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Tuesday Tips – Preserving Your Gluten-Free Flours

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Preserve those pricey flours in the freezer.Did you know that flour can go bad? Whole grain flours are especially at risk, as they contain more natural oils and fats that can become rancid. And any flour is at risk of getting small bugs in it, as it is impossible to completely remove the insect eggs from the flour. Ew. You already know that it’s cheaper to buy flour in bulk, and if you’re making your own gluten-free flour mix, you’ll end up with several pounds each of a bunch of different flours. (I counted one time and discovered that I had eleven different kinds of flour in my house at one time. I may have an obsession with collecting gluten-free flours.) That’s a lot of flour to use up, and the likelihood of it going bad in my house is pretty high. It’s no savings to buy in bulk if you have to throw half of it away due to an invasion of pantry moths.

The quick tip for this Tuesday is to freeze your flours. Yes, our favorite kitchen tool here at Food Allergies on Ice is the solution once again! Keeping the flour very cold helps to keep the oils from becoming rancid, and keeps those tiny insect eggs from hatching. It’s also a dry, airtight space which helps the flour stay dry (obviously important!) and prevents bug invasions. (You know, in case the kids leave the back door open and a bunch of flies come in. Again.) Of course, you can use this trick to preserve gluten-containing flours as well.

One caveat to the freezer trick, though: make sure your flours come up to room temperature before baking with them or your recipes may not turn out as well. Here’s what I do: my bulk flours are in a box in the freezer. I pull out the box and mix up 2 kg of my All-Purpose GF flour mix at a time. That’s enough for a week or two of baking and it stays in an airtight container on my kitchen counter. The box of bulk flours is returned to the freezer for safe keeping until the next time.

Pretty simple, but this simple trick will help you save money and make tastier food. I call that a win!

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Tuesday Tips – Know Your Fats

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cooking oilBefore starting on my allergen-free journey, “grease a pan” meant grabbing my trusty can of non-stick spray and giving my pan a squirt. When baking, I just grabbed a cheap bottle of “vegetable oil” and never thought any more about it.  Once I realized that my exclusively breastfed nursling was having allergic symptoms because of my milk, I went on a hard-core elimination diet. At that point my only available oil was olive oil (or so I thought), so I used it for everything. Then I discovered schmaltz –  in my case, rendered chicken fat. A fat that is solid (though soft) at room temperature was great for high-fat baked goods like biscuits and pie crusts. It worked well for greasing pans, too, though it was tough to get enough of the rendered fat for the purpose. And so my study of fat had begun.

I never intended to study fats. I was raised in a culture that believes that all fats are bad, an ultra low-fat diet is the key to weight loss, and animal fats are disgusting.  But when I was on the elimination diet, I lost a lot of weight. So much so that I had what the neurologist called “pressure palsy,” the pins and needles feeling in my arms and legs that happened frequently, without apparent cause. Basically, the fat that cushioned my nerves to protect them was gone, and any pressure, even laying down, would cause pins and needles. I started pouring oils on my food. Olive oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil – I applied all of them liberally to my food to help my weight stabilize. I sautéed, deep fried, and baked high-fat cookies, and the pressure palsy eventually went away (as did my ability to fit into size 2 jeans – I was definitely too thin for my frame).

It turns out that fat is really important. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat soluble, meaning that your body needs fat to get these important vitamins. Much neurological tissue is fatty, including the brain, which needs dietary cholesterol to function well. Breastmilk is actually quite high in cholesterol, due to the infant’s need to feed a rapidly growing brain. When eating an over-processed standard American diet, getting plenty of fat is hardly a problem. But when you transition to a whole foods or traditional foods diet, suddenly, getting enough of the right kinds of fat can be a challenge.

Here’s an inventory of the fats in my kitchen now, and how I use them.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This oil has a low smoke point*, so it’s best for unheated applications, such as salad dressing, or pouring on a baked potato in place of butter. I admit that I do still cook with olive oil, though I’m trying to move away from it.

Unrefined Coconut Oil: With a medium smoke point*, I occasionally bake with this oil, but we don’t like the flavor much. However, the low melting point of 75 degrees makes this a very unique fat to work with. I’ll put a lump in our hot cereal, or use it as a spread. We also keep of jar of inexpensive refined coconut oil in the bathroom to use as body lotion.

Cultured Goat’s Milk Butter: I make this myself, skimming the cream from goat’s milk that has set for a few days. Because I don’t have much of this, I use it sparingly, usually as a spread. I rarely cook with it, as that would destroy the beneficial probiotic culture, but I will occasionally sauté or bake with it to add flavor.

Palm Shortening: This fat has a higher smoke point*, and is solid at room temperature, making it ideal for greasing muffin tins and making pie crusts. I find, especially at my altitude, that a liquid oil does not work for greasing a baking pan. I either get a fried texture to the edges of my baked goods, or else the oil soaks into the batter and then the food doesn’t release from the pan properly. This fat is also suitable for frying, but it’s pricey.

Beef Tallow: I get beef trimmings for free from our local health food store, and render out the fat myself. This fat has a high smoke point*, and it’s cheap to me, so I use it for frying, especially deep frying French fries.

Chicken Schmaltz: I skim the fat off cooled broth, and collect pan drippings from fried chicken skins. This is a good fat for sautéing meat and veggies.

Of course, there are a bunch of other oils out there to use. Some, like sesame oil, have lovely flavors that enhance your dishes. But at this season in my life, I’m trying to keep it simple, and 6 different kinds of fat is plenty, thank you very much. Your mileage may vary.

* It’s important to know the smoke points of the various fats you use. Overheating your fat breaks it down and releases undesirable free fatty acids. So keep those fatty acids captive, and don’t overheat your fat!

Tuesday Tips – All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix

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quinoa flourWhen I begin adapting a standard recipe for bread, muffins, pancakes or cookies to a gluten-free recipe, I use the following formula to replace the all-purpose flour:

– 1 part high protein flour, such as almond, coconut, bean (any kind), corn, quinoa or amaranth flours
– 1 part high starch flour, such as tapioca starch, arrowroot starch, potato starch, sweet white (or “glutinous”) rice flour or cornstarch
– 1 part “other” flour, such as brown rice flour, sorghum, millet, potato or buckwheat flours

Then add ¾ teaspoon of xanthan gum or guar gum per cup of gluten-free flour mix and an extra egg (see the Cheat! page for egg replacement options). This won’t be a perfect recipe, of course, but it will generally yield a product that holds together reasonably well.

After you make the recipe once, you can start to tweak it to your personal preference. For example, if the bread or other baked good is too heavy, increase the starch. Too gritty? Reduce or eliminate the rice flour.

Do you need help adapting a recipe for gluten-free baking? Feel free to email us, and we’ll do our best to troubleshoot the recipe for you!

In Trying to Make Crackers

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I stumbled on a way to make (mostly) allergen-free sandwich bread!

I started with this recipe: http://www.grouprecipes.com/101267/gluten-free-yeast-free-pizza-crust.html.

I’ve been making it for a while with a rice flour/potato starch/tapioca starch mix at 3:2:1 ratio, and while it needed a bit more flour (or less water) it made an awesome yeast-free pizza crust/foccacia bread. I changed my flour mix to 1:1:1 bean flour/potato starch/tapioca starch, and the mix was even more soupy, so much so that when I baked it, the edges were thin and crispy like a cracker.

The next time I made it, I actually tried to make it thin enough to be a cracker. Instead of my round stoneware pan I used my rectangle stoneware bar pan (it has an edge), and I poured the batter so it filled the whole pan. It raised nicely – just to the thickness of a slice of bread. So I cut my rectangle into bread-slice-size squares, and voila! Sandwich bread that is wheat-free, egg-free, yeast-free, corn-free, and dairy-free!

It’s thin enough to put fillings in and still get my mouth around both pieces of bread, thick enough so that it’s not crunchy, and firm enough not to fall apart while I eat it. I don’t think I’d ever have thought of baking sandwich bread sideways, but there you go! I’ll have to try for crackers another day. Right now I’m enjoying my sandwich way too much!

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