Who Can Forget Pasta?

Home Made PataSo in my search for different gluten-free foods and recipes, I tried to think of what would be most in demand. No one wants a recipe for gluten-free steak or mashed potatoes, because by their very nature, they are gluten-free. I consider those recipes to be almost cheating! But what about things like, breads, cookies, pancakes and cakes? What about… pasta! Now there is something that isn’t a “cheat” recipe that I know gluten-free eaters would definitely want. Today’s recipe is for a fresh egg-noodle pasta. The only real trick I find between the gluten-free and regular versions of homemade pasta, is that because the pasta is missing the gluten in one, it’s not as flexible and “bend-y”. This can cause the pasta to crumble or break apart. I suggest working with it the same way that you would with fyllo dough. When you are not actively using the dough or noodles, cover them with a damp tea towel. I would also suggest not getting too fancy with the types of shapes that you make with your pasta, at least not until you’ve made the dough a few times. You don’t need to try and make agnolotti (curved, stuffed pockets of pasta with a crimped edge), the first time… stick with linguine or fettuccine.

I also find that for the best homemade pasta, at some point, you need to work it by hand, if not from the very beginning. Today’s recipe starts in the food processor and then moves out onto a floured counter top. If you want to go old school though, here’s how:

  1. In a bowl, mix together all of your dry ingredients so they are fully incorporated.
  2. On a clean counter top, empty the bowl, and form a “volcano” shaped mountain i.e.: a mountain pile with high sides and a hole in the middle.
  3. One at a time, add the eggs into the centre hole that you made, mixing in each egg before adding the next.
  4. To mix, move your fingers around the hole you made, gradually making larger circles and bringing in a little more of the flour at a time.
  5. Then add the oil the same way. Add the water a little at a time until the dough comes together. You may not need all of it, or you may need a little more.
  6. Need the dough together for a few minutes to allow everything to bind, then wrap in plastic wrap and place in a cool place (or fridge) for at least a half an hour.

That’s the old way, without using a food processor or pasta maker to bring together a dough. If you think you’re going to make pasta often, you may want to invest in a pasta maker to roll out the dough once it has been made, as this will make your life significantly easier than rolling the dough out by hand!

All this talk about pasta however is making me think of sauces… so next week? That’s right, it’s sauce week people! I’ll show you the five “mother” sauces and some variations on each. Until then, enjoy the pasta recipe and have a great weekend.

 

Alt Flours… Not Just for Hipsters

Alternative FloursWheat flour contains gluten which is the protein that strengthens and binds dough in baking. Because of this, when baking with wheat free flours you may need to source alternative binding agents. Wheat free recipes using flour substitutes usually have been carefully formulated to get the best possible result taking into account the problems associated with lack of wheat gluten, therefore substitution can be a risky experiment. If you try substitution, then be aware that you may get a failure, so don’t do it for the first time if cooking for an important occasion.

The flours listed below are alternatives to wheat flour. However it is important to be aware that there is no exact substitute for wheat flour, and recipes made with wheat free alternative flours will be different from those containing wheat. It’s always best to store flours in airtight containers, in a dark cool place to avoid them turning rancid.

Amaranth Flour
Amaranth flour is made from the seed of the Amaranth plant, which is a leafy vegetable. Amaranth seeds are very high in protein, which makes a nutritious flour for baking. Alternative names: African spinach, Chinese spinach, Indian spinach, elephants ear.

Arrowroot Flour
Arrowroot flour is ground from the root of the plant, and is very useful for thickening recipes. It is tasteless, and the fine powder becomes clear when it is cooked, which makes it ideal for thickening clear sauces.

Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour is heavier than its relative, white rice flour. It is milled from unpolished brown rice so it has a higher nutritional value than white, and as it contains the bran of the brown rice it has a higher fibre content. This also means that it has a noticeable texture, a bit grainy. It does have a slight nutty taste, which will sometimes come out in recipes depending on the other ingredients, and the texture will also contribute to a heavier product than recipes made with white rice flour. It is not often used completely on its own because of its heavier nature. Bulk buying is not recommended as it is better used when fresh, store in an airtight container.

Buckwheat Flour
Buckwheat flour is not, despite its name a form of wheat, buckwheat is actually related to rhubarb. The small seeds of the plant are ground to make flour. It has a strong nutty taste so is not generally used on its own in a recipe, as the taste of the finished product can be very overpowering, and a little bitter. Alternative names: beech wheat, kasha, saracen corn.

Chia Flour
Made from ground chia seeds. Highly nutritious, chia seeds have been labelled a “superfood” containing Omega 3, fibre, calcium and protein, all packed into tiny seeds. Also known as “nature’s rocketfuel” as many sportspeople and superathletes use it for enhanced energy levels during events. If chia flour isn’t readily available then put chia seeds in a processor and whizz up some. If used in baking, liquid levels and baking time may need to be increased slightly.

Chick Pea Flour (also known as Gram or Garbanzo Flour)
This is ground from chick peas and has a strong slightly nutty taste. It is not generally used on its own.

Cornflour
Cornflour is milled from corn into a fine, white powder, and is used for thickening recipes and sauces. It has a bland taste, and therefore is used in conjunction with other ingredients that will impart flavour to the recipe. It also works very well when mixed with other flours, for example when making fine batters for tempura. Some types of cornflour are milled from wheat but are labelled wheaten cornflour. Alternative name: cornstarch.

Cornmeal
Ground from corn. Heavier than cornflour, not generally interchangeable in recipes.

Hemp Flour
Made from ground hemp seeds it has a mild, nutty flavour. Needs to be refrigerated after opening.

Lupin Flour
Made from a legume in the same plant family as peanuts. High in protein and fibre, low in fat, but carries the same protein that causes allergic reactions/anaphylaxis to peanut or legumes, which makes it unsuitable for people with peanut or legume allergies e.g. soybeans.

Maize Flour
Ground from corn. Heavier than cornflour, not generally interchangeable in recipes.

Millet Flour
Comes from the grass family, and is used as a cereal in many African and Asian countries. It can be used to thicken soups and make flat breads and griddle cakes. Because it lacks any form of gluten it’s not suited to many types of baking.

Potato Flour
This flour should not be confused with potato starch flour. Potato flour has a strong potato flavour and is a heavy flour so a little goes a long way. Bulk buying is not recommended unless you are using it on a very regular basis for a variety of recipes as it does not have a very long shelf life.

Potato Starch Flour
This is a fine white flour made from potatoes, and has a light potato flavour which is undetectable when used in recipes. It’s one of the few alternative flours that keeps very well provided it is stored in an airtight jar, and somewhere cool and dark.

Quinoa Flour
Quinoa is related to the plant family of spinach and beets. It has been used for over 5,000 years as a cereal, and the Incas called it the mother seed. Quinoa provides a good source of vegetable protein and it is the seeds of the quinoa plant that are ground to make flour.

Sorghum Flour
Ground from sorghum grain, which is similar to millet. The flour is used to make porridge or flat unleavened breads. It is an important staple in Africa and India. This flour stores well under normal temperatures.

Soya Flour
Soya flour is a high protein flour with a nutty taste. It is not generally used on it’s own in recipes, but when combined with other flours is very successful as an alternative flour. Can be used to thicken recipes or added as a flavour enhancer. It needs to be carefully stored as it is a high fat flour and can go rancid if not stored properly. A cool, dark environment is recommended and can even be stored in the refrigerator.

Tapioca Flour
Tapioca flour is made from the root of the cassava plant, once ground it takes the form of a light, soft, fine white flour. Tapioca flour adds chewiness to baking and is a good thickener. Tapioca flour is an excellent addition to any wheat free kitchen. It’s a fairly resilient flour, so storing at room temperature is no problem.

Teff Flour
Teff comes from the grass family, and is a tiny cereal grain native to northern Africa. It is ground into flour and used to prepare injera, which is a spongy, slightly sour flat bread. It is now finding a niche in the health food market because it is very nutritious (see today’s quiche recipe!).

White Rice Flour
This flour is milled from polished white rice so it is very bland in taste, and not particularly nutritious. White rice flour is ideal for recipes that require a light texture. It can be used on its own for a variety of recipes and has a reasonable shelf life, as long as it is stored in an airtight container to avoid it absorbing moisture from the air.

Xanthan What?

Xanthan Gum

Okay, what the heck is Xanthan and why does it have it’s own gum? Despite what you make think, it does not come in spearmint or tootie fruity flavours. Here is the real scoop on Xanthan with a little top ten facts and figures about it:

  1. Xanthan Gum is made by fermenting corn sugar with a bacteria, Xanthomonas campestris. It’s the same bacteria that creates black spots on broccoli and cauliflower. The result is a slimy goo that is then dried up and ground into a fine white powder.
  2. Xanthan gum is an emulsifier. It helps ingredients blend more effectively and stay blended while waiting on a shelf. For example – water and oil mixtures, as well as bits of spice in a salad dressing.
  3. Xanthan gum is also used as a thickener. Add a bit to water and it becomes more viscous. Many fat free salad dressing maintain and oily viscosity by using thickeners such as xanthan gum. In pastry fillings, it prevents the water seeping out and soaking the dough, thus protecting the crispness of the crust.
  4. Xanthan gum is used in ice creams as well to prevent the formation of ice crystals and keep the product “smooth”.
  5. Xanthan gum has become popular in the gluten free circles. It helps give the dough a sticky consistency.
  6. Only a small amount of xanthan gum is necessary to achieve the desired result, usually less than 0.5% of the food product weight.
  7. When mixed with guar gum or locust bean gum, the viscosity is more than when either one is used alone, so less of each can be used.
  8. Nutritionally, xanthan gum is a carbohydrate with 7 grams of fibre per tablespoon. This may cause bloating in some people.
  9. Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of sources such as corn, wheat, or soy.  People with an allergy to one of the above, need to avoid foods with xanthan gum, or to ascertain the source.
  10. Xanthan Gum was “discovered” by a team of USDA researchers in the 1960′s. In 1968 it was approved for use as a food additive in the US and Europe.

So there you go, everything you did, and didn’t really care to know, about Xanthan Gum! Tune in tomorrow for other exciting common ingredients in Gluten-Free foods… Alternative Flours!

Celiac Friendly!

Gluten FreeSo this week’s theme is all about how we can go Gluten-Free… or at least cut down on some of the gluten in our diets. For those that are familiar with what gluten is and thought Celiac was a girl’s name, let me break it down for you:

Celiac disease is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, triticale and barley. In the case of wheat, gliadin has been isolated as the toxic fraction. It is the gluten in the flour that helps bread and other baked goods bind and prevents crumbling. This feature has made gluten widely used in the production of many processed and packaged foods.

At present there is no cure, but celiac disease is readily treated by following the gluten-free diet. The most common symptoms of Celiac Disease are anemia, chronic diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, cramps, bloating and irritability.

So what is a Celiac sufferer supposed to do? Well, they can start by converting their favourite gluten full recipes into gluten free ones! Here is a link to a great site that can help you convert the ingredients you need. Just click here to go to Carla’s Gluten Free Recipe Box. I hope this week will help those just starting out with the Gluten-Free lifestyle, and for those already on the journey, please feel free to send me your suggestions in the comment section.

 

Home Sweet Home

Toronto WinterHey folks! Well, I’m back from San Francisco… and as crazy as this seems, I missed being here in Toronto! Yes, the weather out in California was GORGEOUS! Crisp, blue skies… walking around without a coat on… let me tell you; that is a very luxurious feeling for a Canadian in January! But I did miss my friends and family (Yes Ira, that means you). The time away though did give me the opportunity to meet a whole slew of new foodies! I mean, the reason I went out there in the first place was to attend a food show, right? Well, let me tell you, foodies galore!

There were a couple of big trends that I will be blogging about in the up coming weeks (see next week’s Gluten Free recipes!), but “ethnic” foods are still a big crowd pleaser it seems. We’re finishing off Indian cuisine this week, but I’ll have to keep in mind some Japanese and Thai dishes for later on… Maybe a little Latin flair as well? Let me know what you think in the comments section. What ethnic foods would you like to see featured?