Although setting up the spare room in my old house to be a plant nursery of sorts was very satisfying, my favorite place to experiment and play these days is in another room -- the kitchen.
The kitchen is a place bursting with the potential of new discoveries. Something so simple as adding a new spice to a dish can conjure up a whole new feel for a recipe. Switching polenta for partially ground up quinoa brings a nutty flavor to a comforting Italian dish. Inquiry is such a driving force in developing as a cook. What would happen if I added a bit of cinnamon to cannellini beans? How would a rice pudding taste if I replaced the rice with amaranth? These little investigations may develop into a new favorite dish. Or, just as easily, an almost failed project. Either way, they propel us in the right direction -- learning.
This weekend, I was in the mood for playing in the kitchen. I had just brought home a treat from the bookstore - Molly Wizenberg's delectable book A Homemade Life, It left me with a craving for something toothsome and comforting. Along the lines of a nice warm loaf of bread, warming my hand as it cools on the counter and accompanying my meals throughout the week. In addition to my yearning for bread, I wanted to be able to grind my own flour. I got so much pleasure out of potentially torturing my blender by grinding my own millet flour that I wanted to see what other flours I could make.
Also looking out at me with hope from the pantry were crystallized ginger (something that must reside somewhere in the kitchen at all times in our apartment), wonderfully soft chopped walnuts, a fresh jar of apple sauce, and a lonely banana.
In an almost trance-like state, I piled the ingredients onto the counter without more than a few seconds of thought. Then, the experimentation began. If I added all these ingredients together, what would happen? Would they form into the nourishing bread I desired, or a crumbly mess? After adding all my goodies in a large glass mixing bowl, I decided more liquid was necessary. The banana and applesauce weren't cutting it. Since I didn't have any eggs or want to use butter, I went with yogurt and a bit of milk. Then I worried that without eggs, my bread would be a dense brick. Using my trusty blender again, I blended up some flax seeds with water to make a paste. It's been a long time since I used flax to substitute egg, so I kept my fingers crossed. Note: The combination of fruit, nuts, and yogurt are not ayurvedicly recommended...but I made an exception for the sake of experimentation!
While my experiments don't always turn out with such happy results, this one left my tastebuds quite content. The texture is balanced between hearty and moist, and every morsel hits you with a gamut of flavors -- sweet, nutty, and spicy. The high protein content of the flours and nuts adds to the satisfaction level of this bread.
Experiment Fruit and Nut Bread
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup gluten free oatmeal flour
- 1/2 cup quinoa flour
- 1/2 cup millet flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 mashed banana, about 1/2 a cup
- 1 cup applesauce, unsweetened
- 16 drops stevia
- 1/4 cup yogurt, unsweetened
- 2 tablespoons almond milk
- 6 tablespoons flax seeds blended with 8 tablespoons water