Monday, October 4, 2010

Let the Baking Begin: Peach-Huckleberry Crisp and Gluten-Free Squash Bread

Peach-Huckleberry Crisp
It all started with my cooking assistant. It was his turn to select the fruit of the week. Why is it always his turn? He picked Grouse Mountain Farm's O'Henry peaches and I don't blame him because who can resist the seductive fragrance of these fall peaches? I had a variety of ripe fruit on hand, so I thought a peach dessert was in order.

The cool fall weather inspires me to bake, so I baked my favorite crisp recipe. I've made many crisp variations over the years, but I always fall back on this same recipe for the crispy topping because it's absolutely the best crisp recipe in the world. No amount of fooling with the recipe makes it any better. The recipe is in my cookbook, and just last spring I used the same basic recipe for a Rhubarb-Cherry Crisp . Check it out and make it your favorite recipe, too.

I also had huckleberries and some frozen blueberries and I thought the berries and peaches would make a perfect fall crisp.
The recipe calls for butter in the topping. Does my assistant care? You could make it with a vegan equivalent (margarine or coconut oil) but I love the buttery flavor of the original recipe. I stressed a little before making this recipe because I'd vowed a commitment to a 30 day vegan diet after attending the the Veg Fest in Portland a few weeks ago. I was inspired. "Let's get healthy," I'd told my assistant Finn when I came home. But we are weak when it comes to this crisp and we love the way butter makes the topping taste so decadent.
My assistant is very good at restraining himself, but this dessert really tested his will power. Try it, you won't be able to resist either.

Gluten-Free Maple Pumpkin Bread
Another thing that compels me to bake is winter squash. It makes an appearance at markets in early October and Mair Farm-Taki is one of the first farms to bring it to the University District Market.

Farmer Katsumi Taki grows great tree fruit--check out his farmer profile in my book--but Mair Farm-Taki is also famous for amazing Japanese vegetables. Katsumi passes out samples liberally--steaming chunks of squash lure customers to choose a variety of squash with their greens and autumn fruits.
My friend Patty found this odd long squash that I'd never seen before. I can't remember what it was called, but when she handed me a sample we immediately asked Katsumi if he could cut it in half so we could split it. You can do that at the market--just ask farmers and most will gladly cut something big in half.

Katsumi told us the squash was a Japanese variety. He grows many quirky vegetables that no one else grows.

At home, I treated this like any other winter squash. I shoved it in the oven at 350F. and baked until it was soft--about 45 minutes.
The day I baked it, I was writing an article about healthier baking for my Take 5 column for Marlene's Market and Deli. As I considered which recipe I could send with the article, I remembered Maple Pumpkin Bread, in my book. The recipe specifies whole wheat pastry or barley flour and I stared at it trying to imagine how it might taste made with buckwheat flour. Since I've met so many folks who have gone gluten-free, I wondered how a gluten-free version of this bread would turn out.

So I got out the buckwheat flour I'd bought at the Portland farmers' market. Then I rolled up my sleeves and got out the rest of the ingredients, eager for the experiment to begin. Here is what I made:

Gluten-Free Maple Pumpkin Bread

Adapted from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook, bread is studded with dried fruits and nuts and is perfect for breakfast, brunch and afternoon snacks. It’s a healthy sweet treat without the holiday guilt! The original recipe specified 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry or barley flour. Use either option and make it your way.

1 cup buckwheat flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg

1/2 cup raisins or currants

1/4 cup chopped dates

1/4 cup dried cranberries or

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

3/4 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin (or winter squash)

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons canola or sesame oil

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

2. Combine dry ingredients and dried fruit and walnuts. Mix well and set aside. In a blender, combine sweet potatoes, maple syrup and olive oil until smooth. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Mixture will be quite thick.

3. Spoon into loaf pans. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Bread should pull away from the sides of the pan. An inserted toothpick will come out clean when the bread is done.

4. Let cool 15 minutes before removing from pan.

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