at medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is very light and fluffy. Scrape down the paddle or beaters and the sides of the bowl.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

5. Beating on low speed, add the milk and the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating wet and dry ingredients. Beat only until smooth. Scrape into the prepared pans.

6. Bake for 30 minutes, switching the position of the pans from front to bake and rotating them halfway through. To test the cake for doneness, lightly touch the top with a finger-it should spring back into place; the cake should also be beginning to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. If necessary, bake for 5 to 10 minutes more.

7. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto the rack and remove the pans. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours before frosting. (The cakes may be wrapped and refrigerated or frozen at this point).

For the frosting:
1. Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl (or double boiler) on 50 percent power for 2 to 3 minutes. Allow to cool until warm to the touch.

9. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until fluffy. Add the cooled melted chocolate and beat for 1 minute, until smooth. Frost cooled cake as desired.

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