baking without butter and wheat

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i've been trying something a little new . . . gluten-free and/or vegan baking. this is partly because, well, i moved back to california. but also because my main baked goods audience has shrunk to the very lovely people who work for the somm.

and they HAVE to like my baking! it's a win win win.

just kidding. 

i'd already gone down the gluten-free road for the yogi. and after having read about how terrible wheat is for you.

plus there are so many fun types of flour out there! i now own about 10 varieties taking up precious freezer space. right next to my highly glutenized leftover bagel dough. whee!

i do not yet have an opinion on what type of flours i like best. luckily, there are many wonderful bloggers who regularly share their wisdom. i've been spending time with gluten-free girl who has many great recipes and some really lovely writing on her blog. she has a great post on how to put together your own gluten-free flour blend. it doesn't require you to buy anything that sounds too crazy (xanthan gum? seriously? isn't avoiding words like that WHY we bake at home?). 

almond and coconut were my gateway flours. who doesn't like almonds and coconut?

also, chocolate?

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i pulled this recipe from the new york times, which also likes them some gluten-free girl. i skimped on the bananas – don't do that! add plenty of chocolate chips. almond, buckwheat and rice flour are the stars here, but next time i'd cut back on the buckwheat. you want something lighter to really let the chocolate and banana sing.

served warm out of the oven, these didn't immediately seem gluten-free.  want a close up of that tender crumb?

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pretty normal, right? 

but do NOT give them to your vegan friends. there are eggs and buttermilk in there, the sneakers. plus, we've got something else for them.

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there are a number of vegan alternatives for eggs. so much good learning, and i would especially like to thank the kind woman who saved me from myself in the tofu aisle at the food co-op.

yeah, i'll pause to let that sink in. caleeefornia!

the tofu you want, that tofu is not in the refrigerator section of the market. it's the shelf-stable stuff. but i went for the flax seed slurry substitution. 

slurry! almost as good as shelf-stable tofu. 

just mix one teaspoon ground flax or chia seeds with three tablespoons hot water for every egg you're replacing. let the slurry sit, then add to the batter.

ground flax seeds can be found in the oatmeal and hot cereals section, NOT with the various gluten-free flours and starches in the baking section.

are you writing this down?

also, skip the honey and use agave. skip the buttermilk or yogurt and use unsweetened vanilla almond milk. 

double the blueberries. whip yourself up some blackberry jam.

have yourself a muffin fest.

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Vegan & Gluten-Free Buckwheat Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins

Adapted to be vegan from the New York Times

  • 180 grams (1 1/4 cups, approximately) buckwheat flour
  • 100 grams (3/4 cup, approximately) gluten-free all-purpose flour mix or whole grain gluten-free mix*
  • 10 grams (2 teaspoons) baking powder
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 3.5 grams (1/2 rounded teaspoon) salt
  • 2 eggs or 2 teaspoon ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons hot water
  • 125 grams (1/3 cup) agave syrup
  • 360 grams (1 1/2 cups) unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 75 grams (1/3 cup) canola or grape seed oil
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 10 grams (1 tablespoon) poppy seeds (more to taste)

*For the gluten-free flour mix I used about 70 grams of a mix of teff, almond and rice flour and 30 grams of arrowroot starch.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack adjusted to the middle. Oil muffin tins. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Add any grainy bits remaining in the sifter to the bowl.

In a separate bowl combine ground flax seed and hot water. Stir and let sit for a minute. Beat in agave, almond milk, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Do not beat for too long; a few lumps are fine but make sure there is no flour sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Fold in the blueberries and poppy seeds.

Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups to the top. Place in the oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned and well risen. Remove from the heat and if the muffins come out of the tins easily, remove from the tins and allow to cool on a rack. If they don’t release easily, allow to cool and then remove from the tins.

Best served with some sort of butter product (that means Earth Balance for you vegans) and jam.  

Yield: 12 muffins (1/3 cup muffin tins)

Advance preparation: These keep for a couple of days out of the refrigerator, for a few more days in the refrigerator, and for a few months in the freezer.


rustic potato loaves

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would you like some carbs with your carbs? if so, i have the bread for you. not messing around here . . . mashed potatoes, skins and all, are the basis of these hearty and crusty loaves.

good crusty bread is such a weakness of mine. i'm sure i've said it before . . . if it wouldn't put me in a chubby diabetic coma, i'd eat bread for every meal. with honey for breakfast, with cheese for lunch, wrapped around a chunk of dark chocolate with a sprinkle of salt for dessert. 

homemade bread, as i have waxed poetic here before, is both easy and so worth it. 

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this bread turned out a bit denser than i like. it's possible i did not bake it long enough. i get so used to underbaking brownies and cookies, it can be a struggle to let baked goods stay in the oven long enough when you actually want them to bake all the way through.

but no, it did not stop either myself or the somm from enjoying a whole loaf. in less time than i'm willing to disclose.

i think the tuesday's with dorie host for this recipe had the right idea, and swirled baked potato toppings in her bread . . . chedder, bacon and chopped green onions. this bread needs a bit of salt and fat to give it a real oomph.

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For links to the recipe and more, go to Tuesday's with Dorie Baking with Julia.

 

homemade bagels

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there was this great story on npr the other morning about the "ikea effect." conventional wisdom has generally been that people spend time on the things they love. the researchers being the ikea effect posit the thought that spending time on things is it's own active force in building that love and sense of emotional connection. 

the idea that the more effort you put into something, say building a slightly wonky bookcase, the more you care about that object. even if you were slightly overly aggressive with your new power drill and the screws came poking through the decorative finish.

whatevs. that totally didn't happen to me last night.

ps: my cooking magazines finally have a home! hurrah!

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i've been spending a fair amount of my time recently on fairly ridiculous diy projects. like baby quilts. there is no economy of scale to making them at home, friends, but the many many hours i've spent on them has made me pretty happy. and i hope when the new mommas see the puckers and imperfections, they love the quilt all the more for knowing it was made with love. 

my grandmother, as the napkin in the photo below can attest, had way better skillz than i. those are vintage, friends, and still immaculate. 

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turns out, making homemade bagels is pretty akin to other ambitious diy projects. particularly if you, like me, are not overly detail oriented. there are a lot of steps, people. things get both sticky and slippery, if you can believe it. rounds of dough may go flying.  

i tried to go for more of a pretzel bagel, under the somewhat shaky logic that i've previously succeeded in boil-and-bake efforts on that front. plus, i like a bagel with a nice chew, and a good firm skin. so, i added about four times the baking soda to the bagel bath. it gave them this lovely pretzel color.

still can't quite tell if that helped make them look more appealing?

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in any event, they tasted not too shabby in both the poppy seed and kosher salt varieties. slightly underbaked, the way i like them, so nice and moist in the middle even on day two. they ended up being monster sized. i froze some leftover dough that may become reasonably sized bagels for the new, lower carb manchego's kitchen of 2013.

i know. i can't believe i typed that either.

more shocking? i stopped drinking coffee. back in california less than 6 months and i'm already going granola on you. i spared you photos of my blueprint juice experiement, so just be grateful.

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low carb or not, i'm back at the baking with julia challenge. there are muffins and brownies and all sorts of terribly wonderful things headed this way. if you want to head down the bagel bunny hole, visit the tuesdays with dorie blog or heather's bytes.

pumpkin cranberry bread

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this fall felt so long and warm, i thought that winter would never really come to california. when the cold finally began to hit, it came as a bright surprise, a delicious reason to hunt for boot and socks and layers of long sleeves. for a mug of afternoon tea and slice of buttered toast.

you look like you could use a piece of toast too. and not just any piece of toast will do to drive away the now lingering chill in the air.

particularly if your work furnace, like mine, emits any number of lovely knocking sounds but not much actual heat.

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this isn't your typical pumpkin bread, dense and spicy. it's an airy yeast bread. the cranberries burst in your mouth with a tart contrast to the lightly sweet, faintly pumpkin bread and crunchy toasty walnuts.

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this is the perfect antidote to the post-holiday season food slump, offering comfort without excess.  it may not be quite as virtuous as salad with grilled chicken, but it's a far cry from a platter of christmas fudge.  

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i am so sadly off track with tuesdays with dorie. you don't want to know how long these photos have languished in my camera. but find out by going to tuesdays with dorie or this bountiful backyard to find the recipe and lots of blog coverage. 

cranberry orange muffins

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sometimes change is hard. sometimes change is really really hard. sometimes you're the one who gets to jump off the cliff, sometimes life gives you a nudge. or a shove.

finding a new favorite muffin recipe is not hard change. for close to ten years, i'd been a pretty strong proponent of a gem of a muffin recipe. really tender from sour cream, a sweet but not too sweet base that let pretty much any mix-in shine.

but i've been won away. by browned butter. and the best crumble topping. and you know how i feel about crumble.

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my new muffin base is from the joy the baker cookbook. which you should buy if you love to bake. she has some real gems in there.

luckily, the power of the internets will also bring you the original recipe for free, over on shutterbean.

i've made the original blueberry version with much success here. but it is fall. i had some leftover cranberries. i wanted that tart burst of flavor, and a hit of wintery citrus. 

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let's be honest, i wanted to try out a new cranberry technique from cooks illustrated. because cranberries, like change, can be hard to manage. they can be too puckery, too bitter. they need a bit of care, especially if you are using fresh berries, not to overwhelm a bite, to leave you with the right balance of tart and sweet and juicy.

the solution is to roughly chop them and let them sit for a minute with a sprinkle of salt to draw out the bitter and a bit of powdered sugar to tame the sour.

if only solving life's imbalances were so easy!

the result is a true cranberry flavor, evenly distributed through your muffin. a bit of nutty depth from the browned butter. bright orangey citrus. and that crumble. picture perfect. 

First day of work, breakfast of champions

 

Orange Cranberry Muffins

Adapted from Joy the Baker's Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins.  Makes about 12 muffins.

Muffins:

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt, plus a bit more
  • 1 orange worth of zest

Crumble Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Dash of salt

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and put liners into your muffin tin – this recipe will make around a dozen regular muffins. 

To brown the butter, melt it in a pot on the stove and then let it keep going until the white foam mostly goes away and the butter becomes a warm brown color with little black specks. Just keep a good eye on it because it will turn from brown to burned pretty quickly. It will smell nutty and fantastic once it's done, and then you need to take it off the heat and pour into a heat-safe bowl to keep it from continuing to cook.

Roughly chop your cranberries and place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and powdered sugar, stir and leave to sit on counter while you get your batter together.

In a medium bowl, whisk your milk, eggs and vanilla.  Add the butter when it is a little cool, but hasn't hardened. Whisk to mix.  

In a larger bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Zest your orange and add that in. Add butter mixture, and gently stir just intil batter comes together. Add cranberries and fold gently to combine. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.

To make the crumble, combine all ingredients in a bowl and use your fingers to smush together. Don't worry about fully working butter into the dry ingredients, you want it crumbly!  Sprinkle a healthy serving of crumble over the muffins – it makes plenty!

Bake for 18-20 minutes until the edges start to turn golden and when you insert a skewer into the center, it comes out clean.

Delicious warm with salted butter, but they will keep for a couple of days in a tupperware container. They're so good, you think that they'll get gobbled up. But as someone who has sat at the bottom of the cliff with that tupperware container, I know you'll thank your lucky stars. 

whole wheat bread

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i took a few months off this year. to move. to breathe. to sleep. 

i learned a couple of things about myself. particularly, the importance of structure.

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for example. without a plan, a day can unspool, like a bobbin of thread running loose across the floor, every tug you give it just sends it further off, spinning, unwinding.

without an outside force to impose structure, you have to impose your own boundaries. some i'm terrible at, like turning the tv off after enjoying a little matt lauer with my morning coffee. some i can handle, like waiting to have that first glorious glass of crisp white wine until after exercising . . . to trying to restrain myself during the week. 

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setting your own boundaries is the real mark of adulthood, the respecting of responsibilities. when we're little, we think adulthood is nothing but eating cocoa puffs for dinner and staying up as late as you want. when you're actually an adult, you long for the self-will to eat broccoli, go to bed with a good book at 8:30.

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whole wheat bread is like that for me.

my desert island food is a loaf of chewy, crusty, fluffy-soft-centered, processed within an inch of itself, bread. crock of butter and jar of jam appreciated, but often optional. 

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i've found a multigrain, seedy loaf that i've enjoyed from time to time. particularly toasted with a smear of avocado, squeeze of lime, sprinkle of sea salt. but i don't crave it. i won't eat a whole loaf in the course of an afternoon, one torn, ragged piece at a time.

whole wheat sandwich bread is a sad stand-in for either type of carbohydrate glory. fresh, it can be seductive, soft and toothsome. but the follow-through is never there. as toast, it is mostly air. crisp and unsatisfyingly inhalable. it is otherwise merely a vehicle for sandwich contents, thick layers of crunchy peanut butter with jam or crystallizing honey soaking through the bread, dripping out the sides. tart dijon, creamy mayonnaise with the firm bite of cheddar and lunch meat. 

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homemade whole wheat comes much closer to being both adult and responsible as well as feeling indulgently out of bounds. baking bread offers lovely structure to the day, with set times for kneading and rising and shaping and baking. coming back to the kitchen to find your dough exploding from the bowl, streching slowly but relentlessly against the plastic wrap, now that is an accomplishment. and the day the loaf comes out of the oven, the crust is crisp and crackly, the interior light and spongy. 

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it's also kitten approved.

and the next day? i'd recommend french toast, giving the slices plenty of time to soak up the egg batter, fried in plenty of butter to give you a crisp exterior and custard-soft interior.

find the recipe and more great photos at tuesdays with dorie.

twd: baking with julia: popovers

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i first had popovers in high school. we had a british-themed night. watched some monty python.

it's true. i've been a huge nerd for quite some time.

popovers are fun. minimal effort, and they do all kinds of funky stuff in the oven.

this one reminds me of the nike swoosh.

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this one is like half dome.

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i thought i'd get all fancy and add a cinnamon swirl and a little vanilla extract.

Preparing to Popover

it didn't add materially to the taste . . . popovers really need gravy if you're serving them with roast beef a la the brits, or butter and jam if you're going for brunch.

i think maybe a little sugar would also help. make them a bit more like miniature dutch babies.

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fresh out of the oven, popovers have a nice crispy crust, with an airy and tender center.

the craters are perfect to fill with nice salty butter.

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for the recipe, visit tuesdays with dorie, or this week's hosts: vintage kitchen notes and bake with amy.