Gluten (and free) flatbread at the same time

A stack of flatbread on a plate

Flatbread by Le Mai on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

We decided to have bread and Greek dippy things for supper and make our own flatbread. The breads started from the same idea:

  • 6 cups of flour
  • 1 3/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of yeast
  • 1 tsp of sugar.

The regular flour one got thrown into thrown into the stand mixer for five minutes. While it was kneading, mix up the gluten-free flour mix (we use the stuff from cost-co). Laugh at the idea that all that flour will only need 2 1/4 cup of liquid total. Add another cup of water and then add enough to bring all the flour together. It should be a thick texture but with no dry flour on the back.

Both rose for an hour. The gluten one got punched down and divided in half, half and half again to make eight balls. They rested for another hour rose for an hour, divided into eight, then let rest for another hour).

Shaping the gluten ones is pretty simple. Flatten them by hand or with a rolling pin. The gluten-free ones need to be rolled out between two greased parchment papers. It flattens nicely. Leave the bottom  paper on to manoeuvre into the hot frying pan, then peel sheet off. You can use and reuse the sheets, just spray with oil if it starts to stick.

With two frying pans going at the same time, cook the flatbread. The gluten ones took about half the time as the gluten-free ones. On Medium-medium low heat (as the crow flies) they took two minutes a side. If the pan was too hot, I turned down to a four. If it didn’t brown, I upped it to five. I also swapped the pans around if one was too hot and the other was too cold. Our burners have very different heat settings.

The gluten-free ones turned out really well. They’d make perfect flatbread, sandwich bread or pizza crust. I kept them in a 250 degree oven while I cooked up the whole batch. The Cloud-9 flour mix works really well for bread.

Surprisingly awesome lemon rice pilaf

2989819114_e7b31ac123_o

Preserved lemons Again by Emma Nagle on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

We eat a lot of rice around here. Most of it is Japanese short grain. I like the clumpiness of it. But last week we made a pilaf I’m still thinking about. It’s a “some” recipe, and things can be subbed in for other things, but if you have the chance, use preserved lemons. It makes all the difference.

The recipe doesn’t veer too far into the unknown at the start. You’ve got chopped carrots, onions and celery that get sweated on the stove. Cut it up into matchsticks and then dice the match sticks, though I suppose if your knife skills lacks, you can totally food processor chop it.

Standard chicken stock liquid, standard bay leaf, nothing new to see here, but then chopped up apricots go in with an extra bit of water. While that’s cooking in your rice cooker with all the veggies added, toast some almonds until you can smell them, chop (or process) them into fairly large chunks and chop up a good half of preserved lemons.*

Serve. The best part is, the rice is so good, you don’t need a particularly good source of protein. All the flavour of the meal will come through with the rice. Sub out chicken stock for veggie stock, or even use water. It doesn’t matter. The veggies make their own broth.

*You can make preserved lemons; cut organic lemons (the organic is important here, because you’re using the peel) three quarters of the way, lengthwise so the lemon opens up like a flower. Pack as much non-table salt (pickling salt, kosher salt etc, basically anything without iodine in it) as you can jam inside it and then pack salt around the layers of lemon as you cram them into a mason jar. Leave them on the counter for a week and then put them in the fridge for a month. Or you can buy a jar of them at a store somewhere, but I’m telling you, home made is truly awesome.

Also, just incidentally, have I mentioned that it’s new book** release week for me?

(**When Matt, the former prostitute long-lost heir to the Fae throne finds out the tradition his Fae prince boyfriend has been protecting him from, he learns why the rabbit has to run. Contains gay romance, a surprisingly useful bear, and no rice pilaf–although hot buttered noodles are a plot point.)

Rabbit is loose!

RabbitFinal_coverlg

Rabbit, book two of the middlehill series (though it should stand alone) came out today. I couldn’t be happier with the final version or the cover art. Isn’t it amazing? That’s Matt, in Kevin’s sweater standing next to his…uh…spoiler.

I really like how this book came out in the end. It’s probably my most rewritten book. As much as I love Matt and Kevin, Sam will always have my heart.

Five months have passed since Kevin saved Matt from working the streets. Matt didn’t think he could be happier having his prince, Kevin, at his side. But nothing is simple in the Fae world Kevin belongs to, and both love and deceit lay tangled webs. Life under the Hill needs a strong hearthstone to power the long lives of the Fae and the magic they use, and Matt couldn’t have guessed how corrupted and dark the source of that power has become. What once had been a beautiful ceremony between the King and those who loved him has become a terrifying ritual of being hunted down like a rabbit and drained for the good of the Kingdom.

Matt had thought his love for Kevin knew no bounds, but he doesn’t know how the hearthstone is refilled, or that in all the years the rabbit had run, there had only ever been one who had survived the night. Matt’s own father had been caught and drained. Only one rabbit had ever survived the night–Kevin himself. Love is easy when life is simple. When things go to hell, love is forged…or burned away.

You can buy it on the Loose Id website or it’s now live on Amazon.

 

 

 

Apple and pecan pancakes

4069958450_c9f67ee39c_o

Pancakes with Caramelised Apples by Edward Kimber on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

We brought home a lot of apples back from BC and I wanted to cook something that would be delicious, filling and have a lot of good protein in it, so we made pancakes. I made them gluten-free but they don’t have to be. Scaling back the gf flour while using the oats and nuts as part of the substitution really worked.

This is more of a… guideline than a recipe. I’m assuming past pancake-making experience. You need:

  • A large apple chopped finely. You could grate it, but diced leaves a better texture.
  • 4 eggs. I used duck eggs, you don’t have to.
  • 1/2 cup oats, put through a blender until it is flour.
  • 1/2 cup of pecans (or any nut) also pulsed in the same blender
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, whole, chopped or pulsed
  • 1 cup of buttermilk (or milk, or milk and 1/4 cup of buttermilk powder)
  • Mix 1 tbs of baking powder with 3/4 cup of flour. We used 1 for 1 substitute gluten-free flour blend.
  • 3 tbs of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Butter and maple syrup for serving, or topping of your choice

If you’re making this gluten-free, you can mix as much as you want to bring it together. You’re not going to develop gluten that isn’t there to begin with. If you are using regular flour, mix only until combined.

Mix together, get out your frying pan or griddle. Cook until the edges are dry and the bubbles in the middle of the pancake. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes.

These are the closest gf pancakes I’ve ever tasted to regular pancakes. With all the nuts, oats and seeds it is quite filling, but I would substitute this recipe for regular pancakes to avoid the white starch crash right after eating them. If apples aren’t in season, I’d definitely smash up three bananas, but that’s really going to increase the sugar so scale the recipe sugar back and cook at a cooler temperature.

 

So, my next book is coming out next month

Loose Id usually books out about 18 months on their schedule, but my stuff always seems to plug up holes in their catalogue due to missed deadlines. So while I sold Rabbit, the sequel to Changeling in August, the edits weren’t really going to start until the fall.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing over the past couple years, it’s that I haven’t been finishing. My style has been doing a lot of rapid change over the past three years so that every time I finish something, instead of editing it I started to rewrite it. I have about five semi-finished books and countless more stories that are 30-70k in that I started until the flash of a well-turned story heel caught my attention and had me following it.

But I’m going to be continuing the Middlehill series, finishing the Tempest trilogy, hopefully getting the vampire series TNG’ed and then I have Shark Punching that just needs a few more tweaks. Plus I’ve been getting pretty regular editing jobs this whole time on top of my English as a Second Language instructor and all the painting I’ve been doing. I’m really busy these days, but in a good way.

Making a Post Answering a Reddit Writing Question #1: How do I write more?

I’ve been getting tired of writing Reddit responses of late. I type what I want to type in the little box, think about how users will respond, then delete it. I should be responding here. So buckle up, this is MaPAaRWQ #1: How do I write more.

The question was how the original poster can increase their stamina. They could only write for 1000-1500 words and then hit the wall. But it’s the wrong question. He’s already doing what I think is the ideal writing session, but then if you want to be prolific, have multiple sessions.

A scene is the smallest unit of story. In that one setting, they should be thinking about writing a single short story in which something changes in the plot. There could be longer scenes or shorter scenes of course, but the length of the scene should be a deliberate choice and not just where the author stopped writing.

One of the biggest problems I see in the books I critique (and to be honest, most of my problems are my biggest problems. I have a lot of biggest problems, but regardless…) is the climax of the scene arrives but instead of quitting there and going to the next scene, the author continues, filling the following pages with details about matters that are not important. Dining and sleeping and parts of the story in which nothing happens but instead of writing a few sentences bridging the time between the last scene and the new scene, the scene goes on and on.

I found when I sat down for four hours, I wrote a 4000-word scene with one high climatic moment. When I sat down for three or four sessions on a good writing day, I managed 3-4 scenes, all with their own climatic moments. There are times when that long heavy scene works for the story, but if it’s stuffed with bits that just doesn’t matter, it slows the entire pace to a crawl. Scrivener is great for this. When you get to the point you’re trying to make in the notes, you stop the scene and move on.

After the 45 minutes of writing, it’s best to get up, stretch, and do some puttering around as you think of the ramifications of how what just went down will affect the rest of the story. No matter how sure I am of what exactly I’m going to write when I’m really in the zone the story goes 10% further than I planned. And that new, spontaneous bit may change everything. It may make a throwaway line in chapter three the most important line in the book. If you don’t give the bit in your brain that puts two and two together and gets a llama time to ruminate on what just happened, the story has to work extra hard to get that spark that will keep you going in the rewrites and will grab the reader by the throat in its finished state.

Besides, getting up and stretching is something you should be doing anyways. Like everything else, there’s an app for that.

 

Your favorite coffee pudding

A cup of coffee with fancy latte art swirls in the foam

A Warm Mug by Sea Turtle on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

Coffee shops are wonderful places to get hot, steamed milk products. If there’s one thing a lot of desserts required, it’s hot steamed milk products.

Order your favourite coffee drink. Ask for it as a breve, which means with cream. It should be around 18% milk fat. Those desserts that make pudding often ask for as much milk as cream and 18% is pretty close to half way between whole milk and heavy cream. 10% would work. If any coffee shop makes it in whipping cream, ask them to cut it with milk.

Ask for it double sweet and no foam. For 12 ounces, use 2 yolks, 16 ounce three yolks and 20 ounce, use four yolks. Separate your yolks and beat them up. Put your egg whites in the fridge and tell yourself you’re going to make something out of them. Tell yourself they’re even better if you let them sit around for a few days and then come to terms with the fact that you’re just going to throw them out in a week.

Add the hopefully still hot milk in a slow stream while you’re beating your yolks the whole time Ask your wife to mix up a tablespoon or so of cornstarch in a quarter cup of milk and make a note that 2 – 2 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch would have made a thicker pudding for the next time.

Strain your eggy mixture into a pot that you telepathically knew you were supposed to put on the stove as you got back from the coffee shop. Turn it to 2, realize you don’t have all day, and turn it up to four and a half. Do not stop stirring the bottom. Add vanilla in whatever form you have it in. Strain the milk through the strainer you strained your egg through if someone adds the cornstarch to the liquid instead of the other way around, but don’t name names. At this point, you can throw in a handful (read: 1/2 a cup) of chocolate chips if the flavour of your coffee works with it. Don’t forget about white chocolate chips. White chocolate and pumpkin are amazing together.

Stir until it coats the back of a spoon and you can draw a line over the back of it with your kryptonite fingers. Pour into the bowl. If you kept stirring the bottom, it should all come away. If your technique leaves something to be desired, pour what will pour from the pot and leave the burned stuff stuck to the bottom. You can stir in a pat of butter at this point. I did for the first time ever and since it was salted butter, it was amazing. If you don’t add butter or if the butter you add isn’t salted, go back in time and add a pinch of salt to the strained eggs. But who literally cooks and reads at the same time?

Cover with plastic wrap on the surface of the skin if you don’t want a skin to form. The skin isn’t terrible, it’s just chewier. If you want chewier pudding, leave it off. Put it in the fridge and let it set up.

 

Best burger techniques

Picture of a plated, charbroilled burger with the bun top askew, topped with parsley

Burger by Ian Turk on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

This is a recipe that calls for Ron Swanson’s recipe for hamburger, cooked to Canadian squeamishness about not wanting to eat rare ground meat. It calls for beef and salt. When it comes to toppings, I strongly suggest mayo, good mustard and grilled sweet onions only.

Buy lean meat, not extra lean. It should be 80/20 meat to fat. One pound of meat should make three good sized patties, 5-6 ounces each. Don’t overwork the meat. Just separate the beef, form it into loose patties with a slight dimple in the middle and salt both sides with kosher salt. When I used to make burgers before, they would always fall apart when I cooked just beef burgers, so there’s a couple tricks to keep them together. The first is after you’ve loosely formed them and salted them, put them back in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. This lets the meat glue inherent in the protein a chance to knit the fibres together. Don’t cook them on the BBQ grill. If your BBQ has a side element, cook them in a  cast iron frying pan. Get the oven/bbq proper up to 350 degrees while you’re preheating your pan to medium high.

Put your burgers in a hot pan. Without oil on the bottom, you should be able to lick your finger and have the spit boil off before you burn yourself. Oil will cook your finger instead, so don’t do that. If you’re not cooking for family, a couple drops on the pan should dance and boil off.

Put the burgers down and set your timer for five minutes. Flip and add the tiniest sliver of butter on top if you’re not worried about boiling in the milk of the mother. Cook for another five minutes and put the pan into the oven/bbq for 5-10 minutes, or until an internal temp of 155-160 is reached.

Let burgers rest while toasting your bun.

More Middle Muddle (aka What’s this? A writing post?)

You would think this was a cooking channel for how little writing I’ve been doing, but I actually finished a major rewrite to a book that I’m sending off to Loose Id and I have writerly thoughts again.

In one of my subreddits I like, middles were discussed. It’s impossible to talk about everything, but I think he missed a major point. Middles fail not because the character isn’t allowed to fail, though that is a common beginner’s mistake. I think in all the books I’ve critiqued, middles fail far more often because the character arrives into the world with the plot having already happened, and all that changes from the beginning to the end is their completed knowledge of the problem.

This leads to the walking and talking plot, where all the characters do is walk (fly, swim, drive) from point to point, talking to people who have just survived the thing they’re chasing, and then go off in that direction. There may be a couple scenes where the character lands in the thick of it and some scenes where the antagonist shows up and stops them, temporarily from getting the info, but for the most part it’s walking and talking.

And if you ask the writer, they’ll tell you the book is about what the character’s talk about not what actually is happening on the page. And for some writers, that can really work. Illegal Alien by Robert J. Sawyer is predominately about two “people” talking (until the car chase scene). But what Rob can pull off in the middle of his stellar career is at a completely different plane than what most people starting out can pull off. It doesn’t prove it can be done, it sets the bar as to what has to happen for someone else to do the same.

Show don’t tell is one of those rules that writers somehow know or understand early on. Shifting what is being told from the author’s voice to dialogue doesn’t fundamentally change the fact that the information is being told to the reader. Thinking about the story as the first half establishing the plot as the characters hard-win or have an impact on every bit of knowledge that they would have just been told and the second half as tying up all the loose strings of the first half.

In debate, there’s a point at which you are not allowed to introduce any new information. I think book endings are basically the same thing. I say basically because the end is where you introduce the strings that will tie the sequel together to the first book, but for the most part, everything in the second half of the story should be introduced, no matter how fleetingly, in the first half. The reader shouldn’t have to depend on the author to tell them how bad the consequences are going to be. By the time the character and the reader get to the second half things-fall-apart, at least the reader should know why everything is terrible.

Middles are usually the worst part to any book, but they don’t have to be. Your character should be introduced to the plot at a point in which they think that they can change the outcome. If the entire plot is out of the story in the first chapter, a sane character will look at the enormous problem and think this is the job for gods and kings. The plot could be just as huge, but by the time the reader realizes that, they should be at a position where they can’t quit, even if they want to. Any rule can be broken, but it is hard enough to show a story as it is happening on the page in an engaging fashion. Trying to tell a story that has already happened and the only change the character has is how much they know about it is multiple times harder.

I used to be a firm believer that what happened in the story has happened and is immutable. Even if the book isn’t written yet, I can’t change the story as it occurred. And that’s utter nonsense. Timelines can be condensed. Deadlines can be given. Anything that is important to the story should happen on the page. And if you look at the middle with that in mind, getting everything that has to happen in within the 100k deadline is far more work than just filling up the pages between the pre-planned beginning and end.

Best Steak. Ever

It’s been a while since we got the immersion cooker, and all we’ve done with it to this point was cook onsen eggs. But before school quit for the year we went out to a local farm that sells organic beef from their small herd. We got two kansas steaks (Like NY strips, but with the bone still in them). We finally had time to cook them. Since Elisabeth likes her medium well and I like mine barely warm and the beef can sit in the hot water for hours before it mattering, I cooked hers at 66 degrees for an hour before lowering the temperature and cooking mine at 49 for the same, with Elisabeth’s still in the pot. Then I grilled them in a screaming hot cast iron pan to give them a crust. The bone and the fat meant a lot of trimming, but what was left was melt in the mouth delicious as well as extra flavourful for having cooked with the bone in.