Jean Anthelme Brillat-Severin states in his grand work The Physiology of Taste (a delightful book which I recently began reading, and that I recommend to everyone whose love for food leans as much toward the philosophical as to the epicurean side) that “good living is an act of intelligence, by which we choose things which have an agreeable taste rather than those which do not.” This aphorism, I believe, probably resonates strongly with people who must eat gluten-free and are always searching for the most agreeable gluten-free version of a gluten-containing food. Individuals may disagree with each other in their judgments concerning which foods taste agreeable and which do not; however, most people do have preference for food they find pleasant in flavor and texture. Usually, one has a standard by which he judges the quality in each category of foods he prefers, and he measures all food in that class by that standard. For this reason, a person who would never refuse a slice of pizza from such places as Mello Mushroom or Via 313 will often forego having pizza if her only choice is a piece of much less quality grocery-store frozen pizza. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Something about a perfectly bubbly sourdough starter is satisfying. Just two ingredients, water and flour, leads to bubbles, increase of substance, and life. Then when added to a few more ingredients, it aids in the creation of a satisfying loaf of bread. Gluten-free sourdough bread is even more satisfying in that it’s not kneaded and only requires one rising. It doesn’t have to be looked after much, either. One has only to mix the ingredients and set the dough to rise. During the four or more hours the dough is rising, one has time for work, cleaning, running errands, and even a long run. Baking a nice loaf of gluten-free bread is is actually very easy.
As easy as baking gluten-free sourdough may be, just one loaf of gluten-free bread requires much more sourdough starter than a gluten-containing sourdough bread. The need for a large amount of starter means that you need to have at least two jars of active sourdough starter in order to begin baking your bread (see my post on starting and maintaining a gluten-free sourdough starter). Once your starter is lively and rearing to go, you are reading to bake a perfectly beautiful and delicious loaf of gluten-free sourdough bread, with a texture and flavor very close to that of gluten-containing sourdough bread. Continue reading
In my last blog post, I describe steps to successfully making and keeping a gluten-free sourdough starter. In this post, I’m offering a recipe that transforms (or repurposes?) a failed sourdough bread dough into a triumph: a bread with such pleasing texture and amazing flavor that people will beg you to make it again and again, never suspecting that your pièce de résistance began as a culinary error. Although I hope that everyone who attempts to make a delicious boule of gluten-free sourdough bread does so successfully the very first time, the truth is that often that first loaf decides not to rise as it should. Hour after hour, you lift the cloth that covers the dough you so carefully nursed from its inception as just a mixture of gluten-free flour and water; hour after hour the dough seems to be the same size as when you last checked. Finally, after six hours or so, you realize that the dough is as tall as it’s going to grow, which is not tall at all. Continue reading
Bread Series, #2
In the first of my posts on baking gluten-free yeast breads, I noted the importance of bread baking, sharing, and eating to communal participation and bonding. Perhaps the aspect of bread making that best materially exemplifies its role in binding generations, cultures, and individuals to one another is the use of a sourdough starter as leavening in a loaf of bread. The passing down of sourdough starters from parent to child provides a tangible link between generations, just as the practice of leavening bread with a sponge links bread-bakers in the 21st century with bread-bakers in c 300 BC Egypt, the first people believed to have used yeast for bread. In our family, the passing of the sourdough starter worked its way backward; my son passed his gluten-free sourdough starter up to me. I have since shared our family gluten-free starter with the wonderful people who took the gluten-free bread baking class I taught this past March. Share sourdough starter, share the love!
Baking bread slowly, with the use of a starter or sponge, is making a come-back, even in the gluten-eating world. The popularity of such bread cookbooks as My Bread: The Revolutionary No Knead, No Work Method, by Jim Lahey, and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Joe Hertzberg and Zoë François, attest to the rise in interest in the return to traditional methods of baking yeast breads. The recipes in these cookbooks rely on slow fermentation for leavening. Slow fermented breads are more flavorful, and their nutrients are more bioavailable (easier for the body to absorb). Continue reading
I’m writing a really short post, so that I can get this chocolate bread French toast recipe posted in time for Mother’s Day. In the midst of changing my WordPress.com website to WordPress.org, I’m finding out that teaching myself website technology is more difficult and time consuming than I imagined it would be (and I imagined it would be fairly difficult). As a result of my learning curve, I decided a shorter Mother’s Day post would be better than none at all. When you taste this chocolate bread French toast, you will surely agree that the recipe needs to be made available to people everywhere who love their mothers (or the mothers of their children) who eat gluten-free, and who would love to be served a very special breakfast on a day set aside to honor mothers. I have to make two important points, however, about this recipe. The first is that it is not a recipe for those who suffer from fear of cholesterol, fat, sugar, and rich foods in general. Trust me. Unless you have a true allergy to one or more of the ingredients, use full fat milk, real eggs, and true butter. You will be a joyful person if you do, which leads me to the second point; prepared with the suggested ingredients, this delectably rich, chocolatey, dripping with caramelized honey gluten-free French toast is a perfect diet food. Yes, I’m serious. Once you eat this for breakfast or brunch, you will easily pass the rest of the day without wanting to eat again! See? One meal in the morning, and you are set for the day! The best part of preparing this gluten-free French toast for your mom is that she will feel indulged and special, for sure. Continue reading
Bread Series, #1:
Today’s scripture reading is apropos to my intent to write my first post, in a series, on baking gluten-free bread. These Biblical scriptures don’t resonate with everyone, for sure, but the significance of bread in relation to sustaining life, both physical and spiritual, is something to which most people can relate. Michael Pollan points out, in the Air episode of his documentary Cooked, that a person who has nothing else but flour and water can live for quite a while by combining them to make bread. In many cultures, people still make their bread from scratch every day, and bread is featured in every one of their meals. In these cultures, the art of bread-making is passed down through the generations: children part-take in the daily task of making bread for the family. These families enjoy delicious breads made with wholesome ingredients, as a major dietary stable
In the Western world, even though fewer people make their bread from scratch every day, and despite an increasing unpopularity of simple carbohydrates, bread is a major component of meals. Restaurants serve bread before meals. Biscuits, cornbread, and tortillas are major components of every day meals, and yeast rolls are a regular feature of holiday and other special event meals. People literally break bread together at meals, reinforcing Michael Pollan’s point that bread is communal. As Pollan points out in his documentary, bread requires a community effort, for it is a division of labor, from the planting and harvesting of wheat to the mixing of the dough and the baking of the bread. No doubt, from its central role in religious ceremonies to its presence on the dinner table, the production, baking, and eating of bread helps to form a community of people. A striking intangible beauty of multi-faceted human relationships arises from the formation of this bread-sharing community: a beauty that mostly goes unnoticed by people who are immersed in its culture. The existence of the community formed by the sharing of bread, however, becomes starkly visible to those people who suddenly find that the very strength of the bread, gluten, seriously threatens their health. Not only can they no longer enjoy the simple pleasure of bread, they find themselves marginalized from certain elements of society. Continue reading
A few months ago, I wrote a post about having impulsively purchased apple flour. I actually LOVE, LOVE, LOVE using this flour in baked goods, as a substitute for gums. I quit using xanthan and guar gums quite a while ago, without much problem. I find alternatives to the gums that work quite well. I bought the apple flour, which is nothing but dried, ground apples, thinking that the natural pectin in the apple flour would work well to support the structure of baked goods, and to help keep them moist. The apple flour works to do just that. It’s a little pricey, but people I know keep suggesting that I dehydrate apples and grind my own apple flour. The problem with that suggestion is that I have about a billion of those proverbial irons in the fire, and the thought of taking those two extra steps to make my own apple flour is too overwhelming at this time. The good news is that I found out through experimentation that less is more, and since so little of it works wonders, the expense may not be that prohibitive. Continue reading
Starting today, to make room for the new size muffin mixes, all current ATX Ultra Eats gluten-free, grain-free muffin mixes are 50% off, with free shipping. See the individual muffin mix flavors at atxultraeats.com for details. What can be better than a sale, unless it’s a sell on delicious, minimally-processed gluten-free, grain-free muffin mixes??
August in Texas is hot. Just plain hot. At times when I run and see the
brown, dead or dying grass, parched plants, and cracked earth, I think of the words the narrator in Browning’s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Comes” imagines spoken by Nature:
No! penury, inertness and grimace,
In the strange sort, were the land’s portion. “See
Or shut your eyes,” said Nature peevishly,
“It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
’T is the Last Judgment’s fire must cure this place,
Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.”
Without trying to minimize the tone of despair expressed by the unnamed narrator in Browning’s poem, I do feel a sort of despair at the over-whelming energy, life-sapping heat of August. To get ourselves through the often steamy, always sweltering days of August, Phillip and I plan an October race somewhere in a cooler region outside of Texas. We plan this yearly October trip for two reasons: October is our anniversary month, so our fall race in a less taxing climate doubles as our anniversary celebration, and planning for the autumn trip and race throughout the summer adds purpose to the miserable runs we must endure throughout the scorching summer months. This year, on October 18th, Phillip and I will be in Bar Harbor, ME, running the Mount Desert Island Marathon. Whoo-hoo! The date is quickly approaching! Relief from the heat is in sight! We will feel very sad for our friends and family in Texas, who will still be suffering temperatures in the 90s as we are enjoying a much cooler climate in beautifulMaine!
In the meantime, Phillip and I are ramping up our miles and the distance of our runs. Continue reading