Well it looks like I’ve jumped on the gluten free bandwagon. Well almost gluten free. Over a weekend I ate three sandwiches on rye bread. Yummo! That is until the pain and fatigue kicked in. Turns out gluten is a little protein found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale which helps foods maintain their shape acting as a glue that holds food together. When gluten reaches the digestive tract and is exposed to the cells of the immune system, they mistakenly believe that it is coming from some sort of foreign invader like a bacteria. In certain people who are sensitive to gluten, this causes the immune system to mount an attack against it.
So I’m restructuring what I eat to avoid, but not eliminate, gluten to see how my tummy feels. This really got me to thinking about Kirby’s tummy too. He hasn’t shown any signs of stomach distress but I figure it can’t hurt to remove some of the gluten from his diet.
What's In GF Flour
When looking for a wheat-free substitute for all-purpose flour, no single gluten-free flour or starch behaves like wheat flour so using a blend is a must. Blending white rice and brown rice provide the right baseline of protein, starch, and flavor so that’s what I prefer to use.
Whole grain flours include brown rice flour, millet flour, oat flour, sorghum flour, sweet potato flour, and teff flour. Note that oats are often milled/cross contaminated with wheat crops so look for "Certified Gluten-Free" while brown rice flour has become a bit controversial due to elevated arsenic in rice. White flours include arrowroot flour, potato flour, and white rice flour.
Although classified as whole grains buckwheat is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel while quinoa is a member of the same food family that contains spinach, Swiss chard, and beets. Buckwheat flour has a nutty taste and makes denser treats. Quinoa flour has an assertive taste and can make baked goods crumbly so it needs to be blended with other flours for best results.
Nut flours add a delicious nutty taste full of protein, fiber, and essential minerals. Nut flours include almond flour, chestnut flour, coconut flour, and hazelnut flour. Coconut flour has a natural sweetness but really soaks up moisture so be careful using too much of it in a recipe. Start with a half cup in a gluten-free flour blend for best results.
Bean flours include fava bean flour and garbanzo bean flour. Keep in mind that legume flours have a metallic aftertaste and can produce a rather gassy experience.
Starches add lightness, tenderness, or browning. Potato starch lends a soft, light rise whereas tapioca starch can often bake up tough especially around the edges so a combination of the two create the right amount of chew and structure. Tapioca starch is the same as tapioca flour but be sure to use potato starch and not potato flour. Sweet rice flour is very starchy and moist but too much can make your cookies gummy.
Milk powder is key contributing proteins that help improve structure in gluten-free baked goods and along with its sugars, undergo the Maillard browning reaction, which leads to more complex flavor.
Some people also add xanthan gum which is a fermented corn-based product or guar gum which comes from a legume. I don’t use either thus far but I avoid any corn based products which are deemed unhealthy for dogs.
GF Flower Blend from America's Taste Kitchen
Yields: 9 1/3 cups Calories: 821 Calories from fat: 8
- 4 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup white rice flour
- 1 2/3 cups brown rice flour
- 1 1/3 cups potato starch
- 3/4 cup tapioca starch
- 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
Whisk all ingredients in large bowl until well combined. Transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 months.
A Simple GF Flour from Taste of Home
Yields: 3 cups Calories: 1253 Calories from fat: 0
- 2 cups white rice flour
- 2/3 cup potato starch
- 1/3 cup tapioca flour
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. Yield: 3 cups.
Adding applesauce, pureed fruit or yogurt helps gluten-free cakes, muffins and quick breads stay moist.
Adding shredded or desiccated coconut, chopped nuts, and dried fruit improves texture and flavor.
Honey is a humectant and adds moistness (use less liquid in the recipe if you use honey). You may need to cut back a bit on the amount of liquid called for, when using honey.
Agave adds moisture, too. But if it's humid on the day you are baking, use less agave (or honey).
Use extra vanilla. Many gluten-Free flours can taste strong and unfamiliar, and a little boost of vanilla extract helps soften their flavor. Don't be afraid to use a whole tablespoon in a recipe and buy the good stuff.
High altitude gluten-free baking usually requires a little less liquid [start with 2 tablespoons less] and a higher oven temperature [increase oven temp by 25 degrees F] or a longer baking time.
Humidity causes flour to grab moisture and become damp which can affect the outcome. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons less liquid (and less agave/honey) if you suspect your flours are dampish from humidity.
Room temperature ingredients works best when baking gluten-free. warm eggs in warmish water briefly until they reach room temperature.
Frozen fruit will chill down batters. Thaw to room temp, drain well and pat dry, or add extra baking time- start with ten minutes.
Gluten-free batters are stickier than traditional batters, so they often need longer baking times or temperature adjustments.
Oven temperatures vary slightly from oven to oven. If baked goods consistently turn out under-cooked in your oven, try baking them at 25º degrees higher.
Place pans in the center of a pre-heated oven not too close to the top or bottom for even baking.
Gluten-free batters are a little different. Cake batter is thicker, bread batter is looser but cookie dough seems to be almost the same, but sometimes spreads faster during baking.
Egg sizes vary. This affects the liquid to dry ratio in a recipe. My recipes are based on large eggs.
Freezing gluten-free baked goods often improves texture so try cutting, wrapping and freezing them. Eat slightly chilled or at room temperature, as you prefer.
Gluten-free baked goods and breads get soggy if they stay too long in their cozy pans. Remove loaves and muffins from the pan as soon as possible. The longer a gluten-free baked good remains in a hot pan, the soggier it gets.
If your end product is gummy in the center or falls in the middle the problem is most likely too much liquid. Use 2-4 tablespoons less when you mix the batter or dough next time. Add only a little liquid at a time to achieve the consistency you need. If it happens often, your flours may be damp or your oven too cool. Or you may be taking the baked good out of the oven too soon.
For milk substitutes in baking, use gluten-free Coconut milk, rice milk or nut milks. Use plain for a neutral flavor, or vanilla for a flavor boost.