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Tessa is fascinated with turning her love of baking into creating gluten-free treats that taste good. On her blog Salted Plains she shares recipes of her gluten-free creations many of which are also dairy-free or vegan. Tessa strives to use whole ingredients and refrains from baking with refined sugar whenever she can.
I am so happy to have Tessa Fisher of Salted Plains joining me here on the show today.
(*All photos below are Tessa’s.)
On Her Interest in Baking:
Baking was something that I always did growing up. My mom was a really great cook, she was always creating new things for us at dinner but she didn’t do a whole lot of baking. That was something that I always really liked experimenting with, probably putting weird combinations together when I shouldn’t have been. But it’s always been something that I’ve really just enjoyed doing.
I’ve always felt more comfortable baking than cooking and from preparing meals for sure.
I think the idea of just creating something sweet, I kind of have a sweet tooth, and then being able to share those things with other people, has always just been a lot of fun for me.
On Being Gluten-Free:
About middle school, high school, I started getting severe migraines and they would just put me out for a whole day and then make me pretty sick, very nauseous, dehydrated, just really awful. As I went through high school they kind of became more frequent. In college, they were very frequent, and so I tried everything. I did acupuncture and saw a chiropractor and saw ear, nose and throat doctors, and allergies and all sorts of things to try to figure out what was going on and no real an answer. Some things helped calm symptoms a little bit but nothing really ever got rid of them. I just became okay with the idea that I was always going to have migraines but at the same time when a special event was coming up, I’d get nervous that one would come and it would just ruin the day.
So I really came to be gluten-free because I had a friend mention that they had read that there was a connection between gluten and migraines and maybe I should check it out. So I did. I did some reading and I decided to cut gluten out for a couple of months just to see what would happen. I really didn’t think anything was going to change and I started feeling better and so I kept going and the migraines lessened. I’ve been a few years migraine free now, so kind of life changing.
On Baking Gluten-Free and Being Self-Taught:
My biggest adjustment, I think, with the absence of gluten–that kind of glues everything together–is just figuring out, “Okay, so how does that work exactly? And what do you use to replace it?” Just the very basics, really, of it. That was probably the toughest part for me and a little bit overwhelming.
When I went gluten-free and I started seeing the positive effects for me of that, I then also at the same time realized, “Oh, so that means no cookies and cake and all the stuff that I loved.” I was okay with maybe not having bread so much, but the other things seemed kind of dire so I started looking things up online. That’s how I became acquainted with bloggers that were dealing with being gluten-free and that kind of thing and really just did a lot of reading online about it.
On Some Good Resources for Gluten-Free Baking:
The blogs that I was going to initially over and over again for baking gluten-free and cooking gluten-free were Gluten-Free Girl, I learned a lot through what she was doing. Also Against All Grain, Danielle Walker’s site, I learned a lot there. Tasty Yummies, I went to all the time.
Against All Grain and Tasty Yummies are both, I think, more Paleo-based, but obviously grain free, gluten-free and so I learned a lot through reading their blogs.
On Baking Without Refined Sugar:
One of my favorite substitutes for just regular granulated white sugar would be coconut sugar. You can use it as a one-to-one substitute, it’s also a lower glycemic but it also has a little bit more nutrients than just regular white sugar so you can feel a little bit better about using that. I really like coconut sugar. I use honey a lot; I also use maple syrup a lot. Those three are probably my top unrefined sugars.
Usually honey and maple syrup are pretty interchangeable. It will change the flavor a tad bit, but for those recipes that could be converted to vegan, obviously maple syrup would be a great way to go.
I have some recipes on my site that are using coconut sugar and people try to use maple syrup or vice versa, the liquid, the granulated, usually don’t always transfer very well.
Coconut sugar is more similar to brown sugar, it has a more caramel-ly taste to it which I really like. I think it gives a whole different depth to your baked goods. So that’s something I wasn’t initially thinking about when I started using it. Now I will purposely use it in something that I think could use that flavor. Sometimes I use sucanat also, which is a little bit lighter. It doesn’t have so much of that caramel-ly flavor but is also unrefined.
Learning those little nuances with the sugars has helped a great deal.
On Her Blog:
I was riding myself ragged with my full-time job and I was also coaching swimming. That schedule in general was pretty intense. Early mornings, working all day and then late evenings and weekends. I was feeling just totally worn out which wouldn’t make you think, “Let’s start a blog,” but I was feeling the need for something creative, something to look forward to, to cause myself to learn about something on daily basis. It really was born out of that. I had started playing around with gluten-free baked goods by then, taking them to our weekly girls’ night and getting really good feedback and I thought, “Well, maybe this is the way to go for now and just see what happens.”
A lot of inspiration I get from just the seasons – the fruit and vegetables that’s out there seasonally, but also just what I’m craving a lot of times goes into what’s the next thing that I’m going to work on. Or, what have I not attempted yet that I think other people might want to have a gluten-free version of? Or, what not gluten-free grain could I use that I haven’t really played much with? That kind of dictates what I do next.
The Bojon Gourmet, I love her blog, her photography, what she does with her food I think is amazing, always getting really good ideas from her. The cookbook Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich is fantastic and she has chapters on, maybe seven or eight, different grains–gluten-free grains–and how to use them. So I go to that a lot to get ideas on the texture and what you can use for cakes, and what’s good for cookies and that kind of thing.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I don’t really watch a whole lot of TV and I don’t have a particular food show, but if I turn on the TV and I’m flipping through and there’s something related to food on, I’m going to stop and just watch.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
Well, one quick blog that I came across recently that I loved is called Appeasing a Food Geek and Kelsey is the writer of the blog. She breaks things down from a scientific point of view, how things work and react and because I wish I knew more about that, I love that she does that.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
I guess Instagram is probably my favorite. I love seeing photos from Food Stories. Also Adventures in Cooking–Eva Flores. She just does beautiful photography. There are so many and I love also following travel photographers on Instagram. Alex Strohl is a travel photographer and he just goes to amazing places so I would have to say those are my top.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
Well, this is pretty simple. But my Silpat that you use for baking on your cookie sheets. It’s a reusable replacement of parchment paper, but I use it over and over and over again and it’s great. It cleans super fast and it’s always handy.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
Well, one food for sure is brussels sprouts. Never liked them growing up and now they’re probably one of my favorite foods.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Well, this is not a cookbook but Ratio. The book Ratio has been really helpful for me. My Paleo Patisserie that came out this last year has been fantastic and again I think I mentioned Flavor Flours, one of my all-time favorite cook books.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
Well, Josh Ritter–he’s coming out with a new album and one of his new singles is Getting Ready To Get Down. That pretty much gets you ready to do anything I think, so love that song.
On Keeping Posted with Tessa:
I really love Instagram, I’m on there a lot. Also on Pinterest and Facebook, and those are all @SaltedPlains. Those are probably the best places to find me, and Twitter.