A Chat with Kristine Kidd About Gluten-Free Baking
Kristine Kidd and I have been friends for years. One day in 1999 the phone rang and this lovely voice said, “Hi, I’m Kristine Kidd. I don’t know if you know who I am but I am the Food Editor at Bon Appetit magazine. I spent the night with your book and love what you are doing with flavors and ingredients”. I think she even said that she took the book to bed with her to read. I know she said she went through it in one fell swoop, cover to cover. This was a dream message for a new author! I did know who she was and I think I spurted out something to that effect while I was trying to silence my pounding heart. She was inviting me to write my first piece for the magazine (on milk chocolate) and so began a wonderful friendship along with her editorial guidance and inspiration.
Kristine has a fine palate and she has written several books herself, this time focusing on gluten-free desserts. Turns out that she had a personal reason for doing so and we chatted about her recipes for Seeded Irish Soda Bread and her ethereal Lemon Curd Almond Cake from her new book, Gluten-Free Baking, Indulgent Baked Treats, Naturally Gluten-Free Goodness.
Dédé Wilson: Kristine! It’s always so nice to talk with you. Take us on your gluten-free odyssey. Your book really caught my attention with its images and truly culinary approach.
Kristine Kidd: I had celiac as a baby but that was many years ago and at that time they thought if you went gluten-free for 3 years you would be cured. My Mom was meticulous and I thought I was okay, but then a few years ago I started having digestive issues…
I’ve never heard that (about the “cure”)!
They thought it could go into latency. And so it appears to have been my experience. I was seemingly fine for many years and then I had horrible digestive problems, my joints ached, I had no energy, painful bloating. I was losing weight even though I was eating.
Food is my focus! It is a huge interest for me in my life. So now here I was with a diagnosis of having to go gluten-free so I decided to look at it as an adventure. For a year I dove in and learned everything I could and I was determined to eat well. I had spent many years at Bon Appetit (magazine) and I had a high standard of what I wanted…that meant fresh, seasonal food. My first GF book was Weeknight Gluten Free, which was a result of some glorious experimentation in my kitchen.
At first I really avoided desserts So many GF desserts were dry and really affected me in the back of the throat…but one can only last so long without desserts! So I started focusing on desserts.
What presented the most challenge for you? Anything in particular?
Oh yes; a GF piecrust! That was the most challenging in whole book! Most GF recipes and recipe developers just sub in white flours – white rice, tapioca…they have no nutritional value and I think they have bad texture and bad taste…I was determined to bring in whole grains and nutrition. I came up with a basic GF flour blend that includes brown rice and sorghum.
I am seeing sorghum more and more…
A great option. It is slightly sweet but still neutral and works really well as a base line, but then I add in other flours for flavor and texture…buckwheat, cornmeal…we’re always talking whole grain. That’s important to me.
What recipes translated well?
Muffins and scones translated really well…but there are 2 sides to that. There are a lot of naturally GF desserts like meringues and almond flour is a favorite for many people because it adds richness and satisfaction. Brownies translated really well, too. Cocoa powder adds substance.
What about xanthan gum? What is your take on it?
It’s natural…I use it…gluten is what holds baked goods together so if I’m not making a meringue or sponge cake relying on eggs I have found that using a little xanthan really makes a positive difference with GF flours. And you need so little. My package of xanthan has lasted 4 years!
(Laughs) I have one too that I am slowly working through…
I have no digestive issues with xanthan. Some do better with guar gum or other additives. You have to experiment and learn from your own body.
What other baked goods have you applied your GF interest to?
Italian classics! I will be doing a Craftsy.com class on pasta and ravioli and pizza crusts…
Oh! We will have to talk. I am doing a Craftsy class on breakfast cakes (pound cakes, Bundt cakes etc.) and as far as GF pizza crusts, I am still searching! I have been on a quest…
For the cake, it is really a sponge cake that you are leaving with egg whites so take care when separating them. No yolk in the white! And use a clean and dry bowl…don’t over-fold…also, one thing about GF baking is that these flours do not brown as much, so use all of the cues for testing doneness.
That’s a great tip to reinforce in general. Use all the cues…time cues, visual…
And you can use ground walnuts to vary this cake.
Really? I would think the oil content might be so different…
They work in this recipe. It is basically a nut sponge with a lemon curd whipped icing…you layer the lemon curd with the cake and also use it to create the frosting. Any fruit can be added on top. I love it with sliced peaches.
How do you like to make your lemon curd?
I do it right in the saucepan, direct on the stove, stirring constantly watching constantly…I get the lemon and sugar hot and then whisk into eggs to temper and then cook and stir constantly. As soon as it starts to thicken I strain it…
The tempering of the eggs is a great idea here and of course the straining…
It makes it very creamy…
How about for the bread – any tips for that one?
I make instant buttermilk because most folks don’t have it on hand. Start with whole milk or soymilk and add vinegar; it replicates buttermilk.
Why vinegar and not lemon juice?
I just always have. And you always have it on hand, and you don’t taste it….
I do this, too. I love the idea of the shelf-stable powdered buttermilk but I haven’t liked the results when I’ve used it.
I agree. And buying a quart, well you use 1 cup and then it often goes to waste. I found that soda bread is one of the best to make GF; it translates so easily without the white starches. I can usually get away with ¼ total amount of those white starches – you have to get some starch in there – but then you can fortify with oats, oat bran and flaxseed meal. You can top this bread with chia seeds or sunflower seeds, but the sunflower seeds sometimes turn a little green…
I noticed that tip!
When baked, they can turn a little green, which is fine for St. Patrick’s Day! But some find that upsetting, in which case I suggest they use pumpkin seeds. They are green naturally!
It’s great that point it out so folks don’t think something is wrong.
I was horrified the first time I saw this happen… what have I done? How could mold grow so quickly? (Laughs). It’s an enzyme thing…they are so delicious; I love to work with them.
Do you have any tips for someone who is going out and shopping for GF flours and ingredients for the first time? Like about purchasing or storage?
In general the flours are fine for 3 months at room temperature, or if you have room you can refrigerate them…the nut meals you want to freeze…they can stick together and form clumps, so the first ting is I do is remove the bags from the freezer and bang the bag on the counter to loosen then up before measuring. They come to room temperature very quickly.
Speaking of measuring, what technique do you use?
I pour or spoon flours into measuring cups. I do not scoop. If you do that with my recipes you will get a heavier measure and your baked goods will be dry.
What is a good starter recipe for someone just getting into GF?
The Cinnamon Crumb Cake! It’s my absolute favorite cake in the book. It’s great for brunch or breakfast…you need sorghum flour and almond meal, but they are always good to have around, as are the xanthan and potato starch…all of these items will then carry you through a good portion of the book’s recipes.
When it comes to almond meal, do you use it from blanched or natural almonds?
I use meal from whole almonds. I often get it at Trader Joe’s.
Oh, that’s so interesting. I guess I assumed it was from blanched. Have you found a difference? I think the meal from whole almonds is drier…
I haven’t done a careful comparison… but you know what we say, always use what is suggested in a recipe!
That’s right! Especially the first time so you know what the recipe developer intended. How about testing doneness? Anything different?
I like to touch with my finger and see that there is that springy-ness. And testing with a toothpick inserted in the middle. These traditional techniques work with GF as well.
Anything else you’d like to add about the book or GF baking in general?
I think that these recipes will please a lot of people…really everyone will love these…they won’t say, “Oh, this is gluten-free,” as happens with so many GF baked goods.
These are delicious I had a high bar and was determined to have deliciousness…like the Maple Barry Pavolva. There is no image for this one but it is one of my favorites. I make over and over again! It is very versatile and can be made with many kinds of fruit. It is light and satisfying at the same time – and naturally gluten-free!
Well, that’s definitely high praise…
It uses maple yogurt and it is so easy. I am not assuming this book is for people with pastry skills. The Pavlova is simply spooned out on a sheet pan – you don’t have to k now how to use a pastry bag. Just scoop it out. This is approachable for anyone. The maple cream is not overly rich…you cook the berries with maple to make a glaze…it is stunning to look at…
Do you like darker or lighter maple syrups?
Darker! So much more concentrated maple taste!
Kristine, I couldn’t agree more! Thank you so much for your time…that Pavlova is now on my hit list.
Thank you so much, Dédé. It’s been a pleasure catching up.