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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.

 

A Solar Oven and and Learning to Bake

31 May

 

Hi all,

So this is my oldest son with his solar oven homework.

Take a pizza box and glue foil along the bottom and sides.  Lay black construction paper in the bottom.  Cut a top flap that is an inch smaller than the top of the pizza box.  Glue foil to the top flap. Tape plastic wrap over the opening with masking tape.  Be sure to tape all four edges.

Remember how a pizza box closes?  The front flap you see actually opens for food to slide in and out of the oven.  Tape a short piece of string to the top (about 12″) so that you can tape the other end of the string to a table or whatever the oven is sitting on so that you can hold the flap open at an angle while the food cooks.

Ok.  So, do you see the s’mores in the box?  They should have been topped with another graham cracker and wrapped with foil before putting in the oven according to his teacher, but this actually worked fine.  You do need to leave them out most of the day tho.

The other thing about the s’mores in the box?  My son can’t actually have those, not the marshmallow, the chocolate, nor the graham cracker.  He also can’t have gluten, corn, oats, or many other things right now because he’s on what’s called an elimination diet.  You remove all potential food allergens or irritants to allow the gut to reset and be happy.  For six months now, his head and stomach have been in constant pain.  Yes, even in the picture; he’s learned to hide it.  No 10 yo should have to do that.  (btw, his hair is long ’cause he grows it for locks of love.  That and he likes long hair :).

When the pain is gone, or between 4 and 6 weeks if it doesn’t go away, we will start adding back in, one by one, all of the foods we’ve dropped so that we can determine which ones are problems.  We did find out yesterday that there is a possibility they missed Crohns in the small bowel, but we’re also fairly sure he has food intolerances.  Gluten is one (he was off for three weeks and then back on and was worse when he was back on; we went through this twice so it’s fairly clear.  lactose is also a problem currently).  There may be others, but right now all food irritates him so we’ve got to get his gut cleared up if possible.

Why am I telling you all of this?  For one thing, it’s ’cause I know some of you have been kind enough to follow this blog or check in now and then to see what’s new and there hasn’t been anything.  For another thing, I may well need to learn to bake again, without who knows what. Gluten, corn [think about it; it’s in everything (vanilla – corn based alcohol; confec sugar – corn starch; baking powder – corn starch (tho you can make your own w/o); even xanthum gum, used in a lot of gluten-free cooking, can be derived from corn)] , etc.

We will eventually get back to our around the world dinners and I’ll eventually bake again, but I won’t be posting to the blog regularly for a while.  We may well end up eating a whole lot healthier after this and actually like it! 🙂  We shall see.  But change, we must.  My baby needs to be pain-free if at all possible.

Thank you for stopping in and be sure to subscribe so you’ll get new posts when I do start back up.  I still have to post Burkina Faso and Cambodia!  🙂

Going Gluten-Free???

26 Mar

So my 10 yo has been sick for several months now and I’ve been wondering if I should even continue this blog.  We don’t know what he has.  We do know he’s in constant pain, both with his head and stomach.  We tried gluten-free for three weeks.   During this time, I was like, now how can I write a baking blog of all the things I know when I know nothing about gluten-free?!  Turns out I don’t need to become an expert as it made no difference and his celiac test came back negative.

Gluten Geekdom

From a purely geeky perspective, it was quite fascinating to do some gluten-free baking tho so I have added a tag for it and am now at least much more aware of the need for gluten-free recipes for those with celiac, those who are gluten-intolerant, and those who make the choice to go gluten-free for other reasons.

For the unaware, gluten is a protein in wheat (barley, rye, etc.) and oats.  More precisely, it’s a string of amino acids.  The string in oats is ever so slightly different from wheat so some people who can’t have wheat, can have oats, and some can’t.  Gluten is what gives bread it’s wonderful rise (besides yeast) and chewiness.  When you knead bread, you’re developing the gluten in it, stretching out those chains.  When you make cookies, you don’t want to develop the gluten ’cause you’ll end up with tough cookies.  Similarly with cakes.

That’s the whole point of different kinds of flours.  With cake and pastry flour you have very low levels of protein so your cakes and pies will be tender and delicate, not tough and chewy.  Bread flour on the other hand will have some of the highest protein levels around, for higher rise and better texture.

Gluten Free

What does this mean if you’re going gluten-free?  That you need to find a substitute for the gluten.  This is where xanthum gum comes in.  It takes the place of gluten, but it still won’t give you the same texture to your dough and there’s waaaaay more to learn about baking gluten-free than what I’ve picked up these past few weeks.  The texture of bread dough becomes very airy, almost like foam.  And cookies?  I have no idea how people use a cookie scoop with this kind of dough.  It’s crumbles instead of a mass of dough.  I found myself grabbing handfuls to squish together to form balls of dough.  Amazingly enough, it worked!  The cookies were actually quite good, too.  Just don’t expect the exact same flavors.  Afterall, these are made of bean and rice flours largely.

There are some great all-purpose, gluten-free, flours out there (Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur Flour) which will give you a start so you can see the kind of airy dough you end up with when baking this way.  Betty Crocker and Bisquick even have some gluten-free mixes so that you’re not totally left in the dust if you find yourself completely lost.  I’ve made both Betty Crocker’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies and Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free Pizza Dough mix.  We all loved the pizza dough when I made it into Focaccia, drizzling it with olive oil and sprinkling it with salt and dried rosemary.  Mmmmm Good!  This will be a keeper for the future for sure!

When using gluten-free all-purpose flours, unfortunately, you can just take your favorite recipes, substitute in gf all-purpose flour for regular all-purpose flour, and add a bit of xanthum gum.  I wish.  I asked about this on the King Arthur blog because that’s what the xanthum gum package implied.  There’s more to it than that tho and like I said, I don’t know enough yet to explain it all.

There is lots of information out there to be had on going gluten-free; just google it.  Meanwhile, I highly recommend checking out the King Arthur Flour web site for recipes and information.  Also check out glutenfreegoddess.com.  I have not tried her recipes yet, but they look promising and she gets great comments from her readers.  She also has tags for dairy-free, vegan, etc.

Future

So what does the future hold on this blog?   I have no idea 🙂  My son is awaiting a pediatric gastroenterologist appointment, but I will be back to blogging and working on getting at least a couple of posts out each week because I really enjoy doing this.  When the recipe is gluten-free, I will tag it as such.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging… 🙂