Zaragoza Sin Gluten

IMG_1995 (2)

in front of Zaragoza’s Cathedral and Caesar Augustus Museum

View from the Basilica del Pilar’s tower; afternoon light inside

I knew when I decided to move to Spain that it wouldn’t all be sunshine and rainbows and jamón. I also knew due to my prior experience dealing with Spaniards (who are truly lovely but do not understand the meaning of “urgent” or “quickly”) that obtaining legal documentation to live here wouldn’t be a walk in the Parc [Guell]. But being mentally prepared for a sticky, not to mention infuriating, situation and actually living through it are two completely different things. I have started literally pulling my hairs out one by one and it’s gotten to the point that my boyfriend has to sit next to me and grab my hands when we’re watching tv or reading just so I won’t go bald.

I have absolutely nothing to complain about though because I am enduring this immigration-war-of-attrition (which is how I think of the situation between me and the Spanish Consulate in Washington DC at this point) from one of the most beautiful cities in the world – Barcelona.

IMG_2134 (2)

Pablo Serrano/Modern Art Museum

Even so, there comes a time when a girl just has to get out of town for the sake of her sanity, her boyfriend’s sanity, and her remaining hairs. This thinking led my boyfriend and I to plan two short weekend trips – one to Zaragoza, Spain and one to Rome, Italy. Our trip to Rome was scheduled for this weekend but given the current global situation – terrorist threats and worldwide travel warnings – we decided we didn’t want to travel to such a popular international city if we could go another time. Our trip to Zaragoza however was a few weeks ago and with all the stress, sadness, fear, and hatred in the world right now I figured this would be a good time to share some beautiful photos and peaceful thoughts from our one-night getaway to Zaragoza. (And also because I have lots of free time right now since I don’t have to pack for Rome and it’s the Spanish Consulate’s turn to make a move regarding my visa.)

IMG_2128 (2)

Details from inside Zaragoza’s Alfajeria Palace

We chose Zaragoza for a few simple reasons: Neither my boyfriend nor I had ever been there, the bus tickets were incredibly cheap, and the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar is there and it is one of Spain’s most beautiful churches, possibly even one of its most beautiful buildings.

Zaragoza is in the province of Aragón in the Northeastern part of Spain, and as my boyfriend was quick to point out, the people there have “weird accents” compared to Catalunya (honestly it’s all Spanish to me). Zaragoza is not considered a big tourist destination and apart from the attraction of the basilica I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a particularly beautiful, but it was absolutely worth the visit. Like all cities it has its pros and cons and as we discovered in a fascinating (for me) exhibit at the modern art museum, the local government, city planners, and architects have done an incredible amount of work in the past decade to give the city a face lift and improve quality of life for its citizens. The exhibit was about the changing city fabric over time, but focused heavily on improvements made for the International Expo of 2008 held there. Again, Zaragoza is no Granada or Bilbao (two cities in Spain I adore), but this exhibition gave me a new appreciation for the city as we walked the streets.

Architecture (and weather!) mash-up

We also got incredibly lucky with the food there – for a city that lives on tapas and everything breaded, fried, or simply placed on top of bread, I ate some great gluten-free dishes. One of Spain’s easiest and oldest dishes is huevos rotos, or broken eggs, most commonly seen in the Canary Islands, but also enjoyed in different regions around Spain (I have not seen this in Catalunya as of yet). Potatoes are pan fried with jamón or mushrooms and at the last minute two sunny-side up eggs are broken over the top and served. In tapas bars with delicious and cheap wines, this plate was a life/night saver for me, if you know what I mean.

IMG_2062 (2)

We were also drawn to a restaurant that displayed its meat/carcasses in glass freezers at the entrance of the restaurant. While it may sound unappetizing or even morbid to some, my boyfriend and I loved the industrial feel and cool factor this provided. The waiter was also incredibly knowledgeable about celiac disease and informed me that almost anything I wanted could be prepared on a separate grill. And then he offered me “celiac bread” (which is what they call gluten-free bread here because no Spaniards other than the celiacs want gluten-free bread).

*Side note: The bread most restaurants serve when they say “celiac bread” is from a company called Airos. It comes in individual, oven-safe packets that include a list of ingredients and are then heated up. On several occasions my boyfriend has told me this oven-warmed Airos bread is better than what he is given and I must say I agree. While in general fresh bread in Spain is amazing, Airos can give more than a few bakeries a run for their money. It can also be found in local supermarkets (not the tiny mercados or “quick&easy” grocery stores) around Spain – for me this means my favorite Carrefour.

So it was here at La Lobera de Martín that we enjoyed huevos rotos with jamón yet again, only this time the waiter breaking the yolks open right in front of us. Everyone took great care of me and I felt very safe eating at la Lobera. Maybe even a little too safe – as I tried to take a bite of my boyfriend’s Argentinian cut beef (from the grill, so I assumed “it’s safe! YAY!”) our waiter happened to be walking by and said “stop! We did not cook that special for you!” Having been duly chastened, I returned to my own plate and mopped up every bit with my celiac bread.

Handsome man and our meal at La Lobera 

Another hidden gem for the gluten-free among us was 3 Lunas Taberna, which we chose for our first meal in Zaragoza mainly because there were empty tables and we were dying to sit down. Despite the lack of clientele, this restaurant served great arroz negro (literally “black rice” colored with squid ink) and simple yet delicious Spanish dishes. The staff here also took great care in preparing for me and making sure it was “okay” if they did my potatoes different from my boyfriends because they didn’t want to chance any cross-contamination. Oh, and we got two mini oven-warmed “celiac” baguettes for free since I couldn’t eat the “normal” bread that came with the €11 menú del dia.

IMG_2149

Zaragoza from above in 2008

All in all, we had a really nice gluten-free (and cold!) weekend. I think we both agreed that the best part was paying €3 to go up in one of the basilica’s towers… The view from the top was absolutely breath-taking (both figuratively and literally because I was panting a little due to my fear of heights). Our tapas crawl sprawled through the old town but it was centered around Calle Libertad, which is packed with Zaragozanos any given weekend. ¡Buen provecho!

Advertisements

Gluten-Free Everything Bagels and “the List”

IMG_0141 (3)

Hello again, everyone!  I have been meaning to/wanting to write this post for months now, but after my fourth and most successful bagel-making attempt yet I figured I really should share my recipes and tips on how to make an incredible gluten-free bagel. So after months of work, travel, stress, college-graduating, job-hunting, teacher certification courses, etc. it’s finally time to get back to my blog and writing about one of the things I love most in the world – baking.

This is a fitting post for my reentry to the blogging world because one of the other things I love the most is bagels. Everything bagels, to be more exact. Especially if they’re from Bruegger’s Bagels and especially if they are toasted with butter, or filled with cheese, sausage and egg… Anyway, until four months ago when I braved the challenges of gluten-free bread baking (also known as chem lab for celiacs) I hadn’t had a bagel of any kind in over 14 months. Yes, I counted. And I think we can all agree that Glutino and Udi’s bagels, while edible if toasted and generously doused with butter, are not the same thing as fresh, warm bagels.

Some of you may not be as excited by bagels as I am, but if you can’t eat gluten I am sure you understand the sentiment and that you, too, have your own mental list of gluten-filled foods you’re going to eat the day second a cure for celiac disease is announced. My personal list goes like this: Chocolate croissants, toasted everything bagels, my mother’s scones, Walker’s shortbread, a crusty French baguette, a hot dog, brick oven pizza, cheese toast on real bread, pan con tomate, soft pretzels, garlic knots, fried chicken and waffles, and so on an so forth. You get the idea. It has also (tragically) occurred to me that a cure may not be discovered in my lifetime, so in lieu of a cure, I will also eat the contents of this list under the following conditions: if there is a zombie apocalypse, I am over 80 years old, I am diagnosed with a terminal illness, or if I am accidentally locked inside a French bakery for any amount of time. Needless to say, I’ve thought this subject over very carefully and more than I would care to admit.

IMG_0118 (3)

Now thanks to one of my favorite gluten-free cookbooks, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread: (Biscuits, Bagels, Buns, and More) by Nicole Hunn, I don’t have to wait until the end of days to grab a bagel – and that, for me, makes this book worth its weight in gold. (If you don’t have gold bars lying around, it’s also about $15 on amazon.com.) While the bagel recipe is time consuming, it is technically easy and very well explained by the author. The trickiest part is rounding up the strange ingredients needed to make a gluten-free bread flour, a list of which is also provided and thoroughly explained by the author. Everything you need can be found in a local health foods store or in amazon’s grocery section, and while it might seem like a hassle, chances are if you’ve baked even one thing without gluten you’re already prepared for this. And trust me when I say you won’t regret the extra effort. There is nothing quite like making your own bread and if you successfully navigate gluten-free yeast-based breads you’ll be smiling for a week.

Without further ado, here is the recipe you’ve all been waiting for!

Basic Bread Flour Recipe (makes 1 cup, so you will need to do some multiplication here)

  • 100 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour (the author includes her own recipe for this and says it is based on BetterBatter.org’s recipe, so feel free to use that as well)
  • 25 grams unflavored whey protein isolate (NOT the vanilla smoothie protein!)
  • 15 grams Expandex modified tapioca starch

BAGELS

Starter:

  • 1 1/4 c. gluten-free read flour
  • 1 tsp. instant yeast (rapid rise)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 c. warm water (95 – 100 degrees)

Dough:

  • 2 cups gluten-free flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2/3 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • Starter
  • Molasses bath for boiling bagels = 6 cups water, 1 Tbsp. molasses, 1 tsp. salt
  • Egg wash = 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
  • Everything topping = Mix poppy seeds, sesame seeds, kosher salt, and dried minced onion to desired proportions

Directions:

  1. Start with the starter! Combine all starter ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Cover (I use a kitchen towel) and let sit in dry, warm spot until doubled – roughly 40 minutes. It will be thick and formless, don’t worry!
  2. After the starter has finished rising, place flour and yeast (from dough list of ingredients) in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. Ass salt and whisk again. Add the starter to the bowl and mix on low speed with dough hook attachment to combine all the ingredients.
  3. HERE is where I had my troubles and got a really dense, chewy dough the first two times. I went straight to medium speed like the author describes once all the ingredients were well-combined, but in my stand mixer this meant all the dough became a rock attached to the dough hook. So I would suggest two things. First, grease the dough hook! This is a very sticky dough that is hard to work with. Next, beat on medium-low speed for 6 or 7 minutes rather than zooming up to medium strength.
  4. Lightly grease a large bowl or proofing bucket and do the same with a sheet of plastic wrap. Using a greased silicone spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared bowl and cover, greased side down, with the plastic wrap. Let sit at least 12 hours in the refrigerator or up to 5 days.
  5. Time to bake your bagels! Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with oil. Next, on a clean surface, roll out your dough and knead lightly. Separate into 6 parts and shape into a bagel. There are two ways to do this. The first is to make a snake and connect the ends. My preferred method is to make a ball on the counter and stick a floured thumb through the center to make a large hole.
  6. Cover the bagels on the prepared pan with plastic wrap and let stand another hour until doubled in size. I usually start the oven so the warmth helps the bagels rise. Your oven should be at 325 degrees.
  7. After the bagels have risen, boil the water, molasses and salt and drop one or two bagels in at a time, boiling for less than a minute on each side and then returning to the pan.
  8. Next lightly coat each bagel with the egg wash and topping of your choice. For me, it’s obviously going to be the everything blend! Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown, let cool slightly, and enjoy!

*These bagels freeze well, so if you can’t eat 6 in 3 days like me, they’re great defrosted and toasted.

So that’s how you make a gluten-free bagel! Time intensive maybe, but oh so good. This should tide us all over until we’re cured forever, but in the meantime, you can find me drooling over my cookbooks, in front of bakery storefronts, watching Food Network, and oogling food photography on Instagram.IMG_0159 (2).