the story of a new culinary instructor… and some other stuff too


Ginger Nectar

i had this knob of ginger that was sprouting. i stuck it in a pot to see if it would grow… that was three years ago….

three years of tiny sprouts that broke free through the dirt to express some form of short lived green. last year it flowered which i heard was hard to do. but it did. a tiny bud of folded leaves that quickly withered and died…

this year it sprang to life… not one sprout broke free, but five took the chance and emerged from the dirt… one at a time. as if sending a test mission out to see if the world was ok and sent a message back to the rest … all clear. grow up.

occasionally i brush past this plant that is now over three feet tall an i feel a wetness on my arm…. that smells of ginger and honey combined, but is thin like water…. nectar. the stuff tiny honey bees would gather to make honey if my plant was outside… out in the world…

it just grows, ever reaching for the window on it’s right, stretching towards the sun soaked window… dripping ginger scented water tears.


new stuff pending:

Lately, I’ve been so busy with adjusting to my new schedule of morning and evening classes and juggling a a few miscellaneous things in my personal life, I feel guilty for neglecting Toque and Dagger. I have a few items, articles, pieces in the works and I need to find the time to focus and put thought to keyboard in order to finish them. I will… some things can’t be forced or rushed… So, when the time is right, when the planets and stars have aligned in such a way that allows the creative in me to work again…. stories will be told. Until then, I’m going to take a nap and do some laundry.

got one right

Through lots of trial and error, I finally made a gluten free cookie I would be proud to serve.

I love cookies so going gluten free was not without some feeling of loss. I experimented with making my favorite chocolate chip cookies using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free flour only to be disappointed in the taste and texture. I found BRMGF flour to be nutty and bean-y in flavor so it did not really work well with chocolate chips. The flavor profile of this flour blend stuck with me… the aftertaste stuck around even longer. I realized that maybe a nutty tasting flour should breed a nutty kind of cookie and there fore a peanut butter cookie should work well with BRMGF flour except I can’t eat peanut butter. This was turning out to be an exercise in substitutions.

I reached for my faux peanut butter (soy nut butter) and got to work. I mixed all the ingredients and tasted the dough (good dough makes good cookies). It was pretty good…darn good! Better than any of the other formulas I tried.
Here’s the recipe:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup soy nut butter (or peanut butter)

1 egg

1 tsp vanila

1 1/4 cup BRMGF flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 tsp baking soda

cream butter and sugar; add soy nut butter (or peanut butter), egg and vanilla, mix well; fold in dry ingredients and mix well. refrigerate for 30 minutes and scoop on to parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes

let cool and smear soy nut butter and jelly between two cookies and enjoy!


It’s not what you think it means…

Gluten-Free-You… and it is a complete work in progress.

In a strange, weird and unexpected twist of fate I have reason to believe that I have a wheat/gluten allergy or intolerance which at this time is unconfirmed by an MD, but I isolated it from my diet about three weeks ago and have NEVER felt as good as I ¬†do since eliminating it. I have been playing with “pre-made” gluten-free flour blends from “Bob’s Red Mill” to some degree of disappointment. You see, I’m so used to wheat flour, white flour, AP flour, bread flour and pastry flour knowing intimately how each works, their suitable uses and what to add or substitute to make one more like the other depending on what the formula calls for. I can spot dough flaws just by feel and sight and know how to correct them. I know flour and how it behaves…I’m used to flour…. I love flour. I also love to bake… but have had some rather … disappointing trials since I switched to gluten-free flour. Or at least the “pre-made” blends. So far, I made cookies and pizza (both using “Bob’s Red Mill” gluten free flour and his pizza mix) with some disappointing results. (for non-commerical gluten free flour blends… see gluten free flour blends under recipes)

About a week ago, I made GF chocolate chip cookies that tasted good, but looked like Florentines with lumpy chocolate chips and had a lacy texture versus the crispy edged, soft-gooey centered cookies I was baking before going GF. I have to admit, I’m leery of trying them again and resting on solid disappointment. On a closer analysis, I think the fault may lie in the sugar I used and not the flour blend so I’m willing to try them again. (As soon as I can get to the grocery to replenish supplies like eggs, butter and milk.)

Tonight I tried the pizza mix…. I mixed the dough according to package directions and it felt sticky… overly wet. Not like my usual pizza dough and it smelled different… not as yeasty, kinda nutty. I love that yeasty bread dough smell. I wondered and almost feared the dough I just made. I questioned this dough every step of the way and then decided that i may need to “mask” the taste of the blend of ground whole grains by adding some garlic, onion, cayenne and garlic bread powders to the dough. That, at least, made it smell better. I stuck my fingers in the mixing bowl and the dough, instead of being a solid, elastic mass that would leave an imprint of my fingers stuck to my skin like glue… When I rinsed them off under water the dough dissolved slowly, leaving a slick reside and not rinsing clean away. I set it to rise, like the directions said then I got worried… I wondered how in the fu*k was I going to roll this out, stretch it, toss it and get it off the pizza peel and on to the 450 degree stone I keep in my oven. I kept checking the dough during it’s rising process, touching it, poking it until finally I pulled off about a tablespoon of dough pressed it between my fingers (most of it stuck) and placed it on my pizza stone and closed the oven… the sample piece. The tester…. I watched it. It rose a bit, then the edges turned brown. I opened the oven and touched this dough ball which felt springy, spongy and dense. I tore it in half and popped it in my mouth, chewed it and tried to figure it out…. it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either. I covered the rest in tomato sauce and tried that bite… better.

After letting it rise… I felt it up again and this time it was leavened but even more sticky so I dug the package out of the trash and re-read the directions…. “press dough into pizza pan with wet hands” … WTF???? You don’t make a good pizza by “pressing” dough in a pan. You make good pizza by hand stretching dough, tossing it in the air, catching it and feeling the smooth elasticity between your hands. (I’ve made so much pizza dough and made so many pizzas in my culinary career, I think I can safely call my self a pizza expert and know good dough from bad dough… this was bad dough.) I could feel the panic setting in realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to roll, toss and stretch my dough… so I “pressed” on and coated a small sheet pan with olive oil, wet my hands and grabbed a handful of this foreign dough. I pressed it as smoothly and as evenly as I could in a pan and baked it for 8 minutes as directed without toppings. 8 minutes later, the crust was bubbling a bit and sort of golden around the edges… ok, so far so good. I pulled it out, sauced it, topped it and returned it to the oven hoping that the crust would be crispy and light. The suggested 12 minute baking time later, the edges were certainly more brown and all the toppings were cooked through (home-made beef Italian sausage, bacon, asparagus, pepperoni and fresh mozzarella) I pulled it and its hefty weight from the oven. I could feel how dense this crust was before I even cut into it. It looked good… smelled good… Do you remember making pizza using bisquick biscuit dough as the crust? That’s what it looked like. And that’s how it tasted. Like dense, wet biscuit dough pizza. Disappointing to say the least especially since I’m used to a thinner, light, crispy yet chewy crust that holds up the moisture of the sauce and not succumbing to it like this one did. I think my expectation was that it was going to be like my earlier pizzas… and that’s where I’m conflicted. I feel so awesome since I ¬†eliminated wheat, gluten and flour products from my diet… but miss the taste, texture and crumb of what I have over more than 30 years of baking have been accustomed to. I want to just swap the flour to a gluten free one and have the same results… and that’s not happening.

After the perceived failures of the cookies and the pizza I wonder if I should give up baking all together… but then again, that would go against everything I believe in.


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writer’s block

I have a few articles that I’ve been working on and just haven’t found the right words or thought streams to to finish them. I promise dear readers that I will get something new up on Toque and Dagger very soon. It’ll be worth the wait.