Yay!  My holiday season keeps getting more merry and bright each day!  My book was included on the shortlist of NPR’s 2012 Cookbook Roundup!  I’m so honored and happy!

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It is a busy, busy season for me given that my book is a holiday-themed book.  Here is where I will be signing books this week:

  • Tuesday, 12/4, 4-6pm, Tom Douglas Cookbook SocialSeattle, WA
  • Wednesday, 12/5, 6:30-8pm, Gluten-Free Baking Demo and Book Signing,Book LarderSeattle, WA
  • Saturday, 12/8, 10:30am-1pm, Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays Class, 21 AcresWoodinville, WA
  • Sunday, 12/9, 6:30-9:30pm, Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays Class: Cookies!, The Pantry at DelancySeattle, WA
For all Book Tour Events, see this page.
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Kindle Version!

by Jeanne on December 2, 2012

It is available for $3.49 at the moment!  Check it out–such a deal!  I have no idea how long this deal will last (authors have no say in these things), so grab yours today!  I just bought mine!

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Bay Area peeps!  Please come by one of my events and say hi!  Details:

  • Monday, 11/26, 7 pm, Book Signing, Books Inc., Palo Alto, CA
  • Friday, 11/30, 6-7pm <—-TIME CHANGE!!!!  pm Book Signing, Zest Gluten-Free BakerySan Carlos, CA (this event has an RSVP attached to it–no pressure, it’s just so we know how many folks to plan for!)

I hope to see you!  Both events include gluten-free nibbles to snack on. :)

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Happy Thanksgiving 2012

by Jeanne on November 22, 2012


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I have so much to be grateful for this year. And you, my readers, are part of that. I love the comments and chats we have here. I am thrilled to hear about your successes with my recipes. I appreciate when you share your failures with me so we can figure out what went wrong together. I am reassured to know that you have my back and let me know when I forget to include an ingredient or a method in a recipe. And most of all, I love being able to share my baking with you and know that in turn, you are sharing it with your family and friends. Thank you for being there and being part of this site with me! I wish you and yours a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving!

Also, shameless bragging: my book and the recipe for my cut out cookies are on the PBS Kids site today! Yay!!

(image from www.orble.com/sylvias-free-art-stuff/b4/vintage-clip-art/)

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One of the Top 25 Cookbooks of the Year!

by Jeanne on November 21, 2012

I just found out that my book was included as one of the Top 25 Cookbooks of the Year by The Daily Meal!  Wow!  I was just cruising through Twitter, minding my own business, when I clicked on the link to see what books were on the list.  The usual folks were there: Thomas Keller, Ina Garten, Nick Malgieri, me–you know, all of the big food folks…wait!  Back up!  What??  Me???  Really?  OMG.

I am so happy and excited!  Thanksgiving came early for me this year!!  *Happy Dance*

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Thanksgiving Preparation, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on November 18, 2012

It’s that time of year–Thanksgiving! I love Thanksgiving. It is a pure joy to me–a feast about friendship and thankfulness and food. What could be more lovely? Girlfriend agrees with me–she says that Thanksgiving is one her favorite holidays, too. It doesn’t hurt that we share it with her best friend, whom I refer to as Boyfriend, and his parents, as well as a dear friend of mine whom I’ve known since I first moved to Seattle. We all pitch in, eat too much, talk, laugh, eat some more, and then hang out and talk into the night. The adults have wine and the kids have sparkling apple cider. There’s nothing but good about the day.

Don’t get me wrong–it does require preparation in order for me not to be a frazzled mess. Although I love cooking and baking, I don’t like getting too tired to enjoy the meal. Over the years, I’ve come up with various preparation strategies that make the actual day go much more smoothly and allow the actual day to be a series of enjoyable tasks, interspersed with a glass or two of wine and hanging out with the family before our pals arrive.

Our meal,like many Thanksgiving meals has elements that are traditional and remain the same each year. We’ve all had Thanksgiving together so often that we know the specific dishes that are looked forward to and that must be included. But, we don’t like to be too dogmatic, so we have other dishes that are added or altered each year. For example, in the “must-have” category: mashed potatoes. In the “changes each year” category: veggie side dishes. We always have turkey, but I often change the way I cook it each year.  I like to dabble in different ways to roast it.  But, the general principles remain the same.

Several years ago, I started a Thanksgiving dinner binder that holds all of the recipes we have each year, including the ones that we add or subtract, and that includes (most importantly) notes on changes and substitutions and reactions from each year. This binder lives in my kitchen cupboard most of the year, but around this time of year it comes out and has a fairly permanent place on my kitchen counter.  The xeroxed or hand-written recipes are encased in plastic sheet protectors so I can use them every year and they are still readable.

When I first take it out each year, I spend some time reminiscing about past year’s meals and thinking about how much fun we are going to have. I also make a list of things each person needs to bring. We usually do the turkey, stuffing, gravy, and the pies. The others do the potatoes, veggies, salad, wine, and sparkling apple cider. We check in with each other about any new allergies that have occurred in the intervening year. This is usually an issue with our family–we seem to always be discovering new food allergies. Which is awesome.  Not.  Then I develop a “to-do” list.

On the to-do list is what needs to happen in order for the dinner to happen.  Firstly, though: I don’t do anything that is stressful to me.  I gave that up years ago.  Therefore, I’m not someone who has a super-complicated meal that takes days and days to prepare because that isn’t fun for me.  It is fun for some of my friends, and I think that is terrific.  We all need to do what is best for us.  For me, this holiday is time for me to slow down and be fully immersed in the process of cooking and baking.  I love it.  I don’t even have any book tour commitments this upcoming week (except for some radio interviews), so I get to just hang out, cook, and bake to my heart’s content.

I was at my hairdresser’s the other day, chatting about Thanksgiving, and she was talking about this year was going to be her first year to actually be in charge of the Thanksgiving meal.  Usually her sister does it, but her sister and family were going out of town, so it was up to my hairdresser and her family.  She was really nervous–but I told her that the meal should be fun and not something that was too stressful.  We talked about how our moms would be wrecks by the end of the cooking process on Thanksgiving and how we didn’t want that to be us.  So, I gave her some pre-prep tips that she said were helpful.  And, I thought they might be helpful to you!

Need recipes?  Of course, my book Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays: 60 Recipes for Traditional Festive Treats, is full of them!  I have also created a list of recipes that can be found on my site:

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup–recipes to make your Thanksgiving deliciously gluten-free

[click to continue…]

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Book Tour Events for Week of Nov. 13-17, 2012

by Jeanne on November 13, 2012

Hey Seattle and Tacoma area peeps! I have several book signing events this week. Please come by and say hi if you’re in the area!

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012
4-6pm
Metropolitan Market, West Seattle
Will be signing books and chatting and answering questions!

Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012
6-9pm
Click! Design that Fits, West Seattle
Event with Kim O’Donnel and Cynthia Nims! All three of us will be signing books, chatting, and answering questions!
Nibbles from all three books provided!

Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012
12noon-2pm
Metropolitan Market, Tacoma (Proctor)
Will be signing books and chatting and answering questions!

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Baking Powder

by Jeanne on November 9, 2012

(Thanks to readers KayeC, Pickles, Melinda, Susan K., Shirley, and Heather for their help in tracking down information for this post)

Baking powder: an ingredient that is so helpful to gluten-free baking and yet one that is often misunderstood.  I thought I would do a post to help answer the questions I’ve been getting about it.

There are two main issues with baking powder that need clarification.  One is the difference between single acting and double acting baking powder and the other is the fact that some baking powders include wheat starch as ingredient.

Baking powder, as you probably know, is what is called a “leavener” in baking.  Further, it is a chemical leavener, to distinguish it from yeast or steam as leaveners.  A leavener, as you might guess, is something that leavens—or raises—baked goods.  Without leaveners, baked goods would be flat and hard—because they would have no air holes.  Leaveners create the gas or steam that works on air pockets in baked goods during the baking (and rising ) process to lighten them.

Many gluten-free baked goods need a little (or a lot) of extra leavener because the gluten-replacer isn’t as elastic as gluten.  And double-acting baking powder is an important leavener when baking cakes, muffins, and even breads because it has a lot of strength.

Baking powder is not the same as baking soda—but it contains baking soda.  Baking soda, also known as bicarbonate of soda, is an “alkaline” leavening agent.  If you remember your high school chemistry, you might remember that alkaline is the opposite of acid.   Baking soda needs acid to create the chemical reaction that causes it to bubble.   Remember school experiments where you mixed baking soda with vinegar (an acid) to create a bubbling mess that could be used as “lava” on a model of a volcano?  The combination of the baking soda and the acid in the vinegar releases carbon dioxide that causes the bubbling.  And it is this bubbling that causes baked goods to rise.

Therefore, baking soda is used in baked goods that have some sort of acidic ingredient, such as: buttermilk, vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, maple syrup, citrus, or chocolate (not Dutch process).  It needs the acid in these ingredients to start the bubbling, gas-releasing process that raises the baked item.  Please note that Dutch process cocoa has had the acidity neutralized.

But, there are many baked items that do not contain an acidic ingredient and in which baking soda won’t work.  That’s where baking powder comes in.  Originally, baking powder was a combination of baking soda plus an acid.  In fact, most recipes for homemade baking powder contain baking soda mixed with cream of tartar for the acid.  This solves the problem of a recipe not containing an acid for the baking soda to work on—baking powder includes both items in one neat package.  This type of baking powder is called “single acting”—it contains one acid for the baking soda to work on.

In commercial forms of baking powder, a starch is also included to protect against premature reactions caused by humid storage conditions.  The added starch is something that can cause problems for gluten-free bakers.  Years ago, the most commonly added starch was wheat starch—making baking powder not gluten-free.  Nowadays, in the United States, the most common starch added is cornstarch (and sometimes potato starch).  This means that most baking powders in the U.S. are gluten-free (contrary to a lot of misinformation out there that is based on old research).  However, in the UK, there are still several baking powders that contain wheat starch.  Bleh.  This is why you always need to read labels and ask questions.

Single acting baking powder was a good beginning because it created a leavener that works on any type of baked good, regardless of whether or not it contains an acid.  But, once it is mixed with the wet ingredients and the baking soda and the acid mixes together, the chemical reaction starts.  Therefore, the item to be baked has to go into the oven right away, before the bubbling action stops.  This led to another baking powder innovation—“double-acting” baking powder.  Double-acting baking powders contain a second “high heat” acid that works more slowly and that is heat-activated.   This gives the baked item two leavening actions—one that creates a rise during the mixing process and one that creates a rise during the baking process.

This extra leavening power is what makes double-acting baking powder so important and helpful for gluten-free cakes, muffins, and breads (it’s not needed for cookies, which are usually fairly flat).   Therefore, I always advise folks to add a truly double-acting baking powder to their gluten-free baked items if they are finding that things are baking up flatter instead of fluffy.  The amount needed is a matter of trial and error for each type of recipe.

Note (added 11/12/12): single acting baking powder is often just fine for most baking.  It depends on the thing you are baking.  Don’t give up on baking just because you can’t find or can’t use commercial double-acting baking powder.  I always say try it and see what happens.  My husband often accidentally gets me a single-acting baking powder when he goes shopping and it is often just fine.

Unfortunately, some baking powders aren’t really double-acting, even though they claim to be.  These baking powders still only have one acid—and therefore they do not really work by being activated by heat.    As far as I can tell, there aren’t any laws guiding the labeling of baking powders in the US.  This causes bakers to wonder what the heck happened to the fluffy factor of their cakes and muffins.   To be truly double-acting in the way we need them to be double-acting, a baking powder needs to contain 2 acids.  And, before you ask: I don’t know of any way to make double-acting baking powder at home.  Some recipes claim to be double-acting, but they just seem to add extra cream of tartar.

Therefore, it is important to read the labels.  You need to see that the baking powder you’re using has two acids, as well as the leavening agent, and a starch.  This means that a truly double-acting baking powder has four ingredients instead of the three that single-acting baking powders have.

Unfortunately, there is a further issue with many kinds of double-acting baking powder.   The second acid that is often added to double-acting baking powders is sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS).  The problem with SAS (in addition to it being aluminum) is that it has a distinctive and bitter metallic taste that is unpleasant to many people.  You may notice it in your favorite baking powder biscuits or scones.  And this taste is especially noticeable in gluten-free baking where more baking powder is often needed.

Therefore, if you want to avoid this unpleasant taste, you should get a double-acting baking powder that is labeled “Aluminum-free” (or that does not have SAS on the label).  As far as I know, as of this writing there are only two double-acting baking powders in the U.S. that are labeled gluten-free, are truly double-acting,  and are aluminum-free: Bob’s Red Mill and Argo.

Two others, Watkins and Barry Farm baking powders are double-acting and are aluminum free, but don’t seem to be labeled gluten-free.  For what it’s worth,  I don’t see any gluten-containing ingredients on their labels (which means there might be cross-contamination issues).

Added 11/12/12: Another issue with baking powder is the potential presence of GMO ingredients.  Since most commercial baking powders contain cornstarch as the starch, there is a good chance that the corn used is GMO corn (most non-organic corn in the U.S. is GMO corn.  That’s scary).  If this is of concern to you (as it is to me), I recommend that you look for baking powders that list “organic” cornstarch or “non-GMO” cornstarch.  This will ensure that you are not getting GMO cornstarch. Apparently Rumford is now doing a GMO-free baking powder–look for the GMO-free label on the jars.

Please make a note of the expiration date on your baking powder container.  Your baking powder will stay good indefinitely in an unopened container.  But, it will start to degrade once the container is opened.  This is because every time you open the container, the moisture from the air in your kitchen gets in and causes a little reaction.  Eventually, this causes the ingredients to lose their power.  So, you need to be sure that you’re using your baking powder before its expiration date.

Below is the status of baking powders available in the United States, the UK and Europe (as of 11/9/12).  This list is to be used as a guide, not as a definitive word.  Please read labels before you use anything, as ingredients can change.   And note that if it is not expressly labeled “gluten-free,” you can’t be assured that the product is not cross contaminated with gluten.  D/S refers to Double/Single-Acting.

*

Baking Powders Labeled Gluten-Free (11/12/12)
Brand D/S Starch Alumin Free
* Bob’s Red Mill D corn yes
* Argo D corn yes
* Bakewell S corn yes
* Clabber Girl (Davis in UK) D corn no
* Rumford (owned by Clabber Girl) S corn yes
* Hain S potato yes
* Ener-G S none(?) yes
* Barkat (UK) S rice yes
* Dove’s Farm (UK) S corn yes
* Allergycare (UK) S potato yes
* Nutrifare (UK) S potato yes

*

Baking Powders Not Labeled Gluten-Free but w/GF ingredients (11/12/12)
Brand D/S Starch Alumin Free
* Watkins D corn yes
* Barry Farm D corn yes
* Calumet D corn no
* Frontier S corn yes
* Dr. Oetker S corn yes
* Weinstein (UK+Europe) S corn yes
* Steenburg’s (UK) S corn yes
* Magic (Canada) S corn yes
* Tesco (UK) ? rice ?

*

Baking Powders Not Gluten-Free (11/12/12)
Brand D/S Starch Alumin Free
* Borwick’s (UK) s wheat yes
* Noel’s (UK) ? wheat ?
* Herbs Gardens+Health (UK) ? wheat ?

Let me know if you find out information that differs from the info I have here! Thanks!

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Election Day is Here (With a Giveaway)

by Jeanne on November 6, 2012

To my readers in the United States, today is Election Day!

Please vote!

I don’t care who or what you vote for, just do it!

I am giving away a personalized signed copy of my book, Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays.   I just found out that I can’t ask people to tell me that they voted and tie a giveaway to it.  So, don’t tell me if you voted. Just tell me things you’ve seen on this day of voting.  Also, please include your name and make sure that you entered your email correctly on the comment form.  Do this by midnight, tonight, Pacific Time.  I will choose a winner via the random number generator.

The winner is Erin L.! I’ve sent her an email. Thanks for your stories everyone–I really enjoyed reading them!

PS: This is only for folks in the United States.  I will try to have a giveaway for my international readers soon!

 

(image from: bonafidebride.blogspot.com/2010/01/vintage-clip-art-for-diy-projects.html)

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