Posted: October 20th, 2010 | Author: jeni | Filed under: Drop Cookies, Cakes, and Muffins, Recipes | Tags: casein-free, cookies, oatmeal | Comments Off
Recipe is based on a traditional recipe from Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer & Marion Rombauer Becker; 1975 ed.
- 4 oz (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature.
- 3.5 oz brown sugar
- 3.5 oz white sugar
- 1 large egg, approx 2 oz
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp milk
- 5 oz soft flour mix
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 4 oz gluten-free rolled oats
- 4 oz raisins (if yours are dried out, microwave covered in water for 30 seconds, then drain)
- A food scale
- A stand or hand mixer
- Mixing bowl
- A #60 (9/16 oz, or roughly a tablespoon) disher
- Two half-sheet pans lined with parchment or silpat
- An oven standing by at 350°
Cream together butter and sugars until well-combined and fluffy in appearance. Add egg, vanilla, and milk, and mix together. Combine dry ingredients except oats and raisins, and slowly add to butter mixture while mixer is running on low. Add oats and raisins, mix to combine. Using a #60 disher (that’s 9/16 oz, or a little over a tablespoon) Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes, until tops and edges of cookies are lightly browned. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.
casein-free variation: substitute 4 oz casein-free margarine for butter, and trade out regular milk for almond, soy, or rice milk.
casein-free/soy-free variation: substitute 4 oz soy-free vegetable shortening and 1 tsp imitation butter flavoring for butter. Use rice or almond milk in place of regular milk.
Posted: October 19th, 2010 | Author: jeni | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, personal | Comments Off
In late 2004, I had a headache. Not the kind of headache where you take two Tylenol and call it done, but the kind of headache that wouldn’t go away for days, sometimes weeks. I’d always been the kind of person who got sick easily, who always felt tired and run-down, who always had that nagging ache in my back or shoulders, but 2004 was the first time I knew, without a doubt, that there was something wrong with my body. That headache would keep me on short-term disability for three months, and was the start of my own personal nightmare.
It would be three years before I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In that time I’d had knee surgery, and the symptoms worsened not long after. I went to countless doctors, tried dozens of different medications, and slowly sank into a haze of depression, pain, and exhaustion. Even after the diagnosis, nothing brought true relief. A few medications helped – some greatly, some not so much – but nothing offered me any sort of hope of recovery.
I spent the next few years trying to accept my new reality – walking with a cane, learning to adjust to my limits. It wasn’t easy. I kept going to doctor after doctor, seeking relief from the symptoms of fibro. Nothing worked, and I despaired that I’d ever have a life that wasn’t about pain and fatigue. It was during that period I met my chiropractor, Dr. McCarthy. The first few adjustments I received from him were amazing – for the first time in years, I could move my shoulders and hips easily.
It wasn’t long after that he said to me, “try going gluten-free.” I admit, I was a skeptic (okay, I’m still a skeptic; knowing why is one of the forces that drive me). A college friend had suggested going gluten-free years ago, but back then, I swore I could never give up bread and my love of baking. By the time Dr. McCarthy suggested it, I was at the point where I was willing to try anything. So I did.
Within three days, it was clear to me that gluten was the root of a lot of my problems. My pain subsided to tolerable levels. I had energy, could think clearly. The stomach problems that had bothered me for years (that I’d always thought were just a part of fibro) completely went away. It wasn’t a miracle cure, but it wasn’t far from it. Even the weight that I’d struggled all my adult life to lose melted off my body, and I lost over 60 lbs in a year.
And baking? Instead of losing a beloved hobby, I found a new calling. Gluten-free baking isn’t exactly like its traditional wheat-based counterpart, but it’s not so different, either. I took delight in sharing my baked goods with anyone who’d try them, and discovered that there was a market for quality gluten-free products. That’s where I am now: starting a gluten-free bakery in the small city I live. It’s not always easy – I still have days when I’m tired, still have days when I hurt, and I move a bit slower than most folks – but being gluten-free has given me back the one thing I thought fibro stole. It gave me hope, and a life worth living.
Posted: September 24th, 2010 | Author: jeni | Filed under: Drop Cookies, Cakes, and Muffins, Recipes | Tags: casein-free, chocolate, cookies | Comments Off
- 4 oz (1 stick) butter or casein-free margarine, softened to room temperature.
- 2 oz brown sugar
- 3 oz white sugar
- 1 large egg, approx 2 oz
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 oz soft flour mix
- a scant tsp salt (1/2 tsp if your butter is salted)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 6 oz chocolate chips
- 3-4 oz chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
- A food scale
- A stand or hand mixer
- Mixing bowl
- A #30 (1 oz) disher
- Two half-sheet pans lined with parchment or silpat
- An oven standing by at 350°
- A DeLorean, preferably modified for time travel.
Start by time travelling back a few hours, so this time you can take the butter out and let it soften. Sure, you can microwave your butter to soften it, but it never seems to soften evenly, and you end up with butter that’s half melted and half goop. While you’re there, save Doc Brown from his almost inevitable death, then speed back to the future in your DeLorean. When you’ve arrived, make sure the oven’s on and set to 350° and that your lined sheet pans are ready to go.
Cream together the butter or butter-like product together with the sugars. Keep this going for several minutes, until butter and sugar are well-creamed and fluffy in appearance. Stop the mixer, and add one egg and the vanilla. Blend in the egg and vanilla, then add in the soft flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix together until you have a soft dough.
Stir in at low speed (or by hand) your chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Then, using the #30 disher (that’s 1 oz, or 2 tablespoons), scoop out the cookie dough and deposit onto the lined sheet pan. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Let cool for a few minutes, preferably by lifting the sheet liner straight onto a cooling rack, else the cookies will fall apart when you touch them. This recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies in one go; enough for a dozen on each sheet pan.
Posted: September 23rd, 2010 | Author: jeni | Filed under: Gluten-Free Food Science | Tags: baking by weight, cookie, food scale, ratio | Comments Off
Quick: how many ounces are in a cup?
If you said 8, you’re only partially correct. There are eight ounces per cup of liquid, whether it’s milk, water, oil, or something entirely different. After all, a pint’s a pound the world around. But when it comes to measuring dry goods, there’s really no way of telling how many ounces are in a cup. Do you sift your flour? It could be as little as four ounces. Do you pack your measuring cup tight? It could be as much as six, or even seven ounces of flour. There’s simply no way of knowing, which is one of the reasons cooking using volumetric measures (1/2 cup, 1/4 cup, etc) can sometimes produce wildly different results.
Professional bakers and chefs have known for years that measuring by weight is the only way to produce the same baked goods consistently. Professional cookbooks and recipes refer to dry goods in grams or ounces, instead of referring to cups. That’s one of the reasons you’ll never see a recipe here written in cups – because I rarely use them.
In gluten-free baking, you’re often working with expensive, exotic flours and additives. Doesn’t it make sense to be as accurate as possible? A $30 food scale can bring a fine level of accuracy to your baking, ensuring that each batch is the same as the one before. Using a metric recipe? Most food scales can switch from Imperial measurement (ounces and pounds) to metric in the flick of a wrist, meaning that you can use recipes from other countries without the need for conversion.
But wait, there’s more! Gluten-free baking is surprisingly like its counterpart. In traditional baking, most batters and doughs are created using simple ratios. You might remember the recipe for soft flour mix, which called for parts. But how about a simple cookie, courtesy of Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking?
3 parts flour (try sorghum, oat, finely milled brown rice, or a combination)
2 parts fat (any solid fat: butter, shortening, CF margarine)
1 part sugar (date sugar, evaporated cane sugar, even regular old white sugar)
dash or two salt, if your fat is unsalted
Mix those in your kitchen (by weight!) and bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes; you’ll have a perfectly acceptable, if plain, cookie without any added ingredients. Try adding in a little vanilla extract, citrus zest, or spice in your next batch, or perhaps try a combination of sugars.
Cooking this way has other benefits, both the expected and the unforeseen. Baking by weight creates a lot less in the way of dishes, as there’s no surplus of spoons and measuring cups to clean up. I’ve found that the actual baking goes a lot faster – I just dump my dry goods in one bowl, the wet into another, mix, and bake. I’ve found that after years of baking by weight, I’ve developed a few interesting parlor tricks, like gauging portion sizes accurately and knowing whether I need an extra stamp on a birthday card, all without a scale.
Your mileage may vary on the last one.
Posted: September 22nd, 2010 | Author: jeni | Filed under: Gluten-Free Food Science, Recipes | Tags: flour mixes, soft flour, whole grain | Comments Off
In traditional baking, the amount of gluten in your flour determines the type of baked good you can make with it. On one extreme, you have flours milled from species of red winter wheat, which are high in gluten content. These flours are called hard flours, and are mostly suited towards yeast breads. On the other end, you have flours milled from species of white winter wheat, which are suited for light pastries and tender baked goods. These flours are referred to as soft flours, and have low gluten contents.
Still with me? Soft and hard. One makes batters, the other makes dough. I’m not entirely sure why the terminology is “soft” and “hard,” but I imagine it has a lot to do with the feel of the final product, and of the process that leads you there. In gluten-free baking, you’re looking for much the same from your flour blends. The amount of protein – through whole milled grains like sorghum and brown rice, through bean flours and pea fibre, through egg white powder and milk powder and soy – determines in large part the final consistency.
In most recipes, you’re looking for a blend of three or four starches and flours. You’ll want a starch that turns a little gummy in water, or even two of those, to help develop lift and a tender crumb. Sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, and cornstarch are all commonly used. You’ll want a starch that helps the final baked good keep a little bit of color. Most folks seem to prefer potato starch (not to be confused with potato flour!), since it browns nicely but is otherwise neutral in taste and color. Finally, you’ll want a flour for taste, whether it’s a mild white rice flour or nutty whole-grain flavor like sorghum or teff.
My favorite soft flour blend, and the basis behind most of my cakes and cookies, is:
2 parts sweet rice flour (or 1 part sweet rice, and 1 part mild GF flour like white rice)
1 part tapioca starch
1 part potato starch
That’s parts, as in weight. For four pounds of flour, you’d need two pounds sweet rice flour, one pound tapioca starch, one pound potato starch. Put it in a large, resealable container, and shake it until everything is well blended. I’ve got a 6 quart Rubbermaid food storage container that I use at home specifically for this purpose. I bought it at Sam’s Club, but any restaurant supply store should have something suitable (Pro tip: you’ll find better quality and better prices by shopping at restaurant supply stores as opposed to your local Name Brand store. I’m looking at you, Bed Bath & Beyond.)
This is a truly soft, very neutral tasting flour blend. On its own, it produces tender-crisp cookies with just the slightest of lift. In combination with a food additive like xanthan gum, it creates meltingly tender cakes and quick breads. It’s perfect for times when you need a little bit of all purpose flour for breading or binding, and is suitable for roux, gravies, and pan sauces. In a lot of cases, I can take favorite traditional recipes, and use this blend almost exactly like wheat-based pastry or cake flour.
The soft blend lacks pretty much any semblance of flavor, so it depends on other ingredients like sugars, fats, and flavoring extracts to create flavor. For items like biscuits, where the majority of the flavor is from the flour, it needs a little extra help. It also lacks in protein, which means it’s not good for yeast breads, and it’s about as nutritious as Kleenex.
In cases where I want additional flavor, protein, or nutrition in my final product, I usually add in a whole grain blend. Because it lacks the added starches for gumming and browning, it doesn’t do much by itself. In combination with starches, it adds a nutty, wholesome flavor that almost tastes like whole wheat or graham flours.
The whole grain blend looks a lot like this:
2 parts “sweet” white sorghum
1 part millet
1 part finely milled brown rice flour
Any proportion, any combination of flours from whole grains can work. Try switching the millet for teff, oat, or quinoa flours. Substitute some of the sorghum for flaked quinoa or corn masa flour. It works with whatever you have on hand. Brown rice flour is usually the only constant presence in this blend. The flavor changes as you change the ingredients, so play with proportions and flours until you have a combination you really enjoy.
Next, a word on brown rice flours. Many people find that brown rice often results in a gritty texture. Both Bob’s Red Mill and Authentic Foods have brown rice flours that are milled superfine, which prevents a lot of the grittiness. I’ve found that Arrowhead Mills and Hodgson Mill don’t grind their rice as fine, which results in gritty baked goods. There are times when that grittiness is a good thing – take shortbread, for instance – but most of the time I stick with finely milled brown rice flour.
I’ll substitute up to 50% of the soft flour in a recipe for this whole grain blend. It’s especially good in breakfast muffins and biscuits, and makes good crackers. I also use the whole grain blend as a starting point for whole grain yeast breads, with the addition of starches, gums, and extra protein in the form of egg white powder. But … that’s another post.
Posted: September 21st, 2010 | Author: jeni | Filed under: Know Your Ingredients | Tags: binding agents, food additives, xanthan gum | 2 Comments »
When I first began baking gluten-free, I was intimidated by all the different flours and additives it takes to create a successful gluten-free baked good. I’d come from the Pollan school of thought (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”), and thought of extra ingredients as being somewhat unwholesome. Xanthan gum? Monocalcium phosphate? Carboxymethylcellulose? What the heck is this stuff? Why is it in my food?
I was a food science geek long before ever thinking of becoming gluten-free, thanks in large part to a healthy obsession with all things Alton Brown. I’d perused molecular gastronomy blogs and knew that there was a different culinary culture out there, one which focused on using a half-dozen of these food additives to turn unexpected ingredients into familiar forms. The more familiar I became with gluten-free baking, the more I realized that gluten-free baking and molecular gastronomy often overlapped. After all, aren’t gluten-free bakers trying to turn unexpected ingredients like bean flours and cornstarch into familiar forms?
Gluten is sort of miraculous stuff, when you think about it from a science point of view. It’s a protein that forms a network of cells to traps gases released in baking. It produces the snappy crust and the tender crumb; the bane of the soft, delicate pastry and the hero of the baguette. Other things can mimic it, here and there, but nothing acts quite like gluten in baking. It’s that same protein that those with celiac and gluten-intolerance can’t eat, even in the smallest quantities. I can remember when it really sunk in that I couldn’t eat gluten. I was pretty heartbroken when I realized that my love affair with a sourdough baguette was over.
The first food additive that I came across in gluten-free baking was xanthan gum. “It acts like gluten in your baking,” I was told. But what is xanthan gum? It’s been a common food additive since the late 60s, seen often in products like salad dressings and ice cream. Does it act like gluten in gluten-free baking? Well, sort of. Xanthan gum is a general purpose thickener, emulsion stabilizer, and binder. When added to a gluten-free batter, it helps to develop a carbohydrate mixture that works somewhat like gluten.
Xanthan gum is a polysaccaride derived from a bacteria known as Xanthomonas campestris. Wikipedia that one if you feel like it; it’s a bacteria that forms certain types of plant diseases (if that bothers you, just remember that the first antibiotics came from bread mold. Bacteria isn’t necessarily bad). The bacteria is combined with a fermented sugar — usually derived from corn, but occasionally from wheat or soy. It chomps through the sugar and converts it to gum, then the bacteria is killed off by pasteurization, and the gum precipitated out with an alcohol substance.
When purchasing xanthan gum, make sure that the gum you pick up is gluten-free. Store it sealed tightly and away from moisture. I find that a half-teaspoon per 5 ounces or so of flour mix is usually fine for chemically leavened baked goods; yeast breads take a bit more. Depending on what you’re making, you may find you need more or less, perhaps none at all. When you use xanthan gum, add it with other dry ingredients. You can also use it to thicken pan sauces. This is one of those cases when a dab will literally do.
Some people find that they can’t tolerate xanthan gum, even in the small amounts used in gluten-free cooking. Because it’s a fermented product, it may not be suitable for those dealing with Candida overgrowth. Xanthan gum is used as a laxative, so eating too much of it may result in bloating, gas, and other – ahem – intestinal discomforts. It’s also not good to breathe the stuff in, as it can irritate the nose, throat, and lungs. If you find that you can’t tolerate xanthan gum, don’t despair! I’ll be covering other food additives that can take place of xanthan gum, ranging from gums produced from beans to fruit pectin, gelatin, and a thickener derived from algae.