Saturday 20 February 2010

Have Your Crêpes and Eat Them, Too: Two Recipes

It was a Monday holiday, and the morning after Valentine’s day at that, so I can be forgiven for feeling a little decadent. Chocolate at breakfast: why not? Strawberries? Absolutely. How about strawberry crêpes with fresh cream and a little chocolate sauce? Well. Okay. More than a little decadent.

My fixation with crêpes had begun a few days before, when I’d happened upon a delicious-looking photo of some over at Book of Yum. I instantly was reminded of Paris, where they are made-to-order by street vendors, and handed to you wrapped up in paper. The sweet type make a lovely snack, while the savoury buckwheat ones serve as a complete meal. Both are delicious. I had not had either in over well over two years – not since I still ate wheat. It was due time to try something new.

I couldn’t help but be nervous, though. I’d never made crêpes before – never mind making them gluten-free – and I didn’t know if such a delicate thing would work without wheat to hold it together. Oh, but they did. And they were so soft. So light and tender and lacy, just like they should be.

A few days later I tried the savoury variety, and they turned out at least as well as the sweet ones had. I wish I could show you a picture. The thing is, though, I’m as new to food photography as I am to blogging, and the pictures just don’t do them justice at all. The best I can do for now, I suppose, is give you the recipes and let you see for yourself!

Crêpes Sucreés (Sweet crêpes)

¼ cup sweet rice flour

¼ cup chestnut flour

¼ tsp sea salt

tsp guar gum

tsp sugar

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 ½ T melted butter

Whisk together the flours, salt, sugar, and guar gum. Pour the milk into a 2-cup (or larger) measuring cup, the kind with the lip to pour from. Lightly beat the eggs into the milk to ensure even blending. Pour the liquids into the bowl, whisking constantly, and add the butter. Let batter stand for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the strawberries.

Slice into a bowl:

1 cup thawed-from-frozen organic strawberries (or use fresh when in season)

Stir in:

¼ tsp real vanilla extract

2 tsp sugar

Allow these to sit while you make the crêpes.

Heat a cast-iron frying pan (or something similar – it must have a handle!) to medium heat. It is not necessary to use oil; the butter in the batter is enough. Once pan is hot, transfer the batter back into the measuring cup – this makes it much easier to pour. Give the batter a quick whisk to make sure everything is still blended.

Now, lift the pan off the burner. Hold it with one hand, and pour a small amount of the batter in with the other. (This should be only enough to coat the pan; they should be very thin.) While the pan is still in the air, quickly swirl it around so the bottom of it is coated. Now set it back down. The crêpes will cook very quickly. As soon as the batter seems to have set, loosen the edges with a fork and flip with a slotted turner to cook the other side. Fill crêpes with strawberries and top with freshly whipped cream.

Crêpes Saleés (Savoury crêpes)

2 T sweet rice flour

2 T chestnut flour

¼ c buckwheat flour

¼ tsp sea salt

tsp sugar

tsp guar gum

1 ½ T melted butter

2 eggs

1 cup milk

Follow the same procedures as above for preparing and cooking. Fill with mushrooms, below. For something more substantial, scramble an egg with some cheese and pepper directly onto a crêpe as it finishes cooking, and fold it up.

Champignons (mushrooms)

8 ounces crimini mushrooms

1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced

Splash of white wine

2 T cream

1 T mild white cheese

A little butter

Black pepper, fresh parsley, and fresh thyme to taste

(Dash of sweet rice flour)

Sautee sliced mushrooms in butter and wine until slightly soft. Add garlic and cream over low heat. Melt the cheese into the mixture and add in the herbs and pepper. If necessary, sprinkle in a little sweet rice flour to thicken the cream.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Bread: A Little Manifesto

"It isn't tradition that assures the survival of bread; it is bread that assures the survival of tradition."

So reads a quote on the wall of a cosy French bakery downtown. I go there just to drink the rich, dark coffee and linger among the aromas given off by hot ovens, those of buttery pastries and warm, crusty loaves. I can't eat any of them, of course, as they are all laden with wheat flour. I must be content to simply smell, to look, and then attempt to coax the palette of flours I can use into a decent recreation of the things I remember. It often takes a lot of coaxing.

Some say that, to be satisfied with gluten-free food, one must learn to appreciate the ingredients for what they are, and stop trying to make them into "the real thing." This is where I must disagree. This is why that quote feels so relevant to me. It isn't just about texture, or taste, or appearance. It's about the way food - bread, in particular - represents so much more than sustenance or even indulgence. It's representative of culture, of tradition. It is universal, iconic, yet intimate. This is why we need bread. We can nourish our bodies with hundreds of delicious, wonderful foods. Yet it is bread that has always brought people together at a table. It is bread that so often represents home and heritage. We don't need to relinquish that simply because we must live without gluten.

Admittedly, it often takes a lot of effort. That's why this blog is here. It's for the recipes I develop, and things I discover, in my quest for good food. Not simply settling for "good, considering it's gluten-free." I mean just plain good. And I'd love for you to join me.