Thursday, October 23, 2014

Almond French Toast

Almond French Toast

It is a rare treat when Kristopher and I have a mutual weekday morning/afternoon off of work, and today we found ourselves in that very delightful position. How nice to sleep in on a rainy day, make brunch, and catch up on Boardwalk Empire. 

Staying at a significant other's home can make cooking somewhat tricky when you are gluten free - we don't want to have to buy a second set of dedicated GF pans, cooking gadgets, and utensils, not to mention all of the miscellaneous ingredients needed for most baking recipes. So twice a month or so I end up bringing over a basket of baked goods to seal up and tuck away in his freezer. 

For this particular morning, I specifically brought over one of Kristopher's favorites - almond bread which would then be made into french toast. 

This is yet another recipe from Elana's Pantry (http://elanaspantry.com/gluten-free-bread-20/), though the french toast aspect comes directly from me. This was one of the first gluten free bread recipes that I tried when I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and boy was it easy! You would have to try really hard to mess this one up; it is a quick bread and no tricky yeast is involved. 

This has been a big hit whenever I have out of town guests staying with me. The french toast has a unique nutty flavor, is high in protein, and is filling - a little definitely goes a long way. Be aware, however, that if you or one of your brunch friends have an intolerance to nuts or eggs, this is not an appropriate dish to share. 

Almond and Flax Seed Bread



1 1/2 cup almond flour (168g)
3/4 cup arrowroot starch (96g) (do not substitute potato starch for this)
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

For the french toast:
Five slices of almond bread
Two eggs
1/4 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract (but not both - I prefer almond and Kristopher enjoys vanilla)
Cinnamon
Maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside
3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a hand mixer until frothy (3-5 minutes)
4. Add the agave nectar and apple cider vinegar followed by the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
5. Spray a small loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and pour batter in. 
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes. The top will have browned and a toothpick will come out dry when inserted into the center of the loaf.
7. Let cool in the pan for five minutes. Remove from pan and let bread cool further. Slice. The bread can then be frozen and stored in the freezer for several weeks (if it lasts that long)

For the french toast:
1. Combine eggs, almond (or vanilla) extract, and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. 
2. Dip up to five slices of almond bread into the mixture, covering both sides with egg.
3. Cook on a nonstick pan on the stove top for a few minutes, until the egg on both sides have browned slightly.
4. Serve with maple syrup and enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pizza Night!

It has been quite the long day – early morning, work mishaps, paperwork, half a dozen metro card swipes…so I end my night peacefully with a relaxing cup of tea, a coconut cookie, and my blog. See why I call it Tasty Meditation? Here we go…

This weekend, I used my normal bribe of home cooking to lure my boyfriend over for a dinner/movie night – this bribe works about 99% of the time, the exception being if dinner consists entirely of Brussels sprouts and kale (which I love – and cook very well, mind you – but it isn’t Kristopher’s cup of tea).

He requested his favorite of my dishes – homemade pizza with my great-grandmother’s pasta sauce. My family’s secret pasta sauce recipe I will keep to myself for a while, but I will happily share my pizza.

This recipe originally came from my very first (and still my favorite) gluten free cookbook, “1,000 Gluten Free Recipes” by Carol Fenster, which can be purchased here http://www.amazon.com/000-Gluten-Free-Recipes/dp/0470067802.

The alterations I made to the recipe were intended to get a little more flavor infused into the crust. I love garlic and herbs, so if you’re like me you’ll love the extra something-something these additions give the pizza.

A side note: making dinner together that night would give me an opportunity to try out my new birthday present from Kristopher – a tabletop photography tent with studio lighting – perfect for taking pictures of my beautiful food! Be prepared for some amazing photos in the future. (Isn’t he a thoughtful boyfriend? This is why I spoil him in the kitchen)

Gluten Free Pizza



Single serving crust:
1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
1 ¼ tsp sugar
1/3 cup almond milk (feel free to use whichever milk is appropriate to your dietary needs)
1/3 cup plus 4 ½ tsp potato starch (NOT potato flour)
4 ½ tsp sorghum flour
1 tbsp tapioca flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 plus 1/8 tsp sea salt
½ tsp oregano
2-3 cloves garlic (pressed)
1 1/2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
White rice flour for dusting

Toppings:
Tomato Sauce
Olive Oil
Cheese
Oregano
Fresh basil leaves
Extra toppings of choice
Nonstick cooking spray

1.      Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2.      Heat milk to 110 degrees F. Be careful not to overheat because it will kill the yeast when you combine them in the next step.
3.      Combine yeast, sugar and milk in a small bowl and set aside to foam for 5-10 minutes. I also find it helpful if the room is somewhat warm.
4.      In another bowl, combine all crust ingredients. Mix thoroughly using a spoon or your hands if necessary. Note that this dough (like many gluten free doughs) will be very sticky. Using a little white rice flour will help prevent it from sticking, though I have sometimes skipped this step completely. Beware that if you use too much extra flour it will make the dough too starchy and will change the chemistry of the dough. Don’t be tempted to add more flour to create a wheat-dough consistency.
5.      Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the dough on top. Take a second piece of parchment paper, spray one side with nonstick cooking spray, and play the spray side down on top of the dough. Gently roll into a flat pizza shape with a rolling pin. Carefully peel the top piece of parchment paper off. If some of the dough sticks, wipe it off and simply place it where it would have gone on the pizza. Bunch the outline of the pizza slightly to create a crust.
6.      Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the crust begins to brown.
7.      Take out of the oven. You now have your crust!
8.      Drizzle a little oil in the middle of the pizza and spread around. Add sauce, cheese, oregano, basil leaves, and any extra toppings that you choose. Spray the crust around the edges with nonstick cooking spray to get an extra crunch.
9.      Bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into slices.


Enjoy!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Great Pumpkin Bread Extravaganza!!!

It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for – the pumpkin bread extravaganza!

I wanted to perform this experiment because pumpkin bread was one of my favorite treats to bake before going gluten free. A few months after beginning my diet, I tried my best recipe again (replacing the wheat flour with a gluten free flour blend and xanthan gum) but found that I needed much more gluten free flour – almost an entire cup – to create the same texture as the original. While tasty, this made the bread quite dense, heavy, and loaded with extra calories and carbohydrates.

So I invited my official taste-tester (aka Kristopher, my boyfriend) and my good friend Theresa to spend an afternoon lounging on my terrace while I bake three dozen delicious little muffins.

My mission: To bake three different pumpkin bread recipes, two from established gluten free bloggers and a new one of my own creation.

PB # 1 – Coconut flour base. Low in carbohydrates. Higher in sugar. Sweetened with ¼ cup honey and banana
PB #2 – Almond flour base. Low in carbohydrates. Very low in sugar. Sweetened with 2 ½ tablespoons honey
PB #3 – Blend of buckwheat flour, oat flour, almond flour and coconut flour. Higher in carbohydrates but incorporates very nutritious grains. Low in sugar. Sweetened with 3 ½ tablespoons of maple syrup



The data:

PB #1 – I had high hopes for this recipe because I love cooking with coconut flour. Unfortunately, these did not come out as well as I had hoped. They were dense and fell apart as I tried to take them out of the pan. They didn’t have a fluffy consistency at all. Instead, they had an almost half-baked quality. Very moist and sweet. Kristopher pointed out that he tasted the banana much more than the pumpkin.

PB #2 – The prettiest in terms of its shape, these muffins puffed up well. They were light, fluffy, and had a cake-like texture that was very pleasing. You could really taste the nutmeg and cloves, perhaps more than the pumpkin. For this reason I thought it was more like a spice cake compared to pumpkin bread.

PB # 3 – Had a very nice hard exterior that was a pleasant contrast with the soft interior. It wasn’t too sweet and we could clearly taste the pumpkin. It was less fluffy-cake-like than #2. It was heartier and more moist.  

The conclusion:

Each recipe yielded very different versions of pumpkin bread. As we tossed around adjectives, I asked Kristopher and Theresa simply, “Which one would you like me to make again?”

Kristopher and I agreed that the coconut flour recipe was not our favorite. We liked numbers 2 and 3 for different reasons. Kristopher flip flopped a bit but decided on #2 because of the cake-like texture, lightness, and focus on the fall spice flavors. Theresa and I chose #3 because when we think of pumpkin bread, we want to taste the pumpkin first and foremost. We enjoyed the moistness, heartiness and soft/hard textures of the interior/exterior.

My flour blend received 2 out 3 votes – it looks like we have a winner!

I’ve chosen to release my recipe on a future date (perhaps in a cookbook?!). But I am pleased to share with you recipe #2 – it comes from Elena’s Pantry and can be found at http://elanaspantry.com/paleo-pumpkin-bread/. All of the recipes that I have tried from Elena’s website are wonderful, and I highly recommend her cookbooks. I adjusted this recipe slightly because I didn’t have stevia on hand and do not own a food processor, as she recommends using. And of course, I added chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Enjoy!

Paleo Pumpkin Bread



1 cup almond flour
¼ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cloves
½ cup pumpkin puree
2 ½ tbsp raw honey
3 large eggs
Chocolate chips (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all wet ingredients and mix with a hand mixer. Slowly add in dry ingredients and mix for two minutes. Fold in chocolate chips. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray and scoop batter in evenly. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely.