Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Note: I purchased this product, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix, in the supermarket. The review has not been influenced by anything other than the quality of the product.

Bob’s Red Mill as a company has been operating for over 25 years, and is considered a leader in gluten free products. The company’s products include several gluten free flours and mixes.

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix weighs in at 22 ounces and all that’s required to yield two-dozen cookies is butter, egg and water. A package of the mix can cost, on average, between five and eight dollars.

The mix uses natural ingredients and gluten free flours, and the result is a sweet, crunchy cookie that pleases even the wheat eaters in my family.

You may need to watch your cooking time, though. The package calls for 18 minutes in a 350-degree oven. If you overcook, the cookies get a little hard rather quickly. If you undercook, the taste is a little grainy.

Judging exactly when the cookies are done can be a little tricky. Because there’s no gluten in the flours, the cookies don’t take on that smooth, toasted look of wheat-based chocolate chip cookies. They tend to look a little “wet” and feel too soft to the touch.

Take them out anyways and let them cool on the cookie sheet for one or two minutes before moving them to the cooling rack. The trick with gluten free mixes is to NOT expect the end product to look like those from wheat-based mixes.

The taste and texture, though, of these cookies is very, very close to wheat-based cookies. I try to keep a couple of packages in the pantry so I can bake up a batch quickly. I store the cookies in my cookie jar and they stay fresh for two to three days.

You can also freeze the cookies, or even freeze the dough. Roll it into a cylinder and slice off as much as you need, just as you would a store bought dough.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gluten Free Daily Bread

I make gluten free bread from scratch. It’s a rice flour bread and the process is a departure from the usual one used in bread making.

Let’s start with the recipe.

Dry ingredients
3 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons milled flax seed
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup dry milk
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Wet ingredients
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon molasses
1 1/2 cups water

Butter a 5x9 loaf pan and sprinkle with rice flour to coat.

Mix all your dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl, including the yeast. You don’t proof the yeast with this gluten free bread as you would with wheat-flour bread.

Put the eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat lightly with the whisk attachment. Add the vinegar, the canola oil and molasses and beat again to mix. Add half the water to this and mix again.

Change to the dough hook. Add your dry ingredients to the bowl all at once.

Mix the dry ingredients at low speed. Add the remaining water one to two tablespoons at a time.

The trick here is to add the water slowly, keeping the dough moist. The dough will not look anything like wheat-flour dough. You want to add the water slowly and get the bread dough to the consistency of thick cake batter. You may not use all the water. You may need a little more.

Adding the water is the equivalent of adding the flour in traditional, wheat flour bread making.

Once you get the dough right, spoon it into the pan. Spread the dough out evenly and set in a warm place. Cover with a clean towel and allow the bread to rise. Once it reaches the top of the pan, it’s ready for the oven.

Bake the bread at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes, depending on your oven.

Allow the bread to cool completely, at least two hours. Now you have to store it.

Gluten free bread should be frozen. If you leave it on the counter in a plastic bag, it will dry out, crumble and go bad within a couple of days.

I slice the bread, place the slices in plastic sandwich bags (I put in two slices to each bag) and then put all the bags in a larger gallon-size freezer bag. I take out a bag or two at a time, depending on need.

Just set the bag with the slices in it on the counter and allow the bread to defrost. This takes less than an hour. You can also put it in the toaster on low, if you like.

Unlike wheat-flour bread, gluten free bread doesn’t get soggy when frozen.

This bread won’t taste like white bread. It’s denser, hardier, and has an almost nutty taste. It tastes great with homemade jelly, which we’ll talk about in an upcoming post.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bette Hagman’s Scones, Modified

These gluten free scones are based on the recipe found in Bette Hagman’s cookbook, “The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread”. I do modify the recipe somewhat; the recipe lends itself well to tailoring the scones to taste. The flour mix used in this recipe is the author’s Gluten-Free Flour mix. Make up a batch of this mix to have on hand.

For 9 cups of the mix use the following:

Six cups of rice flour
Two cups of potato starch
One cup of tapioca flour

Mix the flours thoroughly and store in a cool place in an airtight container. Label the container so you know what’s in there.

The scones recipe is as follows:
2 cups gluten-free flour mix
1 rounded teaspoon xanthan or guar gum
3 teaspoons egg replacer (optional)
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon dried orange peel
1/2 teaspoon salt

5 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine, cold
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk

I skip the dried orange peel, cranberries and sliced almonds and substitute chocolate chips. You can also substitute dried apricots or raisins. I also skip the egg replacer and add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to the wet ingredients instead. It’s cheaper and adds to the flavor.

For the butter, I use a non-hydrogenated, trans-fat free butter blend with no saturated fats. This reduces the high saturated fat content found in so many baked goods.

For the buttermilk, I add 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to vanilla flavored soy milk and stir. Allow it to stand for ten minutes and it’s just like buttermilk, but with fewer calories and no lactose.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients together with a whisk, including the sugar. You can use raw sugar, sugar substitute or white granular sugar. I prefer raw sugar.

Cut the cold butter into chunks and add it to the dry ingredients. Use a fork to break up the butter and mix it into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly.

NOTE: With pastry, the butter and flour mix will coalesce, that is, come together when you press it with your fingers. This is a pastry mix. With gluten free flours, this happens, but the crumbly mix has larger, looser crumbles.

Stir in about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Nestles chocolate chips are gluten free.

Add the two eggs to the buttermilk or soy milk mix and stir. Add all but two tablespoons of the buttermilk to the newly formed pastry mix and stir until moistened. The pastry mix should now hold together; it becomes dough.

Place half the dough onto a sheet of wax paper and with your hands shape it into a rough disk. Place another piece of wax paper on top and slowly roll it out with a rolling pin to approximately 1/4 inch thick.

Now Ms. Hagman rolls out all her mixture at once to 1/2 inch thick and cuts the disk into eight wedges. I prefer round scones and I prefer working with the smaller amounts.

Once you’ve rolled out the dough, use a cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to cut out your scones. Place them onto an ungreased cookie sheet. If I’ve got it on hand, I line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Brush the tops of the round scones with the remaining buttermilk or soy milk mix. This gives the scones a nice shine and helps keep them moist during the baking process.

Set your timer for 18 minutes. Roll out and cut out your second batch and bake. Allow the scones to cool for a few minutes before serving.

The scones are light and sweet, and the taste is close to that of a chocolate chip cookie. Store them in a plastic bag or airtight container.

You can also freeze the scones dough if you want to cook these up in smaller batches. Just allow the dough to come to room temperature before rolling it out.

In my next post, we’ll talk about how the process differs when baking gluten free compared to baking with wheat flour.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gluten Free Flours

I have in my pantry several gluten free flours. Unlike wheat flour, which is generally used as a single ingredient, gluten free flours are combined; you make specific mixes of flours to meet specific baking needs.

Cookbook author Bette Hagman includes several flour mixes in her book, "The Gluten0Free Gourmet Bakes Bread". For example, her Gluten-Free Flour Mix is a combination of rice flour, potato starch and tapioca flour. The mix is just right for her scones recipe.

So, for the gluten free foods, I store brown rice flour and white rice flour, potato starch and potato flour, tapioca flour, soy flour, corn flour, buckwheat flour (which does not contain wheat or gluten), and garbanzo bean flour.

I also have cornstarch. Quite a bit of it. Cornstarch, commonly used as a thickener, gives gluten free flours a bit more texture, a bit more adhesion.

Brown rice flour is slightly courser than white rice flour, and does well in bread mixes. Potato flour is very fine and adds a savor, potato taste to breads. It also blends well with tapioca flour, which brings a bit of chewy texture to cakes and cookies.

Soy flour is high in protein and corn flour adds texture to muffins and breakfast rolls. Both buckwheat flour and garbanzo bean flour are high in protein and work well in breads.

This quick overview of gluten free flours will take us to our next blog, where we'll look at Bette Hagman's scones recipe and her Gluten Free Flour Mix. After that, we'll experiment with a recipe using a premix for cornbread and buckwheat flour to make a breakfast bread.

Monday, February 1, 2010


My kitchen is like a restaurant kitchen. It's a working kitchen. And I'm chief cook and bottle washer.

I need to bake gluten free foods and cook low fat foods and vegetarian dishes. I need to keep it fresh and diversified and avoid cross contamination between wheat flours and non-wheat flours. I need to keep the salt out and the flavor in.

For all you young parents out there who are just starting to raise your kids and need to cook in the 21st century, this blog is for you. For all you older folk who need to pass up the fried chicken to keep your arteries open and lose the salt to lose the pounds, this blog is for you. And for you vegetarians, new and seasoned, this blog is for you.

What this blog isn't is a collection of recipes, though recipes will be included in posts from time to time. But we'll focus on techniques and products for contemporary cooking. We'll focus on food sensitivities and specialized diets and designer diets. We'll explore what it means to feed your family in the 21st century. We'll explore what it means to be a contemporary cook.