It's become a nice weekend ritual for me to bake a sweet bread loaf before dad comes home, it's nice for all three of us to sit around our mug of tea, placed in a triangle around a cutting board with a warm loaf. The table is always littered with crumbs and the loaf is usually missing its other half when we've sipped, chatted, ate, and laughed. And with each new week I want to try something new, to experiment and perfect recipes, and hopefully hit a high note on my parents taste buds; I love the days when they exclaim after finishing a slice,
"Okay, this is really good!"
I love sharing the gluten-free goodies that I bake with family and friends, and those that eat gluten can compare the difference of outcome with either flours (their favourite comment still remains how crumbly some cookies end up - I groan, 'again?') Their positive response to the taste is encouraging, but really it's just so easy now. Their sighs of pleasure with the first bite into something straight from the oven is perfect. Could there be anything more satisfying than the approval of the hours you spent perfecting in the kitchen?
Going gluten-free may appear daunting, just thinking about all those dinners at friend's houses when they serve pasta or pies at dinner, pancakes and waffles for breakfast. However I find, especially now with so many options available in stores, and the changing approaches of consumers consequently influencing what is actually more readily available, the switch away from wheat is becoming much easier for everyone.
Last Friday mum and I went out for lunch after I had my graduation photos taken, and wanting to divert away from more stresses, we settled on a nearby location with a promising name. It's as if I find a hundred things to worry about, and they all descend upon my shoulders, nestle in my hair and between the fibres of my clothes like tiny water droplets from heavily weighed clouds above. I don't know the reason for this, and I don't like the feeling of it either.
Graduation photos should have been fun, and they were, once I was there and in my dress. But the hours before, as we pottered around town in anticipation of my appointment, I stressed about the condition of my hair, my makeup, the fit of my dress. And I know that it agonised mum to see me so worked up.
I am truly thrilled to be finally graduating, I just wish I could enjoy it.
The photographers were really good, although they were being as fast as they could with so many kids coming in, and it seemed as if we were just going through the paces as a horse would in training, they were jovial and made us all feel comfortable. I liked being in front of the camera, and just letting go of the tensed muscles involved in keeping my face downcast, a smile let me relax, and I could feel the tension vanish. I should do it more often.
Mum and I sat down at a table in a delicately decorated bay window of the Ethical Kitchen Cafe and Bakehouse, after we had ordered lunch, and my photos were past us, a block behind us. I was surprised by the gluten-free items on their menu, including tapioca buns, gluten-free Nanaimo bars, muffins, cookies, and more. I wanted to try them all.
A woman sat at a table with a glass teapot of herbal tea, the water could be seen to be coloured by the tea leaves at the bottom, and she waited for her meal as she stared across the room, clearly lost in thought behind the glassiness of her eyes. In front of her line of vision sat a large family, taking up the half of the room filled by an elegant wooden dining table. Members hurried behind the counter simultaneously as tasks needed to be finished, and they were clearly the owners of the business.
I had a Breakfast in Brazil, which was an array of fried up vegetables, peppers, tomatoes and snap peas, spicy kimchi, and eggs on a tapioca bun. It was so flavourful, and I could detect the freshness, and the quality, of all the ingredients. We later noticed on our way out, that a garden was attached to the side of the building where green plants towered out of planting boxes, and little plaques labelled the undecipherable green leaves to those without the green-thumb. Our little basil plant remains an example of this, as it sits in the window sill above the kitchen sink for a few weeks before giving up on being green, and begins to wilt, with it's stems slowly browning the leaves dry up before falling off.
My favourite thing about that restaurant was that mum and I were able to order breakfast as if we had just woken up, which it sure felt like, even at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. We needed a fresh start to the day, and mum needed an energy boost after dealing with the stresses I clearly had just created for myself. I hope that her sourdough apple crêpes and americano did just the trick. I know I felt better immediately after sipping the flower infused early grey latté I ordered. Warm, aromatic, and just the perfect interlude to stop the busyness of a frantic mind.
My baking is how I break from the quarrels in my mind, it allows me to hold onto something peaceful and relaxing, and in return I can let go of whatever is bothering me. I once asked mum if she found baking relaxing, or perhaps I asked if she would bake something on her day off, she replied,
"But I don't enjoy it like you do!"
Needles to say, there weren't cookies when I came home! (Don't worry, we've got plenty in the cupboard now).
Gluten-Free Apple Loaf
A delicately spiced loaf, with warm fall flavours, this apple loaf is a perfect bread to be served with warm or cold drinks, or under a spread of variations of spreads and butters. As a moist and dense bread, it's a perfect substitute for sweet breads and loaves that can be found in coffee shops, but contain wheat.
Try it for snack-time, breakfast-time, or any-time!
Makes 1 loaf
1 3/4 c gluten-free flour mix
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c melted coconut oil
3/4 c coconut sugar (if you don't have any, brown sugar is fine)
1 grated and peeled apple, however sometimes, I leave the peel on which adds a bit of texture to the finished loaf
3/4 c unsweetened apple sauce
For something extra, add 1/2 c shredded coconut, this will add a bit of crunch, and also develop the coconut flavour a bit more in the loaf. You can also add any substitutions of dried fruit, nuts, or even chocolate chips to suite your tastes (or that of your critics!)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan with oil or butter.
In a large bowl, mix together the gluten-free flour mix, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, and salt.
In another, smaller bowl, melt the coconut oil in the microwave and then beat in the egg. Stir in the coconut sugar, grated apple and applesauce. Mix well.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined. The mix should be wet and thick, but still runny.
Transfer the mixture into the baking pan and set it into the oven.
Bake for 45-50 minutes. A knife inserted into the centre should come out clean.
Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. A longer cooling time will allow the flavours to develop and the loaf will crumble less as you cut.
Labels: apple, baking, bread, Cinnamon, gluten-free, loaf, lunch, snack, spice, stress, sweet, water