In the 16 years since I went to culinary school, I’ve cooked, either personally or professionally, nearly every single day. And of those 5800 odd days, maybe a couple dozen of them were spent baking. (OK, I may be exaggerating a little, but not much.) It’s not that I can’t bake; I just enjoy cooking much, much more. Plus you don’t really need to bake when you live in New York City, which is where much of my (gluten eating) adult life was spent.
Once I started eating gluten free, I found it wasn’t so easy to pop into the corner bakery for a perfect baguette or a rustic fruit tart. You’d expect this lack of availability would give me impetus to start baking, but instead, I fought it more than ever. Why would I possibly want to measure ALL of those different gluten-free flours when I didn’t even like dealing with one?
What I discovered instead was my preference for making desserts that are naturally gluten free. This proved tricky at first, but as I delved into the research, more and more possibilities emerged: fruit desserts, custards, meringues, nut-based cakes, and more. I found particular interest in the nut cakes, a regular feature on many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern tables.
The cakes, quite simply, combine finely chopped nuts with sugar and eggs, whites whipped and folded in for lift. My current successes include almond, walnut, and pistachio cakes; all straightforward and tasty on their own, yet well complemented by lightly sweetened fresh fruit. The almond cake pairs particularly well with summery sliced strawberries, cherries, or peaches tossed with a touch of agave nectar. In the fall, I dice pears and roast them with butter and brown sugar for a delicious pear compote to serve alongside. Regardless of which accompaniment you choose, the moist, subtly flavored cake makes for a great dessert, tea time snack, or even the occasional naughty breakfast.