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February 2016

Gluten-Free Popovers

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I know little about gluten, beyond its troublesome reputation, but, frankly, that’s enough. I have friends and relatives who suffer when they eat it, and I cannot help but notice a correlation between how much of it we consume and my children’s eczema. The less gluten we eat, the better their skin appears. Still, we miss it. As my eldest told me yesterday, “Being gluten-free is not so good because you miss out on all sorts of stuff and you have to double check and you have less of the foods you like.”

Less of things like pizza and bagels, the former a staple and the latter a New York City treat. This is because gluten is instrumental in getting dough to rise. The gluten acts like a balloon, trapping the gasses from the yeast. This tiny bit of knowledge has stopped me from trying to make gluten-free pizza dough. The only other thing I know about gluten is a bit about its etymology. The word “gluten” dates back to the 16th century, initially referred to animal protein, and can trace its root to the Latin word for glue.

At some point, I’ll try making gluten-free pizza dough (anyone with any tips, send them my way). In the meantime, I figured I’d start with something easy, like popovers. “JK,” as my ten-year-old says, when she slips into texting language: “Just Kidding.” Popovers are incredibly temperamental creatures, but, after nearly two decades of marriage, I have an affinity for such things.

Plus, I had King Arthur’s multi-purpose gluten-free flour on my side, and the box comes with a recipe for gluten-free popovers on the back. I’m good at following directions and the recipe worked. We were salivating as the rising popovers filled the kitchen with a delightful aroma, they were airy and crispy from the first bite.

King Arthur Flour’s Gluten-Free Popovers

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups lukewarm milk
  • 1 cup multi-purpose gluten-free flour
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a 12-cup popover pan or muffin pan (Note: my popover pan is for six large ones, and it worked fine).

Whisk together the eggs, butter, and milk in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

Gradually add the the dry ingredients to the bowl of milk, eggs, and butter, whisking continuously.

Whisk the mixture until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the greased cups, filling each one about 2/3 full.

Bake for 25 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes more.

During baking be sure to NEVER open the oven.

Remove pan from oven and let popovers firm for 5 minutes.

Remove popovers from pan and eat immediately, preferably with butter and jam

Here’s how they looked when I put them on the table. Enjoy the smiles.

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How Quickly Did These Gluten-Free Corn Muffins Disappear?

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As an experiment to improve the heath of our children, we are trying out the gluten-free lifestyle. Like me and many of their forebears, Nina and Pinta have long had eczema, to varying degrees. This recently distressed Santa Maria so much that we agreed to try going gluten free.

Santa Maria was even willing to give it a shot herself, though lacking any health need she said she had nothing to gain. On the contrary, I told her, she would at least now be trendy. She didn’t really like that, but as the one charged with stocking the pantry every week and shoveling coal into the bottomless furnaces of our growing offspring day in and day out, I felt entitled to a bit of humor.

We started the experiment a few weeks ago, mostly by eliminating such beloved items as pizza and bagels from our diet. Aside from asking gluten-free friends for bread recommendations, we haven’t really tried replacing baked goods (though on the first day I attempted gluten-free pancakes, without doing proper research, and we all suffered). Monday afternoon, however, Santa Maria whipped up a batch of gluten-free corn muffins that made everyone forget the experiment.

She found a recipe online and substituted King Arthur’s gluten-free multi-purpose flour (which from subsequent pancake attempts we discovered is a good, if slightly sweet, replacement for regular flour, in some recipes). The muffins were light and crunchy, with a crispy edge and deep corn flavor. She added frozen blueberries and raspberries which delighted Pinta and added another level of color and complexity. Toasted and topped with melting butter, they disappeared faster than it could be revealed that they are gluten-free. I could barely find one left to draw when all was said and done. I hope we see more of these around the house soon. Here's her recipe.

Santa Maria’s One Bowl Gluten-Free Corn Muffins

  • 1 cup cornmeal (I like Bob’s Red Mill coarse grind)
  • 1 cup King Arthur multi-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries and/or raspberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Grease muffin tin or line with paper muffin liners.

In a large bowl, mix together corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Add egg, oil and milk; stir gently to combine.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

Optional: add 1 Tablespoon frozen organic blueberries or raspberries to the center of the batter (my favorite is a mix of both).

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean and the tops are lightly golden.

Serve with butter and a frosted glass of cold milk!


What Are You Doing for Valentine's Day? I Have An Answer

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Ever since the beginning of time, one simple question has bedeviled men: what to do on Valentine's Day. Worry no more. I am introducing the Build a Meal feature, a simple map of an excellent repast. Most folks who visit blogs like this or who look at cookbooks know how to do many things in the kitchen. What might be lacking are ideas. How do you put together a memorable meal? If you are working or have kids to take care of (or for most parents, you are doing both) it can be very difficult to carve out the time to think about these things. And on Valentine's Day this is no trivial matter. For those who know how to cook, the above picture will do the trick. For anyone else, let me explain the steps.

1) Steal a salad. I was recently at The Odeon, where I had a most enticing baby kale salad topped with knobs of white goat cheese and sweet red pomegranate seeds. You can riff on this recipe here, which, by the way, I stole from Prune, years ago.

2) Make a mushroom risotto. Instruction are here.

3) Get a good steak. I suggest the 28-day aged steak from Union Market, if you are in Brooklyn.

4) Cook it like I showed you how here. You can't lose (though it will get smoky).

5) Finish with some store-bought ice cream. You've cooked enough already.

Now go get shopping (and don't forget the wine. If you need some help there, try my friend Jim's site, JVB Uncorked or if you are on a serious budget,  Cheap Wine Curious.)