Ho Hos, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on April 28, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery so often I get a craving for Hostess snacks from my childhood.  The majority of my childhood took place in the 70s—which seems to me to have been the Hostess snacks heyday.  Or maybe it was my own personal Hostess snacks heyday because I was a kid then and they were the food of my childhood.

I think my mom kept my three siblings and me supplied with most of the main varieties of Hostess snack cakes: Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Twinkies, Donettes, and CupCakes. Of course, each of us had our own personal pecking order of favorites. The one we all agreed on to the same degree were the Donettes (the mini doughnuts)—they were considered by our mom as a “breakfast food” (which boggles the mind now)–so we didn’t need to worry about them being around because they were always there. Of course, being a chocolate fiend, I loved the chocolate covered ones best–but the powdered sugar ones were just fine.

Twinkies were at the bottom of the pecking order for me—mainly because they weren’t chocolate, which was an instant strike against them. And sometimes they were banana flavored (the original flavor), which I really didn’t like. I think my brother put Twinkies towards the top of his list, so they stayed in the house. One of my sisters was crazy for Ding Dongs, the hockey puck shaped, chocolate coated, cream-filled cakes. I liked Ding Dongs, but they weren’t my ultimate favorite. I think the problem with them is that I thought the chocolate coating was too thin.  And my other sister liked best the CupCakes with the twirly design on the top.

Even though Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, and the CupCakes were all basically the same ingredients molded into different shapes, I did have preferences. Ho Hos were my favorite, followed closely by CupCakes and then Ding Dongs. I think the reason for this is that you were pretty much assured at getting everything—the cream filling, the chocolate cake, and the chocolate coating–in each bite. With Ding Dongs and CupCakes, you took a chance of getting a bite that didn’t contain all three at once. As I write this, it seems odd to me that Ding Dongs didn’t come in second for me—you were assured of at least getting the chocolate coating and cake in each bite. Yet, CupCakes were my second favorite—the chocolate frosting was thick on the top, so I could forgive it for having more cake than the others (the frosting was my favorite).  Ho Hos were the top for me. In addition to their superior ingredient arrangement, Ho Hos had the further advantage of an interactive component—you could unroll them and eat them flat. So, they were fun as well as delicious.

Every so often I’ve thought about creating a recipe for them over the years. Then, this past Christmas I got the amazing new Bouchon Bakery cookbook by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. As you know, in addition to his amazing restaurants, Chef Keller has several Bouchon Bakeries around the US. I’m sad that I have never been able to eat at any of them because I became aware of them after I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. But, this may change–as you may know, Keller has now come out with a gluten-free flour mix called Cup4Cup. And I’m wondering if he will (or already has) started offering gluten-free items in his bakeries. If you find that he has, let me know! I applaud Chef Keller for opening up his market to gluten-free folks. It’s so nice to have a superstar chef let it be known that he is aware of and is trying to accommodate those of us who are gluten-free.

Like all of Keller’s books, the Bouchon Bakery cookbook is like a coffee table book in size and weight and beauty.  But it’s full of the recipes from Bouchon Bakery—which makes it a goldmine of information. It is so fun look through and to fantasize over, even if it’s not that easy actually to use in the kitchen. I often go through the book and dream over what I’m going to make next. I will say, this book is more of a professional pastry book than an everyday baking book. But, that’s what makes Keller and his team so special and inspiring. They go above and beyond for all of their recipes. For this reason, I consider this book to be more for special, pull-out-all-of-the-stops baking than for everyday baking.

In addition to so many other fabulous recipes, it has a recipe for his version of Ho Hos. And they are the best dang Ho Hos ever. Like his version of Oreos, TKOs (which I adapted into gluten-free Oreos), his recipe for Ho Hos is amazing. It’s the childhood version all grown up. The ingredients are fresh and real. I realize that some folks want recreations of their childhood sweets to be exactly the same as those from childhood, but let’s be honest: actual Ho Hos aren’t that good.  They are plasticky and bland and are full of horrible ingredients like transfats and high fructose corn syrup.  After an adulthood of making my own delicious baked items, I want a Ho Ho that justifies the time and effort that goes into making them.

So, I set about adapting Keller’s recipe for Ho Hos, which he calls “Oh Ohs.” His version contains a cake layer with a cake type called a biscuit joconde, which an almond sponge cake. I took out the almond flour and turned the cake into a chocolate sponge cake. If you have my book, you will know that I used the Italian version of sponge cake, a genoise (which contains butter) for the bûche de Noël. The sponge cake for this recipe is a a classic sponge, which contains no butter.  The filling is a sweetened whipped cream, and the coating is made with melted chocolate chips.

This recipe does take time. It has several steps, including baking, rolling, freezing, and enrobing. I recommend that you read through the entire recipe before getting started so you can plan your time accordingly.  You will be richly rewarded with the best Ho Hos you’ve ever had!

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Note: I am not a medical doctor.  The following is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for speaking with your doctor.

Fruit bowl clip artI first learned of Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), also know as Food Pollen Allergy, also known as Food-Induce Pollen-Associated Oral Allergy Syndrome, when Girlfriend was in kindergarten.  One of the parents was struggling with many odd food allergies that her doctors couldn’t explain.  She reacted to greens (like kale) when she ate them raw.   I was interested in what could be going on, so I did some research.  At the time (2005) there wasn’t much info out there.  I finally found a personal blog where the person had the same reactions to things that my friend did and he called it Oral Allergy Syndrome.  Thus began my travels into the wacky world of how pollen allergies can affect reactions to food.  And, as it turns out, I am a major OAS sufferer.

What happens in OAS is a cross reactivity between plant pollens and fruit, vegetable, and nut proteins.  It’s actually a pollen allergy—not a food allergy.  So food allergy testing doesn’t help identify it.  Which is really confusing.   The only testing to be done is for pollen allergies to the pollens that cross react with the foods you’re reacting to.   Every time I have a new reaction my allergist looks at my pollen allergy chart and says, “yep, you’re allergic to birch trees (or whatever the appropriate pollen is).”

One thing about me: I’m allergic to everything.  When I got my official pollen allergy testing at my allergist’s office, she had the whole office come in to see my arm (where they did the skin pricks).  Apparently, I reacted the worst of any patient they had ever seen.  I react to everything.  And I have asthma—which also makes OAS more likely.  So, none of this is a surprise to my docs.

The primary culprits in OAS are tree pollens and grass and ragweed pollen.  So, if you react to those, then you may react to the raw foods that have similar pollen protein signatures (say that five times very quickly).    Sometimes the pollen protein signatures are things from the same botanical family, and sometimes they’re not.  And, further, you may react to one, some, or all–or none–of the raw fruits, veggies, and nuts that have the offending protein.  And, you may react to them during some times of the year and not other times of the year.   As you can imagine (or have experienced) this is confusing and annoying.

The reactions one can have to foods via OAS are varied.  Some of the reactions that OAS can cause:

-itchy mouth
-itchy throat
-swollen tongue–can be deadly
-swollen throat–can be deadly
-seized vocal cords (which make you sound like Daffy Duck—ask me how I know, thank you raw celery)
-stomach ache
-vomiting
-diarrhea
-anaphylaxis–can be deadly (I get this from raw bananas)

Part of the fun of OAS (not) is that the reactions can happen some times but not all of the time.  I have found that some of my reactions occur all year, while others of my reactions happen most often during tree pollen season—late winter into spring.  What this means is that I can eat a salad with raw lettuce during the summer and fall but I can’t eat raw lettuce in the winter and spring.  The reason for this is that my body is already overwhelmed with allergies, and adding more pollen proteins to things just makes things worse.  This, as you can imagine, is confusing (and annoying) to friends and family members who can’t keep straight what you can eat and not eat and when you can eat and not eat them.

The other funky thing about OAS is that you can react to some of the things in a pollen category, but not to others.  Also, you can be allergic to a certain tree pollen and not react to any of the foods that bear the pollen protein.  Further, apparently OAS gets worse as you get older.  So, I have been slowly losing things from my diet.  For example, up until Girlfriend was in 1st grade, I could eat raw carrots with abandon.  Then, out of the blue, I started getting stomach-ache when I ate raw carrots.  I also started getting stomach-ache from apples.  As it turns out, these two are linked by the protein signature.  Each year, I seem to react to a new raw thing.  I joke that I may be stuck eating air pretty soon.  And as I looked back on my life, I realized that I had stopped eating all melons because they make my mouth itch.  Melons are high on the list of OAS foods.

The thing that is very odd about OAS (on top of all of the other odd things) is the fact that once you cook any of the things you can’t eat raw, it’s usually fine to eat.   For example, I get a really bad stomach ache and horrendous diarrhea when I eat raw zucchini (so no raw “zucchini noodle” salads for me).   But, if it is cooked well, I can eat it by the plateful.  This is why I microwave grated zucchini before I put it into zucchini bread.  I found out the hard way that the baking process doesn’t cook the zucchini enough for me.

And, because OAS isn’t logical (at least to me), there are some things you can’t eat even when cooked.  Broccoli falls into this category for me.  It makes me extremely ill even when I cook the heck out of it.  Be on the alert for these types of things.

If you suspect that you have OAS, you might want to talk to you doctor about it.  And be aware if you experience difficulty breathing or a swollen throat when you eat something.  This is a sign of potential anaphylaxis and it can be fatal.  If this is you, you need to make an appointment with your doctor to prescribe an epi-pen.  Apparently, about 2% of OAS sufferers have anaphylaxis to some of the foods they react to.  This is me and bananas.  I found this out the hard way one when I was sitting in on a class one day and ate a banana as a snack and all of a sudden, felt my throat closing up.  Oddly, I had eaten a banana the day before and had been just fine.  This is how bizarre OAS can be.

OAS Survival Tips

-If it makes you feel bad, don’t eat it.  It’s not worth it.

-Experiment with peeling your fruits and veggies.  Apparently, the pollen proteins are found in high quantities in the peel.  So peel your apples, peaches, nectarines, cucumbers, etc. and see how you feel when you eat the raw peeled fruit.

-Keep a diary of what you react to and when.  My experience shows me that I react to some things year round and other things during high pollen season.

-Cook things well.  Just lightly steaming something isn’t going to help for most of these things.   I have found that lightly roasting nuts doesn’t help.  They need to be well roasted.  Also, dried fruit and vegetables tend to be OK to eat.  As are canned fruits and vegetables.

-Identify those things you CAN eat raw.  It turns out that I can eat cauliflower raw.  But not broccoli or cabbage.  Who knows why, but I will take it.  Cauliflower and dip is an excellent party choice.  I always make a beeline to the veggie tray at parties and load up on cauliflower.

-Be aware that you may react to more and more things as time goes by.  Just be on the alert for this.  I have learned the hard way not to eat any raw things at parties or restaurants if I’m not absolutely sure that I won’t react to it.

-This may sound odd, but if I am at a friend/family member’s house and they are serving raw veggies, I ask if I can steam/roast/or boil some of them.  I just nip into the kitchen and do this.   Clearly, this is best done in a kitchen that you know well, but it is possible.  And I am sure to clean up after myself.  Also, at this stage, some of my friends just know to steam things for me before I arrive—which is very nice!

-Ask you doctor about allergy shots to the corresponding pollens.  There isn’t a lot of data out there on the effectiveness of allergy shots, but it’s worth a talk with your doctor if this appeals to you.

More information on OAS can be found here and here.

One last note: many OAS information sites/sheets don’t list nuts. But nuts are part of the issue, too.

image from wordplay.hubpages.com/hub/vintage-victorian-flowers-and-fruit

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Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on March 30, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t seem to stop messing with recipes for hot cross buns. It’s not that these buns were particularly important to my childhood Easter celebrations, but apparently they left a big impression on me. I have my basic recipe that I seem to tweak more than I usually tweak my other recipes. In fact, I’ve been thinking about them all week, wondering if I should tweak them again. Then I got a call from my pal, Marc (warning: he is a major potty mouth). He’s having an Easter brunch for friends, and one of them is gluten-intolerant. He sent me a hot cross bun recipe he wanted to make and asked how hard it would be to change it to gluten-free.

I am always happy to help folks adapt recipes in order to allow them to welcome more folks to the table.  I am overjoyed when people want to include those of us who have food allergies or intolerances. And it turns out that the person he wanted to make the recipe for is a mutual friend of ours who just recently realized that she is gluten intolerant.  I will admit, though,  that this kind of thing also fills me with a certain amount of anxiety. Especially since the recipe that he wanted to adapt is yeasted. As you know, yeasted recipes require much more tweaking than just a simple cup for cup replacement of gluten free flour for wheat flour. So, I told him I would work on it and see what I could come up with in short period of time.

It turns out that the recipe is one of the must fussy recipes ever. It requires a million bowls and several steps and cooking and straining and resting and rising. This totally cracks me up because it is soooo Marc.  He is a culinary school graduate.  He and his husband often make elaborate dinners for their friends and family members.  Just listening to his preparations for these meals makes me want to take a nap.  But mostly they make me happy–cooking is not his livelihood but it’s his joy and his passion.

Anyway, I wanted to help out and of course it gave me an excuse to work on hot cross buns, again–win-win!  I spent most of yesterday working on adapting the recipe. It uses a technique that I am wanting to use more and more with my baking—rolling out dough with your hands. I have found that it’s challenging to create a gluten-free yeasted dough that can be manipulated by hand, but that bakes up moist in the middle. Most of the time, a dough that is firm enough to be manipulated often bakes up into an end product that is more dry than I would like it to be.  I am still learning about ways to do this that are satisfactory to me–and I hope to share more in the coming months.

I am really pleased with this recipe because it bakes up into buns that a supremely flavorful and moist–they are more dense than my basic recipe and are chock full of apples, dried fruit, and spices.  And they have an appley-cinnamon sticky glaze on top that puts this recipe right over the edge.  They are a wonderful addition to your Easter baking!

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Note:  Instructions for how to boil gluten-free pasta are after the jump.

Like many families, ours has two working parents (although I am lucky enough to work at home) with a busy kid.  It’s so funny because generally I don’t really think of us as busy –but then I realize that that every day we seem to be doing something.  Girlfriend seems to have something every day of the week.  D’Ahub and I have our work and our other activities after work.  I’m kind of a social butterfly and am always flitting to a knitting group, book club meeting, or PTA.  And the house and the garden and the chickens require our attention at least some of the time.

And, I enjoy being busy as long as I enjoy what I’m busy with.  Of course, this past fall was very busy because I was promoting my book.  Every night seemed to contain a book event or class, the days were filled with baking for the events.  When I went out of town, d’Ahub and I had to arrange schedules so Girlfriend could get to her events.  This kind of busy is a “happy busy”–I enjoyed it because I was getting the chance to do all the things I love—bake, meet people, and teach classes.

[This post has been interrupted for some shameless self promotion:  Speaking of my book: have you gotten your copy yet??  Use the link to the left!]

Regardless of how busy we are, we do have dinner together each night.  It’s our chance to relax and connect.  I love to cook, but for dinners during the week we need easy to prepare meals that are delicious, balanced, and nutritious.  And that accommodate our gazillion food allergies/sensitivities.  Many of these are one pot meals—my favorite type of meals for busy days.  I love being able to put everything in one pot and be done with it.   One of my big challenges is that I tend to get stuck in dinner ruts.  We end up having the same 7 dishes over and over, week after week.  The dishes tend to change with the seasons to accommodate the produce and types of food that are best for each time of year, but still…  And while having a rotation isn’t terrible, I do feel the need to break out of ruts from time to time.  I thought it might be fun to share some of my recipes with you in case you’re looking around for easy dinners to make on busy nights.

Today’s dish is Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Chili, and Bacon.   I saw something like it on Ellie Krieger’s Instagram stream–she was at a restaurant and posted a photo of her dish. (By the way, are you on Instagram?  I’m there as fourchickens)  It looked so good that I immediately did a Google search and found a recipe for a dish that sounded like it on the New York Times website.  As per my usual way of doing things, I tweaked the dish to accommodate our needs.  It turned out so delicious that Girlfriend and d’Ahub asked that we put this into our regular dinner rotation.  The wonderful thing is that other than the pot you boil your pasta in, the dish uses one pot.

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I’m getting more and more questions about how to make my bread recipes in bread machines. This is a tricky subject because all bread machines are different and seem to have different settings.  I have the Breadman TR875 (which is no longer available) and I can give you info on how to use that machine, but I don’t have info for how to do my recipes in other machines.

Therefore, I have an idea: I would like to invite you to help me help the other folks on this blog who want to use different bread machines.  The idea is: you use my Soft Sandwich Bread and/or my Multigrain Bread recipe(s) in your bread machine and  then report back your successes to us in the comments to this post. I will then add that information onto the chart below. I will also add columns if needed (for example, if your machine offers the options of different temperatures, etc.).  Hopefully, this will turn into a document that is valuable for all of us. I will also give credit to folks who provide information.

How to comment:  Include the bread recipe you used, any changes you made, the bread machine you used, the settings that worked on that bread machine (see the chart below for info), and the total time it takes in the machine.  For the purposes of this post, it’s best for folks only comment with successes–it’s not that helpful to know about stuff that didn’t work for the purposes of this post. :)

Here goes!

Jeanne's Soft Sandwich Bread in Bread Machines
Brand Setting Color Loaf Weight Total Time
* Breadman TR875 Basic Medium 1.5lb 3hrs 13mins
* Breadman TR444 white regular 1.5 lb (thx to Brenda B)
* Cuisinart CBK100 white gluten-free ? (thx to Tamra)
* Cuisinart Convection Breadmaker white gluten-free ? (thx to Beth)
* Chefmate TR7000 Reg Crust level 1 ? (thx to Carolyn)

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Jeanne's Multigrain Bread in Bread Machines
Brand Setting Color Loaf Weight Total Time
* Breadman TR875 GF Medium 1.5lb 1hr 17mins

NOTE: gluten-free breads don’t usually need more than one rise, but in my machine, there is no way to get a longer rise without using a cycle that has several rises and punch-downs.  So, that’s why the Basic setting works well for the Soft Sandwich Bread.  The Multigrain does well on the Gluten-free setting because it seems to need less time to rise and bake.

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Chocolate Chip Scones, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on February 13, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor our family, Valentine’s Day comes after a pretty busy season.  My birthday and my father-in-law’s birthday are in December, along with Christmas.  Girlfriend’s birthday is in January (along with getting back into the school routine after the holiday break).  D’Ahub’s birthday is at the beginning of February (after the big push for Girlfriend’s birthday).  And, we are generally overwhelmed with the busy-ness of life (how did we get so busy?  I honestly don’t know).

As I thought about what to bake for Valentine’s, I kept in mind that d’Ahub likes scones–a lot–and he loves it when I make homemade scones.  So this year, to honor our busy schedules and to still indulge in a bit of baked treat, I decided to develop a quick and easy recipe for chocolate chip scones that you can mix up and bake in less than 40 minutes from start to finish.   In addition, the dough can be rolled and cut into cute heart shapes or you can just shape it into a disk and cut it into triangles.  Finally, you can prepare the scones right up until the baking stage, place them on a baking sheet, cover well with a piece of plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator the night before you want to bake them.  This means you can then pop them into the oven in the morning and have fresh scones for breakfast!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Enjoy with the sweeties in your life.

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Happy Mardi Gras!

by Jeanne on February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras mask

I wanted to wish folks a happy Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”)!  As you may know, in certain Christian traditions, today is the last day to get in some out-and-out pleasure–including feasting and partying–before the season of Lent–which starts tomorrow with Ash Wednesday.

You might want to make gluten-free King Cake for your celebration tonight!  And don’t forget the feve–the bean or the figurine that you bake into the cake for one of your lucky guests to find in their slice of cake.  Whoever finds it tonight is the King or Queen of the evening and is responsible for making the cake next year!  Enjoy!

(image from: freeclipartstore.com/CA%20Mardi%20Gras%20023.gif)

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NOTE:  I created a table at the end of the post with info on various company’s xanthan gums and their growing medium.  You will be surprised to find that not all of them are grown on corn.

As you know, gluten-free baking is challenging mostly because we can’t use a flour that contains gluten, that magical protein that has many qualities that are difficult to replicate. Gluten performs four primary functions in baking in addition to a couple other functions:

First, it is a binder—it holds baked items together.

Second, it provides structure. This works in tandem with the binding function—it serves as the tent pole structure that starches adhere to and create the tent covering for leaveners to work on and push on to create the loft.

And third, it has elasticity. It can be stretched and still hold together.  And gluten is a champ in terms of elasticity because not only can it be stretched, it is malleable. It can be formed into shapes that stay in shape.  This is why you can do things like form a wheat dough into a round loaf of bread on a cookie sheet and it will maintain its round shape during the rising and baking process.

Gluten also has a function in moisture retention in a baked item, which helps with prolonging the shelf-life of the baked item.  This is why gluten-free items tend to go stale more quickly than gluten-containing ones.

In addition, wheat flour contains natural gums, which help facilitate all of the tasks gluten does. Without gluten and the gums, baked goods are flat, crumbly, dry, and as heavy as hockey pucks.  And this is what gluten-free baked items are like when nothing is added to make up for the lack of gluten and gums.

This is why gluten-free baking requires the use of what I call “gluten-replacers.” In order to get baked items that behave in ways we want them to, we need to add something to mimic gluten/gums properties.  Currently, there are three primary gluten-replacers used in gluten-free baking: xanthan gum, guar gum, and ground seeds like psyillium, flax, and chia. And, while they all are used as gluten-replacers, they don’t behave in the same ways.  They each are better or worse at particular jobs.  Below is a quick rundown of how each works in gluten-free baking.

Xanthan gum is the product created from the fermentation of the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris in a sugar solution.  In my opinion, xanthan gum is the one that behaves most like gluten. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s the best that we have currently.  It has excellent binding and structure-building capabilities. And it is pretty good in terms of elasticity. It creates baked items that do not have a taste or gumminess that can be attributed to the gum. And for most baking recipes you only need to use about ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of flour. After over 12 years of baking and researching gluten-free baking, I have come to prefer xanthan gum for the type of gluten-free baking I do–that which mimics its wheat counterparts and tastes like I remember wheat baked items to taste. And I do this by using classic techniques and ingredients that behave in a classic way.

Xanthan gum has a shelf life.  I have found that if I use it past the date on the package, it doesn’t work as well.  So, be aware of the expiration date and don’t use old xanthan gum.

Guar gum is made from the guar bean plant.   It is pretty good at binding and structure-building. But it is much less elastic than xanthan gum.  The image that comes to mind for me when I use guar gum is that of old chewing gum.  Old gum is pretty hard to chew and is not very elastic.  It’s good in a pinch, but it’s not great and it’s not my first choice.  When I use it, I use the same amount of guar gum that I use of xanthan gum per cup of flour–about 1/4 teaspoon.  But, it never feels like that’s the correct amount for everything.  For me, it requires more tweaking than I’m interested in doing of each thing in which it’s used in order to get it to work well. That said, if you are interested in using guar gum in your baking, check out my pal Karen’s site, Blackbird Bakery and book, Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free.  She is a wiz at delicious gluten-free baking with guar gum.

I’m not sure if guar gum has a limited shelf life, but I’m assuming it does since it is made from beans.

There are some gluten-free bakers, including Carol Fenster–one of my gluten-free idols–who use both xanthan gum and guar gum in tandem.  In a nutshell, they feel that xanthan gum provides good structure while guar gum provides a “fluffy” factor.  I haven’t experimented with using both of them, but you might want to if this is of interest to you.

At first glance, various combinations of psyllium, chia, and flax seeds seem to be the holy grail of gluten-replacers, although you do have to use a lot (several tablespoons in a recipe). They are good at binding and seem to be good at structure building. And, at first, they appear to be excellent in terms of elasticity. I have made breads with the seeds that can be kneaded (although kneading gluten-free bread isn’t necessary because there is no gluten to develop) and shaped by hand. And they rise and bake up to look just like a wheat loaf. But, where they fail is in the end product.  First, baked items using seeds always has a taste of the seeds (which isn’t necessarily horrible, it’s just not what I want).  Also, there is an undertone (or overtone) of gumminess in the mouth feel, which I find to be unpleasant. Finally, after a day or two, the baked item crumbles in a funky way—it separates into chunks of gummy crumbles. Therefore, the seeds produce baked items that look good but that do not taste or feel like I want baked items to taste or feel. This is why I don’t use the seeds as gluten-replacers.  I do, however, use them as egg replacers, where I think they do a great job.

Added 2/28/13: There is also a product on the market from Orgran called “Gluten Substitute.”  Its ingredients (with my comments in []):

“Rice flour, Maize [corn] starch, Pea flour, Vegetable derived stabilisers & Cellulose: Methylcellulose [dietary fiber, mainly from cotton and wood], Carboxymethylcellulose [gum made chemically], Guar gum, Emulsifier: Vegetable derived mono and diglycerides of fatty acids.”

As far as I can tell without having used it, this is a mix of gums and other dietary fiber, plus some flours to hold it together.  It doesn’t look all that different from using a mix of xanthan gum and guar gum.  If anyone has experience with this, let me know.

Pectin/gelatin: There are also folks who have experimented with using pectin or gelatin as gluten replacers.  In my experience, they seem to have the same type of problems that the seeds have and therefore, I don’t use them.  That said, I haven’t done a lot of research with these.

So, let’s talk about xanthan gum. It’s what I use and what I feel works best in the baking I do. And, there is a lot of misinformation floating around about xanthan gum that I want to clear up.  Clearly, you need to choose what’s best for you, but I really want folks to make a truly informed choice.

[click to continue…]

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I thought I would create a spot that has all of the answers about my flour mix to help folks.  Also, check this post for more information about how I created my mix, how to make it, and how to store it.

Where can I find the flours (and the xanthan gum) in your mix?  Or, I can’t find one or more the flours in my hometown, where can I find them?

All of the flours are available online in the United States.  I will admit, I’m not clear why people are reluctant to order flours online.  Especially when they are not available in their local stores.  I do it all the time.  You can find them on Amazon, on Bob’s Red Mill, on Authentic Foods, and on a myriad of other sites.   A quick google search will locate them for you.  The one flour that folks seem to have the most trouble finding is sweet rice flour (also known as “glutinous rice flour).  I often find Koda Farms sweet rice flour in the “Ethnic” section of my regular grocery store in a small white box under the name of “Mochiko.”  Take a look there if you can’t find it in the gluten-free flours section.  You can also order it online from Amazon.  I have Amazon Prime which comes with free two day shipping–this makes shopping for baking supplies a breeze!

I recommend that you only use flours that are specifically labeled “gluten-free”.  Even though a flour might be gluten-free itself, the processing or packaging methods might cross-contaminate it and make it not gluten-free.  Therefore, read labels.

If you don’t want to order flours online and your local grocery store doesn’t carry them, then you need to do some research for your particular town.  You need to check your local stores to find out if they carry the flours.  My local grocery store (QFC, a Kroger market) in Seattle carries Bob’s Red Mill flours, so I can get all of the flours there.  In Seattle, I can also find them at Safeway, Whole Foods, Fred Meyer, Metropolitan Market, PCC (our local organic co-op), a few health food stores, and sometimes at Asian markets (although I don’t tend to buy flours at Asian markets because of the issue below).

Asian markets: The challenge with buying flours at Asian markets is that many of the brands aren’t labeled gluten-free.  If this is the case, you need to decide if you are willing to use it even though it might be cross-contaminated with gluten.  You can also contact the company (do a web search for their phone number or email address) and ask them directly: “Is your [x] flour gluten-free?”   This is what I would do–I can’t take the chance that something might be cross-contaminated with gluten.  But, you need to make your own decision–I can’t make that decision for you.

Flours from bulk bins: Buying flours from bulk bins is a dicey proposition due to cross contamination issues.  I personally do not buy flour from bulk bins because usually the bulk section also has wheat and other flours in the same area–and the possibility of cross contamination is high.

Can I grind my own flours?

Sure!  But be aware that unless you have a powerful grain grinder, you may or may not get the grain to the consistency you like.  If you like your flours very fine, then this might not be the answer for you and I would recommend that you stick with a commercial flour.  Again, it’s your call based on your preferences.  I don’t have a grain grinder (or even a blender) so I don’t do this.

I find some of the flours, particularly the brown rice flour, to be a bit gritty.  What can I do to solve this?

I would recommend using a finer grind brown rice flour.  Look for ones that say “extra-fine grind.”  Authentic Foods brown rice flour is extra-fine.  Also, you can experiment and take your brown rice flour and grind it up a bit more in your blender or food processor.

I can’t find or don’t like or am allergic to or don’t want to use [x] flour in your mix.  Can I use more of [y] flour?  

Again, the answer is, sure!  Why not?  My motto is: “try it and see!”  But be aware that I developed my mix with the different flours for a reason.  They aren’t in there willy-nilly.  So if you can’t find sweet rice flour (for example) and want to substitute more tapioca flour or you don’t like white rice flour and want to substitute more brown rice flour–it will change the mix.  It won’t be the mix I developed. You may or may not like it.  But, be aware that by changing things, you change things (if you know what I mean).

How to measure when substituting flours: Whenever you substitute flours, it is important to do so by volume measurement (cups) rather than weight.  I know this goes against everything everyone else is telling you, but trust me.  My experience is that substituting by weight does not work as well as substituting by volume.

What off-the-shelf mix do you recommend?  OR  I want to use a different gluten-free flour mix instead of yours.  Will it work in your recipes?

I get this first question a fair amount and the answer is: I recommend my mix.  I realize that it is not available pre-mixed on the shelf, but it truly is the best in my opinion.  That’s why I use it.  Believe me, if there was a mix that I loved that I wanted to use all the time, I would recommend it.  But, my mix is special.  I don’t get any money from you using my mix–and you make it yourself.  Also, since you make it yourself, it is cheaper for you.  If you really want to use an off-the-shelf mix, check out the following answer.

The answer to the second question is: it depends.

The two mixes I like best are Authentic Foods (gluten-free) MultiBlend (this already has xanthan gum in it) and King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Flour mix (be aware that you need to add 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of flour for the King Arthur blend).  These two will behave most like my mix.

One thing to be aware of is that some mixes don’t contain a gluten-replacer (like xanthan gum).  If your mix doesn’t, then add 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of flour to the other mix.  Also, other mixes may or may not taste all that great or they may feel gritty.  They may have more whole grains than mine does, which will make them heavy and gritty.  If the mix contains bean flour, the resulting baked item will have a bean taste–which I’m not that keen on.  You need to do your own experimenting and see if you like the results for mixes that aren’t mine or aren’t the 2 I recommend above.

How to measure when substituting flours: Whenever you substitute flours, it is important to do so by volume measurement (cups) rather than weight.  I know this goes against everything everyone else is telling you, but trust me.  My experience is that substituting by weight does not work as well as substituting by volume.

 

I found or I like to use [x] gluten-free flour and wondered if it would work in your mix?

The answer is: it depends.  It won’t probably work like the original flours.  But, it may or may not create a baked item that you like.  Chances are I haven’t tried it–so my answer (as always) is to for you to try it and see what happens.  And then let me know. :)  I love the hear how people’s experiments are going.

 

I can’t/don’t want to eat starch–do you have ideas for starch-free flours?

This is a hard one.  One of the key reasons baked goods perform the way they do is because of starch.  Starch makes up about 80% of all purpose wheat flour and it makes up the same percentage in my gluten-free mix.  If you want to bake without starches, you need to be aware that your baked items will taste and perform quite differently from the way they will when you use my mix.  I don’t really have any ideas on how to go completely starch-free, but I do have suggestions for a “grain-free” alternate mix, below.

 

I don’t want to/can’t eat tapioca flour.  Or, tapioca flour tastes yucky to me.  What should I substitute?

One of the following:
-Potato starch (not potato flour–different thing)
-Arrowroot starch
-Cornstarch

Please substitute by volume, not by weight.  Each of these flours is a different weight per cup.

Please note that some people think they don’t like tapioca flour but it’s not the tapioca flour itself that is the problem–it’s tapioca flour that’s gone bad. Tapioca flour (same as starch) that has gone bad tastes bitter and metallic.  Normal tapioca flour has a very neutral taste.

Do you have a substitute mix that is rice-free?

Not really.  But, if you want to try the following, here is  what I recommend as a rice-free mix:
For the brown rice flour use:   1 1/4 cups sorghum flour
For the white rice flour us:      1 1/4 cups millet flour
For the tapioca flour use:         1 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
For the sweet rice flour use:     1 cup potato flour (not potato starch)

Note that you need to substitute cup for cup, not in weight measurements.  The weights of each flour are different from each other.

You may need to adjust the amount of liquid in your recipes when using this mix because it is heavier.  Experiment and see what works for you.

I am on a no-grain diet–what flours should I use as substitutes for the ones in your mix?

I recommend that you try the following no-grain adaptation of my mix:

1 1/4 cups Amaranth Flour
1 1/4 cups Quinoa Flour
1 cup Tapioca Flour (or potato starch–not potato flour)
1 cup Potato Flour (not potato starch)
2 scant tsp xanthan gum

Important note: The weights needed for each flour will correspond to the weight of that particular flour–not to the weight of the flours in my original mix (I will get the weights up soon).  You need to make the conversion on a cup-by-cup basis, not on a weight basis.  Please note that this is a denser mix than my rice mix so it will create heavier and denser baked goods.  But, try it and see what you think (and let me know about how things are going).  I’m still doing research on this (very slowly) so your feedback is helpful!

This mix will probably require that you increase the amount of liquid in your recipes.  Experiment to see what works the best.

Can I use nut flours in your mix?

This is a difficult one to answer.  Nut flours aren’t really flours.  They are ground up nuts.  So, they behave differently than actual flours.  Also, no matter what, they will provide a gritty texture (which isn’t necessarily bad) to your baking.  My husband, daughter, and I are all allergic to various nuts, so I stay away from these most of the time and I can’t really bake with these exclusively.  I think this particular topic is better addressed by folks who use them more often.  Please see this post for more info.

Can I use coconut flour in your mix or by itself?

I haven’t used coconut flour, so I can’t really answer questions about it.  I have heard the coconut flour absorbs a lot of moisture–so you usually need to add more liquid to recipes.

Can you recommend a substitute for xanthan gum?

I think xanthan gum does the best job.  But, I would recommend that you see this post for more on xanthan gum substitutions If you want to try substitutes for xanthan gum in my recipes–go ahead!  But right now, I can’t really provide much guidance.  I will try to do more research on this issue this year.  Also, be sure to let me know how your experiments are going!

Gluten-free flours and xanthan gum are so expensive!

Yes, it’s true.  Gluten-free flours are more expensive than wheat flour.  There are many reasons for this.  One of the main reasons is that gluten-free flours are still considered “speciality” items and they aren’t currently made in quantities that allow for lower pricing.  Also, in the United States, wheat is a subsidized crop–this means that the government pays the farmers to grow it–which allows the farmers to charge a lower price for their wheat.  Which eventually leads to a lower price for wheat flour on the market. Also, processing gluten-free flours is more expensive because the processors have to get their equipment and buildings certified gluten-free in order to avoid cross contamination–and this is quite expensive for them.

All of this said, my flour mix is much less expensive than you might think.

Below is a breakdown of the ingredients for my flour mix, including the number of batches it makes and the cost. Prices are from the Bob’s Red Mill website as of 1/2013.

*

Price of Ingredients for my Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour Mix
Brand Flour Size Price Batches it Makes
* Bob's Red Mill Brown Rice 24 oz $3.89 4
* Bob's Red Mill White Rice 24 oz $2.89 3
* Bob's Red Mill Tapioca 20 oz $3.59 4
* Bob's Red Mill Sweet Rice 24 oz $3.29 4
* Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum 8 oz $12.29 56

*

1 Batch of Jeanne's Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour Mix
Grams Oz Cups Price
* 660 23.25 4.5 $4.77 (w/o tax)

Please note that I pay the same price you pay for flours.  I don’t get any discounts and I haven’t found any magical place that has extremely cheap flours.  I just build the cost of these flours into my grocery budget.

Updated 5/1/14

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This one is gonna be awesome!  And it’s on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2012, 3-6pm, at the Intentional Table on Bainbridge Island.  More info here!

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