Thursday, November 20, 2014

What Should My Gluten-Free Batter or Dough Look Like?

One of the biggest challenges when baking gluten-free, (dairy-free, and egg-free) is to ensure that the consistency of your batter or dough is correct. While this is also true when baking with wheat, the simple reality is that most wheat flours behave pretty much the same – so the variance in the batter made from the same recipe is minimal. In contrast, gluten-free flour blends behave differently depending on the grains used, the amount of starch, and even the brand of the flours used. Therefore, it is critical to adjust the amount of liquids used based on look and feel of the batter or dough.

I like to think of batters and dough on a spectrum from wet to dry.

Cakes and cupcakes are made with the wettest batters. The batter should pour easily into a cake pan or cupcake tin. These are the most forgiving baked goods to make; if the batter is too wet, simple bake a little longer. Cake and cupcake batter can be made with an electric mixer or mixed thoroughly by hand. Pancake batter also fits in this category.

Muffin and quick bread
batters are also very forgiving. These are less wet than cake batter, but should be easily “scoopable.” My preference is to mix the batter with an electric mixer, and then stir in add-ins (e.g., blueberries) by hand.

Scones and biscuits
are next on the spectrum. Here the batter is still on the wet side, but should be able to be shaped with your hands or tools while retaining their shape. When using an electric mixer the batter should pull away from the sides of the bowl. If you start with a batter that is too wet, add more flour. Most yeast breads, pizza dough, and rolls also fit this category.

Cookie dough
is much drier than the batters discussed above, but instead of fully incorporating the ingredients, there should be small bits of shortening in the dough. Here, just enough liquid should be used so that the dough is easily pliable. Some cookie dough should be made with an electric mixer (when a technique called “creaming” is used), but most cookie dough is best prepared with a tool that allows you to cut the shortening into the dough – while still leaving small chunks of shortening. Cookie dough should be about as wet as the sand you would use to make a sandcastle. After chilling, cookie dough should be able to be easily shaped or sliced.

Dough for pie crust is just a shade drier than cookie dough. It should be smooth but dry. As with cookie dough, pie dough is best prepared with a cutter. When preparing cookie dough or pie dough, add the liquids slowly (1/2 tablespoon at a time) until the correct consistency is reached. Usually pie dough will need to be rolled out with a bit of flour.

dough is very dry. You should be able to roll the dough into a tight, smooth ball that feels a lot like play-doh. Perfectly prepared cracker dough should be very easy to roll out between two sheets of parchment, without adding flour. Unlike cookie and pie dough, cracker dough is usually not refrigerated before rolling out and the fats/oils are fully incorporated into the dough.

dough is the driest of them all. In fact, there is only enough moisture in pasta dough to keep it together. The pasta will pick up moisture from the water it is boiled in (and you want it to hold its shape as you cook it). Both cracker dough and pasta dough should be massaged with your hands after mixing the ingredients together with a spoon.

So there you have it – a spectrum of batters and doughs, from very wet to extremely dry!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Strawberry Tartlets from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free

Have you decided what to bring for dessert on Thanksgiving yet? This recipe for Strawberry Tartlets from Learning to Bake Allergen-Freemight just do the trick!

If strawberries aren't your thing, switch it up with different pie fillings. Apple, perhaps?

Strawberry Tartlets

In the Hudson Valley where my family lives, we belong to a Community Supported Agriculture program called the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. Every week from late spring through fall I look forward to fresh vegetables. But my favorite part of the weekly trip to the farm is the pick-your-own berries. There is absolutely nothing that can compare to juicy ripe strawberries fresh from the field. When I first joined the CSA and saw how many strawberries we would be taking home every week, I knew I had to develop a recipe that would leverage the sweetness of those strawberries but not overpower them.

This tartlet recipe simplifies the concept of a pie, while giving it a natural, rugged feel. It works well with all varieties of strawberries, taking you through the summer. It can also be made with any other berry, or a combination of berries. Have fun with it!

{ Makes 4 tartlets }

For the tartlets:
1 cup gluten-free flour blend
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (leave out if your flour blend contains xanthan gum)
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (½ stick) Earth Balance Natural
Shortening, cold
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 to 3 tablespoons cold water (as needed)

For the strawberry filling:
1 cup sliced strawberries 
1½ teaspoons fresh lime juice
1½ teaspoons tapioca starch
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons raw sugar (optional)

Prepare the tartlet crusts:

1. Combine the flour, xanthan gum (if needed), salt, and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl.

2. Cut the shortening into tablespoon-sized pieces and place them on top of the flour mixture. Use a pastry cutter or pastry fork to cut the shortening into the flour mixture.

3. When the flour and shortening are crumbly, add the apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of cold water. Continue cutting the ingredients together.

4. Add up to 2 tablespoons additional water, ½ tablespoon at a time, as needed. Continue cutting until the dough forms.

5. Separate the dough and use your hands to create four equal-sized balls. Flatten the balls. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

6. When you are ready to roll out the dough, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking oil.

Prepare the filling:

7. Coat the strawberries with lime juice.

8. Combine the tapioca starch and the granulated sugar. Mix this together with the strawberries, by hand, and then set it aside.

Roll out the dough and form the tartlets:

9. Place the dough on a smooth prep surface.

10. Using a rolling pin, gently roll each disk into a thin crust, about 6-7 inches round.

11. Use a spatula to gently lift the crusts and place them on the prepared cookie sheet.

12. Scoop the strawberry mixture into the centers of the crusts. Discard any remaining liquid.

13. Form the tartlets with your hands by folding the edges of the crusts over the berry filling, leaving the center open. Repair any broken pieces of crust with your fingers and a dab of water, if needed.

14. If a sugar crust is desired, use your fingers to sprinkle raw sugar over the folded crusts.

15. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crusts are lightly browned and the strawberry filling is bubbling.

The dough will work best if it’s refrigerated for at least an hour prior to rolling it out. It can be made ahead and stored in the fridge overnight, or even frozen. If you are using frozen dough, thaw it in the refrigerator before using it.

Credit line
: Recipe from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, copyright © Colette Martin, 2012. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

DenadaDenada Cooking Gift Set Review and Coupon

This tool set might be the perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who lives in a small space or a college dorm, but I also love the set for every day use in the average kitchen. Disclosure: The folks at DenadaDenada sent me a free sample of this Cooking Gift Set to try out and review.

The set contains a whisk, a spatula, a spoonula, and a brush, all packaged inside a 10-inch by 2.5-inch by 2-inch box.

My first reaction when I saw the product was that these are the exactly the kind of tools that families with food allergies will love! They fit my description of what to look for when buying tools to avoid contamination. These brightly colored tools are made from BPA-free silicone. Except for the whisk they are one-piece construction – no cracks or crevices for tiny food particles to hide. They wash up beautifully in the dishwasher.

But what I love best about these tools is the size.

I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the oversized plates, pans, and utensils on the market. Did you know that dinner plates have grown in size from 9 inches to 12 inches over the past few decades? A plate that’s larger than 10.5 inches doesn’t even fit in my kitchen cabinet. But I digress…

Some might look at these tools and say they are small, but I think they are sized just right. It’s much easier to fill a muffin cup or scoop the last bits of sunflower seed butter out of a jar with a small spatula than it is with the enormous ones that don’t even fit inside a jar or prep glass. And I’ll choose a 10-inch whisk over a 12-inch whisk any day – whether it’s to whip up salad dressing or pancake batter, the smaller sized whisk will perform better.

I am simply loving this set!

Whose stocking do you need to fill this year? Consider buying a DenadaDenada Cooking Gift Set at amazon. Enter MOMS5OFF in the promo code field to receive $5 off. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Powdered Doughnut Holes from The Allergy-Free Pantry

These Powdered Doughnuts are quickly becoming a reader favorite from The Allergy-Free Pantry.

If you need to avoid corn, make your own powdered sugar (there's a recipe in the book!)

Powdered Doughnut Holes

Makes 24 doughnut holes

This is the solution for an early-morning status meeting or an allergen-free classroom treat. These muffins have that classic old-fashioned doughnut taste and are easily made in less than 30 minutes using a mini-muffin pan or doughnut hole pan.

288 grams (about 2¼ cups) Basic Flour Blend (below)
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons shortening, softened
½ cup (110 g) organic cane sugar
1 Flaxseed Egg (1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds (measured after grinding) mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water)
¼ cup (60 ml) Hemp Milk or nondairy milk of choice
½ cup (120 g) Applesauce
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
½ cup (72 g) Powdered Sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease the cups of a mini-muffin pan or doughnut hole pan.

2. Combine the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

3. In a separate large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar using a mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl, as needed.

4. Add the flaxseed egg and blend on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the milk, applesauce, oil, and vanilla, and blend for another minute.

5. Add the dry ingredients and mix on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until well blended. The batter will be thick with some graininess.

6. Use a #40 cookie scoop or spoon to form balls of dough in tablespoon-sized portions. Dampen your hands with warm water and gently pass the dough from hand to hand until the ball is smooth. Place each ball of dough into the prepared pan. Dip the cookie scoop or spoon into warm water periodically, if the dough starts to stick.

7. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

8. Let the doughnut holes cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

9. Just prior to serving, roll the doughnut holes in the powdered sugar to coat them on all sides or sprinkle the powdered sugar on just the tops. Store (without the powdered sugar topping) in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.

To make Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Holes, sprinkle the tops of the doughnut holes with 3 tablespoons Cinnamon Sugar (page 286) prior to baking. Omit the powdered sugar.

Basic Flour Blend

306 grams brown rice flour
306 grams sorghum flour
156 grams arrowroot starch

Credit line
: Recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks and More Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, copyright © Colette Martin, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Chocolate No-Nut Crisp from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free

I hope you had a safe and enjoyable Halloween. If you are finding yourself (or your child) with a bag full of candy they can't eat. Here's an easy recipe from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free.

Use these treats to swap for Halloween candy that your child might not be able to eat.

Chocolate No-Nut Crisp

It can be difficult to find a chocolate bar that is made without milk (or traces of milk and nuts). This chocolate crisp is a make-your-own candy bar that can be prepared in minutes, without turning the oven on. Use your favorite non-dairy chocolate, or try this with different chocolates to see which you prefer.

For a special treat, spread a layer of sunflower seed butter (available at the grocery store) between two pieces of chocolate crisp. Yum!

Makes about 16 servings

2 tablespoons Earth Balance Natural Shortening
1¾ cups allergen-free chocolate chips
¾ cup gluten-free crisped rice cereal (see tip)

1. Line a 9-inch square pan with wax paper.

2. Melt the shortening in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.

3. Add the chocolate chips and use a spoon to stir continuously while melting.

4. When the mixture is completely melted, remove the pan from the heat. Let it cool for 5 minutes.

5. Fold in the rice cereal.

6. While still warm, spread the mixture in the lined pan.

7. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The chocolate will harden.

8. Use the wax paper to lift the chocolate block from the baking dish. Cut or break the crisp into desired-size chunks and serve.


• My favorite crisped rice cereal is Erewhon Gluten Free Crispy Brown Rice cereal. It contains just three ingredients: organic brown rice, organic brown rice syrup, and sea salt.
• Be careful not to let the chocolate burn while it is melting. Stir continuously and keep the heat low.

Credit line
: Recipe from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, copyright © Colette Martin, 2012. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.