"There lived a 'prentice, once, in our city, And of the craft of victuallers was he..."

Little Whole Wheat Loaves.

Let's talk about bread shall we.

O! How wonderful to eat bread!

When I realized I could no longer eat gluten I was very sad about having to give up bread. Warm fluffy bread is just about the most comforting food I can think of.

Bread with Cinnamon and Sugar sprinkled on it makes me think of my childhood. Bread dipped into hearty soup is a perfect lunch on a chilly day. And don't even get me started on grilled, open faced, tomato and cheese sandwiches with oregano sprinkled on top.




So, when I discovered that I could make warm, fluffy gluten-free bread I was overjoyed. In breaking with my tradition of trying to make everything by hand and from scratch, I use a bread machine. This is one shortcut I don't mind. All the sensory enjoyment of making bread by hand is missing when you make gluten-free bread. You don't knead it because there is no gluten to activate by kneading. The dough is just kind of sticky and wet and not very fun to put your hands into.

I make bread for David and myself on Mondays. He gets a French Bread-style loaf with rosemary in it, and I get a gluten-free loaf or as I like to call it: My Bean Bread.

I love that my week starts with bread: basic, nourishing, aromatic. It encourages me to do other basic and nourishing activities throughout the rest of my week. It makes me want to cook yummy things to dip bread into.

I do laundry on Mondays also. I love the experience of looking out my kitchen window to see laundry flapping on the clothes line while smelling my bread baking. In that moment I pretend I live in a little house on the prairie and Pa is around the corner chopping wood for us. It also makes me happy that we are saving money by baking our own bread--and of course it tastes better.

When I first got the bread machine I experimented with a lot of different recipes trying to find the perfect one. I did finally settle on one that I really like, but it tastes almost exactly the same as the Bob's Red Mill mix that I usually end up using. I believe it is called Gluten-Free Wonderful Homemade Bread Mix. And it is just that, wonderful. It gets big and airy, the crust is perfectly golden and I love eating a piece of gluten-free bread that does not need to be toasted twice or loaded up with butter. An added bonus is that nothing about it resembles a brick, which is what most store bought gluten-free breads feel like.

Here is the recipe that I have used when I don't have the mix on hand. I find the mix to be easier. With this recipe you end up needing to store a lot of different kinds of flour and I just don't have that much pantry space.

Four Flour Bread
From "The Gluten-Free Gourmet" by Bette Hagman

This should be doubled for use in a 2 Lb setting on a bread machine.

2 Cups Flour Flour Bean Mix *
1 1/2 Teaspoons Xanthan Gum
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Unflavored Gelatin
1 Teaspoon Egg Replacer ( I use one egg instead)
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 1/4 Teaspoons Dry Yeast Granules
1 Egg plus 1 Egg White ( I use 2 whole eggs)
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 Teaspoon Dough Enhancer ( I use Apple Cider Vinegar)
1 Cup (more or less) Warm Water

-Warm water according to instructions for your bread machine. Mine indicates between 80 and 90 degrees.
-Combine flour mix, xanthan gum, salt, gelatin, egg replacer (omit if using egg) and sugar, in a bowl.
-Combine eggs, butter (melted) and vinegar and whisk together. Add most of the water.

The remaining water should be added as needed after the bread has started mixing in the bread machine.

Place wet and dry ingredients in bread machine in the order suggested by the manual.

For my machine I put wet ingredients on the bottom and then dry on top making sure all the wet is covered by the dry. Then I make a well in the top of the dry ingredients and put the yeast in the well so that it won't get wet.

My machine has a gluten-free setting so I use that setting which gives me more frequent mixing and less rises. You can also use a white bread setting with a medium crust.

*Four Flour Bean Mix:

2/3 part Garfava bean flour
1/3 part Sorgum flour
1 part Cornstarch
1 part Tapioca flour

Eventually I will have used up all the random kinds of gluten-free flour in my pantry and I will just buy these four flours and mix up a big batch of this to use as a baking mix. If you are just starting out baking gluten-free, this is what I would recommend doing. This mix can be easily substituted cup for cup with wheat flour. It also works well in cookies and cakes, but I always add extra xanthan gum and fat (usually oil) to make sure its moist enough and sticks together.

Well, those of you who have no interested in gluten-free baking are probably bored stiff! Here is a little pictorial journal of my cooking adventures this week to wake you up:

My new favorite Kitchen activity is making stock.

Lately I have been saving all the left over bits of onion and garlic along with peels of carrots, outer leaves of cabbage and potato skins in a bucket in my fridge labeled "stock scraps". When this is full, I throw it all in a pot, add some cold water, 10 peppercorns and simmer for an afternoon. The most exciting part about it is that I would have composted all that stuff anyway. Now I've got stock and compost. Welcome to free Vegetable stock!

This is Curried Cauliflower. Gone in one day.



Cauliflower is one of those foods that has never been on my favorite list. I enjoy lots of different kinds of vegetables but cauliflower always seemed so bland. Not really crunchy like a carrot, but not soft either. Sort of flavorless and that taupe color...Yuck! Plus, it looks like a brain.

However all of that has changed with the discovery of a recipe for curried cauliflower. Now I can easily eat a whole head of cauliflower in one sitting. David and I sometimes fight over who gets the last bit.

I have a little notebook in the kitchen where I write recipes that are home runs in the taste department. The rule is that I have to have made the recipe at least 3 times and loved it. This recipe is among that august company. I have had to repent to The Cauliflower for my past abuses, but now we are great friends.

Curried Cauliflower

1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric
1 Teaspoon Ginger
1 Chopped Onion
1 Chopped Cauliflower
1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne (more=spicy)
2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Can Diced Tomatoes (or about 1 1/2 Cups)
2 Tablespoon Cilantro ( I use tons more)

-Heat oil and add spices (except Cayenne) and onion - cook 3 minutes
-Stir in Cauliflower, Cayenne, Lemon, Salt, and Tomato.
-Cover and Simmer for 20 minutes.
-Sprinkle with chopped Cilantro and eat!

These Illustrious Players....

...Plus these noble fellows...

...Equals Rishta: Egyptian Lentils. Yum!

And just in case you thought cooking was the only thing on my mind, I found these friends appearing in the garden:

Spring brings Baby Lettuces!

Anna Banana, jump into the stew:
Gravy and carrots are good for you.
Good for your teeth,
And your fingernails too,
So Anna Banana, jump into the stew!

Happy cooking everyone.


Paraprosdokian Perhaps

This has turned into quite a lengthy blog due to the fact that I have been a bit behind on the blogging. Let's forgo the part where I make excuses and tuck right in.

But first a disclaimer:
I have been asked to share my recipe for gluten-free bread. And I will! That recipe, among others, will arrive in the next blog on happenings in the kitchen. In honor of my brother's request to write more stuff about food, I will be covering such topics as a) how Cauliflower looks like brains and b) my attempts at making bitter leafy greens taste good.

And now an interlude:
Let me introduce you to a new friend of mine: Simon Ferdinand Merely. Below is a photo of him. He would be positively aghast if he new it had been taken at such an uncomely angle. For shame! Fortunately this is not a cameo appearance; he returns toward the end in a slightly more flattering pose.

I declare! On to more serious matters:
Two weeks ago David and I celebrated our anniversary. We went to stay on a friend's houseboat for a few days. The funny part is that we had no idea it was a house boat until we saw it. We thought it was a house by the lake! It turned out to be wonderfully perfect. We cooked in the little kitchen, enjoyed hours of reading, watched movies, gave each other gifts of more books, and rested.
Eating Indian food (cooked by David) on the houseboat. Quirky rabbit rug for atmosphere!

My card to David. A tiny packet of images from a medieval manuscript and hymns; a small handmade book titled "50 Things I Love About David"; an accordion-style card full of quotes and thoughts on our first year.

After a few days on the boat we drove out to Laity Lodge and enjoyed an inspiring weekend in the company of some of our favorite writers. The Chrysostom Society was having their annual meeting and we just happened to be out there at the same time. We enjoyed meals with them where they fired limericks back and forth and talked about publishing and books and a common love of good words. It was amazing to have conversation with authors whose books have so shaped me.

I spent most of the day working in the well-stocked art studios making things out of sheet of copper--a new material and technique to love! We left feeling so refreshed and inspired. Truly a great way to start our second year of marriage. On the way back to Austin we stopped and ate in Fredericksburg. Spicy sausage was the perfect completion of a great week.

Working in the art studio at Laity Lodge.

My little copper plaque.

Eating German in Fredericksburg. (German food, that is, not an actual German.)

Hungry animals loose in FredricksBurg!

I have been reading Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales again. I am overwhelmed by how unusual they are. It's really a great exercise for my imagination. People are always getting turned into birds or flowers, Witches appear everywhere, and someone is almost always either being captured by the wicked or banished to a tower. It's great and sometimes pretty strange! The best thing is, they all end happily and the good folks always survive. Ahhhh that's the world I want to inhabit.

Creatively, things have been busy for me. David went out of town for a few days and I took the opportunity to make a huge mess on the dinning room table. Snips of thread, scraps of fabric and pins everywhere. I covered some floor pillows for my sister-in-law in a fun red corduroy, altered and repaired tons of clothes that had been in the mending basket for months, and made some fun and weird little stuffed animals for a friend's baby shower. It was great not to have to clean it all up at the end of the day!

Meet Simon and Symore Merely. The first friends from the family of Merely's. Samples currently being made in the test studio, soon available for sale on etsy. (Cat pattern came from the awesome book: "Amy Butler's little stitches for little ones")

Two weekends ago our nephews, Cormac and Brendan, came over. We had a grand old time playing in the art studio. They helped me dig out some beeswax from old sculptures and watched me burn wax out of shoes with my propane torch. I love my propane torch.

We also made some awesome monoprints. One printed with me in the garage while the other practiced doing very important things, like balancing a wooden pole on your nose, with Uncle David in the front yard. It was glorious.

Lots of new creative projects are on my to-do list including making more little creatures. Can't wait to introduce you to Chalmers Tavish Merely!