Monday, February 22, 2010

Ideas for Adapting Pastry Recipes

* The reason most pastry made with wheat flour is tricky is that the wheat contains gluten, which makes it stretchy. This is good for bread - it stretches into pockets to hold expanding gases from the leaveners and makes a light, moist loaf. This is not good for pastry, which gets tough when the gluten gets stretched. In fact, special “cake and pastry flour” is made with low-gluten wheat flour. Pastry made with gluten-free flour doesn’t get tough as easily as wheat pastry. It is harder to overwork the dough with mixing or kneading.

* Still, it is possible to make tough pastry with gluten-free flours. I’ve noticed the following errors can toughen the dough:
  • Working with dough that is too warm. Use chilled ingredients to mix the dough, then refrigerate it for at least an hour before rolling.
  • Using recipes that skimp on the fat. Why bother skimping on the fat in pastry? If you’re worried about fat, make fruit sherbet, not fruit pie.
  • Adding too much water to the dough. Start with the minimum amount of water that will hold the dough together and leave it workable.
* Most pie and tart crust recipes adapt fairly well to gluten-free treatments. For the best chance of success:
  • Choose a pastry with some fat and protein from chocolate, sour cream, cream cheese, or plain cheese.
  • Or choose a pastry that already has some gluten-free ingredients, such as cornmeal. - Choose a “pat-in” (rather than “roll-out”) pastry crust. It’s likely to work very well.
  • Replace the flour with a combination of light starches. For instance, 2 cups wheat flour can be replaced with a mixture of 1 cup sweet rice flour, 1/4 cup potato starch, 1/4 cup corn starch, and 1/4 cup tapioca starch, with 1 tsp xanthan gum.
  • If a recipe calls for no egg, add some egg, even if you have to use half a beaten egg and figure out what to do with the other half. Replace 1 tbsp water with 1 tbsp egg. Whisk the egg with 1 tsp vinegar, too. If the recipe calls for an egg already, use a really big egg, reduce the water by 1 tbsp, and add the vinegar, too.
* Other options can always include using crushed gluten-free cookies (or a mix of cookies and gluten-free bread crumbs) in place of graham wafers. Add some chopped or ground nuts for more flavour and texture.

Ideas for Adapting and Successfully Baking Cookie Recipes

* CHOOSING A RECIPE: Almost any cookie recipe will adapt for gluten-free flours, though cookies with a soft texture or that have to be rolled (like ginger sparklers) may be harder to adapt, though if the dough is too sticky to roll, chilling it will probably fix the problem. Cookies that are light and crunchy will turn out even better than usual when they are made gluten-free. Chewy is a bit trickier. I’m still working on it. Nut flours help.
* FLOUR MIX: Replace wheat flour with a blend of gluten-free flours. My favourite: For 1 1/2 cups of wheat flour, use 2/3 cup brown rice flour, 1/3 cup amaranth flour, 1/3 cup potato starch, 3 tbsp tapioca starch, and 1/2 tsp xanthan gum.
* EGGS & LEAVENING: Use extra jumbo eggs and rounded, not level teaspons of baking soda or baking powder.
* BEATING:The more you cream the butter and sugar, and the more you then beat in the wet ingredients, the more your gluten-free cookies will spread and spread. In fact, I don’t cream the butter and sugar first anymore. I just toss the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla or other extracts into a bowl all together and blend them all briefly until smooth.
* BATCHES: Make small batches and make small cookies. They will turn out better and then will keep better.
* FREEZING: Freeze leftover cookies at the end of the day. They lose texture and flavour very quickly.

Ideas for Choosing and Adapting Cake Recipes

* Basic cakes are not particularly adaptable.To make something fancy that works out flawlessly, I recommend choosing something that takes as its base a basic cake recipe: layer cake, sponge cake, pound cake, or angel food cake, for example. (Good recipes for these are all pro- vided in this section.) Then, fancy it up with your favourite spices and flavourings, or with special frosting, filling, or decoration.

Otherwise, if you are determined to adapt a recipe . . .
  • Choose a recipe with lots of egg whites (sponge cake or angel food cake) and replace wheat flour with a blend of white rice flour, sweet rice flour, and light starches and a bit of xanthan gum. Make sure the frosting or filling called for is moist and light, like lemon curd or whipped cream.
  • Look for recipes for Passover, which usually don’t have wheat flour.
  • Sour cream coffee cake, si - yeast-based coffee cake, non.
  • Look for European “tortes” which are often made with nuts or bread crumbs instead of flour. (In North America, “torte” is sometimes used to mean “more than two layers,” but the technical definition of “torte” is that it is flourless and made with nuts or crumbs.)
  • Remember that “cake and pastry flour” contains less gluten than all-purpose flour and might be easier to replace in a recipe.
  • Make a self-saucing pudding cake.These adapt almost flawlessly, though I do recommend using at least 1/4 cup of soy flour in the replacement flour mix, to add structure and a bit of fat.
  • As with muffins and loaves, choose a recipe that gets some of its moisture from fruits or vegetables and remember to increase the amount of eggs, or egg whites in the recipe. Separating the eggs and whipping the whites to fold in at the end of mixing will lighten gluten-free fruit- or vegetable-based cakes.
  • Just make cheesecake. Buy gluten-free shortbread or other cookies to crush instead of graham wafers for the base, and the rest is, as it were, a piece of cake.
* Most icing sugar in Canada is made with cornstarch and is gluten free, but do always check the ingredients list, because the odd brand contains wheat starch instead of cornstarch, and wheat starch in Canada usually contains some gluten.

Ideas for Adapting Muffin and Loaf Recipes

* CHOOSE A RECIPE: Choose a recipe that gets some of its moisture from grated fruit or mashed bananas or applesauce, grated vegetables, or nut butters - something with substance. Choose a recipe with 2 cups or less of regular flour per 12 muffins.
* REPLACEMENTS: Replace flour with a proportional amount of gluten-free mix. For 2 cups mix:Try 3/4 cup rice flour, 1/2 cup amaranth flour, 1/2 cup potato starch, and 1/4 cup tapioca starch. Or, al- ternatively, soy flour often works well with fruit and nut loaves.Try 1/2 cup rice flour, 1/2 cup soy flour, 1/4 cup amaranth flour, 1/3 cup potato starch, and 3 tbsp tapioca starch.
* GF NECESSITIES: Add 1/2 tsp xanthan gum and 1/2 tsp gelatin to the dry ingredients.
* EGGS: Choose a recipe with eggs in it. Then, increase the egg. If the recipe calls for 1 egg, use an ultra-jumbo egg or 2 small eggs. If the recipe calls for 2 eggs, increase it to 3.
* FLAVOURING Increase spices, vanilla, or other flavourings to compensate for the bland flavour of rice flours - though using amaranth flour will make a big difference to the flavour, too.
* LEAVENING: Increase baking powder and baking soda a bit - use heaped teaspoons rather than level teaspoons.
* DON’T: Don’t bother adapting bran muffin recipes. Rice bran tastes like sawdust. Really, really low-fat muffins and loaves are likely to adapt poorly, too.
* VEGETARIAN NOTE: If you omit the gelatin for vegetarians, you may want to get the same effect by whisking the flaxseed meal in the recipe with the milk, buttermilk, or other wet ingredients and letting it sit for half an hour, so that it softens and gels. I almost always include 1/4 to 1/2 cup flaxseed meal in every muffin or loaf recipe to get this effect and to increase the fibre content anyway.
* STORING AND FREEZING: Always freeze muffins and (sliced) loaves soon after they have cooled completely. Gluten-free baked goods do not keep at room temperature. For some reason, gleten-free food with baking powder or baking soda is especially prone to spoiling. By day four after baking, your muffins will be inedible.

Ideas for Yeast Breads

* When baking a loaf of gluten-free bread in the oven, not in a bread-maker, I have had better success using traditional yeast, not quick-rising yeast, and I always proof it by letting it froth up in sugared warm water, even if the original recipe says otherwise.
* I always cover my dough in the loaf pan with lightly greased plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough when I set it aside to rise. I can then press the wrap to even out the top of the loaf, and I don’t have to worry about the top of the loaf getting dry as it rises. Always remember to remove the plastic wrap before baking!
* Recipes usually say to beat the dough for three minutes with a mixer, but beating as long as you can hold out with a wooden spoon seems to work just fine.
* In my experience, allowing a second rising for the dough is not truly necessary for gluten-free bread, except for pizza dough, which likes 15 or 20 minutes to rise after being spread out on the pan.
* Check gluten-free bread through the oven door oven every ten minutes. If it is browning too quickly, after the first 20 minutes cover it lightly with foil.
* It can be difficult to tell when gluten-free bread is fully cooked. You can tap the loaf to see if it rings hollow. You can shake it firmly to see if it feels jiggly in the middle.You can use a toothpick or skewer to see if the middle is sticky. Or all of the above. An instant-read thermometer would probably be a good idea to test the centre of loaves, but I don’t have one.
* Allow your bread to cool completely before slicing. Then slice it thinly, all at once, and freeze any part of the loaf you don’t use the first day.

Cornmeal Pastry (for Savoury Tarts)

This makes a slightly thick, crisp and crunchy tart pastry that I used for a yummy roasted tomato and goat cheese tart. Adding the 1/2 an egg or egg white seems to help - add the rest of the egg to an omelet, I guess!

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp dried herbs (if desired)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter
2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice
1 tbsp beaten egg white or whole egg (about 1/2 an egg)
2-3 tbsp ice water

Whisk the dry ingredients. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter to form smallish crumbs.Whisk vinegar and egg together. Pour into the batter.Add just 2 tbsp ice water to start - stir the dough quickly together with a fork.Test if the dough will hold together. If it is still too dry, add one more tablespoon of water.

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Allow to warm up at room temperature for 10 minutes, then roll to fit a 9” tart pan. Prick the surface of the dough with a fork, all over, and bake at 400F for 18-20 minutes, until golden and crisp.