✨Skillet Crumb Cake✨
a gluten-free variation on an old classic + flour-based recipe, too
I’ve been feeling a stranger in my own body on and off for five years now. No one talks about menopause, or the real culprit that can turn your mental, emotional and physical life upside down during what’s supposed to be its prime for women in their 40s—perimenopause. I’ve been vocal about this on Instagram, and Matthew has gotten his fair share in our conversations. I wonder if I’m boring people with this situation that affects an invisible part of the population–women in mid-life.
In a culture obsessed with youth and thinness, I find myself across the road, relegated to old(er) and thicker, and am beginning to understand the only reason it seems effortless for everyone else is because none of us talk openly about it. It’s only in my being vocal about how I’ve been feeling that I’m finding out my girlfriends are either struggling or already dealt with similar side effects of perimenopause.
You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with crumb cake, and the answer is everything. When I finally realized one small change wasn’t enough to combat the inflammation I’ve been dealing with I decided to do what I’d been dreading. I’ve been very hesitant to talk directly about my dietary changes because the truth is I didn’t know how committed I wanted to be to it. Would any of it make a meaningful enough difference worth the sacrifice? I’d done an elimination diet six years ago to get at the root of why I was feeling “off”, for what was probably the beginning of perimenopause but no doctor ever brought this up at the time.
During that stint six years ago, my dietary changes were much more dramatic. I was basically on a vegan, gluten-free diet, void of nightshade vegetables, sweet citrus and other fruits high in sugar, no caffeine and no sugar. In my mind, the only way I could get back to feeling better was going back to that extreme from six years ago. I was not willing to make those changes again but finally decided maybe it didn’t have to be all or nothing. What if I just omitted a few foods, namely coffee, alcohol and wheat, that I knew were inflammation triggers and bumped up the foods I knew would counter it?
Almost three weeks later, I can say that for me, these modifications to my everyday life are helping. Over the last year, I’d gone stretches with giving up one or the other, or solely focus on my mental well-being, but ultimately for me it took a multi-faceted approach to get to a place where I’m starting to feel less on fire inside, less swollen and bloated, and finding more mental focus and clarity, although the focus is still a little bit of a struggle. I think that’s related to sleep, though, something I’ve never been good at since childhood.
So, the gluten-free version of my classic crumb cake is a direct result of my need to keep up an important form of therapy–baking. The idea of not baking is what really held me back on cutting out wheat, and while I’ve dabbled with it over the last decade, I never felt the need to do a deep dive since eating wheat-based products didn’t seem to be a long-term issue. There are certainly plenty of established gluten-free bakers and writers I could rely on but for someone who’s life is based on creating recipes and known for her baking prowess, I knew the time had finally come. 48 hours after I told a dear friend that I wasn’t ready to invest in a gluten-free baking pantry, I found myself on a treasure hunt for psyllium husk powder.
This crumb cake is much less lifting in terms of ingredients, as I knew it would be a good application for Cup4Cup, the gluten-free multi-purpose flour blend developed at The French Laundry restaurant. When the flour was first launched back in 2010 I got to meet Thomas Keller and Lena Kwak, the woman behind its creation. Lena’s story is fascinating and empowering–you can read about it here.
Cup4Cup works really well in some recipes, like this crumb cake, and not so great in others that need a more nuanced balance of flours, starches and binders to recreate the textures and structure I’m looking for in baked goods and bread. What’s most important is that I’m having lots of fun in the kitchen, flexing a new muscle. I don’t know that I will always need to eat this way. My hunch is my body just needs a break from everything, and in time I will be able to enjoy some of those foods I love, just not every day or all at once. I felt sad about the idea of doing this for months; it weighed heavy on my mind during December’s baking extravaganza.
A few weeks in, and feeling more like a host and less a visitor in my own body makes it really easy to draw clear lines between what I want and what I need. There will still be plenty of “regular” recipes since I’ve lots of people in my life who don’t have the same restrictions I do at the moment. The bonus is now I get to open a whole new world for many of you who’ve been following me for years, and adapting my recipes to fit your dietary needs. It’s really a win-win for all of us.
Hope your week has been balanced with moments of peace. Remember to be kind, both to others and to yourself. –xo, j.
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