We have a lot of bread in our house right now.
For months, Danny and I have been scheming and talking, scribbling notes on random bits of paper and trying to collect all this juicy “ooh, what should we make for the cookbook” talk into coherent columns of recipes made and recipes yet to develop. For weeks we have been making five to six dishes a day, making sure our conception of them not only ended in something delicious but was also relatively easy to make.
I love this.
If you ever have a hope of writing a cookbook, let me tell you this: it is some of the hardest, most exhausting work I have ever done. And the most wonderful. I love the work of cookbookery (as Julia Child called it, according to Dorie Greenspan). I love the planning, the hoping, the crossing-off-of-lists, the cooking, the baking, the discussing, the writing down, and the imagining of what each recipe will look like in your kitchen.
That’s what this is all about, after all — the cooking you do in your kitchen.
Danny and I are so honored (and humbled) every time we think about the dishes coming from our kitchen making their way into yours. That’s why we are working so hard. We won’t stop until every dish is interesting and make-able.
We want this book to be of use.
Most of the recipes won’t involve baked goods. To us, there is so much more to life than baked goods. Going gluten-free can mean discovering an entire world of food, meals you never imagined whose tastes have become imprinted on your tongue. The dishes in this next cookbook of ours will rely on solid technique, ingredients you can find fairly easily, and lots of enticements to spend some time in the kitchen making these with someone you love on a weeknight. We’re using flavors from around the world to spice it up and introduce new tastes to your sense memory.
Plus, there is chicken and dumplings. I love chicken and dumplings.
So there are some recipes that involve flours. Most do not, however. I find that the longer I am gluten-free, the less I want starches and floury things all the time. They’re more occasional treats now. Like bread.
To my amazement, I have nearly lost my taste for bread.
When I was first diagnosed with celiac, bread was one of my first panic buttons. What would I do without a crusty olive loaf from Macrina Bakery? How could I ever visit Paris and not eat a baguette? What about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Once, I was the sandwich girl, the gluten girl. I craved bread in an unhealthy fashion, even if I did like healthy bread. Now, I know why. There’s a weird addiction in someone who cannot eat gluten but doesn’t know it yet. Even though the gluten causes the body to attack itself and do damage (if you have celiac), the poor bombarded body also responds by sending out chemicals and hormones that make us feel better. It’s suspected by a good number of scientists that we crave bread pie and pizza, even if we have celiac, because we’re sort of addicted to that reaction.
Funny thing happens when you cut out gluten. You lose the cravings. It may take some time, but it ends up happening for nearly everyone. I was the bread girl. Now? Eh.
I think I’ve had about six sandwiches in the last six years. And I’m not feeling sad.
So why the heck did I make five loaves of sandwich bread yesterday, each one based on a very different technique and ingredients?
Plus, one of the chapters in the book is a Breakfast for Dinner chapter, and we came up with a fried egg sandwich with bacon-tomato jam.
So we have to have a great sandwich bread for that.
Also, I really, really love the challenge of this. I love thinking in ratios, taking out the calculator, writing down numbers and fiddling with them. I love imagining what we want and seeing it rise out of the oven.
After making the loaf of bread you see photographed here, I might just start wanting more sandwiches as well.
So we’re close. Very happy. And we have a hundred tiny tweaks to make before we can send this thing to publication.
Just know that we’re standing in the kitchen, side by side, talking about our imaginations of the food you might be making and making suggestions to each other about what we might do better next time.
I love this part.
Did I mention that we will have a great gluten-free pita bread recipe for you in the cookbook?
It’s coming along, happily.
(Have I mentioned that all the breads in the book — including injera, socca, tortillas, and biscuits — will be without xanthan or guar gum or anything artificial? We’re so happy about that.)
So we have been baking bread. In the morning, I wake up and look at the dough that has been slowly rising overnight. And then I start another batch. We work on the hamburger buns. Danny makes suggestions about a different baking pan. I pull out the big tub of gluten-free flours again.
We keep working.
Also, there’s this little business of a photo shoot coming up.
Next Saturday, we start shooting the photos for the cookbook. Are we done with it yet? Not even close. However, September is the most gorgeous light in Seattle. And if Penny des los Santos knows how to work with anything, it’s light.
We are beyond excited to be working with Penny on this cookbook. I can only imagine how incredible those photographs are going to be.
Danny and I have been talking with Penny, our food stylist Karen Shinto, and our prop stylist in Seattle, Anne Treanor Miska, for months now. Together with them (and our wonderful book editor), we have been collaborating on the 40 or so final dishes that will be photographed in the cookbook. (There will be many more photographs than that, of fresh ingredients, of what we keep in our pantry, of us cooking, of gatherings.) We have been having video conferences and going through shot lists and imagining each dish. We love this team.
After each meeting and email, Danny and I have been more inspired. We go back to the kitchen with renewed energy.
And now, we’re sprinting. We start next Saturday. We don’t feel ready. But we’re ready.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t see us here very much for the next few weeks. All our energies are going into the cookbook right now. We want to get this right for you.
Having a lot of bread around the house is worth it when we imagine how much you will enjoy eating it in a year and a half.
What do we do with all these loaves of bread? We make sandwiches for Lu’s afternoon at school. We try out panzanella recipes. We toast them and grind them into breadcrumbs. We freeze most of them. And we make fresh croutons.
At first, Danny and I didn’t think this was enough of a recipe to share. It’s so simple. However, there was a time when I bought all my croutons out of a box. Homemade croutons taste so much better than anything in a package. Imagine creamy tomato soup with these babies on top. Every salad will be better for these crisp-chewy little morsels.
This really isn’t a recipe, per se. It’s a technique. You can take any gluten-free bread you have hanging around and make a batch of croutons.
We think you’ll like them.
gluten-free bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 500°.
Toss the bread cubes with just enough olive oil to coat all the cubes lightly. Season with salt and pepper.
Toast the bread cubes until the edges are crisp and brown, but the insides are still a bit chewy, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven.
(Be sure to set a timer. Look at the croutons a few moments before the timer goes off. You don’t want to burn these.)