Monday, July 23, 2012

Flour Mixes from Gluten-Free Gourmand

Prepackaged desserts are convenient, yes, and they can be delicious, but sometimes the do-it-yourselfer within must do a little baking. The obstacle is in knowing which products to choose, such as gluten-free flour bases.

In the years past, finding a quality gluten-free flour blend was challenging. Some mixes would be imbalanced, or bitter from bean flour, or of poor quality in general. It was easy to wonder if producers of flour mixes had ever even tasted their own products before putting them on shelves.

Times have changed since then. People like you and me, the do-it-yourselfers, are making an effort to bring better products to the market. Who better to produce our allergy-friendly food than someone with the same dietary restrictions, whose needs and desires are similar to our own?

Fellow blogger and food pioneer, Gina Kelley, is that kind of producer. Gina is the author of Gluten-Free Gourmand, a blog that offers tips and recipes to gluten-free eaters. Gina has created a line of gluten-free flour mixes, such as gluten-free pastry flour, pancake mix, and all-purpose flour, and she sells them on her website. I got my hands on Gina's pastry flour and pancake mix, and I did a little experimenting.

My resulting pancakes. Don't they look mouthwatering!

I started with the pancake mix. I followed the instructions on the back to the letter, substituting butter and cow's milk with Earth Balance and So Delicious vanilla flavored coconut milk. The pancakes cooked up a little differently than they would have if they had been made with dairy, and the sorghum flavor was quite present in the resulting batter. Since cooking these pancakes dairy-free changes the outcome, I have decided that next time I will lower the amount of liquid and add another egg instead. I think the extra egg will soften the texture and make the resulting pancakes more golden and fluffy.

Savory pancakes with spinach, mushrooms, oregano, garlic, and olive oil, topped with two eggs over easy. 

The sorghum gave the pancakes the taste of maize, or corn flour, which added a savory flavor to the pancakes. They were spongy, yet slightly dense, but not heavy. Having them with maple syrup didn't do it for me. The combination felt imbalanced, as if sweet just didn't work with this batch of pancakes. So I had them in a savory fashion with mushrooms and spinach simmered in olive oil with garlic and oregano, and topped with eggs over easy. I made sure the olive oil was copious enough, and that it was flavored well with garlic and oregano, to behave like a savory syrup. The combination was out of this world delicious! It was so good that I lay in bed later that night and dreamed of the next morning's breakfast!

Teresa Estrada ices our GF carrot cake made with Gluten-Free Gourmand pastry flour.

For the pastry flour, I got together with Teresa Estrada, creator of Enlighten Your Palate and Enlightened Creams, to bake a carrot cake. First of all, I want to say that Teresa really knows what she is doing. I'm glad she helped me test this product, because I learned a lot from her about the performance of ingredients. And her recipe and resulting cake were absolutely amazing. (See recipe below.)

One of the first things we noticed about Gina's pastry flour was how finely ground it was. It was so fine, and so well cared for, that we didn't need to sift it into the bowl. We noticed the sorghum flavor in this product as well, which added a savory element and a slightly grainy texture to the dough when wet. And the batter was drier than other flour bases we had used in the past, and needed more moisture than we had anticipated.

The cake baked up nice and fluffy for being made with a gluten-free flour mix. And with the carrot shreds, pineapple chunks, and pecan pieces baked into the cake, there was plenty of texture to make this sweet and hearty cake a satisfying delight to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee at breakfast, or as an after dinner dessert. Teresa created a tofu-based frosting with lemon zest, which brightened the flavors of the cake, making a normally wintery dessert refreshingly light and summery.

The flowers we used here are not edible. We picked what we had and used them for decoration, so don't use this as a guide for selecting edible flowers. Edible flowers in season right now: nasturtium, calendula, borage, marigold.  

Gina, our Gluten-Free Gourmand, is passionate about creating quality products that satisfy her customers' palates and dietary needs. I wouldn't doubt that she will make adjustments to her flour mixes based on consumer feedback, like lowering the amount of sorghum, or replacing it with another gluten-free grain flour altogether. I hope she keeps the pastry flour as is for her tortilla recipe, because the sorghum is perfect in that context. Maybe she will create a separate package for her tortilla recipe, just like she has done with her pancakes.

Gina offers several mixes beyond pastry and pancake flour. She sells mixes for scones, pizza dough, waffles, and she even sells a complete baking kit! So if you're not satisfied with the gluten-free baking products made available through your local grocer, I suggest that you check out Gina's website. You may just find what you've been looking for.

A slice of carrot cake. Look at all that texture! So sweet and delicious! 

Carrot Cake Recipe:

3 1/2 cups GF flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3 1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

2 buttery sticks - softened
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla

2 cups shredded carrots
1 can shredded pineapple - drained
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (toasted for 7 minutes)

Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees
Butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans
Toast pecans and set aside

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.

Blend buttery sticks, eggs, sugar, and vanilla - beat well. Add carrots, pineapple, coconut, and pecans. Fold in dry ingredients until blended.

Folding in dry ingredients.

Pour into cake pans and bake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cake batter smoothed into pans just before baking.

Cool on a rack for at least 15 - 20 minutes before turning out cakes. Cool completely on racks before frosting. (Teresa lined the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, which made it easy to turn out the cakes from the pans, and then cool them on the racks by setting them--with parchment paper on their bottoms--directly on the racks too cool. If you plan to be gone for a while after you turn out the cakes, make sure to cover them with a towel.)

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:

Three 8 ounce tubs of vegan cream cheese (tofu based in this case, from Trader Joe's)
1 1/2 buttery sticks - softened
3 cups of sifted sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon zest

The frosting turned out a little lumpy, so Teresa said the tofu cream cheese should be room temp before making the frosting.