Photo by Erin Scott
There doesn’t seem to be anything connecting garden design with equestrian sports to culinary training to starting a gluten-free empire, but Heather Hardcastle sees it. Each has been a welcome challenge.
Now Hardcastle, who co-owns the gluten-free Flour Craft bakery in San Anselmo and cafe in Mill Valley with her husband, Rick Perko, has taken on a new challenge — writing her first cookbook, “The Flour Craft Bakery & Cafe Cookbook” (224 pages, Rizzoli, $35), which was published last week.
She’ll be in conversation with former IJ food writer Christina Mueller for a free virtual event at 7 p.m. April 14 through Copperfield’s Books. Register at copperfieldsbooks.com/event/heather-hardcastle-conversation-christina-mueller
“Since working with food, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” says Hardcastle, who attended Napa’s Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in 2008 after a decade-long career as a garden designer.
After opening the Mill Valley cafe in 2018, the time seemed right to give it a try.
“I had quite the education about how a book comes together,” she says with a laugh. “All these skills that I learned as a cook and business owner, they certainly come into play when writing a book. … But I loved it. I love challenges and learning new things. … I’m somebody who enjoys the things in life that one cannot master.”
The cookbook features 75-plus recipes, some that will be familiar to fans of Flour Craft, which features gluten-free goodies, both savory and sweet. But some were created just for the cookbook, including many vegan recipes.
Hardcastle is not vegan; she calls herself a plant-forward eater, which means she’s mostly a vegetarian but eats the occasional fish and seafood dish. The recipes she provides can easily been customized to add proteins or not.
“As the business has developed, I’ve seen the evolution of how people eat and the sort of things people want to eat, and I’ve definitely seen in the past few years more of an interest in plant-based food,” she says. “So I’ve had to push myself to develop a handful of vegan recipes that we do offer daily at our stores. I mean, being gluten-free is its own set of challenges, but then baking vegan gluten-free is a whole other set. Because we don’t have gluten to hold things together, we rely a lot on eggs.”
But always one for a challenge, Hardcastle includes recipes for such treats as vegan baked donuts, vegan tahini and halvah brownies (“These brownies have become a cult favorite at our bakeshops,” she writes), and vegan fruit crumble bars.
Hardcastle discovered she was gluten intolerant more than 20 years ago — it was still the “dark ages of gluten free,” she writes — after years of suffering from all sorts of discomfort and digestive issues after eating. That was a game-changer, she says.
After graduating from the CIA, she threw herself into baking and began selling gluten-free granola at the weekly Civic Center farmers market, which quickly developed a following. Then she began adding gluten-free pastries one at a time until she and Perko, who live in San Rafael, knew they were ready to go bigger. They opened their San Anselmo bakery in 2013 and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Her food, she says, “is an expression of who I am as a cook, it’s how I’ve grown as a cook, it’s really what I’m good at, how to combine things in a way that people don’t feel they’re missing something.”
Hardcastle says the way she blends various flours in her recipes sets her bakeshops and cookbook apart from others. “I really want to create a unique texture. I don’t really feel these all-purpose gluten-free baking mix things, I don’t really understand that,” she says, although she sells her own version that’s good for some things, like muffins and cookies, but not for breads or scones. While she goes into depth about mixing flours in the cookbook, her recipes are “very approachable.”
She hopes her cookbook inspires readers as much as she has been inspired by the recipes of others and experimenting on her own. And, no, it’s not just for people who can’t eat gluten.
“I hope it will inspire people to bake. I hope that it draws interest in what we’re doing because I feel we’re really good at what we do and that people will appreciate that,” she says. “One of my gripes with gluten-free is that it comes off as very exclusive, and I feel if we’re doing our job well, the food should stand on its own. The fact that it’s gluten-free is kind of a bonus. I want our brand to be an inclusive brand, that every member of the family, regardless of what you like, there’s something for you there.”
Vegan fruit crumble bars
Cook time: 40-45 minutes
GF rolled oats 5.5 ounces/ 1½ cups
Brown rice flour 8.25 ounces/ 1½ cups
Tapioca starch 1.5 ounces/ ⅓ cup
Brown sugar 9 ounces/ 1¼ cups
Kosher salt ½ teaspoon
Baking soda ½ teaspoon
Chopped walnuts 2 ounces/ ½ cup
Ground cinnamon ½ teaspoon
Coconut oil, melted 6 ounces/ ¾ cup
Fresh or frozen berries 10 ounces/ 2 cups
Fruit preserves 9 ounces/ ¾ cup
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-by-9-inch pan with foil. Spray the foil with baking spray and line the foil with parchment, cut to fit the size of the pan with 1 inch overhang on all sides. Adding the foil will allow you to lift the bars out of the pan cleanly and the parchment will keep the bars from sticking to the foil.
Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with your hands or a wooden spoon to combine. Add coconut oil and mix, using your hands or a wooden spoon until mixture holds together in large clumps.
Spread two thirds of the crumble mixture in the bottom of the pan and press down firmly, making sure the mixture reaches into the corners as well. Spread the fruit preserves over the crust, leaving ½ inch of space around the edges. Scatter the berries over the jam. Top with the remaining crumble, leaving space so that the berries show through.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the bars are golden brown and the berries are bubbling. Allow to cool completely in the pan before transferring to the refrigerator to chill, at least 2 hours before cutting.
Note: Keep the crumble top recipe handy as it’s a great topping for all manner of fresh fruit. I make a large batch of the crumble topping and store it in a zip-top bag in my freezer. Toss whatever type of fresh or frozen fruit you have on hand with a little tapioca starch, sugar, and lemon juice. Place the fruit in a baking dish, top with the crumble and bake it for a perfect fruit crisp in no time!
Vegan tahini and halvah brownies
Makes 9–12 brownies
Cook time: 45–50 minutes
Whole pitted dates 4 ounces/ ⅔ cup
Boiling water 8 ounces/ 1 cup
Coconut oil, melted 5.25 ounces/ ¾ cup
Unsweetened almond milk 6 ounces/ ¾ cup
Maple syrup 5.5 ounces/ ½ cup
Coconut sugar (or brown sugar) 5.5 ounces/ ¾ cup
Tahini 4.5 ounces/ ½ cup
Vanilla extract 1½ teaspoon
White rice flour 3.75 ounces/ ¾ cup
Sorghum flour 3.75 ounces/ ¾ cup
Cocoa powder 2.25 ounces/ ¾ cup
Xanthan gum ½ teaspoon
Baking powder 1½ teaspoon
Kosher salt ½ teaspoon
Chocolate chips 4 ounces/ ⅔ cup
Halvah, crumbled 3 ounces/ ½ cup
Sesame seeds 1½ teaspoon
Large coconut flakes 1 ounces/ ½ cup
Maldon salt (or coarse salt) 1½ teaspoon
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-by-9-inch pan with foil. Spray the foil with baking spray and line the foil with parchment, cut to fit the size of the pan with a 1-inch overhang on all sides. The layer of foil will allow you to lift the bars out of the pan cleanly and the parchment will keep the bars from sticking to the foil.
Place the dates in a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set aside for 5–10 minutes until the dates have softened. Drain all the water from the dates.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend the softened dates and the melted coconut oil, almond milk, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and tahini until the mixture is smooth, 4–5 minutes. You may never get it perfectly smooth but don’t worry, a couple of date chunks is just fine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine white rice flour, sorghum flour, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, and kosher salt. Mix on low speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Pour in the date mixture from the bowl of the food processor and mix on low speed until smooth and evenly distributed, about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, gently stir in the chocolate chips and crumbled halvah so as not to break up the halvah pieces.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula, making sure the batter reaches all the way into the corners. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds and coconut chips. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10–15 minutes until the middle of the brownies is set and the coconut is golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with finishing salt. Cool completely before cutting. Bars will keep, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Makes 4 waffles
Cook time: about 10 minutes
For the overnight sponge:
Sourdough starter, unfed (page 209, step 2 to bubbles forming) 8 ounces/ 1 cup
Buttermilk 8.5 ounces/ 1 cup
White rice flour 2.5 ounces/ ½ cup
Sorghum flour 2.75 ounces/ ½ cup
Brown sugar 1 tablespoon
For the batter:
Eggs 1 large
Butter, melted 2 ounces/ ¼ cup
Vanilla extract ½ teaspoon
Kosher salt ½ teaspoon
Baking soda 1 teaspoon
Xanthan gum ½ teaspoon
Put all the ingredients for the overnight sponge in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest at least 8 hours or overnight at room temperature.
The next morning, or after 8 hours, whisk all the ingredients for the waffle batter into the rested sponge.
Preheat the waffle iron. Spray the iron with nonstick spray. Ladle about ½ cup batter into the waffle maker and cook until golden brown and crispy. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve immediately or freeze, stored in zip-top bags, for up to 3 months. Reheat the waffles in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes and they’re honestly as good as the day they were made!
Note: You won’t regret making a double batch on the weekend and keeping them on hand in the freezer. They’re equally good topped with maple syrup and berries as they are with soft poached eggs, greens, and crème fraîche if you prefer a savory version.
Sourdough pancakes: Heat a pancake griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and swirl to coat the pan. Ladle in batter for pancakes of whatever size you prefer. Flip when the pancakes just begin to bubble at the edges and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately with your favorite sweet or savory toppings.
Source: Thanks https://www.marinij.com/2021/04/13/gluten-free-bakery-founders-latest-challenge-a-cookbook/