Friday, March 26, 2010

Best laid plans...

I know it may seem like I am making excuses for why I "didn't do my homework" of writing an exciting, fresh blog post on time today, but...I am dog sitting (no, the dog is lovely and did not eat my homework!), and I have just spent the last couple of hours trying to figure out how to fix my own personal blog. It seems that Blogger is not supporting FTP publishing any more, so I have to "migrate" my blog to their own hosting services. To clarify, I have always hosted my blog on my own web host, created the posts using Blogger's software, and used FTP to upload the content to my web host's servers. But no more. The migration instructions are a little confusing for my particular situation, so researching what to do has taken more time than I anticipated. And I still haven't fixed things yet!

So here I am, 4:00 5:00 6:30 8:45pm, trying to keep my canine guest amused while wracking my brains over this "migration" issue (I want to fly south right now), and I am still staring at a blank blog page. What to do? I decided to fall back on what BBESTers like the most: food! Since I don't eat wheat due to allergies, I bake gluten-free using alternative flours. My staple kitchen grain is rice flour, which comes in white and the more whole-grain brown. I use white rice flour for finer baked goods such as cakes and fancy pastries, while brown rice flour makes great bread, pancakes and muffins. Either can be used for coating meats, though I prefer the texture of white for this purpose. My next two favorite flours come from tubers and roots: potato and tapioca starches. Make sure you use potato starch flour in baking as potato flour is heavier and rather odd-tasting (somewhat potato-ish); potato starch is fine, white, and similar to cornstarch in consistency. Tapioca starch is extracted from the root of the plant species Manihot esculenta, also known as the cassava or manioc, which is native to South America. Both starches can be substituted for wheat flour in white sauces as they act like thickening agents. You may also want to try substituting flours made from other plant sources, such as amaranth, corn, soy, nuts, teff, quinoa, chick pea, sorghum, or millet.  It may take some experimentation to find the taste and texture combination that is right for you. For some tried-and-true flour formulas, visit I use Bette Hagman's Original Formula, fourth one down on that page.

Our favorite sandwich bread recipe. Use brown rice flour for more whole-grain fiber.

Some of you may be a little timid about trying to cook without America's favorite grain, wheat, but never fear, it isn't so hard. With just a few careful substitutions, anyone can enjoy cooking and eating gluten-free.** Just be aware that the texture of gluten-free baked goods can be more dry, crumbly, and not as airy compared to the texture of gluten-based baked items. Don't expect gluten-free cakes and cookies to rise as much as their wheat-containing counterparts. That is because gluten, the protein in certain grains (wheat, barley, spelt, and rye), when combined with water, adds elasticity to dough and helps it rise. Wheat contains "two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, which turn into gluten when they come in contact with liquid. As soon as glutenin and gliadin are surrounded by water, the gluten molecules develop and begin to form strong, sticky, elastic bonds. These elastic bonds give dough its stretchy, 'doughy' qualities...Two other factors that affect the development of gluten are (1) the amount of water that's added to the flour (the more water, the more gluten, and the chewier the dough), and (2) the amount of mixing or kneading. Kneading helps the bonded gluten molecules form into long elastic strands or sheets. That's why dough can rise when yeast has been added. The yeast gives off gasses, the gasses are trapped by the sheets of gluten molecules, and the dough rises." (

In some recipes, simply substituting rice flour or a wheat-free flour blend for the regular flour will be fine. This one-to-one replacement works best in things that don't need to rise much. Most other recipes will require some tricks to compensate for the lack of gluten. has a few good suggestions:

  • Bake breads and rolls in containers with walls.Without gluten, bread loafs and rolls don't hold their shape. Bake bread in loaf pans or Bundt pans, and use muffin tins for rolls.
  • Add gums to your gluten-free flour. The sticky effect created by gluten can be simulated to a certain extent by adding gums, for instance, guar gum or xantham gum. These gums are only added to recipes in small amounts (such as 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour) and are already included in some of the commercial gluten-free flour mixes.
  • Add some protein when you use gluten-free flour. Chef Coppedge explains that because gluten is a protein, it can help to add some protein to baking recipes when you're substituting gluten-free flours for wheat flour. For instance, he suggests, try replacing half a cup of water in your recipe with egg or liquid egg whites. (
Before I leave you for yet another walk with our doggie guest (walk number five since noon!), I'll give you a recipe in the sweet spirit of BBEST:

Chocolate-Buttermilk Cake (gluten-free)

¾ cup boiling water
¾ cup Droste Dutch Process Cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
2 ½ cups gluten-free flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan or guar gum
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ tsp. gluten-free vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round layer-cake pans. Pour boiling water over cocoa to dissolve. Stir in buttermilk; set aside and cool. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture alternating with cocoa mixture. Pour into pans, dividing batter equally. Bake 25 minutes or until centers spring back. Cool cakes for 10 minutes and turn out of pans. Frost each cake layer and refrigerate. (I like to use a homemade mocha frosting but you can use any variety you like.)

Enjoy a special treat! Yum!
(Adapted from a cake recipe provided on the Droste cocoa box.)

When choosing basic ingredients such as vanilla and baking powder, makes sugar they are gluten-free. If a package is not labeled, you can check online lists, or contact the manufacturer.

**Gluten sets off an autoimmune response in people with Celiac disease, which causes damage to the small intestine. This, in turn, causes the small intestine to lose the ability to absorb the nutrients found in food, leading to malnutrition and a variety of other complications. The only effective treatment for CD is adhering to a strict gluten-free diet. For more about Celiac disease, see the Celiac Sprue Association's website.


Melanie said...

Mmm... chocolate cake and fresh bread!!! Yes please! :-)

Julie G. said...

These look delish! You are very knowledgeable about this, I'm impressed. :)

jstinson said...

While those look wonderful, I am so thankful that I can and do eat almost everything! I am sure there are many people who will enjoy having these recipes.

Night Sky said...

Well now I'm starving to death! ;-) Great post!

ZudaGay said...

Very interesting!! And that chocolate cake look so yummy!!

Judi B said...

Wonderful! I have a daughter-in-law who has a gluten intolerance and this really helped provide wonderful info! Thanks!

circleinthesand said...

One of my very good friends (who also happens to be my hairdresser) has Celiac Disease and has had quite the time adjusting to a new way of cooking! This is all very, very informative and I can't wait to tell her about that yummy cake!!

Attack of the Vintage said...

Good for you to write this post about alternative flours to use in baking. We all have a tendency to get stuck in our eating habits, not always for the best. There are so many delicious choices that are healthier for us.
Thanks for sharing and opening our eyes to what you have found to be working for you.

On a Whimsey said...

I got the coffee brewing and can now (in my mind)smell the beautiful smell of fresh bread and chocolate cake! MMmmmmmmmmmm, heaven!

Thanks for sharing some really interesting information.

Sixsisters said...

Informative post. Thanks for the recipe too. The
cake looks wonderful. Great post Liv.

Jill said...

Chocolate cake!! Gluten or no, it looks wonderful. I don't think I've ever tried anything gluten free that I knew of.