Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Oh, AB, How do I love thee?

Yesterday I was talking Mary and I was saying how wonderful it is for me to eat at Katy's house. Katy makes me feel very safe, which is an awesome thing. I do not have to say "What's in this?" because I know it won't have any gluten in it. If it does, she'll tell me before I even walk in the door. And she emails gf recipes around, which I love. Mary said "Oh, that reminds me..." and sent me a link. But not just any link. A link to a recipe that has changed my life. I don't say that often.
I made a decision a long time ago, when confronted by the myriad unappetizing pre-packaged gluten free alternatives to not bother so much about substitution. We don't eat a lot of pasta or bread anyway. I just changed the way I ate to reflect my "can't haves". Not a big deal, really. In most situations I can eat around the wheat. Salad with vinagrette, never creamy dressings. Meats without sauces. Requests to cooks at restaurants to please just steam me a piece of fish with some lemon. Substitute steamed vegetables for pasta. Try to ignore the steaming crusty bread. They think I am dieting, I know I am living, and everyone is happy. We sometimes eat at chains with gf menus just because we know it's safer, and I ask a lot of annoying questions for the poor wait staff and usually I life fairly safely.
Some things I miss. We'll all remember my discovery of the gluten free pizza in South Deerfield? Huge, huge thing, just knowing that once in a while I CAN HAS PIZZA.
After a brief foray into gf baking I withdrew to my corner, humiliated and sad, mostly pouting. Years of baking expertise, stacks of blue and red ribbons, years of pride in my ability to bake, all useless because the game plan had changed so dramatically. Ten years ago I could tell you the relative percentage of gluten in each of King Arthur's flours, and why you needed which flour for which baking project. Favorites, recipes I'd memorized, ingredients I knew by heart and could mete out without a measuring cup were now lost to me. The replacements - things like tapioca flour, xantham gum, rice and garbanzo flour - were foreign, and didn't behave correctly, and seemed determined to make me look stupid. What were they all supposed to DO? After a few failed recipes culled from the internet I gave up baking entirely. On holidays I create old favorites for others - cookies and pies, and scalloped oysters for my father - from "normal" ingredients, purging my kitchen afterwards and rewarding myself with a batch of calico meringues.
But there is something missing from my life beyond the occasional pizza or dinner roll. Something I have not found a substitute for. In fact, I didn't even try, because really - if this isn't right, it isn't worth it. Nothing on earth can substitute for a buttery, rich, gooey, warm, tried and true, recipe-is-on-the-back-of-the-bag Nestle's Toll House cookie. Nothing. There's other desserts I indulge in on occasion. A gf cupcake from Woodstar, or meringues. Flourless chocolate cake in Florida at Wolfgang Puck Cafe. None of that is a chocolate chip cookie.
Back in the day, before gluten and I parted ways, back when we still had cable, I was obsessed with Alton Brown's wonderful show Good Eats. Charisma, food science, fun, and good recipes all in one place. Girl and I watched endlessly. "ALTON'S ON!!", and we'd come running. I brine my turkeys because of him. He changed the way we cook steak. My father and I still dream of building a smoker out of an old fridge. I could go on and on. I love him enough that when my cable was gone, I bought as many of his shows on DVD as I could get away with. He's the reason why I sometimes fantasize about letting the cable back into the house.
This is, then, an (unread) love song, a thank you note I'll never mail, to the master - Alton Brown - who has returned to me that which was lost with his amazing recipe, The Chewy Gluten Free. Barely a hair off from a true Nestle's Toll House Cookie, these delights are, 12 hours after baking, still chewy and delicious. They LOOK like a Toll House cookie. They almost taste like one. More importantly they taste GOOD. Really, really good. They dunk well in milk or coffee. They taste like comfort.
Now, mods, since I cannot leave anything alone (ever.). I substituted 2T whole milk yogurt for the whole milk. Also Florida Crystals for the white sugar, since we don't own any of that. And after the first tray I reduced the baking time to 10 minutes and the cookie size by about half. The result: PRECIOUS. Like gold. See -You can almost taste them, can't you?
In yarn-y news, I started working with some VERY new Red Heart Heart and Sole for my project submission for Candi Jensen's TV show - the pattern for the end product will be offered for free on the Knit and Crochet Today website after the show airs. I began with swatches, two at a time cuffs, just to see how the colors played. Those of you who've taken classes with me know that matching stripes is generally the farthest thing from my mind. For this project however I made an exception and pulled and matched and pulled some more from the center of two balls, same color way, until I thought I'd gotten a match. I cast on and started knitting and within about an inch realized I was very, very wrong. Yet, these are swatches, and continuing will give me a good idea of where the repeat falls, so I can rip out and start over. I kept going, waiting for matching stripes, but it just wasn't happening. In fact....it looks like...wait...
Why yes! They're balled in opposite directions. See, if I flip sock B over, and align it thus, a perfect match occurs! The good news: SWATCHES! and two more whole balls. My guess is that one of these balls is not like the others. They are samples, not final product, and I bet something got scrambled somewhere along the line. The yarn is a nice 70-30 wool-nylon blend, with aloe added (I never understood this. Won't it wash out?) that I bet will be an excellent meat-and-potato sock yarn to have on hand. The colors are vibrant and fun, and would fit the bill for "wild socks under my staid suit" wearing.
Remember yesterday when I was a snow wimp, and didn't go out? My next-door neighbor did. She left home in her SUV at around the same time I was going to head down - after it had stopped falling from the sky and the road was more or less clear, at around 3:00 or so. She made it about 2/10ths of a mile. They were still pulling her SUV out of the trees and the brook when Mr. Wonderful came through at 5:30. He stopped for a while. Apparently, although the rest of the locally known universe was free of snow and ice, once again our road was a disaster. I am glad that she was not harmed, and that her kids were not with her. Maybe now the town will have to deal with the road. Or maybe they are waiting for the school bus to end up in the brook?


Yarnhog said...

There's nothing like a fresh-baked cookie. I'm glad you can enjoy them again!

And see? Your Monday could have been worse. Poor neighbor.

Anonymous said...

Love, Love Alton. He's the reason my husband cooks anything - guy makes food, good food, cool and geek at the same time. Ah, food science :) Someday I will make bacon in an old storage locker!

I'm glad you stayed in. As a bus driver in a town where they don't use salt on the roads, and most of my route is back roads that barely qualify as two-lane, the only time I relax at all is when I get to 202. Clear pavement all the way. phew

tina said...

I am SOOOOOO happy for you that you found one of life's greatest pleasures, a COOKIE! This is completely wonderful news! I dance with you!

And I love me some Alton! He is great, I even watch the repeats, the man is brilliant. And dare I say, HOT in a really quirky way!

Sock yarn is yum! Who knew?

PurlingPirate said...

I too love AB!!! I have made soooo many of his recipes. I will even put on his show to go to sleep by.

Love that sock yarn! Pretty colors! I may have to try some of that!

Susan said...

I am seriously HUNGRY now! lol. They look scrumdilicious for sure.

mary alice said...

I forwarded these on to my gluten free sister in law. Thanks! I haven't blog hopped in so long!

MadMad said...

Um... the real question here is... how did the cookies last a whole 12 hours after baking...?! What kind of self-control do you people have?! Even BAD cookies don't last that long here!