One of the greatest things one person can do for another is to take something that feels complicated and make it simple, to make the indigestible digestible. Erin McKenna, founder of NYC's BabyCakes Bakery, does just that with her latest cookbook, Bread & Butter. Unlike her previous 2 cookbooks, B&B focuses on what plenty of GF cookbooks fail to address--the savory side of life. The inspiration behind the 75 recipes adorning McKenna's playfully colorful pages stems from years of averting her eyes as the bread basket made it's way around the tables at some of her favorite restaurants. She was tired of missing out on one of human innovation's most glorious gifts (bread) and "set out to create some vegan gluten-free recipes fill the empty bread basket in [her] heart." And she's made it easy enough for you to do the same, should you so desire.
Riffing off of the book's title, I decided to make both a bread and McKenna's vegan butter. And given that I went in expecting some sort of mad science experiment, was both shocked and delighted by how ridiculously simple each recipe was. In fact, as long as you follow her instructions, these recipes seem relatively bullet-proof. I'm a skilled baker, but having no dietary restrictions, I have little reason to deliberately foray into gluten-free or vegan alternatives. So for me, the most daunting part of this entire experience was grocery shopping for the ingredients necessary to bake like this (heads up--if you're just breaking into stocking your gluten-free, vegan pantry or only making a recipe to get to know a cool new book... doing so runs a little pricey).
That said, if you're a seasoned pro and already happen to have the necessary array of flours and starches on hand, making Mckenna's Focaccia with Onion, Rosemary, and Thyme is an absolute breeze. Dense, tender, chewy, and loaded with aromatic flavor, this loaf was honestly one of the more impressive gluten-free products I've put in my mouth (and I made it!). Likewise, making her butter is simply a matter of giving all of your ingredients a run in the blender and letting the mixture chill. This recipe actually takes me back to my childhood when the day-to-day standard in my house was a "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" sort of spread. Which means, you have rich, creamy goodness going straight from the fridge to your toast, no waiting for a stick to soften. Even better, you actually know and touch every ingredient that goes into your "it's not butter" butter--that's a good feeling. I'm a lady that loves butter to a fault, but I am so OK with what is going on with this coconut and canola-based spread, flavor and texture-wise.
A final reiteration--the success you have with this book, like any baking book, relies largely on how well you pay attention to what the author says to you. McKenna says weigh your ingredients, that's how she develops and makes these recipes, so you should do the same. She says to use unscented coconut oil; speaking from experience, I'd say this is a big one if you don't want your final products coming out drenched in coconutty essence (I had trouble finding unscented at my local Whole Foods, so this may be a product you may want to check for online). As long as you read the "Ingredient Assistance" and "Help Desk" sections before diving in, especially if you're just starting your walk on the gluten free path, you will be good to go and carbfully satisfied in no time.
Butter makes 3 1⁄2 cups
11/2 cups (336 GRAMS) melted unscented coconut oil 1 cup (224 GRAMS) canola oil 3/4 cup (224 GRAMS) rice milk 1/4 cup (56 GRAMS) coconut milk 1 teaspoon agave nectar 2 tablespoons (18 GRAMS) granular sunflower lecithin 1 tablespoon (18 GRAMS) salt 2 teaspoons xanthan gum 1 tablespoon (15 GRAMS) fresh lemon juice
Line a shallow pan, such as a loaf pan, with parchment paper and set aside. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the coconut oil and canola oil, stir gently, and set aside. In a blender or food processor, combine the rice milk, coconut milk, agave nectar, sunflower lecithin, salt, and xanthan gum and blend for 1 minute. Very slowly add half of the oil mixture, followed by the lemon juice, and then the remaining oil mixture. Blend for 1 more minute. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and refrigerate until solid, about 3½ hours. Chop the butter into 1-inch cubes and store in an airtight container for up to 7 days.
Foccacia with Onion, Rosemary, and Thyme Serves 10
1/2 small yellow onion, sliced 1/4 cup (52 GRAMS) melted unscented coconut oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 recipe dough for Foccacia in the Style of Italy (recipe below) 2 garlic cloves, minced Leaves from 1 sprig rosemary (1 teaspoon) Leaves from 1 sprig thyme (11/2 teaspoons)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, toss the onions with 2 tablespoons of the oil and a pinch of salt. Spread the onions on the prepared baking sheet and roast until they are golden, 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Spread the onions evenly over the prepared focaccia dough, brush with the remaining oil, and sprinkle the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and salt and pepper over the top. Bake for 15 minutes, and then rotate the sheet 180 degrees. Bake until the crust is golden, 10 minutes. Let the focaccia cool in the pan for 15 minutes before cutting.
Foccacia in the Style of Italy Serves 10
1/4 cup (33 GRAMS) cornmeal 1/2 cup (112 GRAMS) melted unscented coconut oil, plus more for brushing the baking sheet 11/3 cups (256 GRAMS) potato starch 1 cup (140 GRAMS) brown rice flour 3/4 cup (75 GRAMS) gluten-free oat flour 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon (112 grams) arrowroot, or more if needed2 tablespoons (28 GRAMS) vegan sugar 1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder 2 teaspoons salt 21/4 teaspoons active dry yeast 2 teaspoons xanthan gum 1 cup (240 GRAMS) lukewarm coconut milk 1/2 cup (113 GRAMS) lukewarm rice milk
Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle one with the cornmeal and set it aside.
Pour the coconut oil onto the other parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes. The oil will harden into a thin, solid sheet that will be broken into pieces later.
In a large bowl, whisk together the potato starch, flours, arrowroot, sugar, baking powder, salt, yeast, and xanthan gum. Add the lukewarm coconut milk and rice milk, and using a rubber spatula, stir until dough pulls away easily from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too thin, add 1 tablespoon arrowroot at a time. If the dough is too dry, ass a splash of lukewarm water.
Transfer the dough to the cornmeal-lined baking sheet and gently spread it out with your fingertips until the dough is about 1 inch thick and has distinct fingerprint dimples throughout. Brush the dough with oil, cover with a dish towel, and let it rise for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove the hardened coconut oil from the refrigerator and break it into pieces approximately 1/2 inch in width. put the coconut oil shards in each dimple in the dough. If there are pieces leftover, push them randomly into the dough.
Bake for 15 minutes, and then rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees. Bake until the crust is golden brown, 10 minutes. Remove the foccacia from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before cutting.