Archive for November 10th, 2022

What’s Cooking?

I’ve been meaning for some time now to share the recipes I developed to work around Lorelei’s allergies; she’s allergic to both wheat and rice, so the normal gluten-free flour won’t work for her because most of them contain rice flour.  Substitutions are difficult, because gluten gives baked goods their texture; without it, most recipes are unappealing or even nasty.  But with research and experimentation, I was able to come up with some pretty good workarounds, and Lorelei said she doesn’t mind if I share them, so those who need them can have them for the holidays.

One thing these recipes have in common is the use of xanthan gum, which acts as a partial substitute for gluten; I also generally add a little baking soda and use buttermilk instead of milk, to give it extra rising power.  I don’t keep buttermilk around, and you probably don’t either, but that’s OK; you can make it by putting one tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup, then adding milk to the one-cup line, stirring well and waiting about 5 or 10 minutes.  The first one I tried was cornbread; since I make it nearly every week, I know it well enough that it was pretty easy to figure out the neccesary changes, plus of course only half of the flour used is wheat flour.


Preheat oven to 425o.  Grease the bottom & sides of a 9×9 pan.  Then in a medium mixing bowl, combine:

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup millet flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

In a separate bowl, beat 2 eggs; add 1 cup buttermilk and 1/4 cup cooking oil.  Mix together, then add liquid mixture to dry mixture and stir just until fully combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in 425o oven for 20 minutes.  If unsure, test for doneness by inserting a wooden toothpick near the center.

Next, I tried pie crust, which doesn’t even need to rise; I based it on “Never Fail Pie Crust” from Ceil Dyer’s venerable Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars (an unpretentious treasure which everyone more interested in being a cook than a poseur should own).  I know the recipe by heart, and found its title is not a lie; I have substituted like crazy in this one and as long as the basic form is maintained, it works every time.  Here, the most important factor was flakiness; I found this combination of flours gave me a pretty good simulation of conventional crust:

Pie crust

2 cups millet flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt

In a large mixing bowl, sift all these dry ingredients together; you may want to sift the mixture again to be sure they’re well-mixed.  Then in a separate small bowl, combine

1 beaten egg
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 cup water

Mix together and set aside.  Then, using a pastry knife (if you don’t have one, get a good metal one; the plastic ones are shit) cut

13/4 cups shortening

into the dry mixture, until it resembles coarse crumbs; I find all-vegetable shortening works best.  Tear off a sheet of waxed paper and put it on your countertop, then add the egg mixture to the dry mixture and knead the mass together with your CLEAN hands; once it’s well-combined gather it into a ball, put it on the waxed paper, wrap it up and put it in the fridge for at least an hour.  If it’s still too sticky to work after that time, knead in another 1/4 cup constarch and put it back in the fridge for at least 15 more minutes.  This recipe makes 4 crusts (top or bottom), so enough for two full-crust pies like fruit pies, or four custard-type pies or quiches.  When you roll the crust out, sprinkle the pie board or counter with cornstarch instead of flour.  The dough freezes well, but if I’m going to freeze it I prefer to roll out the crust on waxed paper, then roll it up into a cigar shape (paper side out) and put it in a ziplock freezer bag. Let it thaw in the fridge, and roll it out again with a fresh sheet of waxed paper between crust and rolling pin.

The trickiest one I’ve perfected so far is biscuits (by which I mean the scone-like things we call “biscuits” in the US, not the sweet things we call “cookies”).  They’re already difficult to master even when using conventional flour, so it took me several attempts and some additional internet research to get it right.


1 cup millet flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl, then using a pastry knife (see the recipe above for comments on this) cut in

1/3 cup shortening

until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Then add

3/4 cup buttermilk

and mix together with a fork.  Turn the dough onto a clean surface dusted with cornstarch and knead the dough for 10 or 12 strokes, then use a biscuit cutter to cut the biscuits to the desired size.  Put them into a biscuit pan (if you don’t have one, any small metal baking pan with sides will do) with sides touching; the biscuits should not be spaced out.  Now, here’s the sneaky part: FREEZE the biscuits before using them.  I suggest doing them the day before, but if you need them the same day, I reckon 2 hours or so in the freezer should be good.  When you’re ready, preheat the oven to 450o and put the pan directly into the oven from the freezer (do not thaw them first).  Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden brown, then immediately remove them from the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.  Here’s the science behind the unusual instructions: since non-wheat flour lacks gluten, without the extra steps the biscuits will turn out packy and dense rather than light and flaky.  Freezing them helps them hold their structure in the first stage of baking, and crowding them together forces them to rise upward rather than bloating outward.  The buttermilk & soda combo creates extra carbon dioxide for more lift.  If you don’t want to use them right away, once they’re frozen transfer them from the pan into a ziplock freezer bag or other airtight container, and remember to put them in the pan with sides touching when you go to bake them.


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