4.17.2011

only a moment


If you go to the hospital, and spend several hours in the pediatric surgical wing, it is to be expected that you will return home with germs you were not previously in possession of. Flu germs, to be precise.

Don't make a big deal about it, don't stress it, just go with it.

Lay low for a week. Watch movies. Make up stories and recipes. Have a puppet show. Let the vacuuming slide.

And by all means, make a creamy custard, warm with spices and crowned with rhubarb, Spring's first blush. As rich as cheesecake, but requiring only a moment to make, which is all the time a feverish head can spare for focusing.

It's a nice way to celebrate the season, while biding your time until you again feel the urge to break free of the house and breathe in the loamy air, whipped up by the wind and dog and your rake.

Eat slowly, and enjoy it.


Sour Cream Custard with Spiced Rhubarb
yields 6 servings

For the rhubarb:
8 fl. oz water
140 gr (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
100 gr (about 1/2 large stalk) rhubarb, cut into half-inch pieces

Prepare an ice bath.

Combine the water, sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods in a small saucepan. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the rhubarb, and continue simmering for 3 more minutes, or until rhubarb is tender. Transfer rhubarb and poaching liquid to a bowl and set in ice bath to cool. Once cool, remove bowl from ice bath, cover, and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

For the sour cream custard:
408 gr sour cream (alternately, you can use 420 gr plain Greek-style yogurt)
108 gr light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
1/3 tsp ground cardamom
2 large eggs (120 gr), lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, sugar, vanilla, salt, and cardamom, and mix thoroughly. Add the beaten eggs and mix until combined.

Put a pot of water on to boil. Divide custard between 6 ramekins. Place ramekins in a glass or metal baking dish, and transfer to the oven. Carefully pour boiling water into the baking pan, to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake custards for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are set but center is still slightly wobbly. Cool on a rack, then refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Custards keep, wrapped and refrigerated, for up to three days.

Serve cold topped with spiced rhubarb and reserved poaching liquid.

4.10.2011

round two


We leave today for Wylie's follow-up (and hopefully final) surgery.

It will be a bit different this time. Wylie remembers some of what went down last time, and isn't quite as excited as before. (Although I'm doing my best to convince him that this is going to be a really fun and exciting doctor's visit!) Plus, my mom isn't with us to help everyone decompress at the end of the day. And a long, exhausting day it will be, given that we need to be at the hospital tomorrow at 6:30am.

But we're bringing the dog this time, and so we'll have the benefit of all those comfort-and-love vibes our canine family members contribute to our well-being. Surely, watching his beloved friend run and play and perform all her crazy antics will be healing to Wylie during the post-procedure afternoon, right?


We're also bringing granola and Greek yogurt. I wasn't quite prepared for our inability to find good, healthy food in a timely manner during the last go-around, and as a consequence we ate poorly, and at odd hours. This time, I've armed us with simple foods that will give us the energy and nutrition we all need to power through the stress and discombobulation that is a day spent at the hospital.


The next few days for you will probably, hopefully, be much closer to your normal routine than ours will be. You may already know where all your imminent meals will come from, and you're looking forward to them without apprehension. You don't need my help in keeping your family's blood sugar regulated.

But still, I thought you might like to have some of our granola. Thanks for reading, friends.


Fruit and Nut Granola
Yields about 10 cups

176 grams (about 1/2 cup) honey
56 grams (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter
55 grams (about 4 Tbsp) coconut oil
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one orange
450 grams (about 4 cups) certified gluten-free rolled oats
140 grams (about 1 cup) raw hazelnuts, coarsely ground
116 grams (about 1 cup) raw sliced almonds
65 grams (about 1/2 cup) pepitas (green hulled pumpkin seeds)
24 grams (about 3 Tbsp) coconut flour
21 grams (about 3 Tbsp) ground flaxseed
4 grams (2 tsp) roasted Saigon cinnamon, or regular cinnamon
scant 1/4 tsp ground cloves
142 grams (about 1 cup) raisins, or other dried fruit
125 grams (about 1 cup) dried cranberries, or other dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Have ready two baking pans lined with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan set over low heat, combine the honey, butter, coconut oil, vanilla, and orange zest. Heat until the butter and coconut oil are completely melted.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the oats, hazelnuts, almonds, pepitas, coconut flour, flaxseed, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Stir to thoroughly blend.

When the butter mixture is melted, pour it over the dry ingredients and mix until everything is evenly coated. Divide the granola between the two prepared baking pans and spread evenly.

Bake granola, stirring and rotating pans frequently, for about 45 minutes, or until the oats and nuts are a toasted golden brown.

Pour hot granola into a large bowl and add the dried fruit, stirring to combine. Cool, stirring occasionally, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. Apparently you can refrigerate homemade granola for up to 1 month, but seeing as we always eat ours within the first week, I've never needed to do that.

4.06.2011

rallying again


This thing has taken off with unexpected ferocity.

There were a mere dozen of us on board to launch the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally with pancakes last month, when we urged our readers to think about gluten-free baking from the perspective of ratios, with the understanding that a solid, working ratio gives you infinite room for variability and personalization. Ratios practically guarantee success, giving you the confidence you need to create your own recipes. The feedback was tremendous, and in just a few short weeks, our membership has grown three-fold! Amazing. If this many bloggers are eager to join in our kitchen experiments, then I can only imagine how many of you readers are drawing from our experiences and working on your own recipes, in your own kitchens!

I love it. I love thinking about this community, this web we're creating, of people all over the world who are learning together that gluten-free baking can be as simple, as intuitive, as traditional gluten-full baking. I love feeling like I'm part of a movement.

I also love getting a baking prompt each month. It's completely dorky, I know, but it feels a bit like homework to me. And I was one of those annoying kids who loved homework. School supplies got me all a-flutter. So the collaborative, learning environment that we're all creating through the Ratio Rally feels a bit like a school project to me (we even have spreadsheets!), and I find myself looking forward eagerly to each new 'assignment.'

This month, we're making quick breads and/or muffins, the ratio being essentially the same for each. I love both, but being that I am still in a bread frame of mind, I decided to focus on a quick bread recipe. Plus, quick breads have a sense of refinement, an afternoon-tea-served-on-the-good-china feeling, that I don't get from muffins. That appeals to me.

So the other day, I asked Josh, "If you could have any kind of quick bread in the world, what would it be?"

"Banana," was his immediate reply, and he went back to whatever he was doing. He thought it was a hypothetical question.

A week or so earlier, he'd mentioned not-so-subtly that he'd love for me to create a new dessert for the restaurant that includes pecans. He brought it up again, a day or so later. Then, when I was working at the restaurant one day last week, he strode purposely through the kitchen over to my pastry station, dropped a bag of pecans on my table, opened it, and proceeded to eat a handful, with a running commentary on how much he loves pecans. (He's Southern, if that helps explain things.)

Clearly, the man needed some pecans in his life.

So when it came time for me to decide what to bake for this month's Rally, the answer was practically staring me in the face: Banana Bread with Pecans. Sounds good, right?

Banana bread is wonderful, for so many reasons. But it's main selling point, in almost every recipe I've ever seen, is that it makes great use of the over-ripe, mushy bananas sitting on the counter, the ones that receive a lot of sideways glances, but no takers. No one eats mushy bananas out of hand. Banana bread to the rescue!

So there I stood in the kitchen, in the early stages of the thought process that takes me from the initial idea for a recipe all the way through to a finished product. And I turned to look at the counter behind me, where I knew our last two bananas lay, and saw . . .

. . . two decidedly not over-ripe, mushy bananas. True, they were more soft than firm, but they were still well within the realm of suitable-for-snacking-on. They were not banana bread bananas. At which point it occurred to me that this might be why we rarely have banana bread in this house. Our bananas never hang around long enough to turn uniformly dark brown!


Instead of switching gears and flavors, I decided to stick with the bananas and see what I could do to make them more suitable for bread. And, happily, in the process I discovered my absolute favorite way to make banana bread: cook the bananas first.

Now, I must say that this technique is specifically for bananas that haven't already turned to mush on their own. For the times when you really need some banana bread right now, and patiently waiting several days for your bananas to get with the program is not an option. But when you find yourself in the midst of one of those times, this method is really the way to go.

You basically pretend you're making banana flambe, only you cook the banana/sugar mixture for much longer than usual, which yields you an incredible banana caramel syrup with real depth of flavor. The bananas soften so much during cooking that they've almost dissolved by the end, and this banana syrup gets mixed into your batter. After it bakes, and you take the first bite, you realize . . . it's banana bread. Only it's the banana bread all the other banana breads dream of being. Because the flavor is deeper, and richer. The caramel note is there, plus there's a concentrated, roasted banana flavor that lacks the bordering-on-fermented hint that too-ripe bananas often give off. And, of course, there's the streusel topping. In short, it's perfect.


I am not exaggerating when I tell you Josh was ecstatic about this bread. He pledged his love to it on first bite, but I thought he was just being overcome by the pleasure of finally getting his pecan fix. But then he couldn't stop eating it. He got genuinely upset when I made the bread off-limits for an afternoon so I could photograph it. And when he was given permission to indulge again, he devoured it, coming up for air with exclamations of what an amazing, delicious banana bread I had made. I finally had no choice but to believe him.

And I must say, I think he's absolutely right on this one.

Please make a point of visiting all the lovely blogs participating in the Ratio Rally this month. You're sure to leave hungry and inspired, and you'll also probably discover some wonderful new-to-you blogs! And definitely head over to Silvana's Kitchen, who's hosting this month, to read the round-up. If you're on Twitter, you can join in our conversation there, using the hashtag #gfreerally.

~Mrs. R of honey from flinty rocks made Lemon Lavender Muffins with Lavender Sugar
Alisha of gfmostlyvegetarian made Sweet Potato Breakfast Loaf
Amanda of Gluten Free Maui made Classic Banana, Oat, Pecan Bread
Amie of  The Healthy Apple made Gluten-Free Agave Apricot Quick Bread
Britt of GF In The City made Date & Walnut Bread
Brooke of Bell Wookie made Double Chocolate Cherry Muffin
Caleigh of Gluten Free[k] made Cardamom Banana Bread
Caroline of The G Spot Revolution made Orange Spice Bread with a Vanilla Glaze
Claire of Gluten Freedom made Piña Colada Muffins with Coconut-Rum Glaze and Toasted Coconut
Danna of Sweet Dees Gluten Free made Blood Orange Cardamom Muffins
Erin of Mysteries Internal made Strawberry Yogurt Muffins
Erin of The Sensitive Epicure made Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins with Streusel
Flo of Makanaibio made 2 Recettes de Muffins ou de Gateau Rapides
Gretchen of kumquat made Gingerbread Fig Loaf
Irvin of Eat The Love made Gluten Free Glazed Meyer Lemon Muffins filled with Slow Roasted Balsamic Red Wine Strawberry Jam
Jenn of Jenn Cuisine made Chestnut and Chocolate Quickbread
Karen of Cooking Gluten Free made Muffins
Kate of Kate Alice Cookbook made Raspberry Banana Crumble-Top Muffins
Kate of Gluten Free Gobsmacked made Mocha + Chocolate Chip Muffins/Quickbread
Lauren of Celiac Teen made Cocoa Quickbread
Lisa of Gluten Free Canteen made Almond Cherry Berry Banana Muffins, Gluten Free
Lisa of With Style and Grace made Rosemary Lemon Quick Bread
Marla of Family Fresh Cooking made Strawberry Snack Cakes
Mary of Gluten Free Cooking School made Cranberry Orange Bread with Cream Cheese Icing
Meaghan of The Wicked Good Vegan made Vegan Gluten-Free Apricot-Orange Bread
Melanie of Mindful Food made Almond Joy Muffins
Nannette of Nannette Raw made Chai Muffins
Robyn of Chocswirl made Brown Butter Apple Spice Muffins with Pecan Nut Streusel
Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef made Lemon Poppyseed Bread
Silvana of Silvana's Kitchen made Chocolate-Coated Marshmallow-Topped Vanilla Cupcakes
Wendy of La Phemme Phoodie made Cheesy Apple Butter Bread with Garlic Powder
Winnie of Healthy Green Kitchen made Brown Butter Banana Bread


Caramelized Banana Bread with Pecan Streusel
Yields one 8.5x4.5-inch loaf

The ratio for this recipe is: 
2 parts flour
2 parts liquid
1/2 part egg
1 part fat

For the Streusel
105 grams (1 cup) raw pecans, chopped
53 grams (4 Tbsp) turbinado sugar
1 Tbsp Tara's gluten-free pastry flour mix
30 grams (about 2 Tbsp) coconut oil

For the Bread
200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar, divided in half
2 ripe bananas, sliced (to yield approximately 225 grams/1 cup)
14 grams (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter
113 grams (8 Tbsp/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
213 grams (1 1/2 cups) Tara's gluten-free pastry flour mix
53 grams (1/2 cup) almond flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp roasted Saigon cinnamon, or regular cinnamon
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
60 grams (1/4 cup/2 fluid oz) whole milk

Make the streusel
Measure all streusel ingredients into a small bowl and mix to thoroughly combine. Set aside.

Make the bread
In a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan set over medium-high heat, cook 100 grams (1/2 cup) of the sugar until it melts. Add the banana slices and 14 grams (1 Tbsp) butter and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the caramel is a rich, dark brown and syrupy-thick, and the banana slices are almost completely broken down. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. This banana caramel mixture will be the bulk of the liquid portion of the ratio.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour (with gluten-free flour, obviously) an 8.5x4.5-inch loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the 113 grams (8 Tbsp) butter with the remaining 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the gluten-free pastry flour, almond flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.

Add the egg and vanilla to the creamed butter and mix on high speed. Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients to thoroughly blend. Add bananas (along with all the caramel sauce) and milk, and mix to combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan, spread evenly, and sprinkle generously with pecan streusel. You won't need all the streusel, so freeze the rest to have on hand for your next batch of muffins or quick bread!

Now here's where your baking instincts really come into play. You need to bake the bread until it's done. This means a tester inserted near the center comes out clean, and the streusel is browned but nowhere near burned. At my house, with my crazy oven that barely knows what it's doing anymore, this took 1 hour and 45 minutes. Really. I had to cover the loaf with foil after an hour to prevent the streusel from burning. Now, I can't imagine that this recipe would really need to cook that long, in a functioning oven. That just seems crazy. Most quick breads bake for about an hour, so let's just assume that this one is no different, okay? But still, keep an eye on it, and don't worry that you've done something wrong if it feels like it's taking a long time to cook through. Be patient, knowing that you'll be rewarded with a banana bread that is truly worthy of breaking out your best china.

Allow the bread to cool fully in the pan, on a rack. Banana bread keeps, wrapped airtight at cool room temperature, for up to three days, or can be frozen for up to three months.

4.01.2011

i took to the kitchen


I had one of those days recently.

The kind that rise up out of nowhere.

I never saw it coming. Josh's family was here, we started the day at our favorite local breakfast joint, everyone was pleasant and relaxed. The sun was out.

There was no warning, when the phone rang, that the news would knock the wind out of me, scramble my insides, send my adrenaline-charged mind racing to do damage control. Priorities immediately shifted, I canceled the rest of the days' commitments and sat myself down at the desk to plan and think and map out our defense strategy.

The thing is, two hours later I realized that I had done all I could to respond and prepare, and yet the nervous energy was still clattering around in me, leaving a swirling wake behind me that the boys were surely picking up on.

So, practically without thinking, I did the only logical thing. I took to the kitchen to bake.

And I didn't bake just any ol' thing, something quick and easy and sugary, designed to satiate a mid-afternoon craving. No, I needed to do something substantial, something nourishing, something hearty and grounded and real.

I needed to bake bread. And bake bread I did.

Funny that when people talk about the meditative and soothing aspects of bread baking, they're often talking about all that kneading and punching down. We don't get to do that with gluten-free bread dough. No point in kneading something that doesn't have any gluten to develop in the first place, right? Plus, trying to knead a tacky, sticky batter would just be a messy, frustrating, fruitless endeavor. Very un-meditative.

Yet still I find the process to be extremely calming. I've been working on the recipe for this site for a while now, so I gave my mind permission to dive into thoughts of flavor and texture and aroma, analyzing and comparing the qualities of all the different flours I've grown to know and love over the past few years. And because I bake primarily by weight, there was the familiar, rhythmic pattern of weigh, tare, weigh, tare, watching the flours pile up into little mountain ranges in my mixing bowl, lovely in their complementary hues of yellow, brown, tan, and white.

When I was done, two wonderful, unexpected things had occurred. For starters, I realized I had let go of all my anxiety. I felt fine, really and truly, and knew that I would be able to handle any subsequent curve balls calmly and productively, without panic. That was a tremendous feeling.


But even more wonderful was the external, visible result of my afternoon of baking. Bread. Bread that smelled divine; nutty and wholesome and healthy. Bread with a crisp, crackling crust that broke open unevenly to reveal a soft, chewy crumb inside. Bread that I couldn't get Kalen to stop asking for.

In the world of gluten-free breads, there are a lot of ways, a lot of words, that people use to convince those around them that the bread is not only gluten-free, but good gluten-free. Gluten-free bread can be a tough sell, and rightly so. I could give you a lot more of my words, but coming from someone who doesn't eat gluten-full bread, mine is not the most authoritative voice. Josh, on the other hand, knows good bread. And here's what he had to say about my gluten-free version: "This is good bread. It tastes just like a hearty, whole-grain wheat bread." Thank you.


And lest you worry too much about that bad day I had, it cleared out almost as quickly as my mood did. It was a little misunderstanding, some poor communication, an overreaction. Twenty-four hours later had things straightened out and better than before. For which I am grateful, because it means that my lasting memory of that day can be all about bread, and nourishment and de-stressing.

It's all good, friends. It's all good.


Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Bread
Yields 10 rolls or two small boules

I started thinking about this bread when Michael Ruhlman posted his recipe almost three months ago. Then Shauna/Gluten-Free Girl got in on it, with delicious results. How could I resist learning from the two of them to come up with my own, outstanding-if-I-do-say-so-myself, version?

15 grams ground flaxseed
15 grams ground chia seed or Salba®
70 grams boiling water
18 grams (1 Tbsp) active dry yeast
21 grams (1 Tbsp) honey
8 fluid oz water, warmed to 110ºF, divided in half
125 grams Tara's gluten-free pastry flour mix
100 grams gluten-free oat flour
60 grams light buckwheat flour
60 grams corn flour
55 grams gluten-free rolled oats
50 grams almond flour
40 grams millet flour
40 grams teff flour
25 grams sorghum flour
30 grams dry milk powder
10 grams (2 tsp) kosher salt
2 large eggs, beaten
40 grams (3 Tbsp) canola oil
egg wash, for brushing over bread
rolled oats, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the flaxseed, chia or Salba® and boiling water and mix to create a slurry. Set aside to cool.

In another bowl, combine 4 fluid oz of the warm water with the yeast and honey and stir to combine. Set aside to proof, about 10 minutes. Mixture should double in size and be bubbly and foamy. If it isn't, your yeast is too old and you'll need to start over with fresh yeast.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the flours, rolled oats, milk powder, and salt. Whisk to thoroughly blend.

Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and add the cooled slurry, proofed yeast, beaten eggs, and canola oil. Mix on low speed to blend. With the mixer running, slowly add the remaining 4 fluid oz warm water (which may need to be reheated if it's cooled down too much), until your dough is thick and tacky. You may not need all of the water depending on the humidity of your kitchen and the moisture content of your flours.

Turn the dough out into a well-oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for an hour, or until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. If you have one, place a pizza stone in the oven while it's preheating. Otherwise, use sheet pans.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured board, gently pressing to deflate it. Divide it into 10 pieces for rolls, or in half for 2 boules. Using wet hands, gently shape the dough into rolls or boules and place them on parchment paper. Cover with a towel (or plastic wrap) and allow to rise for 10-15 minutes more.

Uncover the dough, and brush the surface with egg wash. Sprinkle with oats, seeds, etc. to garnish. If making boules, use a serrated knife to slash an 'X' in the center of the loaves.

Transfer bread, still on parchment, to the oven, placing it directly on preheated pizza stone/sheet pan. Placing a pan of hot water on the floor of the oven will help the bread develop a really lovely thick, crackly crust.

Bake until bread is a rich golden brown, and makes a hollow sound when you thump the bottom. Depending on the size (rolls vs. boules), this should take anywhere from 30 to 70 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Bread is wonderful warm, but is also great at room temperature within the first two days. After that, your best bet is to toast it, which revives it a bit. It also freezes well, wrapped airtight, for up to three months.
 
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