Gluten Free Sandwich Bread, for soup

So, remember way back, when I shared the recipe for Socca with Roasted Tomatoes, Swiss Chard and Goat Feta? I mentioned then that I sometimes cooked for family members on gluten free diets. Well, I am now one of those family members. So any recipe that I share here from now on will very likely be gluten-free. And I had to share this one – it’s the first GF bread I’ve tasted that really tempted me to have another slice. And what’s more, it tempted my (non-GF) husband – he stole part of my piece, and then got his own.

Along with it, I’ll share a recipe for curried sweet potato Balti soup, which is a variation of a dish I’ve had many times, but never made. We are still working our way through about 20 pounds of sweet potatoes that we received as part of our CSA (community supported agriculture) membership this past season. I was dismayed to find that this had only used about about 1 pound of the haul! Balti Seasoning is a spice mixture from Baltistan in northern Pakistan – I got it from Penzey’s spices. According to Penzey’s, it contains “coriander, garlic, ginger, cumin, dundicut chilies, Ceylon cinnamon, brown mustard seeds, cardamom, clove, fennel, fenugreek, charnushka (kalonji, black onion seed), ajwain, star anise, black cardamom, cilantro, anise seed and bay leaf,” but I would say that the coriander, ginger and cinnamon are the dominant flavors. It also contains kalonji seed, which is one of my favorite spices – great to have on hand to add a subtle onion flavor to curry, and fabulous sprinkled on pita chips when you make them at home (Pita chips, alas, are not gluten-free! Sob!)

Here’s the bread recipe – soup recipe will follow shortly!

GFBread

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread
adapted from Kneadlessly Simple, by Nancy Baggett

Note: This bread can take anywhere from 24-48 hours from start to finish, including 2 rises. So don’t start making it if you want bread right away! Luckily, it requires no kneading, so most of that time is just waiting for the dough to do its thing.

Ingredients:
1 2/3 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup gluten free oats (rolled – not instant)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup flax seed meal (you can grind your own in a food processor if you have whole flax seeds in your cupboard)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast (I used SAF Instant Yeast which is much cheaper than buying it in individual packets)
1/3 cup corn oil or canola oil
1 1/3 cups ice water (I usually use spring water for baking, since our hard water sometimes kills yeast)
3 tbsp honey
1 egg
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used whole milk cream top yogurt)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions

Mix 1 1/3 cup of the rice flour, the rest of the flours, and flax meal thoroughly in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix the ice water, oil and honey, and whisk vigorously. Tip: Pour the oil into the tablespoon measure, then pour it into the 1/3 cup measure and top it up. Use the oily tablespoon to measure the honey, and the honey will slide right out! Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly (do not knead). I found this dough quite wet, so I added about another 1/2 cup of rice flour until it didn’t stick to the bowl anymore, but was still moist inside.

Cover the bowl (I used one of the Abeego reusable food wraps that I got for Christmas – thanks twin sister!), and refrigerate for about 3 hours, then take it out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for about 12 hours. I started making the dough on Friday night at around 8 – exciting nightlife! – put it in the fridge at around 8:30, took it out of the fridge before I went to bed, and did the next step the next morning at around 11. The dough smelled yeasty by that point, but it did not look like it had risen at all. This step is primarily to develop the yeast flavor – the rising effect comes from the baking soda and yogurt.

Next, mix the remaining 1/3 cup of rice flour, egg, yogurt and baking soda thoroughly in a small bowl. Pour this mixture over the dough, and stir vigorously with a fork. Note: the original recipe called for you to keep back 1 tsp of the egg and use it to brush over the top of the loaf, but I thought this was too fussy (nevermind how fussy it is to make bread that takes 48 hours – ha!), so I just brushed the top with milk instead.  Empty the dough into a greased loaf pan. Leave at room temperature for another 5-7 hours until it has risen above the top of the pan. But mine never actually rose above the top of the pan, and it was still fine. I did put the loaf pan next to the heating vent for the last three hours, and I think this helped.

At this point, my photocopy of this recipe is cut off, so I guessed at the baking directions. Bake at 375F for one hour, until the top is brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you knock it on the top with your knuckles. Let the loaf sit for a few minutes, loosen the loaf from the sides of the pan by drawing a knife around the edges, and turn out on the counter. Dig in!

Bookish Holiday Gift Lists – #1

‘Tis the season for giving people hard rectangular packages, the kind where you can actually get sharp corners in the wrapping paper, which itself might have been reused from last year’s hard rectangular packages. Or perhaps for you, ’tis more the season to slip a gift card into a card, or to send email with a code for your favourite purveyor of ebooks. It’s the season to buy people books for Christmas!

But which ones?

Lucky for you, a librarian friend of mine who writes for the Ottawa-based blog Apt 613 (tagline: “Arts. Culture. Ottawa. Puns”) has written this post Librarian in Residence: The unofficial holiday gift list for 2013. Click through, and you can discover her picks for  books for people of all ages and interests, including “Best Teen Book that Wasn’t Post-Apocalyptic” and “Best Book About a 100-Year-Old Man”. Despite the quirky categories, this list isn’t merely link bait (by which I mean those posts of “Ten Things I Miss About the 80s” and “15 Magazines Your Grandma Will Love if She Loves the Ellen Show”). The author has one of the most jam-packed ereaders I’ve ever seen, and reads children’s, YA and adult books like some people eat cookies. She’s the only person I know who walks into one of the best bookstores in the Midwest  and starts swapping tips with the buyer for the children’s section!

Enjoy, and I’ll be back soon with more gift-giving tips!

http://apt613.ca/librarian-in-residence-the-unofficial-holiday-gift-list-for-2013/

Little Free Library – Healey Willan Park Branch Opening!

Just dropping by the blog today to announce the opening of a new branch of the Little Free Library this time in Toronto! This one’s in one of my favourite parks in Toronto, and I am looking forward to paying a visit over the holidays.

I’ve written a few times about Little Free Libraries in Madison (hereand here). I keep noticing so many cool new ones around town. I need to go on another Little Free Library photo safari (especially because I bought a fancy new camera!). There’s the one that looks like an Arts and Crafts Bungalow, the one that looks like a church, the one with the beautiful inlaid sunburst roof, and the one that has recently gotten a second floor addition, to match the addition of its “host” house . . . Watch this space for photos, soon! And the photos will have beautiful snowy backgrounds, no doubt – we’re in for a chilly weekend. Maybe it’ll even be time to wash my wool blanket in the snow again.

Since I haven’t taken those photos yet, I’ll leave you with a photo of another library. Here’s the beautiful wooden screen that you see when you walk into the new  Central Library of the Madison Public Library. The best part? The cut-outs in the screen were re-used to make the occasional tables scattered throughout the space! If you are in Madison and haven’t visit, it’s definitely worth the trip. And if you aren’t in Madison, you can see a great gallery of photos (from the Cap Times) here .

MPL Central Screen

Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi: Recipe for Socca with Roasted Tomatoes, Swiss Chard and Goat Feta (Gluten-free)

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One of my birthday gifts was the cookbook Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi, whose Israeli heritage has obviously shaped his approach to food, is a chef in London, and also writes on vegetarian and other types of cooking for the Guardian newspaper. I was really excited to get this book, as one of my sisters is a rabid fan of Ottolenghi’s writing in the Guardian (well, she’s a rabid fan of many things in the Guardian, but particularly of Ottolenghi!). As I leafed through the book, it struck me immediately that these were different from the vegetarian recipes I was used to: they seemed lighter, with a greater emphasis on vegetables rather than trying to simulate meat dishes, and they made heavy use of Middle Eastern and Asian flavors. This is a great book to check out if your primary vegetarian cookbooks have always been of the Moosewood cookbook variety.

In comparison with another recent acquisition, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, this book seems less accessible to the inexperienced cook. First of all, the book is organized according to the primary vegetable used in the recipe. Initially, this seemed to me like an excellent system, especially for a cook who was interested in eating seasonally. I pictured myself plucking a strange vegetable from my CSA (community supported agriculture) box, (perhaps one fitting the theme of the chapter titled “Funny Onions”?), locating the relevant chapter, and going on my merry way to cooking a masterpiece of seasonal appropriateness. However, the more I tried to figure out how to fit this book into our daily cooking, the more I realized that this is not actually the way I plan my meals: I think that categories such as “curries,” or “noodles”, or “salads” (hopelessly old-fashioned, I know!) are more helpful when you are trying to figure out which recipe might be appropriate to a certain day, pantry situation, or level of hunger.

The other criticism I have of this book is that, in comparison to the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook or some of my other favorites, such as Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, the instructions for each recipe are somewhat scanty, and there are few “process” photographs and no illustrations. It’s often hard to visualize exactly what the author is describing, and there are few tips or pointers to reassure you. One of the things I find most useful about the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, for example, is the fact that the author will tell you “the dough should have enough flour incorporated so that it does not stick to your fingers” or “the fritters should be golden brown after 1 minute: if they are not, turn down the heat.” It’s tips like this that actually ensure that you will have success with recipes, so I will be interested to see cooking with this cookbook will be more challenging. It’s certainly not a book for a beginning cook.

So, what is this book good for, then? Inspiration! Many of the recipes combine ingredients in ways that I would never have thought of, to make less-usual categories of food such as cold noodle salads, flatbreads with toppings, etc. One featured ingredient that I had never used before is chickpea flour (sometimes sold as garbanzo flour, or pakora flour, since it’s what those Indian fritters are made of). I had, however, eaten chickpea flour many times, because I love love love pakoras, and I had also eaten socca, a Provencal chickpea flat bread, while in Europe several years ago. I made a variation on Ottolenghi’s recipe for Socca, which appears in the “pulses” section of the book. While Ottolenghi served his version with a tomato, onion and thyme topping, I made a topping of tomatoes, chard, fresh herbs and goat feta. Ottolenghi adds two egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks, to his socca batter. I omitted these to make the recipe quicker, since I had seen socca recipes without eggs, and the pancakes were delicious.

Note re: chickpea flour:

I think chickpea flour will become one of my new favorite ingredients: it’s tasty, high in protein and iron (good for vegetarians), and it’s also gluten free (I’m not gluten-intolerant, but I sometimes cook for people who are, so it’s good to have some GF recipes up my sleeve). Surprisingly, it wasn’t available in the bulk section of my local (extremely well-stocked) food co-op, but I finally located it in the baking aisle. The kind I bought was made by Bob’s Red Mill. It can also be found in the bulk section of natural foods stores, or in bulk stores, or in grocery stores that carry South Asian/Indian foods.

The Recipe: Socca with Roasted Tomatoes, Swiss Chard, and Goat Feta

Ingredients

For the socca:
1 3/4 cups chickpea flour (see Note above)
2 cups water
pinch salt
1 teaspoon olive oil (for the batter)
canola oil for frying (or other neutral vegetable oil)

For the topping:
2 pints cherry tomatoes (2 small containers) – You could also use large tomatoes, cut in quarters. I used cherry tomatoes because I was making this in the winter, when cherry tomatoes have better flavor than other kinds, but I would make this with large tomatoes if they were in season.
1 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch fresh mint (about 1 cup, chopped)
1 bunch fresh basil (about 1 cup chopped)
1 large bunch swiss chard (about 6-8 cups, chopped roughly)
about 6 oz goat-milk feta – You could use sheep-milk feta or cow-milk feta but I like the flavor of goat-milk feta

Equipment note: You will need to use a frying pan to cook the pancakes, and the swiss chard. I used a large saute pan to cook the swiss chard, and a cast-iron frying pan to cook to the pancakes. If you don’t own two frying pans, cook the Swiss chard first, set it aside, and use the same pan to make the pancakes.

Method

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut each cherry tomato in half and put the tomatoes in a baking dish (I used a ceramic casserole dish). Drizzle olive oil over top and season with salt and pepper. Place in the preheated oven and roast until they are starting to shrivel and release juice – about 30 minutes.

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They will look like this when they are done:

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Wash the swiss chard, and chop it roughly:
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Make the socca batter. Put the chickpea flour in a bowl and add water, oil and salt. Whisk until it reaches a smooth consistency. Leave the batter to sit for a few minutes, then whisk again and add a little water if it seems too stiff. It should be a thick, pourable batter, like pancake batter.

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Fry the swiss chard with a little olive oil until it is soft, but not mushy (about 10 minutes).

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While the Swiss chard is frying, make the socca pancakes. Heat a spoonful of oil in the frying pan, wait until it is hot, and pour in a large spoonful of the batter. I think I used about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Wait until bubbles appear on the top of the pancake, and the top of the pancake is no longer wet-looking and appears solid.

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Flip the pancake over, but don’t worry if it breaks – you will be eating this mixed up with the toppings anyways!

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While the pancakes are frying, chop the basil and mint, and set the table with bowls containing the herbs, feta (crumbled), swiss chard and roasted tomatoes.

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Everyone can help themselves to a pancake and top it with vegetables, herbs and cheese!

They know me too well

I had a fairly momentous birthday this month, which led to these wonderful sights:

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Flowers (delivered!), a giant pile of packages at the breakfast table, scrambled eggs for breakfast, and, on the left, a knitting-themed card and the latest installment in the series of book look-alike gifts from an enthusiastic user of the Royal Mail. Yes, folks, that is a box of hazelnut Bacio chocolates in a tin that looks like an early 20th-century Italian novel! Happy Birthday to me!

Jefferson Henley Pullover (a finished object)

For those readers of this blog who also knit (that is, a fairly large proportion of the total, I suspect), I thought I’d drop by the blog today and show off my latest creation: a sweater I’m calling my Jefferson Henley pullover. This sweater is a very greatly modified version of the Topeka Henley pattern by Kate Gagnon Osborne. I’m calling it my Jefferson Henley because I made it out of yarn I bought in Jefferson, Wisconsin, during my very first (but definitely not last!) visit to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. I’m so happy to have a knitted memento of that wonderland of yarn, sheep-shearing demonstrations, baked potatoes and bratwurst from the 4-H club and talkative sheep farmers (including the farmer from Iowa who started chatting to me in the line-up for lamb burgers and pulled out of his wallet a long string of photos of “his girls” and bid me admire the length and staple of their curly fleeces).

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The details
Pattern: Topeka Henley, by Kate Gagnon Osborn
Yarn: Northport, by River’s Edge Fiber Arts This is a 3-ply 100% Merino yarn, which knits up very soft and springy. Another great thing about this yarn is that it is put up in giant skeins of 500 grams (over 700 meters), which is fabulous for sweater-knitting. Fewer ends to weave in!
Color: Mulberry. I bought two skeins and found that they were slightly different colors (I don’t believe I checked the dyelots). So one sleeve is obviously a different color than the other, but non-knitters have told me they don’t really notice unless they look hard! It’s a lovely color: here’s a close-up:

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Pattern modifications

Size: I cast on for the 39.5 inch bust size, and eventually decreased down to the 35.75 inch bust size for the bust and raglan shaping. I knit the body section about 7 inches longer than the pattern called for: the original pattern is for a fairly cropped sweater, ending right at the waist, which I don’t find very flattering or practical. I wanted something that would keep my mid-section warm, and also look good with skinny jeans or skirts, sort of like a tunic.

Shaping: Because of the added length, I added increases at the bottom (to create what Kate Davies calls an “arse accommodator”, although she added her shaping in the center-back, whereas I added mine at the side seams). I then decreased back down to the stitch count for the waist called for in the 35.75 inch bust size. I knit the arms longer (I think) than the pattern called for.

Stitch pattern: Instead of garter-stitch welts and details, I used moss-stitch/seed stitch.

Edgings and buttonholes: I used an i-cord cast-on for the body and sleeves, and then cast-off using an i-cord cast-off at the neck. I love love love the effect of the i-cord cast-on on the sleeves; it creates a nice “bubble” of fabric at the wrists:

I did not create any buttonholes at the neck when I was knitting the main body pieces. First of all, I found it fairly confusing to keep track of the raglan shaping in the first place (it didn’t help that I knit much of this section during Christmas holidays at busy family events!), so I didn’t want to add another set of numbers to keep track of in order to do the buttonholes. Secondly, I find that no matter how careful I am, I make quite untidy buttonholes, so I wanted to try something new. After I had completed all other parts of the sweater, I took out my buttons and placed them evenly along the Henley neck – I ended up using seven buttons instead of the eight called for in the pattern. Seven looked nicely spaced, and since I only had eight of these buttons in total, I wanted to keep a spare. It will be fairly tough to find a matching replacement as they were a gift from a family member’s visit to New Zealand! Once I had established the spacing, I used a measuring tape and some scrap yarn threaded on a darning needle to mark the rows where the buttonholes should be. I just passed the scrap yarn through the edge of the row in question, cut off a short length of it, and tied the two ends in a knot.

I then used applied i-cord along both sides of the Henley neck. Whereas the i-cord along the neck is three stitches wide, the buttonbands and buttonhole edging are five stitches wide, which I thought looked sturdier and more pleasing. If you have not made i-cord buttonbands like this before, I very highly recommend it! It is so neat and tidy, and it is lovely not to have to worry about making buttonholes as you are zooming through your decreases at the end of a bottom-up seamless sweater. I will definitely be making buttonholes like this again!

Other changes: This sweater has armpit gussets, which were not a feature of the original pattern. This was the result of a SNAFU when I was putting the sleeves together with the body. For some reason, no matter how many times I did this, I ended up with much looser stitches and gaping yarn loops at either side of the sleeve joins, and I was getting pretty fed up. So I cast on eight stitches on either side of the join, using the slack in the strange loops of yarn I had there in order to make the stitches and tighten everything up again. This worked extremely well, but then I was left with many more stitches at the underarms than specified in the pattern, and the extra cast-on stitches made a sort of ‘H’ shape, with the original armpit stitches as the crossbar. Instead of just grafting them all together, I waited until everything else was done, and then picked up all of the underarm stitches in a big circle, knitted four rows to create a small triangle or pouch under each armpit for a gusset, and then grafted the stitches. Now that I have made a sweater with accidental armpit gussets, I believe I will try one with intentional gussets. They certainly make the sweater more comfortable, especially as I knitted the sleeves and bust to have very little ease. Some of the sweaters in Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans have gussets, and I would be interested to try again with the idea.

Overall, I am very pleased with this sweater, but ambivalent about the original pattern. I feel like the look of my sweater is quite different from the original, and more flattering to me (at least I think so!). I found the layout of this pattern to be non-intuitive, and I had to make many notes on my copy in order to keep my math straight. Towards the end of the knitting, I essentially stopped following the pattern, and eyeballed the final stages, using what I had learned from knitting another raglan sweater based on the instructions in Knitting Without Tears. So, if you are a beginning knitter, I would not recommend this as a starter pattern. But if you are more experienced, it could be worth a look – I had never thought of knitting a sweater with this neckline until I saw this pattern, and now I realize that it is a very practical and flattering style, as you can undo some of the buttons if you are getting warm (or if you are wearing a nice necklace you want to show off!) or leave them buttoned.

Next up on my knitting list is an Antler Hat (free pattern). I’d like to pretend that by the time it is finished, the recipient might not have a need for it anymore this season, but alas, we are supposed to get more snow this week! It is beautiful though:

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