Wednesday, May 4, 2011

You Can't Keep a Good Baker Down

I’ve been told to try a gluten-free diet for a few weeks. Of course, that puts a crimp in my style.

My baking style, that is.

But, luckily, Alice Medrich offers some wheat-free alternatives in her newest book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies. I chose the Wheat-Free Gooey Turtle Bars (layers of toasted pecans, chocolate and caramel atop shortbread) and spent a confusing hour at Whole Foods, picking out gluten-free oat flour and rice flour. You know things have gotten complicated when you’re checking the label of the Scharffen Berger semisweet chocolate bar to make sure there’s no errant gluten.

While the wheat-free shortbread crust was baking, I set to work on the caramel. Confession: I did not read the instructions well, so my timing was off.

A few minutes into stirring the caramel, panic set in. I knew I couldn’t step away from the stove --- the potential for burning or boiling over was high --- and I had to check on the shortbread and the toasting pecans. I wound up half-heartedly stirring with my left hand, did a full body stretch, and reached across the kitchen to pull the pecans out of the oven.

And then there was another snafu ten minutes later: The caramel was done and in danger of hardening, the shortbread wasn’t golden-brown yet, and the chocolate wasn’t chopped. Oops. I set the oven timer for another five minutes, took the caramel off the heat and kept on stirring, and enlisted help for chopping.

Finally, I'm done. The caramel is hardening, the chocolate chunks are melting, and the pecans are settling into the layers. It all has to cool before I can lift the pastry out of the pan and cut it into bars.

I can’t wait. 

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