A firm believer in the jinx-ing gods, I always pause before I say these kinds of things, but I have a pretty good life both out- and inside of the kitchen. Food is my friend. The only things holding me back from eating everything and anything in the whole world are, in descending order, my pickiness and my waistband. I don’t know what it means to have food make me consistently sick. (Well, except Spaghetti Carbonara. But that story for a different time, or on second thought, never.) I scour ingredient lists because I don’t trust them, but not because my life could depend on it. I can eat all of the bread, pasta and cake, glorious cake that I want. And it is these things I have been thinking about since I dug into Gluten-Free Girl this weekend, the new book by the food blogosphere’s own Shauna James Ahern, someone I had the fortune to meet, along with her Chef, Danny, and other friends last weekend.
I first learned about celiac disease from an old coworker who had it. “What do you mean you don’t eat no cookies?” I would joke in mock-Aunt Toula tone because it was just that absurd to me that he would be the only person in our whole department to not eat my baked goods with glee. It came back on my radar through my friend Joc’s coworkers, Kim and Kelly and their site, Celiac Chicks, but I still didn’t really get it. No flour, I’d think? More flourless chocolate cake, then! Big deal.
Oy, naivete stings in hindsight, doesn’t it? As it turns out, gluten allergies are a huge deal, affecting an estimated one percent of the population, and according to the NIH, the single most under-diagnosed disease in the world. Gluten is the elastic protein in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and possibly oats, and celiac is an intestinal disorder where the body attacks these foods as if they were a virus. Of course, in our foggily food-sourced world, avoiding gluten is a labyrinth: gluten hides menacingly in almost every processed food, disguised as modified food starch, hydrolyzed vegetable oil, caramel color, dextrin, and even natural flavors. The mold in blue cheeses often started on bread. A breadcrumb could make Shauna sick for three days.
But her book is not a sob story. In fact, it’s just gorgeous, and in the kind of synchrony that seems to be happening all too often to me lately, Alex and I were wandering around downtown on Saturday and paused at an adorable pastry shop called Financier on Stone Street. We split a chocolate financier and I immediately declared them to be my new favorite baked good: cakier than a cookie, richer thank cake, more delicate than a brownie and just the perfect size, I vowed to make them at home soon.
Little did I know that Gluten Free Girl has a gluten-free version of them on page 47. They took 30 minutes to make, batter to cooling rack. They take much less time to grow fiercely addicted to.
One year ago: Spinach Quiche, Dominican Beans and Granola
Go Orange: Though the official campaign has ended, I do hope that you consider donating to The Food Bank’s NYC Goes Orange Campaign to help them raise funds for the holiday season. I don’t want my redecorating efforts to be for nothing!
Makes 15 one-inch cookies
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup almond flour*
4 tablespoons Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup egg whites (approx. two large)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease and flour financier molds or mini-muffin tins. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set it aside until it reaches room temperature.
Mix the almond flour with the cocoa powder, salt, and powdered sugar. Stir the egg whites and almond extract into the almond mixture, then gradually stir in the melted butter until incorporated and smooth. Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them three-quarters full.
Bake the financiers for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are slightly puffed and springy to the touch. Remove them from the oven and let cool completely before removing the financiers from the molds.
Once cooled, financiers can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
* I made this by pulsing blanched almonds in the food processor until they were reduced to a powder. However, if you can find it in the store, the texture will be less gritty (the best I could do was a cornmeal consistency). Either work.