My son needed a science project and I needed a reason to try to make the sourdough starter recipe I’ve been eyeing for months, so we decided to work together and see what happens. The recipe we are using is from Jennifer Katzinger’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Bread. I’ve wanted to make sourdough starter for a long time now, ever since I read about it being a more easily digested bread than other types with single strands of yeast, but the recipes I read always seemed too complex and involved too much planning. Once I read Katzinger’s version which was already gluten-free I started thinking I could do it. Except I didn’t. There was still that planning part that got in my way, until my son’s science fair came up and I thought, we could do this~ we have a week and a half, plenty of time to get the starter going and then to try to bake with it a couple of times, with enough time even for a failure or two. We will actually use the starter later today for the first time, but actually making the mother was easier than I expected, so in case you are feeling daunted by the idea yourself I thought I’d share the steps so far. First, get a gallon size glass jar and put in 1C teff flour and 1C water.
Then add two purple cabbage leaves and the skin of half an apple.
Mix well again and then let it sit in a warm spot for 12 hours before stirring and adding more teff and water. After 48 hours (with 12 hours in between stirrings and adding more flour and water) it should be bubbling with yeast activity.
It is then time to take out the cabbage leaves and apple skin and put it in the fridge. It is ready to be used.
Now it’s time to test if this has worked. There is starter resting on my kitchen counter right now warming up with fresh teff and water for 4 hours and hopefully creating some yeasty activity. Crossing my fingers that we will have fresh sourdough bread by tonight. We’ll see!
I made these to go with some chili but they were all eaten before the chili was even ready. Now I know to make a double batch, and intend to do so later today. For now I thought I’d share the recipe which is an adaptation of Annalise Roberts’ recipe in her book, Gluten-Free Baking Classics. I changed a few things to make it vegan, and changed the flours slightly, and also eliminated the xanthan gum because I always try to eliminate the gums that gluten-free recipes call for, and most of the time I find they perform well without them. Xanthan gum and guar gum are often added to gluten-free recipes without thought, but they are one of those food-like items (not a real actual food) that I try to avoid in my own baking. Some people react to the gums adversely, and although neither my boys nor I seem to have immediate reactions to them, why eat them if they are not needed…? Xanthan gum sounds like an opening band for Metallica, not something that I want to ingest on a regular basis. So, here’s the recipe:
1/4 cup oil (canola, sunflower, whatever is in your cabinet)
3/4 cup coconut milk or other milk alternative (or you can use regular old cow’s milk if you are from hearty Northern European stock and can digest the stuff)
1 Tablespoon flaxseed meal + 3 Tablespoons of warm water (mix these together in a separate bowl and let them sit a moment)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the ingredients until just mixed, no need to overdo it. Pour into muffin pans that have been sprayed with oil, or oiled in the old-fashioned way because if you happen to be avoiding soy you shouldn’t be spraying your oils. (There seems to be soy lecithin in every oil spray I can find which doesn’t really surprise me.) I used small muffin pans in the shape of owls and they held together excellently, but I imagine if you try to make big muffins they might be crumbly, so keep them on the smaller side. Cook for 20-25 minutes. The above recipe made 12 small muffins and 3 happy bellies.
I’m officially out of my food-funk, thanks to the Fall weather which opens up the door to a whole new pantry of foods. Soups can be found stewing every Sunday once again, while old favorites like pumpkin scones bake in the oven. My oldest keeps bringing up food that summer had me out of the habit of making, like croutons, kale chips, and carrot cake muffins. Great ideas! My youngest is still enamored with garlic bread sticks made with Trader Joe’s flatbreads, and considering how often I go there and find nothing but a gaping hole, I can only assume he’s not the only one. In fact, each time I buy 7 or 8 packages (because I put them in the freezer too) the cashiers inevitably ask what I do with them, and then they always share what they do with them; one uses them for Panini’s, another toasts them, and they all love them. Here they are again:
Just be sure to leave 7 or 8 for me in the case, because I’ll be needing them again soon. In fact, they just might be my next crouton base. Back to the kitchen!
Eden B bakery is not your typical gluten-free bakery. In fact I’d bet that it’s the only bakery in the greater Seattle area, gluten-free or not, that could ask, “Would like a Jeep or Dodge with that muffin?” The location, inside a Jeep dealership, makes it an awkward place to stop by, unless you relish navigating between smiling, over-helpful, car salesmen so much that you choose to do so even when not in search of a new car. The place is worth the trip though, because it’s location isn’t all that makes it unique~ they also make salads, sandwiches on gluten-free bread as well as offering a nice selection of muffins, sweet breads, and the like. Some of the goodies are also vegan, but not all (maybe 1/3 of the selection) and my sons both picked the gluten-free, vegan ding dongs. I’ve never seen a homemade ding dong before, and they had never even heard of a ding dong, so that was a fun find. My oldest loved it but my younger, pickier son…not so much. I probably should have guided him to the big gf, vegan snicker doodle cookies that they had because you can can’t go wrong with straight sugar on top, but maybe next time. Along with the sandwiches and bakery goods they also have espresso drinks plus bags of gluten-free chips and such to round out a pleasant lunch. We’ll definitely go back though I’d go back more often if it were in a less awkward place~ something about going to a Jeep dealership for a sweet-fix just doesn’t feel right.
I know that food intolerances can be cured and granted, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. We haven’t gotten our test results back yet but I’m already trying to get dairy out of our diets, and I’m leery of eggs and soy because they are common problem-makers too. This is not easy for a primarily vegetarian family, but if we can do it, anyone can, and honestly it hasn’t been all that difficult yet. My youngest who used to live on Annie’s boxes of shells and cheese now has a new love~ garlic bread sticks. I make the Trader Joe’s gluten-free, dairy free flat bread pizza crusts into garlic bread sticks by preheating the oven to 425, mix 1T of olive oil (per sheet of crust), with one clove of garlic and a dash of Mediterranean salt. I pour that on the flat bread and rub it until it is all evenly distributed. It says to cook for 6-10 minutes and I am finding 9 minutes works best for our oven. Once I take out the bread I cut it into 3 long strips, like bread sticks he recognizes from restaurants. He loves them, and I love the olive oil and garlic getting into his body. This is what it looks like and it is in the refrigerated section.
Also from Trader Joe’s we’ve been getting goat cheeses of all kinds. I found this goat cream cheese which is perfect on Udi’s bagels.
If you are watching fat/calories the above goat cheese is more in line with Neuchâtel cheese than cream cheese. Other cheeses I’ve talked about before, also from Trader Joe’s are these goat cheeses: The triangle is a hard cheese which is good for shredding and snacking, the others are a soft, spreadable cheese that go well with sweeter foods. I am looking forward to making gluten-free crepes with those cute little medallions and fresh strawberries.
Another substitution I’ve made lately is cooking up Lundberg’s Tuscan Risotto instead of their parmesan one that we used to eat all the time (with broccoli and sometimes smoked salmon on the side.) I was very afraid my oldest would revolt against this change because he adores parmesan risotto, but he actually loved the dairy free Tuscan kind. He said it tasted just the same~ works for me!
These are just quick fixes so far, but it helps to make the task seem less daunting to have easy to prepare meals on hand that the kids really like. Once they are used to their intolerances, we will work on adding in more variety. Watch, they won’t even be dairy intolerant! That’d be fantastic, but less dairy in their lives can’t be a bad thing. My son’s sinuses confirm that. It’s nice we are entering summer too for all the fruits that are available. They add color and variety to every meal in a happy way.
There are a couple of reasons I haven’t been blogging much lately. One is that Spring Break hit with such a flurry of activity that I’m now nervous for what summer will bring. Kids need so much stimulation! At least mine do~ they also need a reason to be outside, which I kind of understand considering we don’t live in the sunniest part of the world, but it still bothers me that when it is sunny they aren’t rushing out the door right away. Yesterday when they got home all they wanted was to sit and read and write instead of go to a park, which I can’t really argue with except it was gorgeous outside, so I put out a blanket and let them read and write in the backyard at least. My younger son ended up helping me put new soil in our garden and clean up the yard a bit, but my older son is writing his umpteenth book and when his creative juices are flowing, there’s no stopping him. And that leads to the other reason I haven’t been blogging much lately, I too am in the midst of another writing project (like mother like son) and have been putting the finishing touches on it lately. It is something I’m passionate about, and the best part is I’m working with my very talented friend who is doing the art work. Hopefully I will have some more info and pics next week. But in the meantime, I do have a couple of gluten-free product recommendations. The first I found at Trader Joe’s about a month ago and it seems like a new product:
It is in the refrigerated section and comes in a two pack. It’s very tasty as a pizza crust or garlic bread which is how I ate it last night~ put some pressed garlic into a tablespoon of olive oil and added some Tuscan Salt and oregano, mixed it all together and spread it on the bread then baked in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes. Very good.
Another item I have always passed over because it looked too expensive was Manini’s gluten-free bread mix. The other day I realized each bag is enough for 7 or 8 loaves~ that changes the price equation quite a bit! I am very happy I tried it because it is delicious bread and easy to make, all of which is quite good news since I still have five or six loaves to bake up from the bag! The directions call for a loaf pan but I used a pizza pan instead because I wanted as much hard crust as possible, and that worked out fabulously. I definitely recommend trying the mixes, plus they have several to choose from so you can suit different tastes.
One last thought, Earth Day is Monday~ does anyone have any traditions?
While browsing food blogs the other day I stumbled upon this peasant bread recipe which looked like a good candidate for gluten-free baking. One reason is that it is a no-knead recipe, which works well for gluten-free flours, and the other was that the ingredient list was surprisingly short and simple. My bread did not turn out as prettily as Alexandra’s, but it was easy and the tastiest gluten-free bread I’ve had since, well, ever. I replaced the four cups of flour with: 1.5 C of gluten-free oat flour, 1 C millet flour, 1/2 C tapioca starch, 1/2 C Brown Rice Flour, and 1/2 C sorghum flour. I added 1 teaspoon xanthan gum and replaced the butter with olive oil for greasing the Pyrex bowls which are used in baking this bread. (You can use a different pan, but I went ahead and used the Pyrex bowls and am glad I bought them as I’ll be making this bread recipe again and again.) The crust turned out crisp and golden, while the inside was soft and delightful. Truly a more than pleasant peasant bread.
The other day I made a garlic soup following, more or less this recipe from The Splendid Table. I went the potato route with it and it turned out pretty good, though pureeing soup is one of my all time least favorite kitchen tasks. If I make it again I’ll add more garlic than the recipe suggests because it was actually quite mild and I won’t make the same mistake of letting people try the soup without the croutons, because the croutons are by far the best part of the whole meal. First of all, the recipe calls for drizzling warm butter on the finished soup before serving but that seemed over the top so I ignored that suggestion. Then you add the croutons which changes the soup from a porridge consistency (that wasn’t well received in my house) with a more soup with crunch taste~ much better! Plus the way the recipe calls for making the croutons is far easier than I had ever seen. In the past I’ve always made them by coating cut up stale bread in oil, then stirring in herbs and salt and pepper, then sticking them in the oven with occassional stirring. This recipe just says to cut up the bread, any bread, into crouton size chunks, put some olive oil in a pan and cook them up on the stove for a couple of minutes. So easy and so good! I used fresh gluten free bread~ Maninis to be exact which is sliced nice and thick, and added only Mediterranean salts while they sizzled in the olive oil . It took five minutes tops and the soup will never be the same. I also used stale sourdough bread (not gluten free) for my husband’s croutons and he loved them. In fact he ate the croutons like a main dish and ignored the bowl of soup they were supposed to support. That’s what I get for serving it plain the first time. I have a feeling I’ll be adding these croutons to a lot more soups and salads now.
In the book Sugar Blues there is a story about how Andy Warhol used to go to the trouble to make himself a nice steak, then while it was cooking he’d eat bread with jam on it because, “all I really want is sugar”. I feel the same way about bread. As a child I would eat wheat at every meal, and I mean the wheatiest wheat. While other kids begged for sugary cereals, I’d eat grape nuts with gusto, then often a wheat bagel for lunch, and either a sandwich on whole wheat bread or pasta for dinner. In my last year of college I worked at a Great Harvest in Cincinnati where we were allowed to take home old loaves. I lived on that bread, and when I went “grocery” shopping I’d go to a bagel shop and get a dozen plus about twice as many cans of diet coke. Maybe I overdid it…? Now, I don’t mind gluten free crackers or other baked goods~ I like Food for Life’s English muffins, PCC’s zucchini muffins (when my kids aren’t looking I can sneak one out of the four-pack) and I have made some decent scones and biscuits, but bread…it just isn’t the same. I have looked all over the Internet and in books for recipe that doesn’t call for a bunch of different flours and gums to just make a nice bready-bread, but it seems most people use about 4 different flours to try to emulate the texture, taste, and rise of wheat bread. This is off-putting to me simply b/c it waters down the whole grain taste with a much ‘whiter’ taste. Plus, I’ve heard some not-so flattering things about those gums. What are xantham and guar gums, anyway? I made the quinoa bread from Flying Apron’s book last night which I really like, but it isn’t a sandwich bread, nor a dipping into soup bread, so it is just an eat and enjoy bread, which is fine every once in a while, but I am determined to find something more versatile.
Since I wanted to know if it was the teff that hurt my tummy or something else in the bread, I decided to make Teff muffins tonight. The recipe I used was right on the Bob’s Red Mill package, although I had to replace the hazelnuts with blueberries b/c I didn’t have any nut-pieces available, and did not feel like crushing whole almonds. At the farmers market today there was a booth of Gluten Free products! I tried the focaccia which was pretty good but I could never use a whole loaf so I bought a coconut bar which was delicious, but very sweet. She said she uses a kitchen in Seattle but doesn’t have a retail outlet yet other than the farmers markets. Maybe I can talk her into setting up shop here! There seems to be a lot of people who eat gluten free around and a little special bakery would be so lovely!