Take Two #56: Primal Baking
By Kyra-lin Hom
Hello everyone, a belated 'Happy Thanksgiving!' to you all. Welcome, we are officially in the Christmas season. Hopefully most of you waited until after Thanksgiving to put up your Christmas lights and pop in your holiday tunes – that is unless you just left everything up from last year. (In our house the rule is if it's still up at the halfway mark in June then it stays the whole year around.) I know historically fictional pilgrims aren't as exciting as elves, flying reindeer and, oh yeah, that little notion of miraculous birth but Thanksgiving is a holiday too. Besides, I can only take so many renditions of 'Jingle Bells' before I want to run for the hills. And just for the record, I don't think I'm the only one who found Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber's 2011 cover of 'All I want for Christmas is you' just a bit disturbing. She's over twice his age! At the time, he was only 17!
Anyway, this year my friends and I decided to do our own little Thanksgiving celebration the friday following. For point of reference, I'm writing this column Thanksgiving evening from an eyes glazed over with turkey and pumpkin pie perspective. For me, this friday dinner is in the planning phase but yet to occur.
We don't have the appropriate table settings for so many people so the plan is a tablecloths on the floor, good ol' picnic style Thanksgiving dinner. Reminds me of freshman year of college honestly – interesting parallel, that. As the baker of the group, I've been assigned the dessert portion of our friday feast. Sounds simple enough, right? I mean, dessert should be the eastiest part. Wrong.
See, most of my friends for one reason or another have very particular diets. Of the people who will be in attendance two are on the Abascal Way, three are Paleo, one is as picky as they come just because, one is diabetic and the last is vegetarian. I'm pretty much a scavenger who eats whatever's available. I'm trying to be understanding, but a poor little baker can only take so many restrictions! To give you a taste of what I'm up against, here's the list of the no-no foods of the evening: tree nuts, processed sugar, sugar substitutes, honey, wheat and gluten of any kind (technically they eat as little grain as possible, period), white potatoes, corn, dairy, soy, coconut, all meat, legumes, avocado and a few other specific foods to boot. Whew! Got all that?
No lie, I was keening my ears for the Mission Impossible music while I read the email with this list and the dessert request. Your mission, if you choose to accept it... that sort of thing. But there was nothing to be done for it so I rolled up my sleeves and hit the internet.
Not too long ago, I did manage a paleo cake for one of their birthdays. I cheated a bit with the frosting, adding a small amount of agave to my freestyle coconut oil and unsweetened cocoa mixture, but besides that I stayed entirely within my boundaries. Obviously, that was before I knew of my coconut restriction (on account of the picky eater). Coconut flour is a great substitute for white flour, especially when you can't use anything nut based. The difference is that it's a bit heavier and not quite as smooth. The cake turned out dense and delicious with a rich, almost fudge-like frosting. I was really quite happy with it and so was nearly everyone else. If anyone would like the recipe, just shoot me an email. I'm absolutely willing to share.
If that chocolate cake was level 1 in the baking challenge, this pumpkin pie, especially since I'm not allowed to use my new favorite substitutes of coconut anything, is level 2. I cut my crust back to the serious basics of shortening (no lard because of the vegetarian, remember), water and brown rice flour and made my own 'sweetened condensed milk' out of simmered rice milk and apple butter (both without any additives). I further added a couple splashes of apple cider vinegar to help cover the fact that no non-dairy will act the same as a dairy when it comes to baking. It's a whole lot of experimental kitchen chemistry and just plain guesswork.
As much as I want to rant at all of them for their dietary extremism, this has been a fun baking puzzle. I'll let you know how it all turns out next week. Who knows, if I really pull this off I might have created an actually healthy pie, and that is something to be celebrated.