Holiday Noshing With Gluten Free Canteen
The holiest days of the Jewish calendar year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are just around the corner. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins September 16, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins September 25. Though Yom Kippur is a time of fasting and reflection, Rosh Hashanah is a time to celebrate with a warm and wonderful holiday meal.
A great resource for the baked goods that go along with that Rosh Hashanah meal is Gluten Free Canteen's Book of Nosh, written by Lisa Stander-Horel and photographed by Tim Horel.
This book is not just written for those who cannot eat gluten, but for everyone who might join together at the holiday table. Stander-Horel answered some of my questions about the cookbook, and about cooking gluten-free for the holidays...or any day!
Genie Gratto: Was there a particular holiday experience that inspired you to write the book?
Lisa Stander-Horel: Growing up in a Jewish home, I was accustomed to watching my mother make special dishes and baked goods for all the holidays. I wanted to make sure we could carry on those traditions though we are a gluten-free household. Over the years we’ve developed gluten-free recipes for the Jewish holidays that are based on my mother’s recipes. That my mom never wrote down a recipe in her life made it all the more challenging. We began posting some of those recipes in our blog for Rosh Hashanah and then Passover, and the reception they received was heartwarming, which inspired us to write the book.
GG: I particularly appreciate that you tried to put together recipes that will satisfy not only those who cannot eat gluten, but those who are used to more traditional baked products. Why do you think that's such a critical element to good, gluten-free holiday cooking?
LSH: Tradition is a big part of the culture. It was important to me that those values were carried forward in the baked goods. It’s a way to honor those who gave us those values (and good challah). Or as my little brother, Rabbi Stander says, “traditional Jewish baking invites us to lovingly recall the daily lives and passions of our noshing ancestors.”
Because we developed these recipes using superfine flours from Authentic Foods (located in Los Angeles), they are virtually indistinguishable from their gluten counterparts. That means no more double-duty baking, which pretty much eliminates the risks of cross-contamination and extra kitchen work. Everyone is eating and enjoying the same traditional baked goods that just happen to be gluten–free.
In fact, we knew we had passed the tasty-for-everyone test when people not on gluten-free diets asked for the recipes after eating samples.
GG: What are the biggest challenges when it comes to developing gluten-free recipes?
LSH: There are three challenges that come to mind: getting the gluten-free flour to be cooperative in the recipe, getting as close as possible to the traditional baking ratio, and that the recipe can be reliably repeated.
Simply substituting one flour measure for anotherno matter how much some makers of AP GF flour mixes would like you to believe they can bewill not result in anything good. Gluten-free flours and starches do not have the same baking properties as wheat flours. In fact, gluten-free flours and starches are not created equally, so that even subbing one for another can make for a phenomenal baking wreck. I’ve been there! That makes it pretty challenging to develop standardized recipes.
But we’ve simplified the process by using superfine rice flours (from Authentic Foods in Los Angeles) and creating a mix that we use for every recipe in the Book of Nosh and on the blog. It’s simple. It works, and these particular superfine flours are almost indistinguishable in texture to AP wheat flour.
Also, traditional baking ratios change in gluten-free baking. Rice and other gluten-free flours or starch don’t absorb fats and liquids as does a wheat flour counterpart. In developing recipes, liquids, fats and eggs all need adjustment.
The third challenge is reliability. For a recipe to be published in the Canteen blog or in the Book of Nosh, it must be tested until we are certain the recipe can be successfully repeated if readers use the same ingredients and follow the directions. Making sure ingredients are accessible (we offer a resources section in the book) is important to a recipe’s success.