The Care and Feeding of Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

Bread Series, #2

In the first of my posts on baking gluten-free yeast breads, I noted the importance of IMG_3014bread 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!

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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

Make Mom Happy: Gluten-Free Chocolate Bread French Toast With Caramelized Honeyed Bananas

I’m writing a really short post, so that I can get this chocolate bread French toast recipe IMG_3441posted 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

David Lebovitz, Deglutenized: Gluten-Free Chocolate Yeast Bread

Bread Series, #1:

Today’s scripture reading is apropos to my intent to write my first post, in a series, on IMG_3436baking 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

Why, Yes! That Gluten-Free Pasta Is Made With Mesquite Flour!

Mexican Chocolate Filled Vanilla Bean Mesquite Ravioli With Caramel Sauce

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I recently taught a gluten-free pasta-making class , in which one of the attendees recounted her growing up years, when she and her siblings gathered fallen mesquite pods from the ground to be given to a Hill Country rancher who used them to feed his livestock. For most of its existence in Texas, however, the tenacious mesquite tree has been the bane of Texas ranchers and farmers. The mesquite tree spreads like a weed, absorbs much of the water from the ground in which it grows, and causes other vegetation to die. Long before this hearty tree gained its bad reputation, the mesquite tree was valued as a important food source among ancient peoples in South America, Mexico, and the Southwestern region of the United States. As I explained in past post about mesquite flour, these people used the dried, ground mesquite pods and beans for drinks, as well as for breads, tortillas, and porridge. Continue reading

Eat Gluten-Free In Austin: A 2016 Guide to the Best Gluten-Free Restaurants

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Austin, Texas is a vibrant, beautiful city in which to live, and to visit. It’s also a wonderful place in which to find delicious food, with plentiful offerings to suit anyone’s dietary preferences. Most restaurants in the city offer vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, with some of the city’s restaurants catering solely to one or more of these specific preferences. Naturally, since this blog is devoted to a gluten-free lifestyle, the restaurants listed below are of interest mainly to people who have, or choose, to eat gluten-free. I’ve included fast (though not necessarily fast-food) restaurants as well as more formal restaurants, to suit the needs of those have time for only a quick meal, as well as those who have time to sit and linger over a meal. Continue reading

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Maple Muffins (Made With Apple Flour)

A few months ago, I wrote a post about having impulsively purchased apple flour. I maple muffins1actually 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

Cassava Flour and Gluten-Free Baking: A Love Affair

This post is about relationships. Yes, it is also about gluten-free baking and delicious peanut butter cupcakes 10gluten-free baking, and gluten-free cupcakes so tender, moist, and flavorful that they will make you cry, but it is most definitely about relationships. What is cooking, baking, and eating, after all, if not about relationships? We have relationships with the ingredients we favor in our cooking, and relationships with the foods we choose to cook, and relationships with people for whom we prepare food and with whom we share food. We even have relationships with our kitchens and the tools we use to produce the foods we cook, bake, and serve (who doesn’t have a favorite kitchen gadget – that steady, reliable go-to device for which one loves to find uses – my favorite is my immersion blender: a brilliant, versatile invention if ever one existed).  As of the past few months, I have developed quite a personal, loving relationship with cassava flour. As I’ve moved more toward grain-free, gluten-free eating, for health purposes (a personal decision I would never presume to recommend to everyone in general), I’ve been paying more attention to the nutritional values of the flours I choose to use. Continue reading

Gluten-Free Cookie Coated Peppermint Truffles

Another January arrives; another Christmas now lives on in memory and hearts, only. Christmas time is christmastruly the best time of the year. The weather, though not exactly frigid, is less harshly hot. Houses and lawns sparkle with brightly colored lawn decoration and lights. Selections from Handel’s Messiah flow through the air in random places. My favorite Bible verses from the books of Isaiah and St Luke are highlighted in the liturgical readings of Advent. I can finally watch the original The Bishop’s Wife (1947), the original Christmas in Connecticut (1945), the original Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Scrooged (1988), A Christmas Story (1983), and Elf (2003) openly without comment from family and friends. Limited edition Christmas products show up on store shelves, and we indulge in delicious, favorite foods we cook, bake, and eat only during this most glorious of seasons.

This year, we added a new treat to our canon of Christmas comestibles: gluten-free cookie coated peppermint truffles. For years I’ve made truffles by hand, but only at Christmas time. I used a fairly easy truffle recipe, rather unsophisticated but easy enough for Jacob, Christopher, and Elizabeth to help with the making and rolling when they were younger. Over the past year, however, I have devoured and re-devoured a used copy of  Alice Medrich’s combination memoir and cookbook Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate (2003). Inspired by Medrich’s work to create classic ganache truffles, I decided to use her technique and recipe to make some classic truffles for Christmas. Beginning in November, I made a couple of practice batches. I wanted to know what I was doing, come Christmas time. For my first attempt at truffle-making, I made a dark chocolate cognac ganache, which I coated in dark chocolate, then rolled in pumpkin pie spice. These turned out pretty well, actually; the centers were velvety and the flavor combination was scrumptious . Continue reading

Woot! A GLUTEN-FREE SALE!!

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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??

Sound Gluten-Free Holiday Advice: For Gluten-Free / Non-Gluten-Free Alike

In my last post to this blog, I mentioned a new product, apple flour, that I

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had serendipitously discovered while searching for something else. I have used the apple flour, and it’s marvelous. I used it to make grain-free, gluten-free pumpkin muffins for my mom, who apparently doesn’t have Celiac (although this auto-immune disease is passed through the mom, I have it, and I managed to pass it on to two of my children – it does apparently skip some generations). What my mom does have, however, is a seriously ill husband in a hospital that has seriously poor quality food in its cafeteria. One thing I can do for my mom and my step-dad during this ordeal is to provide Mom with some delicious, nutritious, minimally-processed food to keep her energized and as cheerful as possible. Since my kitchen is gluten-free, my mom gets gluten-free food by default. My step-father, sadly, is unable to eat normally for now; I will attend his nutritional needs as soon as he’s able to eat as usual. Continue reading