cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fin d'Avril - Final de Abril

April is supposedly the equivalent to the northern September, it's the autumnal month that brings in the winter months of May, June and July. I suppose it has been a bit chilly, sometimes getting as low as sixty degrees. Evenings and the early morning are the only ones who suffer, or how you look at it- benefit. It's almost May, almost one year since i first set foot in Brazil. How can so many things happen in just one year. One year ago to this day, i was just ten days shy of a college graduation, working as a photographer and writer for a magazine, and planning an utterly insane voyage to a country i (bear with me) had no business being in. One year later, as i sit here typing to you, it seems like a lifetime has elapsed. One year without school, without professors, without exams, one year of paying bills and loans (merde), one year of writing (and crying) freelance, a stage in a bakery, a hundred ferry boat rides, a series of months thrown in that seemed to have no purpose whatsoever aside from their role of ticking down, a decision that did not need to be decided, a move, a wedding, a visa, a new home, a new life - and here we are. Ready to discuss dried peppers and gluten free muffins. How is this life? Who said it would be like this? Somehow Salty did.

As we live alone without any mothers to feed us, i cook. I didn't know i could cook. Well, anyone can cook, but i didn't know i would be as excited by it as with baking. Uh oh. There's something about just making flavors work, and somehow knowing that they will. As much as i am fond of Brazilian food, i can't handle eating the same thing as nauseum. I need Mexican, Asian, Indian, French and even some American. Bingo. I can't tell you how much i am intrigued by Indian foods, particularly curry. Simple food made amazing simply by the intricate combination of spice. I know i sound a bit like prosaic Tony here. My kitchen is the international kitchen, as i am a foreigner myself, i feel at home with any and all other tings that are also out of place. The only problem is finding the ingredients i was so well pampered with at my fancy-pants international has-everything market in Seattle.

Enter chilies. I am a spice wimp, but yet i love the taste of chilies. Brazilians, for the most part, do not eat spices. At the grocery store i sought out red chilies, hmm, a pack of 30. Guess not too many people are in need of a chili here or there. So with 30 scalding hot chilies to my name, i did what any good preserver would do; i dried them. Feeling like the California raisin girl (minus the bonnet) i slit them in two and lined up their plump bodies on the balcony. In two days they were shriveled snakes barely reminiscent of their former self. Now the idea of drying things out in the sun makes you wonder about those who choose not to wear sunscreen...Either way, when people hear about my chili antics, eyebrows are raised: hmmm mexican....

Moving on to yet another topic, i have been making muffins quite frequently in an attempt to make a proper pizza dough. The muffins are now a success while the pizza dough is still a large cracker. Maybe it doesn't help that i have no bowls, trays or stones....frying pans and rice pots for everything. The muffins, as light, fluffy and airy as they are, are gluten free and made without any added binding agent. No xanthan gum, no gelatin, nada. Equal parts (1/2 cup each) of 3 alternative flours, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 eggs, a dash of milk, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, butter, pureed mango (or whatever you have on hand right) and all the other yada that goes into muffin making. It's quite surprising but in Brazil rice flour costs less than wheat flour, and there are more kinds of tapioca (manioc) flour than one could ever think possible. There are many recipes that rely on tapioca and corn flour alone, and never does there seem to be any rising or binding problems, and these recipes have been used for, well, for a long time. Makes you wonder why when you see some gluten free recipes out there you see an ingredient list of a length that surpasses even the most complex of curries. I think the moral is that we always make things harder than they actually are.

Gluten Free Cinnamon Ginger Muffins
Ingredients: 1/2 cup each of any three gluten free flours, 1/4 butter or oil, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, grated ginger to your taste.

Method: mix dry ingredients together and add wets (all in the same bowl, no need to mix wets before adding). Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full, and bake at ~350 F (my oven is in C now) for about 10-15 minutes or until they are done (dry in the middle).

I'm still playing in my kitchen, still playing with my life. Learning what i can do, and what i have to work harder to be able to do. Looks like i will have to grown my own herbs and wash all the dishes by hand. Hang the laundry up to dry and tweak the the original road i had planned. That seems to occur on a yearly basis. But we're still headed for the same goal, whatever that may be. Brazilian autumn is a beautiful time of year, and in the country side, one can say that it is dangerously close to perfect.

a bientot

upcoming: not sure yet


Unknown said...

I know what it's like to look back on a year and see just how drastically things have changed! It seems like you're adjusting well though and I love your updates.

I often think the same things about gluten free recipes - why all the ingredients?? It's definitely best to look to cultures that rely on naturally gluten-free foods and go from there. Good luck on your pizza dough!

Elena B. said...

Hi there :)
Great photos! I can't remember if I've commented before, but I came across your blog a little while ago and love it! As a soon-to-be college graduate who is planning on going to Brazil to be with her (brazilian) boyfriend, it is really nice to hear about your adventures and realize I'm not the only one crazy enough to follow love and my dream! Keep it up, you're a great writer and your blog is one of my favorites!

Christy said...

I've been trying out a couple of gf recipes too, and I have to say, when it comes to cakes, additives like xanthan gum aren't necessary. I do mine with alternative flours and they always turn out great.

However for pizza dough you may need the addition of xanthan gum to bind the dough together. Helen made gf puff pastry using alternative flours and xanthan gum recently, so maybe that's a good starting point. Pizzas are harder to achieve though, because it's the gluten that gives it such elasticity.

So how's married life? Hehehe.

Rita Gomes. said...

Sent you a email.
bjs ,Rita

El said...

This is an amazing post. I love your photos and your sentiment is fabulous. Glad to hear life is going well!

Anonymous said...

Great post! Love your blog :)