It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
At midnight last night, June 29, 2016, gave way to June 30th, 2016. In a continuing cycle set forth from time’s beginning, one day gave way to the next. Today, like the the day before, and the day before that, and so on, is a blessing. Each day teems with life and where life exists, hope exists, and in this hope resides blessing. Always. Remembering the blessing every morning is an important way to begin the day, even during times of negative stress (as opposed to the positive stress caused by such things as getting married, having a baby, getting a promotion). I once heard a priest refer to the burden of hope. Hope contains the idea that one’s life can be better, and the improvement may require action on one’s part. Introducing a recipe for gluten-free sourdough blueberry muffins by referencing such transcendent notions as blessings and hope may seem strange; however, these things are tangentially related.
In March 2015, I officially started marketing my gluten-free, grain-free muffin mixes
under my business name ATX Ultra Eats. I’ve learned much during this past year, and this trial-by-fire education has been accompanied by a great deal of the negative type of stress. I, alone, am responsible for the rise or fall of my business. I, alone, am responsible for making decisions. If I make bad decisions (and I have – some really expensive bad decisions), I have to accept the blame and absorb 100% of the negative impact on my business. Conversely,when I taught freshman composition I had a boss, and I had objective guidelines set out for me to follow. If the guidelines posed problems, those problems affected my co-workers and boss as well as me. I didn’t have to address the problem; my boss did. If I had a troublesome student, I could seek advice from my co-workers or my boss. As my own boss, I operate in relative isolation. I have to find answers for problems myself. Answers exist, of course, but most of the time are difficult to find, and they often come with a price tag.
One of the many reasons I wanted to start my own business is that I wanted to be master of my own schedule. I wanted to be in control of my time. This independence comes with a certain amount of stress, as well. I am prisoner to the dictates of my business, so that when I think I know what I’ll be doing on a given day, my day turns out much differently as I respond to the immediate demands of my business. Moreover, my work never stops. I could work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and still have more work to do. I actually am much less likely to meet my weekly running mileage goals now than I was when I taught full time, even though lesson planning and grading all those freshmen comp essays meant that I often worked fifty – sixty hour weeks. Despite all that work, I knew what had to be done every day, no day was a surprise as far as what my work would require, and I had it down to a routine that allowed time for meeting my weekly running goals.
Despite the comfort of routine, and being in that (often easier) role of follower rather than leader that accompanies being an employee rather than the employer, teaching did steal time away from another major love: cooking. I did cook meals from scratch during the school year, and I spent much of my summer breaks in the kitchen. I had too little time, however, to read about food and cooking, experiment with different ingredients, or strengthen my culinary skills. Among the positive aspects of my having started my business is that I am immersed in food and cooking-related matters and activities most of the time. Food preparation, sharing meals, exchanging cooking skills, teaching others baking skills they are eager to learn: these things raise the material (in the philosophical sense) nature of food to the spiritual realm. Animals eat food as they find it, and care little about whether or not they like it. Human beings, however, elevate food above its purpose as a physiological necessity. We want to enjoy what we eat. We want to experience what we eat. We want to share our preparation of what we eat. We want to share the food we eat. Most importantly, we want to share while we eat. This desire to share is what brings me to be writing the blog post this morning, and it’s what offers me solace in the midst of business-related stress.
These thoughts passed through my mind as, while weighing my flours and mixing them into the repurposed sourdough starter, I mused upon the way the sourdough blueberry muffins symbolize the hope that vitalizes life. The basis for these muffins is sourdough starter that would otherwise be discarded, in order for the starter from which it comes to be strengthened through feeding on fresh flour and water. Instead of ending up in the trash or washed down the sink drain, however, this discarded sourdough starter became the foundation for something as equally as delicious as bread: blueberry muffins. With the right perspective, some things that seem destined to the trash bin can end up as an essential element of a wonderful new creation. I don’t really know at this point which direction my business will go, but even if it doesn’t become what I thought it would when I started it, I know it can become something equally as delicious. As the direction of my business unfolds itself, I find stress-relief, joy, and hope through the action, in sharing the joy I find in all things food-related. Voltaire is quoted as having stated that “nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” This philosopher may not have been right about everything, but he is certainly correct in this particular observation. Cooking for others, teaching others to cook, and sharing my recipes offer solace and pleasure in the midst of immense stress and change. I have no idea how many people will read this post or follow this recipe (or be inspired by it to create one of their own), but if only one person finds it helpful, then the time I spent sharing these thoughts and this recipe will have been worthwhile.
For these muffins, you will need 125 g (4.5 oz) gluten-free sourdough starter (starter that would otherwise be discarded as you feed your starter). The way to use sourdough starter in a recipe other than for bread, such as in cakes, waffles, muffins, etc, is to replace the amount of flour and liquid in the recipe by the same amount of starter you use. Thus, if you want to use 200 g of starter in a recipe, you will reduce the quantity of flour and liquid each by 1oo grams. The reason for this substitution ratio is based on 100% hydration of your starter (equal quantities of gluten-free flour and water in the starter).
Gluten-Free, Grain-Free Sourdough Blueberry Muffins
125 g (4.5 oz) Gluten-free sourdough starter
25 g (1 oz) Coconut flour
160 g (5.5 oz) Cassava flour
1 tbls Aluminum-free baking powder
100 g (3.5 oz) Organic evaporated sugar cane or raw sugar
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt
2 Eggs, beaten
4 tbls (2 oz) Melted butter (or substitute such as coconut, sunflower seed,
walnut etc oil)
1/2 cup Milk (or milk substitute)
1 cup Blueberries
More sugar for sprinkling
-Preheat oven to 350°.
-Grease, or line with paper, a twelve cup muffin tin (I use Paper Chef parchment paper non-stick cupcake liners).
-Place the starter in a medium bowl.
-In a separate bowl, mix together the flours and other dry ingredients.
-With a large spoon, mix the dry ingredients into the starter; the batter will be dry and lumpy.
-Mix the milk (or milk substitute), eggs, and melted butter (or oil) together. Make a well in the muffin batter and pour the liquid ingredients into the well. Stir until well blended.
-The batter will be somewhat lumpy, but if it is still too dry (gluten-free flours tend to be thirsty), add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until batter is property hydrated.
-Mix in the blueberries.
-Sprinkle sugar over the tops of the muffins (I use decorative sparkling sugar).
-Fill each muffin cup 3/4 or more full (the muffins will rise but not overflow).
-Bake at 350° for 20 minutes, or until slightly browned.
-Remove pan from oven; let the muffins cool in the pan for ten minutes before removing.