My long-distance bread-baking guru

I have made breads since I was a teenager – the majority hard as hockey pucks, and tasting as if I used tree-pulp and shredded bark to make the dough. I pity my son for all those uneatable loaves and not to mentioned his wheat-free birthday cakes, but I am trying to make amends by learning to bake in my old age…

When we lived in Vancouver, not being able to eat wheat was not a problem. There were several wheat-free bakeries and even some supermarkets were starting to carry decent gluten-free options. My absolutely favourite gluten-free baker was, and is mygoodness and Arlene, the cheery proprietress and master baker has become a good friend. We have kept in contact since our departure and when I could not find wheat-free bread in any of the approximately fifty bakeries in town, (bakeries are like butchers here, with a minimum of one per block) she kindly and ceremoniously shared her to-die-for almond loaf recipe. I asked to be her long distance baking disciple and she accepted to take me on as my long distance baking guru.

9 weeks later, and I had still not dared to try her recipe and make her bread. My first excuse was the bread pans I could not find, then the electric oven, which I am not used to cooking on and thus burn everything. Finally, today, I had run out of excuses and decided that, come what may, it is time! We spent the better part of the afternoon scouring local shops, delis and small Spanish chain supermarkets to find the ingredients, coming home with about 80%. The rest I would have to improvise.

As we are renting a fully furnished house, kitchen tools should in principle be here, but of course things are rarely as one expects them to be. We have no whisk to beat the eggs. The flax seeds did not want to grind with the apparatus that seemed appropriate for such a task, so I dunked the whole seeds in liquid until they softened instead. Arrowroot-powder was unheard of in town, so I chanced using a half a cup of corn flour. For the almond-meal ground almonds had to do and the agave syrup was replaced by half a teaspoon of brown sugar. Otherwise, since I have never managed to follow a recipe in my life, I threw in some turmeric, caraway seeds and a bit of Norwegian hunting spice for good measure. Nothing ventured, nothing gained…

I am happy to report that the loaf did not only turn out un-carbonized and eatable, it was also most tasty and moist. I wish you could have tasted the Spanish version of your loaf bathed in golden local olive oil, a generous slice of the delicious goat cheese we bought at the artisan market on the weekend and plum jam, all washed down with a Pedro Jimenez dessert wine. So, this is a thank-you to Arlene, my long distance baking guru. We will repeat the feast when you come for a visit!

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