Baking with Carmie

I have been reminded during this holiday season when the kitchen is running on overdrive and the coconut flour is flying out the door faster than I can bring it in, to remember and be anchored by my roots. Remember the connection I have to my work, why my work has meaning, and why I am the person to bring it to the world. As I reflect, I think all my baking started with Carmie.

I may have written about her before as she is the one who taught me to bake.  She is my grandmother. I never would have actually called her Carmie, never to her face and never behind her back.  She was grandma… or more likely gramma. Carmie is what Pop called her and what her friends called her.

Carolyn Ruth Nagel Dailey was the best baker I knew.  She knew everything. How much a pinch was. How to brown butter. How to tell when things were done baking.  She and I would pick out recipes of items we wanted to try and then host tea parties with my friends and she would make all the food, with her little helper. She loved coconut, and would laugh when I told her repeatedly that it was worse than eating paper. (I have since changed my mind.) She made me viennese coffee balls when I learned to love coffee and and Pop and I would eat them all ourselves, since we were the only ones that liked coffee.

I only have a few of her favorite recipes these days, but she did give me her Joy of Cooking cookbook from the 1950s that I love to look through. Things were explained so differently back then and I feel closer to her when I read it.  But most of her recipes were snipped from magazines. My mom, my sister and I inherited her love of magazines. She would ALWAYS have a few stacks of the latest country magazines on her coffee table.  They were full of not only recipes, but gardening tips, country home decorating, and the best places to by Amish goods (all things she loved).

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I have been thinking about Carmie a lot recently. My Pop and last living grandparent passed away on November 15th with me by his side.  Pop was definitely overshadowed by grandma.  I come from a line of strong women and Carmie was strong. I felt very early on after her death that Pop was a new man.  He never stopped talking about her and how he loved her and couldn’t wait to meet her again in heaven, but for the first time in my life he was talking.  About everything. I remember picking him up from the airport after Christmas in Iowa the year grandma died and he talked non-stop the whole 45 minute ride back to his house.  Once we dropped him off, I looked over at Nick and asked him, “Who was that man and what did he do with Pop?” But I loved finally getting to know Pop these last two years.

The one thing I could never understand about Pop was his dislike of chocolate.  If there was one thing I definitely inherited from my father, it was the necessity of having chocolate on any item claiming to impersonate a dessert. And while Carmie was alive, Pop never set foot in the kitchen, at her request, except maybe to make himself some coffee or deliver meat from the grill. But after she passed, Pop and I found ourselves comparing recipes for crockpot meals and side dishes. He was even baking his favorites, zucchini bread and  bread pudding.

For better or worse, my family has often defined our time together with food.  It has shaped who I am (at one point it shaped my waistline.) The love and care my grandmother put into food was always evident. My mother is the same way when she entertains.  I try to be that way as well. When I think about this holiday and how much time I have and will spend in the kitchen baking for my family and for my customers… I am happy now to think about the love I put into what I make and how desperately I want you all to feel the love when you eat my food. I also want to educate about food and how it can be healing (and not shape your waistline).  That is the next phase of where I want to take my passion and Baked True North as a company.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my family, what they have taught me, and the love they have given.  I am also thankful for my customers and how you all have allowed me to be a part of your special times.  I pray your homes are filled with healthy food and love this holiday season!

As always… Have a cookie,

Lauren

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The Flour Series: Buckwheat Flour

In the second installment to the Flour Series on different gluten-free flours, we are going to look into Buckwheat!

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What is it?

So… Buckwheat is a plant with grain-like seeds, sometimes referred to as buckwheat groats. It is not related to wheat, which is in the grass family, but is actually in the seed family and closely related to rhubarb! (I thought buckwheat had gluten for a long time because I assumed it was similar to wheat, but I was wrong!)

Buckwheat has been heralded, like many other foods recently, as a Superfood. I thought I had discussed previously about the dangers of Superfood labeling, because it can cause us to be less balanced in our struggle to eat the most “Superfoods” possible… but now I can’t find any reference to the topic on my blog and I decided to save you from my rants for now.

But why is it considered a Superfood by some? The major characteristic claims include ranking lower on the glycemic index than rice or corn, which means it will be less likely to cause your blood sugar to spike. Buckwheat and buckwheat flour contain high sources of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  They are pretty high in protein and fiber, as well as Vitamin B (for energy).

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What do you do with it?

A lot of websites I looked at had recipes combining buckwheat flour with other flours like a gluten-free all-purpose flour.  I personally do not think that is necessary.  I have been successful in cookie recipes using the flour as a one for one replacement for another nutty flour like almond flour (which I use often). So you can either replace 20% of your flour with a coconut flour or all-purpose flour or use it as a stand alone flour.

A Huffington Post article titled “20 Buckwheat Recipes You Never Even Knew You Wanted” has recipes including muffins, waffles, crepes, cakes, crackers, pitas, biscuits, pancakes, cookies, bread and more!

I only tried one recipe, from Cooking a la Mel, for buckwheat chocolate chip cookies and then I made my own recipe up and pinned them against each other in my own personal bake-off of sorts. 0729171613

As you can see the buckwheat flour gives the cookies a darker speckled look than typical flours may, almost mimicking cocoa.

Mel’s recipe (although half the size) is on the left and my recipe is on the right. Both contained the same amount of batter although mine spread out like a cookie more.  I thought mine looked better, but I will say Mel’s were pretty moist because they didn’t spread and dry out. I feel like I can’t give her the victory on my own blog, but I think I will.  Nicely done, Mel.

What does BTN do with it?

My mocha protein cookies actually utilize both coffee flour and buckwheat flour… but other than that I do nothing with buckwheat at this point. I had fun experimenting this weekend, but that’s where I’ll stay for now. Check out some more photos below, including one from the crawfish boil where I brought both sets of cookies. I’ll try to get a good buckwheat flour cookie recipe of my own out in the next few weeks for everyone to have fun trying!

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Have a cookie!

Lauren

The Flour Series: Coffee Flour

First up on The Flour Series is…. Coffee Flour!

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What is it?

Coffee Flour is a new gluten-free flour option making its way into mainstream grocery stores as we speak.

As the Trader Joe’s package above states, coffee flour is made from dried and then ground coffee cherry husks and skins. One benefit of this is that this part of the coffee plant is usually thrown away and this new use is allowing the coffee industry to produce less waste, #wasteless!

Although I assumed the flour would have that fantastic caffeine-inducing smell to it by which coffee reels me in, it does not. The best way to describe the taste of this flour is somewhere between date and raisin. Not what you would expect.

The caffeine content is definitely present but probably won’t give you as much of a kick as you hoped. Claims are that it has about 60mg of caffeine per tablespoon, which sounds like a lot, but most recipes have you replacing less than a quarter cup of flour with coffee flour (or 10-15% substitution) because of the strong flavor. So spread that 240mg of caffeine over an entire pan of brownies and (unless your intent is to eat the entire pan) you are getting a pretty minimal amount.

Benefits of coffee flour include 3x more iron than spinach, 5x more fiber than whole grain wheat flour, 38% more antioxidants than pomegranate, 2x more potassium than bananas, 3x more protein than kale and 84% less fat than coconut flour.       Dude.

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One thing to be aware of is that none of the coffee flours I have seen claim to be organic. Coffee is one of the most chemically-treated crops in the world. So regardless of whether you are a strict organic consumer or not, this is a potential concern and you might not want to add this to every dish your making until more research is available.

What do you do with it?

Because of the harsh, somewhat bitter taste of the flour, most recipes you find on-line are for brownies or something with a lot of chcolate and sugar to help balance the flavor. Check out the photo above and see the coffee flour package has a brownie recipe on the back.

For the sheer irony of it, I am looking for a good coffee cake recipe to try using the coffee flour. Epicurious.com has some good options I’m considering since I don’t have a tried and true coffee cake recipe of my own yet.

Some resources say you can add this flour to other things like smoothies and sauces, but I haven’t tested that personally.

What does BTN do with it?

Well… I’ve tried a number of recipes, some better than others. Apparently the first round of coffee flour cookies I tried only got published in my Instastories on Instagram… Meaning those photos are gone from posterity. But my initial reaction was that they were very date-y and bitter and I did not want to double up the sugar to make then taste like a cookie.

So my next experiment was using the flour to make a morning bar, something you would expect to be more earthy, like trail mix. I did a number of trials trying to get a good bar that people would like… And still the reaction I got from what I consider my “mainstream feedback” was that they were still too earthy.

With that said, Nick and I really enjoyed them based on our palate. And even though I won’t be adding them to my order forms, look for a follow up post with the recipe coming soon!

One option I did really like was the Mocha Protein Cookies! The addition of a stevia-sweetened protein powder actually made the cookie quite delicious! I will be adding that to my offerings this month! It is packed with protein,  low on sugar, includes all the coffee flour benefits, and pretty good for a morning snack!

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I hope this helps to answer your questions and assumptions on coffee flour! I had a blast testing it this last month and I’ll keep you all in the loop as I continue to understand it’s benefits.

Have a cookie,

Lauren

Chocolate Pistachio Health Cake

Yesterday was my beloved’s 29th birthday… and being the healthy guy he is I kinda assumed he didn’t want a birthday cake.  He had put up with my cake box experimentation for dad’s birthday and I thought that was enough.  But on a walk the night before his birthday he revealed that there were TWO desserts he had been craving if he could have anything on his birthday… chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and… that Eat n’Park pistachio pudding, er fluff, er whatever it is! He asked me if I could make a healthy version of either of those.

I have nothing against Jello specifically and although I, myself, am not a pistachio fluff type of person, can appreciate that it’s a familiar yum to him. I do not, however, have any idea how to make a healthy version of it that would taste remotely similar.  It’s likely the fake pistachio taste that he loves… which I don’t know how to replicate. So I decided to try a healthy cake version and maybe give it a pistachio spin and try to kill 2 birds… without actually killing any birds, if you catch my drift.

The base of my cake recipe was from my dear friend Meredith who we interviewed last week on Gluten Free-way. Her recipe is actually a Carrot Spice Cake recipe. We had made it before and Nick had raved about how cake like it tasted for having so little flour and so many eggs!

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So in order to turn this cake from carrot spice to chocolate, I simply swapped in 3-4 cups of zucchini for the carrots and 3/4 cup cocoa for the spices.  It baked up basically the same and had a nice light feel to it from the eggs.

The special ingredients behind the pistachio creme was mascarpone cheese. The idea for the filling came from the idea of the pistachio fluffy stuff and although it wasn’t as strong flavored… it was in the right direction. It was predominantly mascarpone, stevia and pistachios. Then the ganache is the simplest thing and it’s so good… and it truly brought the whole thing together so he got his chocolate frosted cake with pistachio crumbles on top.

Everyone wanted in on this yummy and mostly healthy masterpiece.  Unlike most heavy desserts I make… there was none left for friends.  We are finishing up the last piece tonight (the very next day). Thank you to Meredith for her creative and healthy recipes that I can play around with! Sorry we didn’t save you a piece…

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Stay delicious,

Lauren

 

Gluten Freeway

I am so excited to give you the release of my second Gluten Free-way YouTube episode!!!!!!

Gluten Free-Way Episode 2

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In this second episode I interview the “health queen” herself, Meredith Dykstra! Meredith and I met through my husband, Nick, when he used to work with her at a local functional nutrition health company. I always thought Nick was healthy until I met Meredith.  She has expanded my health world with healing foods as well as other mental and physical healing techniques.  She is a certified health coach and I do recommend you reach out to her if you have questions about anything she mentioned in the video interview. I do fully intend on bringing her back to dive more into the details for those who are interested in health science or health biology… which are probably just terms I made up to try to describe how much more of an educated conversation you have when she starts in!

Check out Meredith’s recipes on coachmeredith.blogspot.com, and I can honestly say you won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for truly healing food that you hope will taste good!

We briefly discussed in our conversation how gluten-free eating is important, but that does not mean that you can overdo gluten-free food items.  I wanted to link back to my previous blog post on gluten-free verses healthy eating for a reference.

I also alluded to doing some bread making experiments which I haven’t shared with you all yet (other than a sneak peak on my Facebook page), but that blog post will be coming out soon as I finish up my experimentation! I think it will be worth the read.  I have been doing so much baking recently that you will have to stay tuned to see what other surprises I am baking up! For starters… my newest cookie the SNICKERDOODLE is now available for purchase at Good L’Oven in Ross Township and for order on my page! But come back soon for more new gluten-freedom!!!!!!

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Have a cookie!

Lauren

Is Gluten-free Healthy?

Since my last informational post was so well received, today’s blog post is going to be half informational and half plain-fun-random. I was inspired to write this post as I considered the past year’s food choices and the effects on my body. For those a little less familiar with gluten-free and why or why not one would chose this route, I decided it might be good to discuss one common misconception … gluten-free does not always equate with “healthy”.

WHAT!? ARE YOU KIDDING!?

No.

This past week I read a research  article in GIG’s monthly e-magazine, Celebrate Gluten-Free on trends in the US population. The research had shown that between the years of 2009 and 2014, there has actually been a decrease in Celiac Disease diagnosis in the US. Also between the years of 2009 and 2014 there has been an increase in the number of people, undiagnosed with Celiac Disease, eating a gluten-free diet. The reasoning they provided was all speculative,  but included that many people were self-diagnosing gluten-sensitivities.  That’s actually the camp my husband Nick was in 5 years ago. Thier speculations also included that some research is starting to show that gluten consumption may lead to Celiac Disease later and this may be deterring people.  There is also a popular notion that living gluten-free is just healthier.  Lastly, the facts are undeniable that there are more options available today, than even 5 years ago, for people to eat gluten-free, which might be one of the biggest factors.

Nick and I have done enough research to believe that in general, living without gluten that is processed in America is healthier than living with… but I can not say that without clarifying and explaining why I titled this blog with such provocative words. I will devote a future post to how gluten is processed in America and how it affects our bodies, but that is not my point today.  My point today is: gluten-free foods are not equivalent to “healthy” foods.

This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but I have heard people say, as they grab 6 of my cookies for their plate, “you made them and they’re gluten-free, so they must be good for me!” Well… “good for you” is obviously subjective to your personal goals.

September 2015 I gave up gluten for good.  April 2016 I started my gluten-free baking company Baked True North! Between April 2016 and September 2016, the one year anniversary of my gluten-freedom, I had consumed far more gluten-free goods than ever before and honestly, far more sweets than I was used to consuming. Interesting side note… after a year of being gluten-free my body had started rejecting gluten, as if I also had a gluten-sensitivity.  I started taking a new supplement this fall and within a day was feeling uncomfortable effects that caused me to miss a good friends birthday party. Somehow I had completely overlooked the gluten extract in the ingredients section (and I’m usually so much better at checking that stuff)! But in addition to that checkpoint, I had also gained about 6 or 7 pounds over the last year, probably due to this higher intake of sugar.

As October began I decided to try something different to shake up my diet and health.  I proposed to Nick we do a 30 day sugar detox.  I want to clarify that it was my proposal, for those of you who know my husband and assumed he put me on this little journey, as he is so much more of an educated health nut than I am currently. Honestly, within the first week (today is day 7), I have lost 4 of the 7 pounds simply from cutting out sugar, stevia, all sweeteners including honey, and even fruit.

So… in conclusion, gluten-free options definitely have to be paired with other smart food choices in order to be healthy.  Sugar is one of the most addictive things in the world and must always be approached carefully. On that note… I am going to be rolling out low-sugar and no sugar added options in November! Keep an eye on the blog for more details coming soon!!!!!

Below is a picture of some brownies I did for a woman who is gluten-free and keto (eating a high fat, low sugar diet). A little experimenting, but I think they turned out pretty good, and a good start to my low-sugar baking endeavors!

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Comment or message me if you have any specific gluten-free or sugar questions, or even any special baked good requests!!

Stay delicious,

Lauren

Gluten… what is it REALLY?

While I was waiting for my heavy cream latte to be prepared at a lovely coffee shop, I perused the goodies on the counter, because of my chronic sweet-tooth. Seeing what looked like an oat based bar, I asked the woman behind the counter (with very little hope) if she knew if that “healthy” looking bar was gluten-free.  In near disgust she assured me it was not, and told me nothing at the shop was gluten-free and I probably couldn’t even drink my latte.

So… maybe you follow Baked True North because you know Lauren or Nick… and maybe you like Baked True North goodies.  Maybe you eat gluten-free occasionally or even faithfully.  MAYBE you even know what gluten is!? I didn’t. I assumed gluten was bread, because that’s what it was described to me as by someone else who was not educated on the topic.

Google describes gluten as a mixture of two proteins, present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. Not likely to be found in a latte, but it sneaks into more things than wheat bread. The things that caught me the most off guard to discover had gluten were thick creamy soups and a lot of sauces, especially soy sauce.

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Above is a picture from my pre-gluten-free days, with a maple bourbon bacon doughnut in Key West on our honeymoon. I grew up eating mac & cheese, sandwiches and the croutons off my salad (not necessarily the vegetables). The two questions I get asked the most are, “why does it seem like this is all of a sudden a problem?” and “Jesus spoke a lot about bread… so how can it really be bad?” The simple answer is that gluten is not what it used to be. The more complicated answer is, Norman Borlaug won a Nobel peace prize creating a shorter wheat called dwarf wheat that produced a lot of grains on less acreage. This was all in the name of solving world hunger, so let’s not get upset at him right off the bat. Mark’s Daily Apple provides a much more in depth explanation if you’re interested.

In further summarizing Mark’s article and the research behind it, dwarf wheat was found to be less nutritious, based possibly on the increased yield per plant or the shorter roots, not allowing in as much nutrition. Certain gluten proteins that were not barely present in the older strains of wheat now are rampant and are causing a higher rate of gluten sensitivities to appear.  Additionally, bread and similar goodies used to be made by home-grinding wheat kernels, but now wheat is processed and potentially rancid by the time it gets to the local burger establishment to be delivered with your “meat” patty.

Hopefully that helped explain what gluten is and why bread is different today than it used to be.  I hope to share more information on gluten-freedom in future blog posts.  Please feel free to shout out questions you have or discoveries you’ve made in the comment section!

Stay delicious,

Lauren Marts

 

 

 

I NEED a Pie too!

So often I hear masterpieces come about by accident. This is not going to be one of those stories… But it ends good, I promise!

I had some ladies over from our church and decided to make my Baked True North canolli pie! I truly love this pie. It is my BTN basic cookie dough recipe, complete with chocolate chips and all, smashed into a pie plate as a crust with this fantastic canolli filling on top.

The first time I made it was for Nick’s dad back on father’s day. It was a hit, even though I didn’t plan enough time to let it sit in the fridge after baking. We decided it was a delicious mucky pudding pie, of sorts, and still licked the plate, regardless that it didn’t stay together. So I planned ahead this time.

While making said deliousness, Nick asked me where HIS pie was. He knew he wasn’t invited to ladies night and there likely wouldn’t be any left. I was pretty tired but I said I would make him his own pie. No sooner had I uttered the words did I regret them. Neither did I have the ingredients or the time to make another pie, nor did Nick want or need a whole pie for himself.

As a side note, if you know Nick, he doesn’t really eat sweets because he is super healthy, but I had used only stevia in this go round of the recipe, which makes the carb content way low and the taste rocks!

He convinced me that he would be happy with just a spoonful of the pie filling that was waiting to go into the cooling crust… And it gave me an idea! 💡

I have mini spring form pans and I wondered if I could make some version of a cheesecake souffle for him. I took a spoonful of the filling (loaded with cream cheese and ricotta) and mixed it with 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of organic peanut butter, and a few more mini chocolate chips. I mixed it up, put it in the pan, and threw it in the oven along side the other pie with a prayer.

He barely waited for it to cool and ate it right off the pan plate. I can’t say it was award winning or that I’m dropping everything to add it to my menu. It was a little dry (which he fixed by eating it with coconut milk), but the nice thing about gluten free people is… They usually are more forgiving and are happy they can eat it at all.  I likely will try it again with a few more tweaks and I’ll let you know when it’s ready for the press. 🙂

The Baked True North Canolli Pie is available for purchase in regular and sugar-free and will be updated on the website soon. Shoot me a note for pricing in the mean time and let me know if there’s some other gluten free creations you’re interested in having!

Stay delicious,

Lauren Marts

BONUS Holiday Post (delayed)

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(I wrote this over memorial day weekend and forgot to post it! – whoops!!!)

 

These are my favorite of the few low sugar options I’ve made this weekend.

Because I have a little extra time this weekend, I have decided to do an extra post telling you about some changes coming to Baked True North. Due to various health challenges and life decisions (vague, I know), I am moving toward going sugar free, as close to completely as I can control. Needless to say this is not fantastic timing as I start my cookie company just weeks prior to this decision. But here are the things I know so far…

1. I am not going to stop making my amazing gluten free cookies. Everyone loves them (including me) and I want there to be a gluten free chocolate chip cookie that tastes good out there!

2. I am working hard on a sugar free chocolate chip cookie. I have high standards, so it hasn’t been easy and hasn’t happened right away, but it’s coming! And you’ll all be the first to know!

Expert Cookie Taster #1

In my quest to make the world’s best gluten free chocolate chip cookie, I decided the place to start was with becoming a gluten free cookie tester. There are definitely worse things in life than being forced to eat cookies for research. So far research has been going well.

I want to occassionally highlight and critique some good options I’ve found for gluten free cookies, and here is my first test cookie.

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Gluten Free Taste Tester #1: Mom’s Munchies

Admittedly I have never tried a hemp cookie before and have nothing to compare it to. Looking at the ingredients, two things stuck out to me: aluminum-free baking soda and the 99% unsweetened dark chocolate. I just recently made the switch to aluminum free baking powder, but still don’t really know the implications of this. I’ll probably blog about it soon. But the chocolate caught my eye because my goal is to start making my own chocolate chips very soon. The convenience of baking chips is undeniable, but getting really “healthy ones” is difficult and expensive. It looks like Mom uses raw organic blue agave, which is neat. And instead of chocolate chips, she created almond sea salt chunks! How unique!

So honestly, I liked these. It’s hard to find a chocolate chip cookie I don’t like (unless you put raisins in it). I didn’t really notice anything different tasting about the chunks though. My biggest thing I like in CCC (let’s use CCC for chocolate chip cookies) is some thickness. These were not thick, maybe due to packaging restrictions? Having never baked with hemp seeds I’m not sure if this causes a limitation as well.

Overall I was happy with the cookie, but it didn’t satisfy my urge for a CCC, because the texture was pretty unique. Thanks, Mom, for the the snack though! These can be found at Soergel Orchard’s gluten free shop (one of my favorite local shops) or of course on Mom’s Muchies website.