Y’all, I’m in the middle of something really incredible.
It’s called the Red Clay Writing Project, which is part of a larger program called the National Writing Project.
The Red Clay Summer Institute, which I’m about halfway through right now, is sort of like a writing camp for teachers. We meet from 8:30am until 4:00pm every day for three and a half weeks in June, and during that time we….
- talk about writing
- read about writing
- write about writing
- share our writing
- read and listen to others’ writing
- reflect on how we can build safe writing communities in our classrooms
- explore why it’s important for us to share our voices and for our students to share theirs
- discuss ways we can support our colleagues as teachers of writing
And that’s just the short list. This thing is intense, overwhelming, and absolutely amazing.
I’ll share more about my experience in Red Clay once it’s over, but for now, I want to talk about food.
Since we meet from 8:30am until 4:00pm every day, we are together at breakfast time and lunchtime, and so one of the things that we do is take turns bringing food each morning to share with the group. Of course, this is right up my alley. 🙂
I was originally planning to revisit some of my favorite muffin recipes until I learned that two folks have a gluten intolerance–which makes whole wheat muffins a not-so-inclusive choice for sharing. And I really wanted to make foods that everyone could enjoy.
Thus began my research into gluten-free baking, from which I learned that there are all sorts of interesting flours (rice flour, teff flour, chickpea flour, amaranth flour) that gluten-free eaters deal with when they want to bake, not to mention the xanthan gum and guar gum that often contribute to creating a pleasing texture in GF baked goods. I don’t keep any of these items in my pantry, which just made finding workable recipes more a of a challenge.
I also follow several awesome gluten-free blogs, a couple of which I nominated for some blogging awards a couple of days ago–but I still struggled to find a recipe that I was really excited about making in large quantities for this particular purpose (and that didn’t require all those fringe flours).
Honestly, I got pretty frustrated. There are so many phenomenal web resources for gluten-free eaters, but it’s really freaking hard to find recipes on these sites that contain normal pantry ingredients.
All I wanted to do was figure out how to make a gluten-free coffee cake without making a trip to the store, and it just wasn’t happening.
Then came the “Aha!” moment.
Cornmeal is gluten-free. So is almond flour–and although my cupboards contained no almond flour or almond meal, I did have a tub of raw almonds that I could whir around in the food processor.
So I revised my search terms, removed the word gluten-free from my vocabulary, and looked instead for a recipe that included the words cornmeal, almond, and cake.
Simple Bites offered a recipe for Lemon, Cornmeal, and Almond Cake, which, of course, I made completely differently than they suggested based on what I had in my kitchen. My version was different in that….
- I doubled it to fit in my Bundt pan instead of a single 9″ cake pan (better for sharing with 20+ folks).
- I didn’t include lemon juice or zest (we didn’t have any).
- I used a different proportion of cornmeal to almond meal (there were only 8 ounces of almonds in the cupboard, so when I doubled the recipe, I didn’t have enough to also double the amount of almonds, but I did have extra cornmeal).
- I added strawberries (just because).
- I did a few steps slightly out of sequence (just because).
Not surprisingly, my version ended up looking a lot different from theirs, too:
very pretty Simple Bites cake on the left, my funky cake on the right
I wasn’t happy about how this cake turned out, especially since much of the top of the cake (plus gobs of melted butter) stayed in my Bundt pan when I turned it out onto a plate. The final product was also much sweeter, denser, and richer than I was going for–more like dessert than breakfast. In fact, I was kind of embarrassed to bring it in. (Did you happen to read my ramblings about vision the other day? Well, let me tell you–this cake didn’t achieve the vision I’d anticipated at all.)
But, surprisingly enough, it was quite well-received by my fellow Red Clay participants, several of whom asked for the recipe.
So, here it is. 🙂
What’s in it:
- 8 ounces raw almonds OR 8 ounces almond flour/meal
- 1-1/3 cups cornmeal
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, softened
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 pint strawberries, cut into 1/4″ pieces
- Preheat your oven to 325°F and grease a 10″ Bundt pan.
- Mix your dry ingredients:
- If your almonds are whole, toss them in the food processor with the cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse until the mixture takes on a coarse, sandy-looking texture. (Don’t go for too long, or your almond meal might become almond butter!)
- If you already have almond meal or flour, whisk it together with the brown sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer on high speed to cream the butter and sugar together until they’re light and fluffy.
- Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs–one at a time, making sure each one is incorporated before you add the next one.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until combined. (My mixture was pretty thick.)
- Fold in the strawberries.
- Pour the batter into your Bundt pan and bake for 60-70 minutes.
- Allow the cake to cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a plate or cooling rack.
If you make this recipe, please let me know in the comments how it turns out for you! I would especially like to know whether or not your final product is swimming in a pool of butter at the end of the process.
(If I make this cake again, I’ll reduce both the butter and sugar by at least one fourth in the hopes that it will be less of a disaster. :))
one more, just because
Since I brought in something sweet last week, I decided for this week’s gluten-free adventure to take a savory path. Having made some mini quiches for Dave and Kim‘s shower last weekend (post about that coming soon!), I had little eggy pies on my mind. But even the crustless quiche recipes I’d found still called for a little bit of flour to be whisked in with the eggs for a little more structure, so I had to do a little more searching.
Again, cornmeal came to my rescue when I found this recipe for Crustless Carrot Quiches from Better Homes and Gardens. Well, actually, I found an adapted version of it that, for some reason, called for more eggs.
Again, I both doubled and changed the recipe, because that’s just what I do.
And, again, I kind of wish I had been able to adhere to the original ingredients and instructions, because I wasn’t in love with the results.
kinda cute, but not Better Homes and Gardens cute….
These weren’t terrible. Some people even told me they liked them. But I didn’t. The flavor was pretty good, but the texture was way off: kind of grainy (maybe from the cornbread?) and not as creamy as good quiche ought to be (maybe too much egg and not enough other liquid like milk/cream/yogurt?). I don’t know. I might make some variation on these again, but I wouldn’t follow either of the two recipes I linked to above. (Of course, please feel free to follow the links and the recipes if you’re so inclined.)
I wouldn’t follow my own version again, either, but I’m posting it anyway because one person asked me for it! (So, maybe, these weren’t as bad as I thought they were…?
What’s in it:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 large carrots, shredded (about 3 cups)
- 9 eggs, beaten
- 2/3 cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt (but I thought it needed a bit more)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 cups shredded cheddar (the original recipes called for more–this would’ve helped!)
- Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease two 12-cup regular muffin pans (or you could do a whole bunch of mini-muffins and cook for a shorter amount of time).
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute until translucent.
- Add the carrots and cook for about 2 more minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. (At this point, I’d probably throw in a healthy dollop of Greek yogurt for some added creaminess, plus more cheese than I used.)
- Add the carrot mixture to the egg mixture and stir to combine.
- Divide the mixture among your 24 muffin cups–this will be about 2-3 tablespoons per cup.
- Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until set.
- Allow to cool in the pan for 2-3 minutes, then remove the quiches to a wire rack to cool the rest of the way.
Next week, my group brings food on Monday and then on Friday, so I’ll have two more gluten-free experiments to tell you about soon. Hopefully, they’ll go better than my first two. 🙂
In the meantime…
that’s me on the bottom right…