Friday, January 16, 2009

Adopt-a-Gluten-Free-Blogger Healthy Resolution Edition: Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried

I've wanted to participate in one of the Adopt-a-Gluten-Free-Blogger events--conceived of and sponsored by Book of Yum--for quite a while. It's such a great idea--giving us bloggers an opportunity to interact with each other on a somewhat deeper level than the normal reading and commenting. When I saw this month's theme (Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes), I knew I needed to get baking so I actually could create something on the web instead of just spending (way) too much time surfing. It feels healthy to be writing instead of only reading.

One of the reasons that I chose Naomi of Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried is that her dietary constraints and subsequent recipes really demand that we confront the question "What is bread?" The more I cook and bake gluten-free food and talk to other people about eating gluten free, the more I've been thinking about this question. Is bread a set of ingredients or an experience? If your "whole-grain" bread is half cornstarch, does that make it equivalent to the wholesome whole wheat of our past breakfasts? What if there's no flour at all? Who would call that bread, and who wouldn't? These aren't meant to be rhetorical questions; they are questions that increasingly intrigue me.

It always comes back to Shakespeare! Juliet, of course, said "What's in a name. That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But then remember Anne of Green Gables. She said "I don't believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage." At least where bread is concerned, I think I agree with Anne. Eating "bread" is somehow different than eating "rice cakes."

In the past, Naomi has posted more conventional gluten-free recipes that I've made, adapted, and riffed off of: her Teff Pita Breads were the basis for one of my first gluten-free Middle Eastern meals. Currently, Naomi's following a much more restrictive diet in the hopes of getting her digestion back on track (no pun intended). The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) eliminates all grains, including gluten-free ones; processed foods; most dairy; all refined sugar; and other foods. I'm tempted to say, wow, that sounds terrible, but I won't. I know how adaptable we are to new diets and how restriction often sparks our culinary creativity. Come to think of it, that bit about restriction breeding creativity is true about a lot of life.

Another reason I won't say, wow, that's terrible, is the recipe I made for this Adopt-a-Blogger event. I chose Naomi's Hazelnut Pan Bread for a few reasons. First of all, it looks fabulous. Naomi takes beautiful pictures of her food. Second, with 1-2 eggs, enough butter to grease the pan, and no refined starches, it is definitely a "healthy" recipe. Third, since I don't have ready access to hazelnut butter in a jar, this recipe was a great excuse to use my new hand-turned grain/nut mill!
Fourth, she definitely has a good sense of food is what you call it. Here's a quote from her Hazelnut Pan Bread post:

"'Is that cake?' asked Fin incredulously as he was drawn in nose first, on a ribbon of hazelnut scent.

'Cake?' I chortled indulgently, 'of course it's not cake - who has cake for breakfast? It's hazelnut pan bread Fin, sit down and have a slice.'

And Fin sat down and ate two slices of not-cake..."

I made Naomi's recipe as written, except that I used one egg (I only had one on hand) and a very modest pat of butter in my small cast iron skillet (maybe 1-1.5 tsp.). The first time, I finished it under my broiler for 10 min and the top completely charred. So I scraped off the top and ate the rest--not pretty but definitely yummy. The second time, I finished it in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. It still slightly charred around the edges. For a third try I might try 400 degree for 8-10 minutes, checking it every few minutes.

In any case, the Pan Bread was filling, moist, and rich. But in spite of that I didn't feel like I was being indulgent--it's a very healthy recipe and makes good use of a small amount of fat and natural sweetener. Seemed like bread to me.


Alexa said...

This hazelnut bread sounds interesting. I tried an almond bread from Elana's Pantry last month. It was good, slightly sweet and very rich tasting. It was a nice treat for breakfast. I even toasted some slices which tasted similar to biscotti.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving your very nice comment.

All the best,

Laura said...

You have a grain/nut mill? Can you make all kinds of butters? I got excited about making my own peanut butter at the co-op and wondered if Kitchenaid made a nut mill attachment. Sadly, I couldn't find one, but I'm totally excited about this one! Can you make almond butter (I read that this is difficult because the almonds aren't as oily). Yum Yum.

Miss you guys!

Naomi Devlin said...

What a great post. I love your thoughts on the nature of bread - sometimes I wonder if I can even remember what 'real bread' tastes like. I'm so glad you adopted me - I feel all warm and fuzzy now.

Interesting to hear about the bread charring experience - I think I remember you commenting about that. I guess all grills are different, so I should include alternative instructions maybe. You obviously have a really powerful grill!

I'm dead jealous of your nut mill. I'd love to know how your nut butters turn out. I made some roasted brazil butter which was amazingly creamy and delicious. Roasted hazel butter has to be my favourite though.

x x x