Finding GF AND Gum Free Recipes

This week I discovered an old college friend has suddenly developed an allergy to wheat and to gluten. When his wife tried to bake gluten free using xanthan gum, he hated the after taste he noticed (I personally have never noticed that phenom but it sure could be so!) and guar gum made him break out in a nasty rash. She loves to bake and just was dismayed with a number of recipes she tried. Terrible texture and heavy especially without the gum. Generally disheartening. I decided immediately that I had to help them out. So after some research here are a few of my ideas, resources and general thoughts to help them.

Of course I wanted to help them out; I love a good challenge and to help friends is a true joy. So, I looked in my cookbook collection last night and discovered that my book by Nancy Cain titled “against the grain” is chock full of gluten free recipes that have no xanthan or guar gum in them. I haven’t made many of her recipes but I think they could work well for my friend. Bonus points as she takes a rather natural approach to baking gf and I am all for natural foods.

My second cookbook choice is “The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, Volume 2” by America’s Test Kitchen. This book contains two gf flour blends neither of which has a gum in them. I have made several recipes from it and can say they are tasty and worth making again.  Not all the recipes avoid gums but they mostly use a tiny amount; ¼ of a teaspoon. I feel this could be replaced by several choices.

For that I did a search and found this: bakingkneads.com/substitutes-for-xanthan-gum-in-baking/ by Sarah. This is a wonderful post and I highly recommend you visit it. Here is a brief summary: you can use chia seeds softened in water, egg whites, cornstarch, konjac powder, agar -agar and flax seeds mixed with water (the flax seed “egg”). For cornstarch you use the same amount as a gum. For the flax seed or chia “egg” I believe it is a tablespoon of chia and 2 tablespoons of hot water. Let it stand about 5 minutes. You can grind the seeds up if you want a smooth mixture as whole seeds can definitely add texture or pop to your bread. I can’t wait to try a few of these ideas out. I have used the flax seed egg in the past and it works okay in a cake. I think it would work better in a whole grain bread which would more disguise the seedy texture and flavor.

Another cookbook I like is “Gloriously gluten-free cookbook) by Vanessa Maltin. It focuses on three cuisines: Italian, Asian and Mexican. The red velvet mochi cupcakes with ginger buttercream icing recipe looks amazing and no gum. There are dozens of gorgeous sounding ethnic recipes. I am wondering why I haven’t cooked from it lately!

I constantly use Annalise Robert’s book: “Gluten-Free Baking Classics” I feel  you could use one of those six substitutes I mention and alter her recipes to make them gum free. She uses a simple flour blend of 3 flours but you can buy it too; it is King Arthur’s Basic Gluten Free Flour. There is no xanthan gum in it. I is comprised of brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. Has a nice “wheaty” taste to the pie crusts she shares. I won’t make any other pie crust. I get a lot of complements on it. A suggestion from fb; add cinnamon to your baked goods to hide the taste of xanthan gum. I actually do that for a number of my recipes; will do it even more now that I am thinking on it.

Two more choices are “Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking” by Kelli and Peter Bronski and “‘The Gluten-Free Table” by Jilly and Jessie Lagasse. Most of the Lagasse sister’s recipes are naturally gf recipes, there is some use of xanthan but now armed with my knowledge of several gum replacements I feel I could make them gum free successfully. Ditto with enthusiasm for the Bronski book. It is chock full of interesting and mouthwatering ideas. Definitely work the look and maybe the buy!

Another suggestion, which I found in my gf support group, but haven’t tried yet is: https://shop.betterbatter.org/products/artisanbakersblend?fbclid=IwAR1iOKMW4jM0C9jUKLk33Tb7RHchdrC4rxXNO-xjmyYL_asnvddUDJUgDMc. The site sells a gf and gum free bread flour. Pretty pricy but definitely an option. This blend’s ingredients are: sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, psyllium husk, and potato flour. I personally make up a Better Batter knock off flour mix and use it a lot; it does have xanthan gum in it. I am betting you could replace that gum with one of the above six replacements for your baking pleasure!

I just discovered there is a gf baking group on fb that uses more psyllium than gums; you could join that group to get advice and learn some new recipes. https://www.facebook.com/groups/354638545553904/?ref=share

I buy a lot of gf items at Aldi’s and sometimes Trader Joe’s or Wegmans. Aldi’s has a bread that is fairly new; it is a multi grain wide pan loaf. I find it life changing. Makes amazing grilled cheese and ham sandwiches. About to try french toast with it. So tasty and the bigger slices are the best!

Yeah; this is 3/4 gone but look at it’s slilce size and at that lovely grain; no big holes here!

Other advice to newbies; read my original early posts on switching to being gf. Look at my 2014 posts: for most of 2013 I posted on Patch. I do not thing those posts are still available but I reposted most of them in my first few months on my new blog location. Critical to success: new bread pans at 8.5x 4.5 with taller sides, new cake and pie pans unless you scrub the heck out of them. You need to read up on cross contamination as it is a really serious problem. You should invest in a new toaster for only gf breads and bagels. Your cutting boards and rolling pins must be incredibly free of all old flour; maybe if you are going to still have gluten in your house buy a new bread board and rolling pin for gf use only. You will absolutely need a new colander for gf pasta. Mark it so or get one very different in color so you can easily distinguish it. Ditto for wooden spoons. In fact, you need to run everything you plan to use for gf cooking through the dishwasher several times or hand scrub a LOT. I found it too difficult to keep both gluten-based flour and my new gf flours around. I have a few burger buns and a loaf of white bread in my basement freezer for Joe or Aiden. No more do I keep gluten-based pasta or mixes.

In short, eat clean, eat organic when you can, don’t buy packaged gf foods if you can make it yourself and avoid the processed gf treats full of fats, sugar and preservatives. DIY is always healthier if it avoids excesses of those demons especially hydronated fats and all sugars other than coconut palm sugar which is low on the hypoglycemic index and possibly use honey, maple syrup and agave syrup but in moderation. Being gluten free is a journey, an adventure in experimentation and can be surprisingly delicious. GF foods have gotten a bad rap and often folks eating my cookies, brownies, pies, tarts and cakes are shocked at how delicious they actually are. I am generally very happy to be gf. Rarely, on visiting people I find them being insensitive; like baking gluten filled muffins right in front of me and offering me no substitute or alternative. I think that behavior is obnoxious; you knew I was coming. Couldn’t you put off your wheaty muffins a few days and buy a gf mix treat to make while I was there? My pet peeve…. oh well. I survived it and I love to bake gf and we eat darn well around here!

Demystifying GF Flours for Holiday Baking Fun

December is upon us. Cookie season is 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). With out 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 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 based recipe. 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.

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!

King Arthur GF Flour

Some months ago I heard that King Arthur Flour’s GF blend was just the same as the blend I use out of Annalise Roberts’ cookbooks.  So I started including that on all my blog postings that used her flour blend.  I must have told my sister that as she got me a box of the baking blend as a Christmas gift; so I would have flour ready to use in a hurry without measuring. I was pleased with that thought.  Opened it the other day and started using it.  king arthur flour baking mixBefore I scooped any I did read the package label.  It does have the same 3 flours as my fav blend but there are some additional ingredients; xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt and a few other things.  She gave me the baking mix.  A different beast indeed.

Hmmmn I was a bit distressed by that finding.  But I really didn’t have any more blend on hand so I went with the box.  I added more leavening than was already in but not the full amount the recipe specified.  For example; if it said 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum  I used half a teaspoon.  And if it wanted 1 3/4 tsp. baking powder I put in a slightly over the tsp. measure of it.  Without knowing the percentage of those add ins I felt I should add some but not really all; I went with about 3/4 of what the recipe asked for.  I have made a couple of things; cookies and crust.  All turned out fine.  So you can use it in my recipes; just cut back slightly in those three items; baking powder, salt and xanthan gum.

If you really want the exact blend that I prefer you need to buy King Arthur’s mult-purpose GF flour blend; it appears to not have those leavening additions.  king arthur blendFrom now on I may make that suggestion at the bottom of my posts so you can use the King Arthur ready made baking blend if you want or have to.

I am hoping to make some thumbprint cookies later today; sure that they will be gobbled up.

Happy New Year folks!