Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gluten Free Churros

In the spring, I sent my 15 year old to Spain with a school group.  Every day on Facebook, I saw pictures of my son with his friends eating chocolate con churros at various cafes in Spain.  (This mommy who has never even had a passport until a couple months ago was very jealous!... When a mysterious stranger dies and leaves me a fortune I think I will spend a couple years sampling food at cafes around the world :-))

My picky eater tried all sorts of things in Spain that blew me away, squid, I really want to know how they got him to eat it; not only eat it, but enjoy it!  He came home with a taste for churros and hamburgers still pink inside, looking older and debonair in a scarf.  Of all the wonderful (and some not so great looking) things that they ate, the churros looked the best!  And I realized that somehow in my pre-diagnosis days, I had never, ever had a churro! How did that happen?

Challenge Accepted!

When I researched how to make churros, I discovered they are a very easy and simple thing to make.  I always looked at them at the event vendors and assumed I needed some special equipment to make them.  Not so: a simple pastry bag with a star tip does the trick. 

Please excuse my shortage of pictures, I don't know what I did, but halfway through making these, my camera had a conniption fit and corrupted my pictures!  These are really very easy to make.  The only thing I really want to stress is cooking them way longer than you think you need to.  The goal is to make them crispy, which requires cooking long enough to get quite dark brown.

Rather than making a chocolate from scratch, we did it the lazy way and used special dark hot fudge and I stirred some whole milk into it.

(printable Recipe)


Heat vegetable oil in large pan for frying.  Don’t heat above 340°. 
6 Tablespoons butter
1 Cup milk
¼ Cup Sugar
A pinch of salt
A pinch of cinnamon

Heat over medium heat until boiling

Whisk in ½ cup brown rice flour and keep beating until it forms a ball, one to two minutes. 

Place ¼ cup tapioca starch in food processor with the blade attachment.  Add the dough ball and turn on the food processor.  Process until fully blended and let cool for about 5 minutes.  

Add 2 eggs, one at a time, and process until batter is smooth and thick.

Scoop batter into a pastry bag with a large star tip.  When the oil is hot, pipe the batter into the oil.  It will puff up almost double.  Allow to cook about 5 minutes until dark golden brown.  You may be tempted to turn them early because they are getting nicely brown, but resist the temptation!  You want them crispy.  Turn them over and cook on the other side an additional 5 minutes.

Remove from oil and place on paper towels.  Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar and serve with chocolate sauce.

I made a double batch and my kids inhaled them!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Gluten Free Stuffed Crust Pizza!

It snowed today.  I am not a person who loves the snow.  Since my knees make skiing, sledding, and really any activity which might include slipping (walking, getting into the car) a really bad plan, I have never learned to enjoy snow.  I see it coming down and I want to retreat into my cave and hibernate until spring.

So much for raking the leaves (yeah I'm really heart broken about that).  There will be no bike rides.  After braving the weather for grocery shopping the kids and I decided to return to our cave and watch movies and eat pizza.  My little guy requested stuffed crust, and I said what the heck.

Stuffed crust pizza is really not a lot trickier than regular pizza.  Since I feel that we all have to eat all our crusts when it's gluten free pizza (this stuff is too expensive to throw away) stuffed crust makes that more enjoyable.  Today, I had some fresh mozzarella curds, and I have to say they tasted even better than the string cheese I normally use.

So here goes, this is the same crust/focaccia bread recipe I've posted before, but I re-sized it.  It will make two 14 inch pizzas.  If you don't want to make that much, you can cut it in half, though I recommend making up extra crusts, par baking them and freezing them.  Then you have an easy work night dinner.

Make the biga:

540 g warm water
9g dry active yeast
225 g sorghum flour
375 g brown rice flour
150 g tapioca flour
75 g potato flour
75 g corn flour
15 g xanthan gum

Dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside.  Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl and blend well.  Stir about one third of the flour blend into the water/yeast mixture, until it has the consistency of a thick cake batter.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set in a warm place to proof for at least 3 hours.  Add 15 g baking powder to the flour mix.  Cover the remaining flour and set aside.  You can do this step in the morning and leave it in a warm moist place all day, just make sure it's in a really big bowl so it can rise without overflowing.
Make the dough:

420 G Water
120 g oil
15 g psyllium husk
15 g salt

Stir together and let rest for at least 10 minutes.   The psyllium will absorb a great deal of the moisture and will look like a thin jelly.
Pour the biga, the water and psyllium mixture and the remaining flour into the bowl of your mixer.  Blend the dough on low speed until combined then turn the speed up to high and mix for 3-4 minutes.
Divide out the dough into the pans and spread it out like you do for a normal pizza.  This is easiest if you get your hands damp.  If the dough starts to stick, simply rinse your hands again.  Once the dough is spread, use either small fresh mozzarella curds or string cheese sticks cut in half lengthwise and press the cheese into the dough all the way around the outside edge.  Now gently roll the edges of the dough over the cheese to the inside of the crust.  Then press the dough outward again until it covers the pan.  Press down the edges of the dough to seal the cheese in.

Pre-heat oven to 425
Let it rise for about 30-45 minutes until soft and puffy looking.

If you are going to be freezing a crust, par cook it for 10-12 minutes, cool and freeze.  When you are ready to use it, thaw it, top it, and bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned on top.

If you are eating it today, top with your favorite sauce and toppings and cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes.  If your oven browns things too quickly (like mine)  you can loosely cover the pizza with aluminum foil that has been generously sprayed with Pam.  Bake it covered for 10-15 minutes and then remove the foil to lightly brown the cheese and toppings.

Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bacon Wrapped Chestnuts...Fast

Last year, for the first time in my life I went to Thanksgiving with a friend instead of to family.  Which means that I got to try some other traditions and got to share some of mine with people who had never tried rainbow jello

One of the things the hostess did that I really liked was set out some appetizers about an hour before dinner was ready for those of us who were helping cook to snack on while we cooked.  My family doesn't really know about appetizers, so this is an area I'm always learning about.  One of her appetizers was something I'd never seen before.  Bacon wrapped chestnuts.  Well, I always say that bacon makes everything better!

I wasn't positive if they were really that good or if I was just really hungry, so of course I had to try making them myself! I tried several different recipes, and then, as always combined my favorite things from all of them.  Most of the recipes I found are very similar, but there were a few variations.

One of the things I didn't like was how long they took to bake.  After all, I can't tie up a whole rack of the oven for an hour on Thanksgiving!  I also didn't love the amount of bacon grease that stays with the treats as they bake.  For one batch, I ran out of raw bacon, so I wrapped a few chestnuts with precooked bacon instead.  I prefer my bacon very crunchy, so I really liked the result, plus they cook faster and have less grease.  Since the bacon is already cooked they could be baked in a good toaster oven and not tie up the oven at all.

Another dislike was how messy they can be.  I don't know about you, but I am neurotic about getting food on my shirt in a social situation.  I think this stems from my teen years when I ate an eclair at a party: I took a bite and all the pudding squished out the other end, right onto my shirt.  I had trouble with how sticky my fingers got snitching these goodies while cooking.

So here is my recipe, with my solutions to those problems.  This makes a small pan for a small party, but if you are feeding a large group, double it.

Printable recipe

1 package thick cut pre-cooked bacon
1 can water chestnuts, drained
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (make sure it's gluten free)
1 Tablespoon gluten free soy sauce
1 teaspoon sriracha chilli sauce

Soak toothpicks in water for a few minutes

Preheat oven to 375

Line a square baking dish with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.

Cut bacon strips in half.

Mix together in a small bowl the brown sugar, ketchup,  Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and sriracha sauce.  Set aside.

Wrap each chestnut with one of the half slices of bacon.the ends should overlap.  Insert a toothpick through all the layers.  I stop right after it pokes out the bottom.  When all the chestnuts are wrapped and skewered, it's time to sauce them.

Dip each chestnut in the sauce and arrange them in the pan so that they don't touch if possible.  Doing it this way rather than pouring the sauce over them keeps the toothpicks from getting saucy.  Bake for 20 minutes (if you like it really crisp, you can bake it another 5-10 minutes).  Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.

The sriracha sauce might scare you if you don't like spicy food (I do).  I felt like it added a pleasant kick without being very spicy.  If you are nervous about it, you can cut it in half or omit it completely, but I really recommend giving it a shot.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gluten Free Frozen Roll Dough

Today, I am going to tackle my dinner rolls for Thanksgiving.  I love fresh baked rolls, but I don't have time to make them on Thanksgiving along with everything else.  I learned some tricks a while back for making frozen roll dough.  I like to make a double batch of rolls when I am baking and put the extra rolls into the freezer.

When making frozen dough, there are a couple things to consider.  There are different kinds of yeast available, and which kind you use matters.  When you are going to freeze some or all of the dough it is a good idea to use active dry yeast.  It lives longer in the freezer.  If you can find fresh yeast it is best but it can be hard to find and doesn't keep long.  Keep in mind that if you are using a different kind of yeast than what the recipe calls for, you will need to convert the volume (try this calculator).  If you want to use your own favorite recipe to make frozen dough, you should double the yeast.

Another thing to remember; yeast dies over time in the freezer.  Most of the time, your yeast production will decline significantly after 1-3 months in the freezer unless you are using one of the specialized yeasts that are hard to come by for home use.

I used to think scalding the milk served no purpose, since it's pasteurized anyway.  I learned that scalding, which heats the milk further than pasteurization, actually changes the protein structure of the milk which affects the quality of the finished bread.  If you don't want to use scalded milk, you can mix up powdered milk instead, just make sure you use 2 cups of milk, not 2 cups of water plus the powdered milk.

Here is my newest (and therefore my favorite) roll recipe:

2 Cups scalded milk, cooled to skin temperature
1/2 Cup (1 cube) melted butter
2 Tablespoons (for frozen dough) dry active yeast
1/4 Cup sugar

Combine and let rest for 10 minutes

1/4 Cup psyllium husk
1/2 Cup water

Combine and let rest

1/2 Cup tapioca starch
1/2 Cup potato starch
2 Cups brown rice flour
1 Cup amaranth flour
1/4 Cup corn flour
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1Tablespoon xanthan gum
2 Tablespoons baking powder

Combine dry ingredients in mixer bowl and blend.  Add the yeast mixture and the psyllium/water mixture and beat on low speed until combined.  Turn up to medium speed and beat 3-5 minutes.  The dough will look stiffer than your normal GF dough because the psyllium absorbs so much water.

Portion out the rolls.  This dough does spread more than I like, so I have taken to baking it in a muffin tin.  When I make the frozen rolls, I use an ice cream scoop (2 ounces) and put them on a cookie sheet, lined with freezer paper.  They are not going to rise, so you can place them close together, just not touching.  Place the tray in the freezer until they are frozen solid.  Remove from the tray any seal in a freezer bag.

When I'm ready to cook the frozen rolls, I have a couple options.  If I'm in a hurry, I thaw them in the microwave for a couple minutes at 40% power, then I put them in a warm oven to rise and bake them as usual.  Or I can pull them out between 4 and 6 hours and put them on a covered tray to thaw and rise before baking.

Allow rolls to rise about double.  If you let them rise too long they will shrink in the oven.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  I like to either brush the hot rolls with butter or spray with cooking spray to make the crust softer.

This makes about 20 2 ounce rolls.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oh No Not Turkey!

Last year on Christmas Eve, I tried cooking a brined turkey for the first time.  I had all these wonderful intentions of sharing pictures and results with everyone, but....

Dinner was almost done:  the veggies were hot, the bread was golden, the potatoes were about to be mashed.  I removed the turkey from the roaster so that I could pour the broth and make the gravy.  And fate intervened between me and my perfect Christmas Eve dinner.  Some celery hit the floor from the turkey, it got picked up, leaving a slight greasy spot on the floor.  I zipped over to mash the taters and BANG!  Take my advise and DO NOT try that at home.  I dislocated my knee and the last thing on my mind was posting about my turkey to all of my friends out there.

It just occurred to me that I never have shared my thoughts.  I was quite happy with the tender results.  I followed these directions.  In fact, being a food geek, I had to research why it made such a difference... and I found out some interesting science that's changing how I will cook my turkey again this year.

I knew from my food science courses that the salt affects the structure of the proteins.  I had also heard that osmosis was responsible for the added moisture, which, given what I remember from biology 101 seemed like a reasonable assumption.  I found this Food Lab article, and, since I am a food geek, I loved that he followed scientific procedure and posted pictures of the results.  So this year, along with the herbs I normally rub on the turkey, I will be rubbing salt into the skin as well, instead of soaking in a brine solution.  I tried the experiment with chicken breasts as well, and I did like the flavor/texture better this way.

When I cook a turkey dinner, I like to prep as much as I can before hand so I don't have to get up at 5 am and I can enjoy the day without being exhausted.  I make sure I thaw the turkey if using a frozen turkey a few days ahead of time.  The day before the dinner, I prep the bird.  I take out the neck and giblets (ick, this is why I don't cook turkeys so often) and then I stuff it loosely with an onion pealed and cut into large chunks and the tops of the celery I will be using for the dressing.  Celery is a wonderful vegetable, it doesn't seem to have much flavor of its own but somehow enhances the flavors around it.  So with the onion and celery tops, I will rub some poultry seasoning and salt on the inside and more on the outside.  Then I pop it into the roasting pan, cover it, and cram it into the fridge overnight.

I also go ahead and dice the onion and celery for the dressing at this point, again to reduce the work the actual day.

Now I'm ready to go, I just pop the turkey in the oven and all I have to do on the day is make the gravy and taters, everything else was prepared over the 2 or 3 days before.  Which means that even when I do slip and blow out a knee, it's possible to take narcotics and get through Christmas Eve with my kids.  Because I am an action hero and put the dislocated knee back  so I can put off a trip to the hospital until after dinner.  Just make sure that you don't slip!  Repeat after me, I will not end up in the emergency room this holiday:-)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Staying Safely Gluten Free at Family Events

The holiday's are rapidly approaching...  Okay Carol, take a deep breath, it will be okay.

I don't know about you, but the holidays always stress me out.  My favorite part of the holidays was the food, and with the coming into my life of celiac disease, that suddenly became complicated.

Every family with a celiac person has come up with their own strategies to dealing with gluten free at family events, and it seems to range from the whole extended family eating gluten free to the person on the diet being excluded, with many shades of gluten free in between.

My first gluten free Thanksgiving, I hosted and was able to make everything in my own kitchen.  It was exhausting, and a little kid dropped their gluteny roll into my gravy.  If I'm completely honest, I will have to admit that I went into my bedroom and cried at that point.

The next year, I went to my family, and got cross contaminated.  Someone put the wrong spoon in the wrong pot.  I was sick for a week.

The year after that, I told everyone I was going out of town and stayed home and ate all my favorites safely, and kept eating them for a month, because left overs are pretty ridiculous when you only have 1 person at Thanksgiving.  I didn't get sick, but really, while the food is my favorite part, there isn't much point in Thanksgiving without the people who you are thankful for (and some that you pretend to be thankful for because they are family).

After several years, I think I'm finding a balance.  I do still cook all my favorites in small portions for myself, I have worked to educate family members on what is okay and what isn't, and they understand better.  But still, there is the fear.  No one wants to spend Black Friday dealing with a glutening, it's only slightly less painful than Black Friday shopping at Walmart (though nothing is worse than both at the same time).

For me, I have learned to let go of the foods I don't absolutely love, and to make all the foods I do.  When I bring the foods to Mom's house, I no longer set them out with all the others, and I leave things covered to prevent crumbs making their way in.  After that, I rearrange the buffet, so that the gluten items are set after all of the  shared items that I want to eat too.  Turkey, gravy, potatoes, veggies all come first and then rolls and stuffing are spaced further down the way.  I go through a spiel reminding people that while I am happy to share anything I have brought I need them to be mindful of cross contamination.

There are a few places I think we are more likely to overlook possible gluten at family events:
  • Butter:  I either bring my own or slice some off the new cube and set it aside, I just have to make sure no one sneaks some of my butter.
  • The turkey:  Not all turkeys are gluten free, I check with the host and make sure they have a turkey I can eat.  Additionally, if the turkey is roasted in a turkey bag, the directions say to toss in a couple tablespoons of flour.  I offer to provide rice flour for the bag.  This takes some checking and planning ahead.  Don't be afraid to ask, if they love you enough to have you to Thanksgiving, this is a small accommodation to make.
  • Gravy:  Many people like gravy on their stuffing, and it's easy to drag the dipper across the stuffing and stick it back in the pot without realizing you could make someone sick.  I often set some gravy aside for myself before serving begins to avoid this.
  • Serving spoons:  People often accidentally set the wrong spoon in the wrong pan, I try to keep a physical space between gluten and gluten free items to avoid this, as well as keeping things covered as much as possible.
  • Cutting boards:  A cutting board is often used to slice gluten bread, but on Thanksgiving it may be used to cut turkey.  If there are crumbs in the cuts on the board, the turkey will become contaminated.  I try to be in charge of slicing the turkey so I can make sure it is sliced on a surface that will not contaminate it.

What are things that work for you and your family?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Best (Gluten Free) Fried Chicken EVER!

One of the things I dearly miss since going gluten free is fried chicken.  None of the commercial chicken strips/chicken nuggets are what I wanted.  I never made home made fried chicken before my diagnosis, why, when there's a KFC in every city and fried chicken in the deli at every grocer.

This recipe is NOT good for you!  But my philosophy is that, since I don't eat it that often, it's good to indulge cravings every once in a while. As a gluten free person,I can't drive through and get fries or fried chicken a couple times a week, so making fried chicken every 3 or 4 months is fine!  And if I say yes to the craving while it's small, I don't go crazy and over eat.

A couple years ago, I found this recipe.
The first time I made it, I followed the directions exactly (except the gluten flour)  He's right, it really is the Best Fried Chicken!  But it really took a long time, and clarifying the butter took FOREVER!  So I have taken some of the bits and discarded some of it, and changed some of it so that I can make it without it taking too much time (but you do need to plan ahead).

The first change I made is to use boneless skinless chicken breast strips.  Cut up 3 chicken breasts into 1/2 inch strips. 

Make a brine solution using 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1 quart of cold water.  Pour the brine over the chicken strips and refrigerate over night.  I like to use Ziplock bags for this but bowls are fine.

In the morning, pour the brine solution out and add 1 quart of cultured buttermilk.  Refrigerate for 8 hours (or until you are ready to cook dinner).

When ready to cook, strain off the buttermilk and stir in 1/2 cup of ranch dressing.  I really like Lighthouse jalapeno ranch, it's thicker and has a kick.  Mix it around until the chicken is well coated.

In a large Ziplock bag, combine 2 cups gluten free all purpose baking mix 2 teaspoons Steak Seasoning, 2 teaspoons paprika.  Mix well.

Add the chicken to the flour blend in the bag a few strips at a time.  Shake it up and gently squeeze the strips in the flour mixture.  This will make sure the coating is well adhered.

In a large frying pan, heat shortening to about 365°.  I usually use butter flavored Crisco, it gives the butter flavor without having to spend the time clarifying it.  In my experience, while the shortening is not as good for you as a cooking oil, the texture and final result are much better.  I also add some bacon grease to the shortening.  Whenever I make bacon, I pour the fat off into a cup and keep it in the fridge for things like this.

Fry the chicken for about 3 minutes on each side. The coating should be golden brown.  Refrigerate the leftovers.  I even love these cold, so when I make it I will make lots of extra and then use them in my lunches and on salads for a few days.

Please don't save any leftover solutions, once they have had chicken in them, they are a food hazard, and unless you are planning to make more within 2 days, it would be very very bad!  I do put the left over flour mixture in the freezer to use again next time.