Karen Morgan of Blackbird Bakery Dishes on her New Book
The gluten free market is crowded, whether you are looking at raw ingredients, mixes, actual baked goods, books or websites. Some rise to the surface such as Karen Morgan’s new book, The Everyday Art of Gluten-Free. (You can also read our full book review). This book – and I should say its creator, Karen – are genius. Sure there are supposed all-purpose GF flours on the market that can help you get the job done, but there is often something lacking. A GF blend that works for pizza and bread might not fair that well with delicate muffins and what about making true bagels and cream puffs? Read on. If you have been yearning for a real NY style, chewy bagel that is gluten-free, Karen is your girl.
Dédé Wilson: Karen, I am so excited to be speaking with you. We get a lot of books for review and yours spoke to me immediately. The concept of 6 different gluten-free blends to cover the range of baked goods and GF cooking is nothing short of brilliant. How did you come up with this varied approach?
As you probably read in the book’s forward it took 7 years to develop these blends and perfect the approach. I wanted to simplify things for the home cook, so the blends are available for purchase, but I also give you the recipes in the book.
Did you start with 1 blend?
No! I just never thought that one could do the trick…baked goods are so varied and have different needs…I thought, well I can’t have a special flour blend recipe for every recipe in first book, so that kind of hatched the idea…I was spending time in France and chefs over there 24 different flours grown, ground and milled to specific specifications…there is a different gluten level for each. For each recipe they used a different flour or blend of flours and I thought, why wouldn’t that work for gluten-free? Their approach set off the light bulb…so I started whittling down and came up with the 6 blends.
I wanted GF flours that would work for savory and sweet…the blends took so long to perfect…I wanted pie crust that was so flaky it would almost looked like puff pastry, but I also wanted to make egg pasta. How do you do that? I experimented with different types of gums and tapioca…I am not formally trained I am self-taught…many bakers want to use one blend but after thousands of trials I have made it so that you get flawless results every time…and the blends are nutritious and delicious.
OK, Karen we have to talk about the bagels. Of all the GF items out there, I have yet to find a good bagel. All the GF bagels are crumbly and tender and don’t have that chew! Then I see the picture of your bagel and it looks like it has that slightly tough and chewy crust and I got so excited. Tell me about the bagel research.
It was insane, I’m not going to lie. That probably took longer than any other recipe to perfect. I wanted a bagel that could be boiled and then baked and not fall apart.
The breads in general were the most daunting…you know gluten is the magic rubber band of baking. Working with GF flours, even with baking powder and yeast…I had to learn how the blends were going to expand and stretch. And then, I had to still figure out how to get flavor and texture…
The bagel research was really interesting. I read every bread baking book I could get my hands on. I tried so many formulations to get that chew. The ratios go out the window for GF…you have to use less fat because there is nothing for it to bind to…but then you have to increase liquid and leaveners…getting it perfect really came down to how many eggs and what ratio of protein in the bread blend.
Karen, I am getting really excited about the bagels…
My bagels have that bite that gets caught in your teeth a little bit and you can boil and bake these and they don’t fall apart.
First thing I did – I love salted butter – is I made a batch – there are 6 in a batch – and I ate all in one sitting, just slathered with butter. Then I baked the next batch and out came the cream cheese…toasted…soft inside and outside gets the crunch…
You’re killing me here…
An awesome moment for sure. When I perfected it, I went nuts…OMG have you tried Laura’s Ball Park Dog (hot dog buns)? I sell those buns all over here in Austin…it’s a potato-based dough and are the most delicious buns. Those are amazing, too.
What recipe are you most proud of?
My choux paste tastes just like traditional French choux paste…you can make churros, donuts, it’s so versatile and you can use it baked or fried…that was one of my white whales…had to keep going back and challenging myself. My pie crust, too. I’m very pleased with that…and the boule (laughs)!
That picture of the French boule is gorgeous. It will make people want to make them.
I hope so! This woman from Amsterdam tasted it and told me that she she had to go GF for thyroid issues…her husband hugged me and said I saved their marriage!
The best way is to buy the blends through the site but you can also go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients you need. The idea is that this part is done for you and I hope this gives people that sense of creativity…each blend makes thousands of different things beautifully…home bakers won’t have to wonder if they are going to be successful. They will be.
I couldn’t sleep at night knowing people were suffering…it wasn’t easy, as a single Mom, doing all this research but I had to believe that the work I was doing was going to help people and give pleasure.
Karen, I can’t wait to dive in and bake. I need to make the bagels! That’s going to be my first recipe.
I will send you some flour blends! Dédé, thank you so much. This has been fun – and the book is structured to have fun!
Good luck with the book, Karen. I will report back on those bagels.
Available now: The Everyday Art of Gluten-Free: 125 Savory and Sweet Recipes Using 6 Fail-Proof Flour Blends by Karen Morgan. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Photographs by Knoxy Knox.