The beginning, and baking bread
Welcome. Beginning this blog has been a little dream of mine for quite awhile, at first secretly nurtured and then an idea only shared with my closest friends. I would beam when someone that didn't know my secret would suggest that I sell my baking at the farmer's market or share my recipes on a blog. Slowly and a little hesitantly, I have decided to put it out there and begin. This is a place that I plan to share all the little pieces of knowledge that you develop when you begin and practice something new and different, like baking without gluten, dairy products, or often even without eggs. The way that you begin to sense when a recipe is going well, or not going well at all. The healthy savoury foods that we tend to eat around here, and all my favourite sweet-but-good-for-you treats (there are a lot of those).
For me, this path began just over four years ago, although making recipes "healthier" has been a hobby of mine for many years. My family still (I mean, literally they teased me about this today) joke about the time I tried to turn our family Christmas sugar cookie recipe into a whole wheat, low-sugar version. Only my dad - who would dunk the not-so-tasty cookies into a bowl of sugary icing - said they "weren't too bad" but nobody else would even eat them ... thankfully, a lot has changed from those early days!
Eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet was something I came to after years of being ill without any true explanation, as it is for many people. On almost a daily basis, I was nauseous and had terrible stomach pains. There were countless visits to the doctor's and many, many tests. Eventually, I turned to a naturopath and spent months working on calming the inflammation and trying to figure out what was going on. The day my food sensitivity test results came back screaming with reactions to so many foods that were a normal part of my diet was one of mixed feelings. Initially, I was elated, "finally, this is what is making me sick!" Followed shortly after with discouragement and tears in the middle of the grocery store when I realized how profoundly this was going to change my life, as every label I read seemed to have some form of ingredient I was avoiding in it. At that time, my list of foods to avoid was much larger. As I've healed, I have been able to reintroduce foods that I once could not tolerate - things like nuts and eggs. These days, it is gluten, dairy products, and corn products that I avoid completely. In general, I tend to limit soy and sugar, but this is more out of personal preference and an increasingly health-conscious diet.
This weekend, my sister was hosting a barbeque for some of her friends and without intending to, it became a sisters party as three of us crashed - I come from a family of five daughters, and I consider my sisters among my dearest friends. As we've gotten older, the age difference between us feels smaller and honestly, it's just so much fun to spend time together. They are also some of my best recipe-testers. Over the course of the days prior, I had been thinking about baking bread and imagined a crusty loaf that would be fun to pair with tasty spreads, vegetables, and wine over the course of an evening. In my mind, this would be enjoyed outdoors, on a warm night, with good friends and conversation. I hope her friends didn't mind, but at the very least they were introduced to a deep, dark gluten free bread and bright, garlicky pesto as an evening snack and a few of them left with a new recipe for their repertoires, and who doesn't love a new recipe?
This is a very crusty, crunchy dark loaf with deep flavour. Use a serrated knife to help you slice through the crust and into the dense, deeply brown loaf. It is especially nice topped with a bright greeny, fresh-tasting pesto. Tomatoes and microgreens would be other good additions. As with all bread, this is best the day it's made. If dark and dense bread isn't your thing, check back because I am working on a baguette recipe that is light and doughy, in the best way.
Teff, Buckwheat & Quinoa Crusty Boule (gluten free, vegan, nut free, corn free)
inspired by Jennifer Katzinger's buckwheat boule
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 c warm water
1/2 c (70 g) light buckwheat flour
1/2 c (75 g) teff flour
1/4 c (30 g) quinoa flour
1/4 c (30 g) tapioca flour
1/4 c (30 g) arrowroot flour
2 tbsp flax meal
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp psyllium seed husk
1 1/2 tsp instant quick rise yeast
1/2 c warm water
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp avocado oil (or alternatively, use a different high-heat tolerant oil)
Whole flaxseeds and sesame seeds, to top loaf
To start, whisk 2 tbsp chia seeds into 1/2 c warm water and set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients (ideally, this will sit for at least 10 minutes). Stir in psyllium seed husk.
Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together buckwheat, teff, and quinoa flours with your tapioca and arrowroot starches, flax meal, and salt.
In a separate bowl or a medium-sized liquid measuring cup, whisk yeast into 1/2 c water. Stir in the honey and avocado oil, and allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes, until the yeast begins to foam slightly. Pour the yeast mixture into the dry mixture, followed by the chia and psyllium seed husk mixture. Using a spatula or the low speed of a stand mixer, stir until fully combined.
Using either buckwheat or brown rice flour, dust a parchment sheet. Empty the dough onto the prepared sheet and with floured hands, shape the dough into a round boule. Cut 3 shallow slits or make an "x" across the top of the boule, and top with whole flax and sesame seeds. Transfer the parchment sheet onto a baking sheet, and slide into preheated oven. Immediately reduce heat to 375 F and bake for 1 hour. After the hour passes, reduce the heat again to 300 F and bake for 1 more hour.
Allow this dark, crusty boule to cool for at least 45 minutes on a rack before slicing.
Kale Pesto (raw, vegan, gluten free, nut-free)
2 big handfuls of kale, separated from stalks
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp freshly-squeed lime juice (from 1/2 a lime)
3 tbsp raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
3-4 large basil leaves
3-4 tbsp olive oil, plus more to top
1/2 tsp nutritional yeast (omit if you would like a completely raw pesto)
In a mini food processor or the small bowl of a larger food processor, briefly pulse garlic. Add the kale, and pulse a few times to break down. Add sea salt, lime juice, pepitas, basil leaves, and nutritional yeast and pulse again, for approximately 10 seconds or until the kale is mostly broken down and the mixture is thoroughly combined. Using a spatula, push down any pesto from the walls of the food processor and replace the lid. As you continue to pulse, add the olive oil. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Store in a sealed glass container, topped with a bit of extra olive oil. As this pesto is refrigerated, you may find that it becomes thicker - to thin, adjust with a teaspoon of warm water and olive oil.
Keeps in the fridge for 5 days, or much longer in the freezer. If storing in the freezer, I suggest using a small baggie and smoothing the pesto in the bag so it lies flat and thin - then as you need it, simply break off a piece. It will thaw quickly, and is a tasty base for salad dressings, to mix through pasta or grilled vegetables, or as a topping on bread or crackers.