Friday, May 25, 2012

Making Memories and Traditions ( gluten free)

When your newly gluten free it can seem like nothing will be the same. Not the expected pizza place you went to hang out at on Friday nights after soccer games, or grandma's famous cake recipe or your mother in law's amazing biscuits that go so well with the fantastic chicken pot pie you make! How about the holidays? How will they change this year?  The best piece of advice I can offer anyone who is newly gluten free is don't through out everything. Well, through out all the gluten, but not the traditions and memories...those things are permanent! It's hard enough to be taking out gluten, don't try to go without those special foods that you and your family look forward to.  If  you can spend some time retrying those recipes with the gluten free substitutions, you may find that it will be even better then the original! After all, things are always  better with age! Even recipes.

Also, don't forget to start new traditions! Maybe it's not going to be the same pizza place you went to for years, but there are lots of new places now that do offer gluten free pizza. Or  make grandma's cake recipe but just alter the gluten flour? There are a lot of ways to substitute the gluten flour in your mixes. Stores and online outlets are offering many ready made flours or you may even have a go to all purpose mix that you  personally created! What you may find though is there needs to be less or more liquid or more baking soda or baking powder to get a better " rise".   It may need one more egg or more time in the oven, but a lower heat. And it helps to recreate the recipe a week or so before you actually need to " reproduce" it,  just so you can try it out and make sure you've fixed any kinks!

 One mix that I have found that works really well for most flour exchanges is made by Arrowhead Mills. It's their all purpose flour. It's cheap and the ingredients are good quality, low allergen (contain no yeast, corn or soy ) and most of the ingredients are also organic! They recently altered the recipe a bit for a better mix but I have found the new boxes already at my Whole Foods. I am not a fan of the blends that contain mostly tapioca or potato starch ( this one only contains the tapioca but it's not the main ingredient and it's also organic). I am not making any money to " sell" this to you , but just want you to know from years of experience that there are lots of ready made options to help you transfer your recipes without the need to buy more gluten free recipe books or expensive flour blends. Also remember you can find tons of recipes that are gluten free online for FREE too ! You can find this Arrowhead Mills all purpose gluten free mix online if it's not sold at your grocery store. I have been buying it from Whole Foods for years but my neighborhood Walmart just started to sell it  (and for about $2.00 less then Whole Foods) recently! Or maybe they sold it for a while but I try my hardest to steer clear of  Walmart....just don't like the big crowds and lack of customer service, so it was " new" to me. Though I will be checking back with Walmart from time to time. They are offering way more gluten free options and a few other  flour mix's such as Bob's Red Mill . Another flour mix brand that I personally like that also sells cookie, brownie, cake and bread mix's is sold by Hodgson Mill. These mixes are way less expensive then the Betty Crocker and the other brands that sell the same kind of kit's by nearly 55%! So if you haven't found your own secret mix yet, you can still make amazing products with these flour mixes!

Some of our family traditions have to do with breakfasts! We love pancake Saturdays! This has long been a tradition in our home.  My youngest two children get their step stools and  their aprons on. My daughter recently even got her own set of kitchen utensils to use, pink of course! We mix in blueberries or some pecans & cinnamon for a different taste and serve them with either bacon or sausage! And of course with real maple syrup! Our middle son will make homemade orange juice even though we no longer get the freshest oranges being that we don't live in Florida anymore, it's still part of the tradition! I hope you'll continue your traditions as well and not let that ugly " gluten" hold you back this year!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Gluten Free Bread Tips and Recipes

In the 11 years since my son became gluten free, there has been an amazing amount of ready made breads that have come out on the market to purchase. Honestly, all the grocery stores near me sell at least two varieties so I really don't have to make bread anymore. Though ready made breads are very comparable and convenient, they are often twice as expensive then making your own and may even have ingredients that you are allergic to. So you may out of necessity find baking bread the way to enjoy bread once again. Or if your like me and my kids, we love the smell that lingers in the house for the last hour of it baking and then of course, no one is slow to grab a piece topped with lots of butter! To us it's like cookies coming out of the oven! If your baking gluten free though, it's not always as easy or as forgiving as wheat versions. Gluten is the "gift" to the wheat that holds it, gives it bounce, give and elasticity, making it soft and light. Not what happens with every gluten free recipe.

Surprisingly, the way you make the bread is not the most important. I find  great success in the oven but  it is really a lot easier for me to make it in the bread machine. I am not subject to heating the house on a warm day,  and won't  forget things by getting distracted with my business or kids. I would strongly suggest a bread-maker  as it does each step for you so it's harder to mess it up! No thought of how long it needs to rise or heating the oven to make sure it can. There are many bread machine brands that now cater to " gluten free" breads but if you don't have one , fear not, you can still make amazing gluten free bread using a regular bread maker. If you, like me and have an old machine that doesn't have this feature, you won't need to use the double rise or the entire cycle. For my particular bread maker I don't start with the regular start cycle, I use the next one ( my bread maker says " rapid rise") this is the difference between gluten and non gluten breads. The gluten needs time to be broken down and to rest, none of the gluten free flours do. So from start to stop, my bread maker makes a non gluten loaf in a little over two hours apposed to over four if I were doing a gluten bread! It only rests to rise the dough for the yeast! Though  if you do use a bread machine,  be sure to pull the bread out as soon as the cycle ends. Leaving the bread in creates a very soggy and heavy bread. If you accidentally take it out too early or too late, you may be able to save your loaf by putting it back in your oven for a little more " drying" time as the heat will draw out the extra moisture sometimes. Since the bread pans are large in the bread machines, you will have a very full and possibly shorter loaf  bread size. If you are using your oven, you will find great success using a taller and thinner loaf pan for more " typical" size sandwich bread size. Often non gluten breads do not rise as well because they are " heavier". So a shorter pan means a smaller loaf. If you don't have one, you can find a great one here at as well as a good kitchen or housewares store.  But if you don't mind a smaller sized loaf such as the brand Udi's uses, then a normal loaf pan will work just fine and is often perfect for smaller hands or those watching their carbs. I have used the smaller loaf pans just fine. To make sure it stays the size you want, if your using the oven method , when you take the bread out, put the pan on a cooling rack on it's side so the weight of the bread doesn't fall back in and condense the loaf.

You will find many recipes on line and in cookbooks that will work just fine. It's fun trying different recipes to find your perfect preference. Just as with a wheat bread, there are tastes and textures that we all like better then others.  Each flour can have a distinct taste and others are very bland and take on the flavor of the yeast. In general though the guidelines are fairly similar, 2 cups "flour" for every cup of starch. If  you cannot tolerate eggs, then you'll want to try ground flax seed with water to make a more gelatin type glue. You can also add pectin if you don't use egg to help hold together the flours. To substitute the eggs, you need 2 tablespoons ground flax meal (you can grind it yourself in a coffee grinder, the finer the better) and then 3 tablespoons of water ( let that sit for about 10 min.s as it needs to thicken to be used) this substitutes for one egg so you would need to double that for 2 etc. I have several recipes that I like but have also tried the boxed bread varieties though I am always adding things to them as well. One thing I like to add to my bread is chia seed. This makes a nice little " multi-grain" appearance to the bread but more importantly, it is an amazing seed! It's so small you can't tell it's there really, (think poppy seed). You can grind it to add to the flour mix you use but I like to just add a few tablespoons of it right out of the bag. It automatically lowers the glycemic index of any food you add it too making it lower in carb count so it's especially helpful in starch rich breads. It is so nutrient dense with  remarkable  amounts of antioxidants and proteins that once you read up on this power house seed I bet you'll be finding lots of ways to add it to your diet daily! In my personal baking,  I don't like to use cornstarch as I find there is corn in nearly everything thing I eat anyway so if I can get a break from it using tapioca or potato starch, then I do. I also don't use corn flour unless it is organic or I absolutely need to ( cornbread for instance).  I started  to add herbs to my breads as years ago and it sure makes the bread take on a flavorful taste! If I am making a sweet bread, I'll add more sugar, cinnamon and maybe even some raisins half way through the baking cycle. If it's a savory bread I am after, I add some Italian seasonings. You could always add some rosemary if you prefer that taste. You may also like to add rice bran to your bread for more bran and nutrition. It's sold by the gluten free items usually.

Here are a few recipes for bread that I like! I haven't added the method as if you have a bread machine you'll follow your directions there. For instance it may say add the wet ingredients first or dry first. I often do my own thing with that. I like to add my milk or warm water with dry milk and sugar and yeast and let it get friendly while I mix the other wet ingredients together and dry. I've also done it where I put in the eggs first, with the apple cider vinegar, and oil, then add the dry ingredients and top off with the milk in a little well of the flour. My machine is so old that they have no instructions for gluten free cycles so you may experiment that way too and see what turns out the best loaf for you. And if it's the oven method your doing, you won't need to do more then just a general mix as the bread doesn't need to be beaten to relax the gluten so you can use a kitchen aid mixer and put in your dry ingredients first, then slowly add the wet, let the bread rest in a warm place for 30 min.s or so then bake at whatever the box or your recipe says but usually it's about 325-350. Remember too as tempting as it is...don't cut that bread until it cools! ( I know it's so tempting but it really makes for a better loaf)

Multigrain flour mix ( makes 4 1/2  cups)
1 cup brown rice flour ( the finer the grind the better)
1 cup millet
1 cup sorghum
1 cup potato starch
1 half cup tapioca flour
Mix this real well, use a sifter to make sure there are no clumps ( potato starch can get clumped)  and from this, take 3 cups for your bread recipe. The reminder can be used  as a flour base for some fried chicken,  hamburger buns or dinner rolls! If you like it, you can always double or triple this.

Basic bread recipe:
3 cups flour mix from above
 (or 2 cups any flour combination of: rice, millet, sorghum, oat, almond , bean, etc. It's best to mix at least 3 flours for the best flavor and consistency.  Then add one cup starch, potato or tapioca or any combination of the 2) What does not work in this ratio is coconut flour because is a very heavy flour and you would need a very small amount of flour and many more eggs to get it to rise)

3 tablespoons sugar (or honey)
1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt ( sea salt is BEST)
1 and 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons of instant ( or fast rise) yeast
mix this together, making sure to incorporate all the ingredients well.
Add to this 1 cup warm milk ( or 1 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon dry milk) or any milk substitute can be used as well.
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons softened butter or 2 tablespoons warm coconut oil or  2 of olive oil
mix that well and add 3 eggs beaten.
Once you have mixed this well ( or your lovely bread machine has) make sure to add a few tablespoons of that chia see if you like or your herb blend that you prefer!

Here is another that I like as well.
3 eggs well beat add
2 tsp cider vinegar add
1 tablespoon oil or butter melted.
1 1/2 cup warm water ( add dry milk if you like to soften the loaf)
add to that 1 tablespoon yeast ( fast rise, bread machine yeast or 1 package)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups flour mix

Remember each recipe will react differently to the flours and liquid content so you may need to experiment a bit for your perfect and personalized loaf. Happy baking to you and may all your loaves rise!