Category Archives: savory bread

Gluten-Free Baking Class? Yes Please! Part 2

Hello, it’s Ally again.

Thank you for all the positive comments on my first posting about the gluten-free baking class that Kelley and I attended at the City Arts Centre last month.

If you remember the last post featured light and fluffy celiac-friendly scones and this post goes to the opposite end of the spectrum and features crisp thin homemade gluten-free crackers!

So, let’s get right to it!

First off, even though you make your own flour, this is probably the simplest recipe I have ever made!

Making the nut flour is possible in a “drinks” blender, if it is built for it.  My blender  is made for crushing ice for slushy drinks and it worked, but for best results use a food processor.  In fact, your standard run-of-the-blender would likely not be powerful enough.

Our instructor, Jody Shenkarek, got this great cracker recipe from the Green Kitchen Stories blog:

Gluten-Free Nut Crackers

2 cups nuts and/or seeds (Kelley, Jean & I chose mostly sunflower seeds with sesame, pumpkin, cashew and almonds)
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sea salt

Toppings: salt, herbs, garlic … whatever you like. We left them plain, but the recipe advises brushing them with Braggs liquid aminos and sprinkling sesame seeds on top.

  • Preheat oven to 360 °F (not 350°F) and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Mix nuts/seeds into a flour in a blender or food processor.
  • Put in a bowl and add egg, water and salt. Stir until a stiff dough is formed.
  • Divide in two and place half on each of the two baking sheets covered in parchment.
  • Roll out into rectangles about 2 to 3 mm thick. If dough is sticky (you bet it is!) put another sheet of parchment on top to keep the rolling pin from sticking.
  • Cut into sticks or squares mist with a little water and sprinkle on toppings.
  • Bake for roughly 10 minutes – you must watch them as they burn easily.
  • Store in jars. Make sure they are perfectly airtight as these have no preservatives and you want them to stay crisp.

These turned out so great in class, in fact out of the two cracker recipes we tried this was by far the best one.  In case you are watching your salt intake you can leave it out; Jean and I thought the added salt was quite unnecessary for our taste, while Kelley thought it was just right.

Since the crackers turned out so great and the recipe left me some latitude to to try different nut and seed combos, I couldn’t wait to experiment with different nut mixes at home.  I finally got around to it towards the end of February which was a very busy day for me.  In hindsight, I would have had much better results if I hadn’t felt rushed….

Here are the proportions of nut and seed mixes that I tried out:

Pecan: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup sliced Almonds, 1 ½ Cups Pecans!

Pistachio: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, 1 Cup Pistachio’s, ¼ Cup Sesame

Pumpkin: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, ¼ Cup Sesame, 1 Cup Pumpkin.

Cashew: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, ¼ Cup sliced Almonds, 1 Cup Cashews

I love to experiment when I’m cooking and rarely stick to the recipe when making a meal, because I like more spices than most recipes call for.  Baking on the other hand is not quite as flexible, but I was fairly certain that I could safely experiment with this recipe.

So for half of the pecan mix I added about an 1/8 cup of defrosted frozen blueberries, and with half of the Pumpkin mix I added 1 tablespoon of fennel candies, which I love.

As I mentioned, I was quite rushed and tried to do too much in too little time (2 ½  hours), so I did not pay enough attention to the thicknesses when I was rolling out the cracker dough.  In addition, I only own two cookie sheets so I was pre- rolling the nut mixtures on parchment, while the first batch was in the oven, and finally, I do not own a rolling pin so I was rolling out with a juice glass.


As you can imagine it was a bit crazy.

To achieve better results each batch should have been split between two baking sheets rather than trying to crowd it all onto one.  Adding the berries and candied fennel certainly made for yummy flavour combos but those turned out to be more biscuit-like than the crispy cracker I was after, and they had to be refrigerated which kept them moist. Although tasty, very “uncracker-like”.

I wanted snack crackers that could be eaten without toppings so I deleted the salt. My personal favourite is the Pumpkin with Candied Fennel, next is Pecan, because they are my favourite nut and I cannot get enough of them. The Cashew was most popular with friends – even those who generally don’t favour cashews. I think it is because they were the most “cracker-like” in flavour, were the best thickness, or rather THIN-ness, and worked with toppings or with dips. I did love the taste of the pistachio sticks but they were much too thick, though I could call them mini-biscotti, and pretend that was on purpose.

I highly encourage you to try out this recipe as it is very simple and quick for a single batch, then you could comment back to Kelley about your successes, experiments and tasty mistakes!

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Tag-team Sunday night supper: Sage Focaccia and Fire-Roasted Black Bean Soup

I usually end up making dinner on Sunday evening because EPC likes to relax in the late afternoon before he heads off to his Sunday evening yoga class.  But this week he decided to make his favourite black bean soup recipe from Toni Fiore’s Totally Vegetarian.

In response I chose to make whole wheat sage focaccia from Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. I had a lot of luck with his whole wheat pizza crust and figured it couldn’t hurt to give his foacaccia bread a try. Afterall, the flecks of fresh sage in the bread would make a great accompaniment to  my husband’s soup.

As always, the soup was delicious.  This was the first time he had tried it with canned fire roasted tomatoes and it did make a difference.

I remember the first time he made this soup – before we had an immersion hand blender – what a mess.  Scooping soup by the cupful into our blender was not the easiest way to blend up the soup, and we lost a considerable amount on the floor.  It certainly made my husband an advocate of our latest kitchen appliance.  If you  like to make soups I really recommend picking up an immersion blender (we got ours at Superstore for about $30.00).  I find even if the soup does not call for pureeing, blending a small amount of the soup gives it a nice thick consistency.

In addition to that first  messy batch of soup,  we followed the recipe by adding the 2-3 jalapenos and the 3 tablespoons of chipotle chili powder it called for.  This made the soup almost inedible!  We now use only one jalapeno and 1 -2 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder.

Since winter has practically arrived in Edmonton (one night last week it went down to -5°C!) I did not mind spending the majority of the afternoon indoors as I waiting for the bread to go through two long rises (1 1/2 to 2 hours each).  It was worth it.  I had never made focaccia before and I am really glad that I did.  Next time I will bake it on a sheet of parchment paper.  Well-oiled or not,  I had a difficult time prying the bread off the pan.  The edges cracked a little and I lost some of the bottom to the pan, but what it lacked in presentation it made up for in taste.

I also found the bread cooked quicker than the 20-25 minutes recommended, so make sure you take a peak in the oven after 15 minutes.

I think I will use the leftover focaccia to serve as a bun for the veggie burgers I am going to make tomorrow night.  So stay tuned!

Sage Focaccia Bread

1 1/3 cups of warm water
2 teaspoon of active dry yeast (I used bread machine yeast and it worked fine)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 scant cups of whole wheat bread flour
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh sage leaves and about 20-25 whole sage leaves
2 tablespoons of olive oil for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt.

  • Combine water, yeast, and oil in a large bowl.
  • Add the flour, salt and sage and stir to mix with a wooden spoon.  Stir until the dough comes together (it will  come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball)
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes)
  • Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth.  In a warm place let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (I found 1 1/2 hours was sufficient).
  • Oil the bottom a cookie sheet with at least 1 inch deep sides ( I recommend parchment paper instead of oil).  The pan should be about 15 by 10 inches.  Flatten the dough into the pan, spray the top of the dough lightly with oil and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Let the dough rise a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the dough has almost doubled in size (I waited almost 2 hours).
  • Preheat the oven to 425°C.  Before placing the dough in the oven use your finger to dimple the dough at 2 inch intervals.  Place a fresh sage leaf in each dimple, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt.
  • Bake for 15-25 minutes until golden  brown and remove from the pan to cool.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature

Click to print.

Toni Fiore’s Black Bean Soup recipe can be found here.  EPC only adds 1 -2 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder and 1 jalapeno.  The soup is too spicy otherwise.

Vegetarian BBQ 2: His and Hers Homemade Pizza on the Grill!

I hate having the oven on in the summer.

Our condo is west-facing, so we get all the afternoon sun and heat. I avoid using the oven in the summer at all costs. The tools that help me do this are my Cuisinart bread machine, our toaster oven and our BBQ!

I have never tried making pizza on the BBQ. No pizza on the BBQ, means no homemade pizza at our house all summer long. Not an enticing prospect, since pizza is one of my husband’s favourite foods.

I decided that Sunday would be the day I would try making pizza on the BBQ.

Up until now, I had been using my bread maker to make the dough for my pizza – with varying levels of unsuccess. The crust was edible, but not something I could brag about, or, as I am sure you have noticed, blog about. I decided to follow a recipe for whole wheat pizza crust from Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook and make it by hand.

It turned out fantastic.

I even used 100% whole wheat flour – instead of using part white flour as he suggested (labeling something as whole wheat and then finding out that the recipe still has white flour is one of my pet peeves!). The crust had the full flavour that you would expect from a whole wheat crust, but was tender, chewy, and easy to work with – something that evaded me when I made whole wheat crust in the bread maker.

I have seen recipes for making pizza right on the grill, but I erred on the side of caution and used my special BBQ pizza pan. I formed the uncooked dough on the pan, added my sauce (canned diced tomatoes with basil and oregano), sautéed onions, garlic and bell peppers, veggie pepperoni on EPC’s (photo above) and then a dusting of cheese (mine had fresh arugula sprinkled on after grilling – photo below).

I threw the pizza on the grill at about 500°C and let the heat come down to between 400°C and 450°C. I cooked the pizza for about 10 minutes until the cheese was bubbling and the crust was brown. It was so easy and so delicious and best of all our place stayed cool.

I have posted the recipe for the crust.  The toppings are up to you!

100% Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (enough for 2 12-inch pizzas)

1 1/3 cups of warm water
2 teaspoons of dry yeast (I used Bread machine yeast and it worked fine)
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin live oil (don’t scrimp on the oil – it helps keeps the crust supple)
3 cups of all-purpose whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups of salt

  • Using a wooden spoon, combine the water, yeast and oil in a large bowl.
  • Add the whole wheat flour, and salt and continue to stir until the dough comes together.
  • Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Put the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl and cover with a clean damp cloth.  Let rise until the dough has increased in size about 1 1/2 times.  This takes about 1 hour.
  • Divide the dough in half and place each half in a large lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 20 minutes.
  • Flatten each ball of dough and then shape into a circle the size of your pan.
  • Cover lightly with toppings (I pre-cooked my onions and pepper before grilling to ensure that the onions were fully cooked) and grill until cheese is bubbling and crust is brown about 10-12 minutes.
  • I had my BBQ at 500°C and lowered the heat while cooking to between 400 and 450°C.

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Madhur Jaffrey’s Besan, or Polenta with an Eastern Flair

By the time the end of the workweek roles around the two of us are often too tired to do much of anything other than eat dinner, relax, go for a walk, and then go to bed.  This Friday night we decided to spice it up and head down to Whyte Ave for a short walk and a trip to Chapter’s to browse the bookshelves.

Lucky for me EPC wanted to head over to Planet Organic to pick up a snack from the deli.  That meant we could also pop into Greenwood’s Bookstore (they have a much better vegetarian cookbook selection than the Whyte Ave Chapter’s, at least in my opinion).  Tonight turned out to be my lucky night!

At Greenwood’s I found a copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking discounted 50%!  The front cover was slightly creased at the corner, but other than that it was completely intact.  This cookbook gets such favourable reviews that I had been contemplating picking it up for a few months now, but figured I really could not justify buying yet another cookbook.  However, at 50% off how could I refuse? I was so excited with my new discount purchase that I decided to make Sunday’s dinner from its pages.

While flipping through the Beans and Dried Peas section and I came across an intriguing dish the likes of which I have never seen before.  Madhur coins it a Savory Chickpea Flour Quiche, but take a look at the recipe.

Cook the chickpea flour with onions and seasonings, pour into pan, cool, cut and serve.  The instructions read like polenta, not so unfamiliar after all, so I figure this dish can be coined polenta with an eastern flair.

It turned out fantastic.  EPC and both loved it.   I served it alongside Rasam, which Madhur describes as a tomato, tamarind and dal broth.  This sour spicy soup is one of my favourite South Indian dishes.  Although I really enjoyed the soup, I think that next time I make the Besan (and there will be a next time -it was delicious and not much work at all) I will serve a vegetable curry or two on the side instead.


2 1/2 cups of chickpea flour sifted
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground (I crushed mine with a mortar and pestle)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 -1 teaspoon of cayenne
1 medium onion, sliced in half and then into fine half rings
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 dried curry leaves

2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
1 hot chili, seeded and minced
1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut

  • Put the sifted chickpea flour in bowl.  Slowly add 4 1/2 cups of water, breaking up the lumps as you go.  When all the water has been added, pour the batter through a fine mesh sieve to remove all the lumps.
  • Combine the garlic ginger, cumin, turmeric and cayenne in a small cup with 1/4 cup of water.  Set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy 2 1/2 quart pot (I used an enameled Dutch oven) over medium heat.
  • Add the curry leaves and stir.  Then add the onions.
  • Cook the onions for 2-3 minutes, until softened, but not brown.
  • Add the spices in the cup with the water and stir-fry for 1 minute.
  • Add the chickpea flour mixture into the pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  • Turn the heat to medium low and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the side of the pot.  This should take about 20 minutes
  • Add the salt and lemon juice and mix well.
  • Put the mixture into a 9 X 9 cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Sprinkle the cilantro, chilies, and coconut and let cool.
  • Slice into 16 squares.

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