Archive for July, 2010

31
Jul
10

Crochet A Slow Cooker Draft Stop

When a recipe instructs to preheat the oven to 250°F/121°C and the oven is an unadorned slow cooker or worse, a slow cooker with a thermometer probe going under the lid, several hours could pass before it’s ready. One reason it takes so long is the heat leaking from the lid, which lacks the insulating layers of the rest of the cooker and sits loosely on the crock rim. A thermometer probe props the lid open and accelerates the heat loss. The age-old solution has been to pile layers of towels over the lid. However, the added weight could crush a probe’s cord or damage the probe itself, never mind the precariousness of the unsightly linen pile in the kitchen.

An alternative to the heavy stack of towels is a draft stop. A draft stop for a door closes off the gap between the door and the floor to block the air flow. This crocheted slow-cooker draft stop has a similar function. It’s shaped like an open crown hat. The opening is stuffed with a dish towel to seal the gap between the lid and crock and to add a layer of insulation over the lid. It features a ribbed band that will stretch to fit cookers from 36 to 40 inches in diameter, the sizes of my 5-quart round and 5.5-quart oval cookers. The draft stop is crocheted with 100% cotton 4-ply yarn, which is machine-washable and dryable. The specified crochet needle is 4 sizes smaller than recommended for the yarn to produce a thick, insulating fabric.

Although the draft stop by itself will help retain heat, a dish towel insert greatly improves the performance.  For those who’d like to made this an all-crochet project, the dish towel could be crocheted too. At one point, I considered crocheting circular and oval towel inserts (possibly in a larger, lighter-weight gauge) for my respective cookers. I would always opt for the 2-piece draft-stop plus towel insert, as opposed to a single-piece closed-crown design. The towel insert can be lifted out to peer into the crock, so the 2-piece draft stop doesn’t interfere with the functionality of that glass lid as a one-piece might.

Fast crocheters could complete this project in a day. If I were to do it again, I’d widen the ribbed band by another 4 stitches or so for a more secure fit over my oval cooker. No other complaints though, as the draft stop is in constant rotation between my two large cookers. The pattern includes instructions for modifying the draft stop for other cooker models. It could easily be expanded to a full-size slow cooker cozy that would increase the energy efficiency of the cooker for baking and keep foods warmer when the cooker is unplugged. The challenge would be to crochet openings for the cooker’s handles and heat selector knob or digital control panel – not difficult to do with a bit of thought.

Note: this pattern is very forgiving. Test fit the draft stop at each stage. A dropped stitch here or there should not mar the outcome.

Gauge: 5 sc sts per inch and 6 sc rows per inch

Materials:

  • 2 skeins Sugar’n Cream 100% cotton yarn (3oz/80gr and 150yds/138m)
  • 1 crochet hook (size D/3.25mm)
  • 1 lightweight dish towel, a few inches larger than diameter of slow cooker

Abbreviations:

  • ch : chain
  • sc : single crochet
  • slst : slip stitch
  • dec : decrease stitch
  • p/u : pick up
  • x : times (eg, 3x = 3 times)

A. The Elastic Side Band or Crown

The ribbed band is about 2 inches wide. For a wider band, increase the number of stitches in the foundation chain. Row 2 onwards is done in ribbing stitch. The length of my band was about 43 inches or 86 rows.

Foundation: ch 13.
Row 1: sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc to end, ch 1, turn (12 sts, excluding last ch 1).
Row 2: sc to end, back of loops only, ch 1, turn.
Row 3+: repeat row 2 until desired length, ending on an even row.

Finish band: holding ends together, right side out, sl st ends together to form band, ch 1.

B. Curving the Crown Inward

Although the draft stop is shaped like an open crown hat, a few inches of a top (a.k.a. the “tip” in millinery terms) is crocheted, like a flap, extending far enough to cover the rim of the cooker’s lid. In this section, the foundation for the top is attached to the crown and then is built up leaning perpendicular to the crown.

After the ch 1 in the Finish band row, begin by picking up stitches along the top edge of the band. I did this at a rate of about 6 stitches per inch of ribbing for a total of 254 stitches. The exact number isn’t critical. A 1 or 2 stitch difference won’t affect the finished project, but a drastic difference could. Too few stitches and the band won’t fit over the cooker. Too many stitches and the fit will be too loose. I had to re-do the pick-up row several times to get an even distribution of stitches.

Once the pick-up is done, decrease stitches in successive rows to curve the crown inward and form the foundation for the top of the draft stop. The curve has to turn sharply inward or the draft stop won’t cover the cooker’s lid adequately. There are many ways to choose the number of stitches to decrease. Here’s how I did it.

To keep it simple, I decrease the same number of stitches each row. By trial and error, I chose a number that is 14% of the number of stitches picked up along the band’s edge. That is, for 254 stitches, the number of decrease stitches per row is 36.

Foundation: p/u sc sts along edge of band (254 sts or approx. 6 sts per inch), slst join and ch 1.
Row 1: (sc 5, dec 1) 36x, sc to end, slst join, ch 1. (218 sts remaining)
Row 2: (dec 1, sc 4)36x, sc to end, slst join, ch 1. (182 sts remaining)
Row 3: (sc 3, dec 1)36x, sc to end, slst join, ch 1. (146 sts remaining)
Row 4: (sc 1) around, slst join, ch 1. (This is the last bending row.)

C. Build The Top Flap

The final rows further develop the top of the draft stop. Unlike the previous section, the goal here is to crochet a  flat disk growing inward. I figured out the rate of stitch decrease with some math to narrow the range and then by trial and error. The repeating pattern is one row of stitch decreases followed by one row of straight single crochet.

[Row numbers continued from section B]

Row 5: (sc18, dec 1) 7x, sc to end. (139 sts remaining)
Row 6: sc to end.
Row 7: (dec1, sc17) 7x, sc to end. (132 sts remaining)
Row 8: sc to end.

Bind off.

D. How To Use The Draft Stop

The two pictures above show my 5.5-quart oval cooker. In the second one, the draft stop is slipped over the top of the cooker without a towel insert. It’s important to press the top of the draft stop down over the lid, so that it impedes as much heat loss as possible. Although the draft stop doesn’t lie completely flat against the lid, in my tests, it reduced the preheat time by up to 20 minutes.

Inserting a small dish towel into the opening the draft stop (and spreading it out over the lid) reduced the preheat time by another 10 minutes – a total reduction of 30 minutes (or 30% of the regular preheat time).

The following 3 pictures show my 5-quart round cooker with a remote thermometer probe going under the lid. The probe’s cord and the wire hook that latches the probe in place prop the lid up and prevent it from seating properly. Without a draft stop, pre-heating this cooker setup would take a very long time. In this procedure, a dish towel is laid over the cooker first and the draft stop over that. Either way is effective, but the latter ensures that the gap created by the thermometer’s cord and wire are completely covered before the draft stop clamps the towel down.

Advertisements
26
Jul
10

Cranberry Indian Pudding (Baked)

[ Equipment: oven or slow cooker. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

This Indian pudding has a smooth, smooth texture with strong notes of corn and caramel from multiple infusions of milk and a long slow baking.  The cranberries float on top of the pudding, not in it, and hold onto their individuality through the baking process. Cranberry essences flow down with the milky infusions and scent the pudding, but don’t overpower it.

I made it to celebrate this year’s Independence Day holiday (July 4), having resolved to bake something associated with early America, with both the native peoples and the European settlers. The idea for an Indian pudding evolved from a study of early American baked dishes in Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery, published way back in 1796 and billed as the first American cookbook. Just about all of those recipes are well suited for LTB, because oven temperatures in early homesteads were never accurate and recipes had to be flexible.

The section on puddings caught my especial attention, because I’d never tried baking a pudding. Rice pudding had the most variations. Indian pudding was second with 3 recipes. Except in New England where it’s served as daily fare in restaurants, Indian pudding in the rest of the country turns up generally on Thanksgiving dinner tables in November (or maybe on February 17, which is National Indian Pudding Day – who knew?).

An Indian pudding on Independence Day is celebratory of the several cultures that helped early America to flourish (though I do see a taint of irony too). The dish is a culinary fusion of Native American and European roots. “Indian” is a reference to the cornmeal ingredient, because Native Americans taught the European settlers to grow corn, and they made a boiled porridge from cornmeal called suppone, which the settlers may have adapted to the form of an English hasty pudding.

Of the innumerable Indian pudding recipes online, the one from Boston’s ancient Durgin Park restaurant, established decades before American Cookery was published, is famous. The recipe has allegedly passed down unchanged for those hundreds of years and is remarkable for its long baking time (5 to 7 hours) and the omission of any spices (no ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg) and extras like dried fruits.

However, I wanted some embellishment for my pudding. Of the 3 recipes for Indian pudding in American Cookery, I thought the first one best represented the modern trend of Indian puddings with provision for spices and dried fruits. Here it is below in all its brevity.

A Nice Indian Pudding

No. 1. 7 pints scalded milk, 7 spoons fine Indian meal, stir well together while hot, let stand till cooled; add 7 eggs, half pound raisins, 4 ounces butter, spice and sugar, bake one and half hour.

My recipe draws inspiration from those two recipes, as well as one in Fanny Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book of 1906 and a recent pudding from the 2002 Cook’s Illustrated American Classics cookbook. Like the Durgin-Park, my pudding is baked for over 5 hours and contains no spices. Like the American Cookery, my pudding has a high egg-to-milk ratio and an embellishment: dried cranberries. The idea for pre-cooking the cornmeal over a double boiler comes from Fanny Farmer’s recipe for Indian pudding. The presence of flour in my pudding is a variation of a technique from the American Classics recipe.

The American Classics recipe calls for cornstarch to prevent  curdling (it has the same function in custards) and produces a creamier pudding. Cornstarch is gluten-free, but wasn’t available in early America, so I substituted flour. The flour isn’t traditional in an Indian pudding and it could be omitted, but then the pudding’s texture won’t be as silky smooth.

I believe that the purpose of the pre-cooking the cornmeal in Fanny Farmer’s pudding is to speed up the baking process. In my recipe, the purpose of the pre-cooking is to create a very thick batter, so that the cranberries will float on top of the pudding and not sink into it. I’ve made puddings where the cranberries were mixed into the batter. The cranberries plumped up mushy and sweetened the surrounding pudding with too strong a cranberry flavor. I much prefer the dried cranberries to hold onto some of their toothy bite and intense flavor as a fruity burst in contrast to the earthier molasses and cornmeal.

In spite of the pre-cooked cornmeal, I have found that a long, long baking really does mellow out the flavors and soften the texture. After the first 3 hours, the changes are more subtle, but the improvement is noticeable. Plus, the extra time is an opportunity to infuse the pudding with more milk for a richer taste and a thick layered crust. A batter with the full quantity of milk at the start would have been too liquid float the cranberries. The procedure in my recipe of piercing the pudding for the milk to soak in isn’t too different from Durgin-Park’s method of stirring more milk into a partially baked, unset pudding.

Although the cranberries aren’t baked into the pudding, they do scent the pudding each time milk is poured over them and soaks into the cornmeal. I tried reducing the number of infusions, but the flavoring is important to the whole pudding. The dried cranberries I had were Ocean Spray Craisins, which are pre-sweetened and resemble raisins (see the end of this recipe for pictures of this pudding made with actual raisins). If the Craisins are replaced with unsweetened dried cranberries, another 1/2 tablespoon of molasses or maple syrup could help to counter the tartness.

Speaking of sugar, I opted for a blend of molasses and maple syrup. As they did with the cultivation of corn, Native Americans taught the settlers how to tap maple trees and process the sap. Sugar cane was brought by the European settlers. The blend not only represents the early cultures, but adds a dimension of flavor. Re-balancing the sweeteners to be 100% molasses or 100% maple syrup is perfectly acceptable.

Makes 2 servings
– 260 calories per serving
– Oven temperature: 250°F/121°C

  • 1-1/2 cups milk (2% reduced fat or regular)
  • 3 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour or 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch (see text)
  • 1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses (see text)
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup, grade A amber (see text)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon dried cranberries (see text)

Optional: Pre-heat oven or cooker to 250°F/121°C.

1. Combine corn meal, butter, salt and 3/4 cup of milk in a metal bowl or in the top of a double boiler.

2. Put the bowl over a sauce pot of simmering water (the water should not touch the bowl) and cook covered until mixture thickens to a glop, about 10 minutes. Stir with a whisk every 5 minutes to break up any lumps. Remove from heat and let the cornmeal mixture cool for about 5 minutes. If the cornmeal is cooked too long, it will stiffen and the lumps will be hard to remove. Then add 1 to 2 teaspoons of water or milk to loosen the cornmeal.

3. In a cup, mix the egg and flour until well combined.

4. When the cornmeal mixture has cooled, add in the egg, molasses and maple syrup and mix until smooth.

5. Pour batter into a 1-1/2 cup ramekin and sprinkle dried cranberries over the top of the pudding. Put pudding in the oven or cooker and set for 250°F/121°C. If baking in a cooker, place moisture-absorbing towels under the lid.

6. After 1 hour (or 1-1/2 hours if oven was not pre-heated), open oven or cooker, removing any moisture-absorbing towels. Puncture deeply the top of the pudding in several places with a fork, taking care not to press any cranberries into the pudding. Measure out 1/4 cup of hot milk and slowly pour over the top of the pudding, letting it sink in, until it starts to puddle on the top. The pudding may not drink in all of the milk before it puddles. Close oven or re-cover the cooker (replacing the moisture-absorbing towels) and continue baking. If baking in a cooker and the temperature has dropped below 250°F, adjust the heat settings to bring the cooker quickly back up to the target temperature.

Repeat this step two more times every 1-1/2 hours, for a maximum infusion of 3/4 cup of milk (less milk is fine too).

7. After 6 to 7 hours total baking time, remove pudding from oven and serve hot. The picture at the beginning of this recipe shows a serving of the pudding sprinkled with more dried cranberries. Fresh fruit, like diced apple, is also a delicious accompaniment. In the picture below, the pudding is served with scoops of homemade nutmeg-chocolate-chip ice milk.

Here’s the raisin version of the Indian pudding. It’s shown served with a drizzle of sweetened light cream or a non-diary cream.

13
Jul
10

First Look: Puff Pastry Empanada


Regular puff pastry cannot be baked at low temperatures, because high heat is necessary to create the rapid burst of steam inside the pastry that separates the layers. I’ve been developing a puff pastry recipe for LTB since the end of last year, but put it on hold when I started the VaporBaker site. Yesterday, I took out the recipe, made some changes and rolled out a beef empanada.

One edge opened up during baking, but otherwise I think it was a success. In the close-up shot, the layers are visible and distinct. I can vouch that the empanada was delicious. The filling was only 3 ingredients: seasoned and browned ground beef (actually vegetarian crumbles or crumbled veggie burger), grated cheese and chopped dried apricot for a little tart sweetness.

The recipe for the puff pastry will be posted in a few weeks after more testing. I’ve got other recipes in the queue that precede it. Still, the empanada turned out so well that I wanted to post pictures of it now.

10
Jul
10

Rustic Fruit Tartlets (Baked)

[ Equipment: slow cooker or oven. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

The first thing I ever baked in a LTB oven was a pie pastry, and although I’ve baked other pie pastries since, I hadn’t tried a rustic fruit tart. Fruit pies have very wet fillings, and the moisture can penetrate the crust over long LTB times and cause sogginess. The situation is worse with LTB, because less juices evaporate in the cooler heat. The crust of a rustic tart cannot be pre-baked, so the fruit must be drained of excess juices beforehand and the crust prepared to soak up any juices that seep out.

The base recipe for this pie crust was published in Cooking Light Magazine and contains about 1/2 the fat of other recipes I’ve seen. I wanted a low-fat crust both to reduce the calories in the tart and to reduce the baking time. Pastry chefs have known that standard pie crusts can be baked as low as 300°F with the trade-off of more oven time (see The Case For Baking Pastry Shells Blind At Low Heat by Florence Fabricant). However, as a preference, LTB on VaporBaker cools the oven down to 250°F. The handful of higher-fat doughs I tested at 250°F were dense, hard and greasy. Those tests were done several months ago, and the poor results could have been inherent in the recipes or due to my faulty culinary technique. I may re-test higher-fat crusts, if there are recipes that demand them.

I made 2 changes to Cooking Light’s base recipe: more shortening and the addition of sugar. I increased the amount of shortening by 1/2 tablespoon, because the dough from the original recipe was too dry after the fat had been cut into the flour mixture. The reason for the dryness could be that the 1/2 cup of flour I measured out weighed 0.25 oz more than in the original recipe. (It wasn’t due to the introduction of sugar, because I made a sugarless crust that also needed the additional shortening.) Rather than remove the excess flour, I saw it as an opportunity to re-balance the butter-to-shortening ratio to devise a crust that holds its shape better through long baking times. The extra shortening adds only 25 calories per tartlet. For those who object to the shortening as an ingredient, an all-butter crust should be fine in this recipe, as rustic tarts aren’t fussy about shaping.

The small amount of sugar turns the pie dough into a pate sucre, but it’s main purpose to give the crust a golden color from caramelization. Crusts without sugar resist browning in LTB. The picture above shows an apple tartlet with a sugarless crust. While the pictures of the nectarine and apple tartlets don’t highlight the color differences very well, the apple tartlet was lighter, and both spent the same amount of time in the oven (in fact, I may have baked the apple tartlet a few minutes longer to try and get it to brown more). As an alternative to a pate sucre for a golden crust or to deepen the color of a pate sucre, brush the crust with a bit of beaten egg or milk before baking.

The idea for drawing out juices from the fruit by macerating it with sugar originated from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake and Pastry Bible. Where she cooks down the drained juices and adds this caramelized concentrate to the pie, I usually leave it out unless the first batch of tartlets were too dry. Even after the fruit has macerated, it will continue to release juices as the tart bakes. Therefore, I sprinkle a sugar-flour mixture on the inside bottom of the tart to soak up and thicken the liquid for a moist filling that doesn’t run. I did make tartlets without the thickener, and there were one or two dark spots underneath the crust implying that some juices may have seeped into the dough (the tartlet didn’t leak juices, however).

I shaped and baked the tartlets in mini tart pans as a convenience, but they could as easily have been created free-form. My tartlets have been filled with nectarines and apples so far. I’m confidant that peaches, plums, cherries, kiwis and assorted berries should work as fillings too. Smaller berries like blueberries could be baked whole.

Makes 2 tartlets
– 280 calories per tartlet
– Oven Temperature: 250°F/121°C

Pie Crust:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (2.5 oz/70gr)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (zero trans-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon ice water
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilled lemon or lime juice

Filling:

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup roughly chopped fruit (shown are nectarines and apples)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon or ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • extra sugar for sprinkling

Thickener:

  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Pre-heat oven or cooker to 250°F.

1. Toss fruit in lemon juice and sugar. Pour into sieve and place sieve over a bowl to catch liquid. Allow fruit to sit for about 1 hour.

2. In a small bowl, mix flour and sugar for thickener. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients for pie crust: flour, sugar, salt. With a fork, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture looks uniformly crumbly. The fork should have thin tines, so that the fat is cut into the flour, not mashed into it. Of course, a pastry cutter works too.

4. Combine ice water and lemon juice in a small cup. Sprinkle liquid, 1 teaspoon at a time, over flour mixture, lightly toss and press until it forms a dough that holds together. Do not mix or knead the dough or the gluten will toughen the crust. Divide dough into 2 parts.

5. Shape each ball of dough into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6. Unwrap a disk of dough and lay it on the center of the plastic wrap. Place another sheet of plastic wrap over the dough. Roll out the dough until it is roughly 6 inches in diameter. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap.

7. Turn a mini tart pan (4-inch diameter) upside down and center it on the dough.

8. Slip hand under plastic wrap and turn dough and pan right side up. Peel off plastic wrap. Carefully lift up the dough up with one hand and and with the other hand, press the dough into the side of the pan.

9. Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with half (about 1 teaspoon) of the thickener mixture.

10. Spoon into the crust half of the drained fruit filling.

11. Sprinkle the top of the fruit with cinnamon and nutmeg or ginger and nutmeg or your favorite combination of baking spices. If the fruit is not satisfactorily sweet or is sour, sprinkle on another 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.

12. Put a pat of butter (about 1/2 teaspoon) over fruit. Fold sides of dough up over fruit. The dough must not completely seal off the top of the tart. There should a hole at the center to vent steam. Cut off some of the dough, if necessary, so that the top remains vented.

13. Prepare the second tartlet in the same manner. Put both tartlets into oven. If baking in a cooker, put moisture-absorbing towels under the lid and the tart pans should sit on a trivet. In the picture above, the trivet is rolled up aluminum foil.

14. Bake for 75  to 90 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden. Cool and unmold.

15. Serve a tartlet by itself or with a dollop of light whipped topping or sour cream, as desired. The tartlets are great as food-on-the-run too.

02
Jul
10

Chocolate Almond Meringue Spiral Cookies (Dehydrated)

[ Equipment: Food dehydrator or dehydration oven. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

These crisp and lighter-than-air cookies taste reminiscently of an Almond Joy candy bar, wispy flavors of chocolate, almonds and coconut. Like French macarons (same basic ingredients but in different proportions and formed with different technique), these cookies dissolve quickly in the mouth, briefly concentrating the flavors on the tongue before vanishing to a trace.

They are one of a series of meringue cookies, from my experiments with dehydrated meringue as a raw food. Although dehydrated raw meringue qualifies as a raw food with invaluable properties for raw cuisine, it’s rarely seen in raw recipes, perhaps because many raw foodies are also vegan or no-eggs vegetarians or perhaps because unpasteurized egg whites pose a bacterial contamination risk (though contamination is far more likely in the yolk than in the white).

From an LTB point of view, standard meringue cookies are already baked in a cool oven at 250°F, so warm air baking them in a dehydrator is sort of fringe of the fringe. Yet, dehydrated raw meringues have a different qualities than slow-baked meringues. They crumble and dissolve almost as soon as they touch the tongue, whereas the slow-baked ones are crunchier with some browning on the surface. Unfortunately, raw meringues have a shorter shelf life.

This recipe describes 2 ways to prepare the meringue for dehydration. The first way is simple raw meringue that doesn’t contact any heat source until it goes to the dehydrator. The second is a type of Swiss meringue, where the egg whites are partially cooked over hot water as they are whipped. Dehydrated Swiss meringue has a texture closer to a slow-baked meringue, but dehydrating the cookies preserves the raw flavors of the other ingredients. While raw meringue cookies stored in an air tight container will last for 1 to 2 weeks only, Swiss meringue cookies will keep for about a month.

The lemon or lime juice is for stabilizing the meringue and brightens the flavor of the cookies with citrus. Cream of tartar stabilizes the eggs whites as well as lemon or lime juice, but does not have the same taste. Do NOT omit this ingredient. Meringue that hasn’t been stabilized will separate during dehydration, and the liquid that collects under the cookies will dry and glue the cookies to the drying sheet.

The meringue is only mildly sweet so as to emphasize the chocolate, almond and coconut flavors. If the cookies will not be fully raw, I recommend toasting half of the almond meal (very lightly sprayed with vegetable oil)  in a 250°F oven for about an hour to intensify the nutty flavor. To enhance the sweetness and layer flavor without substantially increasing the calorie tally, sprinkle the top of the cookies with a little vanilla sugar or plain sugar before dehydrating.

As they dehydrate, the cookies will lose about 10% of their size. I piped the batter free-hand, and the cookies have an uneven, rustic look. For cookies with a neater appearance, pipe the batter into a greased 2-inch cookie cutter as a mold.

Makes 1 dozen cookies
– 30 calories per cookie
– Oven Temperature: 115-120°F/46-49°C in a dehydrator

  • 1 egg white
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon or lime juice or cream of tartar
  • 1/8 cup sugar or equivalent powdered sweetener
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond meal or almond flour (1/2 raw and 1/2 toasted if desired, see text)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped baker’s coconut or unsweetened coconut
  • 1/8 cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped cocoa nibs
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar or vanilla sugar for sprinkling (optional)

1. Combine almond flour and coconut in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. In a medium metal bowl, beat egg white, lemon/lime juice and salt until frothy.

3.  Add sugar and beat until foamy.

4. This step makes either a raw meringue or a Swiss meringue. See the text above for more information about these types of meringue.

To make raw meringue, continue beating the egg white on high speed until stiff peaks form.

To make a Swiss meringue, heat a saucepan of water (at least 1 inch) to simmering and turn off heat. Place bowl over saucepan (water must not touch the bottom of the bowl) and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Continue mixing for another 2 minutes. Mixture will be thick and shiny and will mound in the beater. Remove bowl from saucepan.

5.  Fold in almond flour-coconut mixture.

6. Cut off one bottom corner of a plastic food bag, leaving a 1/2-inch opening. Fill the bag with the batter, push out any air in the bag and squeeze batter to the clipped corner.

The following steps apply to my Presto Chango dehydrator fitted with a 9-inch diameter pan as a heat distributor and tray support. Follow manufacturer’s instructions if drying in a commercial dehydrator.

7. Cut out a 8-1/2 inch circle of aluminum foil or parchment paper or wax paper as a drying sheet. Foil and parchment paper are preferable, because the cookies may stick  steadfast to wax paper. Turn an 8-inch cake pan upside down as a pedestal. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the surface of the pan and center the drying sheet on it. Press down and smooth out any wrinkles. The water will act as a temporary glue. Liberally grease the surface of the drying sheet.

8. Pipe out batter onto the drying sheet in spirals from the inside out to form a dozen cookies, each about 2 inches  in diameter.

9. Sprinkle each cookie with mini chocolate chips. Very lightly, press any loose chips into the batter. If desired, sprinkle the cookies with sugar or vanilla sugar (see text).

10. Lift the edge of the foil or paper disk and slide drying platform (splatter screen) underneath. Put the drying platform back into the dehydrator and position so that the drying sheet is centered over the heat distributor (cake pan).

11. Finish assembling dehydrator. If the batter is a Swiss meringue, dehydrate the cookies for about 6 hours at 115-120°F. Raw meringue has a higher moisture content and should be dried for about 8 hours. When done, the surface of the cookies will be dry, although they may bend a bit when pulled off the drying sheet.

12. Let the cookies cool for an hour or longer before separating them from the drying sheet. The cooling is important, because warm meringue will stick more than cold meringue. If the chocolate chips are too soft, put cookies in a single layer in a plastic container with an airtight lid and refrigerate for a few minutes until the chips are solid again. The lid must be tight or the cookies will absorb moisture in the fridge or freezer.

13. Serve or store the cookies in an airtight container.