Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Going Gluten Free

After almost 8 years of struggling with on again, off again abdominal pain, never know exactly what was going on in that digestive track of mine (and, being my mother's daughter, I am constantly curious about how the body works), I think I might have stumbled onto something: a gluten sensitivity. Coupled with outbreaks of eosinophilic gastroenteritis (such a fun word to say, not a fun condition to experience), it would make sense that I would have chronic symptoms (that seem pretty disconnected) along with seemingly acute abdominal pain.

How'd I figure this all out? Aside from seeing many doctors, I have been doing some testing of my own using dietary restrictions. I knew that every time I cut out gluten (usually along with a whole gamut of other foods), I would feel better. So for the last month I just cut out gluten, and have been feeling wonderful. Then I slipped up last Sunday, and devoured the last of some Cinnamon Toast Crunch for a 5am snack. Since I had already messed up, I decided to order my favorite, Eggs Florentine, for brunch (not the best, from Harvest Cafe; if you want amazing Eggs Florentine, go to Yolk). That night my stomach was completely distended, and for the next few days the abdominal pain returned, along with the fatigue I had experienced for so long.

I think that was a sign good enough for me.

So it's gluten free for me!

This new way of life will be hard for me, as I love baked goods, good dark beer, whisky, and all those other wonderful wheaty things. And maybe it isn't a definite, maybe I'll be able to tolerate gluten again soon. But for now I am going to embrace it.

To celebrate, here is the zucchini bread recipe I made Monday morning, which I compiled from several different recipes, but mainly this one from 101 Cookbooks:

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
zest of two lemons
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fine grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using

3 cups gluten free flour mix (I used a mixture of Gluten Free Pantry All-Purpose Baking Flour and Namaste Foods Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, clove, and ginger

Loaf pans or muffin pans

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside. Alternately, you can line the pans with a sheet of parchment. If you leave a couple inches hanging over the pan, it makes for easy removal after baking. Just grab the parchment "handles" and lift the zucchini bread right out.

In a small bowl combine the sunflower seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).

In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.

By hand, fold in the sunflower seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.

Divide the batter equally among the pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40 minutes on a middle oven rack. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling - if you leave them in their pans, they will get sweaty and moist (not in a good way) as they cool. After they are cooled completely, you can slice them up, put them in freezer bags, and freeze them.

The bread came out moist and delicious, and just the perfect bit of spicy. I enjoyed it with peanut butter and a bit of agave, but it would be good plain, or with a myriad of different toppings. Recently I made some prune butter. I'm sad that's all gone, because I bet it would have been wonderful.

Until next time...

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