When I first had to go gluten-free, I never imagined I’d bake again. A coffee cake like this, casually on a Sunday morning? It seemed like a dream.
However, if you had told me that I’d bake this coffee cake with a gluten-free flour mix formulated by a team of bakers gathered by Thomas Keller? Well, I would have fainted.
My, how the world has changed in the last six years.
Where I once had to drive to three different stores to find the gluten-free flours I wanted to combine, and order the rest of my ingredients online, gluten-free food has become pretty universally ubiquitous. I did a double take when I was in a small corner market in Breckenridge, Colorado a couple of years ago and found three gluten-free baking mixes, two different kinds of gluten-free pasta, a stack of gluten-free cookies, and some local brownies. What? This was a small store intended for the snowboarders and skiers to stock up on quick food. That’s when I knew gluten-free had become more normalized.
When we received a package of gluten-free rolls from The French Laundry, however, I knew that gluten-free had reached the chefs who truly care about food. That’s when things get interesting.
Chef Lena Kwak, working under the aegis of Chef Thomas Keller, spent a couple of years creating a gluten-free flour mix called Cup4Cup. Danny and I were lucky enough to try some of this mix before it was commercially available. And now, we’d like to recommend it to you. With Hannukah and Christmas coming up in less than two weeks, this might be just what you need.
If you don’t know who Thomas Keller is, you should know that he’s considered one of the best chefs in the world. Of all time. Danny and I have yet to experience The French Laundry or Per Se, but we plan on it someday. Every one of our friends who has dined with Keller’s restaurants has come away astounded. The word gourmet doesn’t do here. He makes food that you might remember all your life.
You might think that the highest echelons of the culinary world would be bothered by those with food allergies or celiac. They want you to eat their food. We’re a nuisance, right?
It has been my experience that the opposite is true. Any chef who truly cares about food, who is driven by curiosity and the desire to give the customer joy in the belly? Those chefs accommodate us just fine. I’ve been told by friends that they have eaten at The French Laundry, at Alinea, at Charlie Trotter’s restaurants without a hint of fear. Gluten-free brioche or cornets or desserts arrive at the table with little fanfare. Of course we deserve great food. Have a seat.
What’s great about this mix is that Cup4Cup takes the dedication to great food and feeding people well out of the most expensive restaurants in the world and onto the shelves. A few weeks ago, Thomas Keller was on the Martha Stewart show, demonstrating how to make gluten-free fried chicken and cheesy polenta waffles. People, we have arrived.
The name communicates its use: this flour mix is for those of you who still want to bake with cups. It has been formulated to work the same way AP flour does. (That means a cup of it, properly measured, weighs 140 grams.) Do you want to bake your grandmother’s fruit bread recipe, gluten-free? Here is your mix. Are you new to gluten-free and still want to make extraordinary cookies? Buy some of this. Does your aunt want to make you a gluten-free baked good but doesn’t want a cupboard full of flour for the occasional visit? This is for her.
Now, I have to say, I’m a little disappointed to hear some grumbling in the gluten-free community about this flour mix. It contains cornstarch. (“But I can’t eat corn!”) It contains milk powder. (“So many people can’t eat dairy!”) And it uses xanthan gum.
I’ve seen this a lot, whenever a good gluten-free cookbook or food comes out. Someone complains that it doesn’t work perfectly for him or her. The sense of entitlement in this alarms me. This team didn’t set out to create an allergen-free flour mix. They tried to create a great gluten-free flour mix. I can’t eat xanthan gum, except occasionally, and I still love this flour mix.
Will I be using it often? No. We have our own flour mixes, our own baked goods recipes, our own way of baking. However, I respect the years of work that Lena Kwak and her team did to get this right.
And I thank them for caring enough about those of us who are gluten-free to try to make the world and particularly the holidays a little easier for us.