A package arrived at the backdoor a few weeks ago. Lit by afternoon sun, it leaned against the house like a carefully placed invitation. I sat down on the steps and opened it to find Aran’s new cookbook, Small Plates & Sweet Treats inside.
Like her blog, Cannelle et Vanille, the book is bright, beautiful, and easy to get lost in. While the book is entirely gluten-free, the recipes are for everyone. I scanned through each season’s recipes and photographs, noted the recipes to make right away, and then found myself wrapped in Aran’s stories.
Aran’s childhood was spent in her grandparents’ pastry shop in Amorebieta, a small town in the Basque Country (set close to the boarder between Spain and France). Early on, the shop had old wood counters, glass candy jars, and a separate counter just for chocolate. There were two kitchens, the main pastry kitchen and the one next to it where her grandmother cooked and where the whole family sat down to eat meals and greet visitors. It was also a meeting spot for “priests, radicals, artists and anyone looking for great conversation and food” as well.
Seated on my back steps, I flipped through seasons and stories and imagined what the pastry shop must have been like, the food, conversation, and people. I wanted to be there and in some way, through Aran’s book, I was. When I finally put the book down, I went into the kitchen and made bread. I have a slight suspicion you’ll do the same.
Later, Aran and I exchanged emails. Here’s how the conversation went.
Art & Lemons: How has your passion for food translated to your art?
Aran Goyoaga: For many years I tried to find a way to express myself. I tried to paint, write music… but I just could not find my vehicle. I began cooking at a very young age. I loved being in the kitchen and experiment with food, but I never thought food would end up being the vehicle for self-expression. Food also led me to photography and the combination of both has given me so many opportunities and experiences.
A & L: What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen?
AG: There is frozen alligator in my freezer right now….
A & L: Name three things you always have in your refrigerator.
AG: Eggs, kale and apple cider vinegar.
A & L: Describe the perfect snack.
AG: A bowl of toasted muesli with yogurt and fresh fruit. Or even better, slice of toasted bread drizzled with olive oil, a thin piece of dark chocolate on top, topped with fleur de sel. Maybe that’s more like dessert than a snack, no?
A & L: Is there a food that always reminds you of home?
AG: Spanish tortilla would be one for sure, which I make for my family at least once a week. Diced potatoes and onions slowly cooked in olive oil, which are then mixed with eggs and finished in the pan like a thick omelet. Something my mom used to make for us all the time.
A & L: Other than home, where do you get a good cup of coffee?
AG: About two years ago, I stopped drinking coffee because it was making me ill. These days I only have it when I am in a place where it is irresistible, like Portland or Seattle. Although the cortados back home are pretty spectacular too.
A & L: What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
AG: I don’t consider baby eel unusual because it is something really coveted in the Basque Country, but most Americans would consider it strange. Baby eel cooked in olive oil, garlic and chiles was my grandfather’s favorite dish. He also loved lamb brains, tongue and all sort of organs. I have tried them all.
A & L: What was your most memorable meal?
AG: I have had many, especially meals cooked by my family members, but I recently ate at Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian and that was spectacular. Plus I was surrounded by my brothers and that made it even better.
A & L: What do you cook when you’re alone?
AG: Usually a large composed salad with whatever I have in hand. A salad made with baby kale, shaved fennel, avocado, apple, radish, scallions and salmon is something I make often times when I am working alone at home.
A & L: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
AG: I am dying to go to Japan, Peru and Iceland. Soon I hope.
A & L: Thanks for the interview, Aran and I love the fact that there is alligator in the freezer!
For a chance to win a copy of Small Plates & Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga, leave a comment here by Friday, October 26th at 5 pm (EST).
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***** The giveaway is now closed! Thanks everyone for your comments and participation. Congrats Molly, you won the copy of Small Bites & Sweet Treats!
slightly adapted from Small Plates & Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga
makes one 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf
1/4 cup whole millet
5 tablespoons boiling water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chia seeds, ground
3/4 cup water, heated to 110F
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon natural cane sugar
1 cup superfine brown rice flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup quinoa flour
1/2 teff flour
1/4 potato starch
1/3 cup almond flour
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons salt
2 “flax eggs” (whisk 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds with 6 tablespoons boiling water; set aside)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
In a small bowl, combine the millet and 3 tablespoons of the boiling water. Let it stand for 15 minutes.
In a separate bowl, stir together the ground chia seeds and the remaining 2 tablespoons boiling water. It will turn into a thick paste. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the warm water, active dry yeast, and sugar. Let the yeast ferment for 10 minutes. It will become very frothy and foamy.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the superfine brown rice flour, quinoa flour, teff flour, potato starch, almond flour, tapioca starch, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, fennel seeds, and salt.
Drain the millet and add it to the dry ingredients along with the chia seed slurry, yeast mixture, “flax eggs”, and maple syrup. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds with the paddle attachment. turn mixer to high speed and mix for 1 minute. The dough will be sticky and similar to a thick cake batter.
Transfer the dough to an oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Dust the top with a bit of superfine brown rice flour. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F. Bake the bread for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350F. Bake for an additional 30 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Transfer the loaf pan to a cooling rack and let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Store at room temperature wrapped in parchment paper for 2 days or freeze tightly wrapped.