Interview: Behind Thomas Keller's AdHoc Gluten-free Waffle & Pancake Mix
"Oh my god, this is amazing!"
Probably not something you say or hear often when it comes to gluten-free food, but it happened to me when I made waffles using Thomas Keller's AdHoc Gluten-Free Waffle & Pancake mix, generously provided by my favorite company Williams-Sonoma.
When I first heard that Thomas Keller was offering gluten-free mixes through Williams-Sonoma, I thought "Wow, that's really freaking cool," especially since he is one of my culinary heroes and one of the best Chefs in the world. I was a little disappointed to find out that the cheapest mix retails for $17.95. I've come to grips with spending oodles of cash on gluten-free products, it just comes with the territory, although I wish that weren't the case since it's expensive enough to feed one person gluten-free, I can only imagine when that that number is doubled, tripled or more when it comes to an entire family of gluten-free eaters.
Still, $18 is a hard pill to swallow on a small box of any mix, so I can't really say I would have normally gone out to buy it without knowing for certain that it was worth the money, and I can tell you without a doubt this mix is worth every penny.
I didn't even have a waffle iron, so I went out to buy one just to make these waffles and I'm hooked forever. The mix was beyond easy to prepare, no beating egg whites into soft peaks to add air to the batter, just add an egg, milk and some butter - that's it.
I obsessively wringed my hands waiting for the waffles to cook, my experience with gluten-free waffles in the past has always left a bad taste in my mouth, figuratively and literally. More importantly, I was worried about burning them.
When the timer dinged, I trepidatiously opened the waffle iron squinting (afraid to see if it had burned), and to my delight sat a beautifully golden and FLUFFY waffle. I couldn't believe it.
I plucked it out of the waffle iron and tried it immediately; burning my tongue in the process, but it was so worth it. The first bite was heavenly, and sweet, with a subtle vanilla flavor. A lot of gluten-free pancakes and waffles can have a chalky taste, and are sometimes gritty; this was NOT the case with these waffles. Matt, who is no stranger to gluten, could not believe the waffles were gluten-free. His words were "I think it's worth spending the $18 on this if it means I can eat waffles with you," and I totally agree.
We had the waffles with a gluten-free version of Thomas Keller's fried chicken, which I adapted from a recipe on Momofuku For 2. The chicken was amazing as well, but I found myself just wanting more waffles.
The box comes with two small bags of flour mixture inside, about 2 cups per bag. For us, one bag was enough to make 5 waffles, but I put extra batter in the wells to have them spread out further. You could probably eek out 8 waffles per bag if you are frugal with your batter in the waffle iron.
Chef Lena Kwak, the creator of C4C flour, took a few moments to answer my questions about how she developed the flour mix, and her plans to extend the line of gluten-free products sold through Williams-Sonoma. Many thanks to Chef Lena for the interview and for developing mixes that put to shame ANYTHING I have had to date - you rock!
Misterbelly's Interview with Chef Lena Kwak
What made you decide to develop C4C gluten-free flour?
Believe it or not, it was somewhat of a fluke! As Research and Development chef at The French Laundry, I had been modifying recipes at the restaurant for all sorts of different dietary restrictions: vegan, diabetic and celiac, of course, which prompted the development of a gluten free cornet and bread. When the bread was served to guests, the dining room staff would remark at how appreciative and happy people were, which was great feedback. But it was when I met a guest face-to-face, who had tears rolling down her face after eating her first bite of brioche in years that I realized how touching something like this could be.
You work with one of the greatest Chefs in the world, Thomas Keller, what do you think made him receptive to embracing the gluten-free community?
When I was preparing to sit down to speak with Chef Keller I was so nervous and had armed myself with loaded facts and lists of reasons why we should try to address this issue. I opened by telling the story of the tear-stricken guest, and before delving into my notes Chef Keller looked at me and said, point blank, “How can I help you do this?”
What are some of the struggles you encountered with developing C4C?
I developed the product in a kitchen full of great palates. My test-recipe “guinea pigs” were French Laundry chefs, who were less concerned whether or not there was gluten in it- it just better taste great. Looking back, I think it helped me excel my proprietary blend of flour and the recipes that followed in ways I couldn’t foresee. I had to create something that was on par with my surroundings, which in turn meant by bringing C4C to the home chef, I was bringing a piece of a 3-star Michelin kitchen into each of my consumers’ kitchens.
What differentiates C4C from other all-purpose gluten-free flours?
It is a complete flour blend. You don’t have to measure-out differently and change ratios according to a recipe. Also I feel the end results are indistinguishable. I wanted to make sure to create something with which you were able to make and taste grandma’s recipes just like you remembered.
What are your favorite recipes to make with C4C?
Waffles of any form….sweet or savory! C4C waffles tend to be fluffier on the inside, and stay crispier longer on the ridges. Plus, who turns down a waffle?!
Are there plans to have gluten-free goods available at Bouchon, and the other
Thomas Keller restaurants? Or are they currently available on special request?
While I would love to see gluten-free product available for immediate purchase at the bakeries, it is difficult to provide a finished, baked retail item without having a dedicated gluten-free facility. We avoid doing so to prevent any contamination. However, there may be plans to have packaged retail items in the future.
What other gluten-free products are you hoping to develop in the future?
Bread flour for all of us pizza lovers. I’m a chef, and a foodie, which opens my point of view to the endless possibilities in the world of cooking. We are not limiting ourselves to only producing within the realm of gluten-free, but rather hope to further C4C’s initial motivation, making people happy through food, by focusing on products of quality and taste.