Gluten Free Girl and the Chef http://glutenfreegirl.com Playing With Our Food Wed, 01 Apr 2015 18:04:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 how to bake gluten-free: hydrationhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/03/how-to-bake-gluten-free-hydration/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/03/how-to-bake-gluten-free-hydration/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 05:20:11 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=10381 Bakers like to talk to each other. We’re slightly odd creatures, after all, and it’s good to know we’re not alone in thinking about different hydration levels in artisan breads or the effect of baking…

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baked blueberry muffins II

Bakers like to talk to each other. We’re slightly odd creatures, after all, and it’s good to know we’re not alone in thinking about different hydration levels in artisan breads or the effect of baking soda on muffins that have been refrigerated overnight. Baking is a solace for so many of us. But baking is also an interesting mix of mad scientist geekery and June Cleaver lifting warm cookies from a baking sheet as the kids hit the kitchen after school. We deal in butter and sugar. Or coconut oil and honey. Or shortening and maple syrup.

We make cookies. And people like it.

The other day, our friend Kim Boyce stopped by our cooking studio with her kids, her best friend, and her two kids. They were on a spontaneous road trip for spring break and wrote to ask if we had time to see them if they decided to take a ferry trip to Vashon. Yes. We always have time for Kim.

Do you know Kim’s marvelous baking book, Good to the Grain? It has been one of my favorite baking inspirations for years now, a celebration of good whole grains like amaranth, buckwheat, and teff. She blended wheat all-purpose flour with those whole-grain flours to make maple cakes, shortbread cookies, and berry scones. I substitute our gluten-free all-purpose flour in nearly every one of her recipes and those baked goods come out of the oven warm and enticing. They’re not good for gluten-free. They’re just good.

Start with a great recipe, use our gluten-free flour in place of the wheat flour, and you have a baked good people like. That’s why we worked on this blend for years. We wanted to make it easy for you.

And for Kim. She’s been starting to play with gluten-free baking lately (yay!). So we talked about all this, about raw buckwheat instead of the toasted stuff, about the sweetness of millet, and the cookie dough we had in the refrigerator. Time to bake.

The kids were a tumble of wonderful people drawing at the long table or taking photographs of the pond outside with my old Polaroid land camera (with my permission). I made them wait to eat the salted oatmeal cookies. I wasn’t being mean. I needed to photograph them, of course. After 10 or 12 considered shots, I called out, “Go!” These disappeared quickly.

Everyone loved them. You know cookies are good when the kids of a world-renowned baker come up to you spontaneously to say how much they liked them. (Sophia suggested that kids might like the cookies a bit smaller, and with less salt on the top. Duly noted.) These were a hit.

Kim loved them too, especially the crisp edges that tasted a little like caramel, something like a florentine cookie. “No one could tell these are gluten-free, Shauna.” I grinned. My work for the day was done.

* * *

We want to share our gluten-free flour with you. (We’d love if you wanted to buy some, of course.) But we would also like to share with you some of the lessons we’ve learned about how best to bake with it. So we’re going to give you a few tips over the next few weeks, to make sure you have success with the baked goods in your kitchen.

Today, I want to talk about hydration.

cookies. 

The best cookies come from dough that has rested in the refrigerator before you bake it. Why? If you bake a cookie just after making the dough, the flours and liquids and fats haven’t had time to mingle and dance together. If you are desperate for a cookie and make up a dough to bake one right away? You’re going to have a very cakey cookie. It also won’t taste like much.

Wait an hour, or three, or overnight to bake that cookie, and you’ll have a dry crumbly dough that is fully hydrated. It bakes up with a chewy center and crisp edges. This is my ideal cookie, not a little disc that’s a cake-in-training.

Plan ahead. Fully hydrate your cookie dough before you bake.

(Here’s a great little post on why you should refrigerate your cookie dough.)

muffins. 

Did you know that you can refrigerate muffin batter overnight before baking those muffins? Again, the flours and liquids mingle fully when you do this. Some homemade muffins taste too much of raw flour for my taste. The ones that wait never do.

(And the ones that contain frozen blueberries, like the ones we made for this post, sometimes have a lavender-grey batter from blueberries that burst in the stirring. It doesn’t seem to matter in the final muffin.)

Better yet, you can set up a muffin batter, scoop it into liners, and put them into the tin, then slide them into the refrigerator. The next morning? Put that muffin tin right into a heated oven and bake them. Warm muffins for breakfast.

Some people seem to feel that refrigerating muffin batter overnight makes the muffins a little dense. Do the leaveners dull in the hydration time? I haven’t found that to be true. This conversation on egullet, mostly from professional bakers, seems to bear that out. Danny remembers refrigerating large batches of muffins in his bakshop class in culinary school for baking the next morning. And I know many a professional baker who does this.

If you’re worried about the muffins not rising high enough, you could add just a touch more soda to the recipe before you refrigerate it. (Try another 1/4 teaspoon.) But here’s a tip I love. Bake the muffins at 425° for the first 10 minutes, then drop the temperature to 375° after. The oven spring that comes from the cold muffins meeting the heat of the oven can be pretty spectacular.

Also, a tip I learned from Kim: when the muffins come out of the oven and they’re cooling, turn them on their sides in the tin. It allows the bottoms to cool more fully, immediately.

pancakes

Pancakes always seems to rise up higher and bake more evenly if you make the batter the night before and put it in the refrigerator.

Besides, who wants to make pancake batter on a Saturday morning? Pull it out and start cooking while the kids are watching cartoons. Breakfast!

* * *

There’s much more about hydration I could say, especially when it comes to gluten-free breads.

Instead, I’ll leave you with this thought. When you start baking with our gluten-free flour, or whatever one works for you, you might find as I have that it changes you as a baker. For the better.

When I was first diagnosed with celiac, I threw out all my baking books and cleaned out my pantry of any baking supplies. I was never going to bake again.

You never could have told me that nearly a decade later I’d be talking with a friend who happens to be a tremendous professional baker, in our cooking studio on Vashon. Or that I would be feeding her blueberry muffins and salted oatmeal cookies, gluten-free. Or that as we said our goodbyes, I’d be offering her a couple of boxes of the gluten-free flour that my husband and I developed together to make baking easier for everyone.

Baking can change your life.

 

blueberry muffin batter

oatmeal cookie dough

blueberry muffin batter in tin

baked blueberry muffins

salted oatmeal cookies

Salted Oatmeal Cookies, adapted from Lecia Phinney

I’ve always loved Lecia Phinney’s writing: spare and taut, generously open without being too confessional. It’s possible I’d like to be Lecia when I grow up. She also has incredible taste in recipes, choosing dishes that are artful and unexpected yet accessible for kids. Her blog is a wonderful source of inspiration.

When Lecia posted a recipe for salted oatmeal cookies recently, I jumped up to make them. I adore the homey simplicity of a good oatmeal cookie. Don’t they seem like the perfect after-school snack for a rainy day? But these have the added touch of a pinch of flaky sea salt on the top. Sign me up. These came out so well that we’ve made two batches this week, handing them out to everyone who came to the studio. If you bake them just long enough to let the center set a bit, then a minute or two longer, the edges go crisp like a florentine cookie. It’s pretty easy to imagine making these again and again. 

250 grams (about 1 ¾ cups) gluten-free girl all-purpose gluten-free flour
235 grams (about 2 cups) certified gluten-free rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
220 grams (just shy of 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup coconut sugar (or light brown sugar)
½ cup organic cane sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
coarse sea salt, for sprinkling (we love Maldon salt)

Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for a few moments on medium speed until it is fluffy. Scrape the down the sides of the bowl. Add the brown sugar and cane sugar and mix until they are beautifully combined with the butter. With the mixer running on low, add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat until it has disappeared into the dough.

Finish the dough. With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients. Let the mixer run until the flour and oats are incorporated. The dough should be mixed together well but not too wet. Scrape down the sides of the dough.

Hydrate the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Ideally, let the dough sit in the refrigerator to hydrate fully overnight.

Prepare to bake. Heat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pull the dough out of the refrigerator. It might feel a little crumbly. If you can pinch together some of the dough and it sticks, then you’re good.

Form some of the dough into a golf-sized ball and roll it in your hands. Put it on the parchment paper and flatten it, just a bit. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt over the top of each ball of dough. Repeat with 5 more balls of dough, leaving about 2 inches of space between them.

Bake the cookies. Bake the cookies until they are starting to turn golden and the centers are just setting, about 12 minutes. If you want, you can bake them a few minutes more to get the edges lacy brown and crunchy. Do not overbake the cookies. You want the centers still soft, with the edges crisp.

Take the cookies out of the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.

Makes about 18 cookies.

 

Feel like playing? We haven’t made these dairy-free yet, but I imagine that coconut oil would work well in place of the butter here. A little nutmeg in place of the cinnamon might be great too.

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the store is open.http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/03/buy-our-gluten-free-flour/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/03/buy-our-gluten-free-flour/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 22:51:06 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=10226 The store is open. Our gluten-free flour is here. Danny and I have been working for years to bring you this flour. Nearly 5 years ago, we figured out a formula for a gluten-free all-purpose flour that…

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the flour_

The store is open. Our gluten-free flour is here.

Danny and I have been working for years to bring you this flour. Nearly 5 years ago, we figured out a formula for a gluten-free all-purpose flour that works for the baked goods most home bakers want to make. Our latest cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day uses this flour blend for all its recipes. It also won the prestigious James Beard award. And every time we published a recipe for the formula, or made a video, and gave the flour recipe in that cookbook, people wrote to us to say, “Can’t I just buy it from you?”

Now you can.

This is a great baking flour. Use this flour the way you would any all-purpose wheat flour. It makes great pancakes, cookies, muffins, quick breads, scones, cakes, and pies.

This gluten-free flour blend is free of any additives, preservatives, fillers, emulsifiers, xanthan or other gums. No artificial anything. 

This is an allergy-free flour. This flour blend is dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, corn-free, soy-free, tree-nut-free, and of course, fish and shellfish-free. It’s also guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination from those ingredients.

Our gluten-free flour is made with the ancient grain millet, which is high in protein and magnesium. It also has a natural sweetness and lends a warm taste to baked goods. The flour also contains sweet rice flour, milled from “sticky” rice, which has wonderful binding qualities for gluten-free baked goods. The potato starch in the blend keeps everything moist and light.

And of course, this flour is certified gluten-free.

Once you have this flour in your home, you might want to make some gluten-free biscuits for breakfast. How about some gluten-free pizza for dinner Friday night? You could woo your loved one with these bittersweet chocolate brownies with peanut butter frosting. And we think you’ll want to make this sweet potato-dried cherry cake right away.

We want to help you bake a batch of warm chocolate chip cookies for your family and friends. You don’t want to have to combine flours in a certain ratio before you begin creaming the butter and sugar.

We understand — you want the convenience of a box of flour you trust, ready for you right away. That’s why we’ve been working on creating this flour for you for so many years.

Let’s start baking together. Why not try a box or two today? (You could also buy a case!)

Click here to enter the store.

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a word from our sponsors: morey’s gluten-free smoked salmonhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/03/moreys-gluten-free-smoked-salmon/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/03/moreys-gluten-free-smoked-salmon/#comments Sat, 14 Mar 2015 21:21:35 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=10205 Morey’s Seafood is our latest sponsor. Their smoked salmon and fish creations are gluten-free. We’re pretty crazy about smoked salmon around here. In fact, when I was working today, Danny sent me a photo of…

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Morey's

Morey’s Seafood is our latest sponsor. Their smoked salmon and fish creations are gluten-free.

We’re pretty crazy about smoked salmon around here. In fact, when I was working today, Danny sent me a photo of our little guy in his highchair, looking happy, reaching for another bite of smoked salmon. It’s great food for a growing toddler — high in omega 3 oils, good protein, and ridiculously easy to eat — and adults both. I’d say that Desmond’s diet is mostly smoked salmon some days. He can’t get enough.

We’re lucky in the Pacific Northwest — wild Alaskan salmon is pretty darned easy to find. Danny smokes salmon for us nearly every week in the late spring through autumn. However, whenever we publish a salmon recipe, we hear from readers all across the country. It’s not as easy to find good salmon here. In fact, when we were in New York in January, cooking a dinner party for someone we adore, we had to go to 5 seafood purveyors before we could find wild Alaskan salmon.

That’s why we’re happy to share that Morey’s Seafood is our latest sponsor. These good folks in Minnesota have made great smoked salmon for decades. And now their gluten-free smoked salmon can be in your home too.

We love the classic smoked salmon. (And I love that the smoke flavor comes from actual hickory smoke, not artificial smoke flavoring.) And the tomato-basil smoked salmon was Lucy’s favorite. Danny and I love the peppered smoked salmon — for people not afraid of pepper! — and the Cajun spices, dark and full of flavor. All of Morey’s smoked salmon selections are gluten-free, as are the other smoked fish: smoked whitefish, smoked goldies, and smoked lake trout. (You can see all the smoked fish here.)

Money’s also makes a line of prepared frozen fish dishes, most of which are gluten-free as well.

If you want to eat great smoked salmon, no matter where you live, we recommend Morey’s to you.

We’ll let them tell you about themselves as well.

 

What made you start Morey’s Seafood?

Morey’s roots date back to 1937, when the truck of a fisherman from Lake of the Woods, MN broke down in nearby Motley, MN. Not knowing what to do with his catch, the fisherman traded it to local logger/farmer, Ed Morey, for a load of corn. Ed, as they say, was hooked. From that day on, he was in the fish business and, within a year, built his first smokehouse. The modest 4’x6’ building would be stocked with fish from Lake of the Woods and give Ed a place to hone his craft. The building would eventually grow and, so too, the customer base. Soon, his walleye, northern and perch were being enjoyed in Milwaukee and Chicago.

In 1964, Morey’s became a true family business when Ed’s son, Loren, joined the operation. The business continued to expand, with new processing facilities and smokehouse, as well as retail stores in Brainerd and Motley, MN. Today, Morey’s frozen and smoked fish and seafood can be found in retail stores and dinner tables across the U.S. Morey’s also serves hundreds of fine seafood restaurants across the country.

Beyond our commitment to great products, Morey’s has also lead the charge in commitment to responsible, sustainable practices within our industry. Morey’s is an active member of the National Fisheries Institute and works to make the organization a leading advocate for ensuring a safe, responsible, and sustainable supply of seafood. We still are dedicated to Ed Morey’s original vision: providing a delicious, easy-to-enjoy array of fish and seafood, wherever you live, however you like it.

Why smoked salmon?
Simple — it just tastes great! And because Morey’s has such expertise in smoking. Smoked fish is where the company began.

Why did you work to make sure that the smoked salmon is gluten-free? 
Morey’s wants to appeal to everyone, and whatever we can do to be universally loved by all, regardless of food sensitivities, we do it.

How do you hope to help people? 
Our mission is to provide consumers with quality, satisfying fish and seafood to families’ tables, with unique flavors that are quick and easy to prepare and enhance the seafood experience.

Can you share a story of a customer who has loved your products? 
“I tried your salmon last night. It was outrageously delicious. There is no need to go out when frozen food is THAT good. I am hooked! ;)”
– Dee from TN

 

Morey’s is giving away smoked salmon to three readers of gluten-free girl. Leave a comment here about why you want to win some smoked salmon! Winners will be chosen at random on Friday, March 20th, then notified by email. 

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setting our mise en placehttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/03/building-a-gluten-free-flour-business/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/03/building-a-gluten-free-flour-business/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 05:38:40 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=10186 Update on this post: the flour store is now open!  A few years ago, rumors of something big about to happen swirled around our small town. There’s a Thai restaurant opening on the island! People whispered and…

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Update on this post: the flour store is now open! 

A few years ago, rumors of something big about to happen swirled around our small town. There’s a Thai restaurant opening on the island! People whispered and shouted, wondering if it could be true. A Thai place? On Vashon?

You have to understand — the dining-out options here are a little slim. There are a couple of good places for burgers, a mediocre Chinese place, two terribly mediocre Mexican restaurants, a great taco stand (thank goodness for Zamorana; thank you Jorge and Effie), a  sports bar, a bar across the street that has turned half of the space into a restaurant (inexplicably, they have pretty good sushi), a family-style place right in the heart of town, two pizza joints, a wonderfully homey vegetarian cafe, a sweet little vegan-gluten-free-raw-food place that is super tiny and pretty expensive, and.…we’re out. (Oh, a couple of underground supper clubs, but I can’t tell you about those.) There is a huge restaurant at the center of town where three Indian restaurants in a row tried to make a go (three! you’d think after #2 failed, the third guy might pick another cuisine) and now it has sat empty for years.

So, the rumors swirled, everyone growing more excited as the weeks, then months went by. A Thai restaurant on Vashon? Fact is, even if it had been just okay, the idea of being able to go out on a Saturday night and buy Pad Thai was pretty darned exciting. We were ready.

But the rumors stayed there. Nothing happened. No Thai restaurant. No signs of anything. Discussion boards on Facebook raced with possible signs, then the talk died down. I guess it was just a rumor after all. Want to go out for tacos again? 

And then, there was a mystery. Brown paper went up over the big windows of the little breakfast place in town that had shut down a couple of years before that. Paper! On the window! This must be something. And then there was a piece in the local paper, announcing that the rumors were true. May, who had once run a tremendous Thai restaurant in Seattle, had moved to Vashon. She was opening a Thai restaurant on Vashon. Coming soon.

Huzzahs went up over the island. And then we waited. And waited.

Rumors went around again. She changed her mind. She went on a trip to Thailand for inspiration. Maybe it was never true. Some folks took to stopping in front of the purported future restaurant to peer in a tiny hole in that brown paper, hoping they might see signs of life in there. (We might have been some of those people.) It seemed it would never happen.

And then, one day? A Thai restaurant. We were asked to go to a private, quiet soft launch. Danny and I had a date and walked into a space transformed. The funky old breakfast place had become a Thai escape. May had brought back wood and furniture and walls from a house being torn down in her hometown in Thailand by slow boat. We were somewhere very different than we expected. The meal was magnificent. Nothing mediocre about it. The Thai restaurant was real. And it was tremendous.

May Kitchen has been open for more than a couple of years now. It continues to be one of the best Thai restaurants I have ever eaten in. Everyone on the staff understands gluten-free and celiac, and I always eat well and safely. We don’t eat there often because we can only get a reservation every so often. Not only do islanders eat there, but people come over from Seattle for a meal. This summer, Travel and Leisure magazine named it one of the best Thai restaurants in the country. Good luck getting in now.

They’ve done marvelous things at May since they opened. It took forever to get the place going because May wanted to get everything right. It was worth the wait, of course.

* * *

The last few months have been the steepest learning curve of my life.

When we first imagined having our gluten-free flour packed and packaged for sale, we never imagined shipping those boxes ourselves.

When we imagined our gluten-free all-purpose flour (and later, our grain-free bakers’ blend) in the world, we always had it in our minds that we would carry these flours through a prominent online retailer. Why not trust the shopping, fulfillment, and shipping to an organization that does this every day? After the Kickstarter was successful, thanks to many of you reading, we returned to the logistics of shipping. When we started crunching numbers, we realized that if we sold all 7400 boxes of our gluten-free flour that way, the online retailer would take so much of our money that we would barely have enough money to do a second run of the flours.

So we decided to ship these flours to you ourselves.

While we never imagined putting boxes of flour into the hands of our delivery driver on a regular basis, we’re so happy that we are doing this now. This is a small business, run by a family. We want to do this ourselves. We want to sell to you directly. And we want to hear from our customers about what is working and is not working. We have many friends who run small businesses who have been guides in this process for us. They all say there will be lots of mistakes, times we want to tear our hair out, and enormous learning. Yep. That has already been true. We’ve only barely begun.

But in the end, we trust small businesses. We buy from family businesses. We believe in the handmade and personal. This is the only way for us to go.

The past few months, we’ve been learning more than I thought my brain could hold. Translation? We’ve been scrambling. On top of our regular work, and the proofreading and final recipe testing for American Classics Reinvented (and all four of us battling a bad flu through January!), we have been learning how to build an online shop, talking with our accountant about sales tax and state codes, and having many many brainstorming sessions about our brand and our approach to hospitality and customer service.

Learning shipping software has been the bane of my existence. We tried three different programs, and I was starting to lose hair, until I finally found one that made intuitive sense to me. (And they have actual human beings you can call on the phone! Thank you, ShippingEasy.) And with that, we had to go through two different online store programs, with our website guy (thank you, Eli), before we found the one that would work for our purposes. There were decisions to make about which shipping carrier to use (thank you, USPS), which boxes and padded envelopes would work and ship for the most efficient prices. There were post office boxes strewn on our studio table for days, while we packed and re-packed boxes of flour again and again to see how many we could fit in flat rate boxes.

Oh, and 7400 boxes of our flour arrived. We all cried a few happy tears that day.

Meanwhile, we’ve been working with trusted friends and new colleagues, a team slowly forming to sit at that studio table and make decisions that will take our business far into the future. (We hope.) We’ve been talking to grocery brokers and people who run food shows and other folks in the food business who want to help us succeed. Those are ongoing conversations, just beginning. We hired a new accountant, a bookkeeper, someone to teach us Quickbooks, and listened to the stories of countless friends who started small businesses successfully and those who have closed theirs for various reasons. Slowly, we’re gathering a group around us, a group of people far more knowledgeable about their area of passion than we could ever be. We’re not just trying to run a successful business. We truly want to help other people do the work they love.

(Thank you, again and again, Trish.)

I’ve learned a new language, once completely foreign to me: COGS, gross profit margins, B&O tax in Washington state, federal tax deadlines for s corps. There have been countless subscriptions we have to buy to commerce sites, email newsletter sites, plug-ins, and a thousand other online things that make this all possible. It is unfathomable how much money you have to spend to start a small business.

(Please buy gluten-free flour from us!)

Then there were nearly 600 boxes of flour to send to those of you who supported our Kickstarter. Last week, we had 200 padded envelopes filled with flour boxes on that studio table nearly every day.

(There are still 146 left to go. They will be to you soon.)

And let me tell you this: I am not complaining. I have found these past few months exhilarating. Scary as hell sometimes. I’m not going to lie. But unbelievably awake and alive.

As I have listend to podcasts (Invisibilia! Sex Death and Money! Radiolab! RuPaul!), I have been humming a little as I go. It turns out I like spending part of the day stuffing flour boxes into padded envelopes and boxes. As I stuffed envelopes and printed out labels, I imagined the boxes in the kitchens of homes in Kalamazoo, Sarasota, Morro Bay, and Portland, Maine. And I thrilled to think of so many of you cooking and baking with this gluten-free flour.

You see, if we truly loved any of the gluten-free flours out there, we would have long ago created an affiliate program with them, promoted them in every post, and made our money that way. We truly believe this is the best gluten-free flour out there. And we want you to have the convenience of opening up one of these boxes and start baking with your kids.

But beyond that, personally? I like this work. So does Danny. (He’s helping with the boxes too, but he’s mostly holding down the home front right now, organizing our lives, and taking care of Desmond. A tremendously curious nearly 1-year-old does not like NPR podcasts or staying at the studio all day while his parents run their business. He deserves time at the playground and music groups and long naps. When Lucy was a baby, Danny was working late into the night at restaurants. This time, Danny is the primary caregiver. And the cook, the scheduler, and the best ear and occasionally shoulder to cry on this woman could ever imagine.) I like putting flour boxes into padded envelopes. My days are much more practical these days. I quit Facebook in the middle of these months. I didn’t need the distraction anymore. I don’t waste time tooling around the internet anymore. I have work to do.

I go to bed every night exhausted. But happy. I never wonder anymore if I have done enough productive work that day. All this work is necessary before we open for business. It’s just like setting up mise en place before we start to cook. Without that planning and preparation, there is chaos.

And as I told my friend Trish yesterday, “I feel like I am wearing many heads these days.” I meant hats, of course. But really, I feel as though I have grown several new heads. All this learning is firing my neurons. indeed. I’m loving this.

Of course, I’ll love it even more when the store is open and we can finally sell you this gluten-free flour.

Stay tuned, folks. In a couple of days, we’re about to take the paper off the windows of this business.

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mise en place for sweet potato cake

hazelnuts for sweet potato cake

sweet potato cake

Sweet Potato-Cherry Bundt Cake, adapted from David Leibovitz, who adapted it from Alice Medrich

We want you to know this: you can use our gluten-free flour for nearly anything you want to bake.

The other day, I saw that David Lebovitz, one of my favorite food writers and recipe developers, adapted a cake by Alice Medrich, another of my favorite food writers and recipe developers. (In fact, Alice came to bake with us in December, an experience I still haven’t shared with you. But I will.) I love how this community can help each other create cakes. Alice made a meticulous recipe. David made it his own. We made it gluten-free. Now, you can make it for your family.

This isn’t a light, fluffy cake, like a birthday cake that came from a box mix. It’s my favorite kind —— dense and moist and filled with plump dried fruits and nuts. This is a cake with heft. David made it in two loaf pans, but he mentioned the possibility of making it in a bundt pan. I ran with that. I hummed while I roasted the sweet potato, toasted the hazelnuts, and soaked the dried sour cherries in honeyed water. There was no rush. I had a plan. After lunch today with a team of people helping us to envision this website overhauled, and the flours out in the world, I passed out pieces of this cake as an end note to a great discussion. Everyone agreed —— more, please.

And no one mentioned the fact that it was gluten-free and dairy-free.

115 grams (about 2/3 cup) dried cherries
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup water
225 grams (about 1 3/4 cup) gluten-free girl all-purpose flour blend
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
200 grams (1 cup) organic cane sugar
90 grams (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
75 grams coconut oil, melted
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup sweet potato puree
125 grams (1 cup) toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Prepare the cherries. Chop the cherries as finely as you can. Drizzle the cherries with the honey, then cover with warm water. Let the cherries sit for 30 minutes, then drain the cherries. Save the water. Set aside.

Prepare to bake. Heat the oven to 350°. Grease a bundt pan liberally with coconut oil.

Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

Make the batter. Whisk together the cane sugar and coconut sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the mixer running on low, add the egg. When they are light and fluffy together, drizzle in the melted coconut oil and mix until coherent. Mix in the lemon zest.

Finish the batter. With the mixer running on low, pour in 1/2 of the dry ingredients, then the sweet potato puree, then the rest of the dry ingredients. Add the cherries and hazelnuts, then drizzle in the leftover honeyed water until the cake batter is light and pourable.

Bake the cake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top of the cake has started to brown, the edges are pulling ever-so-slightly away from the sides, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before removing it from the bundt pan. Serve immediately.

Feeds 12.

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meet our sponsors: walkers shortbreadhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/03/meet-our-sponsors-walkers-shortbread/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/03/meet-our-sponsors-walkers-shortbread/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 06:31:37 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=10148 Walkers shortbread now makes three gluten-free flavors: classic butter shortbread, chocolate chip shortbread, and ginger and lemon shortbread. Walker’s gluten-free shortbread. I should really just stop there. I’m assuming you’re already calling your grocery store…

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walker's shortbread

Walkers shortbread now makes three gluten-free flavors: classic butter shortbread, chocolate chip shortbread, and ginger and lemon shortbread. Walker’s gluten-free shortbread.

I should really just stop there. I’m assuming you’re already calling your grocery store to see if they have any in stock.

Walker’s shortbread has always been my favorite packaged cookie. They taste of butter and crumble in the mouth softly. Even when I was a kid, I knew that almost every cookie that came in a bag or box was artificially flavored or strangely made, since they tasted nothing like the cookies my mother made from scratch occasionally. But Walkers shortbread? I could never make a shortbread as good as their original. Since they’ve been making these cookies in the Scottish highlands since 1898, they clearly know what they are doing.

So when I found out that Walkers is now making gluten-free shortbread, I was happy to try them. These shortbread taste exactly like the original to me and Danny (and remember, he can eat gluten). Shortbread doesn’t suffer from a lack of gluten. Traditional Scottish shortbread usually contains a portion of rice flour anyway, to give the familiar shortbread texture. This gluten-free shortbread is good shortbread.

And we’re happy to say that Walkers is our latest sponsor.

When the good folks at Walkers asked us to come up with a recipe using their gluten-free shortbread? You bet. Just another excuse to eat more of their gluten-free shortbread.

walker's shortbread tart

lemon tart with a ginger-lemon shortbread crust

When we first tasted the ginger-lemon shortbread from Walkers, Danny and I were both elated. I was happy because this gluten-free shortbread sang with my two favorite flavors: ginger and lemon. Danny immediately started thinking about a lemon tart with this as the crust. 

Really, you can’t go wrong here. A quick tart crust with cookie crumbs and melted butter, and a batch of homemade lemon curd? Take a few spoonfuls of this lemon curd to enjoy as you stand by the sink, then save the rest for this tart. Trust us. The wait will be worth it. 

for the crust
2 4.9 ounce packages Walkers ginger and lemon shortbread
1/3 cup melted butter
1 large egg (optional)

for the lemon curd
6 large lemons, zested and juiced
1 1/2 cups fine white sugar (also known as baking sugar)
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, a bit softened
6 large eggs
6 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

 

Make the shortbread crust. Pulse the shortbread cookies in the bowl of a food processor until they are crushed into crumbs. With the food processor running, add the melted butter until the mixture comes together. (If you feel the crumbs just aren’t holding together enough, you can add the egg. Some folks do. It makes for a more solid crust, which some read as tough.) Pat the mixture into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using your fingers or the back of ramekin, gently press the shortbread crumbs together in the pan. Even off any stray bits at the top of the tart pan. Bake in a 350° oven until the tart crust was firm to the touch and starting to get a bit of color on it, 8 to 10 minutes. Take it out of the oven and let it cool.

Make lemon sugar for the lemon curd. Add the lemon zest and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until they are clumping together and smell like a bright winter day, about 5 minutes.

Cream the butter and sugar. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter to the lemon sugar. Run the mixer until the butter and sugar are combined thoroughly and are fluffy, about 5 minutes.
With the mixer running, add the eggs one at a time, then the yolks one at a time. Pour in the lemon juice and mix, then the salt. The mixture should be a thick liquid, quite yellow and coherent.

Cook the lemon curd. Pour the liquid into a large pot set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid thickens. At first, you might think it will never happen. Keep stirring, constantly at this point, to avoid curdling. After 10 minutes or so, the curd will suddenly thicken, pull away from the edges of the pot a bit, and bubble vigorously. (You can also use a candy thermometer to take the curd to 170°.) Stick a spoon into the curd. When you drag your finger down the back of the spoon, does it leave a clean trail? You’re done. Pull the pot off the heat.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the lemon curd and stir until the mixture is smooth (emulsified).

Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the zest. (Skip this step if you don’t mind the bits of zest on your teeth.) Refrigerate the lemon curd until it is cold.

Finish the lemon tart. Gently spread the cold lemon curd into the crust. Smooth out the top with a rubber spatula. Chill the tart in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Working slowly, push up on the bottom of the tart pan to separate the tart from the pan. Serve.

Makes 10 to 12 slices.

 

Walker’s is happy to give away three packages of the gluten-free shortbread to three readers of this site. Leave a comment about why you would like to win here. Winners will be chosen at random on Friday, March 6th. 

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life obligeshttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/02/life-obliges/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/02/life-obliges/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 05:38:11 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=10137 On Sunday afternoon, along with more than 100 people from our island community, we attended the memorial for a woman we adore. After battling cancer three times in her life, pernicious pneumonia set in. After a…

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On Sunday afternoon, along with more than 100 people from our island community, we attended the memorial for a woman we adore. After battling cancer three times in her life, pernicious pneumonia set in. After a few days at the hospital, so did reality. There was one decision to make: die in the hospital, connected to breathing tubes and the means to keep her alive for weeks, or go home to die, surrounded by the people she loved most. She made it home.

I could write an entire piece about this woman, who was a force of nature, a fiercely kind being who wanted nothing more than to connect good people together. She was mighty. She laughed easily and looked you right in the eye. She was a biochemist for decades, a scientist deeply dedicated to rigorous truth, and a mystic at the same time. She believed in the complexities of human beings and she was comfortable in the unknown. In her retirement, she volunteered for arts organizations, health organizations, and as many charities as she could. She was sharp as a tack and fully alive.

Lucy, who adored this woman too, chose her own outfit for the memorial: a floppy pink sun hat, a gauzy purple scarf, sparkly tights, and a dress that said smile on the front. (Danny was so struck by the light that he had to take the photo above.) Believe me, our friend would have loved this outfit.

It was the right tone, too. Our friend’s son sent out a message in advance of the memorial: sadness is understandable, and please feel free to feel sad. But promise us that your joy at having known her will be 1% bigger than the grief. We all listened to him. This was the most joyful memorial I have ever attended.

Her son shared something that has been rumbling around in my mind ever since. He said that his mother gave him this quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez:  ”.…human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but.…life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

I think I sighed hard when I heard him read this quote. (And then I laughed when he said, “Yeah, my mom gave this quote to me when I was 8, so that probably tells you something.”) These words, they rush through me, because this is how I feel about my own children. I’m here for them, but they will give birth to themselves, many times over. That’s their job. I’ll just be here to hear their stories and hold their hands when they need it.

That’s my job for myself too.

When I was a kid, my dad told me a fact that astounded me: every cell in our body regenerates itself, so that every seven years, we are essentially a new person. (It turns out that’s a bit of an urban myth but isn’t everything more nuanced than it seems?) I grew up with the feeling that I was constantly changing, never the same. I’ve always felt that my biggest task is to get out of my own way and let the great shifts happen. Just let the next birth happen.

Birth is hard. But the first year after birth might be even more confusing. Next month, Desmond will be one year old. We’ve watched him open his eyes wide and take it all in. Then he learned to smile. And then sleep. There were movements from his back, then he flipped himself over. The day after our Kickstarter was done, he started crawling for the first time. And now, he’s just about to walk. I give him a couple of weeks until those first wobbly steps happen.

It makes us laugh now to think that we’ve been going through a similar first year, with our new gluten-free flour business. It was a long gestation. This past year, all those dreams came into reality in a small white box. This week, all the Kickstarter reward boxes of flour are going out. Within a week or two, we’ll have the flour for sale on this site. I bet it’s the same day Desmond takes his first steps.

There have been times this year that Danny and I have both felt like babies, unable to even roll over. This has all been new territory. It has been terrifying at times. We’ve reinvented ourselves, not only by starting a small business (what the heck do we know about this? we’ve wanted to cry out at times) but by seeing ourselves in this new light. I cannot count the number of intense conversations we’ve had together, and with people we trust, about what we want to do in this world, and what we want to give, and how we want to be, as people. This really isn’t about making money.

I love the verb Marquez used there: “..life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” Obliges. Not encourages or hopes or offers. But obliges. What other choice do we have to change when all the cells in our body are transforming themselves as I type? We must give birth to ourselves. There is no other choice. So what if those first steps are wobbly? We’re alive.

Look, I’ll be honest. I read this draft a dozen times before I decided to publish this. What kind of hell blog post is this for a gluten-free food site? We all share this sort of unspoken understanding that food blogs are pleasant places, with pieces that aren’t too long, sometimes extolling the virtues of a certain food, mostly sharing stories about gatherings and small revelations and connections with people. It’s what I write most of the time. But sometimes, that template just feels too constricting.

We don’t have a recipe for you this week. We’ve been busy learning shipping software (wobbly steps! I wanted to throw a tantrum at times!) and packing boxes for shipping and starting to make this thing we have been dreaming about into muscle memory. I could have told you stories about that and posted a link to an old recipe.

But all of this has been drifting through my mind often this week. And for months. We don’t have just one life and then a death. They aren’t divided. There are, without a doubt, a thousand deaths and births while we’re here. I think the best way to live through them is to talk about it and share it with each other. Why are we so afraid of talking about death? 

Finding out you have to be gluten-free doesn’t have to be a tragedy. It could just be your latest birth.

To participate in this life. That’s what our friend did. She participated in life.

I hope that when I go out I have the chance to die as clear-minded and loving as our friend did.

And I thank her son for reminding me of another fact my dad taught me when I was young, through a video his mom loved and shared with him: in the end, we’re all stardust anyway.

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a word from our sponsors: bob’s red mill 8-grain hot cerealhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/02/bobs-8-grain-hot-cereal/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/02/bobs-8-grain-hot-cereal/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 04:14:00 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=10129 Bob’s Red Mill is the one brand of gluten-free food that has been in my home from the time I was first diagnosed in 2005 until today. Honestly. Other brands have come and gone —…

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Bob's cereal

Bob’s Red Mill is the one brand of gluten-free food that has been in my home from the time I was first diagnosed in 2005 until today. Honestly. Other brands have come and gone — there were plenty of foods I ate those first couple of years that I never ate again once I taught myself how to bake without gluten — but Bob’s always stays.

This is why we’re so happy that Bob’s Red Mill has been a sponsor of this site for years.

And recently, we added this 8-grain hot cereal from Bob’s to our family’s breakfast routine.

Bob’s Red Mill 8-Grain hot cereal is hearty, filling, and easy to make.  It’s more complex in its taste and texture than most hot cereal, since it contains stone ground corn, oats, brown rice, soy beans, oat bran, millet, sorghum, sunflower seeds, and flaxseed. A couple of mornings a week, we cook some up in our rice cooker (you can also use a pot on the stove) and scoop some out in bowls before taking Lucy to kindergarten in the morning. She loves apple slices and almond milk on hers. I like honey and pistachios, with a bit of dried apricots. Danny likes brown sugar, raisins, and salted sunflower seeds on his. Desmond has his plain right now, but he’ll want more toppings later.

Sometimes, I’ll make a double batch. After breakfast, I spread the leftover hot cereal into a buttered square baking pan and set it in the fridge. When it’s cold, I cut it into squares and cook them up in olive oil in a skillet, a little like fried polenta.

Bob’s took the care to make some small adjustments to make their 8-grain hot cereal gluten-free. They make it in their gluten-free facility now as well. We’re thrilled. We bet you will be too.

Bob’s Red Mill is giving away a package of their 8-grain hot cereal to three readers of this site. Leave a comment about why you would be interested in winning this. Winners will be chosen at random on Friday, February 27th and notified by email.

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Meet Our Sponsors: WEDO banana flourhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/02/meet-our-sponsors-wedo-banana-flour/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/02/meet-our-sponsors-wedo-banana-flour/#comments Sun, 22 Feb 2015 06:19:42 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=10071 Banana flour. Who knew? Banana flour. I never imagined this unusual flour would be one of my favorite for baking. Why? Banana flour is kind of magic. I’m not kidding. It’s pretty much magic. Banana flour…

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banana flour I

Banana flour.

Who knew? Banana flour. I never imagined this unusual flour would be one of my favorite for baking. Why?

Banana flour is kind of magic. I’m not kidding. It’s pretty much magic.

Banana flour was brought to the United States for the first time last year by a company called WEDO Banana Flour. Like us, they did a successful Kickstarter campaign to bring the flour to market. Originally produced in Kenya, this flour made of dehydrated green bananas is now produced in South America and brought to the United States. Why would anyone do this?

It turns out that green bananas, because they are not sweet at all, are high in starches. (And that includes resistant starch, a category of foods we’re just starting to understand are good for the gut.) Banana flour doesn’t really taste like bananas. There’s maybe a tiny hint of them. Instead, the flour has a slight earthiness to it, like wheat bran. And it actually acts like wheat in some cases.

I’m seeing some remarkable baked goods come out of our oven when we add a small percentage of banana flour to our All-Purpose Flour or our Grain-Free Flour Blend. Sometimes, we use more. Last week, we made the buckwheat pancakes recipe from Joy of Cooking, using raw buckwheat flour instead of the toasted stuff that is the norm. And we used 1/2 cup of the banana flour instead of the 1 cup of wheat AP flour in the recipe. A little coconut sugar, some buttermilk, and some butter we browned. There’s a warm, nutty taste to buckwheat, brown butter, and banana flour we thought might play well together.

We love these pancakes. We’ve made them three more times since. These pancakes are Desmond’s favorite food. (See recipe below.)

So we’re happy to announce that WEDO Banana Flour is the latest sponsor of this site. We’re truly excited about introducing this food to you.

We’ll let David Wintzer, one of the co-founders of WEDO Banana Flour, tell you more.

 

What compelled you to import banana flour to the US?
Co-creator David Wintzer was working with a group of Kenyan women distributing micro-loans through a non-profit. One of the women David was working with had a small factory that made banana flour, flour made from unripe green bananas. It was green bananas peeled, sliced, dehydrated and milled into flour. In an effort to help these women David came home and approached high school friend Todd Francis with the idea, after having the product tested and knowing it was gluten-free, the idea was born to bring banana flour back to the US and create a viable business, WEDO banana flour.

Why is it important to you that it’s gluten-free?
Not knowing much about gluten when the idea of this business was sparked reading about the effects David told his mother whom had suffered from chronic head aches for 20+ years. Once telling his mom about migraines being a side effect of gluten intolerance David’s mom went GF. Five years later, she’s migraine free. As things developed, David discovered his step-daughter had a family history of gluten intolerance and sure enough, gluten was affecting her well being. David, Todd and their families have fully adopted a gluten free lifestyle.

What are the most interesting qualities of the banana flour?

1. Since we use unripe green bananas the sugar content hasn’t fully developed so the product doesn’t taste like bananas. It has an earthy, wholewheat like flavor. It mimics “gluten-like” products remarkably well in taste and texture which allows for it to be a versatile product. Because of the high starch content you can do almost anything with this flour, you can batter, thicken soups and gravies, boost morning smoothie and bake almost anything, all of this without altering the flavor of your creations.

2. Banana flour has a property in it called resistant starch (RS2) which is a pre-biotic which aids digestion by passing the small intestine and going straight to the large intestine. It “resist” digestion and feeds the good bacteria in the gut. However, RS has to be eaten in it’s raw form, once you cook RS above 140 degrees F. you lose the majority or the RS.

Can you tell us a story of a customer who has loved the flour?

I have pasted a (long) testimonial from one of our customers. Some of our best success stories come from those who are diabetic, have digestion problems and can’t process grains. The problem/solution goes beyond gluten, it’s rooted to ulcers, diabetes, autism and much much more.

“We have two kids who have autoimmune problems galore, and it has stressed my health on top of my own medical problems. We have been off GMOs, pharma, and anything else possibly damaging, and our entire family (5 kids, myself and hubby) for about 5 years now, and we have ALL benefitted. This product of yours is HIGHLY influencing our health. I am so sick and due to being severely sick, I also am highly sensitive which is not a bad thing — I can tell what bothers me almost immediately. And, I can also tell what makes me feel better. When I take your product, my body .… just feels good. One of my sons says he feels the same way with your product and he loves the green banana flour, as he is in college and can blend it as a smoothie and take every day or so. It is key for feeding our good gut bacteria and defending our bodies.

I just want you to know how important your product is — I’m sure you know but truly, there are so many of us parents with kids having autoimmune and all kinds of disorders and you cannot imagine the suffering we go through with our kids. Nonetheless, we are a strong network and every so often we find a product that is key. I believe your product is very fitting for many of us and I guess I am writing this to show you that you are doing a really good thing for so many. THANK YOU!!!”

Thank you, David and Todd, for bringing banana flour to the United States.

And to our kitchen.

 

The folks at WEDO Banana Flour would like to offer a package of banana flour to three of our readers. Leave a comment here about why you might be interested in this to be eligible for the giveaway. Winners will be chosen at random on Friday, February 27th, then notified by email. 

 

Buckwheat-banana-brown butter pancakes

1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 cup light buckwheat flour
1/2 cup WEDO banana flour
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk

Brown the butter. Set a small pot over low heat. Add the butter. Let the butter melt, then come to a simmer. Keep an eye on the butter as you keep heating it, letting the edges come to a boil. There might be some spattering as the water in the butter starts to evaporate. Raise the heat to medium and give the pot a swirl to prevent any places from burning. After about 5 minutes, the butter will start foaming on the top and release a nutty smell. You’ll see parts of the butter at the bottom of the pan start to brown. Watch the pot carefully, swirling it sometimes. Watch the butterfat solids on the bottom of the pot and let them get as brown as you wish. Be careful — it’s so easy to burn butter. Take the pot off the heat immediately and set it aside in a cooler place. When the butter has cooled, pour it into a small bowl.

Beat the egg whites. Crack the eggs. Separate the yolks and the whites. Set aside the yolks in a small bowl. With a whisk, or better yet in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs to stiff peaks, which takes about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the mixer and let the egg whites sit for a moment.

Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the buckwheat flour, banana flour, coconut sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Make the batter. Whisk together the buttermilk, egg yolks, and cooled brown butter. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, stir them together gently until there are no more dry patches of flour visible. Fold in the egg whites, gently.

Let the batter sit. For best results, let the batter sit for 30 minutes before making the pancakes. This allows all the ingredients to hydrate and come together. (Letting the batter sit overnight in the refrigerator makes even better pancakes.)

The batter will be a little thicker than traditional pancake batter. If you put a spoon into the batter, then lift it high in the air, you’ll watch the batter trail downward from the spoon slowly. This will make a good pancake. However, if you like thinner pancakes, add more buttermilk.

Cook the pancakes. You know how to make pancakes, right? Low heat. 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Nonstick griddle or a little butter or coconut oil in a skillet on the stove. The first batch is always a little wonky. Keep adjusting the heat as the griddle or skillet grow hotter. This should make you quite a few batches of great pancakes.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen pancakes.

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dating him againhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/02/dating-him-again/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/02/dating-him-again/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 06:27:09 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=10085 You lose a lot when you have children. You lose sleep, of course. Everyone knows that. Well, you think you know that until you are dragging through the day, the 14th day in a row,…

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Date Night In VI

You lose a lot when you have children.

You lose sleep, of course. Everyone knows that. Well, you think you know that until you are dragging through the day, the 14th day in a row, with no real end in sight, reaching for coffee again and hoping for a nap. For years, when our daughter was less than 5 years old, Danny and I took turns being depleted of sleep every other night. She just had to dance, even at 3 am when she awoke from a dream. She still dances, everywhere, but it seems to sufficiently exhaust her now that she sleeps through the night. In fact, she started sleeping solidly, arm stretched out over her head in a graceful arc, just before her baby brother arrived. We’re right back to sleeping in fits and stages again.

You lose more than sleep when you have small children, however. You lose shirts without food stains on them. You lose the ability to drink an entire cup of hot coffee, slowly, without interruption. You lose conversations without interruptions. If you’re an introvert, like me, you lose the quiet space to gather your thoughts without having to answer a question or fetch a glass of water or hear again, “Mama! He’s touching my stuff!” You lose quiet. You lose the chance to read an entire newspaper in one sitting. You lose the ability to read more than a 1200-word essay, on the phone, while hiding in the bedroom for a few moments while your partner takes the helm. And at the end of the day, there’s another night of interrupted night’s sleep.

Life is full of loss. Everything changes.

These kids are worth the interruptions, the lack of sleep. Now, with Desmond here, the noise is doubled and the joy is quadrupled. This evening at dinner, we sat together eating butternut squash soup with coconut and curry, a quinoa salad with endive and cucumbers, soft Italian cheese, salami, and homemade bread. Desmond opened his mouth wide, asking for another spoonful of the soup. He closed his eyes and licked his lips and then opened his mouth again, like a baby bird. If I turned toward Danny to laugh about his expression of pleasure, Desmond slapped his hand on his highchair, demanding my attention. Lucy ate her soup too, giggling at Desmond, then pretending to be Laura from Little House on the Prairie again. “Ma, can I bring in some more butter and milk from the barn after dinner?” Danny’s chair broke underneath him — it had been feeling rickety for weeks — and he fell backwards. We all checked to make sure he was fine, then Lucy and I started laughing. “Nice pratfall, Dad!” Lucy shouted and Danny started laughing too. Lu and I cleared the table, and did the dishes while Danny fed more soup to the still-insistent baby. She asked me why we have electricity at the beginning of the talk while she helped me do the dishes. Later, she wanted to know why we have feet. Back at the table, Danny and Lucy and I enjoyed a little piece of bittersweet brownies with salted peanut butter frosting. Desmond ate almost an entire banana. Lucy grabbed her top hat and wooden stick horse and galloped through the dining room, begging us to sing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds to her. We did, Danny out of tune (singing another tune, really) and Desmond clapping. Lucy danced. We sang Ob La Di Ob La Da to Desmond, whose eyes always go wide when he hears his name. He started bopping his head around, dancing, just like his sister. Danny and I looked at each other and just started laughing, singing louder. Who would trade quiet for this?

When I had the quiet hours to read the newspaper, more than a decade ago, I felt a little lonely there, wishing for someone else to share those stories. Now, there are no shortage of stories. And no shortage of small people opening my heart simply by being here, in the moments I start to think too much about myself.

Still, there’s one loss that seems inevitable, unless you work against it. It’s easy to lose the romance with the love of your life when you have children. You have a fellow dishwasher, someone with whom to tag team on the diaper changes, a lovely warm body to cuddle against as you watch an hour of television before climbing into bed. But someone who wants to woo you? That can disappear.

After 39 years of being alive, Danny came along, and I wrote every day about the joy, the joy!, of knowing him, finally. We had a year and a half together, dating each other, falling deeply in love with each other, and making a life together before Lucy was born. Sometimes I miss him now.

We spend every day together. We parent together. We work together. We write cookbooks together. We have started a business together. We talk about everything, everything, together. And I love this closeness, the nearness of him right now as I write this. But it’s awfully easy for our days to become a tangle of to-do lists, carpools, grocery trips, and endless conversations about the best way to ship boxes of flour and doing our taxes. But the romance? That we have to work at, when we can.

That’s one of the reasons I love Ashley Rodriguez’s beautiful new cookbook, Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship. Our friends Ashley and her husband Gabe are both incredibly talented, kind people, and Danny and I adore them both.  (You might know Ashley’s wonderful blog, Not Without Salt.) Ashley is a phenomenal photographer and former pastry chef. This woman knows how to cook. I love most what she wrote in the introduction to her book, about the routine they settled into in the evenings after the kids were finally asleep.

“It was in those quiet hours that I started to notice a very un–romantic routine forming. Gabe would retreat to his computer and I to mine. After a long day spent caring for three small children, I had nothing more to give; I felt like this time was mine. But the neglect to our marriage started to become clear, as we began to feel more like roommates than husband and wife.…It was then that I decided things had to change. We needed more than the quarterly date we were trying to squeeze into our budget and our schedule. Our finances were tight, and babysitters were not lining up at the door eager to hang out with our three young children. We had to get creative. So we turned to our modest kitchen as a new, romantic setting where we could begin to date again.”

This inspiring cookbook is a series of menus that Ashley created for Gabe on their date nights in. He put the kids to bed and she made a three-course meal to share together, meals like this: spiced cider toddy; brussels sprouts slaw with grapes and feta; white bean and pumpkin gratin with crispy shallot crumbs; and grandma’s apple cake with maple cream.

That’s my kind of date. And Danny’s.

We’ve been so inspired by Ashley’s lovely cookbook that we’re starting our own date night routine. Starting this week, I’ll put the kids to bed early (Lucy, go to sleep!) and Danny will spend the evening cooking for us. These will be dishes no one else will see. No recipe testing. No Instagram photos. Just a man cooking for the woman he loves and a woman grateful for this food. We used to share  a meal like this every night, after midnight most nights. We never make it up to midnight these days. But the two of us? We’re going to have meals without interruptions, with no talk of work, and no phones.

I’ll try not to spill food on my shirt.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about Saturday nights again.

 

Date Night In I

Date Night In III

Date Night In IV

Date Night In V

Date Night In II

Date Night In VII

Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting,
adapted from Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship

If your mouth is watering just looking at this photo, wait until you taste these brownies. They are super dark fudgy chocolate brownies, with a crackly top and the crisp edges people fight over as they come out of the pan. I’ve made brownies I love before but these are the best. (Ashley! Brown butter in brownies? Stop.) They would be enough. But topped with a creamy peanut butter frosting and flaky sea salt? Stick a fork in me. I’m done. 

Oh, and the fact that these brownies contain no gluten is lovely too. 

brownies
3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
90 grams unsweetened chocolate (we used bittersweet chocolate chips)
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder
1/2 cup (70 grams) gluten-free girl all-purpose flour blend  

frosting
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (100 grams) smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup (40 grams) powdered sugar
flaky sea salt

Prepare to bake. Heat oven to 325°. Line an 8x8 square baking pan with two long pieces of parchment paper so a couple of inches of paper hang over all sides. Liberally grease the parchment paper.

Brown the butter. Brown the butter. Set a small pot over low heat. Add the butter. Let the butter melt, then come to a simmer. Keep an eye on the butter as you keep heating it, letting the edges come to a boil. There might be some spattering as the water in the butter starts to evaporate. Raise the heat to medium and give the pot a swirl to prevent any places from burning. After about 5 minutes, the butter will start foaming on the top and release a nutty smell. You’ll see parts of the butter at the bottom of the pan start to brown. Watch the pot carefully, swirling it sometimes. Watch the butterfat solids on the bottom of the pot and let them get as brown as you wish, about 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful — it’s so easy to burn butter. Take the pot off the heat immediately and pour the butter into a large bowl.

Make the batter. Add the chopped chocolate (or in this case, chocolate chips) to the brown butter. Let them sit for a moment, then whisk them together. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla while the the butter is still warm, stirring until the sugar has melted entirely. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, then the salt until everything is blended into one color. Slowly add the cocoa powder and flour to the batter. Fold them all together with a rubber spatula.

Bake the brownies. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the brownies cool to room temperature. (I know. It’s hard.)

Make the frosting. Put the butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip them together until you have a light and fluffy frosting, about 3 minutes.

Frost the brownies with the peanut butter frosting and crunch the flaky salt on top, as you will.

Makes 12 to 15 brownies.

 

Feel like playing? We haven’t tried this yet, but I’m pretty sure that coconut oil would be a great substitution for the butter if you can’t eat dairy. This peanut butter frosting would be great on a chocolate cake for a birthday party someday.

As Ashley writes in her cookbook: “I realize that some people like a more cake-like top. So, here’s a way to please both with this one recipe. If you like the crackly top, follow the recipe above; if you prefer your brownies without the crackly top, simple add the eggs when you add the sugar. The crackly top comes when the sugar has a chance to melt before it bakes.”

 

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a ritual to feed each otherhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/02/gluten-free-pizza-dough/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2015/02/gluten-free-pizza-dough/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 23:51:32 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=10055 I’ve been thinking a lot about ritual lately. So much of life is repetition. Do the laundry. Pay the bills. Tackle the dishes. Set the alarm. Think about waking up earlier to exercise before the sun…

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pizza dough I

I’ve been thinking a lot about ritual lately.

So much of life is repetition. Do the laundry. Pay the bills. Tackle the dishes. Set the alarm. Think about waking up earlier to exercise before the sun rises. Hit the snooze. Drive to work.

Repetition is necessary, of course. There’s no way to learn how to drive that car, and feel competent enough to drive down the highway without clutching the steering wheel in terror, without doing it over and over again. Muscle memory is where the imagination kicks in. I’m glad I don’t have to think anymore about how to put the car into park.

But so much of repetition can seem like tedium if I approach it the wrong way. When you have a baby, and you spend part of every day picking up board books and bright plastic toys, and putting them into the basket again, and then again, and then again, you sort of start longing sometimes for a fresh start. When you cook every day, you see the same dishes in the sink that need rinsing and a run through the dishwasher. Really? That orange bowl again? Anything new sounds alluring. A sandy beach or warm sun on the face. Or even a quick takeout meal.

I can fall into this rut. When I’m sleep deprived or stressed out or doing anything that keeps me from being here, I long for innovation. Let’s create something new, right now!

This often results in Danny and I taking on too much, juggling so fast that the tasks themselves are a blur, the motion the guiding principle instead of the fleeting feeling of each ball landing in our hands. And generally, the balls fall down around our ears pretty quickly.

Instead of resenting repetition, I’ve been thinking about ritual.

One of my favorite poems in the world is William Stafford’s “A Ritual to Read to Each Other.” I must have read it, to myself and out loud to someone I love, at least 300 times. Every time, I hear it more deeply, the life I have lived meeting the words he left on the page long ago. The ritual of reading that poem has informed my life.

Ritual feels like mindful repetition. Instead of thinking Oh man, I have to do the dishes again? I try to breathe and feel my way to the kitchen. That time before the sink can be meditative if I walk in there the same time every day, the light fading from the sky. Lucy has her 30 minutes of tv time after school. Desmond is playing with metal bowls on the kitchen floor. And I can put my hands in warm water and hum under my breath as I scrub at that pan again. Muscle memory kicks in. I’m doing something with my body not my brain. And a stubborn problem that had been scraping at my mind seems to gently lift away along with the crusted food scraps on that skillet.

There are blessings in the everyday.

For years, Danny and I made a new dish for dinner every night. After years of working in restaurants, prepping the same dishes every day, Danny loved the freedom to cook whatever he wanted. I was liberated from gluten and found a new world of food. There were always new recipes to test. Why make lasagna again when I could play with kohlrabi and lamb sausage? Heck with repetition! Let’s never eat the same thing twice!

And then Lucy grew old enough to tell us she wanted pizza more than once.

When Lu was just before 5, she started complaining about our constant innovation. She wanted the comfort of knowing she would eat a food she loved more often than never again. Danny and I started talking about our food memories from when we were kids and realized our fondest memories circled around the dishes we ate dozens and dozens of times. His mom’s corned beef. My mom’s green chile chicken enchiladas. Chocolate chip cookies. And we started to wonder what Lu’s food memories would be. Would she remember the roasted kohlrabi and lamb sausage dish we made that one time when she was 3? Or would she think about pizza nights fondly, the anchor of her week?

We made Fridays pizza night. And she began helping us turn the gluten-free pizza dough we made on Wednesday into pizza every Friday evening. Then we all took our plates to the living room and watched a movie together, eating pizza.

It was lovely. It still is.

And then a funny thing happened. That ritual of pizza together every Friday night started, slowly, changing everything. We had a taco bar one Thursday and Lucy asked if we could have tacos the next Thursday. So we did. And Thursdays became taco Thursdays. After a few visits to a conveyor belt sushi place in Seattle, Lucy desperately wanted sushi every week, so we started making our own sushi (minus the raw fish for her) on Sundays. After Desmond arrived, and our lives were happily disrupted, we needed ritual and routine more than ever. So we chose a meal for every day of the week. And we’ve been doing that ever since.

Mondays are meat and potato night. Tuesdays are kid choice night (right now, Lu’s favorite choice is gluten-free corn dogs. so she is a kid after all). Wednesdays are soup and salad nights. Thursdays are tacos. Fridays are pizza night. Saturdays are pasta night. Sundays are sushi night.

To our surprise, we love this. We don’t have to think about what to make for dinner, in a panic at 5 pm every night, because we spent the entire day cooking and baking and testing recipes at the studio, and we come home without a clue about what to make for Lu (and now, Desmond). Our shopping has changed. There are certain staples we need every week: nori, sushi rice, gluten-free pasta, good cheeses for the cheese plate we make to go with the soup and salad, corn tortillas, etc. We started cooking food in batches on the weekend so we’re always prepared for the week. A big pot of tomato sauce. A new vinaigrette. Another batch of mayonnaise. (Lucy loves mayonnaise more than any person I’ve ever met.) A dip for fresh vegetables we keep in the fridge. A big pot of soup. Something pickled. A roasted meat for tacos.

And strangely — or maybe not — I think there is more constant, quiet innovation happening in our food for these rituals. Making a pizza dough every week helped me to understand the dynamics of pizza dough under my hands in a way that reading never can. Because my hands are doing something familiar, my mind understands the process in a new way.

These rituals are templates for us. Monday is meat and potato night. That could be meatballs and mashed potatoes. It could be potato gnocchi with meat sauce. It could be roast beef and roasted potatoes. They all turn into breakfast and packed lunches for Lucy. Nothing goes to waste anymore.

The one ritual of pizza night turned into a series of rituals that changed our lives. The kitchen is clean these days. The refrigerator is better organized. And mealtimes are a series of songs and happy chattering and sharing of gratitude instead of us cajoling Lucy to please eat more of her meal. Desmond claps his hands in his high chair when we all sit down because he knows something fun is about to begin.

Thank you, Lucy. Pizza on a Friday night with you is my favorite ritual.

pizza dough II

pizza dough III

pizza dough IV

pizza dough V

pizza dough VI

pizza dough VII

pizza dough VIII

Our Favorite Gluten-Free Pizza Dough 

We’ve been playing with pizza dough for years. Sometimes, it seems, I like nothing more in the world than researching ratios on baking recipes. However, since we instituted the Friday night pizza ritual in our home, we’ve settled on our recipe. I’m done playing with this one. We haven’t changed our recipe in over a year. We have our dough.

This is based on the pizza dough from Roberta’s, an incredible wood-fired oven pizza place in Brooklyn. (We highly recommend Roberta’s Cookbook for its great recipes and unexpected photography.) After studying the way they ferment dough and shape it, I started playing with this one. It’s quite different from theirs, of course, since there is no gluten in ours. But the backbone is the same. 

In this recipe, we suggest you let your dough ferment for at least 24 hours before baking it. Honestly, the flavors deepen the longer you let it rest, so we generally make our dough on a Wednesday for Friday pizza night. When we make our pizza dough, we usually use 150 grams of our AP blend and 150 grams of our grain-free blend. Since we haven’t told you the formula for that one yet, we made this pizza with 300 grams of our AP blend. It’s still great. (But if you have any raw buckwheat flour on hand, try at least 100 grams of that in place of the AP.) Play with the flours you have on hand to make this yours. 

3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar (or honey)
225 grams (about one cup) warm water (about 110°)
300 grams (about 2 1/4 cups) gluten-free girl all-purpose flour blend
6 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) psyllium husk
8 grams (1 teaspoon) sea salt
1 teaspoon olive oil

Proof the yeast. Whisk together the yeast, sugar, and warm water, gently, in a small bowl. Let the yeasty water sit for at least 15 minutes. If the water is blooming with small bubbles and starting to smell yeasty, you have active yeast.

Make the dough. Combine the two flours, the psyllium, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Whirl them up.

With the mixer running on low, pour in the oil, then the yeasty water, very slowly. The dough will feel soft and pliable but softer and wetter than a typical gluten dough. (Try to mimic the texture of a creamy porridge.) Turn the mixer onto medium and let it run for a few more moments. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Let the dough rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for 1 hour. Then, put the dough in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight.

Prepare to bake. The next day, pull the dough out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you intend to roll it. Divide the dough into 2 balls. Put one dough ball between 2 lightly greased pieces of parchment paper. Roll out the dough until it is about 12 inches across. Take the top piece of parchment paper off the dough. Curl up the edges of the dough, about 1/2 inch to 1 inch, all the way around the circle. Take a fork and gently crimp those edges onto the dough to seal them. Put the parchment paper back onto the dough. Put one hand under the bottom parchment paper, the other on top, and flip the dough. With slightly wet fingertips, make little indentations around the edges of the dough. Dock the pizza by making fork marks over the dough evenly. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet. Gently lift the edges of the dough to make sure no part of it is sticking to the parchment paper.

Repeat with the remaining dough ball.

Pre-bake the pizza dough. Heat the oven to 450°. Put the baking sheets in the oven—one on the lower rack and one in the middle. Bake until the tops of the doughs and the edges feel set, about 20 minutes. This will steam the water out of the doughs and give you a great dough for baking. Take the pizza doughs out of the oven.

Heat the oven higher. Bump up the temperature of the oven to as high as your oven will go. (Ours stops at 550°.) If you have a baking stone in the oven, that will generate even more heat in the oven.

Top the pizza. Top the pizza crusts with a drizzle of oil and any toppings you wish. This pizza was simply olive oil, tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, sliced red peppers, and pepperoni.

Finish baking the pizza. Put the pizza in the oven when it’s truly hot, then watch it. Wait until the cheese bubbles, then turn on the broiler at the end. Watch it closely. Don’t let it burn. But get it to just before that point.

Voila! Pizza

Makes 2 (12-inch) pizza crusts

Feel like playing? Of course, you could use any flours you wish here, based on what works in your kitchen. Think of the psyllium husk here as just a touch more flour in the mix. It binds everything together beautifully without the gumminess (and for some, intestinal upset) of the gums. However, if you can’t use psyllium, you could try finely ground flaxseed meal instead. But stick with this ratio. This ratio of flours to yeast to salt to psyllium to oil to water has worked for us every time. It’s pizza dough.

 

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