Impossible Challenge Recipe: Gluten Free Bagels, Part 1

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Frequently reading fairy tales distorts my sense of what is possible. If Beauty can turn a beast into a prince, I think, surely I can make a killer gluten free bagel on the first try. This post is part of a new series “Impossible Challenge Recipes,” an apt designation I decided on before attempting my first installment.

I confess, I haven’t been baking very often and when I do, instead of baking gluten free I’ve been using spelt flour, a wheat relative that my body (thankfully) tolerates. Spelt is not a perfect substitute for wheat. It has less gluten, more protein, and absorbs more liquid than standard flour. But it’s close, close enough that it can be used on its own instead of as a part of a complicated blend, close enough that it doesn’t require the support of xanthan gum, guar gum, or psyllium husk powder, close enough that milk powder and extra eggs are not required. In short, spelt flour is a lot easier to work with than gluten free flours. It’s a great option when I’m baking just for me.

But the thing about food, and especially baked goods, is that are often meant for sharing. I get frustrated at parties when everyone else is eating fluffy cupcakes, chewy brownies, and delicious sandwiches and I’m supposed to be grateful because someone brought a quinoa salad. Of course, before I discovered my own wheat intolerance I never even considered baking anything gluten free, but now I understand how hard it can be constantly deprived of options.

So, I’ve decided to re-embrace gluten free baking, and take on the most challenging baking tasks I can think up, things that would have scared me even when I was still using wheat flour.

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This bagel was my first challenge. It combines tapioca starch, glutinous rice flour, potato starch, millet flour, and teff flour. It has both xanthan gum and psyllium husk powder. It has one egg and some ground flax seed. All of this combined to make a bagel that is very chewy and not at all fluffy.

The picture up top looks pretty good, but you can see in the one just above that I didn’t get much of a rise. Also, they cooked unevenly, with oily looking tops and crunchy, over-browned bottoms. I could feel discouraged, but if there’s one thing that fairy tales have taught me it’s that it usually takes 3 tries to get something right. Time to try again!

I’m open to suggestions and magical assistance.

Against the Odds

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On a recent lazy afternoon, I was looking through posts on my favorite food blogs and saw that one of them—Pastry Affair—was having a giveaway. I entered, partly because I wanted the prize—a fancy blender—but I was also taken with the content of the particular post, a recipe for almond milk accompanied by a discussion of the writer’s (Kristin Rosenau) severe dairy intolerance. Pastry Affair is a fairly mainstream baking blog, one which rarely includes posts tailored toward specialized diets. Its recipes are full of cream and butter, so I was shocked to learn that Kristin can’t eat most of the food she makes for the blog, that even small amounts of dairy make her extremely sick.

My own approach to food writing is more selfish. I write about food I can eat and bake things that fall within the limits of my restricted diet. I was diagnosed with IBS only two years ago and went gluten free a year after that. I’m still new to all of this restriction and I struggle.

Despite having learned to make gluten-free versions of most of my favorite foods I often slip into self-pity when I find myself in a social situation where these options aren’t available. I hate not being able to have a slice of wedding cake, a casual piece of pizza, a coffee shop sandwich.

Sometimes I can see my new food guidelines as a challenging adventure, but more often I view them with frustration. Reading Kristin’s post, I was struck by her poise, positivity, and risk-taking. I left a comment, entered the drawing, and waited.

That week, while waiting for the results of the giveaway, I felt excited. I thought about the recipes I’d make if I won the blender. It had been a long a time since I’d won anything; it had been a long time since I’d entered something, at least something that wasn’t decided at least in part by merit.

As I kid, I loved entering contests and I remember winning my fair share. The prizes were never anything big, usually just a coupon or a t-shirt, but winning was exciting. There was something about entering contests, about hoping for something, against the odds. Taking a chance, believing in possibility, was like dreaming, like magic.

Fairy tale magic is often about overcoming impossible odds. The heroines take on tasks that are beyond their means. A girl must spin straw into gold, or sort lentils from stones, or find a place east of the sun and west of the moon. These impossible tasks are somehow always completed, and hearing these stories as a young girl instilled in me a belief that I could achieve impossible things.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped reaching for things that seemed impossible. I started believing in the odds. I became practical. But this practicality, while safe—and even useful—is limiting. It keeps from a great many losses, but also from the potential of winning. I’d like to break free of it, to bet on myself.

In that spirit, I’ve started entering all the giveaways and raffles I can find, as long as the entry fee is less than a dollar. I mean, I can’t totally give up on practicality J

 

 

 

Choose Your Own Adventure Recipe: Chocolate Spelt Zucchini Bread

adapted from Baby Cakes

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Since last summer when I stopped eating wheat, I will occasionally experience a craving for a food and realize I haven’t tried to make it wheat free. I say wheat free instead of gluten free because I have discovered that while wheat gives me vertigo, heart palpitations, and digestive distress, spelt—an ancient low-gluten relative to wheat—has no ill effects on my system. I still often try to bake completely gluten free, but sometimes spelt with its sweet nutty flavor, gorgeous toasty color and impressive absorption is just the right tool for the job. Plus, it gives baked goods a longer shelf life than gluten free flours.

And I needed spelt’s super absorbency here because I used 2 cups of finely shredded zucchini, twice the amount in most recipes! I also added fresh fruit because it’s July and I just can’t get excited about raisins when my refrigerator is full of golden kiwi, plump blueberry’s, and dark syrupy cherries.

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This bread is less sweet than many zucchini bread recipes, moist and dense. The generous amount of zucchini, whole grain flour, and low sugar content make it wholesome. A mixture of chocolate chips, fresh fruit and crunchy bits make it complex and decadent.

I made cocoa nib, mini bittersweet chocolate chip, and cherry bread. It’s rich and complex, but subtle. I can’t wait to make this again with a new flavor combination: peach/white chocolate/pecan perhaps or blueberry/milk chocolate/poppy seed? Let me know what adventure you choose in the comments.

 

Choose Your Own Adventure Wholesome and Decadent Zucchini Bread

 

2 c. spelt flour

½ c. flax seed meal

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. salt

2/3 c. brown sugar or coconut sugar

¾ c. milk (cow, almond, coconut, etc.)

½ c. melted coconut oil or butter

1 ½ Tbsp. vanilla extract

2 c. shredded zucchini

1/3 c choc chips (white, milk, dark, regular or mini)

1/2 c chopped stone fruit or whole small berries (cherries, apricots, peaches, blueberries or raspberries)

1/3 c. crunch (nuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, or cocoa nibs)

 

Preheat oven to 325° and lightly oil a standard bread pan. In a large bowl, mix spelt flour, flax meal, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set 2 Tbsp. aside in a separate medium bowl; a chips, fruit and crunch ingredient and toss to coat with flour mixture. Set aside. In main bowl, one at a time, add sugar, oil, milk, and vanilla, stirring to incorporate after each addition. Fold in zucchini, then add chocolate mixture and fold again, until just incorporated.

 

Pour batter into prepared bread pan and bake for an hour (plus or minus 10 minutes) until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, or as long as you can wait before digging in.

 

Choose Your Own Adventure Recipe: Vinaigrette

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Even people who love to cook rarely make their own condiments. Homemade catsup and mayo are amazing, but who has time to make them every time you make a burger or sandwich (especially if you’re wheat free like I am and begin the sandwich making process by baking your own bread)? Salad dressing, on the other hand is something I firmly believe in making myself. Premade dressings are either cheap and full of added sugar, or pricey and kind of gross. A homemade dressing comes together in minutes and is easy to make in very small batches. You can store it for a few days if needed, but one of the best thing about homemade vinaigrettes is that you don’t have to commit to a huge bottle. You can choose a new adventure for every salad. The recipe below makes 2 servings and is easily doubled, or quadrupled if you’re feeding a crowd. Today I chose lemon juice, fresh basil, and mustard. Try it out, and let me know what your favorite flavors are!

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CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE VINAIGRETTE
(Lemon, mustard and basil pictured above)

Makes 2 servings

3 Tbsp. Oil (Olive, Sesame, Avocado, or Melted Coconut Oil)
+
1 Tbsp. strong acid (Red Wine, White Wine, Cider, or Sherry Vinegar) OR
2 Tbsp. mild acid (Lemon, Lime or Grapefruit Juice, Rice Wine or Balsamic Vinegar
+
1 binder (1 clove smashed garlic, 1 Tbsp. tomato paste, 1 egg yolk, 1 Tbsp. cream)
+
1 tsp. solid flavorings (shallot, fresh herbs, lemon or lime zest, olives, capers) AND/OR
1 Tbsp. liquid flavorings (honey, pureed fresh tomato, orange juice, cranberry juice)
+
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients thoroughly with a whisk until combined. Add a tsp. of water to thin if desired. Serve immediately over your favorite salad, seafood, or roasted vegetable.

Choose Your Own Adventure Recipe: Sherbet

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Sherbet may sound like something your grandmother would serve you, but it’s actually a pretty sexy dessert. Cold, creamy, and so easy to make, sherbet is like the perfect hybrid of ice cream and sorbet. It’s bright and fruity, but also decadent and creamy, the perfect summer treat, if you make it yourself. Sherbet is slowly edging its way back into style. If you’re lucky enough to live in New York you should try the yuzu sherbet at ChikaLicious or the black raspberry sherbet at Sundaes and Cones, but wherever you live, you should really try to make this treat at home. It’s a snap, a breeze, and perfect for creating your own flavors.

Unlike most ice cream and sorbet recipes, it requires zero time seeping, boiling, or otherwise sweating over a hot stove.

The recipe below works well with fruits that are not too acidic and have a medium water content. The high water content of melons, or the extremely low one of bananas or avocado will affect the texture. The acidity of citrus fruit can curdle the dairy, and requires special consideration. For best results, choose one of the options offered below.

I made this lovely Strawberry Lavender Vanilla Sherbet this weekend, and it was bright, fruity and fluffy. Try one of the suggested flavors below or think up a combo of your own. Let me know how it goes!

 

Choose Your Own Adventure Sherbet

(adapted from Brooklyn Supper)

½ c. sugar (granulated sugar or evaporated cane juice)

¼ – 1 tsp. of flavoring* (seeds from 1 vanilla bean, zest from one citrus fruit, dried edible flowers such as rose or lavender, finely chopped fresh herbs, warm spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg)

4 c. chopped fruit* (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries; skinned peaches, apricots or nectarines, mangoes, cherries)

1 c. cream (heavy whipping cream, coconut cream, cashew cream)

pinch of sea salt.

 

Chill a metal bread pan or other container in the freezer. Place ½ cup of sugar in a medium bowl and add in the flavoring. Mix with finger, rubbing together to combine thoroughly. Toss in fruit, mix well and let it macerate for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, pour cream into a separate large bowl and whip until you’ve formed soft peaks. Pour fruit mixture into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour over cream and fold together gently. Scoop into the bowl of an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Scoop into prepared pan and freeze at least an hour before serving. When ready to eat, allow sherbet to soften for a few minutes on the counter before scooping.

 

*If you’re feeling bold, you can mix two!

 

Suggested Combinations:

Strawberry, Lavender and Vanilla (pictured above)

Peach Mint

Cherry Lime

Apricot Rose

Blueberry Cinnamon

 

 

 

Needing and Craving

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Image by Instagram user illustrationsbymajali

Fairy tales are full of irrational desires from Rapunzel’s mother longing for a taste of the witch’s garden, to Cinderella’s yearning to attend the ball. A number of scientific studies on cravings over the last ten years have reveal a variety of causes for desiring. I tend to think of craving as being primarily related to food, but I often crave other things: companionship, affection, change of scenery.

Sometimes yearning seems like and expression of boredom or self-sabotage, these longings are easier to resist. Other times, my desires feel more akin to need, as if my body is communicating some sort of deficiency. These cravings are the most satisfying to give into, although I have no way of knowing whether how I perceive a particular desire has any correlation to necessity.

There is a theory that the foods we crave are actually the ones we are intolerant to. If our body finds a food difficult to break down, it floods our brain with pleasure hormones to counteract the stress, which makes us want them again.

But a competing theory supposes that our desire for a specific food is biologically, that our desires are predisposed and reinforced by early life eating habits.

Some evidence supports need as a cause of cravings, but even when there is a connection between need and want, the longings are usually distortions of deprivations: wanting sweets when blood sugar is low, craving french fries when the body needs salt.

Fairy tales offer unexpected outcomes to succumbing to longing. The princess desperate for her golden ball ends up with a handsome prince while the mother who longs for a child black as ebony, white as snow and red as blood ends up dead.

I often associate craving with guilt. I feel bad for wanting, especially when I want what is bad for me. Since discovering I have a wheat intolerance, I crave pizza and sandwiches more than ever. I feel bad for wanting what I know will make me sick. I get annoyed with my body for not “breaking the cycle.” It’s been a year and I still have a hard time watching people eat muffins.

I remember before my own IBS symptoms began (about 1 ½ years ago) I had very little sympathy for people—including my own sister—whose bodies reacted badly to certain foods. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t just sit with me while I ate a big salad or a greasy burger, consuming her bland dinner of chicken and rice. I didn’t understand that her intolerance of those foods didn’t translate to reduced desires for them, that want and need often conflict.

 

Choose Your Own Adventure Recipe: Baked Oatmeal

Confident and experienced cooks tend to view a recipe as a series of suggested guidelines, adapting and tweaking as desired, but most people see a recipe as a series of rules, a complex formula that could easily be ruined by one wrong step. There’s nothing wrong with following a recipe precisely, but it can be limiting, expensive, and make cooking feel like a chore instead of a chance to be creative.

So I’ve come up with a solution: choose your own adventure recipes, a series of guidelines with lots of options built in so that you can experiment without worry. This first installment is a dish I recently discovered and have completely fallen for: baked oatmeal.

Baked oatmeal is like the perfect hybrid of a cake and a bowl of oats. It comes out firm and chewy, tastes great hot or cold, and is both healthy enough to eat on a weekday morning and special enough to make for a weekend brunch.

I made my version with fresh strawberries, orange juice, sliced almonds and a dash of turmeric. Choose your own adventure below.

2 cups oatmeal (I used thick cut, use certified gluten free oats to make gf)

2/3 cup nuts and/or seeds (almonds, pecans, walnuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp of 2 additional spices/flavorings (nutmeg, cloves, garam masala, cardamom, vanilla, orange zest)

1/3 c. sweetener (brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave)

1 1/2 cups liquid (milk, almond milk, orange juice, apple juice)

1 binder (2 eggs, 1/2 c. pumpkin, 2 flax eggs, 1/2 c apple sauce)

2 cups fruit (berries, sliced bananas, diced peaches, chopped apples)

2 tsp. turbinado sugar to finish (optional)

Preheat oven to 375º. Grease a small (8×8) pan or casserole dish. In a nonreactive bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add all remaining ingredients except for fruit and mix again. Scatter half of fruit in bottom of baking dish, pour oatmeal mixture on top. Scatter remaining fruit on surface, follow with turbinado sugar if using. Bake 45 minutes, until edges are browned and texture is firm. Serve hot or cold, with milk, yogurt, and/or additional fresh fruit.

 

 

A Very Sensitive Princess

549406190_f5f07eb6d2_oThe fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea is a story about sensitivity. A prince is trying to find a wife, but he wants to be sure she’s a real princess. He tests a potential match by hiding a single dried pea under a pile of twenty mattresses and twenty blankets on top of which the princess sleeps. In the morning the princess says she’s black and blue all over. The prince, taking her delicacy as proof of her royalty, asks her to marry him. It’s an encouraging tale for the perceptive and easily affected. Receptiveness often feels more like a curse than a gift. But like most of the traits that define us, being sensitive has its upsides. A finicky stomach is often accompanied by a love of flavor. Moody temperaments frequently pair with deep empathy. Obsessive tendencies often accompany exceptional insight and analysis.

I started cooking out of necessity when my father was sick and mother was working full time and going to night school. I became quite the foodie. Then I developed IBS and had to rethink my entire approach to nutrition and culinary enjoyment.

Princess and Pea is a refuge for sensitivity. It is a place where I plan to explore my passions: fairy tales, food, and beauty. Most of my recipes are gluten free, many are low FODMAP, some are vegan. Welcome!

Recent Meals

I love food blogs. Love. I follow a bunch: 101 Cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen, Joy the Baker, A Pastry Affair, Minimalist Baker… But to be honest I rarely use recipes unless it’s a special occasion. Instead I throw together a starch, a protein, some veggies and seasoning  and call it a meal. Since garlic and onions tend to upset my stomach, I usually cook without them, relying on hot peppers, soy sauce and spices for flavor. Here are a few recent things I’ve made in no particular order.

  • a mushroom smothered steak with sauteed spinach made with my boyfriend on a recent date night
  • cauliflower tacos topped with chopped spinach and toasted pepitas
  • fruit sushi made for a party I hosted
  • gluten free chicken ramen with corn, spinach and sweet potatoes

What are your favorite thrown together foods?