Some days, it seems, nothing makes me feel more grounded than baking.
It seems funny to me now: when I was first diagnosed with celiac, almost a decade ago (a decade? I’ve been writing here for nearly a decade), my first reaction was to give away all my baking books. Covered in white flour and pages dog-eared and stained with vanilla extract, those baking books had been my balm for years.
Now I have several shelves of baking books at our studio. Most of them have gluten-free flour on them. That collection keeps growing.
Until I met Danny, my life was always more of the head than the hands. Raised by two teachers, an inveterate bookworm, in love with ideas and the creative life, I used my body when I remembered. My hands worked in the evenings. I wrote comments on student papers. And then I stood up to bake. I mixed butter and sugar together until they were a creamy yellow, plopped in eggs, and added a cloud of fine white flour. Those moments gave me a solace, a space away from a day in my head. It took me until I was nearly 40 to realize that white flour was making me sick. So when I realized I had to give up gluten, I thought I was giving up baking.
Now I have a gluten-free flour blend company. So, you know, life surprises me sometimes.
Life never stops surprising me.
There are nearly 8000 boxes of the Gluten-Free Girl All-Purpose Flour in a storage facility on Vashon. They’re here. They’re real. It’s surreal and lovely and unbelievable.
Within a couple of weeks, we’ll have them for sale on this site.
We’re working hard to get all the logistics in place to sell these flours. It has been quite a time of learning for us here.
When Danny and I imagined the flour blends 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 so many of you reading, we returned to the logistics of shipping. When we started crunching numbers, we realized that 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 and 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. 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.
Later, we’ll probably be talking to grocery stores and larger retail places. But for now, the only place the flours will be available is through this site. This website is the heart of what we do and how we met you. How could we not sell it here?
So 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), 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.
We got thrown a big curve ball. We’ve been doing a lot of batting practice before the big game.
I’m not complaining. There’s no complaining here. We feel extraordinarily lucky. Part of the reason Danny and I wanted to take on this new business is because we knew we would learn so much. Our hopes have already been fulfilled on that one.
Still, in the midst of these logistics, and imagining the flours in your home, I’ve been baking.
This afternoon, I walked into our kitchen studio by myself. Desmond has been sniffling and coughing with his first real cold. We haven’t been sleeping well. Danny stayed home while Desmond took his nap to finish the dishes in that kitchen. I needed to bake.
There’s something comforting about biscuits. When they’re made with love and sure hands, biscuits are layers of butter and flakiness. They don’t require any fancy ingredients, just a lot of practice. So I made biscuits again.
We created a biscuit recipe we love for our cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, for the breakfast chapter. (And some sausage gravy.) Some of you might have that book. If you’ve made these biscuits before, you know that they’re soft and pillowy, brushed with butter after coming out of the oven, and usually gone within the hour. Danny and I have been thinking about how many recipes from that book have become second-nature in our home. We’d like to share some of them with you here, so you can bake them with our flour soon.
When I put my hands in this flour, I don’t worry about the logistics of getting it to you. I don’t think again about the latest formulation for the grain-free blend rumbling around in my head. I don’t think. I hum under my breath and feel my feet on the floor. And I move butter and flour together to create something new.
Baking is peace for me, a place to just be.
And in the end, there are biscuits.
For years, I thought it was the gluten that made biscuits light and flaky. But with the help of my friend Nancie McDermott, who understands baking better than anyone I know, I realized it wasn’t the gluten at all. When I asked Nancie why all the Southern biscuits I saw in cookbooks looked so lofty and perfect, she said, “You want to know why those biscuits always turned out perfect? Because those girls had to make them every morning for years.” It’s practice that makes great biscuits, not gluten.
After we began making biscuits with our All-Purpose Flour Blend, our biscuits turned out better. But here are a few more hints for you, baking tips that might make your biscuits even more delightful. Work cold. Cold butter, cold flour, and even a cold bowl for the food processor all help. Cold = flaky. Don’t twirl your biscuit cutter when you cut into the dough. That blunts the edges of the biscuits. Crowd your biscuits together in a cast-iron pan, rather than spacing them evenly on a sheet tray. When the biscuits touch, they go up. Finally, have fun with this. Even when biscuits are a little too heavy or not quite flaky enough, they’re still biscuits. Your family will be happy.
280 grams (2 cups) gluten-free girl all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
1 teaspoon psyllium husk
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
115 grams (8 tablespoons) unsalted cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, psyllium husks, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Put the bowl in the freezer, along with the bowl of a food processor, blade attached.
Cut the butter. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Put the butter into the freezer too.
Prepare to bake. Heat the oven to 425°. Grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet with butter or the fat of your choice. (Good quality lard is good too.)
Mix the butter and flour. When the oven has been at heat for 10 minutes, take the mixing bowl, bowl of the food processor, and butter out of the freezer. Attach the bowl to the food processor. Add the cold flour. Dump the butter cubes on top. Pulse the ingredients together, quickly, until the butter chunks are about the size of lima beans. Move the flour mixture to a large bowl.
You can, of course, also do this by hand or with a pastry cutter. If you’re new at this, the food processor makes the best biscuits. The speed helps with the flakiness of the biscuits.
Add the liquids. Make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Mix together 1/3 cup of the buttermilk and all of the yogurt, then pour them into the dry ingredients. Gently, stir the liquids with a rubber spatula, in small circular motions, incorporating the flour in as you go. The final dough should just barely hold together, with all the ingredients moist. If there is a bit of flour left on the sides of the bowl, add a dribble more of the buttermilk, then combine, then a dribble more if necessary. If the dough grows too wet, don’t fret. Just add a bit more flour. You’re going for a shaggy dough, not a smooth round ball of dough.
Bring together the biscuit dough. Sprinkle a little flour on a clean board. Turn out the dough on the board and sprinkle it with just a touch more flour. Fold the dough in half, bringing the back part of the dough toward you. Pat the dough into an even round. Turn the dough 90 degrees, then fold the dough in half again and pat. This should make the dough fairly even. If not, you can fold the dough a third time. Pat out the dough to a 1 1/2-inch thickness.
Cut the biscuits. Dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter into a bit of flour and push it straight down into the dough, starting from the outside edges. Do not twist the biscuit cutter. Cut out the remaining biscuits. Working quickly, pat any remaining scraps into another 1 1/2-inch-thick dough and cut the last biscuit.
Move the biscuits to the prepared cast-iron pan, nudging them up against each other. Letting their edges touch means your biscuits will rise higher.
Bake the biscuits. Slide the skillet into the oven and bake the biscuits for 6 minutes. Rotate the skillet 180° and continue baking until the biscuits are firm on top and light golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter. Let them rest for 10 minutes before eating.
Feeds 4 to 6
Feel like playing? If you can’t eat dairy, you could make these with non-dairy “buttery” sticks. They won’t have quite the same texture, but they’re still biscuits. And you can also use non-dairy yogurt and milk. For best results, I make the biscuits, put them in the greased pan, and then put that pan in the freezer for 15 minutes (or up to 30 minutes), and then put them straight into the oven. It’s cold that builds flakiness, so this makes for a great flaky biscuit.