Saturday, April 26, 2014

Silent Celiac -- what to bake

A while ago I mentioned an accidental blood test coming back positive for Celiac.  Several tests later, I am still positive for Silent Celiac (celiac disease with little to no symptoms).  In a slur of still-unresolved questions, I have been gluten-free for two months now (with the exception of the night I sat down to a plate of cake and another night when I accidentally ate gluten-laden granola so then chased it with a crispy sticky piece of baklava.  I choose not to explore questions like, "you will really live without ever eating baklava or croissants again?"  Regardless of the answer, I like to think of it as a month to month choosing).

It's a lot like when I lived in France; at some point I stopped translating word by word, but just formed french sentences in my head and spoke.  Right now, I'm very much still in the word-to-word translation, i.e. what concoction of flours makes the best pancakes, rather than what kind of frittata could I make for breakfast.

I think in the long run, the healthiest, most economic gluten-free way is the frittata approach -- to learn to think about food in a whole new way.  Instead of wondering which quinoa pasta tastes best, instead wonder about the grains and beans and fish and vegetables I can make a meal out of.  But I'm not there yet.

The first month was pure food-confusion.  It must have been because so many of my routine and beloved foods were uprooted, but I just wasn't sure, over and over, what to put in my mouth.  I ended up eating a lot of chips and salsa, cheese, granola, and chocolate covered almonds.  It wasn't my best month.

Month two was a little better.

Because I'm still operating in word-to-word translation, I have tried baking several gluten-free recipes (and always will do this, hopefully better and better).  The fact is, they just aren't that great so far.  Tonight, for example, I made a Lemon Cornmeal Cake featured on NPR.  It was almost good.  I could taste how it really could have been good, if a little lighter, fluffier, more gluteny with less corny grit and saturated lemon flavor...  I made America's Test Kitchen's GF banana bread from their new cookbook-- which, let me tell you, is laborious and involves many bowls, pots, pans -- and after all that work (including heating and straining the bananas and then reducing the strained banana juice -!) it was good, but not amazing -- a little crumbly and slightly gritty.  King Arthur's gluten free flour mix and Glutino GF flour are my favorites (they are very expensive... a whole other dynamic here), and from what I've read, they get the best ratings.

What HAS worked beautifully are these two recipes:

The Pioneer Woman's Sour Cream Pancakes
These have become our new go-to pancakes (thanks, Lindsay*)
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • 7 Tablespoons King Arthur's Gluten-Free Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar (or 1 T to leave room for syrup at the end)
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla 
  •  Butter, for pan 
  •  Butter and Warm Syrup For Serving

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Set aside.

In a separate small bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
In a medium bowl, stir together the sour cream with the dry ingredients until just barely combined (don't over mix.) Whisk in the egg mixture until just combined.
Heat a griddle over medium-low heat and melt some butter in the pan. Drop batter by 1/4 cup servings onto the griddle. Cook on the first side until bubbles start to form on the surface and edges are starting to brown. Flip to the other side and cook for another minute. (Pancakes will be a little on the soft side.)
Serve with softened butter and syrup.

Molly Wizenberg makes a cake she calls "Winning-Hearts-and-Minds Cake," which she also served as her wedding cake.   A few weeks ago, on my birthday, I came home to find that beautiful cake sitting on my doorstep.  It's an almost flourless chocolate cake that my friend Cassie so cleverly tweaked by swapping flour with cocoa -- perfect.    
Molly's recipe (slightly tweaked):
7 ounces best-quality dark chocolate
7 ounces unsalted European-style butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 1/3 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 Tbs cocoa 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the base of the pan with parchment, and butter the parchment too.
Finely chop the chocolate and melt it with the butter in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring regularly to combine. Add the sugar, stirring well, and set aside to cool for a few moments. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition.  Add the cocoa. The batter should be smooth, dark, and utterly gorgeous.

Pour batter into the buttered cake pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the center of the cake looks set and the top is shiny and a bit crackly-looking. (I usually set the timer for 20 minutes initially, and then I check the cake every two minutes thereafter until it’s done. At 20 minutes, it’s usually quite jiggly in the center. You’ll know it’s done when it jiggles only slightly, if at all.) Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes; then carefully turn the cake out of the pan and revert it, so that the crackly side is facing upward. Allow to cool completely. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools.

Serve in wedges at room temperature with a loose dollop of ever-so-slightly sweetened whipped cream.
Note: This cake is even better on the second day, so consider making it the day before serving.

The last recipe was also an NPR recipe, and it's for Almond Butter Cookies.  The writer talks about how wonderfully addictive these are.  What you should know is that they are weird cookies -- chewy and crunchy at once, without the give or crumble you might expect of a cookie.  But, there is something a little addictive about them.  Where they absolutely shine, though, which is why I will make them again, is crumbled on vanilla ice cream.  
note: my dough was greasy-looking and sticky, quite unlike regular chocolate chip or peanut butter cookie dough -- it still became cookies.
Almond Butter Cookies 

1 cup almond butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a baking sheet with butter and set aside.
In a large bowl, stir almond butter and sugars together until well combined.
Add egg, baking soda, maple syrup, vanilla and salt and mix well. Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.

Using a teaspoon, scoop out small, walnut-sized amounts of dough and roll them in your hands to form a ball. Place on cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned.  

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