I am becoming so domestic.
This morning, I woke up before the Chef. Sentences were singing in my mind, with a high-pitched insistence. Reluctantly, I left the bed to write some more, quelling the choir into quietness. After awhile, I was fully awake. After I set a pot of coffee going, I checked in on the Chef. Sleeping sweetly. What was I to do? Read the paper? Curl up with my new favorite book? Go for a walk?
No, I did the only sensible thing a gluten-free girl can do. I made muffins. From scratch.
I have never made gluten-free muffins from scratch. I have only made them from mixes a few times, and those are fine. In fact, I have one sitting on the shelves of our pantry, right now. I could have so easily dumped that in the KitchenAid, added some butter and eggs, and called it done.
But these days, almost nine months after the Chef and I met, I find myself — to my surprise — becoming incessantly domestic. I make lists of projects to do around the home. I spend every evening wiping down the counters so the kitchen is clean before the Chef comes back. When I lived alone, I would let the kitchen go, for days. Who was around to see it? Now that it is his home too, I find that I want it gleaming and clean. And after reading dozens of crafty blogs the last month — especially this one — I’m even considering buying this book and teaching myself to sew.
(If you had seen the lopsided, sadly shapen, horribly embroidered placemat I made in the seventh grade, you would know just how shocking that sentence is.)
Mostly, though, I just can’t stop creating food. Certainly, that has been true for more than a year and a half now, since I stopped eating gluten. I have been cooking myself into a new being for months and months. But now, I’m cooking for someone else. Top it off, I’m cooking for a professional chef, a damned fine one. I have had to face the reality — I will never sear lamb chops or create a fish special the way this lovely man can, no matter how long I cook. He has a gift, a genius, I can only admire. Then again, he stands in awe of my writing, particularly the fact that I wrote an entire book in four months. We both have our strengths.
But you see? No one cooks for chefs. Everyone is too intimidated. Unless I let go of the need to be as good as him, the man will never eat home-cooked food. And this is our home.
Long ago, I gave up trying to impress him. What I want most of all now is to feed him.
Nothing sends out love like baked goods made from scratch. When I was first diagnosed with celiac, I thought I would never be able to make a batch of cookies for a friend, or woo a man with my pies. Now, however, I no longer worry. I’ve done enough experimenting with gluten-free flours to know what I want. The bottom shelf of our little pantry is filled with little one-pound bags of millet, quinoa, sorghum, and teff. I love the experimenting.
Mostly, though, I love the final product. When I make something new, and it turns out right, I stand in the kitchen and clap my hands, truly delighted. These muffins? They were golden-brown and studded with raw sugar, filled with so many blueberries that some bites tasted like June, and wonderfully warm. When I brought one into the Chef — he had been awoken by the smell of baking — along with a hot cup of coffee, he smiled up at me, delighted.
That is the sweetest part of domesticity: the look of love in his eyes.
BLUEBERRY MUFFINS WITH LEMON ZEST, adapted from The Best Recipe
Gluten-free baking truly isn’t that hard. All it takes is a desire to play and a willingness to make mistakes. However, over time — months later —you will know, instinctually, which flour to use. When I made these muffins, I knew. Sorghum, because that is the base of almost everything I bake these days. It is light and binding, the closest texture to wheat of any of the gluten-free flours. In fact, I use it in almost everything I bake these days. White rice flour, because muffins should be light and airy, with almost no density, just enough to hold them together. Tapioca flour, because some kind of starch works well with these together. (Could have been cornstarch or potato starch. I like tapioca starch here. It has an ephemeral sweetness, faint but perceptible, that I like.) Put them together — muffins.
My friend Monica came over for a visit this afternoon, for one last conversation before she returns to New York. She can’t eat gluten either. In fact, she was diagnosed because of me — she had the same symptoms, and my experience taught her what questions to ask. I fed her minestrone soup, some of the gluten-free bread, and one of these muffins. “Man, you are really getting this gluten-free baking down,” she said. I smiled. No accolade at school ever felt so sweet.
10 tablespoons unsalted, soft butter
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 cup sweet white sorghum flour
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (or ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon cornstarch)
½ teaspoon baking soda (if combining above, add another ½ teaspoon to mix)
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups plain yogurt
1 cup blueberries (frozen are fine)
2 tablespoons raw sugar
Preheat the oven to 375.
Combine all the dry ingredients together. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together, until just creamed. If you leave the stand mixer running as they are creaming, these muffins will not rise. Simply cream them until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg.
Add one half of the dry ingredients, mixing well. Add one-third of the yogurt and combine until well mixed. Add one-half of the remaining dry ingredients to the mixture, and combine. Continue this, alternating the yogurt and dry ingredients, until you have mixed both of them in, completely.
Add as many blueberries as you can.
Oil a muffin tin well, then sprinkle a little cornstarch or white rice flour on the bottom of each cup. Fill each space for muffin two-thirds full. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the top and set them in the oven.
(This recipe will give you enough batter to make two tins of muffins, or close.)
Bake the muffins for about 35 minutes, or until the tops have browned and started to harden, and the entire house smells of warm blueberry muffins. If your sweetie wakes up from the smell, the muffins are done.
Makes 18 muffins.