A couple of weekends ago I thought I would try out the Pretzel recipe on Gluten Free on a Shoestring – a Gluten Free Baking Blog written by Nicole Hunn that was recommended to me by a Celiac friend. I had been lamenting the fact that I couldn’t find a decent GF pastry recipe and had a hankering for some home made apple pie. At the time I was nursing a particularly nasty sinus infection, I get several a year and they are always characterised by ravenous and ridiculous hunger and massive cravings for some serious comfort food for the first couple of weeks. When I say cravings I mean serious, stick-a-fork-in-your-eye-if-you-dare-to-offer-me-a-salad cravings and going on prednisolone for the inflammation sure doesn’t help that! I get hungry A LOT at these times. Sickness and steroid-induced hunger is not normal hunger, it is the kind of hunger that has a life and mind of its own and defies reason and logic. That hunger is something else entirely, it is hungry ALOT. If you’re not familiar with the ALOT from Hyperbole and a Half you really should check it out.
When I became G Intolerant I pretty well gave up on baking. It was too hard, what I made rarely turned out how I wanted it to and if they did I would have to share my lovely GF baked goods with non-GF family members who happened to quite like the eating part of snacks but not the actual baking or buying special GF things in return bit. That and GF baking supplies are far more expensive. As I was reading through the pages of Nicole’s blog I found a page that resonated with the core of my GF being. She despised the phrase ‘good for gluten free’; saying it’s ok for something to be not so great just because it’s gluten free and we can’t expect amazing food is not acceptable for her and she wants to make great GF food available to everyone. Well that is a philosophy I heartily approve of. Nicole has also published 3 GF cooking books, two of which I purchased from Amazon.com recently, they just arrived this morning – yay!
I used to bake quite a bit and thoroughly enjoyed it before becoming gluten intolerant robbed me of that joy. I was a reasonably good baker, though by no means professional standard, but I became a terrible GF baker! Until reading Nicole’s blog I had assumed that GF cooking was as simple as throwing in some GF flour instead of normal flour and hoping for the best. Or maybe adding peanut butter to choc chip cookies to make them extra moist and chewy – apparently it’s not quite that simple. There’s this stuff called xanthan gum that is pretty important in just about everything and other ingredients that all work together in bread dough-type-things to replace the springy, holding-together, fluffy awesomeness that is gluten.
Anyway I digress, no more reminiscing about gluten for me now! I was looking through this miraculous blog and found a recipe for GF pretzels. Apple pie was instantly forgotten and an insatiable desire for pretzels took over. After all the supplies were procured (xanthan gum was a bit tricky but eventually found in a health food store and kosher salt is also harder to find but fine salt flakes seem to be a decent substitute according to google) I had to plan out a day when I could stand for long enough to do everything that was required. I started out well, I had all the ingredients laid out and my absolutely adorable, pink cupcake shaped measuring cups and spoons purchased a couple of years ago from the lovely Kaz at Inspired Insanity
It turns out that the old mixer isn’t exactly designed for mixing dough, the stickiness of the dough and the shape of the metal blades meant the dough eventually travelled up the blades, up their stems and bunched up under the mixing arm – a mixer with a dough paddle would be the best idea I think (I’ve had my eye on one of the cute, retro coloured kitchenaid mixers for some time now!). Until then maybe the food processor with the plastic blade might work better! Both appliances are almost as old as I am so maybe if there is going to be a lot more GF baking it might be time for a kitchen appliance upgrade…
The recipe on the blog is easy to follow, there is an edit on a separate page so there is some switching between pages involved but it’s easy enough to do if you don’t mind getting a little flour on your keyboard. Nicole kindly provides the measurements in her recipes in cups, spoons, grams and ounces on her blog but if I were to find one issue with the blog it would be that oven temperature is only listed in fahrenheit so to avoid the aforementioned floury keyboard make sure you do any necessary temperature conversions before starting! It seems a little strange to me that she would go to the trouble of putting in measurement alternatives but not temperature ones, particularly when most of the world uses Celsius and not Fahrenheit as a temperature measurement. The books have a conversion table at the back for temperatures and measurements which is quite handy as the recipes in them do not include metric measurements.
Before I show you pictures of the finished product I would like to stress again that I am not a professional baker and they taste a lot better than I made them look which isn’t hard really as mine are a bit reminiscent of something rather less desirable than pretzels! For better pretzel images you should probably check out Nicole’s blog 😉
Actually they tasted pretty amazing. Slightly more dense than pretzels I remember but hey, who cares, they were fantastic and I plan to make more at some stage. But first I have two new recipe books to explore!
Slightly less dodgy-looking pretzel
Baking bread and bread-like things takes quite a while, they need to be kneaded and they need time to rise before baking. Most of them can’t be left in the fridge till later because they won’t rise without heat and when they’re GF they seem to taste best if they are fresh from the oven or reheated in the oven. If you have trouble getting going in the morning and have limited energy I’d suggest leaving these for a good energy day.
If you want to make something quick and relatively easy that is savoury and very tasty I highly recommend the Gluten free Gruyere and Chive Popovers – they go down a treat with GF and non-GF people alike and receive a lot of compliments.
One thing that the blog is lacking is a good recipe for ANZAC cookies but I guess that’s more of an Australian and New Zealand thing! It’s ok, I’m on it and will post up a recipe that I have been working on shortly.
I like to listen to music while I bake and some favourites include Robbie Williams, Billy Joel, The Baseballs and anything I can bop along to. This time I was listening to The Proclaimer’s greatest hits! The Proclaimers are most well known for ‘I’m gonna be (500 miles’ and ‘I’m on my way’ but they had a huge number of other songs which were quite popular in the UK, particularly Scotland where they hail from, and are pretty good – some are rather political too. The harmonies these brothers can produce are beautiful so even their less toe-tapping songs are fabulous. My brother was given a tape of one of their albums when we were kids (after my parents got sick of listening to The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and Sesame St Singalong on long car rides) so theses songs always bring me back to family road trips to Wilson’s Promontory. Here’s one of my favourite Proclaimer’s songs that I have to sing along to – it’s called ‘King of the Road’. A few bands have a version of this song, including Bony M! I have no idea who produced it first, something to look up one day I think! In the meantime, enjoy!