Category Archives: food literature

A “Sweet” Inspiration: On Reading The Sweet Life in Paris

The Sweet Life in ParisI’ve had some time off since the holidays… hallelujah! It’s been a long time coming since vacationing last February. What’s funny about days off though is that for however much one wants these days to come, the days are never enough. Especially when I’ve just settled into a good book by David Lebovitz, The Sweet Life in Paris.

I have 4 days off. That’s a weekend and 2 days off additional. Not much of a vacation, but enough to rest, enough to mute my thoughts about work… that lingering question about how else I can reconnect with food in a way that I can translate it into words. Because preparing sandwiches really can barely scratch the mind, let alone stimulate it. Shall I go back to rereading The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher? Gosh, I only have 4 days and the heft of that book feels like one of those anthologies I used to lug around in college. Perhaps, The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz… why not?

The Sweet Life in Paris is about David Lebovitz life in Paris. A former pastry chef from Chez Panisse, this is basically his dream to live in Paris realized and Mr. Lebovitz details his life and observations through some humorous and sometimes uncanny vignettes. I’ve never been to France myself and my experience with the French have been, well at best, lukewarm (except of course for one of my dorm mates from college… she’s the exception), but I’ve found joy in this book because for a moment, within a period of 4 days, I’m whisked away to Paris, where, in my mind, I am imagining myself in line at a bakery where I can get a small paper bag full of chocolate chip cream puffs or at a patisserie ordering a cup of hot chocolate which arrives, topped with an overwhelming mound of chantilly cream.

Hardly how I thought I would spend my 4 days, but The Sweet Life in Paris is exactly what I’ve been looking for to inspire me back to food. When one works with food, one becomes a little lost sometimes. When the repetition of our daily routines begin to mimic the movie Groundhog Day, we begin to spiral and ball up into uninspired creatures. David Lebovitz shares with his readers recipes that are approachable, recipes that reconnected me with my time in the pastry kitchen… those recipes I enjoyed making myself. I wanted to do them again, reimagine them. Cakes, quickbreads and pate a choux, how can I turn them gluten free? I don’t have the answers now, but all it takes is a spark to get one’s passion going again. And as I continue to read about David’s life in Paris, I know that inspiration is seeping through the skin because my hands are itching to mix, knead and fold once again. Even if there are only 4 days, I hope the inspiration I’ve received from The Sweet Life in Paris is enough to keep me going for the entire year.

Read something inspiring! Have a fantastic and Happy New Year Everyone!

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Caviar: Nothing But New Eggs to Bear

I should think of cakes when I think of birthdays. Naturally, I should. Chocolate cakes, yellow rum cakes or red velvet cakes with chocolate or white frosting and candles sticking out of them. But tonight, upon this sleepy hour, I somehow think of caviar. Black caviar harvested from a really old female sturgeon fish tightly packed inside a golden tin with an enormous rubber band around it.

Caviar Tin
I don’t know why I should associate caviar with birthdays because I certainly can’t afford it on my birthday and probably won’t be buying anybody a tin of these tiny black pearls for anyone. But the idea that they are eggs, perhaps, is why I associate them with birthdays. The egg is where life begins after all. When an egg hatches, a chic hops out. When an egg is fertilized, something new is formed from it. A baby, perhaps. The birth of something new.

These eggs, this caviar amazes me at first encounter. It’s one of those ingredients that harbors some form of celebrity status in the kitchen alongside Italian truffles, Kobe beef and Blue Fin tuna shipped all the way from Japan. And when one comes across one of these rare ingredients in the kitchen, from what we’ve read or witnessed through the media, somehow all the knowledge we have gathered over the years rise to the surface and arrive at a confluence, conjuring awe. I might not say it out loud, but I can feel my eyes widening in a conversation with its self muttering an elongated “Wwwwoooooooowwwww” audible only to myself. Because there must be thousands of eggs crowding inside the can and I can’t help wonder how much does a dollop, on this nonreactive bamboo I’m scooping it with, costs?

What drives up the cost anyway? Appearance for one. Large, light gray pearls of caviar are prized more than the dark ones. Grayish caviar means the eggs are old (and probably not dyed) as opposed to newer eggs that are vibrantly black in color. Where the caviar is derived from influences price. Caviar from the Caspian Sea, either from Russia or Iran, where most naturally existing sturgeons in the world flourish, typically sell for thousands of dollars. Beluga caviar for example, with a reputation for being one of the most expensive foods in the world, is gathered from sturgeons that are at least 20 years old. Sturgeons from the Caspian sea can be considered “OG” or original since these fish have roots dating back to the time of dinosaurs. Caspian sturgeons are considered authentic caviar, caviar enjoyed by kings and tsars throughout the ages, which add to their value compared to farm-grown sturgeons. Because some species of sturgeons have become endangered, either because they’ve been hunted for hundreds of years or must learn to survive in increasingly polluted sections of the Caspian Sea, the sturgeons become few and far between which can only enhance their selling price throughout the world.

True, price is one of the wow factors to caviar. Beluga and Sevruga caviar can run for thousands of dollars while the Osetra caviar run in the hundreds. Is it that good that these caviar are priced so high in the market? Some say it isn’t the first bite, but the second, third and fourth bite which makes it all worthwhile. Honestly, I’m indifferent to it. It’s like boba, but really tiny with a fishy afterthought to them. Does it make any difference combined with potatoes and sour cream? It tastes pretty good, but I know I won’t get full from it. Too darn expensive! But I also didn’t grow up eating caviar nor do I have any fond memories to tie caviar for me to keep eating it. I’m happy to taste it when it is there, but I won’t be placing my pockets in a deficit to get a tin of it. Perhaps, on one special occasion I may purchase a humble container for family to taste, but that would require winning the lottery which is probably the only time I’ll consider spending on Beluga caviar all the way from the Caspian Sea.

[p.s. Happy Birthday SJP!]

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Goat Cheese: The Quickening Snow Upon Some Winter Wonder Salads

Every morning is a race. I have to prepare sandwiches. I have to prepare salads. A salad under thirty minutes is the goal… I feel like Rachel Ray sometimes. And I don’t mean just a green salad with tomatoes and croutons, but a well composed salad… with grains, a handful of herbs and sometimes some grilled vegetables. A sensible medley that are cut and tossed altogether with a flavored vinaigrette to complete the salad. This is the challenge every morning. One of the humps I must go through in order for the entire day to go smoothly. A salad in thirty minutes or less. Otherwise, I’ll be behind on time.

Mediterranean Salad with Couscous, Chickpeas and Goat Cheese

Mediterranean Salad with Couscous, Chickpeas and Goat Cheese

One thing I learned over the years in making a salad is that goat cheese is a life saver. Goat cheese crumbles by MontChevre is the brand I encounter and use at work all the time. If it wasn’t for this goat cheese, I don’t know what I would do. Honestly, goat cheese is not something I gravitate towards when I think of eating cheese. It’s not something I eagerly perk up my head and say, “oh yes, please do give me another slice of goat cheese!” If I can help it, I’d like all my cheese to be made from cow milk, not from goat.

Golden Beets and Pear Salad with Goat Cheese

Golden Beets and Pear Salad with Goat Cheese and Pecans

However, to appreciate goat cheese, one must understand its characteristics. Goat cheese is usually packaged in clear plastic as a log. It is a clean, white cheese that is neutral tasting up until the pungent aftertaste kicks in. After the swallow, it registers in the head in this way, “ah, this wasn’t cream cheese after all, it was goat cheese.” Perhaps, unappealing at first, but then because the goat cheese may have complimented the cracker a bit, one keeps eating more. And this is how the goat cheese is introduced into our palate. From here on, it becomes part of our taste repertoire that we learn to include it in our arsenal of must shop for cheeses, even for the holidays.

Couscous Salad with Kale and Goat Cheese

Couscous Salad with Kale, Cranberries and Goat Cheese

Part of being a food enthusiast is understanding the characteristics of the ingredients we encounter. Even if they aren’t our favorites, we must still strive to learn and figure out how their certain characteristics can harmoniously play into a dish. With goat cheese, I often can sprinkle the crumbles over a composed salad, what I refer to as a quickening snow effect. That pungent creaminess associated with goat cheese nicely compliments sweetness, from cranberries to strawberries; in addition, goat cheese can tame down the unctuousness derived from the oils usually added to moisten salad. Nowadays, I look forward to goat cheese as crumbles which can be readily sprinkled onto any salad because the I believe that quickening snow effect elevates the salad into a thing of beauty.

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Garnish Is As Garnish Does

There are many things that bog us down… still many things that conflict us. My first trip to New Orleans and standing before the Mississippi River not far from Cafe Du Monde… amazing! And then the idea that this same river carried away people, welcomed in ships full of slaves— suddenly, something comes over me and I back away from the water; a sadness settles in. No one has to tell me or remind me of all the things this river witnessed throughout history, it is simply there, whispering it to me in its alluring stillness. I had come to New Orleans for some rest and relaxation. Can I still call it a relaxing vacation seeing how the remnants of the past is quite well preserved in the French Quarters compounded with the water stains evident from Hurricane Katrina? Though the beignets were great, the thought of death and slavery was kind of hard to swallow sometimes.

garnish 1Perhaps, I’m just a sensitive cook. Or perhaps, too conscious sometimes. Because plenty of things bother and bog me down at times in the kitchen. Like how the others let the water run endlessly knowing that there’s a drought. How plastic and cans are thrown in the trash instead of recycling bins. The amount of food wasted considering how many people out there are starving. Perhaps, I am a sensitive cook or perhaps because I’ve lived in a third world country and I’ve learned to value every grain of rice on my plate.

And still I’m caught in the middle whenever a new policy is established. Like garnishing sandwiches. A garnish can make or break a dish, I understand. It beautifies a dish, it can elevate a sandwich, yes. But what I’m’ often conflicted about is, most of the time, this same garnish I stick on a sandwich is set aside on the corner of a plate before being scraped down a waste bin along with a ton other of unwanted, disliked, unenjoyed food. A finicky world leaves a trail of leftovers while those who have experienced starvation will learn to subtly put away what’s been given to them inside a purse or an empty pocket, and reserve it for later.

garnish 2garnish 3
Even at its most tedious forms, I learn to garnish. Helplessly, I garnish. A garnish is part of the policy, they say. After all, it is the standard in the industry. Everything must be garnished. And I can wholeheartedly agree with the garnish if it’s eaten. But sitting across someone the other day who ate a couple of the sandwiches I’ve made, and seeing how the garnishes simply sit on top of her plate, I couldn’t help wonder whether the hundreds I’ve placed atop sandwiches have met the same fate. Will something ever change? It’s just a thought after all.

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Kobe Beef… Eating Raw For The First Time

Going to culinary school and studying to be a chef, the bounds of one’s palate are stretched and tested. We open up to experiencing food, consuming products we would never have considered before. I never ate sashimi until a friend introduced me to eating it. At the time, I was opposed to eating anything raw. I partly grew up in the Philippines where nothing is ever served raw or undercooked to safeguard people from bacteria. The amount of flies I’ve witnessed buzz over and touch against meat in the public market, I would recommend everything to be cooked to its proper temperature. However, since tasting sashimi, and understanding the concept behind fresh fish that’s been properly stored and refrigerated, now, I just can’t seem to get enough of it. I’ll take salmon sashimi any day with just a hint of shiso soy sauce and sesame oil. Simplicity and deliciousness at its best.

Kobe Beef
I never used to eat raw beef before until a few days ago when a large styrofoam box was delivered straight into our walk-in at work. I was curious. Someone said it was beef. No big deal then, we get beef deliveries all the time. Then someone added, “… from Japan.”

Immediately, my interest was piqued. Could it be, in that box, was it really that holy grail of beef traveled all the way from Japan. I stood inside the walk-in and stared at the large square package which I almost bowed in front of in worship. Again, to myself I asked, “is this really Kobe beef?” And then the meat was taken out of the box, fabricated and portioned into smaller pieces. Staring at the marbling of fat on the beef confirmed it for me. Indeed, it was Kobe.

Kobe Beef 2
“Fat is flavor.” This statement was constantly repeated by chef instructors throughout culinary school. Before culinary school, I’ve always been taught that fat is the culprit to one’s health; fat contributed to increase in bad cholesterol and caused heart disease. So people in general learned to stay away from fat. We trimmed it from our meats and tossed it in the trash. Bye, bye flavor.

What is meant by “fat is flavor” in terms of beef is the amount of marbled fat on the meat. This fat imparts not only flavor, but contributes to the meat’s tenderness. Kobe beef comes from the Wagyu cows raised in Japan where they are treated better than most people… that is before the slaughter. Cows are fed a diet of beer which stimulates their appetite and are massaged to relieve stress, to prevent any muscle stiffening. One could probably say they are unhealthy cows since they only eat and hardly exercise. But because of their daily inactivity and relaxation, these cows are truly prime to become the best kind of meat in the world.

Kobe Beef 3
I tasted a slice, raw, the other day. Again, eating raw meat is something I never considered. When I eat beef, it is usually medium rare and that’s the most I desire it to be done. Any rarer than that and Hannibal Lecter comes to mind. But the impromptu slice handed to me straight off the cutting board, didn’t give me time to think about whether to eat it or not. I took the slice and popped it in my mouth. I know I’m eating raw beef, but the taste was smooth and creamy with just a hint of saltiness that kicked in afterwards. Tasting the small piece of Kobe was both beautiful and sublime.

One often becomes enamored and humbled in the presence of something great, wonderful and viewed almost larger than life. In the presence of Kobe beef, I too reached this state of love and humbleness. For me, Kobe beef was always going to be that ingredient placed on a pedestal, something heard and read about, but unattainable. The marbling is both majestic and somewhat mystical at the same time because encountering this beef is a rare thing and doing so would mean that there was some divine food order in place. Because it is highly valued for its marbling and flavor, Kobe beef is reserved for those who can afford it at an estimated $150 per pound (prices vary of course, this is just one of many quoted prices). But there must be something that I’m doing right for me to have met this unexpected opportunity to greet this ingredient and taste it for the first time. Sashimid Kobe beef atop dainty portions of fresh cooked sushi rice… I was feeling a bit of a cannibal, a bit of a “silence of the lamb” in me, but I leave it to the food gods to decide my fate because on that day… they must be smiling down on me.

Kobe Beef Sashimi

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A “Sweety Drop” to a Faraway Place

Cocina SelectaIt arrived in the kitchen one day. The label read Sweety Drop by Cocina Selecta. The words were as ambiguous as the black wraparound paper on the can. The artwork hardly gave me any clues as to what was a Sweety Drop. The canister has a tab where you can it pull. No can opener needed on this one. We all looked at one another, stumped by the can because none of us had any idea as to what may be contained inside, except for a clue in the back on the can that tells us it is a product of Peru. I was glad it had that bit to hint at us because I was associating the name with that serial killer, Sweeney Todd. Though he might righteously fit in the kitchen, with his barber tools and all, I wouldn’t want a product derived from his craft near salads or sandwiches for that matter.

As it turns out, Sweety Drop is a type of pepper. Bright red and shaped like teardrops, these peppers run small, between the size of a dime or a nickle. They burst of sweetness at first bite, and a slight pungency at the same time. Because they are considered peppers, they do have their characteristic seeds inside, tiny ones that resemble jalapeno seeds, but unlike the jalapeno, they don’t impart heat, or if there is any, it is far too weak to be detected by the palate.

Sweet DropThe versatility of these peppers are endless. They can be paired with cheese, tossed in salads, chopped up and used as relish or made into an aioli. However, its unique teardrop shape and its vibrant red color is what is enticing about these peppers, the attraction being that these peppers can easily enhance a sandwich and transform it into a thing of beauty.

They say these peppers come from Peru. When I think of Peru, I think of the numerous flights of stairs leading one up and down that beautiful and mysterious Machu Picchu. I think of the Incan civilization that flourished during mid 1400’s, what kind of vegetation they planted to survive. Not far away, the early predecessor of this pepper was probably being cultivated, and throughout the years, it evolved into this perfect and tiny teardrop pepper that I would learn to skewer over and over to garnish my turkey sandwiches. Because a turkey sandwich by any right is just a sandwich. Stick one of these peppers on it and it elevates the sandwich just a bit. Maybe not as high as the mountains where Machu Picchu sits, but with imagination and some historical familiarity, looking and biting into a sandwich with a Sweety Drop on top of it can, for a moment, take us to a faraway place!
Turkey Sandwich

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Remembering My First Taco

The taco is probably the single most relatable Mexican food there is. If we were on Family Feud and we were told to name the most popular item on a Mexican restaurant, we’d probably say “taco.” The word taco has become universal along with the term sushi and hamburger. These terms are so common worldwide that they don’t need to be translated into another language. They are what they are, perfect in their syllables… taco.

Taco 1Tacos abound. It’s a warm tortilla with meat and salsa, a spray of lime and some chopped up onions and cilantro. At least that’s one way to have it. If not, then ground beef with pico de gallo and salsa… done. Two of those and it’s a satisfying meal, along with a bottle of beer or a cold Pepsi. Nothing beats a taco when you’re up to your ears with sandwiches.

Nowadays, the combinations are endless and even the flavor profiles give the taco a bit of a twist these days. Make it with duck confit and it lends a nuance to the taco that segues from our usual choices of chicken, beef or pork. Make it with Kobe beef and it elevates the taco just a little bit more. And if one marinated the beef with Korean flavors, it might just mimic what the Kogi truck has been feeding its loyal followers all these years.

There are many varieties of tacos out there, too many to single out as the best one because a taco is what it is to the consumer. It is either delicious or it is either the worst one that they’ve ever tasted. I don’t think I’ve tasted one quite so awful, and I’ve bought them from some questionable locations. But this isn’t really about that.

taco 2
This is about honoring the memory, that connection with someone when I found myself for the first time overwhelmed with the selections offered at a taco bar. I don’t have much tacos and frankly, at the time, I never really got the taco. I came from a country where people ate rice predominantly. What’s with a taco? Fortunately, there was one individual so proud of their culture who allowed me to observe one way to layer a taco by first warming up the corn tortilla and then spreading a small amount of beans on top followed by a sprinkling of queso fresco. It was then topped with some meat and pico de gallo, a meager drizzling of salsa along with a squeeze of lemon. It was that moment, that day that cancelled out all other tacos I consumed previously for that day became the guideline, the pattern for how a taco would be for me. All of it together, for the first time, seemed to make sense to me and how this taco formed this medley in my mouth. A song was born in my tongue and I couldn’t get enough. Surely, there are many ways and freedom goes a long way with a taco. But that act of a taco, in my memory, shall always be my very first taco.

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Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Finger Tea Breads: My Favorite Mistake

What’s with a mistake? I hate making mistakes. It’s the only thing I really hate and I don’t hate much of anything in this world. But the word is inevitable. We are imperfect beings after all and most of our lives are riddled with mistakes. It is the other educator that prods us and shapes our very character depending on whether we learn from them or not. Especially in the kitchen, our very mistakes and how we react to them can possibly determine what kind of cooks we will turn out to be.

Weekends now are devoted to refining the craft of baking. I was a baker for two years and enjoyed it thoroughly. However, because of my inability to adapt to the baker’s schedule and its sometime unmerciful solitary hours, I bowed out. Three years have passed and the act of it is something that my body misses, from the motion of kneading to shaping breads. I miss the touch of flour against my skin, its accidental dusting across my navy blue apron. I miss the smell of yeast awakening inside a bowl of warm water, the scent of dough coming out of the proof box and the buttery perfume croissants emit when I pull them out of the oven.

These smells now permeate my kitchen on my days off, except, nowadays, they lean more towards gluten free. Muffins, sandwich bread and, of course, the favorite and everyone’s request… the gluten free banana bread. My niece loves this bread and so does my 20 month old nephew who will dare climb a chair up towards the dining table to help himself to piece of this bread. (This, perhaps, is the greatest compliment I could receive about my baking.)

Banana Brick Loaf
5 sandwich loaves and 4 banana breads to be baked off during the weekend. That was the plan when I came off my six day work week last week. My goal was to replenish my whittling stock of gluten free bread along with some banana breads for the family. Everything was going well up until my second batch of banana breads, which somehow wouldn’t get color in the oven. I’ve been baking all afternoon and this final batch of banana breads were taking unusually longer inside the oven. Immediately, I had that feeling… I’ve made a mistake. It was too firm to the touch and way too pale. When I unmolded it from the pan and dropped it onto the cooling rack, they resembled bars more so than bread. It reminded me of brick bars. I wondered what ingredients I left out.

Picking up a slice, the bread seemed moist so it couldn’t be bad, but it was dense, which means that I probably omitted the baking soda which kept it from rising. Upon taste, it was mostly sweet and that meant that I also skipped the salt. Darn it! All that labor to come up with a mistake!

Working in a professional kitchen, I carry with me the trauma of mistakes. It wouldn’t be so bad, but my novice years in a pastry kitchen were spent training under a French chef whose blood boiled at the drop of inefficiencies, discrepancies and mistakes. Mistakes meant redoing and that meant more time spent on hourly wages not to mention the sometimes detrimental feedback from a waiting customer. Mistakes meant wasted products which can be costly so he would never allow me to forget my mistakes. Incorrectly measured ingredients sometimes meant getting yelled at and falling under harsh scrutiny for the rest of the day. Mistakes sometimes became too dramatic and wasn’t all that fun. Because of this, I hated making mistakes in the kitchen.

3 slices banana dense
Over the years, I’ve also grown. It took this weekend’s mistake to realize that I can shift my perspective and actually look at this banana brick bar and view it as a gold bar. I was fond of the bar shape and I was fond of the banana taste to it. Because it is dense and firm, these might even be its positive aspects to the bread. My mind was suddenly turning one light bulb after another suggesting different uses for the bread. If I sliced the bread about a centimeter thick, I can dip it in egg and turn it into finger french toasts; slip it into the oven and turn it into biscottis. It’s amazing when you remove defeat from your mind… this mistake, I happily turned it into peanut butter banana finger tea breads.

I took the same centimeter size slices and toasted them on the pan until both sides were golden. I removed them from the pan and cooled them a bit before spreading a healthy amount of peanut butter and sprinkling atop with cranberries, shredded coconut and sunflower seeds. There are endless possibilities for toppings. And if I had Nutella, for sure this would have been on top of that. But for this, I went with the classic peanut butter and banana combination and it is surely a mistake, placing trauma aside, I certainly want to repeat again and again as I look forward to enjoying it with a cup of tea or coffee in the future.

Beautiful Mistakes

Gluten Free Banana Bars

100 g Garbanzo FLour
60 g Tapioca Starch
40 g Arrowroot Starch

1/2 C olive oil
3/4 C sugar

3 ea medium bananas, mashed
1/2 C sour cream
1 t vanilla
2 ea eggs

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease 2 one pound loaf pans and set aside. Mix flours and starch and set aside.

Whisk olive oil and sugar together until emulsified. Add mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and eggs and whisk until fairly mixed. Fold in flours.

Divide between the loaf pans and bake between 25-30 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and slice to accomodate either finger tea bread, finger french toast or biscotti. Enjoy!

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Loving that Gluten Free Bread

Loving Bread 1
I don’t think we’ve truly tasted bread until we make it with our own hands. I don’t think I would come to this thought had I not turned predominantly gluten free. For in comparison, today’s bread is air. We are sold fluffed air for bread. This is something I wouldn’t have arrived at if I didn’t look for an alternative bread for the almost gluten free lifestyle I was about to plunge into.

As a former baker, bread has always been important to me. From the two years I spent baking overnight, turning out croissants and danishes and muffins on a daily basis, all I can say is that it is as much a craft as a cobbler is to a pair of shoes or a cheesemonger to a sharp aged piece of cheddar cheese. No one can begin to understand a baker’s craft unless one walked in their shoes, and how they might agonize over unproofed dough, tracking down the culprit as to whether it is due to insufficient warmth or overly salted dough. These kind of details are enough to make a baker go insane at three o’clock in the morning. But no one would know, no one would see except him or herself and God. These are the quiet hours when there is nobody around the kitchen and the baker is forced to come to a decision as to whether to start again and face the embarrassment of a fatal mistake as to why a hefty amount of croissant dough met its demise that morning.

Loving Bread 2
Changing over to this new lifestyle, I discovered quickly that not everything gluten free is gold. Although many products are sold out there, some are just really unpleasant and unpalatable. Working with sandwiches, it really makes me think twice about going back when I encounter such a gluten free product. I ask myself why it is I surrendered the joy of a croissant sandwich over this grainy, unbreadlike-tasting bread. That’s redundant and quite a mouthful, but I just spent $7 on a loaf of bread that I’ll force myself to eat because I spent 7 bucks on it even if it isn’t good. I’ll toast the hell out of it and slather it with a ton of cream cheese and strawberry jam just to eclipse the taste of that bread out of my mouth. I’ll chase it with coffee or milk if I have to, just as long as it is gluten free.

The one thing gluten free contributed, aside from minor weight loss and not being quite so bloated all the time, is how it reacquainted me with baking again. Now more than ever, baking becomes necessary. My dissatisfaction with products I’ve encountered encourages me to recreate breads and desserts according to my standards. The idea of making something staple and needed as bread has never surfaced until now. Sure I made my pandesal, but I can’t eat it daily as I do my new gluten free loaf. When I worked in pastry, though an enticing place to work in, no one can really consume too many cookies or brownies for that matter because that would be sugar overkill. Fear of diabetes lurks not too far and if one wasn’t careful with the array of chocolate cakes, ganaches and mousses abound, one can easily trip into some health-related pitfall, if not diabetes, then overconsumption made manifest around the waist.

Loving Bread 3
Bread, when one is gluten free, takes on a different notion. It no longer becomes that item of abuse like the unlimited, free cheese biscuits or house rolls delivered to the table at our favorite restaurant. Oh God, no. I look at that bread basket now and see it as poison. Take it away please! The gluten free bread becomes, in essence, a food item reeling me back to what is important and necessary. This is what being gluten free means. Going back and rediscovering what the basic staple, such as bread, really means to one’s body. In a case like this, the bread without its gluten foundation becomes more substantial, a food item that the body learns to appreciate and not take for granted.

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Bread of Life? My Bread for Life!

Food has something magical in it when put together right. Even a mere sandwich, given the right touches of smoke and fat can be transformed into something enormously satisfying and out of this world. Take your pulled pork sandwiches and smoked swordfish salad with minced jalapeno… as though someone has taken a wand and dotted it with a spell so it would taste splendid with each bite. Ahhh, the beauty of a sandwich.

These days, however, before I even arrive at that ahhh moment with a sandwich, I have to have the right kind of bread. Gluten free preferably because I’ve converted and I’m sold. I’ve said it before, being gluten free is quite challenging at times. Temptations abound at work especially when the scent of bread from the pastry kitchen tries to yank me from my bowl and dish gathering each morning. When the baker asks if I want a just-baked, out of the oven type of morning bun, it takes all my energy to repress the hectic swooning inside of me. When I have uttered a firm “no,” I wonder sometimes whether I have let slip from my eyes how much I truly wanted one. Still gooey with melted cream cheese, you said? My stomach tugs at me, reluctantly, I say no again as though the gluten prisoner concealed inside of me has no say in these matters anymore.

Instead, I focus all my energy on making bread at home. More than bread, a bread for life. To finally arrive at a recipe that tastes close to the kind of bread I’ve been eating most of my life, it feels as though I arrived close to where I want to be. I can breathe again. The search is over and I’m sticking to this one for the long haul. I followed the recipe on One Good Thing by Jillee. The pictures convinced me, her labeled “Gluten-Free Bread That Doesn’t Suck” looked like a brioche bread to me. I looked at that bread, imagined having it for breakfast with runny eggs, and I took a chance.

bread for life

I followed Jillee’s recipe but made my own substitutions. I used garbanzo flour instead of brown rice flour, arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch. Olive oil for the butter (I ran out of butter). Had I known that egg replacer could easily be replaced with baking powder, I wouldn’t have spent $6 bucks on it. That and I took the recipe and just dealt with it like a baker. I was uneasy about it at first because I’m not used to bread that can’t be kneaded. I used a paddle to mix this bread, not even a dough hook. My hands remained clean throughout the whole time, which is unlikely when I knead dough.

This recipe is wet and calls for the dough to rise close to the top of the pan. The rise took closer to two hours rather than its estimated 50-60 minutes. The 45 to 55 minute bake time in a 375 degree oven might be too long, so depending on the oven, whether the temperature is calibrated correctly, one might aim for 30 minutes and drop down the temperature to 300 degrees if one wanted to reach the 45 minute mark. My bread was already done and golden brown at 25 minutes. I suppose if I wanted the bread to have a substantial crust all around, I could have baked longer. Even with the substitutions I made, I’m really quite pleased with this bread.

Yummy Bread for Life

I have to say that this bread, apart from being delicious, is quite inspiring. Making it felt satisfying. Having access to it, for the first time, I feel not quite deprived as I have been. I rejoice and I want to share it with my family. I looked forward to making breakfast this morning because I had this bread to offer. Though the bread is cold, having been baked the night before, it tasted even better after it popped out of the toaster. The bread is substantial and grain free which is really what I require most foods to be these days. And it is just lovely, slathered with peanut butter and jelly inside. Bread of life? My bread for life!

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