Aran Goyoaga still remembers the first lunch she made for her family: patatas en salsa verde soup, tortilla Espanola, and apple-caramel flan. Not bad for an 11-year-old. The occasion was nothing special -- just the usual weekend meal, with relatives gathered around the farm table in her grandparents' pastry shop in Spain's Basque Country, where she grew up. The chairs were mismatched, the food served family-style. "You never missed Saturday lunch," says Goyoaga. "In Basque culture, everything revolves around family and food."
Fourteen years in the United States haven't changed that for the 38-year-old mother of two. Spend a few minutes on her blog, Cannelle et Vanille (Cinnamon and Vanilla), and it becomes apparent that Goyoaga's life still unfolds mainly in the kitchen. When she isn't improvising new dishes with her charming sous chefs, Jon, age 6, and Miren, 2, she's likely styling or photographing the food for the rest of us to drool over. "I want to live in your photos," one fan recently gushed.
Goyoaga's sun-filled snapshots and whimsical styling would be right at home in a glossy magazine, but what's most remarkable about her blog is that the seductive food is entirely gluten-free. After leaving a gig as a pastry chef while pregnant with Jon, Goyoaga turned to blogging in 2008, in part to satisfy a need for musing over the likes of truffles and financiers. Ingredients like quinoa flour and tapioca starch weren't even on her radar. Two years later, however, after weeks spent "bedridden from vertigo and completely out of balance," Goyoaga learned she was suffering from a genetic intolerance to gluten and a deficiency of vitamins B12 and D. "The next day I started a strict, super-hypoallergenic diet," she says. "No gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, or nuts." The vertigo was gone in a week.
These days, Goyoaga, whose first cookbook, "Small Plates and Sweet Treats," will be published this month, still avoids gluten, and over the years she's become a master at crafting recipes that don't want for it at all. With breakfast being prime family time in the busy Goyoaga household, she's been particularly focused on developing morning meals to please the whole gang. "A lot of traditional breakfast dishes contain gluten," she says, "so I tackle one recipe at a time, trying not to compromise on texture, flavor, or healthfulness."
Muffins, smoothies, and pancakes evoke your typical American morning, but Goyoaga's clafoutis and tartines betray a lingering affinity for her roots. "My flavor palate from growing up," she says, "has really stayed with me."
Build a Gluten-Free Pantry
Goyoaga's Shortlist of Essentials
1. Unsweetened Coconut Milk
Goyoaga uses it in place of whole milk and heavy cream. The coconut flavor is more subtle than one might expect (she even whisks it into eggs), and the texture is rich and silky. Use it in risottos, muffins, pasta sauces, and soups. Or add a squeeze of lemon juice and you've got a sub-in for buttermilk.
2. Buckwheat Flour
Gluten is a protein, so you want to seek out alternative good-quality protein flours, such as buckwheat, when going gluten-free. Its earthy flavor will mellow desserts made with tart fruits, and it tastes great with chocolate. Use buckwheat flour in combination with a milder-tasting flour, such as brown rice.
3. Chia Seeds
Goyoaga sprinkles these South American superseeds (they have more omega-3s than flaxseeds and 5 grams of fiber in every tablespoon) on breads, salads, and oatmeal. Mixed with water, they become gelatinous, with a structure that mimics the elasticity of gluten -- perfect, she says, for pancakes and yeast breads that "need a little more structural support."
4. Tapioca Starch
Gluten-free baked goods need starch for structure. And while corn, potato, arrowroot, and tapioca starches will all work in most recipes, Goyoaga prefers tapioca, which is ground from cassava root, because it produces a less dense texture.
5. Millet Flour
Many of us think of millet as the main ingredient in birdseed, but in places like Asia and Africa, it's a mainstay grain. Goyoaga loves the bright sweetness the flour brings to muffins and cakes. For the best results, blend it with a superfine flour such as brown rice or almond.
6. Hazelnut Flour
For her quick breads, including muffins, scones, and cookies, Goyoaga often spikes a whole-grain flour with a nut one. The nut flour adds healthy fats and protein, and the overall flavor is more complex. For an assertive nuttiness, she turns to hazelnut. "Be sure to balance it with a milder nut flour, such as almond."
7. Almond Flour
Goyoaga uses this delicately flavored, versatile flour for all of her pancakes, waffles, and cakes. She makes her own by grinding blanched almonds very fine in a food processor. (The coarser the grind, the more crumbly the end product will be.)