For the March-April Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger Event, I was pleased to announce that my adopted blogger was none other than the superwoman Naomi over at the Accidental Vegetarian. Now, I am somewhat embarrassed, because the month before Naomi had actually adopted me… but the thing is, I really wanted to adopt her because she has had some absolutely fabulous and crazy-creative recipes on her site. Furthermore, our Miz Naomi doesn’t just contribute a vegetarian blog to the gluten-free community, she is an entrepreneur and has started her own company with a very favorably received Better Batter flour blend. Naomi even sent me a complimentary bag of better batter. Unfortunately, my dragon-flour-hoarding tendencies came out with this precious commodity and I kept it all wrapped up in my pantry for the longest time until FINALLY the adoption of this gluten-free blogger made it seem like a special enough occasion to use it! I decided to not just make a baked good, but also try one of her special savory recipes, which often include raw or vegan recipes. I was tempted by her Vegan Caesar Salad with macademia nut, probiotic vegan cheese, but I had a little trouble locating the ingredients, so I had to keep looking. I ended up choosing a recipe for Almond Crusted Zucchini because I had the ingredients and I trusted Naomi to steer me in the right direction. Zucchini can be either really bad (steamed, mushy, plain and slimy) or really good, and I had a feeling this was going to be the latter. It also didn’t hurt that Naomi was riffing on the nutritional yeast coating theme that I love so much. Well… I cut up my zucchini, mixed up my almonds and nutritional yeast coating, and then dipped my zucchini in egg and then the coating flakes. I did deviate SLIGHTLY because although I tried it in my cast iron pan with the coconut oil/olive oil combination, I had trouble with things getting too hot. I haven’t experimented with pan-frying in coconut oil before, mind you. Anyway, halfway through I switched to a nonstick pan and pure olive oil, a combination that worked better for my stove. I also stirred up some impromptu pasta sauce, with grated carrots, onion and tomato, to accompany DH’s favorite corn pasta. As I piled up the zucchini on a plate I knew this recipe was a winner. The nutritional yeast and nutty almond coating had turned golden brown and crispy, but beneath those layers the roasted zucchini had its own springy, freshly grilled aroma. DH is as persnickety about his zucchini as I am…. and it turned out… this recipe was such a HUGE HIT in our house that besides the few pieces I ate, DH would have eaten the whole recipe if I hadn’t rescued a few pieces for a “photo shoot” the next morning. :) As expected, Naomi turned out another fabulous recipe, and you know, I’ve been going in this direction for a while now, but I have to say, zucchini is becoming one of my favorite vegetables… WHEN PREPARED PROPERLY. And this recipe isn’t just prepared properly- it’s prepared in such a way as to rate VERY highly on the yum scale. And we will be making it again. Oh yes, we will be making it again…
Other recipes I have earmarked from Naomi’s savory offerings at the Accidental Vegetarian include
Vegan Stuffed Shells with nut filling
Spaghetti Squash with Vegetarian “Meaty” Marinara
But how about the GLUTEN-FREE BREAD?
As I mentioned, I was very, very excited when Naomi sent me a bag of her better-batter to try. Her recipe for the perfect gluten-free croissants is legendary in certain gluten-free circles. I wanted to try it, but I’ve been taking a break from dairy lately, so I had to keep looking. Finally I decided on a recipe, not from her blog, but from her company’s web page. And yes, the beautiful loaves on the left (and above) were made with Naomi’s french bread recipe.
Many of you may have heard me mention my favorite recipe for gluten-free french bread by gluten-free cookbook pioneer Bette Hagman in her book, More from the Gluten-free Gourmet: Delicious Dining Without WheatThis is one of my favorite go-to gluten-free bread recipes that I always serve at dinner parties to gluten-eating guests. It’s a simple recipe, with egg whites, white rice flour, and tapioca starch and a few other things thrown in for fun, but it turns out EVERY time, even if you substitute egg replacer eggs for the eggs. It always gets rave reviews, but I thought, you know, it would be fun to try a GLUTEN-FREE Bake-off with Naomi’s flour blend.
So, let the GLUTEN-FREE BAKE-OFF begin!
1) Ease and Simplicity of Recipe
Bette Hagman’s recipe is pretty simple, especially for her. Only two flours is practically unheard of in her recipes- and for good reason. Usually two flours just aren’t able to replicate gluten. However, somehow this recipe succeeds, and like I said, it’s pretty reliable, even with egg and dairy substitutions. (on left)
Naomi’s recipe is really like a gluten based bread recipe in that it only has FOUR, yes, i said FOUR ingredients. I was a little surprised by the amount of flour called for, though- the recipe asked for seven whole cups of my precious better batter. Hmm. I couldn’t really tell how many loaves the recipe made, but I was guessing it was either two or four (in a double french bread pan). Turned out it made four… a lot of bread for a two person household! It went together nicely and easily and the dough had a faint potato aroma when raw. I did forget to dampen the loaves as recommended so I ended up with my typical “homestyle” french bread surface. Something really great for those dairy or egg intolerant (or vegans)- No egg or dairy needed in this recipe, with no substitutions needed. Woo hoo!
2) Texture and Flavor
Bette Hagman’s french bread is best straight out of the oven and for the first day. It has a soft texture with a somewhat crunchy exterior. Don’t expect any flaky hard exterior, though- the crunchiest part can be the bottom that bakes against the cornmeal strewn french bread pan. It’s great on its own or with basil dipping oil. After the first day, it’s good microwaved briefly or toasted.
Naomi’s french bread had a very crunchy exterior due to the ice technique. We enjoyed it the most the first day as well, and after that the exterior got a little tough. But, it was great toasted again or microwaved the second and third day. It’s impressively light considering there are no eggs, but a little heavier than the Bette Hagman bread. It’s also slightly less sweet than the Bette Hagman french bread, but with the added flours, may have higher protein and nutrition than the Bette Hagman bread would have if you made it without eggs.
3) The Verdict
This wasn’t really a fair challenge, because I already have an established favorite french bread recipe and it’s something of a family favorite. I think it would be almost impossible for any new recipe to steal our heart in this particular case. But while it turned out DH and I both decided that Bette Hagman’s french bread was our favorite, we also think that Naomi’s flour blend is amazing. If you’d told me years ago I could add water, yeast and salt to a flour mix (and not one designed only for bread) and come out with palatable gluten-free bread- I’m not sure I would have believed you. But somehow Naomi has done it, and I think that is SO DARNED COOL! As far as this recipe goes- I think I should have cut it in half, because I ended up with four beautiful loaves, two of which went to waste. (If being allowed to dry for future bread crumbs counts as waste). Many of the recipes on the Better Batter site seem fairly large- I’d love to have directions for a small loaf, because our household just doesn’t go through that much bread at a time. Also, for this recipe, I’m thinking maybe one ice treatment might have interesting results. Now I want to try the ice cube trick with Bette’s bread, just like I did with my Rosemary Teff Rolls. I do have some better batter left, so next I think I’ll try it in a “regular” gluten-type recipe and see how it turns out… Or, maybe I’ll scrape together enough for her croissants and brave the dairy for a day. Mmmm….
I hope this post has encouraged you not only to check out Naomi’s blog at Accidental Vegetarian but also check out her company and flour blend. I have read so many raves of her flour and I’d love to hear about your experiences with her different recipes, so please post in the comments and help me decide what to make next with MY better batter flour! This will also help others who are in my boat of having to pick just one… or two… of her recipes to try. I can’t wait to see what Naomi does in the future, and I’m sure she’ll find great success with her product, not only because she has a great product, and really understands gluten-free baking, but also because she’s great with her customers and always willing to offer baking tips to anyone in need! Now if I could just drop by her house one of these nights for dinner…. ;)
Read about how this blog event started
See an Example of an entry for this event.
And check out Our Roundup for last month
PS Just in case you were wondering, I have no connection with the Better Batter company except being “e-friendly” with Naomi, and I don’t do that whole icky “write about a product because someone pays you to” thing. I do sometimes chose to review products that people send me (in fact, I will be talking about Triumph dining cards and restaurant guide in the near future)- or just products that I come across on my own- but either way, I present my honest, subjective opinion of that product and welcome other subjective counter-points, preferably from unaffiliated sources. (BTW, I liked the triumph cards, so nobody need get nervous. lol)