Coming Events: GIG Gluten-Free Fair, May Class at Bob’s Red Mill and Gluten Free Expo

Portland GIG Gluten-Free Fair

The Portland Metro GIG has announced the date and venue for this years spring Gluten-Free Fair. It will be held Saturday, May 19th, 2012 at Mittleman Jewish Community Center on Capitol Highway near Multnomah Village. More information here on Grain Damaged.

May Class at Bob’s Red Mill

The May schedule of classes at Bob’s Red Mill is out. They only have one gluten-free class this month, but it looks intriguing. Here’s the description:

Gluten Free Baking with Dr. Jean Layton! Have you been frustrated that your gluten-free goodies have been less than stellar? Using a simple way of measuring for perfect results every time join Dr. Jean Layton co-author of Gluten-Free Baking for Dummies for a tantalizing and tempting baked treats. Her recipes include: Crunchy Hazelnut Biscotti – twice baked cookies that are perfect with a cup of tea, Maple Walnut Tea Scones – using no sugar, just pure maple syrup for sweetening, Sweet Potato Biscuits that use the sweet potato puree for tenderness and flavor, allowing the biscuits to be lower in fat and higher in antioxidants, Cranberry Orange Muffins, this vegan muffin is the perfect quick breakfast treat, Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes with a sweet lemon glaze, and Perfect Pancakes. Bring your gluten free baking questions, Dr. Jean loves to share her 6 years of experience with gluten-free thriving.

Supplies to Bring: enjoy the sampling! Class fee $45.00

When: Thursday, May 31, 2012, 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Where: Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Cooking School, 5000 S.E. International Way, Milwaukie, Oregon 97222
Contact: Call Bonnie at (971) 206-2208 to enroll.

Chicago Gluten-Free Expo is This Month

The Living Without Gluten Free Expo is coming in two weeks, in Chicago. A quick look at the class schedule reveals two prominent Portland folks, Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bake Shop, and Laura B. Russell, author of the Gluten Free Asian Kitchen. There’s a spot on the website where you can go and vote for them to come to Portland, here. Do it!

Fine Print: We are not affiliated with the Portland GIG, Bob’s Red Mill, or the Gluten-Free Expo.

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Chocolate! That’s what we’re talking about here. We’ve been making the Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Brownie Mix for almost a year now and recently it came to my attention that we haven’t ever reviewed it on this site. This mix is really awesome. We don’t make it exactly how the package says you should, though, so I’m going to provide details about what we do.

Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Brownie Mix

The brownie mix is free of wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy, and corn, which is cool because that takes care of quite a few common allergy foods. Of course, it has chocolate, but that’s the point! Here is a list of ingredients: Organic Evaporated Cane Juice (sugar), Sweet Brown Rice Flour, Cocoa (processed with alkali), Tapioca Flour, Arrowroot Flour, Sea Salt, Xanthan Gum. I always list the amount of sodium in the Trader Joe’s products I review. The package says that it makes 12 servings. Each serving has 125 mg of salt.

Trader Joes Gluten-free Brownie Mix

The recipe on the package calls for 1 egg, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and 1/4 cup water.

Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

We always put some of these awesome chips in our brownies. They’re the Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. Besides being delicious, they’re free of dairy, nuts, gluten, and soy, and are mini-chips. This makes them ideal for brownies.
As an egg substitute, you can add your own favorite (when we replace eggs, we use the Ener-G Food Egg Replacer because it is gluten-free.) We also replace half of the oil with some applesauce. This sounds kind of weird, considering you’re making brownies, but I think it really improves the brownies, and also the brownies are a lot more healthy. In case you’re wondering, it is possible to replace all the oil with applesauce and end up with edible brownies, but they definitely aren’t as delicious, and don’t seem to keep as well.

Ready to go!

One of the most important things about making brownies is to not overcook them. When you overcook brownies they end up rock hard when they’ve cooled off. It seems like the Trader Joe’s mix doesn’t suffer from this so much, which is cool. With a little bit of adjustment, this mix can also be used to make cookies. Instructions for these are on the package.

Finished Brownie

And here’s the reward. We have made these brownies and shared them with friends and family, and nobody has ever suspected that they are gluten-free. They’re awesome!

We want to know: Are there other gluten-free brownie mixes out there? Do you have any tricks or tips to make better brownies? Let us know in the comments.

Times we have visited: 8+ (so we feel confident about our score.)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: About the same

Gluten-Free Flours for Scone Follow-up

A while ago we posted a delicious gluten-free scone recipe developed by Gina at Gluten Free Gourmand. In that post, since Gina didn’t post a specific flour mix, we tried it out with Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Baking Flour (that’s a mouthful, huh?) We enjoyed the resulting scones, although it turned out that the Bob’s Red Mill flour mix is kind of bean-flavored and we needed to use less liquid than Gina’s recipe called for. At the end of the post, I speculated whether or not it would be a good idea to try the same recipe with Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix (click the link to see our review of this product for making gluten-free pancakes.)

Gluten-free scones

In the comments, we had a bunch of people agree with us that the Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Baking Flour mix was too heavy on the bean flavor. We also heard from Sea at Book of Yum, who recommended that we avoid the Trader Joe’s mix.

So a few weekends later we tried the same scone recipe with the main flour mix recipe from Gluten-Free Baking Classics for the Bread Machine by Annalise Roberts. Since we reviewed the book, we’ve been very happy with the flavor and quality of the gluten-free breads we’ve been able to make (although they don’t rise as much as we would like.) The scones I made with that flour mix were PERFECT and AWESOME. They tasted delicious and they stored really well. Obviously, they were at their best straight out of the oven! I would share the gluten-free flour mix recipe, but I don’t think it would be honest of me to post it here. This book can be bought from Amazon, here.

But I still had the nagging question in the back of my mind: “What would these be like with the Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Pancake and Waffle mix?” So last weekend I decided to give it a try. Although with the Annalise Roberts gluten-free flour mix batch, I did the recipe exactly the same, this time Sienna requested that I leave out the lemon zest. Also, since the Trader Joe’s mix includes salt and baking powder, I omitted those. Otherwise it was the exact same recipe.

The Trader Joe’s mix scones were a disaster. First, the Trader Joe’s mix contains xanthan gum. This isn’t normally a bad thing, but in this case it was a problem. Xanthan gum imparts elasticity to gluten-free dough, which is good because the gluten in wheat flour is what makes regular dough elastic. The problem with xanthan gum is that if you get too much in a flour mix, it will absorb a lot of liquid and make a mix too runny. Then the baked result ends up being tough. So the dough ended up being too wet from the get-go. I kept adding more of the flour mix in, but it didn’t help. I finally gave up. Here’s how the scones made with the Trader Joe’s gluten-free mix ended up looking.

Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Mix Scones

So they sagged all over and then puffed up as they baked. I also had to bake them about twice as long as the recipe called for. The bad news is that they ended up way too sweet. They also did not keep well at all. Three days later they were kind of tough.

The good news is that they taste EXACTLY like sugar cookies and have the same texture. So yeah, if you really miss traditional white sugar cookies, here is a gluten-free, vegan recipe that is an excellent facsimile. I’m posting this half-jokingly, but I’m sure someone could take this recipe and make some awesome cookies with a little bit more experimentation.

1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Pancake and Waffle Mix
1 cups of the “cream” spooned from the top of a can of coconut milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Some lemon zest if you like it in your sugar cookies.

Mix everything. Add more coconut milk if the mixture is too dry. Form the cookies and sprinkle sugar on top. If you like them sweet, you might try upping the sugar to 1/2 cup. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

And there you have it!

Flours for a Gluten-Free Diet

Different Gluten Free Flours

When you can’t use wheat flour for cooking, one of the obvious problems that comes up is what to use instead. Most beginners to being gluten-free find themselves launched into an orbit with spinning satellites of all these expensive flours that can be hard to track down. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to use. Here is a short alphabetical list of some gluten-free flours and basic information about them. Once you have all these you’re ready to make some bread. Check here to see choices for the best gluten-free bread machine.

Very few of these flours can be used alone to make anything edible. People who do a lot of gluten-free baking will often create flour mixes, which they will mix up in some quantity and then have handy for use any time.

Amaranth Flour – Has a light but pleasing nutty like or malt flavor. Ground from a plant seed. High in protein and nutritious. Added in small quantities to flour mixes for baking.

Arrowroot – Like the name would imply this is made from a root. If you are allergic to corn, this makes a great substitute. You can substitute measure for measure. Arrowroot is basically tasteless and keeps well.

Buckwheat - Despite it’s name, this is not wheat. It is actually a relative of rhubarb. A dark flour with a strong distinctive flavor. The seeds of the plant are ground to make this flour. Good in flour mixes for “whole grain” baked goods.

Cornstarch – This is starch that has been refined from corn. It is bland and should be used with other flours to create flour mixes. It stores well.

Garbanzo Bean Flour – Garbanzo beans are also known as chick peas. This flour is made from ground beans. The flour is high in protein and has a strong flavor. It should be stored in the refrigerator.

Garfava flour – This is made from garbanzo beans and fava beans. It stores well and has a strong flavor. Makes a good substitute for rice flour. It is also high in protein. Good for bread, cakes, and cookies.

Millet flour – Millet comes from the grass family and is one of the earliest cultivated grains. It is nutritious and a good source of protein. It has a wonderful flavor and is a little sweet. Good in flour mixes. Popular for breads.

Potato flour – Made from dehydrated potatoes. Mostly used for thickening sauces, gravies, and soups. When added to flour mixes, it adds a moist crumb. Very useful for baked goods, but usually only used in small amounts. Can impart elasticity to dough. Has strong potato flavor and keeps well.

Potato starch – Made from dehydrated potatoes. Mostly used for thickening sauces, gravies, and soups. When added to flour mixes, it adds a moist crumb. Very useful for baked goods. Can impart elasticity to dough. Not as flavorful as potato flour.

Quinoa Flour Related to spinach and beets. Made from ground plant seeds. The flour is high in protein and has a mellow flavor. Add to flour mixes.

Rice Flour, Brown – Brown rice flour is more flavorful than white rice flour. Slightly nutty flavors. It is used in flour mixes with other flours and is popular from putting in breads. Refrigerate.

Rice Flour, White – This flour is made from white rice. It can be used alone, but most people add it to other flours. It adds a sponginess to baked goods. Best for recipes that need a light texture. It is bland, not very nutritious, and stores well.

Sorghum Flour – This flour is high in protein and B vitamins and is sweet and flavorful. It is almost always used in mixes. It is good for making breads and other baked goods. It stores well on a shelf.

Soy Flour – High in protein and has a nutty flavor. Good used in mixes. Does not store well. Combines well with rice flours. Is good for making cookies.

Tapioca Flour – Same as tapioca starch. This is ground cassava root. It makes gluten-free baked goods more chewy. Low in nutrients. It stores well, is bland, and should be used mixed with other flours.

Teff Flour – Teff is the smallest grain in the world. Teff flour is high in protein, calcium, zinc, iron, and fiber. It is used in flour mixes to make breads and cookies.

Xanthan Gum – Xanthan gum is made from a kind of bacteria, Xanrhomonas Campestris. It is used for thickening and is sticky in a way that makes it handy for gluten-free baking. It is used very sparingly in flour mixes.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Flours

Well that’s some of the basics. Obviously there are lots of other kinds of flour. When you are eating gluten-free, these flours can be very useful.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flours on Amazon