Forks up, Phoenix! Chow Bella and Roosevelt Row present the third annual Pie Social Saturday, November 3rd, from 2 to 6 p.m. on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. We've got an all-star line up of bakers making pies for you to taste, and from now til Pie Social, we'll introduce them to you, one by one. We challenged each to make us something -- anything but pie.
Today: Slade Grove of Slade Grove Creative Gourmet makes gluten-free Amaretti cookies.
Sugar runs in the family. Growing up in Farmland, Indiana (population: 1,341 in 2008), Slade Grove's grandmother owned the only pie shop in town and his mother made candies for her family around the holidays.
It was during one of these times in the kitchen that Grove picked up Betty Crocker's cookbook off of his mother's bookshelf. It was this book that inspired this chef to start baking at age 8, using her recipe to make cream puffs for the very first time.
Grove's kitchen, along with the rest of his condo, has orange walls -- a shade somewhere between caramel (his favorite candy) and pumpkin, casting a warm glow throughout his galley-style kitchen.
But just because space is limited in this kitchen, it doesn't mean the chef doesn't have it fully stocked -- with every appliance, utensil, and tool necessary to create, bake, and try his goods. His home kitchen is also his test kitchen, after all.
Tool chests from Sam's Club, extra storage spaces and perfectly organized drawers make it easy for Grove to find any utensil he's looking for. The counters are packed with stainless steal appliances, including his two must-haves: a Magimix food processor and KitchenAid Stand Mixer.
"Baking is fun, it's precise" Grove says. It must be the engineer in him, he adds, since he loves the math and exact measurements baking requires.
Talking animatedly about his love for the caramels he creates, he proudly tells us about a new line of gourmet caramel sauces he is currently working on for Whole Foods, and how he uses only natural ingredients, without any additives or preservatives.
"Caramel requires so few ingredients, but makes something so crazy good," Grove adds with a big smile on his face.
His philosophy: "If you can't pronounce it, don't eat."
This leads to a discussion about a trip to the grocery store where some foods have ingredient lists containing scary and unpronounceable names. "Beef flavoring in ground beef?" he asks with a look of disgust, " I grew up on a cattle farm... If we wanted beef we would slaughter a cow."
Going back to sweets, he says today's should be simple, and with this, he shows us how he makes his gluten-free, three ingredient, Amaretti cookies.
Almond paste is placed on the scale that holds a big ceramic latte cup used as a measuring bowl, followed by a carefully weighed-out amount of super fine sugar.
He opens the fridge and pulls out the eggs and as he walks back to the counter, he says that he will save the yolks for something later.
Careful not to get any yellow in the whites, he splits the eggs into two bowls, one for yellow, one for white.
With some plastic wrap, he covers the yolks and places them into the fridge to keep them from spoiling.
The whites are mixed into the sugar/almond paste mixture and after several pulses in the food processor the dough is gracefully scooped into a piping bag, piped onto a cookie sheet and put into the oven.
Ten minutes later, the sheet full of lightly tanned cookies is ready to be taken out of the oven.
As we wait for them to cool, the air is filled with the smell of warm almonds.
Mere minutes later, they are cool to the touch and before we know it we are handed a little bag of warm cookies to take home.
Grove might have some impressive accomplishments under his belt, (he was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, had a deal with Absolut vodka, and was recently featured in Food Network Magazine), but he has one more major dream he is hoping to turn into reality:
"I want to be the king of caramel."
Here is the recipe for the cookies:
Ingredients 225g of Almond Paste (canned is easier to work with) 200g of super fine baker's sugar or castor sugar 2 large egg whites
NOTE: You can actually make your own super fine sugar by placing regular cane sugar in the food processor and processing it for about 30 seconds or until is ground to a very fine texture.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
To make these amazing gluten free cookies, place your almond paste and sugar in the food processor and pulse about 6 to 8 times in 2 second bursts until they are combined then add in your egg whites and pulse an additional 6 to 8 times in 2 second busts until well combined. Your cookie batter is done. Scoop out batter into your piping bag and position yourself in front of the lined cookie sheet. Pipe the batter into one inch discs (1") and leave 1" of space between them.
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Place in oven and bake 9 to 12 minutes until just slightly brown around the edge and light brown on top. For a crunchier cookie, bake 12 to 15 minutes or just deep brown. The shorter bake time will produce the perfect cookie - slightly crunchy on the edge with a soft chewy center. This recipe is so easy to make, it only takes a few minutes to whip up, and is naturally gluten free. They are also perfect to make mini ice cream sandwiches.
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