Saturday, 25 February 2017

Coming up: 10th annual Charlotte GFAF Event!

It's that time of year again: the first GFAF Event of the season is March 18th - that's just three weeks away! This will be the 10th annual event in Charlotte NC, so I bet there will be some especially cool stuff going on. (Check out my post covering last year's event for a taste of what you might find.) As always, there will be lots of delicious food to sample, all 100% gluten-free and often free of one or more other allergens as well. This is a great way to find out about local allergy-friendly food businesses in the area as well as plenty of larger brands and products, and to meet all sorts of other people who have experience living with food sensitivity. Don't have a ticket yet? Not to worry, I have 6 tickets to give away!  For a chance to win tickets, leave a comment on this post or contact me by email (I will need your name so you can claim your tickets at the door). I hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Cocoa crepes

Guess what today is? Yes, of course, it's Valentine's day...but it's also my Blog-iversary! Today, my blog turns 7! I wanted to mark the occasion by making something special. And because it is also Valentine's day, after all, maybe something also a little romantic to share. 

The very first recipe I posted was for crepes, so when I found a recipe for cocoa crepes, they seemed fitting for the occasion. No, these are not traditional by any means...but they are sweet and simple and rather festive. 

These are adapted loosely from the teff flour cocoa crepes in Alice Medrich's Flavor Flours. Changes I made from the original:

- I replaced half of the liquid (originally milk and a little water) with cherry juice, inspired by this recipe, for flavor and a touch of red color
- I replaced approx. 10% of the flour (originally all teff) with glutinous rice flour for extra tender texture
- I reduced the sugar substantially due to the sugar in the cherry juice
- I cut the recipe in half; normally, one wouldn't halve a three-egg recipe, but since I already had half an egg hanging out in my fridge left over from an experiment the other day, I decided using 1 1/2 eggs would be just right since I was cooking for just 2 people. If you want to use 3 whole eggs like the original, just double the other quantities written below.

Full disclosure: These didn't turn out as nicely as the book indicated they should - the batter did not spread neatly despite being the proper consistency, so the crepes were smaller than they were supposed to be and also quite fragile. I am not sure if this is due to the recipe itself, my changes (i.e. less milk protein), my teff flour being not fine enough, smaller-than-average eggs, my pan, an overall lack of crepe skills... Normally I would insist on working out these kinks before considering a recipe blog-worthy. But they were pretty tasty and (let's be honest) I'm not likely to make these again soon, so I'm just sharing this experiment as-is! Feel free to adjust it if you have any ideas!   

Red Velvet Cocoa Crepes

58 g teff flour + 7 g Thai glutinous rice flour (or just use all 65 g teff flour, as per the original)
6 g cocoa powder
15 g sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 eggs, room temperature
1 T (14 g) butter, melted
90 g milk
90 g cherry juice

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat in butter and eggs until smooth, then gradually add milk, then gradually add cherry juice. Cover and refrigerate batter overnight.
Stir batter well before cooking and in between each crepe. Cook crepes on a lightly buttered pan, about 1 minute on the first side, then flip and cook another ~20 seconds. (The book instructs to use 2 T batter per 8" crepe - I did not find this possible even though my batter was very thin! I got the best crepes using about 3 T batter, but even then they were much smaller than they were supposed to be.) Serve with toppings of your choice: powdered sugar, whipped cream, fruit, jam, etc., according to whether you want them for breakfast or dessert.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Single-flour ginger cookies from an heirloom GF recipe

I have previously mentioned the wealth of historically-GF recipes that stemmed from wheat rationing during the first World War. Though these recipes were widespread just a century ago, few of them survived the 20th century's changes to our food system and eating habits. And, like early versions of many recipes, quite a few of these formulas were not quite perfect - the rationing only lasted a couple of years, and changes in wheat production and distribution led to our GF flours falling sharply in popularity shortly after the war. (While there are vast numbers of traditionally-GF recipes that were popular for decades or centuries preceding this time, the GF formulas in vogue during rationing were primarily all-new, all-modern approaches designed to use only techniques and ratios similar to those used with wheat, so these new formulas just didn't have time to get the kinks worked out.) But! With these recipes now being in the public domain, it's easy to find potential gems worthy of attention and fine-tuning!  

The original, unspiced version with maple.
One such gem: Buckwheat Cookies. Three versions of a buckwheat cookie recipe appeared in the periodical American Cookery in 1917-1918; Maple Buckwheat Cookies, using maple syrup in place of (also rationed) sugar was given in October 1918, and Buckwheat Cookies made with plain sugar appeared two months later in December. The earliest prototypical version, using no leavening or salt, was printed in April 1917, as part of an article containing some insights on working with buckwheat flour. All three versions instruct to simply roll out and cut the dough. For this to work with the maple version, the syrup needs to be boiled until quite thick. I decided this seemed too fussy - too much guesswork about just how much boiling - so for my first trial, I made a hybrid version using mostly sugar with a little maple, following the instructions for mixing and beating the eggs. Still, rolling and cutting was not really an option with this thick sticky batter, even after chilling.

The magazine's photo of the maple recipe proves it must be possible in theory. There are, however, a number of variables at play - most notably, the fact that eggs have gotten larger in the intervening decades, and the inevitable impreciseness of volume measurements for flour. Several test batches later, I still hadn't gotten it to be worth the trouble of rolling and cutting. (You'll see some successfully cut cookies in my pictures, but it was just too fussy and messy compared to simply pressing flat balls of dough.) But in the meantime, each successive batch became tastier, so I decided to give up on the rolling part and just make round cookies. 
I will share my interpretation of the original recipes some other time, but for now - because it's Christmas - I'm sharing a delightfully spiced gingerbread spin on this cookie! Now, I have tweaked the recipe quite a bit by this point - for this version, instead of my original combination of sugar and syrup, I've used sugar and buckwheat honey to complement the buckwheat flour. Also, to combat the overly-sticky/battery nature of earlier trials, I have reduced the quantity of liquid by replacing the egg with a smaller quantity of my favorite egg substitute: bean broth, AKA the stuff from a can of chickpeas (if you've never heard of this, I have a very in-depth post in the works covering all the particulars of this ingredient and why it's way more than merely an egg sub; in the meantime, you can look up "aquafaba" as some people call it). 
I really like using an egg substitute like this because I'm not limited to the size of pre-existing eggs, making recipes both endlessly adjustable and extremely scalable! (Much nicer and simpler than ending up with those little jars containing 1/4 or 1/3 of an egg populating the fridge. ...What, surely I'm not the only one who's done this in the name of science?!) I've also simplified the mixing procedure a bit compared to the original, as with no actual egg, there is no need to develop the egg protein structure by beating. And of course, this conveniently makes the recipe all ready to go to accommodate those with egg sensitive or vegan dietary needs. Yay, cookies for all!

Makes about 20-24 small cookies - scale up or down as desired!

56 g natural palm-coconut shortening or butter, room temperature
140 g buckwheat flour (I tested with Arrowhead Mills, as it is widely available and certified GF)
74 g sugar
30 g buckwheat honey (you may also use molasses, beet syrup, or maple syrup for fully vegan)
40 g bean broth, room temperature (see note above)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
ginger and cinnamon and other spices (i.e. allspice, cardamom, cloves) or mixed spice / pumkin pie spice / etc to taste (use at least 1/2 tsp total)
optional: currants/raisins and/or candied citrus peel

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl. In the bowl of a mixer or other bowl, cream together the shortening or butter and the sugar, then mix in the honey. Beat in some of the bean broth, then part of the dry mix, then the rest of each and mix until uniform. Chill the dough for a couple of hours (optional, but makes it easier to handle and improves texture). Roll the dough in small balls, press flat on a parchment-lined sheet, and if desired, decorate with currants and/or candied peel. Bake at 350ºF/175ºC until lightly browned at the edges (exact time will vary based on the size of your cookies - about 11-15 minutes).

More GF Christmas cookies and cookie tips:
The above recipe can be iced for a more festive cookie. The round one in this picture is an earlier version of this recipe made with beet syrup instead of honey; these are iced with a vegan royal icing made from the same bean broth used in the cookies! 

"Magic cookie bars" or "Seven layer bars" are conventionally made with graham cracker crumbs - you can use GF cookie crumbs, but you can also easily make a from-scratch crust, such as this one, for a simple, economical, and slightly different treat (this is how I always make them now)! A couple hints:
- You do not need to pre-bake the crust when using it for these cookies. 
- Instead of the mixture of oats and oat flour the crust recipe calls for, you may also use all oat flour in the cookie crust.

Assorted cookies from last Christmas, made with various mixes
Spritz cookie recipe from last Christmas

Monday, 12 September 2016

Greensboro GFAF Event

This was the first-ever GFAF Event in Greensboro, and I’d say it went pretty great! Greensboro seems to have a fairly active celiac/GF community, including a monthly support group for those in the area. One of my favorite things about these events is getting to connect and talk with such a wide variety of others who are living GF. I have met people who were diagnosed with celiac decades ago, and people who were just diagnosed last week! It's so cool to hear all these different perspectives and experiences from the GF community.

But I know you’re probably here to hear about the food, so let me show you!

As usual, I especially want to spotlight some of the local vendors and smaller companies. 

Kalo Foods, a GF bakery in Stokesdale NC, was sampling several of their products. I especially recommend their pancake mix - the pancake I tasted was light, fluffy, soft, yet springy - in other words, it was exactly what a good pancake should be like. The pumpkin pie was quite good also. 
Kalo Foods
Summerfield Farms (shown in collage at top) is a producer of pastured/grass-fed beef in Summerfield NC (near Greensboro). The farm also has a market selling local meat and dairy, local produce, and other good stuff (including some products from Kalo Foods above).

This NC honey producer, Justin Case Bee Products, brought some very special wild honey - wild, as in collected from a hollow old oak tree that was taken down (and the hive was relocated). After tasting it, I just had to bring home a jar - imagine an already-complex multifloral honey, with the additional flavor of the oak it was stored inside of! 

Justin Case Bee Products
I first found out about Mina’s flour mixes at the Raleigh event last month. I personally have not used these blends in baking (as I tend to just use my own formulas), but from the wide variety of things made with it that I’ve sampled at these events, I would say this is a pretty versatile and well-formulated blend if you’re looking for a multipurpose flour - I don’t know if it works on a cup-for-cup basis in regular recipes, but there are plenty of recipes on the No Gluten Inc site that are made for the blend, including a very yummy cranberry cake. (P.S. That’s Mina herself at the table there!) 

Mrs Pound Cakes (shown in collage at top), based in Charlotte, was there with (yep, you guessed it) pound cake. 

A few more small and/or local vendors: 
Aleia's (top), Norm's Farms (bottom)
Anne's Heavenly Bites
And, because it’s not just about food, but other aspects of health as well…I also want to spotlight some people who are helping build more awareness of food sensitivity:
Left: The event included a screening of The Celiac Project, a documentary that follows individuals’ experiences surrounding diagnosis. 
Right: Tarah Jakubiak, AKA The Allergic Traveler, makes customized cards to list a person’s food sensitivities in various languages - this can help make travel so much more accessible for people with dietary restrictions.

All in all, it was a fun, informative, and tasty experience! And, of course, I got to come home with plenty of treats for later. 

In my Blogger Bag I found some exciting and lovely things: a coconut cake from Mrs. Pound Cakessome cookies and brownie mix from Enjoy Life, Norm’s Farms elderberry jam, oatmeal raisin cookies from No Gluten Inc (made with Mina’s flour mix), seasoned breadcrumb mixes from Aleia’s, some beeswax lip balms from Justin Case Bee Products, and a flourless cashew butter cookie from The GGF Gourmet. Thank you all! (Also thank you Aleia’s and Milton’s for generously giving me some extra treats!) Of the things in my bag, I’ve so far just tried the pound cake, which is moist and tasty (and also dairy-free, made with coconut milk). I’ll try to tell you about the rest when I get a chance to taste them!

As always, all these opinions and statements are completely my own; as an event blogger I received the items provided by vendors and sponsors, but I was not otherwise compensated and I was not obligated to write about or feature any specific product(s) or vendor(s). If I mention a specific product or company, it's because it's something I think my readers would find helpful and/or is something I personally like.

P.S. I have planned some upcoming posts expanding on concepts I brought up in my talk on recipe substitution because people seemed interested in more info, so check back soon for some tasty science!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Join us at the Greensboro GFAF Event!

This is just a quick announcement about the GFAF Wellness Event in Greensboro, NC on Saturday, September 10th - that’s coming up fast! And I have some free tickets to give away! I will be giving a presentation entitled Recipe Remodeling: The Art and Science of Ingredient Substitution, in which I will explain how to keep the spirit and authenticity of your traditional recipes even when you need to change key ingredients like wheat, milk, and eggs. You will learn how to choose the right real-food ingredients to best fit your recipe, as well as some of the practical advantages these whole-food-based substitutes have over their conventional counterparts. 

I hope to see you there! For a chance to win tickets, leave a comment telling me an ingredient substitution you’d like to see featured on the blog!
Gluten-free (& vegan) bread, demonstrating some fantastically useful alternative ingredients
that are far more than just substitutes!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

La Pasta Madre: Italian GF sourdough starter experiment, Day 14

[I’ve been following instructions for the wild-fermented starter in A Tavola Senza Glutine - if you’re new to this series, see the first and second posts for introduction and more info about GF sourdoughs in general!]

When we last left off, I'd just given the starter its first refresh. As the book instructed, I continued to refresh the dough in the same manner every 1 ½ - 2 days, removing 50 g of the dough and replacing it with an equal total of fresh material (20 g rice flour, 10 g corn flour, and 10 g water). After a total of 5 refreshings in this way, the book said, the starter can be used for bread. 
Day 6...
Day 9...
Well, by the fourth refresh - a little more than a week in - the dough seemed pretty lifeless. A lievito madre is often more concentrated than the sourdough starters many of us are used to, and as such it’s generally used in quantities similar to fresh yeast - a spoonful, as opposed to sourdough bread recipes that use a few ounces of starter per loaf. So I knew that, like the similarly slow-growing yeast formulas found in old cookbooks, it wouldn’t be as active as my normal starters. But I expected more than this! There weren’t many bubbles visible and the increase in height in the jar was negligible. On the final refresh I also added in 5 g more honey, hoping the free sugars might spark some visible activity, but even that didn’t do much. I kept going only because the gradual changes in smell had hinted that something was still happening. 

Day 11...Not much going on here.
So finally, I tried it with one of the recipes in the book: the focaccia, as pictured on the cover, which you can see in the Day 1 post. didn’t work. The “dough” was a runny mess, it didn’t rise or develop much flavor, and the final product - far from the lovely springy-looking bread in the pictures - was a dense, tough cracker/pancake hybrid. 

I have some ideas about what might have gone wrong, and hopefully I’ll be able to fix it. For now, though, I put the starter in the fridge (note: the book did not instruct this, but at the stated 15 days between feeding of the mature pasta madre, I assume refrigeration is wise!) and will come back to it when I’m feeling patient enough to test a few things - I’ll keep you updated!

Monday, 15 August 2016

La Pasta Madre: Italian GF sourdough starter experiment, Day 4

Per the book’s instructions, I left the jar alone for 3 days to do its thing. The mixture showed significant activity (as indicated by bubbles and rising height) within the first 48 hrs - this is typical of new starters. Despite looking like a very active dough, this initial burst of activity is a mix of a whole bunch of funky bacteria that will be largely replaced by other types as the starter matures. By 72 hrs the starter had begun to acquire a vaguely acetone-like smell, typically an indicator that the stuff living in it is getting very “hungry” and stressed (see below for further explanation). Nonetheless, as instructed, I removed just 20% (50 g) of the mixture, and replaced it with an equal amount of fresh material: 20 g rice flour, 10 g corn flour, and 20 g water.

As I stated on Day 1, I had some doubts about whether I was understanding this part of the recipe correctly. Often recipes for a new starter will instruct to discard 50% or more of the fermenting mixture, and replace it with (at least) as much new material. That's about the ratio I'm used to with my previous successful GF starters too.

Why discard so much flour? To answer this question we need to look closely at what’s happening in a new starter. We begin with flour and water; these provide all the nutrients necessary for whatever kinds of bacteria and fungus are present to grow. At first, we have all kinds of things growing - the kinds we want for bread, which will produce good flavors and make the bread rise, but also plenty of things that make funky smells, molds, and perhaps even some things that (if allowed to grow in sufficient quantities) could make us sick. As these various organisms break down the starches, proteins, and other metabolic processes in order to grow and reproduce, the mixture grows more acidic. The increased acidity is crucial to the process of becoming sourdough - the organisms we don’t want can’t grow very well in the acidic environment, allowing the acid-tolerant bread bacteria and yeasts to thrive with less competition. However, this is far from the only chemical change: you also have other metabolic products of the fermentation process and the old cells that have died.
When these products build up in proportion to the fresh resources in the mixture, the bacteria and yeasts may go into “survival mode” - they start producing molecules that aren’t desirable for bread, and also in turn the altered chemical environment of the mixture negatively affects the diversity of the microbial community. So, when you remove some of the starter, you’re not just removing flour, water, and the stuff living in it - you’re removing dead stuff, undesirable chemicals, and other things that would get in the way of a robust sourdough community. Discarding and feeding the starter both controls this buildup and provides fresh resources at a ratio that allows the desirable organisms to take over. 

All that said, I have definitely found plenty of old and traditional examples of fermentation methods that seemingly go against this wisdom yet still produce bread. Some of those are also fairly dry/stiff mixtures like this one is, which may be significant. So, for now, I am continuing to give this recipe (and my translation skills) the benefit of the doubt. Check back in a few days to see the progress!