Holiday Baking: GF Safety for You Non-Celiacs

This post is a brush up for folks who have gf relatives coming by over the holidays. Or if you have someone new in your social circle and you want to know how to cook a gf meal for them.  Let’s start with the basics. Did you know that once a person with celiac disease stops eating wheat it becomes even worse when they do accidentally consume a food containing gluten?  After I quit wheat I thought that I could cheat once in a while and not really suffer any consequences.  Not so. It is like your body becomes incredibly sensitive to all gluten substances and even a tiny bit is too much. So your caution is so important for the health of your guest.

A few examples of how to get glutened if you are a celiac: if I splash beer on my hands while serving it at a friend’s house it is so easy to forget and touch your face/lips. Glutened! And I hate to be in anyone’s kitchen as they bake with regular flour; super easy to get sick from that exposure.  There are multiple ways to be contaminated by homemade food that should be safe: salad dressing may not be gluten free due to trace amounts of flour in it. If the cook sprinkles seasoned salt or spice mixes on my rice or potatoes, it is likely uneatable for a celiac.  The reason is that manufacturers often put all purpose flour in seasoning mixes to facilitate flow and to create a smooth mixture of spices.  This is why many things that appear safe are not; “seasoning mixes” are the culprit that makes rice pilafs and many other boxed mixes often uneatable by celiacs. 

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Thanksgiving is in two days.  Beware, many turkeys have brine that contains some gluten; I got sick that way  my second gf holiday season. Butterball turkeys fresh or frozen are gluten free.  Plus, a turkey stuffed with regular bread stuffing is unsafe for someone with celiac to eat even if they don’t touch the stuffing.  Really. You need to buy or make a gluten free stuffing; either based in rice, gf cornbread or just buy a bag of gluten free bread to make your stuffing. Aldi’s has gluten free stuffing for both chickens and turkeys.

Even GF pasta can be contaminated if it is drained in a colander that is used for wheat pasta.  The gluten in pasta is extra sticky and it is nearly impossible to get all of it off a colander.  So, many times pasta that should be safe gets contaminated when the cook drains it in a colander that has tiny particles of wheat gluten sticking around the strainer holes. Restaurants that advertise GF menus need to have dedicated equipment like strainers, colanders, pots and utensils. I often ask about the pasta pot and colander when I attempt to safely eat pasta at a restaurant. So cooking pasta for your gf guest can be quite problematic.

A few people seem to feel celiacs are exaggerating or being over cautious.  When in reality all that caution is necessary to eat safely and avoid gluten.  It only takes a tiny amount of gluten to contaminate food or drink.

So if you are cooking for someone with gluten intolerance, be sure to take extra caution and your meal will be a success for everyone enjoying it! When shopping for the meal  ingredients you have to read the label even if it says gf, regardless just to be sure as occasionally food is labeled GF and the ingredients say wheat in the list. Do read the labels, it is best to cook from scratch, and remember that all wheat varieties including spelt are unsafe as are all purpose flour, barley and rye flour/berries. Don’t use your old wooden cutting board or wooden spoons with ruts and gashes that may harbor gluten and any pans you use must be super clean. In fact, if you bake a cake I urge you to use either new pans or buy throwaway ones as tiny bits of the last cake are likely clinging to that lovely pan of yours. Gravy can made using white rice flour, cornstarch, brown rice flour or even sweet rice flour. If you add broth to the turkey pan be sure it says gf on the package. You can get gf stuffing in a box at Aldi’s. there are redi-made gf crusts and gf graham cracker crumb crusts available to make lovely desserts. Or box/packaged crust mixes you can use for your gf pie. Even a teaspoon of regular flour is way too much; get the gf flour out. The tiniest amount is enough to make your celiac friend feel so ill their meal enjoyment will be spoiled. 

If you want an easy stuffing; try this one!
Bob’s Red Mill makes many gf flours of high quality that you can use for gravies.
A yummy gf crust to make your special dessert with.

And if you eat out in a restaurant over the holidays don’t roll your eyes when the person at  your or the next table starts to ask pointed questions on ingredients and method of preparation with respect to gluten.  They are just trying to eat a safe meal out.  Sometimes this experience is kinda a roll of the dice for us celiacs so be patient and polite if you come into contact with this situation when you are dining out.

In summary; now you can see how important it is to have products that are labeled gluten free and why your friend with celiac has a zillion questions when you invite them for a holiday get together! Be understanding and extra careful. They just want to enjoy a meal with you without feeling terribly sick afterwards.

Demystifying GF Flours for Holiday Baking Fun

December is almost upon us. Pies are baking, pumpkin roll is filled and cookie season is pretty much here. I have already had emergency calls about gf flour choices and substitutions in creating something gf when the baker is not gf and is more than a little confused. So I am reposting this flour treatise from before Thanksgiving, in the hopes that folks will read it and use this information to have the beset possible results. GF baking is more technical than wheat flour based recipes. Substituting is more tricky especially flour subbing. So before you make those gf cookies for a family member read up on the differences so you use the right flour.

So, I am writing this post for a friend who wants to cook gf dishes for someone in her family for the holidays. I want to go over the flour issue particularly for someone new to cooking gf meals. It is slightly tricky so I am going to try to make it clear for everyone: here goes.

you could use this rice flour for gravy making

There are individual gf flours like rice flour, buckwheat flour, oat flour, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, potato starch, cornstarch, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, etc.! A bewildering array of choices as almost any grain can be ground into a flour. Flour can then be processed to create a starch, which tends to be nearly flavorless but often has a big purpose in gf baking. I rarely use just one flour in a baking recipe. Why? Because a single flour is often missing an important characteristic of what we want in a baking result. A mixture has different kinds of flours to replicate all purpose flour (wheat based) or whole grain flour (also wheat based). Without the gluten there are a number of ways to make it a useful blend for cooking or baking. That said, I use just single flour blends in sauces. Just for sauces people!

I usually use blends for baking, 2-6 flours that work together to mimic wheat-based flour in different applications like bread, cake, cobbler, cookies, pastry or pasta dough. I have a number of them but my favorite is one you can buy in most stores.  King Arthur’s Basic GF Blend; made of a proportional blend of brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch.  I use it for over 90% of my baking and cooking needs. There are a number of blends available from companies like Bob’s Red Mill or Jeanes. There are many, many blends provided in gf cookbooks.  It can be a lot of jars/cans/zip lock bags of blends labeled and stored in your freezer or fridge.  Some of these blends have a gum like xanthan gum included. The gum helps your finished bread/cookie/cake hold together – in wheat based recipes it is the gluten that is the “glue” that holds things together. My blend doesn’t have it so I add it based upon my recipe. Doesn’t take much xanthan gum; ½-1 tsp is often enough.

I have used this blend and had good results.
Amazon.com : Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour, 44-ounce :  Grocery & Gourmet Food
Bob’s Red Mill calls it 1 to 1 Baking Flour; same idea as measure for measure.

In recent years measure for measure blends also called 1 to 1 or cup for cup have appeared. They have a different use; they are for when you want to make a normally gluten based recipe but use a gf flour. FYI: most gf recipes have been altered from their original recipe or are created just for gf flour. If you want to take those cookies you can’t enjoy anymore and sub in gf flour these new measure for measure blends are perfect to do that. You don’t need to alter your recipe or add gum. The flour blend is made to mimic regular all purpose flour. It is not interchangeable with things like the Basic GF Blend from King Arthur that I mention above. Don’t use measure for measure in a gf calibrated recipe, use it to make stuff from your old wheat flour based recipes. King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill or a few other companies have a measure for measure blend so get that if you want to take your gluten based recipe and change it to gf. I must caution you that these flours don’t work as well if you are replacing flour in a yeast bread recipe. Works for quick breads, cookies, muffins, and many cakes but I wouldn’t make my old fav Italian bread recipe with these measure for measure as the result is unlikely to be similar to the recipe as made with wheat based flour. Besides, I have an awesome gf Italian bread recipe my family clamors for!

King Arthur Flour Baking Mix, All Purpose, Gluten Free | Flour & Meals |  Edwards Food Giant
I used an image for King Arthur baking mix as this is the only premade mix I have tried. It works great!

One more thing, many companies now have gf baking mixes that can be used to make muffins, cookies, cates, etc. They are different from the blends described above. Do not substitute those blends for a basic blend like the one I use. These blends already have gum, baking powder, salt, etc. added to the flour. They are very convenient and there are lots of recipes for using them.

To repeat; there are single flours, there are blends with or without gum added, there are measure for measure blends for use in gluten based recipes you want to recreate as a gf dish and there are baking mixes that can be used as a starting place for a quickly constructed baked good like a cake, cookie or muffin. I know, it seems complicated but read your recipe carefully so you get the right kind of flour to make it successfully. The wrong flour will give you a poor result as gf baking is relatively unforgiving of big errors like that.

pie made with King Arthur Basic GF flour blend

My recipes generally tell you which flour blend I used. You cannot sub in measure for measure for a basic blend.  Nor can you use a baking mix for anything but a recipe meant specifically for a baking mix. Get the right flour and you will have a great start towards a delicious result. I hope I have educated you on this issue so you can be successful if you need to bake gf this holiday season. Have fun baking!

Homemade Pumpkin Pie: Easy and Delish

Pie is traditional at Thanksgiving in the USA. So you might be planning to make a GF pie for the holidays.  I think pumpkin is a perfect choice because it is really easy to make: has only a few steps.  Make a crust, mix up and dump in the filling, bake it, chill it and yumm it up!! And it sure is traditional for this holiday. When I ask my guy what pie he wanted, he alternates between pumpkin and my deep dish apple crumb pie.  My dad particularly loved this recipe; he felt it had a perfect texture and just right sweetness.

If you want to change things up, add a tsp. of maple flavoring to the filling for a sweet treat.  I did that that for my Thanksgiving pie the other year.

This GF crust will work for any pie you should want to make including pecan pie.  This particular filling recipe is adapted from my 1970s Betty Crocker and is one I have made for years; perfect custard texture.  If you like it really sweet add another quarter cup sugar.  I use evaporated milk; less fattening than the cream many recipes use.

My mom always said that eating a slice of pumpkin pie is like having an extra vegetable serving.  I like to cook up a butternut squash and run it through a food mill to make it silky smooth for the pie but you can just buy a can of pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling which has other stuff; just plain pumpkin please.

Go ahead, bake as easy a gf pie as is humanly possible and enjoy a tasty yet kinda healthy pie for Thanksgiving or Christmas!

pumpkin pie 2

Angie’s GF Pumpkin Pie

Crust:

1 c plus 2 Tbsp brown rice flour mix (at bottom of recipe)

2 Tbsp sweet rice flour

1 Tbps. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 large egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Spray 9 inch metal pie pan with cooking spray, dust with white rice flour.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and juice.  Mix until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 15-20 minutes while you make the filling. I actually roll mine out in an OXO pie bag which I love!

Filling:

2 large eggs

2 cups cooked pumpkin or butternut squash puree (canned is okay)

½ cup sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. cloves

Sprinkle of nutmeg

1 3/4 c evaporated milk (1 can)

1 tsp. maple extract (optional)

Beat eggs well and add the rest of the ingredients and mix it all together with a mixer at low speed until blended.

Put It Together:

Roll out pie crust – see above directions: my sister Karen gave me a pie bag a few years ago and I love it for an even thin crust.  You can get one on line from King Arthur Flours.  Peel off one side of paper and place in pie pan, centered.  Remove other slice of wax paper.  Crimp edges all around.  Fill with pumpkin pie mixture.  Sometimes I sprinkle the top with more cinnamon and nutmeg.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, lower temperature setting to 350 and bake for 45 minutes until just set and the crust is light brown.  Cool and chill at least 2 to 4 hours before serving at or close to room temperature.

Note: I bake all my pies in a bottom heat gas oven on a rack set just above the oven bottom so it really cooks every pie crusts to perfection.  If you oven isn’t similarly equipped you might want to prebake your gf pie crust ten minutes before you pour in the filling and bake it.  Take ten minutes off the total time unless it seems to need a few more minutes.

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Brown Rice Flour Mix (same as King Arthur GF Flour Mix)
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

Originally published on this blog November 2014.  Minor changes in the text since then.

This is my Favorite Yam Casserole! Doubled Version for Double the Delish!

I started making this simple side dish nine years ago; we have enjoyed it for a number of holidays.  I like it alongside a roasted meat like ham or turkey.  I always serve it on Thanksgiving: far healthier than that casserole full of sugar and marshmallows.  For all the yummy food I serve for big feasts, this humble and not too pretty side dish often gets the most praise.  There generally is very little leftover. I made it two years ago for a teacher luncheon; no leftovers 😦 but some raves!

I love it because it is healthier than most yam/sweet potato casseroles.  It is free of gluten, grains, eggs and refined (read white) sugar.   If you use something other than butter it can be dairy free too.  No tons of butter, marshmallows or cup of brown sugar.  Less than a quarter cup of sweeteners make this a good choice for pre-diabetes.  I generally use the coconut oil rather than butter; it adds a subtle flavor I enjoy.  Plus yams themselves are quite good for you. We love their natural sweetness.easter-036

And it is so easy to throw together. Just peel and dice up the yams, mix up the other ingredients in a small saucepan and pour over, bake and enjoy.  So easy but the flavor is subtle yet very pleasing.  I suggest 4 large yams but I often use 5 or 6 smaller ones. Simple, tasty and healthy; side dish home run!

yam casserolle

It shrank a bit in the pan but still a nice amount of delish to share. Looked fantastic before I took it to the luncheon; darn but I forgot to take a picture….

NOTE: This is a double recipe version for all those who wish for a bigger pan of this delish side. Look at my old post for the smaller version!

Honey Spiced Yams

8 good sized yams
1/2 c. butter (or coconut oil if you want to be non dairy)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
4 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger (dry not fresh)
1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes (yams), peel if you like (it’s not all that necessary), chop into fairly uniform 1/2 inch cubes or do 1/4 inch slices and place them in a 9×13 inch baking dish that you sprayed with cooking spray. Be sure NOT to use the one with flour added…. Over low heat, melt the butter and coconut oil in a heavy small saucepan. Stir in the honey, molasses, and spices. Mix and drizzle over sweet potatoes, then sprinkle with salt. Stir to evenly coat, then bake for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes or until yams are fork-tender. I like to stir it up once or twice while it bakes so that yummy sauce can sink into every bite of yam.

I can’t remember where I found this recipe: I think it was in a magazine.  The original version left the skin on but I am not that brave with company; but go ahead and try it….let me know if people like it that way.  This recipe was originally posted by me in late 2014.

Fig and Ricotta Cake, GF and Fabulous!

Figs, figs, figs! Enough to enjoy, not enough for making big batches of fig jam. I did make some sweet pickled figs in October and last week we enjoyed a lovely fig and sweet cheese galette. This time I went back to the best bake I ever have made with figs; the fig and ricotta cake. It is just so delish, I now call it THE Fig Cake. When I told my sister Karen I was making a fig cake she knew exactly which one; she and her hubby who is of Italian heritage loved it when I made it in September 2020 while visiting them and our mom for her big 100th birthday celebration. I made it about 3 weeks ago but last night I felt another ricotta cake was just the right way to use some of my last ripe figs from this season.

This recipe is a big favorite of Ina Garten; you can find it on her barefoot contessa website. I reworked it a tiny bit to make it gluten free. It has a lovely crumb and a delicate flavor that is delightful. I think this cake is definitely one I would like to try and make with other fresh fruit, cherries? Apricots? Plums? All seem like great possibilities.

You can use small figs like I did or get larger yellow ones. Which tastes better is definitely a personal decision! Dried ones will not work. I think orange zest might be a delicious substitution for lemon zest. I think you can use any cup for cup gf flour as long as it is meant for direct substitution in recipes.

Don’t forget to let the eggs and all dairy items come to close to room temp; cold from the fridge is not good for gf baking. DO not underbake the cake; the center needs to look firm not squishy. Better to bake 5 more minutes than have a soggy center.

I think this cake tastes great warm but once it is cool it is still delish; you can warm slices briefly in the microwave before serving; I did this once and loved it.

brown turkey figs just picked

Fig and Ricotta Cake

Mixing up a storm of yumminess!
ready for figs!

Ingredients:

10 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 extra large eggs; I just picked the three largest in my dozen large eggs

1 cup whole milk ricotta; also at room temp.

2 Tbsp. sour cream; room temp.

1 Tsp. vanilla extract

½-1 Tsp. fresh grated lemon zest

1 ¼ cups Bob’s Red Mill One for One Gluten Free flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 Tsp. kosher salt

8 large or 12 medium figs, stems removed! Quarter if large, halve if smaller

1 Tbsp. coarse sugar or finishing sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a 8 inch removable bottom round cake pan. Tap out excess flour.

Beat butter and sugar in stand mixer at medium speed for 3 minutes, scrape down as needed. Until it is fluffy. Then add eggs one at a time, beating well between eggs.  Add ricotta, sour cream, vanilla, zest and mix until smooth. Mix dry ingredients in small bowl and add in thirds, mixing well between additions. Pour into prepared cake pan. Place figs, cut side up in pan; I started with a ring around the outside and worked my way inside pressing them in a bit. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 40-48 minutes until a cake tester in center comes out clean. I did 46 minutes. The top should be browned but not really dark.  Cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes before removing side panel. Serve warm with whipped cream, crème fraiche or ice cream. I actually like it best plain so I can focus on the amazing flavors and texture. Enjoy!

This is a re-blogging of the recipe first published by my blog in Sept, 2020. Minor text changes and some new photos. Recipe unchanged.

Pear Crumb Pie

Fresh tasting, locally sourced fruits are the reason for success in fruit pie baking. I got mine from the local orchard where they were grown; about 2 miles from my house.  I used Bartlett pears; you could use bosc but they would be a bit firmer and not as juicy as Bartletts. !

This recipe is a blending of my own pie filling and the pie crust and crumb recipes from Annalise Robert’s cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking Classics.  I used slightly less sugar, more fruit, and made a few other changes to create my own special pie using pears instead of apples.  Her cookbook is a fabulous resource and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone trying to bake gluten free for a family member.  This pie is like apple pie’s little sister; delicate, tender and so pretty. I promise even pear haters will enjoy a slice of this and we who love pears are just in heaven when we bite into a generous slice of this juicy sweet pie.

Angie’s GF Pear Crumb Pie

Crust:

1 c plus 2 Tbsp. brown rice flour mix (at bottom of recipe)

2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour

1 Tbsp.. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp.. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 large egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Spray 9 1/2 or 10 inch metal pie pan with cooking spray, dust with white rice flour.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and juice.  Mix until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 15-20 minutes while you chop the peeled and cored fruit into ¼ to 1/3 inch slices.  I use my plastic pie bag; sturdy and helps me roll the crust thin in the middle. 

Filling:

6 cups barely ripe Bartlett pears; peeled, cored, and sliced thin   – place in medium bowl

Mix the following in a small bowl and pour over the sliced pears:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp. quick cooking instant tapioca 

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 rounded tsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Stir gently with a big spoon to blend well. Let stand while you roll out the crust; this time will allow the tapioca to soak up the fruit juice and become that lovely goop my family yearns for!

Crumb topping

Put all four ingredients in the same mixing bowl you made the bottom crust in and mix well with mixer paddle until crumbs form.

¾ c brown rice flour mix

½ c granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

1/3 c cold butter cut into six chunks

Directions: Roll out pie crust in a pie bag or between the two sheets of wax paper; try to get the thickness even, no thick middle! Peel off one side of paper and place in pie pan, centered.  Remove other slice of wax paper.  Crimp edges all around.  Fill with sweetened fruit mix.  Pour the crumb topping (1 to 1½ cup) evenly over this mixture.  The more crumbs the thicker the crust they will form; for a really thick crust use all the crumbs from the recipe below.

If you love your pie really sweet add another ¼ cup granulated sugar to the dry mix part of the filling.  I found the pie to be plenty sweet but everyone has their own sweetness level.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes with a piece of aluminum foil on top of the pie, then lower the temperature to 375 and bake 20 more minutes uncovered until bubbly and the crust is light brown.  I put a pie guard underneath my pie while it bakes to catch any drips.  Cool at least 2 hours before serving at room temperature.

Note: I bake pies on the lowest shelf of my oven and that gives me a great browned crust.  If your oven doesn’t give a strong bottom heat you might want to pre-bake the crust 10 minutes before filling and topping the fruit.

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Naked raw pear pie, I promise it will get tastier looking!
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Pear pie crumbed and ready for the oven
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Brown Rice Flour Mix (same as King Arthur’s Basic gf Flour mix)

2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour