Gluten Free French Bread

Gluten Free French BreadRecently, we’ve been getting a lot of requests for gluten free breakfast options and gluten free snacks. We’ve tried our hand at a few gluten free cookie recipes and found one [Maple Cookie Recipe] that we have actually enjoyed from the Great Gluten Free Vegan Eats cookbook created by Allyson Kramer, author of the Manifest Vegan blog. However, one thing we haven’t tried is gluten free bread.

Now, if you know our family, you know that bread is a staple in our diet. We grew up on mostly Italian food and using bread to wipe the last of whatever is left on your plate is quite a normal action in our home. So, when I recently made the switch to a gluten free lifestyle, I did so without many bumps or obstacles – except for the bread. I have found several brands of sandwich bread at Second Nature that I like so the desire to make a sandwich bread from scratch hasn’t hit me at all. What I do miss is that delicious french bread loaf perfect for dipping in a creamy winter soup, serving with cheese, or even dipping in a delicious cheese fondue.

I was hesitant to give a french bread recipe a try because, let’s face it, baking with a gluten free flour is a whole different kind of baking. But the craving for a crunchy, crusted loaf of bread with a fluffy, warm inside was too much to ignore. So I searched the internet high and wide for the perfect gluten free french bread recipe and finally settled on a Crusty French Baguette recipe by Jules Shepard.

When all was said and done, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the recipe was to make. The only modifications I made were to use a different kind of all-purpose gluten free flour that I already had on hand and I didn’t have any wooden dowels so I used foil rolled into long cylinders. The bread came out perfectly crunchy on top from the egg wash, just the way I like it, and the inside, while slightly more dense than a regular bread, was still moist and fluffy, just the way I remembered.

If you want to try your hand at gluten free cooking and baking, I highly recommend The Intolerant Gourmet and Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats as well as Jules Gluten Free blog. The cookbooks are both gluten and lactose free, but you can modify any of the recipes to add meat products if you prefer.

If you’re already living a gluten free lifestyle, or at least giving gluten free a taste, what recommendations do you have for others – recipes or general tips? Share your comments below. 

Deliciously yours,

One very grateful, bread eating, paisana

Take Tomato Traditions Home for Your Own

Traditions are a beautiful thing. There are some people who frown upon the word “traditional,” maybe because they think it means boring, repetitive or the norm but there is so much more to a tradition than hanging on to a habitual event.

We have our sporting events, picnics and annual camping retreats but they always seem to change slightly each year. Sometimes a group of people fall out of touch. Maybe the original location is no longer used. In our family, however, there is one tradition that’s always the same; sauce making.

Of course some things have evolved for the best like technology and canning equipment, but the most important aspects are still the same. The tomatoes still fill up an enormous blue tarp early in the morning. They get picked carefully and scrubbed by hand in a large, water filled tub. Best of all, the camaraderie remains tight knit and familiar. It’s a lengthy, all day event coordinated by the one and only, Pam, The Innkeeper.

By the end, everyone is exhausted. The crowd varies slightly each year but the usual suspects tend to make an appearance at one point or another. Even if they can’t participate in the entire production, they pitch in when needed. Special guests will even show up from time to time, like my Nonno to dictate the tradition he started long ago or an ancient family friend who “can’t get sauce like this anywhere else.”

While we love the company and wouldn’t trade it for the world, the fact of the matter is, it’s easy to perform the process on your own. Us Corrado’s only use the large and in charge equipment because we prepare for years of feeding many mouths. We’re Italian. It’s a way of life. Normal eaters? They could use their regular kitchen inventory to complete a decent amount of jars.

Many directions you’ll find these days include various ingredients but Mama C and the Tomato Gang tend to keep it simple with tomatoes and salt. This does mean, however, that when you prepare the sauce for your meal of choice, it must be done in a certain way for maximum enjoyment (see steps for that below).

But maybe you don’t want to do it like Pam. If that’s the case, here are a few sites that could help you start your own canning tradition. Pam just finished up for the year but if you think an in-person tutorial would be best, don’t hesitate to join in for the 2013 season, with a warning of course, and ready to get your hands dirty!

Sites for Canning

1. Simply Canning

2. Heavenly Homemakers

3. Local Lemons

4. Ball Canning

5. Stick a Fork in It

Cooking Pam’s Tomato Sauce

1. Add a thin layer of oil to the bottom of your sauce pan

2. Bring to a low heat

3. Drop in chopped garlic and fresh basil (amounts vary with preference)

4.  Sear your choice of meat – best with sausage, pork, or homemade meatballs (if pre-cooked, no need to sear pre-sauce)

5. Add sauce to the pan and let slowly cook for hours (if time allows)

6. Sauce should thicken slightly or continue cooking until seared meat is fully cooked

 

Until Next Time,

Too Tradit to Quit

 

More Zucchini Madness

As you may recall, I received a donation from my mother a little over a week ago. Generous offerings from her aren’t normal sized to begin with but this one was, without a doubt, the most gargantuan gift of all. Left with a zucchini the size of a small (wait) big child, I had no choice but to chop, dice, slice, bake, broil, steam, and saute. Am I forgetting something? Well, only the most delicious technique of all; FRIED.

 

 

Maybe it’s not the healthiest of choices but my most recent (and possibly most delicious) zucchini exploration involved eggs, flour, olive oil and a good ‘ol frying session. There were a few other ingredients I decided to throw in there in order to spruce things up, like Panko Bread Crumbs for a crisp factor, but I didn’t stray too far from Smitten Kitchen’s Zucchini Fritters recipe, a very favorite food blog of mine. As usual, Smitten’s photos are slightly more appealing than my own so try not to stare too long.

Although I always encourage using your own techniques and avoiding stress by skipping ingredients that you don’t have in stock, it’s very crucial to ring out the zucchini. If there is too much water in the mixture, the zucchini won’t fry correctly and it especially won’t last for leftovers. A major perk of this recipe is the “do ahead” factor so it’d be a shame if they didn’t keep. You can store them chilled in the fridge for the better part of a week and/or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When you’re ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325 degree oven until they’re hot and crisp again.

Smitten Kitchen suggests whipping up a sour cream based dip as the topping but, as an Italian, I say nothing goes better than a good marinara (homemade of course). My European roots also shined through when I decided to sprinkle the just finished fritters with parmesan cheese. Give it a try and you won’t regret it. I think my Nonna would have to agree, too.

Zucchini Fritters

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive or another oil of your choice, for frying

Trim ends off zucchini and grate them using the shredding blade of a food processor.

In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes.

Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away.

Return deflated mass of zucchini shreds to bowl and add a little more salt to taste.

Stir in scallions (I used a regular sweet onion here), egg and some freshly ground black pepper.

In a tiny dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.

In a large heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet a few at a time and lightly nudge them flat with the back of your spatula.

Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more.

Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed.

Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter.

 

Until Next Time,

Mandated Zucchini Master