Category Archives: gluten-free

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!]

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chocolate… A Tale of Two Cakes

Was I dreaming this? Is this for real? I’m fast asleep on the airbed in the extra room when my niece came in and woke me briefly. She said hello and I acknowledged her with eyes barely opened, trying to make sense of time and place and where the hell I was. Oh yes, I was waiting for her to come home. After work, I stopped by her house to visit, but she had gone to a party. She was about to exit the room, and my head ready to fall back on the pillow, when she suddenly backtracked and asked, “Where’s my chocolate cake?” It must have been ten o’clock at night already.

I am the aunt who went to culinary school and spent 6 years in a pastry kitchen. Therefore, I became the go-to person for cakes. Cheesecakes, cupcakes… chocolate cakes. My niece eats a modicum amount of food, but she has fixations when it comes to sweets. They arrive in waves depending on what she’s remembered or learned. It could be a week of pining for, or rather whining for, cookies, brownies or banana breads. I don’t really know whether her list of cartoons actually elicits these cravings, but this week it was chocolate cake. The reminders passes from random voicemail to her own mother calling me about how her daughter, my niece, had been asking for chocolate cake. “Fine, fine,” I said, “I’ll make it on my weekend.”

It’s been a long time since I baked a cake. Since my focus lately had been on gluten free bread, cakes were far from my mind. But since my niece reigns supreme in my heart, gladly I take this on. The simple chocolate cake. But I want to enjoy the cake too and I want my sister to enjoy it too. It can only be gluten free.

The sponge would be the challenge, but a minor one because I already know that I would only need to substitute the A.P. flour with a gluten free alternative. For this, I used a combination of garbanzo and almond flour along with tapioca starch and applied it to a chocolate cake recipe. The result was a success. I baked it on a half sheet pan and decided I would just split the sponge in three equal parts and layer it. I explained this to my sister, upon which she texted me promptly back and asked if I could make two cakes instead of one. I have a nephew now after all and if I make it for one, it meant, I have to make one for the other. “No problem,” I texted, “I got you.”

chocolate cakesIt was one of the hottest days that week… a heatwave fell upon the day when I had to ice the cake. Seeing that my sponge turned out well and the chocolate icing was just right, I had forgotten about temperature playing a crucial part in making cakes. If I was melting in this horrid weather, the cake would surely do too. Thank goodness for my pastry smarts kicking in when they did. Placing the cake back and forth inside the refrigerator seemed to stave off the icing from turning into liquid butter. My poor refrigerator though… it worked double time to keep the cool in. The rewards though… priceless. A tale of two cakes… one for my niece and one for my nephew… gluten free at that… was absolutely enjoyable! Another gluten free success.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This Funerary Muffin… A Small Good Thing

It is not worth taking a picture of. It is simply a muffin. Blueberry with crumbles. Two dozen worth. Not gluten free. The one last thing I wanted to do for my Ninang Lilay before she was laid to rest.

As much as I love food and as much as my physique reflected it when I was a kid, my godmother, who I call Ninang Lilay, was the only one who didn’t dwell on this or pointed out the obvious. This was the first thing anybody really saw in me, the first impression they had of me before I could prove otherwise. I was portly. To others, blatantly fat. To Ninang Lilay, it didn’t seem I was that. Though I waited for the words to come out of her mouth, they never did. This memory of her omission was what stuck to me in the end and I really appreciated it. It was hard enough being an immigrant kid trying to fit in to this new country. Try being a fat kid at that. It wasn’t easy. Good thing I had a sense of humor about it.

My Ninang Lilay was a generous and kind human being. It is rare to meet an individual who embodied such an incredible spirit like hers. It is really quite humbling to come across someone like her during this lifetime. Having that in mind, I wanted to make something, give something that would honor the time she spent here on earth. What is appropriate to bring to a wake? Filipinos bring food to the wake so there would be something to eat throughout the duration of the vigil. Cupcakes felt too celebratory and any other cake felt too elaborate. It’s a wake after all, not a party. Muffins kept popping up in my mind. Something that would comfort other mourners. Blueberry muffins then. They were, to me, a small good thing that could comfort at a time of sadness. Funerary muffins. A muffin for the soul.

I didn’t want to fuss over this and I wanted to use what was readily available at home. Beside the flour and sugar, I used sour cream and olive oil. Frozen blueberries. Butter for the crumble. Simple ingredients I hoped would make some impact. But since regular flour now tasted different to me, I was uncertain about the end product. I didn’t know whether people would like it since I couldn’t tell if the muffins were good. The use of regular flour stumped my own taste buds and I couldn’t believe this was happening. Doubt raced through me. So I used the last ingredient up my sleeve. I prayed for it to be good.

Good intentions often are accompanied by good results. Even as I doubted whether these muffins would be consumed, all 24, were polished off even before the third hour; partly because of my own mother who was proudly handing off muffins her daughter made. The other stories that filtered through were that people genuinely liked it. At some point, I was giving advice about baking when I ought to have been praying. (Sorry Ninang Lilay!) Either way, I wished that I could have done more. Nevertheless, the one thing I came away with from this experience is that no matter how simple or elementary a recipe, make it from the heart… project all your good intentions and intellect in it because the honesty of the spirit, that which transfers from one’s hand to the batter is really the best quality ingredient of all. These funerary muffins, when time calls for it, they are a small good thing to have wrapped around mourning hands.

(Rest in peace, Ninang Lilay. See you in the next life!)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let Them Eat Bread!!!

Living a predominantly gluten free life sometimes feels a lot like living under a regime on the verge of a revolution. Yikes! Except it is my body that’s under revolt. Whether it’s passing the bakery aisle at the grocery store or the donut shop down the street that makes these incredible donut holes. Aish! Or having a burger with actual buns instead of lettuce designed to take the place of bread… aaargh! I’m about to go nuts. I feel so helpless in such a moment that I’m everywhere carefully listening for that voice of reason to say “Let them eat bread!”

Let Them Eat Bread

I’ve just had enough! I want bread. And I want it bad. For once, I would just like to have a piece of toast with some eggs, over-easy, so when I break into the yolk, I can dip the bread into it. Isn’t that the purpose of bread in the morning? As a piece of toast, to sop the yellow ooze from the egg or, simply, to have butter or jam spread upon it? Just for once, to put a slice of turkey and bacon with a tomato in between two slices of delicious gluten free bread.

Delicious? Is that possible to make? There’s a particular brand of gluten free bread that we serve at work. Though edible, it does not meet my expectation of delicious. It’s best when it’s toasted, but this is temporary because as soon as the warmth dissipates, the mealiness begin to manifest. Plus, it isn’t grain free. It uses brown rice, corn starch and corn syrup. What I would really like is for gluten free bread to also be grain free. Is it still possible? The parameters for making this bread seems to be getting narrower and narrower. Let’s give it a try anyway. This persistent complaint in my head for a gluten free bread, I don’t want to keep going in this way. I must come up with a recipe. This is for all breakfasts and sandwiches in the future anyway.

After reading through many gluten free bread recipes, I’m starting to compile an idea of how this bread recipe should look like. It won’t be a yeast bread, but rather more of a soda bread, which will rely on baking soda and some acidic additions for the rise. Many breads call for Sorghum and Brown rice flours, both of which are grains. I won’t be having none of that. If I put Besan/Garbanzo and Coconut flour, would it work just the same? Let’s see what I can put together along with Tapioca Flour.

Let Them Eat Bread Recipe, Gluten Free and Grain Free

70 g Besan or Garbanzo Flour
50 g Coconut Flour
200 g Tapioca Starch
1 T sugar
1 t baking soda
3/4 t xanthum gum
1/2 t salt

2 t Apple Cider Vinegar
1 ea egg
1 & 3/4 C milk
1/4 C Olive oil

Let Them Eat Bread

The recipe above are the ingredients I compiled together for this gluten free bread, but honestly it was quite ambitious. It’s a bread tolerable for now. It compliments peanut butter and jelly and could well be a substitute for bread, but it is a bit gummy. It did all I think a bread could… sop yolks, and it held up well as a tiny sandwich. However, because of the gumminess factor, I believe I still need to work on this gluten free bread to achieve that similar taste to bread I am looking for. When that day arrives, I at least have this bread to work with, keep me occupied until that perfect gluten free bread finally comes out of my oven.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blueberry Love and Hate

In the six years I worked in a pastry kitchen, none was more memorable than my tour of duty as a baker. Perhaps because it was the last station that I would rotate to before departing from the pastry kitchen altogether, but also because of how grueling it can be as a baker. Turning my body’s internal clock around was no easy task and, therefore, I found myself sleepless for two years without substantial rest until the weekend. And even then it was a struggle to put myself to sleep on my second day off in order to get ready for my Monday shift which started at 1:30 a.m. For two years, I walked like a zombie for the sake of learning breads.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

I discovered a love hate relationship with certain tasks a baker took on. I took pride in being a baker, but the amount of work was tedious. Thought I love muffins, making hundreds of them every night wore me down. I didn’t realize this when I first took on the baker’s position. I loved learning the process of making croissants and danishes, but there was a price to this and they were the muffins. People pushed paper for work, I pushed muffins. I mixed the batter and scooped them endlessly ’til my right wrist hurt. Then I would scoop some more with the left and alternate until all the mix was gone. I remember joy when I left this mass muffin baking behind and I swore I would never look, touch or taste a muffin again.

Then arrived a morning when I became gluten free. Can’t bear to have eggs for breakfast day after day or that gluten free pancake. Got to have something different this time. I wanted simple, something I could grab with a cup of coffee. And the blueberry entered my head. There was no way of getting around it. I knew I was going to embark on making a gluten free blueberry muffin.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffin BatterThinking about it placed me back in the baker’s kitchen, tirelessly scooping blueberry muffins and topping with more blueberries until my hands were blue. I would be considered regal if I dated back to the first civilization around the Mesopotamia, but looking at my blue stained hands just looked tacky. Night after night without help and it felt as though a race with myself before the timer for the first batch of muffins were done in the oven. The anxiety sets in…

But I would just be making a dozen and not 24 dozen which is good. And once I get the flour blend right, it would be easy. Yes. Set the timer for 20 minutes and a different product from the oven would come out altogether. Right. A beautiful blueberry muffin righteous for me to devour and my stomach to enjoy. Correct!

Even with this love hate relationship with the muffin, it shall always be a wavering thing because no matter what caused me to feel great anxiety or feel some aversion to it, I believe I can overcome the psychological reasons behind it. Of course there’s more to the tedium, but because the blueberry muffin in its pure essence is such an enjoyable muffin, I find that blueberries are small entities of home and regardless the path I walked as a baker, there’s always room for a blueberry muffin.

Gluten Free Blueberry MuffinGluten Free and Grain Free Sour Cream Blueberry Muffin
(about 12 muffins)

40 g Garbanzo Flour
30 g Coconut Flour
30 g Almond Flour
70 g Tapioca Starch
30 g Arrowroot Starch
150 g sugar
1 t cream of tartar
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

3/4 C + 2 T sour cream
1 T olive oil
1 t vanilla
1 ea egg
zest from 1 small lemon

1 & 1/2 C frozen blueberries plus more for topping

Preheat oven to 375*. Line muffin pan with muffin cups.

In a bowl, combine and mix wet ingredients including lemon zest, set aside. In another bowl, combine and whisk all of the dry ingredients together.

Add wet mixture in with the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula until combined. Fold in blueberries just until well dispersed inside the batter. Scoop batter into the muffin cups and top with more blueberries. Bake for 20 minutes or until done.

Enjoy muffin with a cup of coffee, tea or milk.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,