As anyone who has ever moved to a new town knows, it’s not easy making new friends. When I first moved to Tucson in 2005 I worked from home and my daughter Gigi hadn’t yet come along.
Popovers, like soufflés, are a welcome treat that makes me feel much fancier than I am in my day to day life. This is probably due to the fact that the first time I had them was at Neiman Marcus; need I say more. Gluten-free popovers are a treat I have yet to master. Until now.
Popovers, unlike Neiman Marcus, are simple and basic. Flour, milk, butter, salt and eggs. Simple, right? Easy, that is, until throwing in the challenge of making them gluten-free. I still haven’t gotten the hang of gluten-free flours, but I’m bound and determined to become an expert and to that end, I’m baking alongside the bakers over at Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia. Although the group started earlier this year, I was invited to join and after I saw quite a few other gluten-free bakers in the group, I decided this was the challenge to kick start my gluten-free baking expertise.
I started by creating a flour based on Shauna Ahern’s ratio of 40% flour and 60% starch (her post on the topic is here). You can see from my notes that I measure by grams; this is the easiest way to measure, hands down. If you’re steady handed, simply add your first flour, weigh it, tare out the scale and repeat. You can also measure flour by flour if you’re less certain. I use this scale. The all-purpose gluten-free flour mix I used for this recipe included:
Gluten-free All-Purpose Flour
(Based on 140 g = 1 cup)
- 40% flour or 56 g of the 140g/cup
- 28g whole grain amaranth flour
- 28 grams sweet white sorghum flour
- 60% starch or 84 g of the 140g/cup
- 42g potato starch
- 42g sweet white rice flour
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
Other than changing the flour, I followed the recipe, contributed to the book by Marion Cunningham, to the tee. Actually, I used a popover pan instead of a muffin tin, because my muffin tin is otherwise engaged holding pieces for this rather ambitious family Legoproject. But as you can see they emerged beautiful and brown and puffy and light.
And the taste? On their own or smothered in strawberry jam, they’re divine: the perfect marriage of creamy on the inside with just a bit of crunch on the outside. Nutella may have come into play as well.
Hungry for more? Check out the recipe, shared by our hostesses Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes and Amy of Bake With Amy. If you’re interested in baking along with us, you can join the fun at Tuesdays with Dorie or buy the book, Baking with Julia. Bon appétit!
Bread is something I think about a lot, probably because, for now at least, we’re not on speaking terms. Oh sure, we gaze longingly at each other as I pass by a sandwich shop, and I’ve been known to cop a sniff as I slink by the Ciabatta at Trader Joe’s. But for the most part, the sum of going gluten free and South Beach almost simultaneously means bye-bye bread, hello salad bar.
And it’s killing me, this forced distance between us. Was it just last summer that I was slathering fruity olive oil over crisp slices of rosemary garlic sourdough toast before lovingly draping ripe tomatoes over each bite?
Why yes, yes it was.
By now you know that bread is the enemy, I assume. Not just to gluten-free gals like myself, but to anyone who has a muffin top to pinch, anyone who can rest her arm on her very own waist and declare, “Bread, this is your fault.” Even though it’s really an allergy to exercise that’s to blame. Let’s all heave a collective sigh, shall we?
Not to change the subject, but Nora Ephron died yesterday. I’m sure you already knew that. Did you love her? I did, too. From Heartburn to Julie & Julia and every food-related essay in between, I really admired her as a writer, a humorist and a woman. In I Feel Bad About My Neck she asks, “Are we really going to have to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in America is so unbelievably delicious?”
You know what, Nora? No, we’re not. We’re going to do what normal people the world over do: consume bread. And not just any bread, but good bread. Make that great bread. More specifically, great gluten-free bread.
Take that, muffin top.
I cobbled this together over many anxious moments spent flipping between Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, this post on the Artisan Bread in Five website and this video on the same site. I used the Dutch oven method described on their site because, frankly, the steamy water method described in the book seemed like a lot more work. I also halved the recipe because gluten-free flours are expensive and I am cheap (although my husband might disagree with the latter part of that statement). I baked half the dough and then divided the other half into halves, which I then froze. Obviously, there’s a lot of math going on over here. Here’s how it all breaks down:
- 160 grams brown rice flour
- 101.25 grams sorghum flour
- 180 grams tapioca flour
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon xanthan gum
- 1⅓ cup room temperature water
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine using medium-high speed; don’t overwork the dough.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover in plastic wrap; let rest for a few hours on the counter.
- After the initial rest, move the bowl to the refrigerator and let rest at least 24 hours.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. Either return one half to the refrigerator to use within the next week, or freeze.
- Using wet hands, form the remaining half into a rounded dome.
- Let the dough rest on a piece of parchment paper, covered in plastic wrap, for 90 minutes.
- An hour before baking, set a 5-quart cast iron Dutch oven into a cold oven; preheat the oven to 500°.
- Once the oven is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven. Before setting the dough into the pot, discard the plastic wrap and then slash the dough in three or four spots along the top. Grab two sides of the parchment paper and carefully lower the dough into the pot. Bake for 20 minutes, with the lid on.
- Once the dough has baked for 20 minutes, remove the lid and reduce the heat to 450°. Bake for 15-20 minutes more, until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 200°.
- Let cool completely on a cooling rack before serving.
The most confusing thing about going gluten-free (for me, at least) is the baking. For one thing, gluten-free all-purpose flours cost a gazillion times more than their regular, gluten counterparts. For another, the taste is, well, different. Makes sense, right? White flour tastes different than whole wheat flour; both perform differently than cake flour.
But for someone like me, who isn’t much of a baker to begin with, gluten-free baking is like being in a foreign country where even the alphabet is different.
So to ease myself into the shallow end, so to speak, I opted to start with popovers. Mind you, I’ve made popovers just once before and loved them, so my hopes were equally high for the gluten-free version. I used this recipe from the King Arthur Flour website, but used a different brand of all-purpose gluten-free flour which (sadly) had a beany after-taste. (Beany, that’s a word, right?).
Beaniness aside, the popovers were magical. Puffy and creamy on the inside, crisp yet pillowy on the outside. I slathered one, then another, with my favorite strawberry jam, because, as my friend Leanne of Three Dog Kitchen has taught me, “Everything tastes better with jam.”
Even gluten-free popovers.
I’ve been to Israel only once. I’d like to go back again. There was so much we didn’t see, and so much I’d want to do again, like swim in the Dead Sea, explore the labyrinthian passageways of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or bask in the rainbow colors of Marc Chagall’s windows at the Hadassah-University Medical Center.
But until I make it back, I have the food to keep me happy. On our first full day in Israel, we drove north from Hafia to Rosh ha-Nikra, Israel’s northern-most point. In fact, Israel’s border with Lebanon can be seen from the parking lot of the Rosh ha-Nikra grottoes. After hiking around the cool damp caves, our group clambered back on the bus and headed east, hugging the Lebanese border. We soon stopped for lunch at Arazim Restaurant in Shlomi.
As I sipped a Coke (my trick for keeping stomach ailments at bay while traveling), plate after plate of Lebanese mezze were placed before our group. Thick hummus served with plump pita bread, spicy lamb nestled against tangy rice…but I only had eyes for the tabbouleh.
More parsley than grain, more vegetable than starch, the tabbouleh at Arazim was so refreshing and filling I could barely keep from leaping across the table to get more.
Back home I eventually mastered a traditional tabbouleh, made with bulgur wheat. In the weeks since eliminating gluten from my diet, I searched like a mad woman for a grain to replace the bulgur, eventually settling on buckwheat. Although settling isn’t really a fair statement: buckwheat is creamy like risotto (without the fuss) yet has a bite like barley. It’s not as nutty as bulgur, but for me, it’s just as good.
Maybe even better.
For more great gluten-free and other allergy-friendly recipes, check out Allergy-Free Wednesdays.
- 1 cup buckwheat
- 3-4 Persian cucumbers, diced (no need to peel)
- 1 pound small heirloom tomatoes, chopped
- 1 bunch green onions, whites and tender greens, chopped
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 1 bunch mint, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- ½ to ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- Boil 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Rinse and drain the buckwheat. When the water boils, add the buckwheat, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed into the buckwheat, stirring occasionally.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
- Once the buckwheat has cooked, fluff with a fork and add to the vegetables.
- Chill for 2-3 hours before serving.
If you want comfort food done right, look no further than my friend Breanne, who grew up in the South surrounded by generations of women known for their Southern charm and secret recipes. This is a family that so closely guards some of its recipes that daughters and granddaughters are shooed out of the kitchen when fried chicken is on the menu, lest anyone pick up on the ingredients or the method and pass it along.
Luckily, their cornbread recipe isn’t under lock and key, and it’s the best I’ve ever had. This recipe comes together in a pinch and requires a basic piece of kitchen equipment found in every Southern kitchen: a well-seasoned cast iron pan. Breanne’s cornbread complements everything from soup to chili to your morning coffee. Just be sure to have lots of butter on hand.
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup enriched corn meal, plus a few tablespoons for the skillet
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
1 cup skim milk
¼ cup vegetable oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then fold in the milk, egg and a ¼ cup oil.
- Mix dry ingredients first, than add oil, milk, and egg.
- Prepare a 10” skillet by swirling 2 tablespoons oil in the blottom then sprinkling the skillet with about 1 tablespoon corn meal. Heat in the oven until hot and the corn meal begins to brown; don’t let it burn.
- Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and add the batter. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown on top.
- Serve immediately with plenty of butter.
This is a cautionary tale of sorts, about a home cook who worked for nearly three hours to create a treat that goes from street to sublime when dressed with an elegant Herbes de Provence sea salt. These soft pretzels amaze with a chewy-crispy exterior that gives to a soft interior, all the while teasing your taste buds with lavender, rosemary and sea salt. I found myself skipping lunch just so I could savor yet one more pretzel. Yes, they’re that good. So if you’re prepared to fall under the spell of warm, soft, homemade pretzels, read on. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I discovered this recipe through Jey of The Jey of Cooking, my assignment for this month’s secret recipe club. Last month I whipped up these M&M Peanut Butter Blondies which quickly caught the attention of some of my fellow San Diego Food Bloggers. This month, I switched from sweet to savory.
Jey and I have a lot in common. We both started our blogs to challenge ourselves to cook beyond our comfort level. Jey took her personal challenge a step further by creating 11 in ’11, her personal road map of recipes that she can’t wait to try. Encouraged by her determination, I picked pretzels from her list of 11 new recipes to try (she’s also got bagels and croissants on her list, I knew I liked this woman!).
Making soft pretzels by hand is time consuming, I won’t lie to you. But the process of breaking each step into tasks, of combining the science of baking with the creativity of intuition was thoroughly rewarding. This method involved hand kneading, which I find both therapeutic and rewarding. If you’re interested in using your electric mixer to knead the dough, check out this option by Alton Brown. Who wouldn’t want that precious little pretzel waiting for them? I thought so. And if you want to step it up a notch, consider using the herbed sea salt I used, which was a gift from friends of a friend at Sel Magique.
Soft Pretzels with Herbed Sea Salt
Standing electric mixer with dough hook
Baking sheets, preferably three or four
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water, 110-115°
1 envelope dry active yeast
½ teaspoon white sugar (optional)
4 cups (17 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 quarts cold water
½ cup baking soda
Herbes de Provence Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
- Prepare the yeast: In a small glass bowl, mix 2 tablespoons warm water and the yeast; the water should be between 110° and 115° degrees, which is hotter than you think. Use a thermometer, or gauge this way: if the water’s too hot to run a kid’s hand through it, then it’s the right temperature.
- Let the mixture rest until foamy, like a beer when you first pour it. If you don’t notice any activity, add ½ teaspoon sugar, this should encourage the yeast to grow. This might take 10-30 minutes.
- Prepare the dough: Once the yeast mixture is foamy, scrape it into the bowl of a standing electric mixer. Add 1 1/3 cups warm water and the brown sugar, stir to combine.
- Add the flour and, using the dough hook, mix at medium-low speed until the dough comes together.
- Plop the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for at least five minutes. This is a wet, sticky dough. To knead, pull it straight up from your work surface, then slap it back down, create a mound, then repeat. Resist the urge to add more flour; to prevent sticking, lightly splash your hands with water, but take care and don’t add too much extra water.
- Using a dough scraper, cut the dough in half and roll each half into a 12” roll. Cut each roll into 10 pieces; you should have 20 pieces, roughly the same size. Lightly cover with plastic wrap or, even better, a kitchen towel (but not one made of terrycloth). Let rest for 20 minutes.
- Shape the pretzels: Prepare two baking sheets: line each with parchment paper and lightly dust with flour. Using your hands, roll each piece of dough into a 12” long rope; you can lightly dust your hands with flour, but keep your work surface tacky. Pick up each end of the rope and form a U, lay the curve of the U on the baking sheet. Cross the two ends of the U, one over the other, almost like the U is crossing its arms. Pinch each end where it meets the curve of the U. Repeat for the remaining 19 pieces. Try to leave an inch or so of space between each pretzel on the baking sheet. Lightly spritz the pretzels with oil and cover with plastic wrap; let rest for at least 30 minutes.
- Boil the pretzels: While the pretzels are resting, prepare the oven. Place the racks on the top and bottom third of the oven; preheat the oven to 425°. Meanwhile, in a large pot, boil 2 quarts cold water; when it boils, add the baking soda. Carefully slide 3 or 4 pretzels into the water, they’ll expand quickly so allow room. Boil for 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.
- Bake the pretzels: Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and lightly oiling with vegetable or canola oil. Arrange the pretzels, right side up, allowing an inch or so of room. Sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until browned all over. Remove from oven, let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to clean cooling racks.
- Serve warm.
Form a U, then cross the ends over the curve
Lately I can think of little else but homemade bread. When I enter a market I immediately seek out the bakery. If I’m lucky enough, I can even catch a whiff of fresh bread emerging from the oven, a scent so heavenly I’ve been known to swoon.
Recently, my swooning was confined to my home kitchen when I found myself extracting a finished loaf from my very own oven. My first attempt at no-knead bread resulted in a bland, if not beautiful, loaf that promptly found its way to the trash. But practice leads to perfection and while I won’t claim to be an expert (yet), I am very proud of the load you see pictured here.
For days on end it was my breakfast slathered in butter, my lunch doused in olive oil and layered with tomatoes and salt. With great effort, I even froze a few slices to test if the bread would emerge from the toaster oven as chewy and delicious as on day one; it did.
This recipe comes from the Cook’s Illustrated iPhone app and it’s flawless. The recipe attracted me for its flexibility; the first rise could be anywhere from eight to 18 hours, with nary an impact on the final product. Oh, and did I mention this recipe calls for beer? My single most favorite summertime beverage of them all lent an almost sourdough-like taste to the loaf, without requiring a sourdough starter.
You will need a Dutch oven or other ovenproof vessel, such as this one from Lodge.
What You Need:
15 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for your work surface
¼ teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
1 ½ teaspoons salt
7 ounces room temperature water
3 ounces beer (like cooking with wine, I went for a brew that I’d actually drink: Stone IPA. You could also use non-alcoholic beer.)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
What You Do:
- Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, one big enough to allow the dough to rise. Fold in the wet ingredients, using a spatula to mix the dough and scrape up the flour that gets stuck to the bowl. You’ll eventually have a sticky, gooey ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave be at least overnight or up to 18 hours (I love that part).
- Plop dough onto a lightly floured workspace and knead 10 to 15 times while forming into a ball. Lightly spray with olive oil or cooking spray and set aside in a clean bowl for a second rise of 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 500° at least half an hour or more before baking. Place a large Dutch oven with lid into the oven during the preheat stage. Once the dough is ready, carefully remove the Dutch oven and plunk the dough inside. Lightly dust the top of hte dough with flour (which gives it that lovely artisan look you see in the photograph).
- Drop the heat to 425° and bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for another 20 or 30 minutes, or until the loaf begins to brown. You can test for doneness with a thermometer; it will read 210° when done.
- Allow to cool until room temperature before you dig in. Believe me, that’s the hardest part of this entire process.
Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated.
Baking bread, to me, elevates cooking from an assembly of ingredients to a process nearing alchemy, a skill meant only for those who dare to meet the challenge. My first attempt at baking bread resulted in a bland, if pretty, loaf that promptly met the trashcan. I’m proud to report that my second attempt was the star appetizer at our seafood paella cook-out last weekend. Bravo for second chances!
I’m still not exactly sure what happened. But it all started with this recipe by Mark Bittman for grilled flatbread. Flatbread is perfect for everything from artisanal pizzas to crackers for hummus to dipping in sweet olive oil laced with kosher salt. To make flatbread at home requires only flour, water, salt, sugar and instant yeast. Simple, yes?
Not so fast. For whatever reason, none of the stores in my two-mile shopping radius stock instant yeast, so I tucked a packet of active dry yeast into my basket and assumed I could make a conversion of some nature with the same results. While it’s true that the end result was, indeed, flatbread, my version took an 18-hour rise instead of the hour rise Bittman suggests one would have with instant yeast.
There were moments when I was convinced the dough wouldn’t rise; I set a measuring cup aside the covered bowl to measure the dough’s progress. But at the eleventh hour the yeast proved it could do its job. As I plopped the dough onto a floured surface, peeling away the sticky mess with more flour, I hesitated. I had more pressing culinary tasks to attend to, including pureeing tomatoes for Mr. Gonzo’s paella and making homemade ice cream for our guests. But I surged ahead, dividing the dough into eight small balls that I thumped and thwacked into thin, ameba shaped flatbreads. With Mr. Gonzo’s grill hot and ready for the paella pan, I had just minutes to grill my bread before he reclaimed the surface for himself. But seconds was all it took until we had lovely grilled flatbread.
And it was delicious: chewy and savory, a perfect delivery system for a simple dipping sauce of olive oil and salt. To try it yourself, follow Bittman’s recipe, which is what I plan to do next time, because there will be a next time. After all, alchemy is a process not unlike cooking and once you’ve discovered the secret, you’re hooked.
The other day I had what can only be considered an epiphany: I like to cook. Just not every day. And not to go all new-age mindful on you, but recognizing this was such an emotional release that I instantly sat down. Whew!
That lasted all of 11 seconds before I was up and at ‘em, staring at my cookbook collection as if it were the Holy Grail. Which it is, in a minor, non-secular sense I suppose. Here, within the thousands of pages and hundreds of thousands of recipes were enough ideas to last until the end of time. Not unlike my love handles, really.
Left to my own devices, I’d probably prepare chili, tacos and split pea soup seven days a week. Today, though, to honor my epiphany, I needed something new. Something…wow. Something like Cooking Light’s Greek Bulgur Salad with Chicken.
A few years back, Cooking Light did a brown-bag lunch club feature; recipes to make for 10 of your favorite colleagues, or at least people whose cooking you trusted enough to permit them the joy of cooking for you. I figured I could use these recipes for general pot-lucks, book clubs and all manner of lunch-time leftovers. I started with the bulgur recipe primarily because it featured a grain I’d never used before. To make this gluten-free, however, I’m using buckwheat instead.
You definitely want to get started early on this one. The chopping involved requires either coffee and the Cooking Channel (AM edition) or wine and the Real Housewives of Wherever (PM edition). I used precooked chicken; if you follow that path, just be sure to taste before adding salt and pepper. Sadly, there really aren’t many more short cuts than that, unless your market happens to carry chopped tomatoes, cucumbers or onion.
All that work pays off though. You’ve got a ton of food, enough to last a few days at least. Depending on your tolerance for leftovers, you can still enjoy this two to three days after its debut. Which gives me plenty of time to sit around and wait for my next epiphany.
Chicken & Buckwheat Salad
Serves 10 or more. This endlessly adaptable salad takes full advantage of whatever left-over veggies you have in your produce drawer. Use the meat of two store-bought rotisserie chickens if you’re pressed for time. If you like, halve the recipe and you’ve got lunch for a few days.
3 or 4 chicken breasts, roasted and chopped
3 cups buckwheat
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
½ cup basil, chopped
½ cup scallions, chopped
½ cup goat cheese
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 3-4 lemons
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Begin by roasting the chicken breasts. Preheat an oven to 350°. Rub a tablespoon of olive oil over the breasts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place in a roasting pan. Cook for 45 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165°. Once the chicken has cooled, chop into bite-sized cubes and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Meanwhile, prepare the buckwheat according to package directions. Once the buckwheat has cooked, set aside to cool, then refrigerate until ready to use.
- While the chicken and buckwheat cook, chop the vegetables and herbs, adding each to a large bowl as you go along.
- Once everything’s chopped, add the chicken and buckwheat to the bowl. Stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Drizzle over the salad and gently stir to combine.
- Cover the salad and let it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.