Friday, March 6, 2015

A Letter to Nicole (and June), A GF Bread Recommendation, and Crispy Cheesy Risotto Cakes

[Dear June,

This post was originally written for my friend Nicole, who feeds four gluten-free eaters as well as herself. After talking to you last night, I've determined that this post is as much for you too. Hope you enjoy my two (or twenty-five) cents. And I super hope you make this bread!



Dear Nicole,

I have so much to tell you.

(Note: this post is a few days old so the weather has changed. But this is how I started my letter on Tuesday, a day that looked v. different from today.)

First of all, this morning it snowed three inches here in as many hours. It is v. beautiful and I wish you were in Minneapolis, specifically in my dining room, to see it. Even better would be if your children could also be here. Maybe they would love the snow so much - we v. deliberately would make it V. FUN for them - they would motivate you to move here. You and I haven't lived near one another in a long time. I'm fairly certain it would still be fun. We could shovel together. And maybe pull our littlest children in sleds. Both are v. good exercise. I am practically a body builder.

If the snow isn't enticing enough, maybe the best gluten free bread I've ever baked and eaten would be? I will make you two loaves. (You have a relatively large gluten-averse family, so you will need two loaves.) Alexis's endorsement of Gluten Free Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day was too enthusiastic to ignore; so I got it from the library and gave it a shot. This is a big deal as our family was the opposite of impressed with the original Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day book (see? I'm not even linking to it because it's not worth it). (Everything was too yeasty. Plus, my Reinhart-obsessed husband is a purist. If there's no biga or poolish, it's just not going to meet his standards. And now my standards, spoiled lady that I am.) Anyway, I'm so glad I listened to Alexis because I made a version of the book's maple-oatmeal bread with flax and millet instead of oats to mimic my favorite bread (recipe here for the wheat eaters). And even though I was certain every step of the way that it wasn't going to work - I've been down this road before! - it was nothing short of amazing. I couldn't stop eating it. And I eat wheat! It's basically what I'd always hoped gluten-free bread would be but had come to believe did not and could not exist. It wasn't too yeasty at all, just v. normal and delicious and maple-y. I gave half the loaf to MC's cousin, who is gluten-free and, more importantly, Beckett and Sadie's primary babysitter, and then immediately regretted it. My simple soup dinner this evening will likely include the remaining two slices I've been hoarding in the freezer since last Friday. (Shhh. Don't tell the children.)

Here is what the process looked like:


Doesn't it look great?! And then it tastes even better!

So, if you don't have it yet, I recommend with beg-borrow-or-steal urgency that you get your hands on it yesterday. I am so v. pleased with the recipe I tried and can't wait to try others. (In 33+ days.)

Here's what I did:

1. Made 1/4 batch of all-purpose flour blend (p. 60) (I wasn't going be wasteful if it didn't work, you know?), opting for ground psyllium over xanthan gum and white rice flour over brown.
2. Made 1/2 batch of Oatmeal-Maple Bread (p. 146), using the oat flour but substituting flax and millet for rolled oats (for half a batch, that meant ~3/4 cup millet and 1/2 cup flax seeds - they lent a nice crunch and a whole-grainy flavor/aroma). I used a regular (9-X-5")loaf pan, not the special smaller one they mention in the beginning of the book.
3. Wished I'd made the whole recipe instead of just half.

You should too! Or if you don't want to, you should just move here and I'll make you some. 

Next, I'm writing because you once told me you envisioned my cooking style to be similar to that of Food Network newbie Amy Thielen. I've since checked her out and mostly I'm just flattered. She's so dang cute!

Last Friday, I made America's Test Kitchen's Butternut Squash Risotto. It's the best ever, but I literally have nothing to add to the recipe other than "make it, it's perfect" - so I'm not going to reprint the recipe here. I found it online here and here, however, and you should totally make it, it's perfect.

I've been wanting to make risotto cakes for a while, but most of them called for bread crumbs or eggs or something else random. None of them was especially tricky or time-consuming, but I wanted my risotto cakes to be my lazy day lunch, and most recipes seemed just a little too busy for that.

Enter Amy Thielen. And her cheese curd-risotto cake recipe. And then risotto cakes for me, three meals in a row. (One example of why the Whole 30 Challenge will be difficult yet probably worthwhile for me.)

So that's what we're really here for today. Thank you for drawing my attention to the existence of Amy Thielen. I'm pretty much in love. Midwesterners are great. The bread-in-five-minutes-a-day authors are from the Twin Cities. My husband and children are Minneapolitan. And now this Amy lady, from "The Midwest". Clearly worth a visit, if not a bold relocation. 

In the meantime, I think you should probably make butternut squash risotto for one of your Lenten Friday dinners this month, and then enjoy some risotto cakes a couple days later.

You're welcome.



Butternut Squash Risotto Cakes
Inspired by Amy Thielen
Yield: 6 large or 10-15 small risotto cakes

2-3 cups cold leftover risotto (the older it is, the more starchy and easier to work with it will be - I'd aim for at least 24 hours in refrigerator; mine was 4 days old and perfect)
4-8 ounces yummy melty cheese, cut into 1/2" pieces (I used mixture of sharp cheddar and jack)
1/4 cup ghee or other high-heat fat
1/2 cup brown or white rice flour, or all purpose flour (rice flour will form a nicer crust)

Mix risotto with cheese. Place flour in a shallow bowl or plate. Form risotto and cheese into patties that are the size you want to eat. 

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough ghee or other high-heat oil to lightly coat the bottom. 

As it warms, dust a risotto cake with the flour on both sides and add it to skillet once it's hot. Place as many floured risotto cakes as will fit in the pan. (Don't overcrowd the pan though if you want them crispy!) Fry until a dark golden brown crust forms on each side and the cheese inside is melted, about 4-6 minutes, with a midway flip. 

Keep the fried risotto cakes warm in the oven while you fry the rest of them. Serve immediately, over greens and a tangy vinaigrette if you want to feel slightly less indulgent.


  1. Was this supposed to make me cry? Because it did. You had me at "shoveling snow together". Also, this made me examine the lack of risotto in our diet. I pretty much never make it, and I don't know why. I sort of forgot that it exists (do not tell my Italian ancestors). But the recipe mentioned here is killing me softly, and I am trying to figure out how I can squeeze risotto cakes into our busy weekend plans. It is so ON! In other news, I'm so glad you love Amy!!! I knew you would. You should just always do everything I tell you to do. I don't get to watch her as much anymore since we no longer have a DVR or cable, but she is so wonderful and darling, and you could TOTALLY have her job. You should probably become her friend before she reaches Giada level fame! And finally: looking into purchasing bread book ASAP. I love you! Thank you for my letter!

    1. Well, if it makes you feel any better, that picture of you that Bobbie Brandon posted on FB made me cry. Because you're my child all grown up? Wtf? I hope you make the risotto AND the risotto cakes. They are v. satisfying and not hard, but the risotto takes a fair amount of attention and at least two pots. Easy, but active.

  2. I'm sad because this is one of the only recipes I can't make! (Ava is allergic to oats). I am so glad you had success! I think one of the keys is the switch to psyllium over xantham.

    1. Just skip the oat flour and swap in something different! I think its contribution in terms of both flavor and texture was minimal.