GF Flour Choices and a Few Personal Words….

Wanna know what flour blends I favor? It took me a few months or maybe years to figure this out for my cooking style. First, I bought a zillion weird and a few typical gf flours. Tried to bake with each and every one of them. Found out a few kinda suck and stopped using them. Others are used infrequently but have real value for a few recipes that they match to. If you are new to gluten free or just trying to get into baking gf this post is for you.

My favorite blend is King Arthur’s Gluten Free All-Purpose blend; made of three flours; brown rice, potato starch and tapioca flour. It is versatile. It makes great pie crust that my family really loves. I use it in most of my muffin recipes. I use it for gf pasta making and for cookies that wow.  Get some and give it a try. I actually make my own blend (same exact blend as KA’s basic all-purpose flour) as it is cheaper but you can buy it at your local grocery store in a  box.

 

king arthur flour

Another blend I like very much is Better Batter, the copycat version you can find on glutenfreeonashoestring. I make a batch and keep it in the freezer so it stays fresh. Great for quick breads, desserts and pastries.

If you want a cup for cup replacement flour there are some good options; Cup 4 Cup or King Arthur’s Measure for Measure flour.  They can be used in your favorite recipes for the most part.

king arthur flour

white rice flour

White rice flour or cornstarch work well for breading things and thickening. I always keep both on hand. Ditto for tapioca flour which I use in my blends and some other recipes. Gotta have it available. I also keep sweet rice flour to use in my main blend and in a few recipes. It adds flakiness in my pie crust. Potato starch is great in my basic blend and a few other blends/recipes. Another must have.

I use sorgum flour in a number of recipes including my delish buttermilk pancakes. It has a nice flavor compared to things like quinoa flour or bean flours. Uggh on them! I still have some in my freezer but I NEVER willingly use them. I do have some chickpea flour but rarely have a need for it.

Occasionally I use teff flour; in small amounts. It makes breads darken and seem like rye or pumpernickel breads.   But, it can give a muddy flavor if you use too much. Coconut flour is another flour I keep in the freezer but only use occasionally.  It can dry out a recipe if you use too much so  use sparingly.

I just got some cassava flour to use to make flour tortillas.  I hear it is fantastic.  I’ll let you know how that goes…

My suggestion is that you start with one or two blends and a couple single flours that can be used in combination. I rarely ever use just one flour except for breading or thickening. A great blend is critical.

Don’t let all the flour choices discourage you.  Try a few and find out what works for you. Some need to be frozen or refrigerated especially if you don’t use them up rapidly; check for that storage information so your flour blend that costs a lot doesn’t get rancid on you.  Have fun!

A personal note. I am sorry I haven’t blogged much lately. Been struggling somewhat. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July and had a partial mastectomy in early August. On the first of October I started radiation therapy and it has sucked my energy and focus away from most of my enjoyable hobbies including this blog. I hope to feel better soon; 3.5 more weeks to go! At least I won’t lose my hair, LOL! I have done a bit of baking and cooking but due to my low energy I seldom can find it in me to write. This will change in November I hope.  Peace and happy gf cooking!

Brownies To Love!

Image     Trying to figure out a special valentine dessert? Let me suggest a brownie recipe that every one falls in love with; especially the delicious flavor and perfect texture of these bars.  Plus, bonus points as it is really easy to make.  All of the ingredients can be purchased at a regular grocery store.  I like to use really great quality chocolate like Ghirardelli for the best flavor.

Everyone who tastes these falls in love and begs for some to take home! Making them to please my special someone for a Valentine dessert this weekend.

Perfectly Easy Brownies

Ingredients:
– 2/3 c brown rice flour mix
– ½ tsp salt
– ½ tsp baking powder
– ½ tsp xanthan gum
– 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
– 4 oz semisweet chocolate
– ½ c butter
– 1 ¼ c sugar
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 3 large eggs
– ¾ c chopped walnuts

Directions:
Heat oven to 325 F, with rack in middle of oven. Line bottom and side of 8 inch square pan with foil, spray with cooking spray. Mix dry ingredients in small bowl. Melt chocolates and butter in heavy medium sauce pan over low heat. Remove from heat, whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy. Add flour mixture and whisk just until incorporated. Stir in nuts. Pour into prepared pan, bake 45 minutes until test (I use a steak knife or my fancy long tester skinny metal stick) in middle of pan comes out with wet crumbs. Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes, remove from pan by lifting out foil. Cool completely on rack and then cut into squares. Store in fridge for up to 5 days or freeze-wrapped in plastic wrap and foil.

Frankly, you won’t have much left over by the end of the second day! I dare anyone to think these are GF until you tell them!

Note: I sometimes add a 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon to the flour mix to add extra kick to these kick ass brownies.

Flour Recipe
Ingredients
– 1 c brown rice flour
– 1/3 c potato starch (not potato flour)
– 3 tbsp tapioca flour

Posted originally in June 2014, some changes made for this posting.  This recipe comes from Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts.

Image

Almond Paste Holiday Joy

Sometimes I find that it is just easier to make an ingredient yourself when you can’t easily locate it.  Case in point the venerable item of almond paste, found in many old school baking projects.  When I was a kid my mom used it to create marzipan fruit which she painted with delicate colors to resemble the real deal.  These dainty tasty treats were displayed on a crystal plate and served to company. I was lucky to get one itsy bitsy peach which was gone in one small bite of deliciousness. Don’t ask me how a woman with seven children found time and energy to make marzipan fruit.  Maybe because she didn’t have a computer or cell phone?

marzipan fruit

Not my mom’s marzipan fruit but still lovely.

Anyway, I wanted to make almond crescent cookies; had baked some last Christmas to much acclaim.  Forgot to get the paste and I was kinda busy cooking up a storm, so I texted my sisters to get some.  They brought almond filling, not the same, not even close. Bummer as we didn’t have time to shop again that day. I returned to the grocery store for the umpteenth time later this past week to get the right stuff and found no plain almond paste, only coconut or chocolate almond paste; weird.  I bought some marzipan, thinking it would do.  Nope.  Not the same; too sweet for a replacement in my recipe. So I googled almond paste and came up with a recipe to make my own.  Back to the store for plain almonds. I bought whole ones, they were out of blanched ones.

almonds

To blanch you heat a big saucepan half full of water to a boil; dump in the almonds and let them cook a couple minutes until they float.  Skim off and lay on a rimmed baking sheet, let cool a bit and then peel the skins off, your nails come in handy for that part. That can take a few minutes, maybe do it while you watch a Christmas movie or special.  Then bake those damp almonds on that rimmed cookie sheet at 170 degrees for 20 or 30 minutes to dry them out.  Do not brown.  Let cool completely before proceeding with the recipe.  FYI: rimmed baking sheets are the best; they bake things more evenly with less burning than plain un-rimmed sheets.  I found two old ones that are sturdy and with 1/3 inch rims, perfect.

blanched almonds

This recipe went together in just 5 minutes once I had the blanched almonds ready.  It makes really great tasting almond paste; better than the redi-made stuff. Good to know, just in case you can’t find any at the store.  FYI: I will post the almond crescent recipe but not today, one post at a time!

shortbread cookie 009

This was a cool experience because I learned something. Before, I just took almond paste for granted; now I know that it isn’t too difficult to make my own and it is really yummy homemade!  A bonus is that I got to use my ancient Hamilton Beach 2 speed processor, a faded refugee from the 1980’s.  It seldom comes out to play except when I make a big batch of carrot soup as I have a mini one that is perfect for most blending jobs.  This time it was the right size, got the job done and that is what counts!

Almond paste

INGREDIENTS

1.5 cups whole blanched almonds

1.5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 large egg white, lightly beaten, room temp

1/2 tsp almond extract

Yield: 1 lb (2.5 cups) almond paste

Directions:

  1. Place the whole blanched almonds and 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar in a large food processor (at least 7 cups in volume) fitted with a steel blade. Process the nuts and sugar until the nuts are very finely ground, stopping periodically to scrape the sides of the processor bowl. The sugar will help prevent the nuts from turning into almond butter, but done over process.
  1. Once the almonds are very finely ground, add the rest of the powdered sugar and blend until it is completely mixed into the ground almonds.
  1. Stop the processor and add the egg white and the almond extract. Turn the processor back on and process the almond paste until it comes together in a clump in the food processor.
  1. If it seems very sticky, add a little more powdered sugar, a spoonful at a time, until it is smooth. I didn’t need to do this.
  1. You can use the almond paste at once or wrap it to use at a later date. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then store it in a zip-top bag. Wrapped this way, the almond paste can be kept for up to 3 months in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer. Make sure to bring the almond paste to room temperature before using it in recipes.

PS: I forget exactly where I found this recipe, It is by Alton Brown, (my hero) just google almond paste and it should come up!

Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake Perfection

Okay, I have to confess something.  I am a terrible cake baker, under pressure, that is.  I call it the birthday cake curse.  Really.  I actually took a personal vow like 8-9 years ago to make no more scratch birthday cakes as they always get screwed up.  I can make a great cake the rest of the time but birthdays…not so much.  Once I baked a birthday cake for my sister Margie at my mom’s house and unbeknownst to me there was a second bottom on her cheesecake pan; my pear ginger cake was all goopy in the middle because of that! And then there was that fancy three layer cake I baked for my birthday long ago; the top layer was a sort of raspberry gelatin and it slid mostly off! Disaster at the party… Any number of cakes that didn’t rise properly or cracked as it baked or broke as I tried to get them out of the pan. I could go on and on.  The curse continues!

Now I am gluten free and there are very limited and expensive options as to making gf cakes.  Perhaps I should mention that I enjoy baking and it is a challenge I accept in my new gluten free life.  So I persevered and several birthday cakes have been created since going gf and all were totally yummy.  A few glitches but on the whole, I am pleased with my new gf birthday cake record.  Today I baked my three year old grandson’s cake.  Not so good in the perfect department but it sure was tasty when we ate it at the party.  When it came out of my oven the layers sank some in the center.  Re-reading her instructions at the start of the cake chapter I discovered that she does not recommend using a Kitchen Aid mixer; it is too powerful and always overbeats gf cakes.  Now I know.  I just flipped one layer over and used it as the bottom. I put extra cream cheese icing in the middle.  The top was level and the flavors were out of this world.

chocolate cake 001

This is the third time I have baked this cake for a birthday; time to share it.  It is from my go to cookbook; Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts.  Get a copy if you haven’t already.  This cake is incredibly yummy, no one will ever feel cheated by the gf nature of it.  And it isn’t that difficult to make, just don’t use that big powerful mixer! I like that it is make with low fat milk and canola oil; less fatty than many cake recipes. I used half the vanilla in the cake and it tastes perfect.  I also measure the oil and milk and remove that tablespoon from each before mixing; she does it after mixing.  I think oil and milk are hard to blend so I do it first.

I iced Aiden’s cake with a frosting from the Chocolate Cake Mix Doctor cookbook by Anne Byrn; vanilla cream cheese frosting and the contrast is perfection with this decadent chocolate layer cake.  This icing spreads easily and the cream cheese makes it smooth and less sweet with a tangy undertone; it is addictive. It’s a perfect combo for a birthday celebration once you poke a few candles on top.  This cake gets its deep chocolate flavor from two sources, unsweetened chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder.  You will need a fair amount of sugar to make it sweet enough.  And you will need some of that brown rice flour mix I often use.   Recipe for that is below.

chocolate cake 002

Not the prettiest looking cake but one of the tastiest chocolate birthday cakes ever!

Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake

4 oz unsweetened chocolate chopped up

1 ¾ cup brown rice flour mix

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

¾ tsp. xanthan gum

½ cup canola oil

1 ½ cup low fat milk

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Line two nine inch cake pans with parchment paper; spray the inside of the pan lightly with cooking spray.  You need the paper for safe removal from the pan. Do not use dark cake pans; light ones are far better for this cake. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, oven rack in the middle.

Melt chocolate, stir often.  I used the melting feature on my microwave and did a lot of stirring until the last bits were liquid. You can do it in a double boiler if you are into that sort of thing.  I went for the easy way.

Put all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well to combine.

Measure oil and milk, remove 1 tbsp. from each and discard.  Mix together.

Beat sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Do not use your kitchen aide. Beat until light and fluffy.  Blend in melted chocolate and vanilla, blend well.  Add the dry and wet ingredients alternating half at a time, low speed on mixer.  Mix at medium speed for one minute.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake immediately.  Any delay is not going to help so have the oven ready to go.  Bake 30-35 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan 5 minutes, run knife around edge, tip out onto a cooling rack.  Flip upright so the top of the cake is on the top.  Let cool completely before icing.

Aidens 2014 birthday party 006

You could make cupcakes out of it but no 8 inch pans; I tried that once and it overran the pan in a crazy “I love Lucy” manner!

———-

Brown Rice Flour Mix
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

———–

Cream cheese Icing

1 8 oz package light cream cheese, room temperature

1  8 oz stick salted butter, room temperature

3 ¾ cups powdered sugar, sieved

2 tsp. real vanilla extract.

Blend the cream cheese and butter in the mixer (yes I used my Kitchen Aid for this recipe!)  Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, blending on low speed.  Do not skip the sieving.  Add the vanilla and blend a bit more.  This recipe will frost one 9 inch layer cake perfectly.

French Apple Tart….Ooh La La!

Tasty, crisp, ripe apples are pouring into the farmer’s markets and orchard stores right now.  This French apple tart is an old favorite of mine, been making it for years.  I once worked at an office where they would request it whenever we had an office function or party!  I have no idea where I got the original recipe from so I can’t give credit for it, I lost my copy and had to replicate the measurements a number of years ago. Plus, I had to change it a bit in the last time or two to make it gluten free but it tastes just as good as before.  The cinnamon and lemon topping are what makes it so delish.

french apple tart

It should be made with an apple variety that keeps its shape; Granny Smith is the best choice in that regard.  Don’t use one that goes all squishy like Empire or Macintosh.  You only need 3 large apples.

I use my GF tart shell crust which is from Annalise Roberts’ great cookbook; Gluten-Free Baking Classics.  It is very easy; hand pressed into your tart pan.  I would say that this is a cookie crust; sweet and short; very yummy.

It should give you about 6-8 slices of tart. Lesser amount of slices if your family is piggy, the full eight slices if they are not big dessert eaters. I rarely have any of this tart left over for more than 24 hours.  It is very popular with everyone.  I like it for how easy it is to make, how handsome it looks and that I can throw it together quickly with only 3 apples and a lemon.

Crust

1 cup brown rice flour mix; recipe below

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. xanthan gum

5 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, in 5 chunks

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix the dry ingredients in a stand mixer, cut in the butter by mixing it at a med low speed until crumbly.  Add vanilla and mix well.  If it is really dry looking add a tbsp. of water.  Press into the bottom and up the sides of your tart shell as evenly as you can make it.

For this recipe I use a large 10 inch tart pan.  Mine is ceramic so it doesn’t have a removable bottom.   Bake it at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Filling

3 large Granny Smith apples; peeled and sliced – not thick or too thin

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. GF flour

Lay the apple slices in concentric circles in the tart pan over the crust.  Put them really close to each other so there isn’t a lot of space without apples on it.  Mix the sugar and flour and sprinkle over the apples.  Cover loosely with foil and bake 25-30 minutes until the apples are soft if pricked with a fork.  Do not bake until they collapse; the slices should still hold their shape.

While the tart is finishing up its baking time make the topping.

Topping

In a small heavy sauce pan place:

2 tbsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. cornstarch and mix them.

Add all the other ingredients:

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon zest (grate the zest and then juice the lemon)

½ cup water

½ tsp. cinnamon

Cook over medium heat, stirring it constantly with a small whisk or a spoon, until it boils and seems thickened and is no longer opaque.  This should take less then five minutes.  Remove from heat and pour the hot gloppy topping carefully over the hot apple tart taking your time so you cover the entire surface of the apples.  If you like lots of cinnamon you could increase that up to a tsp. of cinnamon in the filling.

Let cool to at least lukewarm before serving.

This tart is perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.  Don’t put it on top or it will not look so nice because of the French cinnamon topping won’t like to share its space with the chilly ice cream!

Brown Rice Flour Mix (for the crust)

2 c brown rice flour; be sure it is finely ground

2/3 c potato starch – Not potato flour!

1/3 c tapioca flour

Autumn Plum Tart, Perfectly Tasty!

There is a huge abundance of fruit in August and September.  Still lots of peaches, plums, grapes and nectarines and the early apples and pears are coming in.  What to bake?  Tough decision, still I love juicy ripe plums but seldom bake with them.  This is one of the only recipes I can make gluten free with blue plums; these are those oval small plums, sometimes called prune or Stanley plums that are only available for a few weeks in the early fall.  They are inexpensive, not too sweet and they get soft and purply delish in this simple tart.

purple plum

It is modeled after some German fruit tarts I had enjoyed in my wheat loving past life.  I think it replicates them quite well.

You will use my favorite cobbler mix as the crust base, which makes this recipe really simple.  I will put the mix recipe down at the end of this post.  I keep it in my freezer and one cup makes great cobbler or this tart base. To this particular batch I added a couple teaspoons of dried lemon peel powder.  This ingredient is made of lemon peels rolled in sugar and dried, leftover after make homemade lemoncello liquor.  They become powder after a few moments in my spice blender. The fine powder adds a subtle lemon flavor but its okay, you don’t absolutely need it to make this recipe work.  It is in the original recipe but I never bothered before to make some even though I had the dried lemon peels.  The addition is great and if you can add it you won’t be disappointed.   lemon peel

A few instructions to assist you if you make this tart: I cut up the plums first and sprinkle them with sugar, let them stand while I mix the dry stuff up and then stir up the wet items in a small mixing bowl.

Be sure to use a 10 inch tart pan; it can be made in a 9 inch one but it may well spill over and burn on the bottom of your oven which is never a good thing.

We like it with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. It is fine all on its own.  Makes a great breakfast too with a cup of coffee or tea.

plum tart

GF Fall Plum Tart

1 cup cobbler dry mix; recipe below

mix with 1/4 cup sugar

—-

2 eggs

3 Tbps. buttermilk

2 Tbps. melted butter

1/2  tsp. vanilla

1/2  tsp. almond extract

1 ½ lbs prune plums (enough to cover the entire tart pan) cut in halves or quarters. Mix them with 2 tbsp sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Spray a 10 inch deep tart pan or 9 in pie pan with cooking spray

Beat eggs in bowl, add rest of wet ingredients, mix well, add to dry ingredients, stir briefly just to mix up.  Pour into the prepared pan and spread it out with a spatula.  Top with plums, cut side up, push each in slightly into the batter and cover the entire surface of tart base.

Bake 30 min.  Top with mixture of 1 ½ tsp sugar and ½ tsp cinnamon

Bake ten more minutes or until top looks done.

Cool somewhat before slicing/serving.

Dry Cobbler Mix

2 ¼ cups white rice flour

½ cup potato starch

½ cup tapioca flour

1 tsp. baking soda

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp. xanthan gum

1/3 cup sugar

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie…A Pennsylvania Classic, Now GF

It is the peak of local strawberry season and rhubarb is still plentiful right now so this was a perfect pairing for adaptation to a gluten free pie recipe.  This is an easy pie to construct and you can store any leftover crumb mixture in a sealed container in the fridge; it keeps a few weeks.  The GF crust will work for any pie and the GF crumb topping is perfect for any crumb pie.  If you prefer a solid crust just double the crust part and top your pie with it.  Be sure to cut some slits for steam escape!  strawberry rhubarb pie

Please make every effort to use local strawberries; can get at most farm stands and at Lehigh Valley Produce on Main Street in Hellertown.  This pie really showcases the strawberries more than the rhubarb which is a silent partner so that is why I suggest you get the best; locally grown sweet ripe strawberries to make your perfect pie.

Bake and enjoy early summer in a pie in just a few minutes of work.  Don’t eat it hot; it should be cooled to room temperature or even chilled. I ate it both ways and liked it either way.  I am guessing you could top this with vanilla ice cream.  Maybe next time I make it.

Angie’s GF Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb 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 Tbps. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 lg 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 chop the rhubarb into ½ inch chunks and hull/slice the strawberries.

Filling:  strawberry rhubarb raw

2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and cut in thick slices

2 cups cut up fresh rhubarb – place in medium bowl

Mix with

½ to 2/3  cup sugar ( I used ½ cup but I guess some like things really sweet so I gave a range of sugar amounts.)

1/3 c gluten free flour mix (see below recipe or use any you like: I actually used a mock Better Batter flour for this pie filling.)

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 dry strawberry – rhubarb mixture

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 sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

1/3 c cold butter cut into six chunks

Sprinkle the top of the pie with crumb mix; use as much as you like.  I like about ½ to 2/3 of the mixture.  Up to your personal taste… It sinks partially into the fruit mixture and adds lots of sweetness and eye appeal.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 40-50 minutes until bubbly and the crust is light brown.  Cool at least 2 to 4 hours before serving at room temperature.

Brown Rice Flour Mix
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour