Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gluten Free and Sugar Free Healthier Choices

GF Pumplin Loaf
I wrote a couple of days ago about how awareness of gluten sensitivity came about in my life. I wrote about this also on my website, when all this first began. I have been "practicing" periodically, testing out recipes that would normally have wheat, barley or rye and seeing if they turn out well using alternate flours. Some of the alternate flour substitutes out there are white rice flour, brown rice flour, sweet white rice flour (yes, all different!), potato flour, potato starch (very different), cornstarch, tapioca flour/starch (same things), sorghum flour, quinoa flour, fava bean flour, garbanzo bean flour, coconut flour, teff and various others. Bob's Red Mill brand carries most if not all of these. In making up various mixtures of these flours and testing them in recipes, I have found that in things like cakes, coffee cake or dessert loaves like banana or zucchini breads, they actually come out more tender and moist than with regular all-purpose (wheat) flour. 

Easy 6 - 2 - 1 Mixture
A great all-purpose gluten free flour mixture is a simple 6-2-1 ratio of:

6 cups brown rice flour
2 cups of potato starch (NOT potato flour!)
1 cup of tapioca starch

Luscious Bundt Coffee Cake
GF version: Luscious Bundt Coffee Cake

Luscious Bundt Coffee Cake

Serves about 12 - 16

1 cup unsalted butter
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped nuts; walnuts or pecans are good
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, sour cream and vanilla and mix well.

Sift together flour, soda, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well. Grease a 10-inch tube or bundt pan.

Mix together the chopped nuts, the 2 teaspoons sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle ½ of this topping into the greased pan. (See notes.) Put in half the batter - this requires "plopping" spoonfuls of the batter into the pan as the batter is very thick. Then carefully smooth it to fill in any gaps. Tapping the pan on the countertop helps. Pour on the rest of the "topping" and again plop spoonfuls into the pan till all batter is used. Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cake if desired.

GLUTEN-FREE OPTION: Replace the flour with your preferred gluten-free flour mixture and add in 1 teaspoon xanthan gum. Mix and bake as directed. (Sometimes baking is a little bit longer than normal, but since the texture and moistness is so wonderful, I can wait those few more minutes!)

Just as with anything, some people tolerate certain things better than others, so I used a recipe mixture I found almost 2 years ago on Shauna James Ahern's blog, She gave the amounts by grams and I have not yet taken the time to weigh them out by cup. Mix these all together in one container and shake the heck out of it to combine.
200 grams brown rice flour
150 grams sorghum flour
50 grams potato flour
250 grams sweet rice flour
150 grams potato starch
100 grams arrowroot
100 grams cornstarch 

I have used both these mixtures, and keep them both mixed up in my gluten free cabinet. When I decided to try my hand at cookies, making the recipe for Green Tea Lime Sables, I looked at a lot of sites online to see what the skinny was on types of flours that would work best for cookies, and any other gluten-free cookie baking tips out there. The recommendations I found suggested mixing "high-protein" flours. I tried researching what constituted a "high-protein" flour, but got no real, definitive answers and I got tired of searching. I found various recipes for cookies though, and ended up cobbling together a mixture to use for the Sables. The mixture amounts are enough for this one recipe, but can easily be doubled or tripled as needed:
GF Green Tea Lime Sables

My (current) Gluten-Free Cookie Flour

1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour/starch
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour

So far, these are the only cookies I have made gluten-free, but the cookies were absolutely indistinguishable from the ones made with all-purpose flour (wheat). I am encouraged to try more sometime soon.

GF Garbanzo Brown Rice Crackers front , Quinoa behind
There have been some cakes I have made using only nut "flours"; very finely ground nuts (almond, hazelnut, pecan) and these, while having a different texture, are really moist and delicious; my Hazelnut Sweet Potato Torte or Flourless Chocolate Torte are a couple of these. Other recipes I have created that are gluten free using things other than flours of any kind are the Quinoa Brown Rice Crackers and the Garbanzo Brown Rice Crackers, where I cooked the rice or quinoa and blended them together with drained, canned garbanzo beans and baked them slowly to crisp up. I was given a recipe for some waffles made from soaked buckwheat (not actually wheat or even related) and millet, blended together with a few other ingredients and while dense, they are amazingly good. 
GF Hazelnut Sweet Potato tortes

All this info is leading up to the fact that while I am aware of many different alternative ways to get to an end product, I had not really put any thought to extending this knowledge to making these recipes diabetic friendly. I bring this up because I was diagnosed diabetic some years ago. I am not as careful with my diet as I should be, and I am overweight. I know from past diets that once my weight is below a certain point, my glucose seems to have no problems staying very normal, between 90 and 110. When I was eating only RAW foods for nearly a year, my glucose was usually 70 to 90. I felt wonderful, fit, and was able to exercise more just because i felt so good. It was win-win. Except it is nearly impossible to follow on the road. When your only choice for raw food in a restaurant is iceberg lettuce, it was just too much. Once I jumped off the RAW foods, that was it. I haven't been able to get myself back to it, though I wish to.
RAW Marinara on Zucchini "Spaghetti"

So, wandering around the site a few days ago, I found myself looking at gluten-free baking books. One jumped out at me in particular, after reading the commentary from all the reviews, as being particularly high-end. I have been baking for so long that my standards have gotten quite high, and some recipes just do not live up to them. And then i noticed the author names. The first one is none other than Peter Reinhart! If anyone has been reading my blogs of the last month-and-a-half or so, I have been rhapsodizing over his book The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and making one bread after another from that book. It opened up a whole new outlook for me on making bread, and it is a most wonderful journey I embarked on with his book. Breads in this book are absolutely chock full of gluten. So imagine my surprise at seeing his name on a gluten free baking book! I ordered the book, called The Joy of Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Baking: 80 low carb recipes that offer solutions for Celiac Disease, Diabetes and Weight Loss.
Gluten-Free Sugar Free Orange Spice Cake

One thing I had not done to date is try and bake sugar free. Mainly, I object to some of the sugar alternatives out there. I do use stevia very often. I use it instead of sugar in my oatmeal or my coleslaw and even, on occasion, in my Red Cabbage with Apples and Bacon. 

Red Cabbage with Apples and Bacon

Red Cabbage with Apples and Bacon
Red Cabbage with Apples and Bacon
Serves 6 to 8

3 slices bacon, ½-inch cubes
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
6 to 7 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
¾ teaspoon coarse salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 large apple, peeled, cored, sliced
1 cup red Zinfandel (Merlot is also good)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
½ cup packed brown sugar

In a large fry pan, deep enough to accommodate the cabbage when raw, fry the bacon. When nearly brown, add onion and fry until onion begins to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add cabbage and saute, tossing with tongs until it has collapsed slightly and is no longer stiff, about 2 to 5 minutes. Raise heat to high and add allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir to coat with the spices. Add apple slices and the wine and cover the pan, reducing to med-low and cook till almost tender; about 30 to 40 minutes or until the wine has cooked down to a glaze on the bottom of the pan. If wine has not reduced, raise heat with lid off and allow to evaporate. Raise heat to medium and add the vinegar, stirring to deglaze the pan. Add the brown sugar, stir and cover again, reducing heat to medium low. Continue to cook until liquid is reduced and cabbage is very tender - about 30 minutes. If cabbage is done, but still has liquid in the pan, raise heat and cook uncovered until liquid has reduced to a glaze.

This book gives the alternatives for using powdered stevia, Splenda or even liquid stevia. Today, I decided to try out a cake recipe from this new book; Orange Spice Cake. This new book uses almost exclusively nut flours as the basis for the recipes. Doing this often can get very expensive. But it also gives that low-glycemic factor that using all the alternative flours listed in the first paragraph above, do not. Adding the no sugar aspect just makes it better still. The cake smells heavenly and grew beautifully. I would expect nothing less of a book with Peter Reinhart as an author (along with Denene Wallace). If this recipe is an indication, I am going to be truly enjoying this book. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.