May 23, 2006

Amaranth Pie Crust - Gluten Free

I have wanted to try making homemade gluten-free fruit pastries like Pop Tarts for a long time. The real thing has too many ingredients that I prefer my children not eat. Plus, my son loves Pop Tarts, so I need to come up with a healthy alternative.

I chose as my basic crust recipe the gluten free Amaranth Pie Crust Dough at Bob's Red Mill, which I altered slightly. This is what I did:


3/4 cup Amaranth Flour
1/2 cup Tapioca
1/4 cup Almond Meal
1/4 tsp Celtic Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
3 Tb Coconut Oil
3 - 4 Tb Water (I ended up needing 6 Tb)
2 tsp Agave Syrup

I mixed it up with my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. Then rolled the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper. I used my biscuit cutter to make the shapes. Since they were small, I used the following items as fillings: mixed berry jam, strawberry jam, pumpkin butter, lemon curd, orange marmalade and apple sauce.

My Mom always used make little cookies out of the left over pie crust. She'd place them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on them. They were always my favorite part of any pie baking. So I did the same with the Amaranth Pie Crust. They turned out great. There weren't any left for taste testing though.....the cook turned into a little piggy.

The final fruit pastry turned out beautifully. Now, to try them on the kids.... My son said, "Ick, ick and double ick." My daughter thought the ones filled with the mixed berry jam were the best and orange marmalade was totally disgusting. I thought the ones with pumpkin butter and lemon curd stood up best to the taste of the dough.

The amaranth flour had a raw grassy smell in the package and tasted if possible even grassier in the uncooked dough. The cooked version was milder, but still might have too strong a taste for some. The cinnamon and sugar pie crust cookies were the best tasting of all.

Papaya Salsa - Gluten & Nightshade Free

Since the discovery of my daughter's challenges with plants from the nightshade family, she has really moaned the loss of salsa. She loved to snack on salsa and corn chips. Yeah! A new culinary challenge for me - fruit salsas. I've never tried making them, but I'm sure it will be a tasty adventure. The added benefit is that they are gluten-free, too.

I started out with a can of organic papayas that I got at Trader Joe's. I diced them and added two small yellow onions, 5 cloves of garlic, 1/8 cup of cilantro, salt and black pepper. I served it with organic yellow corn chips.

The taste test verdict? My son wouldn't even consent to try it. My daughter thought there was too much green stuff. She wanted me to try again, but use very little green stuff (cilantro) as she didn't really like the taste of it. My husband and I gave it a thumbs up. A simple and tasty salsa that was sharp yet sweet. Better yet it didn't have any offending members of the nightshade family in it.

So what is the nightshade family? It is the botanical family of a variety of plants such as: potatoes (white, blue, yellow, etc.), tomatoes, peppers (bell peppers, cayenne, jalapeno, banana, etc.), eggplant, tobacco, ground cherry or tomatillo. All in all there are about 1700 species in the nightshade family and some are poisonous. Some we know and love are ornamentals like the petunia. The Forest Preserve District of Cook County in Illinois Bulletin on the nightshade family is a good primer:

May 22, 2006

Dowd & Roger's Chocolate Chestnut Cake Mix - Gluten Free

I really needed a successful gluten free baking experience! At my kids insistence, I reached for the Dowd & Rogers chocolate cake mix. Made with rice flour, chestnut flour and tapioca flour, this mix is one even those who have an allergy to nightshade plants can handle. My daughter has an evolving/developing allergy problem with the nightshade plant family. Yep, there goes the potato flour.... The "evil shadow vegetables," as my daughter calls them, will no longer have a place in our evolving gluten-free cooking.

I found my Dowd & Rogers cake mix at our local Whole Foods market in the baking section. It comes in chocolate, dark vanilla and lemon. We have tried the chocolate and dark vanilla cake mixes -- both are delicious. If you can't find it at your local market, Dowd & Rogers does sell mixes over their website.

The box holds enough cake mix for a single layer cake. I bake mine in a 6 inch springform pan which yields a nice double layer height cake. I have sliced the cake in the middle to add frosting, but most often just frost the outside. I line the springform pan with parchment paper (sides & bottom) to make sure the cake comes out of the pan.

Our cake baked up beautifully and didn't make it to the frosting stage before the kids were asking to have some. The Dowd & Rogers cake mix is always moist and chocolately. It doesn't leave a grainy texture in your mouth when you eat it. I used butter cream frosting to top it off. Now I'm thinking that I should have decorated it like Pac-Man.....

The verdict on the taste test? Four thumbs up from the family. This is a keeper.

May 21, 2006

Montina Bread Gluten Free - Try, Try Again

It was time renew my search for a gluten free bread that didn't make me want to chuck it in the garbage. At our house these experiments are called, 'yuck & chuck.' I chose for my bread baking challenge my bag of Montina flour (a gluten free Indian rice grass). A rich grainy flour that has a lot of nutritional value when compared to the traditional rice, tapioca & potato mixture -- not to mention fiber. When I ordered my Montina flour and I also picked up a copy of their recipe book. The book has quite a few gluten free and gluten containing recipes for the adventurous spirit.

I chose as my candidate the Montina Yeast Bread recipe, which won 2nd prize in the Montina Flour competition. I have made this recipe before and it turned out nicely -- so I decided to try substituting brown rice and millet flour for the white rice & tapioca combination. The batter was supposed to get sticky, but never made it. It stayed very liquid -- so I added about another 1/3 cup of millet flour. It didn't help, but I was hesitant to add too much more.

How did it taste? Rather like pumpernickel bread -- dark and intensely flavored. It tasted better with jam and butter rather than just the butter. What did the kids think? After a tiny nibble they put it down and said, 'ick.'

Back to the planning stages and this bread can head out to the compost pile.

Ramapo Valley Brewery - A Gluten-Free Passover Beer

While shopping at Whole Foods, I came across a Gluten-free beer from Ramapo Valley Brewery. It was their Passover Honey Beer which is gluten-free and kosher. Made of water, molasses, hops, honey and Passover yeast it truly is gluten-free. So off to the taste testing!

It foamed nicely and had a good aroma. The taste was initially light and crisp, but it left an intensely sweet taste in your mouth. Ditto, said my husband. This one is too sweet for us.

If you like the lighter sweeter beers, then this one is a winner. It won a blue ribbon at the first ever gluten free beer festival this year in the UK.

May 15, 2006

Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix

I wanted a cake for Mother's Day, one with a soft rich cocoa frosting. I chose for my candidate the Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix from Arrowhead Mills. It is a white rice flour cake mix amd had the added benefit of being organic.

I wanted a sheet cake, so I used my 9 x 13 baking pan which was one of the recommended options on the Arrowhead Mills package. Since the instructions on the box didn't say otherwise and feeling pretty daring, I only used a vegetable spray to coat the pan.

Like some gluten free batters it was very runny. The batter only filled the 9 x 13 pan about 1/2 inch up the side. It was looking a bit shallow for a cake mix in this size of pan, but I thought it just might rise a bit during baking. So, I went ahead and baked it for the lowest recommended time of 25 minutes.

When I checked the cake, it had already pulled away from the sides of the pan and had a caramalized coating on the top of the cake. I tried the toothpick test on the center and it came out clean. After cooling for about 30 minutes, I removed the cake from the pan onto a cookie sheet. The cake was still about 1/2 inch high and was a little over done at the recommended cooking time. But since hope springs eternal, I went ahead and moved on to the frosting stage.

I used the frosting recipe on the Arrowhead Mills package which was a cocoa butter frosting. Following the package directions, the recipe yielded a clumpy frosting without enough butter or cream to bind in the rest of the powdered sugar. I added more cream to the mix and then more cream and more cream..... By the time I was done, I had probably used double the amount of milk or cream recommended for this recipe. I probably should have used another stick of butter. The frosting was a bit firm, so I went ahead and put it on the still slightly warm cake to help soften it.

The final result looked beautiful, but how did it taste? In come my family critics with forks ready to dive into all that lovely swirling cocoa frosting. The cake has a lovely color. The texture of the cake is grainy and firm. This mix uses the traditional gluten free flour combination. First up was my husband, who said the only reason to eat this cake was for the frosting. Next, my son didn't like that the bottom of the cake got slimy as it sat on his plate. My daughter was a little slower producing her verdict since she was totally chocolated out after licking the frosting bowl, but said the cake part was icky.

The search goes on....

May 4, 2006

Chocolate Chip Cookies With Pamela's Gluten Free Pancake Mix

Since we were trying out Chocolate Chip Cookies mixes, I picked up a bag of Pamela's Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake mix on my last trip to Whole Foods. The Pamela's mix can make a variety of things, such as chocolate chip cookies, muffins, cake, and pancakes. You only need to add different ingredients in order to make the item you choose.

I decided to try out the Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe on the bag. The recipe on the makes about 1 1/2 dozen to 2 dozen cookies. After adding the extra ingredients, the cookie batter had a nice soft yet firm texture and had a good taste in dough form. I dropped the batter on a parchment lined cookie sheet and baked at 350 degrees for 14 minutes as recommended on the package. The cookies turned out beautifully and had a nice flavor. They were crisp at 14 minutes of baking time, but softer and chewier at 13 minutes in the oven.

These cookies were well received by most of my family, except for my son who thought they had a gingerbread type flavor and didn't care for them. The cookie mix is a good one since it lacks the bland rice white, tapioca, potato flour taste of many gluten-free baking goods. The day after baking the cookies are softer, but had a blander flavor. Not the basic bland white rice taste, but more like I made cookies using pancake mix. These cookies are best when fresh from the oven.

May 2, 2006

Gluten Free Pantry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

With our dinner on Saturday, I tried out The Gluten Free Pantry's Chocolate Chip Cookie mix. The mix makes around 2 dozen small cookies. I dropped the cookie dough by spoonfuls on cookie sheets that I had lined with parchment paper. They held their shape during baking and had nice clean edges. This recipe has the dough cooking at a lower temperature (325 deg.) for 12 to 14 minutes rather than 8 to 9 minutes (like the traditional Toll House recipe).

The cookies were well received by my family taste testers. The most critical (the kids) of the group, thought they were great! Nice crisp cookies and tasty semi sweet morsels that weren't bitter. My husband enjoyed them too, but he prefers the softer chewy richness of the traditional Toll House recipe.

Overall, this is a great cookie mix to have around when you just need to make some chocolate chip cookies. But as my family's resident baker, I've been asked to play more with my alternative flours and try to come with with a chewy rich cookie. What sweet diversions......

May 1, 2006

Hamburger & Hot Dog Gluten Free Bun Recipe from Bob's Red Mill

After a Saturday full of yard work, I planned on grilling hot dogs and making chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I needed a gluten-free recipe for the hot dog buns and chose the hamburger/hot dog bun recipe from Bob's Red Mill. Due to time considerations, I chose to try one of the Gluten Free Pantry mixes for the chocolate chip cookies.

The hot dog bun recipe has a few additives that I don't use anymore in my gluten free baking, i.e. apple cider vinegar or gelatin. However, thoughts of a crumbly hot dog bun made me pause and think. What if I chose to add was 1/2 tsp. of kuzu powder dissolved in 1/4 cup of the water needed for this recipe? Kuzu or kudzu root is generally used as a thickener in oriental cooking or for desserts, but I thought it might be a good addition to the bun recipe.

The bread dough is primarily brown rice flour, tapioca flour and potato starch. The dough is actually more like a batter which is ooey gooey and very sticky. You will need to make shapes for your buns out of aluminum foil and spray them well with vegetable spray as well as your pan or parchment paper. After they had a chance to rise, I baked them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

The flavor of the buns was simple and okay with all the condiments added to the hot dog. As a stand alone bread recipe, it was too bland for my family. We have been eating whole grain or sprouted grain breads before discovering that I have a gluten sensitivity. We all wanted our bread to have a fuller whole wheat type of flavor. We all gave this recipe a thumbs down due to its bland flavor.