Tag Archives: baking

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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A Chocolate Chip Off the Quick Bread

It wasn’t something I was planning on, but something lead me to it. Outside, it’s been very cold … bones freezing and a horrid cough creeps in and out of me, provoked by the cold air. My body craves warmth, deeper than what Vicks vapor rub can do for my respiratory system. I find myself therefore standing in the middle of my kitchen where I see the oven and the burners, the only hearth I know can yield the warmth my body desperately needs to get me over this terrible cold lingering inside my system.

I want something that goes well with tea. Jasmine tea, ginger tea and lemon tea have been the drink of choice these past couple of months to warm the throat and tone down this unsparing barrage of cough coming from me. Frankly, without any added sweetener, the tastelessness finally wears my palate down, and the drab inside my mouth searches for something to compliment tea.

Given the ingredients available to me, I came up with a gluten free chocolate chip bread. In the pantry, there were chocolate chips, sugar, a medley of gluten free flours and olive oil. I still had a tub of sour cream from Costco that needed to be finished along with some eggs. I wanted to use all of these and ended up putting together a somewhat decent gluten free quick bread that I believe matches tea very well.

Chocolate Chip Bread
Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Bread

Dry:
80 g garbanzo bean flour
60 g potato flour
20 g coconut flour
100 g tapioca starch
40 g arrowroot starch
1/2 t xanthan Gum
1/2 t baking Soda
1/2 t salt (Kosher)
1 1/2 t baking soda

Wet:
150 g sugar
1/3 C olive oil
1 C sour cream
1 C milk
2 ea eggs
1 t vanilla

2 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375*. Grease or coat 2 one pound loaf pans and set aside.

Combine and whisk together all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until all the flour mixture is moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips until well distributed throughout the batter.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two loaf pans and bake in a 375* oven for 20 minutes. Turn the loaf pans and bake another 20 minutes, this time turning the oven heat down to 325*.

Let the loaves cool for 15 minutes. Slice and eat to your heart’s desire! With tea, of course!

Afterthought:

There are plenty of recipes out there on the internet, more alike in so many ways, but different because they are found in different sites. It is the baker’s duty to read these recipes and catch the anomalies, inconsistencies and edits these recipes undergo because though they look good on paper, how it looks in the bowl sometimes goes against the baker’s instincts. I didn’t realize I had these instincts until I came across a recipe I was trying out which at the end simulated cookie dough rather than a loose quick bread batter. At first sight of this quick bread, I thought my entire body was at a standstill. My mind couldn’t move forward and was urging me to add liquid. Had I not added some milk into the batter, this entire blog entry might be saturated with disappointment rather than pride and joy. So for all the bakers out there, novice or experienced, do not ignore those baker’s instincts when you proceed through a recipe… or else you might just regret slicing into a rock rather than a piece of bread. Best of luck and Happy Holidays!

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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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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.

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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!)

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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

Dry
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

Wet
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.

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Banana Bread… Back to Basics

Striving to be gluten-free is like trying to be saintly everyday. There’s a whole lot of work that goes into being a gluten-free angel. Nowadays, I have to rethink about all the ingredients I’ve been using and I am constantly reading and learning about what kind of substitutions I can make. Of course, there’s always that option of purchasing all these ready-made gluten-free products in the supermarket, but it can add up. Ready-made gluten-free foods ain’t cheap, and I mean that in the most sincere way. This new gluten-free consciousness suddenly awakens me to the fact that pursuit of the right kind of ingredients and eating the right kind of foods can set one’s pocket just a tad bit back. So what’s the next option to saving, especially when you have to keep up with a new car payment? Make your gluten-free goodies yourself!

Pandesal with cheeseSo here I am, back to basics. Three months into being gluten-free, there’s a point when I feel I’ve tapped out. One can only eat so much cauliflower fried rice, chocolate chip chickpea cookies and almond meal brownies. In the beginning, I thought as long as I was armed with the latter, I would be okay. I was going to be fine. After all, no one starves from becoming gluten-free. But then the body begins to crave beyond cookies and brownies. It wants to consume the foods it used to eat like pasta, garlic bread or a really good sandwich without a care as to the bread or bun being used. Temptations follow and, soon, the thought of how easy life would be if I could eat wheat again floats around my head. Suddenly, as though a bucket of ice cold water is thrown upon my face, I remember the dilemma my stomach went through when I tasted that pandesal with cheese from two blog entries ago. I then realize I had to cut that crap out and recommit.

Banana bread holds a special place in my heart. This is where it began, the practice of baking through banana breads. I loved the idea of turning something mushy and pleasantly inedible into something good. Let’s face it, these breads are the perfect medium for bananas almost gone bad. Try making it with good bananas and the flavor doesn’t quite work out as well. I enjoy baking banana breads. Making them has always been rewarding because everyone loves it. I love it too. It takes an hour or so to put together and bake, but it only takes about 15 minutes to polish off. Over-ripened bananas abound in many kitchens. What to do with them, God only knows. But then someone did figure a recipe for these old, black, polka-dotted bananas and, well, the rest is probably history. I enjoy it with coffee or as a tea sandwich with cream cheese in between.

Banana Bread

However, banana bread is nowhere to be found in my diet lately, the reason being that I don’t have the right combination of gluten-free flours to replace all-purpose flour, which is what most recipes call for. Since my commitment to being gluten-free, I have kept garbanzo flour or besan, coconut flour, almond flour and starches like tapioca and arrowroot in my pantry. Typically, I use these as minor substitutions for recipes that require only a small amount of A.P. flour. But bread itself is a different beast altogether, and can be off-putting, if one doesn’t find the right kind of flour combination to mimic that close enough to bread kind of taste. This means I need to go back to square one to find the right combination of flours to bake with.

To achieve this, I’ve turned to the guidelines provided in the gluten-free-girl and the chef web page to help me make my own gluten-free all purpose flour. Her 40/60 ratio recommendation, 40% wheat grain to a 60% white flour or starch combination, was enough to set me down the path of achieving and tasting once again that banana bread I love so much.

The recipe for a gluten-free banana bread that may, perhaps, save one on any given day when being gluten-free can, at times, feel severe and punishing is as follows:

Wet:
4 oz or 1 stick of butter, room temp
3/4 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1 C or 2 medium size ripened bananas
1/2 C sour cream, room temp
1 ea egg, room temp

Dry:
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
mr’s gluten-free A.P. flour mix:
40 g Garbanzo or Besan Flour
20 g Coconut Flour
20 g Almond Flour
60 g Arrowroot Starch
60 g Tapioca Starch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk for a minute or two. Set aside. Grease two 1 pound bread pans and set aside.

In a Kitchen Aid mixer with a paddle attachment, beat room temperature butter and sugar on medium speed for 7 minutes or until mixture looks white and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Add vanilla and mix for additional 3 minutes. Scrape once again. Add bananas, room temperature sour cream and egg and mix thoroughly for an additional minute or two. Remove bowl from the mixer. Combine dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and fold with a spatula just until everything comes together.

Divide batter evenly between the pans and bake for 37-40 minutes.

Note: This recipe is a work in progress. Because the mechanics of alternative flours work differently from regular wheat flour, it will take time to refine the recipe. For now, this bread has been tested and it is good!!!

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