Adventures in gluten-free, dairy-free baking... all part of the fun and future of FLOURS & HUNNY Bakery

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dip Dip - Dooowha!

If you have trouble tolerating cow-dairy like I do, but you also love a good French Onion Dip like I also do - I have a delicious recommendation!  Whole Foods has an organic Onion Dip spice packet that can be blended with plain Goat Yogurt.  Just stir it all together and let it chill for 24 hours.  It's easy and delicious - and you'll never miss the stomach ache.  Or all that awesome cow fat, for that matter. 

With this kind of success, I'm guessing you can substitute plain goat yogurt for any recipe calling for sour cream.  I have used it in a few baked goods too and it works out beautifully. I'd add a little extra sweetener for cookies and cakes though, to offset the slightly sour taste of the goat milk.

I have plenty of other updating to do here on my blog also, but will have to save it for another time.  Life's been busy with some family in town; my first big cake project in Boston for a baby shower (wait until you see the pictures - the end result was impressive, especially considering it was quite an adventure!); and my first paid bread order (I didn't get feedback, but I sure hope they liked it).  Good times.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Did I mention the bread?

Amazing, exciting realization... now that I have the perfect gluten-free bread - I will be having THE BEST Thanksgiving stuffing ever!!!  Most years, I've had to make the Thanksgiving meal a "cheat day."  I would just go into that day preparing for the stomach ache, heart-burn, whathaveyou associated with eating gluten.  Or, I'd suck it up and use the store-bought gluten free breads - and that was always a disappointment.  I mean, who needs gummy, dense bread for their stuffing!?

Since I wrote last, I have continued to experiment and now routinely make Buckwheat, Teff, Mesquite, and/or Quinoa loaves.  One of our absolute favorites is an Italian Herb variety - it contains grated sheep's milk Romano cheese, garlic, and herbs.  When you toast a slice of this...mmmm... the entire house smells delicious!!  It's so good, I'm planning to work on the recipe to make it into pizza crust.

And now, the question is... are you ready for Thanksgiving stuffing this year?  If you're still dreading the thought of how to make it gluten-free, order your bread from Flours (that's me) now!  I am taking orders (no, not that kind!) and will only have the time for so many loaves.  Plus, you're going to want to order a few - for eating, and for cooking - and your stuffing bread needs time to get a little old and dry... what are you waiting for then?  Call, email, messenger-bird!  I hope to hear from you soon.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Glorious Gluten-Free Bread

There is something so satisfying about baked-from-scratch bread.  The aroma fills the air, making your house feel like home.  It's warm and inviting and delicious... exactly what our sense of smell was made for!

I once owned a bread maker (as in, the electric machine) and loved to run it for dinner parties and guests.  Outside of that, I didn't really use it much once the new, 90's (?) bread-maker craze had passed.  And when I realized I was gluten-intolerant, it was relegated to the cabinet furthest from reach.  It lived with other unused appliances and gadgets until recently being sold at a yard sale.

The idea of making my own gluten-free bread seemed too difficult and time consuming.  I've always preferred the sweeter creations of cakes, cookies, and muffins.  Store bought varieties of bread are mediocre, at best, but they are less expensive than the time and effort needed to make my own.  Besides that, who needs to eat much bread anyway, right?

Maybe it's the impending change of season on the horizon.  Maybe it's the fact that I am excited for Autumn, which I have sorely missed for the past three years.  Or maybe it's even because I have had enough of that mediocre store-bought, frozen bread... Either way, I have become obsessed with baking my own bread the past few weeks.
I am happy to report that I have been successful!

Fortunately, I have a terrific recipe book called "Gluten-Free Baking Classics" by Annalise Roberts (I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to make their own gluten-free items) and found some awesome recipes online.  Send me a note if you'd like me to share some of the links.

Since I have now had two very, very yummy experiments (one trial and one to validate), I believe I have the perfect foundation recipe.  It includes five different flours, plus a sixth that can be whatever I am craving - Quinoa, Teff, Millet, and even local Tucson Arizona Mesquite flour.  As is everything else I make, it is also dairy-free.  At some point, I'll experiment with a vegan version too.

My bread is beautiful.  It rises well so it's not dense and heavy.  There is very little rice flour so it doesn't have the standard starchy or gummy texture of many of the gluten-free breads out there.  It does not contain any corn or corn derivatives.  The color is reminiscent of a nice, whole wheat variety.  And the nutritional values are, well, nutritional.  Flax seed meal for fiber, lignans, and Omega-3s; a little molasses for iron; organic eggs; very little sweetener or salt; lots of whole grains.  Mmmmm...

I have a feeling this is the beginning of some wonderful breads in our home (and someday in my bakery!).  I plan to keep experimenting and am already dreaming of the add-ins: sunflower seeds, nuts, a variety of spices both sweet and savory, and perhaps some fruit and/or chocolate chips.

Let me know when you're stopping by.  I'll be sure to put some bread in the oven.  :)

Bread making tips:
- Proof your yeast before adding it to your other ingredients.  And don't forget the sweetener that the yeast needs to actually get foamy and active.  I say this because I have forgotten... this morning.
 - Buy a quick-read digital thermometer to use for checking the temperature of your water and of the finished bread.  The inside of a finished loaf should be approximately 190 degrees.
- As with all gluten-free baking, all of your ingredients should be at room temperature.  The only exception, of course, is water/liquid used for proofing yeast or other special instructions in recipe.
 - I get my best results when cooking with aluminum pans that are not non-stick.  The lighter metal color seems to cook more evenly so I am less likely to have over-cooked outsides and under-cooked insides.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Taoist, Winnie-the-Pooh

Quote for today:

"When having a smackerel of something with a friend, don't eat so much that you get stuck in their doorway trying to get out."
            -- Winnie-the-Pooh (from 'Pooh's Little Instruction Book')

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Birthday Cake Flop

I am thrilled to know that some of my friends think it impossible (or at least unlikely) that I could "screw up my own birthday cake."  But alas, my birthday status on Facebook is indeed true.

Upon finding my long-lost Bundt pan, I had kept it out to use it in the very near future. It's been exactly two cross-country moves of more than 5000 miles since I've seen or used that pan.  It's delicious curves begged to be filled with a cake fit for a special occasion, something destined to be covered in a sweet icing glaze.  And it's open center is perfect for gluten-free baking, which tends to brown on the outside much too soon.

I knew just what to make - it was my birthday, we had a couple of beautiful lemons in the refrigerator, and my recent lemon-cookie-recipe-experiment-turned-cake-recipe needed more testing.  As any good scientist knows, you must duplicate the initial successful result before you can say "by George, she's got it!"  So, I set out to finalize my recipe that should have made the perfect glazed lemon cake...

The batter was just right.  Oven temperature confirmed by the hanging thermometer inside.  Pan lightly greased with sunflower oil spray.  The lemony fragrance wafted through the house and down our hallways.  Each time I peeked through the oven window, I could see the cake rising nicely and the color turning a delicious shade of gold.  When the toothpick came out clean, I took the cake out of the oven and set it on a cooling rack for what was intended to be only a minute or two.  And that was the end of my lemon cake success.

I have a toddler in the midst of potty-training.  What more do I need to say?  She needed me, I was distracted, and then I forgot about the cake entirely. 

When I finally removed the cake from the pan to finish cooling on a rack, some twenty or so minutes later, it had collapsed onto itself and shrunk to half it's size.  The top looked nice and it slid effortlessly from the pan, but the bottom was now concave and I held little hope for the inside.  Once it cooled, a cut into the cake confirmed my fears - oohey, gooey, jelly mess.  Bummer.

So, there you go, my friends.  My birthday cake now sits on the counter, awaiting it's fate.  Once the rain stops, it will likely make a nice wildlife treat for our backyard birds, squirrels, and opossum.

The baking moral of the story?
 - Don't leave your cakes in their pans for very long.  They keep cooking and the bottom (top) starts to get moist and sweaty. 
 - Sunflower Oil nonstick spray works quite well to release your cakes.  I did not flour it, just lightly sprayed and wiped out any excess with a paper towel.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Press on!

And so it begins... I have decided to create a blog for my future bakery. Why today, when I have hours of to-do's in preparation for my little girl's 2nd birthday party? Why now, when I should be going to bed and getting some much needed rest?? Because my cookie press hates me!! And what better place to vent frustrations? The internet, of course! We can YELL in all caps, we can type words we wouldn't otherwise speak, and we can elicit feedback and comfort in the big, wide technology world of friends and insomniacs alike.

But back to my cookie press. It clearly has a mind of its own.

I am all too familiar with the difficulties of gluten-free baking. Cookies are grainy. Cakes are dry. Breads are like that 10-year old fruitcake no one eats (except my grandpa; he loves them). With a little art, a little chemistry, and a whole lotta love to guide me, I manage to do a pretty good job of creating baked goods that even gluten eaters like. But every once in awhile, I simply throw my flour covered hands into the air like white flags of surrender. It is one of those nights.

I had this grandiose idea of baking three different kinds of cookies - Sunbutter, Lemon Blossoms, and Spritz. I wanted to make them for the party this weekend, but also to have in time for Baby Ballet tomorrow morning. There's a little girl who was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and I bet she could use a cookie or three. The pressure was on.

These are all recipes I have created in the past, so it should have been straight forward and easy. Follow directions, right? Sure. But as cookie presses do - or at least my cookie press does - it made quick insanity of my otherwise quiet evening.

I got the press out, filled it with well-chilled Spritz cookie dough, brought the press to the clean and dry cookie sheet, pulled the trigger, and... the dough refused to stick to the sheet. I scraped it all clean and tried again. And again. And again. Remember, this is an existing recipe so I've done this before - same dough, same press, different climate (does anyone know if that could be some of my problem?). Eventually I got about ten cookies formed, plus a pile of leftover dough-turned-mush on the side. Despite all of my attempts at making the press do what it's supposed to do - you know, form pretty cookie shapes easily - it refused about 75% of the time. I chilled the dough again. I washed any residual oils off the cookie sheet. Chilled the cookie sheet. Yelled, cursed, and sweet-talked my way through the rest of the batch.

In the end, I got the cookies baked but most of them are formed strangely or not at all. At least they taste good. That's ultimately what matters, right?

If anyone has ideas or tips for working with a cookie press, I would love to hear from you. Heck, this blog is so new, I'd just love to know I have a reader. More than one would be cool too.

Press on, happy bakers!