It’s been just over a year since my Celiac disease sentence was handed down. And while I’m more adjusted than I was last January, I’m still feeling a little bit like a culinary outcast in a world of contaminated fryers, artisanal sourdough loaves and craft beers. (Just last week, I discovered barley malt in my favorite tea. Come on.)
Imagine my delight and intrigue, then, when a hefty box full of fancy gluten-free flours arrived at my doorstep. It was a package from Pereg Natural Foods, and it promised a future of delectable homemade gluten-free baked goods. There was chickpea flour, quinoa flour, almond flour, coconut flour, farro flour (which isn’t GF, but thanks anyway), and buckwheat flour. I pictured dark chocolate brownies, golden mounds of bread, pies, quiche, crumpets, muffins – an entire Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory full of low-carb, gluten-free goodness. The only thing I failed to consider is that I have virtually no baking experience.
Nevertheless, I pounced on the experiment like a contestant on CHOPPED. In the first basket: Chickpea flour! Olive oil! Water! Italian herbs that squirt out of a tube! I would be preparing Rosemary Socca, a thin little pancake-like thing that’s traditionally made with chickpea flour and is completely vegan, so my egg-allergic husband would be able to partake, too. Even though there’re just a few ingredients, I worried over some particulars – how warm is “warm water?” And what if I have to use the squirty liquid Italian herbs in a tube because the grocery store was out of fresh rosemary? Also, where do we keep the cast iron skillet and have I ever cooked anything gluten-y in it?
I let the batter – which was supposed to look like pancake batter but certainly did not – sit for an hour, and then set upon the pretty simple task of baking the socca. I heated the skillet under the broiler, then oiled ‘er up with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and then poured enough batter into the skillet to make a pancake. It took several rounds and different broiler settings, but I finally ended up with a tender, bronze-brown circle that I found passable and my four-year-old declared inedible. There was leftover batter, so I tried again – this time with better luck. The socca was thinner, but easier to handle and crisper on the top and edges. I credit that to a more settled batter and a better understanding of oiling the pan. My husband and I enjoyed the rest of the batch with some Kansas City Steak Soup, and I sailed through the rest of the evening and through the morning with even blood sugars. I’ll totally make this again, mostly because I know I can do it better and now it feels like a project to perfect.
Next up in the Lazy Celiac Bakery? A recipe for an instant brownie in a coffee cup – and really, I should have known. This gem – which I discovered after an exhaustive internet search for a recipe that did not require an electric mixture – promised that trademark squishy, spongy brownie-ness in less than five minutes. I used the quinoa flour for this adventure; I was up for a little extra protein in my GF brownie.
I filled my favorite coffee cup with equal parts brown sugar and quinoa flour, and then stirred in some unsweetened cocoa powder and a pinch of salt. Milk and oil came next, and then it was time to pop the cup in the microwave. After nuking the mixture for a full minute, I pulled the cup out of the microwave to check the progress. The goop hadn’t settled – it still looked wet and lumpy – but it was strangely solid and way too hot to eat. The anticipation!
Imagine a sand castle made of hot cocoa dust that’s been out in the sun all day. That’s what this brownie tasted like. I had to chip away at the top, and the inside was simultaneously too sticky and too crumbly. And it burned the inside of my mouth – but hey! At least I didn’t have to use a mixer!
I want to be fair to the kind folks at Pereg – I have all respect and admiration for anyone and anything that brings more gluten-free stuff into the world. The packaging of the flour is beautiful, and what’s inside seems legit, as far as I can tell. But I’ve learned that specialty gluten-free flours are designed for people who are already into baking. People who have stand-up mixers that actually stand on their countertops because they’re used so often.
I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution to be kinder to myself, and this seems like the perfect opportunity. I’ll seek out more sophisticated gluten-free recipes, and be patient and more exacting in the way I make them. I still have about seven separate bags of fancy gluten-free flour, so God knows I have the resources. And my reward for all that dedication? Let’s hope it’s a stand-up mixer, or at the very least, a gluten-free brownie that tastes nothing like sand.
*Disclosure: The author received all flour samples free of charge, but was not compensated by Pereg Natural Flours. All opinions are her own.
image credit: Pereg Natural Foods