Sunday, January 10, 2016

Gluten Free Serbian Kolac

When my friend Gigi was coming over to celebrate Serbian Christmas with us, I wanted to develop a gluten-free version of my treasured family recipe for Božićni kolač (pronounced bo-zheech-nee KO-lach) so that I could share this delicious tradition with her. It took several iterations, and I finally got something that comes close, very close. I hope you'll enjoy this moist, chewy, mildly sweet creation.

The big discovery was including whey protein. I found a couple of sites, including Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, that recommended whey protein isolate, which is really pricey. Instead, I ordered a container of my favorite whey concentrate brand, Jarrow unflavored whey protein. It has a little more non-protein content than whey protein isolate, but it still magically transformed my loaves into something much, much more like regular wheat bread. The crust, crumb, and rise are all better. The stretchy, tough characteristic of wheat gluten is the missing link that whey protein provides.

Another innovation here is the use of corn flour. Corn flour is absolutely not traditional in any holiday kolach recipe I can imagine. But in this recipe, it adds a robust quality to the flavor and texture of this brioche-like bread that was otherwise missing from these rice-flour based loaves.

This recipe is for the mini-loaf that I made. I image that you can multiply it as desired for a bigger round of kolac (kolach) as you desire. However, I haven't tried it. If you do, please let me know your results.

I used Namaste brand all-purpose gluten-free flour mix. I have no idea if this recipe will work with other mixes. I haven't done much gluten-free baking.

I can vouch for the success of the metric weight measures. I provide here cup equivalents of the measures, but such equivalents are notoriously unreliable, so I can't vouch for them.

From Gluten-Free on a Shoestring's book Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread, I also learned that it's safe to heat your yeast-liquid solution much higher than everyone else tells you. Nicole, the author/blogger at that site, reports that the thermal death of  yeast occurs at 140º F. Warming milk or water closer to this temperature is far more effective than the tepid 100º to 110º F that is recommended practically everywhere else.

If you use salted butter, use less salt.

Note that you want corn flour and not corn meal.

1/2 cup whole milk, warmed to 120º F to 135º F
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbs. sugar
1 egg, separated
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
2 g (1/4 tsp.) salt
80 g (1/2 cup + 2 Tbs.) Namaste brand all-purpose gluten-free baking mix
15 g ((1/4 cup + 1 tsp.) Jarrow unflavored whey concentrate
20 g (3 Tbs.) Bob's Red Mill gluten-free corn flour

Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the warm milk. Add the sugar. Stir together until completely dissolved. Place the mixture someplace warm for about 15 minutes for the yeast to activate. I turn on my oven to its lowest temperature and place the mixture inside. I turn off the oven when it reaches temperature, and let the inner warmth just coast.

Stir together the gluten-free baking mix, whey powder, corn flour and salt.

Add the dry mix to the yeast-sugar-milk mix.

Add the egg yolk and stir the mixture vigorously. You'll have a silky, stretchy, soft mass.

Reserve a teaspoon or so of the egg white for brushing the top of the loaf later. Place it in a teacup or similar vessel.

Beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks. Do not overbeat, or it will break down into liquid and won't form bubbles anymore. Stir the beaten white into the dough. You'll have a softer, still silky and stretchy mass.

Grease a small loaf pan. Mine is a stoneware pan with a capacity of 1 1/2 cups.

Pour the batter into the pan. Let rise an hour or so in a warm location. I use the inside of the oven, set to 150º F and turned off to coast at warmth, as before.

When the bread is nicely risen, remove it from the oven (if it's in there) and turn the oven to 400º F.

Brush the top of the dough all over with the reserved egg white. This will bake into a beautiful gloss.

Make an aluminum foil tent for the bread pan that leaves lots of room for it to rise more. You want to protect the top from over-browning, create a little steam chamber for nice baking, and also be sure that the rising dough doesn't stick to the inside of the foil. Cover the pan with the tent.

Place the loaf pan in the 400º F oven. Immediately turn the temperature down to 350º F.

Bake 1 hour. Remove and check with a toothpick. When it's done, it'll make a hollow sound when you thump it, and a toothpick will come out mostly clean but with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

Slice and enjoy! Prijatno!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Who can talk?

"Animals: they don't talk. Bugs: they don't talk. Insects: they don't talk," Ulysses pronounced between spoonfuls of blueberry yogurt.

"What about fish?" I asked.

"Oh," he answered sternly. "Fish are animals. So I didn't have to say that."

"What about birds? They're animals, I guess," I said, thinking I'd be chastised again for even mentioning them.

"Birds? They can still sing. And whales sing low."

"Yes, that's true."

"Killer whales are evil whales," he added.

A few moments later: "Sometimes aliens come to earth. And dinosaurs" -- he raised his arms above his head -- "They're these gigankik animals."

"Do they talk?"

"Mm-mm,"he responded in the negative.

"What about aliens?"

"Yes. They're animals from out of space. But they can talk. They talk like they're broken. They talk like breakdancers. There are lots of different aliens. Aliens can be good or evil. Aliens can have a plasma gun, only. An alien's favorite rocket ship is a flying saucer. Aliens can be brave."

"When they talk, what do they say?"

"I don't know. Aliens are only in out of space."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

War on Wisconsin

When I brought Ulysses home from the bus stop after school today, Donald was watching the Ed Show. The topic was the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill: how it would devastates not just Wisconsin workers, but many Wisconsin institutions as well -- the University, the primary schools and more.

The caption along the bottom of the screen read "War on Wisconsin," with an outline of the map of the state.

"War on Wisconsin," Ulysses read. "War on Wisconsin! Hey! That says 'War on Wisconsin!'"

We haven't been talking to him about what's going on with the protests, the attack on teachers' jobs, the attack on unions, the protests at the Capitol and throughout the state. When school was out for a week due to the teach-outs, he decided it was another "Winter break."

Now he looked at the screen, concerned.

"War on Wisconsin," he repeated. "The good guys gotta save Wisconsin."

"That's right," we said.

"They've gotta fight to save the Capitol!"

Maybe I should take him down to the demonstrations after all. I think he would understand better than I thought.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wisconsin demonstration to protect workers' rights

I marched with the James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation and other UUs in this part of Wisconsin as part of what might be the largest demonstration in Wisconsin history.

Please click on the picture above for a better view of the photos and videos in this slideshow, and to read the full captions.

Estimates are 100,000 outdoors and another 4000 inside the Capitol building.

It was a strange combination: such a peaceful environment, yet so much anger being expressed. Good feelings, yet with an intensely somber, sober purpose.

The newly elected governor of the state has set to the task of dismantling the middle class in Wisconsin. The tactic is to pit people against one another. Divide and conquer. Yet a broad range of people come together in this common purpose.