Hot Cross Buns {gluten + dairy-free, sourdough option}

As I opened my daily planner this morning, I was reminded that I had originally been slated to be teaching a lesson today about healthy breakfasts and how to tell when one is hungry and full to several kindergarten classes I work(ed) with.

Of all the nutrition and cooking lessons I teach in public schools, that particular one is my favorite. And because the funding source leaves me tied to teaching particular curricula that I often find wanting in terms of what we should actually be teaching our children about nutrition (i.e. developing a healthy relationship to food more than focusing so much on all the food groups), this particular lesson is one I really look forward to. Hunger presents itself in numerous ways beyond just a painful, rumbly tummy, and food and nutrition is far more than just calories in/calories out, macro and micronutrients, and following the ‘right’ plan until whatever prefabricated goal is reached. If I could fill out my entire kindergarten series with this topic of developing a healthy relationship to food alone, I think my students would be far closer to having the basis of a firm foundation in healthy lifelong eating than most of us have ever gotten.


One thing I’m noticing a lot in the last couple weeks as we all go into isolation and quarantine is a few different but similar conversations about food. Panic-buying and hoarding as lack of clear leadership, lack of control over life situations, and messages about what to do change nearly daily. Bingeing or overeating on a kitchen full of food, or stress not-eating as we stay home and navigate a completely different routine. Stress-baking to put at least our hands in motion, and choosing comfort foods when nothing else is comfortable. And then stacking guilt on top of our already stressed and anxious systems as we berate ourselves for not having some willpower or not taking care of ourselves adequately, etc.

One of the questions I like to ask, not to my kindergarteners, but in clinical practice, is ‘what’s that about?’ When our minds go into worry and circular thinking about whether there’s any flour, yeast, eggs (or TP) to be found at the store. When we find ourselves needing a comfort food or snack while working from home when we’re not actually hungry. When we skip a meal or two and are ‘not hungry’ when we’ve clearly not eaten much in the last day or days. When our hands at the grocery reach for ice cream, cookies, chips and crackers, or the ingredients to make something sweet / salty. When we panic at the thought of missing a workout or being sidelined from normal training due to this situation. When we’re anxious. When we wake every night at 3am.

In any or all of these instances, ask yourself, ‘What is that about?’ What’s the underlying feeling, belief, or reason I’m doing this thing? Ask yourself without judgement, and just be okay with whatever answer comes. And if there’s no immediate clear answer, that’s okay too.

As an adult, having an awareness and lack of judgement at the reason for our actions is incredibly helpful in navigating uncertainty and beginning to form trust in yourself that you are strong and able to deal. For even when we judge our actions and ourselves incessantly, there are always fairly wise reasons for them that we are somehow protecting ourselves against.

Today as I’m writing this, it is also the beginning of Holy Week, a special solemn few days in the Christian calendar before Easter, and given the state of the world right now, the solemn state of things appears to run parallel to it. Hot Cross Buns are also a traditional specialty this time of year, at least in parts of the US, and for sure in the UK and Ireland. It you’ve never enjoyed them, they are a spiced and fruit-filled yeast bread roll, often made quite a bit richer due to extra butter/oil, added sweetener and perhaps an egg. They were traditionally eaten on Good Friday, which is also a traditional day of religious fasting. If you like to delve into the history of food traditions like me, you can learn more about hot cross buns on Good Friday in this short article and its fascinating discussion/comments.

Otherwise, may you work on asking yourself this week, ‘What’s that about?’, and if you’ve the inclination, try baking hot cross buns.


Hot Cross Buns {gluten-free and vegan, sourdough method}, makes 5
This recipe appropriately fits the needs for those avoiding all (or some) of the most common food sensitivities and allergies, and because my nutrition-brain is always on when developing recipes for this space, these are a delicious, slightly enriched and sweetened whole-grain bread option that doesn’t get too far into the super decadent category.
As you’ll note, I’ve created two options to make these, with a sourdough starter, and without. I’ve made and enjoy them both ways, and because I don’t do away with the yeast in the sourdough option or dramatically change the method, they both turn out fairly similar. Instead, I tend to use my sourdough discard for the recipe and reduce the other flours and liquid.
If you’re finding gluten-free flours difficult to source right now, substitutes work well. Sorghum flour subs in well for either brown rice or millet, oat flour made from ground up oatmeal will likely work well in part, and any of the starches (arrowroot, tapioca, potato, or corn) can be used in place of the arrowroot and tapioca combination. As always when baking and especially when using substitutions, it’s always best to measure by weight.
There are a few ways to make the cross on top, either with a bit of icing after baking, by cutting a cross in the dough before baking, or by making a flour and water paste and drizzling it on top before baking. I meant to cut my dough before baking but then forgot, and decided to use a quick couple spoonfuls of cashew, vanilla and honey ‘frosting.’ I haven’t added that in here because I think it’s too fussy and these don’t need a sweet finish. They taste great on their own!

Wet Ingredients:
6 Tbs. non-dairy milk
2 1/2 Tbs. water
1 1/8 tsp. dry active yeast
¼ cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins / sultanas, orange peel)
2 Tbs. orange juice or tart cherry juice or water
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds 
1 Tbsp. psyllium husk (or use ground chia seeds OR flaxseed meal)
2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
½ Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup

Dry ingredients:
130 grams / ~1 cup gluten-free all purpose flour
(or 13 g buckwheat flour, 19 g tapioca flour, 20 g arrowroot flour, 26 g each sorghum, brown rice, and millet flours)
100 grams / ~ 1 cup gluten-free sourdough starter (equal parts flour and water)
1.5 tsp mixed spice  (1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. allspice, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. cloves, 1/8 ginger, 1/8 tsp. coriander, 1/8 tsp. cardamom)
¾ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. sea salt

  1. Warm up the non-dairy milk and water together until lukewarm or at about 100 degrees F / 38 degrees C. Whisk in the yeast and allow to froth up for about 10 minutes.
  2. While waiting combine the dried fruit and juice or water. Warm for a few seconds in the microwave and set aside to let the liquid soak in and soften up the fruit. I use about 1 Tbs. finely diced orange peel in this mix to make these extra festive and more traditional.
  3. Add the ground flax, psyllium, oil, vinegar, and honey to the frothy yeast liquid. Whisk together and set aside so it can thicken a little.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Dump the wet ingredients and fruit into the middle of the flour mix and stir. Your dough will begin to look scrappy. Keep stirring with your spoon or hands until the ball of dough becomes somewhat smooth.
  5. Put a cloth over your bowl and let rest / rise for one hour.
  6. Next stir the dough well again, and then divide into 5 equal balls. Lay parchment in a small baking pan and then roll or shape each of the dough balls into rolls. Place them on the dish, cover with cloth again, and rise again for 1 hour in a warm, non-drafty space in your kitchen. These should rise enough to be touching each other in the pan, but will not double in size.
  7. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F / 190 C. Bake for 2025 minutes or until the edges have firmed up. Place the pan on a wire rack to briefly cool down.

EXTRA NOTES

1. Tastes best when eaten warm and straight out of the oven.
2. Store in an airtight container and keep for about 3 days.
3. The dough can be made ahead of time. Simply place in the fridge during the second rise time and allow to sit overnight. Baking time might need to be longer.

Hot Cross Buns {gluten-free and vegan, regular non-sourdough method}, makes 5

Wet Ingredients:
6 Tbs. non-dairy milk
6 Tbs. water
1 1/8 tsp. dry active yeast
¼ cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins/sultanas, orange peel, etc.)
2 Tbs. orange juice or tart cherry juice or water
1 Tbs. ground flax seeds 
1 Tbs. psyllium husk (or use ground chia seeds OR flaxseed meal)
28 grams / 2 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
½ Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. honey or maple syrup

Dry ingredients:
180 grams / 1 ½ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
(or 18 g buckwheat flour, 27 g tapioca flour, 27 g arrowroot flour, 36 g each sorghum, brown rice, and millet flours)
1 1/2 tsp. mixed spice
(1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. allspice, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. cloves, 1/8 ginger, 1/8 tsp. coriander, 1/8 tsp. cardamom)
¾ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. sea salt

  1. Warm up the non-dairy milk and water together until lukewarm or at about 100 degrees F / 38 degrees C. Whisk in the yeast and allow to froth up for about 10 minutes.
  2. While waiting combine the dried fruit and juice or water. Warm for a few seconds in the microwave and set aside to let the liquid soak in and soften up the fruit. I use about 1 Tbs. finely diced orange peel in this mix to make these extra festive and more traditional.
  3. Add the ground flax, psyllium, oil, vinegar, and honey to the frothy yeast liquid. Whisk together and set aside so it can thicken a little.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Dump the wet ingredients into the middle of the flour mix and stir. Your dough will begin to look scrappy. Keep stirring with your spoon or hands until the ball of dough becomes somewhat smooth.
  5. Put a cloth over your bowl and let rest / rise for one hour.
  6. Next stir the dough well again, and then divide into 5 equal balls. Lay parchment in a small baking pan and then roll or shape each of the dough balls into rolls. Place them on the dish equally apart, cover with cloth again, and rise again for 1 hour in a warm, non-drafty space in your kitchen. These should rise enough to be touching each other in the pan, but will not double in size.
  7. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F / 190 C. Bake for 2025 minutes or until the edges have firmed up. Place the pan on a wire rack to briefly cool down.

EXTRA NOTES

1. Tastes best when eaten warm and straight out of the oven.
2. Store in an airtight container and keep for about 3 days.
3. The dough can be made ahead of time. Simply place in the fridge during the second rise time and allow to sit overnight. Baking time might need to be longer.

If you enjoyed this, I’ve been sharing a few practical resources and video posts over on my E+O Facebook page about how to navigate these times with resiliency and less anxiety / fear. For new nutrition clients, I’m currently offering a package of three consults for half off. Be well.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie {Recipe Redux}

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My first year in college, after a long winter of heavy snow and hibernation in semi-remote Eastern Oregon, I trekked home for my first annual Easter weekend visit. I brought my roommate, Christine, and my mom made Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie. After months of food hall meals, it was the best pie I had tasted.

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Every pie since has been held to the standard of that memory of tart, sweet, vibrant spring-ness. Nothing compares to the picture in my mind of being home, surrounded by family and a friend, and slowly savoring each bite.

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When asked about her strawberry rhubarb pies, and any others for that matter, my mom answers exactly as I would expect and as I expect my grandma would also have answered: “I don’t ever follow the recipe, I just add ingredients until the pan is full and add sugar as needed.” While I concede her reasoning, I’m slightly more type A, and I foolishly think that if only I had that recipe, I could better relive the memory.

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Though I was left to my own devices as to the amounts and types of ingredients, my tiny apartment kitchen happens to have a couple pie-baking essentials thanks to my mom and grandma. Like a good luck charm, I always use this pie dish, which mom had the forsight to know I was going to need waaay back when I was in high school. Grandma Neah’s old copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook is also a regular kitchen fixture for pie making inspiration, though I’m a bit too much like these ladies to actually follow the recipes. Even so, I’m glad Neah made sure I received it before she passed. With these feel-good implements to boost my confidence in measuring up to that pie, I began.

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This year, a full eight years after that first annual Easter weekend trek, I made it home again. Though this pie was decidedly missing from our Sunday table, strawberries were bought and ate, and like firewood, mom loaded me up with a couple armfuls of rhubarb for the road.

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The important thing and what I keep holding on to in this sort of strawberry rhubarb tradition, is that family was gathered around, more family than before, and we lived a spring day to rival my memory.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Streusal Topping
 
Pastry, adapted from Gluten-Free and Vegan Pie
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup arrowroot starch
2/3 cup potato starch
1 1/2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup + 2 Tbs. refined coconut oil
2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. vanilla 
3/4 cup oats
2 Tbs. honey
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
 
Filling
4 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 cups strawberries, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup brown rice flour
2 Tbs. tapioca flour
1 Tbs. lemon juice
dash of ground ginger
 
To make the crust, measure flours, sugar, and salt into a food processor. Pulse a couple times until they are mixed. Measure in coconut oil and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Then add in water and vanilla until the mixture just comes together. Turn out onto a piece of parchment paper and split the dough into a larger piece (about 2/3 of dough), and a smaller piece.  
 
Roll out the larger piece and fit it into the bottom of a pie pan. If it falls apart in the process, gently piece it back together and flute the edges. Using the tines of a fork, make several stabs into the crust, and then put it into the freezer for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, put the remaining 1/3 crust back into the food processor, along with the honey, oats, cinnamon and ginger. Pulse until they come together and set aside for the streusal topping.
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the filling, stir together the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, honey, flours, lemon juice and ginger. Once the bottom crust has chilled, turn the filling into the pan. Evenly spread the streusal topping over the filling and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling properly. During the bake time, you may need to cover the pie with foil, to prevent excessive browing.
 
If the filling seems a little liquidy at this point, don’t worry.  It will set up nicely once it cools!
 
 

Carrot-Parsnip Easter Cakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Last week, I had a pleasant surprise.  When teaching my young garden recruits, I had them taste parsnips at the end of the lesson.  We try to taste a seasonal vegetable each time we meet.  Since spring is so very late this year, and if we were truly eating locally, we’d be eating parsnips and wild nettles and very little else, I thought this would be a great new vegetable for my kids to try.  I didn’t expect the results.  Because I’m not a great fan of parsnips in their natural form, I figured my little munchkins wouldn’t be either.  Boy was I wrong!  I fried up some thinly sliced parsnip crisps and sprinkled them with a nice bit of salt and then brought along some raw parsnips to compare.  In two different groups, there was an astounding preference for the raw ones!  I was not only amazed but quite proud, since I really don’t want to encourage fried food amongst my young group!

While we’ve been eating quite a bit of parsnips these last few weeks, turning them into carrot-parsnip mini-cakes has got to be the best arrangement yet!  These are perfect for your Easter festivities, assuming you’ve forgotten to plan ahead today! If not, it’s still spring, and our greens are a bit behind, so go–try some parsnips.  I bet you’ve been missing out.

Carrot-Parsnip Mini-Cakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, adapted from Dishing Up Oregon
Makes 5 jumbo size mini-cakes or about 10 regular mini-cakes.
 
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 Tbs. white or dark rum
1 cup whole-grain gluten free flour mix (or 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if not making gluten-free)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 plus 2 Tbs. grapeseed or canola oil
2 eggs or 2 flax eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup finely grated peeled carrots (about 2 medium)
3/4 cup finely grated peeled parsnips (about 2 medium)
 
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1-2 tablespoons orange juice
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line five jumbo muffin tins.
  • Combine the raisins and the rum in a microwave-safe bowl.  Cover the bowl and microwave the raisins for about 30 seconds.  Uncover and set aside to cool.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl.
  • Beat the brown sugar and grapeseed oil together on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Mix in the applesauce and vanilla.  Mix in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  • Fold in the carrots, parsnips, and 2/3 of the raisins until combined.  Fill the prepared muffin tins 3/4 full.  Bake until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and cool slightly before removing from tin.  Set aside on a cooling rack to cool completely.
  • For the frosting:  Blend the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl on medium speed. Mix in the vanilla, orange zest and one tablespoon orange juice.  Sift in the powdered sugar, beginning with 1 1/2 cups.  Add more as needed to reach desired consistency.  Add remaining tablespoon orange juice as needed.
  • Ice using a decorating tip or knife.  Top each cake with remaining raisins if desired, just prior to serving.
My Whole-Grain Gluten Free Flour Mix
2oo grams brown rice flour
200 grams millet flour
200 grams sorghum flour
100 grams buckwheat flour
150 grams tapioca starch
150 grams arrowroot starch
  • Sift all the flours together.  Use 1 cup for this recipe and save the remaining for other uses.