Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gluten-Free Herbed Cheese Bread

The snow is piled up to the window sill after the storm last week (and the Science Teacher still didn't have a snow day!) and the forecast calls for the temperature to sink to 10 or 20 below night. We're hunkered down with cups of coffee, Car Talk, and the blessed quiet of the Little Pottamus's nap time. What better time to bake a loaf of bread?

Yeasted bread has become less and less a part of my life since I gave up gluten. I don't eat sandwiches anymore, and when I want something on which to spread my nut butter for breakfast, I'm happy with a rice cake or corn thin or slice of gluten-free frozen bread. In the beginning, I spent quite a bit of time trying out various gluten-free mixes and invariably ended up eating something that tasted like cornstarch. Dislike really doesn't describe my feelings toward the taste of cornstarch.

Quick breads, on the other hand, I make far more than I used to. Pre-celiac, I wouldn't really have considered quick bread "bread." Corn bread, ok, and maybe the beer bread from Joy of Cooking, but otherwise I thought of quick bread as dessert. Now a warm quick bread with a bowl of soup takes me back to the days when I took for granted the luxury of cleaning that bowl with a crust of bread. Bread is less a set of ingredients than a state of mind.

I've been wanting to try a gluten-free version of Herbed Cheese Quick Bread from the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special for some time. One reason that I prefer quick breads to yeasted breads is that they need no refined starches or flours to make them taste good. I have yet to discover any good yeasted bread recipe that isn't at least one-quarter starch. I would also say that I haven't decided for myself how much starch is too much, an attitude that gets in the way of my yeasted bread enjoyment. What is your attitude towards starch? I'd love to hear what other people think. In any case, here's a yummy starch-free recipe, perfect for the upcoming football "holiday." If you like this one, you might want to try my Brown Bread recipe.

Gluten-Free Herbed Cheese Bread (adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special)

2 c. of gluten-free flour (I used 1/2 c. brown rice, 1/2 c. sorghum, 1/2 c. teff, and 1/2 c. GF oat flours)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthum gum
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/3 c. fresh, chopped scallions or chives
1/2 tsp. fresh, chopped thyme (1/4 tsp. dried)
1 1/2 c. crumbled (not shredded) sharp cheddar cheese (low-fat cheese works fine)
1 lightly beaten egg
1 c. milk

Preheat the oven to 375 and oil a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Combine the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt, and stir well. Add the herbs and cheese, and mix. Combine the egg and milk in a bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir to mix. Pour batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 45 min to an hour or more. Don't underbake quick breads! Just keep checking it until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

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.