November 27, 2012

Baker's Kitchen: Holiday Ready GF Kitchen

This post is a bit of a departure from posts past. But holiday baking is just around the corner. Last year we had great fun with the virtual cookie exchange. This year will be my first holiday season baking GF-style since we switched to no gluten diet six months ago. So to follow up the last post about baker's arsenal of tools, this post is about the pantry necessities to set up a GF kitchen ready for holiday baking.

Picture source

Gluten-free isn't for everyone and it may not be for you. It is hard before it gets easier.  But many people do give up wheat, beer and barley because of health, allergies, or vanity. And it isn't all THAT hard. There are plenty of excellent recipes and products. Many cooks and bakers who've walked the walk and are willing to share. So there you have it, things to stock up on to bake in style.

The Basics

When I started baking GF style, I just bought a packet of each type of flour. Research came later. But it turns out some types of flour are more indespensible than others. When  you do not use wheat flour, you have to rely on a mixture of several types of flour to bake. Some cooks vary the mixture depending on the recipe, others stick to one tried and true formula, even pre-mixing it it by the batch full. With these on hand you can make just about anything - pancakes, muffins, cookies.
  • White Rice Flour or Sorghum Flour, that's your flour foundation. Both have very neutral flavor.
  • Tapioca Starch and Potato Starch, both are lighter and are mixed in with the heavier flour. Tapioca in particular gives a nice crispiness and improves the texture of the baked goodies.
  • Xanthan Gum - not so very scary, just a tiny bit of xanthan helps ingredients stick together. The other alternative is Guar Gum but from what I hear Guar is better for cold foods, while Xanthan is preferable for baking.
Bob's Red Mill has this nifty bundle to get you started. They offer just about every type of flour you can imagine and are at most stores, I really cannot imagine what we'd do without Bob's Red Mill!

Not to state the obvious but eggs, baking soda, and baking powder come in handy too.

Nice to have
These are some additional ingredients to vary your repertoire and boost the nutrition factor.
  • Almond Flour it is excellent in power-breakfast muffins and desserts and is lower in carbs, higher in protein.
  • Amaranth Flour has a unique taste that you'll either love or not, some call it nutty. It is high in iron and protein.
  • Buckwheat Flour - despite the name, also GF. It is a very heavy flour. We've made blinis and even added it to pumpkin pie mixture.
  • Cornmeal
  • Garbanzo Flour has a very pronounced bean flavor. But surprisingly it works in sweets (I will be attempting Middle-Eastern chickpea cookie this year) and also is the main ingredient in socca, French savory pancake. 
  • Quinoa Flour is super-nutritious but a little goes a long way.
  • Brown Rice Flour is only slightly healthier, but to me it tastes grainy so I pretty much stopped using it.
A few additional flours that I have not yet tried are hazelnut (what can possibly be wrong with that?), soy, and  millet.

Wet and Fat Ingredients
I couldn't give up eggs in my baking but forgoing dairy is easy-peasy.
  • Soy or rice milk do the trick, just one-to-one substitution for regular milk. Coconut milk is also a nice substitution.
  • Coconut oil is amazing and makes the best pancakes ever!
  • Oil, olive, grape, or vegetable, works in most goodies.
  • Vegan shortening doesn't leave the funny aftertaste like animal products. Spectrum seems to be the agreed upon staple.
  • Vegan butter, thought I do not often use it for cooking, is also an easy substitution. And don't be fooled, we use gobs of Earth Balance on toast, it is tasty stuff.
Last by not least, a couple favorite sources to get you started - there are other sources for course but these are the ones that I've turned to again and again:
  • Bob's Red Mill for everything! Most stores actually carrry it.
  • Silvana Nardone's recipies have not steered me wrong! And her cookbook is super.
  • I bake something from Gluten Free Goddess at least once a week!

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