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Showing posts from April, 2012

A Word About Xanthan Gum

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If you've ever done any gluten-free baking, or checked the ingredients of a packaged gluten-free product, you will have seen the ingredient xanthan gum.  It's everywhere.  It is used as an emulsifier, a thickener, and a gluten replacer, depending on what kind of product it inhabits.  You will see it in sauces as an emulsifier and thickener.  It's often found in ice creams - especially low-calorie or non-dairy ice creams - to smooth and thicken it for a creamy texture.  For gluten-free cooking it's used to replace the gluten in your baked goods to give the product structure.  Some people claim that you can't cook gluten-free without it, but I'm here to tell you that's not true! Think about the first two uses I of the gum that I described.  In both cases, the gum is used to give the substance more body and form.  However, both sauces and ice cream are liquids, and xanthan gum is used to thicken them.  Breads and baked goods are not liquid in their finished s

Omission Beer Gluten-free Lager

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A few weeks ago I posted a review of the brand-new Omission Gluten-free Pale Ale from Widmer.   It only took a short time for me to find the beer in a number of different locations, which you can find on the Find Omission page of their website.  Since I have a gluten eater and beer lover as a resource, I will start with my boyfriend's response to the Omission Gluten-free Lager.  He sipped, then said: "What style of beer is this?" "A lager," I replied. "Oh, this is pretty good for a lager.  I've had plenty of lagers that weren't nearly as good as this." In this quote, I may have left out a few expletives that referenced other lagers.  But there were no expletives referencing this one.  You heard it from the expert: Omission Gluten-free Lager is pretty good for a lager.  In some of the other reviews I've read about Omission, bloggers have commented that they prefer the Pale Ale. I, for one, am not one of those bloggers.  I pr

I Will Make it Rise!

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I've been doing quite a bit of research lately on gluten-free bread making.  I have noticed that there is a wide variety of binders, emulsifiers, dough enhancers, and other tricks of the trade that people use to improve the dough.  The gamut of ingredients is surprising.  I haven't used most of them, partly in an effort to be more purist, and partly due to the fact that I don't know where to start. Many of these ingredients have conflicting reports on when they are used and what for.  For instance, I have one source saying that gelatin is used to add moisture and shelf life to bread dough, and another saying that it adds volume but makes dough brittle and dry.  I've heard similar contradictory claims about xanthan gum, which I know to be true from experience.  Depending on how you use it, xanthan gum can either help bread to rise and hold its form, or it can make a dough stiff, dry, and unable to expand. The same can be true of gluten itself: quick breads are all ab

Shallots and Asparagus

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Lately, I haven't had enough time to keep up with my blogging.  Between work, chores, and making ridiculous amounts and varieties of food with my boyfriend I just can't find the time.  "I'll do anything I can to help you establish your gluten-free empire," my boyfriend told me sweetly.  He would cook,  clean, or whatever needed to be done. Instead, I asked him to do something that wouldn't help get the chores done at all: I encouraged him to start his own blog.  Thus was born Just Another Shallot and Asparagus Blog.   We collaborated on a lot of the recipes on here, and I must admit, I took all the photographs so far.  (Note to self: teach boyfriend studio photography.)  My favorites so far are the photos on the sushi post . Need some gluten-free product photography done?  I'm your lady.  Here's my website .  But back to this new blog: he may not lead with this information, but all the recipes on there are gluten-free, so stay tuned.  Later this w

Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Flour - is it Gluten Free?

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I promised my faithful readers back in February that I would provide a riveting blog post involving a gluten test on Arrowhead Mills Organic Buckwheat Flour.  Today, belatedly, I will fulfill that promise.  But first, a word about buckwheat and why it might need testing for gluten. Buckwheat is not related to wheat at all.  If you would like an explanation of the word origin, read the Wikipedia article on buckwheat and click to Etymology .  The point is, it's more closely related to rhubarb than anything remotely like a cereal grain.  It is ground into a flour for use in any number of baked goods.  Buckwheat waffles are my favorite application of this flour.  In spite of the fact that buckwheat is nothing like actual wheat, the flour can sometimes be contaminated with wheat flour.  For most people this would not affect the use of buckwheat flour, but for those sensitive to wheat gluten it could make them sick.   The cross-contamination could happen during the harvesting of th

Omission Beer

I stepped into the Horse Brass Pub last night.  The occasion was that the Horse Brass happens to be located across the street from my laundromat.  My boyfriend and I felt like a laundry night celebration - or consolation prize, as the case may be.  I started checking out the famously long list of guest taps that they offer, looking for something gluten-free.  There was a cider on tap, but at the very bottom, I saw a surprise: Omission Pale Ale.  The server came by and I jumped right on it. "Can I get a bottle of the Omission Beer?" I queried, expecting the usual look of pity on my beer-loving server's face when he realized I wasn't going to order anything good.  But that's not the look I got. The server replied, "Yeah, that's actually pretty good.  It's the only gluten-free beer I've ever tried that tastes like real beer."  If I hadn't been getting it anyway, this would have sold me.  I've never had a Portland beer server recomme

Recipe for GF Calamari

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If you're like me, the first thing you thought of when you learned that you had to eat gluten-free was: how will I get my calamari?  Well, here's your answer.  And it's surprisingly simple.  Calamari can be very affordable compared to other seafood, so don't be intimidated by trying to cook it.  I experimented with plenty of other breadings, but this easy solution is the best.  The combination of rice flours makes a breading that is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. You will need five ingredients: Canola oil (or another high-heat oil) calamari, cut in pieces glutinous rice flour (a GF food made from cooked sticky rice) white rice flour salt Here's how you do it: Heat the oil, at least 1 inch deep, in a pan or deep fryer.  Mix in a medium bowl: Glutinous rice flour Salt to taste Mix in a separate bowl: White rice flour Salt to taste Coat the calamari pieces with the salted glutinous rice flour first, then the white rice flour.  When

The Best Gluten-free Pancakes You will Ever Eat

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I had plenty of failures before I got gluten-free pancakes to work for me.  My goals: to make the pancakes look, feel and taste just like I remember from childhood.  Everybody's dream. Sunday was pancakes and scrambled eggs day.  We did brunch because my sister and I went to church with my mom Sunday mornings.  My dad cooked brunch.  He proved himself a versatile chef in other areas, but where he excelled was in the realm of pancakes and sourdough bread.  My childhood memories are infused with the smells of pancakes and baking. I haven't nailed the sourdough bread yet.  In fact, I haven't even tried.  There's time for that.  For now, I will conquer the pancakes.  Every individual has a certain way that they like pancakes to be, and the origin of their pancake desires rest in the way they had pancakes presented to them as a child.  For me, the perfect pancake is about five inches across and a quarter inch high.  It bubbles perfectly after the batter is on the gr

Beer-braised Chicken Tacos

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Some friends and I went to a cabin in the woods a few weeks ago for a weekend getaway. We shared cooking duties, and I was involved in Mexican Night.  I thought up this idea for making some beer-braised chicken to share with those of us who were not vegetarian.  Boy did the vegetarians miss out, because this was one of the best things I've ever made!  I've cooked the recipe several more times since.  It takes a little time to braise things until they are tender, but it's really worth it.  Dark-meat chicken is the quickest to prepare, but I've also used this same recipe with leftover pork chops that were also tasty. For the beer in the recipe, I've used several things, depending on what was available: Redbridge Beer New Planet Raspberry Beer Harvester Pale Ale Everything worked well, even the raspberry beer.  I recommend just getting something that you want to drink, because you probably won't use a whole bottle unless you're making a larger batch