10 Questions with KC – Tara Barker
Isn’t it funny when you find a soul sister (or brotha from anotha’ motha’) where you least expect one? My 10 Questions with KC articles have introduced me to people I might never have met – and I’m so glad to know them & share it with you. Tara Barker’s description of the genesis of her blog, A Baking Life, sounds much like the beginning of G-Free Foodie – right down to the words “obsessed” and “creative outlet.” Take in to account her love of eggs, high-quality chocolate and pumpkin – and there may be proof we’re related.
Tell us a little about your blog, a baking life (gluten free)?
I started the blog back in January 2010, for largely the same reason I switched careers (from social research to the food industry) eight years earlier: I became obsessed with an idea, and just had to follow through with it. In this case, instead of getting obsessed with the culinary world in general, I became fixated on the idea of writing about food, my experiences feeding my young family, and the gluten-free recipes I was constantly developing. After being out of the professional world for a couple of years to focus on raising my kids, starting a gluten-free baking blog was just the creative outlet I needed.
I saw on your blog that you have two little boys, do they have a favorite gluten-free treat?
We’ve had them both tested, and so far neither Kalen nor Wylie have shown any symptoms of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. That said, they eat almost entirely gluten-free at our house due to my own dietary needs, and they have a long list of favorites. Some that come to mind include our Sunday morning tradition of pancakes, pies/tarts/galettes/quiches/anything baked in my gluten-free pie crust, and cookies – oat raisin and peanut butter in particular.
Are all your recipes Gluten Free? How about Dairy, Nuts & Eggs?
Everything I make is always gluten-free. But, since I don’t need to exclude anything else from my diet, many of my recipes call for other common allergens, such as dairy and eggs. However, most of them can easily be altered to accommodate other needs (and readers often leave comments detailing the successful substitutions they’ve made), and some recipes, whether by coincidence or design, are very allergy-friendly.
Are there any products you’re particularly excited about right now?
Right now I’m very excited about having a new chocolate to play with at 40 Paper, the restaurant my husband owns and where I’m the pastry chef. I just got a delivery of El Rey chocolate, a Venezuelan chocolatier that is one of my favorite brands to work with, and which has been difficult for me to source for the past couple years. The depth and complexity of their chocolate is impressive, and I’m already seeing a difference in my products. I love it.
If we opened your refrigerator, what would we find?
Well, it’s an ever-changing inventory, but some constants are MOOMilk (an organic Maine dairy company), wheat-free tamari, my homemade apple butter, thick-cut bacon, super-sharp cheddar cheese, several dozen local eggs, and about six different kinds of hot sauce. Right now we’ve also got some poached quince and quince syrup I made for Josh’s birthday, and a big bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder, waiting to be turned into porchetta.
What tips & tricks do you have for Gluten Free bakers?
First of all, I would advise anyone serious about gluten-free baking to get away from commercial mixes. They may be convenient, but the price you pay is less control over your ingredients and a lack of complexity in your baked goods. There are so many wonderful gluten-free grains available to us, things like teff and gluten-free certified oats and millet and even buckwheat (which is technically a flower), that to exclude them does a disservice to both our palates and our nutrition.
Secondly, I am a huge proponent of baking by weight. Baking in general is a science, and gluten-free baking is even more so; hence precise measurements are key to ensuring recipe success. Baking by weight is also incredibly freeing. As long as you keep the weight of your ingredients the same, you can alter and make substitutions to recipes to accommodate your tastes, pantry inventory, and dietary needs, without worrying that the end result will be a total flop. The Gluten-Free Ratio Rally, which has been great fun to be part of, is based on the concept of baking by weight, and it has been wonderful to witness so many bakers embrace using their scale!
Pick one: Chocolate, Lemon or Pumpkin?
I’d have to go with pumpkin, as long as I can expand it to include the entire family of winter squash. At this time of year they are especially appealing, but I really love the year-round versatility of squash. Once you’ve roasted and puréed the flesh (which can then be frozen), squash can become breakfast (delicata squash pancakes), lunch (curried kabocha squash soup), dinner (roasted butternut squash lasagna), or dessert (pumpkin soufflé). I love them all.
If you could be granted one food wish, what would it be?
Dinner at Thomas Keller’s Manhattan restaurant, Per Se. Josh and I just came back from NYC and ate some really amazing meals while we were there, but Per Se was out of our reach. I’d love to make a return trip for the sole purpose of having what I always hear referred to as “the meal of a lifetime.”
After a long day, what’s your favorite easy meal?
I really love pasta carbonara. It’s like having eggs and bacon for dinner, except that the addition of the pasta makes it feels a little more respectable than doing breakfast-for-dinner (which I love, too). I also like to keep cubes of homemade pesto in the freezer (kale, broccoli, or the traditional basil), which often become the inspiration for quick meals. My kids love it instead of tomato sauce on pizza, and I also love it tossed with sautéed chicken and served atop brown rice or pasta, or stirred into vegetable soups and risottos.
Got a food or beverage you can’t live without?
Eggs, absolutely eggs. They’re one of the most versatile and nutritious foods out there. We go through about three dozen a week, and I’m often trying to conserve them because it seems ridiculous to buy even more. In fact, we’re planning on getting laying hens next spring, just so that we can have a steady supply of eggs!