Tag Archives: gluten-free

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.

 

New Beginnings

25 Jul

Hi all! Well, I made my first gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, corn-free (almost) chocolate chip cookie from scratch yesterday! And the miraculous thing??? It was actually good!! Many thanks to Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom for the recipe which I only slightly modified. She used baking powder, which has cornstarch, so I used 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar instead of a tsp of baking powder. I also used crisco buttery stick because it was the closest I could find to a corn-free, butter flavored baking stick to use. Even then it’s possible that the “flavoring” has corn, but it worked for my son so I’m ok with it for a first try. It was a 4 on a scale of 1-10 on his stomach. My goal is all 1s and 2s, but since he was ok with a 4, well, so was I 🙂

My son’s head and stomach pains are still there, but much reduced, since he started his elimination diet. We’re trying to add some foods back in, with mixed success. it’s going to be a long road, but I’m very hopeful.

I’m going to start baking again. It’s like learning to bake all over again. So far I’ve learned I need xanthum gum or something similar to help replace the gluten that is not in the flours I’m using. Based on these cookies, I’m guessing that rice flour is about as close as I’m going to get to all-purpose flour. Sorghum is used to give a sweeter (nuttier?) taste to bake goods, and tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch) is great for tenderizing. There’s more, but I’ll save that for later.

Around the World-wise, I expect these meals to resume in a month or so, when I’ve done a little more research and when finances are on a better footing (I’m job interviewing!).

Hope everyone is well and I’ll see you here again soon. I’ll post pics of the choc chip cookies when I get pics up.

Take care!

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!  🙂

Chocolate Mousse

3 Apr

So, according to my better half, it is National Chocolate Mousse Day.  Well, I couldn’t pass that up.  So, in honour of National Chocolate Mousse Day, I present to you today, not one, but two recipes for it.  Grab the lactaid tablets if you need them ’cause we’re talking lots of cream…

Mise en place.  Pick your poison — semi sweet chocolate (chips work fine as does a bar) or cocoa (Penzey’s natural is my fav).  You’ll also need heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and sugar if you’re using cocoa.  If you’re gluten-free, please be sure to read your labels for your vanilla and chocolate to be sure they’re gluten-free.

These are both super quick recipes and very easy.  The one with the cocoa powder is what I use when I make triple chocolate torte (recipe coming eventually! :)), but frankly they both taste very similar.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (using chocolate chips or a chocolate bar):

(adapted from Luscious Chocolate Desserts by Lori Longbotham)

Ingredients:

(fyi, for liquids similar to water in weight, ml and grams are about the same.)

8 oz (227 g) semi-sweet chocolate (both chips and bar work.  I used Ghiradelli chips ’cause they were cheaper)

2 c. (473 ml, 473 g) heavy whipping cream, *divided*

1-1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) vanilla extract

pinch salt , optional

Directions:

1. Bring 1/2 c. (118 ml) heavy whipping cream to a boil in a small saucepan.

2. Remove pan from heat and stir in chocolate, vanilla, and salt (optional) until the chocolate is melted.  Let cool to room temperature.  (If you’re in a rush, transfer it to a glass bowl for quicker cooling; it will be room temp within a few minutes.)

3. Pour remaining cream into a mixing bowl and mix on med-high (I put the wire whip attachment on my stand mixer and set the speed to 6.) until it’s starting to thicken up and you can see trails from the mixer in the cream.  You do _not_ want the cream to form peaks at this point.

4.  Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the room temp chocolate mixture.  You can either drizzle it in while it’s mixing or add it in a few batches.  Once this is mixed in, you’re done!

Pretty easy, no? 🙂

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (using cocoa and sugar):

(adapted from Hershey’s Best Cakes)

Ingredients:

(fyi, for liquids similar to water in weight, ml and grams are about the same.)

2/3 c. (135 g) sugar

1/3 c. (27 g) cocoa (natural, not dutched)

1-1/2 c. (355 ml, 355 g) heavy whipping cream

1-1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Combine sugar and cocoa in mixing bowl.

2. Add cream and vanilla.

3. Whisk together briefly to start it and then mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until stiff.

How’s that for easy?!  🙂

Let me know if you have any questions and enjoy your mousse!

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… 🙂

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.

Brigadeiros

24 Feb

I first saw these little gems on an America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) post.  They were just so cute!  Simple, too – just three ingredients + decorating candies (nonpareils)!   In all of the posts I found around the internet, none used vanilla, but they screamed vanilla to me, so mine have four ingredients + nonpareils 🙂   My little brigadeiros are not quite traditional, but they sure are good!

The other thing I noticed is that many of the recipes around the web had very little cocoa.  2 tablespoons, 3 tablespoons.  Ummm.  I guess I’m a chocoholic ’cause that’s not much at all to me.  Eight tablespoons, which is what ATK used did seem a bit much to me so I guess there are even chocolatier chocoholics out there.  I put in 7.  You could get away with 6, but I wouldn’t drop it much more or you may as well scoop the sweetened condensed milk right out of the can and into your mouth 🙂

Something else widely noted was that The United States’ version of sweetened condensed milk isn’t as sweet as that found in Brazil.  wow.  I have a sweet tooth, but I cannot imagine using something even sweeter.  If you’d like, using Nestle’s Quick chocolate drink mix was suggested in several recipes instead of cocoa to make up for the less sweet condensed milk we have.  I did not do this as they are plenty sweet to me.

I also added more butter for a creamier candy, and used natural cocoa instead of Dutch processed, so in the end, I tweaked this quite a bit, but I think you’ll like it.

ok.  enough background info.  Grab a can of sweetened condensed milk, some cocoa powder (regular, natural cocoa, not Dutch processed), some butter, and your vanilla and let’s get to this!

Ingredients:

1 can ( 14 oz, 397 g) sweetened condensed milk (_not_ evaporated milk)

7 tablespoons (40 g) natural cocoa powder (Penzeys is wonderful!)

1/2 stick (2 oz, 57 g) butter

1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla

Directions:

1) Cut up the butter a bit and put it in a small saucepan on medium-low heat along with the condensed milk and cocoa powder.

2) Keep stirring until you think your arm’s going to fall off, occasionally swiping a rubber spatula down the middle to see if it leaves a path.  Once it does, remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  This will take about 15-20 minutes.

3) Pour the mixture into a buttered 8″ x 8″ (20 cm x 20 cm) glass dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4) After 30 minutes, pull it out and scoop the mixture into little balls using either your fingers or a small spoon and your thump to scoop it off.

5) Roll into small balls and roll the balls into nonpareils.  You could include various colorful ones and chocolate shot, or a mixture thereof.

Enjoy!

Frosty the Fudgeman

23 Dec

Hi Blog!  I’ve missed you 😦  Let’s make some fudge shall we?  I have a recipe that was handed down from my Grandma to my Mom to me.  I’ve been making it since I was about 9 years old.  It’s quick, easy, creamy, and delicious.  Don’t have a candy thermometer?  No worries; you can still do this.

A word of caution.  While I started making this as a kid, please please please supervise closely if you are allowing your kid to make this.  I recommend making it yourself first, so you know what to expect.  Sugar burns are nasty.  Please be very, very careful. Also note, this pot is heavy when you pour it out; you’re pouring 3-1/2 pounds of fudge. Doesn’t sound like a lot of weight, but it sure feels it when you’re holding the pot in one hand and and scraping it out with the other.  Rest it on a hot mat if you need to.  And if you want seven pounds of fudge?  Don’t double it; make it twice.

Another word of caution.  It’s addictive 🙂

Here’s all you need:

Update: Be sure to check your labels to confirm all items are gluten-free if you are gluten intolerant!

semi-sweet chocolate chips, milk chocolate candy bars (It originally called for three 5-cent Hershey bars.  They’re a bit more expensive now :)), marshmallow creme, evaporated milk, and sugar:

oh, and a marble slab or plastic mold and some butter to coat.  If you don’t have these, then a cookie sheet or regular casserole dish will work just fine.

A candy thermometer will be handy to have, but is not an absolute necessity.  If you don’t have one, grab a clear glass and fill it with ice cold water.

Let’s talk candy cooking stages for a moment.  You’re going to put the milk and sugar into a large sauce pot and cook it for about ten minutes, bringing it to a stage of boiling called “soft ball” stage.  This is because when you drop a bit of this mixture into cold water, it will literally form a soft ball.  It will be 234 F (112 C) on your thermometer.  My thermometer says 240 F (116 C) is soft ball stage.  If yours does, too, ignore it or you’ll have grainy fudge.  Initially the milk and sugar mixture does nothing, and stays that way.  Then all of a sudden it decides it’s time to boil and and will look like this…

And it will rise. Fast.

See how it rose about an inch and is more golden colored?  Once it gets here, it will stay here a few minutes.  Watch the thermometer crepe up.  Again, if you don’t have a thermometer, just test your mixture.  If your water is ice cold and the mixture goes splat, it has not cooked enough.  Wait a minute and try again.  You’ll eventually see it form a ball.  Put your fingers in and feel it; it will be squishy.  If you cook it a bit too long, it will form a hard ball (hard ball stage) and if you cook it a lot too long you’ll eventually reach hard crack stage where the mixture will literally spin a hair in the cold water.  This is peanut brittle, not fudge.

Once you’ve reached softball stage, you simply remove it from the heat, add the chocolates and marshmallow creme, stir and poor onto your slab or into your mold.  I buttered my mold and added confectioner’s sugar for ease of release and to make it look like Frosty 🙂

Stover’s Fudge

Update: Be sure to check your labels to confirm all items are gluten-free if you are gluten intolerant!

4-1/2 c. (855 g) white sugar

1 lg can (12 oz, 359 ml) evaporated milk     [_not_ sweetened condensed milk]

1 lg package (12 oz, 340 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 milk chocolate bars [1.55 oz. (44 g) each for a total of 4.65 oz (132 g)]

1 jar marshmallow creme (7 oz, 198 g)

2 c. nuts, optional

Cook sugar and milk together until soft ball stage. (See notes above recipe for candy stages.)  Stir constantly or it will stick.  Remove from fire.  Add marshmallow creme, chocolate chips, chocolate bars, and nuts (if using).  Mix well and poor into buttered dishes.  Cool.

This cools really fast when you pour it onto a cool surface so don’t worry about it running over the edge of the slab.

To serve, I cut pieces as needed.  If you cut it in advance they’ll dry out.  For gift giving, cut off small sections and wrap in plastic wrap.

Enjoy!

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