gluten free baking

Someone's little workshop

Tis the season 

I certainly cannot believe that the year is almost over. It has been a good one, an journey for sure, both heavy and light with lessons and experience. But this is not about the bygone year. I would much rather celebrate the present and the season. It is a fun one after all.

This season we have been doing a making a bunch of DIY goodies that I am excited to share with friends and family. From Christmas cards to homemade chocolates, it is so satisfying to create something and share the success and goodies with others. There is something really empowering about creating things for yourself.

That feeling is something I have decided to harness for myself and my career. This fall, I have struggled with figuring out what direction I want to go with my career after my job ended in August. Over the past month (with all the luxurious time that comes from lower mileage, 80-90 miles a week ha!), I have been working on defining and creating for myself that direction. I decided somewhere along the way that I don't want to simply take a job I don't believe in to pass the time and pay the bills. I know myself, I burn out on that too quickly. I realized that I have lived my life afraid of truly going after what I want and creating my reality (especially when it comes to career). I mean, I went to culinary school but didn't take up cheffing. I immerse myself in food and nutrition, yet sit on the sidelines, afraid to true and carve out my piece of the pie. But I realize now, I want to pursue food as not just my passion, but as my career.

And let me tell you, I have been busy in my little workshop! I have been building up my personal chef client base and am actively pursuing new clients in the bay area. I have rebuilt and relaunched my personal chef/cooking website Fast Foodie. I am having my friend (and amazing designer Rick Gaston) design a new logo for me (sneak peek in the picture below!). I have launched a line of gluten free muffin and cookie mixes  that I am looking forward to developing into a line of muffins, granolas and bars!


I know where I want to go (cafe/bakery of our own!) and I would like to develop myself and my skills as the journey takes me forward to that eventuality. It is not an easy thing to undertake, nor is it all passion and inspiration, but it feels right. Many say, "but what about your running?" and I say, "what about my life?". Running is a huge part of my life, but it something I am not willing to defer every other aspect of my life for. I have done that and nearly imploded in the process. I find it surprisingly easy to balance and furthermore, I like the challenge. Food is a huge passion of mine and I feel as driven to create with this medium as I feel driven to run. It makes me excited. 

Rise to the Occasion: Gluten Free Carrot Oat Muffins



Those who know me, know that I associate myself with closely with turtles. I like to say it is because I am slow, but most people don't buy that. Whatever my reasoning may be, I do love turtles. However, carrots, mainly carrot muffins make me strongly consider changing teams and becoming more of a rabbit (or some might suggest a donkey), just to justify copious quantities of my newly revised carrot oat muffins.

I love carrot muffins. Possibly more than pumpkin muffins. Perhaps I should just generalize and say I love orange foods: carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, persimmons. Mmmm, I just got hungry again. I have a muffin obsession as I mention repeatedly, but carrots muffins have previously taken me above and beyond obsession to addiction. When I was living in Seattle, there was a period of time where every day I would be unable to resist the siren's call of the gluten free vegan carrot walnut muffins at Flying Apron. I was powerless against it, they were delicious. 

A few years ago, to combat the problem, I decided to make my own homemade version. They were good but decidedly gluten free and vegan tasting. That is, no one would be fooled. I moved away from Seattle and sort of forgot about the carrot muffin addiction for a while. Until recently that is. In my quest to build a better gluten free muffin, I stumbled upon my own old recipe and decided to breathe new life into it. I have been working on this one for a while and yesterday, I triumphed, BIG TIME.

Yesterday, I carefully measured and mixed, folded and baked. Waited patiently for 25 minutes. And when I opened the oven to remove them, I was shocked. The muffins, they had muffin tops! I tell you in gluten free baking, it is not a common sight! I was amazed. I was delighted. These muffins had truly risen to the occasion.


I waited for them to cool. Hoping in the process they didn't fall (they didn't). Hoping that the flavor would match their appearance. I took a tentative bite. Wow. Hands down, best muffin I've made yet. I am on a roll. Last week best scones, this week best muffins. 

My other muffin recipes have tended toward the moist almost cupcake like texture, which is fine. But these carrot oat wonders were more muffin-y-er, a bit more dry (without being dry), laced with strands of carrots, flecks of oats and hunks of walnuts. The only thing I could see adding would be golden raisins. They were so tasty. And the best part is, they kept well overnight. They didn't collapse or get sticky or more moist. In fact, they were such a triumph that, over breakfast this morning, the baker inquired "you sure there's not any gluten in here?"


Gluten Free Carrot Oat Muffins (revised)

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 cup gluten free oats
  • 1 cup carrot, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 egg (yolks and whites separated)
  • 1/4 cup Buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup sweet sorghum flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • optional, 1/4 cup golden raisins

Directions:

1. In large bowl, pour almond milk over oats; stir to mix.

2. Cream together brown sugars, molasses, butter, coconut oil, vanilla extract and egg yolks in a mixer on medium.

3. Sift together flour, spices, baking powder, salt and baking soda together. Stir into oat mixture and add carrots and walnuts.

4. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients gently until combine. Do not overmix.
5. In a mixer in a very clean bowl, using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites with the white sugar into a meringue. Start whipping the eggs first then gently add the sugar a few tbsps at a time. Beat until soft peaks form. (Note, sometimes meringues just don't behave, if you don't get good peaks or it doesn't work, don't fret, just add the egg white/sugar combination into the muffin mix and it'll be fine!)

6. Very gently fold the meringue into the muffins so as to keep it nice and fluffy.

7.Spoon into muffin cups in a muffin pan, filling almost to the top. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 24-26 minutes.

5. Let stand 2 minutes before removing from pan. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy with butter and jam. Store in a tupperware container (do not refrigerate).

A few of my favorite things

I love naps. Young adult novels. Wearing sweat pants.

I love brussel sprouts, broccoli and persimmons. Hugs. And the feeling of accomplishment after a hard days work.

I like weimaraners. Taking pictures of food. And I love muffins.




I have said that last part before, but I have to say it again. I love muffins. There is something about muffins that I adore. And I love to make them. I think I should start a bakery with just muffins, gluten free of course. The muffins I make could never get a bad wrap for being unhealthy. But they are damn delicious.

I also love the bounty of the summer. There is so much amazing produce and we are flush with delicious fruits and vegetables. At this point in the summer, one might even argue we are at the point of being overwhelmed with certain vegetables. Mainly zucchini. I can only think of so many ways to prepare zucchini. And I had not yet figured out a good recipe from which to start my gluten free adaptation. The other day, I stumbled upon a recipe by Jenna of Eat, Live, Run and decided to give it another go on the zucchini muffins since we had a few zucchini that were still lurking around from the previous week's CSA book from Eatwell Farms. On top of that, I was keen to continue to see just how versatile my gluten free flour mixture was. I have successfully used the same mix in waffles, pancakes and pizza. Why not muffins too?




Why not indeed. I am happy to report that they were phenomenally good. So good that when the baker ate one, he said, "I kind of wish you hadn't given away half of them" (as I had given away 1/2 dozen to our good friends). But I reassured him not to worry, there were plenty more zucchini left to go through and make into glorious, cinnamon sugar topped zucchini muffins.



Routine as white rice and butter

Our first CSA box from Eatwell Farms

I haven't felt routine in a while. We moved, we had guests, more guests, races to prepare for, nesting to be done, shelving to be built and hung. While bucking routine is nice to change things up, I do enjoy routine. I think one of the reasons I thrive as a runner is because I get to plan, organize and execute a training schedule. There are curves in that I can depend on. I like that. I like spontaneity too, yeah but that is a bit different than just being caught up in a rapid fire of change. Thankfully one of the things that brings me a great deal of comfort and dependability (beyond running) is cooking. And I have been cooking.

Gluten Free Sugarplum Vegan Carrot Cupcakes- a reward for a 48.5 mile run

I may have not been journaling, tweeting, blogging, photographing or following along on the news, but I have been cooking. Routine things. Moderately interesting things. We've been getting a CSA the last few weeks, so there has been lots of greenery. I have been peaking in training, so there has been lots of steak. We've made sandwiches, stir-frys and boring white rice with butter (which suddenly has become one of my favorite things). I have been making coconut granola and crusty breads.

Gluten Free Crusty Boule

With family in town and family leaving town, we have eaten out a great deal. Green Chile Kitchen, Nopalito, Outerlands, Starbelly, Foreign Cinema, Fish (Sausalito) and noshed on fresh fruits and treats from the farmers market.

Ferry Building Farmer Market

It's been a whirlwind, I tell ya. And I am not complaining. No, not at all. This post is more about remembering those dangling little participles before they are swept away than any firm resolute point. I have to share the pictures, the moments before they are pushed aside in the mind by another deep, rich moment.

Family brunch at Outerlands in the Sunset

I had been really good about journaling, but over the last two months have been crap. Really crap. And I don't really like that. That is a routine I need to get back into. Blogging too, because I have much to do and share. There is work to be done, along this funny road I am traveling on. For the next 10 days, I have a one track mind though: Western States 100 mile race. That's got my brain going and my body resting. Over the next week and change there will be a lot of steak/meat. It is my favorite pre-race fuel. And possibly lots of white rice and butter.

On Sunday, it was round one of the steak fest. The baker and I cooked for his mother who was visit from Ohio. We made peri peri rubbed rib eyes, seared in the cast iron. Cooked to a medium rare perfection. We wilted greens from the Eatwell Farms CSA box, cooking them down and down, simply. Olive oil, salt, a dash of water. The risotto was something special. Risotto has a special place in my heart because it is the first recipe I learned that required specific technique and care. I learned porcini mushroom risotto and have made much since that day. Ours was simple and fresh as the late spring day we enjoyed, herbed with basil and parsley, sugar snap peas and a nice sheep's milk pecorino. The Baker stirred and stirred and stirred it to perfection. The meal was simple but beautiful. While complicated, ornate, involved food can be fun, to me there is nothing better than simple good food that lets amazing ingredients stand up and speak for themselves.

Peri-peri rubbed rib-eye, sugar snap pea and herbed risotto, wilted greens


Gluten Free Banana Ginger Muffins


Calling my name, GF Banana Ginger Muffins

There are many times in life since going gluten free that I will pass by a bakery window and gaze in upon stacks of beautiful fresh baked muffins and wish that I could have one too. As I have mentioned, I don't crave sweet that much but I do love an occasional muffin. Last year, when I was able to "take a break" from my no-gluten diet (doctor's recommendation for testing) I stumbled upon my all time favorite muffins at Macrina Bakery in Seattle. Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins. I went home after that, totally obsessed and created a version of my own and posted the recipe. But those were made with whole wheat and spelt and soon I had to reliquish their hold over my tastebuds and go gluten free again (thanks for the painful vacation doc!).



I will wait for these to cool, I will wait for these to cool.

After that, I baked muffins occasionally, picked up muffins at Flying Apron when I was in Seattle, and generally went without. And then, the other day I remembered these muffins. I think it was because I was planning a big group run around Discovery Park in Seattle for my visit home this weekend. Last year a bunch of speedsters got together and ran some loops and then went to Macrina. Oh those muffins. I instantly knew that it was up to me to create a gluten free version that would be as crave worthy as the Macrina ones.

I did it. Yes, me and my little creative brain did it.



I took my own original recipe and then worked through some possible flour combinations/ratios. With muffins, especially gluten free ones, texture is huge. And picking the right flour combination makes a huge difference. I settled on brown rice flour and garbanzo bean flour in a 2:1 ratio. Flying by the seat of my pants as it were, I also kicked up the ginger content two fold as I recalled that my previous batch a year ago was not as gingery as I liked.

I baked. I waited. I let them cool so completely that by the time I went to eat them I was bonking from lack of food. I think there was a bit of trepidation in there too. I was afraid to try them. The looked like a winner, but would the taste be triumphant? Would the texture leave me once again annoyed that gluten free will never translate the same? Would they dissolve into a wet, fallen mess overnight (like a lot of GF baked goods do)? Would they be hockey pucks?


In a word: No. I was awe struck by these muffins. Look at that texture! If I didn't tell you it was gluten free, you would not know. The taste, oh my! Smooth banana flavor with a perfect and very present ginger flavor. They played nicely together, letting each other have a share of the glory and spotlight. Neither dominated, they comingled, they made music together and my taste buds were singing! My favorite part was that the banana and ginger were present but the muffin was still predominately savory, not overly sweet- just enough. Again a very fine balance, I think.

I was so excited I couldn't wait to share them with the Baker.

He made me wait though. I fed him way too much bibimbap and homemade coconut milk ice cream for dinner. I waited patiently for my second opinion. I finally got it post early morning run with our regular crew in the Headlands. I open the container (which I left on the counter), prepared myself for some caved in or other gluten free horror to unfold but they were still perfect, together, moist.  The Baker took one out and  took a bite, I prepared myself for a polite, "they're good" and to go back to the drawing board.


"Wow" He said. "These are good. These are really really good. Where did you get the recipe?" Happy dance in my head, something along the lines of a end zone dance, complete with strutting and waving of arms!

"From my head" I answered. "Completely original recipe". I liked being able to say that. I feel it is important to my perspective to keep perspective on the whether things are "good for a gluten free item" (because we all know there are plenty of really bad options out there) or "universally good", meaning gluten free/egg free or not these are damn good. I am glad my second opinion heralded them as the second. I made my muffins in small muffin tins so we shared a second muffin, though I am sure we easily could have each had two and not be making a bad dietary choice (since in addition to all the other awesome things about this recipe, there is only 1/4 cup of butter and that is the only fat). These are not "you can eat those because you run 100 miles" muffins, these are part of a healthy and delicious lifestyle muffins. I don't think it is a bad thing when you can have your decadent cake and have it be nutritious too. It is just an added benefit to these muffins that you don't even have to think about it.

They are good. Damn good. I will be making them again and again and again. I have a feeling that down the line, someone will be looking at one of these babies through the window of my own bakery.

Gluten Free Banana Ginger Muffin

Ingredients:
5 small very ripe bananas (if not super ripe, add 1/4 cup almond milk)
¼ cup butter , room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 ⅓ cup brown rice flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
⅔ cup garbanzo bean flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 ½ tsp. ginger zest, divided
4 tsp. crystallized ginger, minced, divided
1 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
pinch fresh nutmeg

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 and line with parchment cups/grease 2 muffin pans (12 muffins). In a food processor, mix together the bananas and butter. Mix in the two types of brown sugar and blend together. Add in vanilla, 2 tsp of minced crystallized ginger, 1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger (zest).

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients including the remaining ginger until incorporated. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of muffin mix into the muffin pans, making 9-12 muffins. Sprinkle the muffins with dark brown sugar and bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted and the tops are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes