Almost every afternoon these days, I look down at Little Bean amidst her pile of books. Without her noticing, I have shoved all the sharp knives and breakable dishes to the side of the kitchen where the appliances congregate. The chair sits against the counter. I have her apron in my hand.
“Do you want to bake with Mama?” I ask her.
Her eyes grow wide and she flings her hands into the air, open. “Bay!” she says, already on the move, finger pointed toward the countertops. I lift her high in the air, pausing for a kiss on the neck, and set her down on the chair in the corner. She has rubber spatulas, measuring spoons, cups, and cloths before her. I have already laid out all the flours, the salt, the gums, and the kitchen scale on my side of the counter. The butter is softened. The sugar is ready.
It’s time to bake.
The first few years I lived gluten-free, I only baked sporadically. Oh sure, there are plenty of recipes on this site, and some of them still stand up. At the time, however, my focus was finding the foods that fed me without having to substitute for gluten. I thrived on pomegranate molasses, marcona almonds, and good goat cheese. Opening my arms to all the foods to which I could say yes meant the world to me. I eat better than I ever did before I gave up gluten.
(Meeting Danny helped with that one too, of course.)
Baking started to return. I started with mixes then began buying the little bags. I fumbled through the process, daunted by xanthan gum and dry doughs. My hands didn’t know where they were. It all seemed a mystery. And a grieving. I love baking so. I felt like I would never find it again.
(You should know that most of the recipes from the first two years of this site? They were made in one attempt and then published. Triumphant that anything worked, I wanted to share, immediately. They don’t all work now. You should know that.)
Time moves through floured fingertips and failed baking attempts.
More than four years later — and countless creations tested several times before we post them, many more before sending them to print — I have baking back in my life. I never think of the moments before the countertops — the flours spread out before me, a stainless steel bowl poised on top of the kitchen scale — as anything else but baking.
Every morning, Little Bean walks out to the living room after she wakes up, a huge smile on her face, arms outstretched toward the Christmas tree on our counter. She stands there, patiently, waiting, until I reach down to turn on the lights. And then she smiles wider.
Every afternoon, we are whisking flours, creaming butter and sugar, and waiting for the dough to rise. (Thank goodness we have neighbors and friends who like to eat our experiments.) She bangs her cups and spoons, pausing to reach toward the rolled-out dough spread with cinnamon sugar and pinch a bit between her fingers. We talk and laugh. I tell her how the dough feels in my hands, why it’s important to not add hot milk to yeast, and the difference between muscovado and turbinado sugar. She understands some of it, I think. She’s happy.
And I am happier still. Life is pretty chaotic around here at times. Danny’s cooking at a restaurant again and so gone 5 evenings a week, Little Bean is trying to reach into every cupboard and pull every book off the shelves, I’m writing two blogs, another book, and trying to keep up on the laundry. There are further complicating mysteries these days. I could easily walk around with frayed hair and a stiff neck.
However, when Little Bean and I stand at the kitchen counter, talking and bouncing our spoons against each other, I am at rest. In joy.
This is why you are seeing so many baked goods recipes on this site these days. It’s the holidays, the time of nutmeg and family gatherings. I’m not developing recipes to get accolades. I’m trying to find the best cinnamon roll recipe for this kitchen, this year, so that I can share them with my family on Christmas morning.
I want to keep baking with Little Bean, together, for many years to come.
Over the past few years, we’ve developed recipes for holiday baked goods we have really loved. Besides the recipes we are finishing up for this site, these are the ones we’ll be making in this kitchen during the next few weeks.
Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Crystallized Ginger
Banana-Coconut Cream Pie (gluten-free and dairy-free)
Butterscotch Créme Brulee
Holiday Fruit and Nut Balls
Lemon Pecan Biscotti
Roll-Out Sugar Cookies
Rosemary’s Christmas Cookies
Spicy Ginger Crisps
Spicy Molasses Cookies
We are also honored to announce that Oprah.com is featuring several food bloggers for the holiday season, and we are among them. Oprah.com has gluten-free holiday baked goods recipes! Click on over there to check this out.
We feel pretty lucky in this house. We don’t bake with gluten, but we can pretty much use everything else. However, we know that not everyone can eat eggs, or dairy, or tree nuts in baking. We want you to have the best experience you can during this holiday season.
I’ve been sent some good baking books intended for folks who have multiple food allergies, and now I’d like to share them with you.
I’m giving away copies of these books here. It’s the holidays. I’d like to share a copy of Gluten Free Every Day Cookbook, which is a cookbook with savory and sweets. It’s not necessarily dairy-free, but it seems a useful book for someone just starting out. We also have a copy of Bake Deliciously! Gluten and Dairy Free Cookbook. And we think you’d like Enjoy Life’s Cookies for Everyone!: 150 Delicious Gluten-Free Treats that are Safe for Most Anyone with Food Allergies, Intolerances, and Sensitivities this holiday season.
We also have 4 copies of Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook. This is a beautiful book, with lavish photography and accessible recipes. I like this book so much that I was thrilled to be asked for a blurb for the back. You’ll love it too. These are the most luscious gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, peanut-and-tree-nut-and sesame-free treats you are likely to ever see.
Just leave a comment about why you love baking and why you want to be the best baker you can in your kitchen. We’ll choose the seven winners through Random.org at the end of this week.
Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls, a work in progress
Normally, when we post a recipe here, we give you the final summation, the ta da! reveal. But this week, I’d like to share the process more than the final product.
Today, I’m giving you our slightly adapted version of the cinnamon rolls from The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook. Since we do okay with cow’s milk here, we used that plus butter. I also didn’t have any superfine brown rice flour, which Cybele calls for, so I substituted with an equal weight of sorghum flour.
These were good rolls. Really good. Warm out of the oven, they were soft and delicious, slightly sweet and familiar. If you have multiple food allergies, these are the rolls for you. However, after a couple of hours, they were too stiff for our taste. I want cinnamon rolls that taste great without the frosting. Since we can eat eggs, I’m going to make another batch with one added, plus some other tweaks, to make the rolls more supple.
Watch this space. In a few days, I’ll have an update on the next batch.
(Click here to see the update on the process. Final recipe coming soon.)
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active-dry yeast
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Combine the milk, oil, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Turn the burn on medium heat and bring the liquid up to warm, just barely above the temperature of your skin. Turn off the heat and let it sit.
Mix all the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and yeast.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Blend them well. (A stand mixer works well here, as does a food processor.)
Turn the dough into a large, greased bowl. Cover the bowl. Let it sit in a warm place in your kitchen and rise for 1 hour.
Put the cinnamon roll dough between two large pieces of parchment paper. Roll it out to about 1/4-inch thickness, as wide as you can. (I make a ragged rectangle.)
Spread 1/4 cup of the melted butter over the top of the dough, leaving about 1/2 inch along the edges. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the dough.
Carefully, using the bottom piece of parchment paper as your guide, roll the dough into a log, as tightly as you can.
Pour the remaining melted butter into the bottom of a pie pan. Cut the log of dough into 12 pieces and transfer the rolls to the buttered pan. Put the pan of rolls into a warm place in the kitchen and let them rise for 1 hour.
preheat the oven to 350°.
Bake the rolls until they are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes in our house.
Glaze or ice as you see fit.
Makes 12 cinnamon rolls.