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Ramblings on “Allergy Free” Baking and Gluten-Free “All Purpose” Flour

19 Nov

Those trying to address food allergies/intolerances in the kitchen see a couple of things frequently that I think everyone should be aware of the associated caviats that go with them — “Allergy Free” recipes and “Gluten-Free All Purpose” flour or baking mix.

 

“Allergy-Free”

There is no such thing as being allergy-free for everyone.  My oldest son is gluten-free and corn-free.  His is also mostly soy-free, dairy-free, and beef-free, with small exceptions for these last three.  His fish has to be wild, not farmed (they’re fed corn and soy and he can tell it by the increase in pain).  His chicken _can’t_ be organic (same issue as farmed fish) and he does ok with rice flour and can even have rice in small amounts now.  He couldn’t have it for a while, nor eggs and bananas.  Yet even with all of this, I would end up making stuff that other people couldn’t have (my son _can_ have nuts!).

Many recipe books assume corn is ok because they’ve addressed the big 8 allergies.  Nope.  Even Enjoy Life has corn in a few things. Just everyone, please be aware of what you’re putting in the food you make and what’s in the food you eat.

 

“All-Purpose” flour/baking mix

Gluten-free flours fall into about 4 categories — nut flours, bean flours, starches [white rice flour (fyi, I never use white rice flour, just brown) and corn, tapioca, potato, arrowroot and any other ‘starch’ flour I’m forgetting], and other flours (some call whole grain, but that’s a bit misleading).

I wish there were truly an all-purpose flour out there.  Even in wheat flour, all-purpose is ok, but not truly all-purpose.  Hence the reason I used to have all-purpose flour, pastry flour, bread flour, white whole wheat flour, etc.  Now?  I have brown rice flour, quinoa flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour, Bella’s all-purpose baking mix, and Pamela’s baking and pancake mix (she also makes a ton of other mixes by the way, including those for many baked goods!).  Apparently, I’ll need to add Teff to my inventory if I want to start making graham-like crackers.  There are other blends for sale such as Hodgson’s Mill, Better Batter, and Cup 4 Cup.  I’ve heard great things about c4c, but their original blend has ingredients my son can’t have (corn, dairy) and the other is a “whole-grain” style that I wouldn’t get as much use out of.  Hodgson Mill had amaranth flour, not my favorite (liquorice aftertaste… 😦 ).

What you really want to consider is what you would like to use the flour for and does the “all-purpose” mix fit your needs.  Some of it is a matter of taste and you will probably have to do some trial and error.  If you don’t like bean flours, you won’t want to use Bob’s Red Mill’s all-purpose flour probably.  But may I urge you to give it a try???  I use this for apple fritters (incredible) and chocolate chip cookies.  I’ve also used it for pizza crust, tho I prefer using a mix that I put together instead.  All-purpose flours with bean flour will give you a earthier taste.  I started to say heavy, but the fritters are most definitely light and yummy.  I’ll post those eventually.

If your all-purpose flour has starches (especially potato starch) and milk powders, it will be a lighter mix, good for something like banana bread and cookies.  Watch to see if there is salt or xanthum gum already in the mix. If there is, you don’t want to add more!  It will either turn out gummy or taste like salt.  Not good.

All-purpose “whole-grain” mixes probably won’t have starches and will lead to denser products; think whole wheat bread.

Another alternative is to simply make your own mix.  It could be as simple as 1/2 brown rice flour, 1/2 tapioca starch, or much more complex.  In general, I would start with 1/2 starches and 1/2 other “whole grain” kinds (by weight if possible).  There was a huge movement looking at ratios where some were concluding 40% starches and 60% other, but that really depends on your elevation, humidity, and taste.  Start with 50/50 and go from there.  If it’s too gummy, try less starches next time.  If it’s too heavy, try more!

Eventually you may want to add nut flours, including coconut, but bear in mind coconut flour absorbs huge amounts of liquid.

Personally, I make my own mix sometimes and use a store-bought one other times, depending largely on how fast I need it.  I do like Bella’s for an excellent pie crust tho.

 

Vanilla Blueberry Syrup

1 Mar

So I went to make waffles for the kids this morning and realized I was out of maple flavoring to make the syrup.  Ok, what to do.  Make Vanilla Syrup?  I use both vanilla extract and maple flavoring to make my syrup normally.  Then I remembered some blueberries I had in the freezer and thought, aha! blueberry syrup!

So I threw a cup of frozen blueberries into a saucepan, added water, white sugar, and brown sugar and brought it to a boil.  After a little while, when the blueberries were bursting and it was starting to thicken a little, I strained out the blueberries, squishing them a little in the strainer to get more juices out, and returned the syrup to the pan.

A little more thickening and it was time to taste.

A spoon. A sip. and aaaah 🙂

But then what did I do?!  Me and my vanilla habit 🙂  I added 1/2 a teaspoon (2.5 ml) of vanilla extract.  That was it!   Not much, right?  What did I discover?  That the blueberries really brought out the vanilla flavor 🙂

So it was still quite good, but I probably should have either left it as is or added just a smidge of lemon juice to brighten the blueberry flavor, like I do in my pie, if I truly wanted blueberry syrup.  Nonetheless I thought it was very worthy of a post, both for the flavor and for the bizarre discovery.

Thus Vanilla Blueberry Syrup was born, with a wonderful flavor of vanilla amongst blueberry overtones.

Ingredients:

1 c. (135 g) frozen blueberries

1/2 c. (4 oz, 113 g) cold water

1/2 c. (100 g) white sugar

1/2 c. (110 g) brown sugar

1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) vanilla extract

Directions:

1.  Put all ingredients except vanilla extract into a small saucepan.

2.  Boil 5 minutes or so, until the blueberries have burst, the syrup is a beautiful blue, and it has thickened slightly.  Use a spoon to sample it and you’ll be able to taste that it has thickened slightly if you’re in doubt visually.

3.  Strain through a sieve into a bowl, squishing the berries a bit to extract more juice.

4.  Pour it back into the pan and boil a few minutes more.  Note that I did this rather than straining at the end because it was easier to see how the syrup was doing.

5.  Stir in vanilla.

6.  Remove from heat and let it cool a bit and it will thicken more.

Enjoy!

 

UPDATE 2mar2012:  Changed ml measurement to grams for water.  Why use milliliters, a measure of volume, when everything else (except vanilla) is in grams, a weight?!  Why not give vanilla in grams?  For a couple of reasons.  One is that my scales are in increments of 5 grams, but rounding up vanilla to 5 grams would have a vastly different effect on a recipe than a difference of 5 grams of flour.  The other reason is that most non-US recipe sites that I see still use teaspoon measurement increments rather than grams for ingredients with such a small quantity even if everything else is in grams.