By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
“I would quit carbs, but I’m no quitter
Offer many folks a plate of pasta, a bowl of rice, or a panini and the answer is, “No, thank you. I don’t eat carbs, let alone gluten“ (for God’s sake!). Starch, especially wheat, is the enemy to many who are trying to keep their waistlines in check. Others say they have a gluten intolerance. Carb-avoidance seems to be one food trend that has staying power.
The low-carb fad began in 1972 with Dr. Robert Atkins, when he published his mega-bestseller, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution. He recommended that to lose weight, one should eat a high-fat, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Six books, as well as a line of prepared food available in grocery stores, and several Atkins’ low-carb, weight-loss programs followed.
During the 1990s and 2000s, there was a resurgence of the low-carb eating approach that is still in progress, and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Add the two years of the pandemic when many people who were stuck at home decided to learn (and eat!) to make bread. Is there anything more comforting that a hot loaf of homemade bread slathered with butter?
I do want to note that celiac disease is a serious ailment and I don’t want to make light of how deadly gluten is to those afflicted. However, celiac sufferers make up only 1 percent of the population and only 6-7 percent of them have gluten intolerance. This article is not about them.
In a community of health-conscious residents, carbs are not dead in Santa Monica, Calif., a swanky, upscale Los Angeles community where many women run around town in yoga pants and athletic gear. I was just there, visiting my son Ben and his family. One sunny afternoon, we walked to what he has named, “Carb Corner.” In Santa Monica, let’s not forget!
Four shops in a row were flaunting carbs, many made with white flour, no less! There were lines out the door and many of the outdoor tables were filled with diners sinking their teeth into bagels, pizza, sour dough toast topped with avocado and fried eggs, and croissants bursting with chocolate. Don’t ask. A foodie’s dream. A gluten-free zealot’s nightmare.
I spent Sunday morning at the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market with my son and grandsons. Of course, the boys were interested in croissant eating rather than buying produce. After surveying the bakery landscape, we decided on a very popular L.A. patisserie, Laurent’s Le Coffee Shop, out of Culver City. Our selection? One plain, one chocolate, and one almond. They did not disappoint.
We also stumbled on a relatively new bakery, Mamala’s Mandel Bread, selling mostly regular flour “Jewish biscotti.” The owner, Joan, says that they do sell about 10 percent gluten-free products. Business is swift despite their white flour carbs. Good for them!
I would be doing an injustice if I didn’t talk about good carbohydrates. According to healthline.com, “Carbohydrates are not an ‘essential’ nutrient. However, many carb-rich plant foods are loaded with beneficial nutrients.” Processed carbohydrates add nothing to one’s health. These are white flour, sugar, pasta, and non-whole-grain breads. The carbs we should focus on are whole grains, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods contain necessary fiber, vitamins, and nutrients.
All that being said, I eat carbs. I eat white flour. There, I said it out loud! I know that white flour adds nothing nutritional to your body, empty calories, if you will. However, I’m very strategic about my flour consumption. I begin most days with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt or cottage cheese before my swim. Raw almonds and dates follow the workout. Lunch is a huge bowl of greens, a piece of fruit, assorted chopped veggies, and some cheese.
Now comes the carbs: I enjoy homemade bread or a muffin with my coffee. If I’m making pasta for dinner, I forego this snack. Dinner is sensible. Later, more carbs: I dig into dessert, which I make, of course, almost every night. Life is short, I’m going to enjoy myself. Listen, I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. I’m 70 years old and this is my one vice.
I love offering dessert to guests who are not timid about eating fresh bread with dinner and a serving of cake and maybe even asking for seconds. God bless them, it’s so satisfying to bring comfort to others. As my daughter-in-law, Rachel, says “Feeding people is showing love.” I couldn’t agree more!
On that note, I am offering a delicious Honey Whole Wheat Bread as today’s recipe. It is a no-knead bread which makes it that much easier and less scary to make. Many people are afraid to work with yeast. This recipe is a good one to dip your toes in the water, actually, dip your fingers in flour.
You’ll notice that the recipe is half white flour and half whole wheat. The more whole wheat flour used, the tougher the bread. If you want to experiment to change the balance, feel free to substitute some of the white flour with more whole grain.
Tell us here at The Insider which carb is your guilty pleasure. Me? I never met a carb I didn’t like!
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
Yield: 1.5 lb. loaf
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. white flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. active dry yeast
2 c. lukewarm water (not to exceed 105°)
1/4 c. honey
Place the flours, salt, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Dissolve the honey in the warm water. Pour the water into the flour. Using a fork, stir together until all the dough is moistened and looks shaggy.
Flour your hands and knead only until you can form a ball, about 30 seconds. Place the dough in an oiled clean bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap. Allow to sit out at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
Place the bottom of a Dutch oven or deep casserole in the oven. Preheat to 450°. Lay a clean tea towel on your work surface. Dust it with yellow cornmeal.
Punch the dough down. Fold the dough into a ball, tucking the ends underneath. Place on the cornmeal towel. When the oven is up to temperature, remove the casserole from the hot oven and carefully lift the dough ball into the Dutch oven or casserole. Cover.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid. Bake another 12-15 minutes or until crusty brown.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.