Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating


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Pie Crust Evolution (the annual flour blend)

Over the recent holidays, I perfected my pie crust.  I was so excited.  Every pie came out perfect- a good blend of flaky and yet it held together.  Yes, my gluten-free crust held together.  I know I’ve blogged about pie crust here before, but this year I learned to cut back on tapioca flour.  I’ve observed that tapioca flour carries some of the characteristics of, well, tapioca.  Think boba or bubble tea, and then eat something with a lot of tapioca flour, and you’ll see what I mean.  That said, tapioca flour is certainly useful, especially when you cook without egg or gluten, but in pie, or even bread and cakes, there is a limit to how chewy you want the crumb to be.  For a few years I was making my baked goods too chewy, and now I’m experimenting with finding a more subtle texture.

What’s the difference?  In 2014 I discovered coconut flour and discontinued using sorghum flour altogether.  Why? I’ve never liked the taste of sorghum flour, even though it added some binding and protein to the mix.  Also, the Enjoy Life company stopped using sorghum and switched to millet.  I emailed to ask why, since we can’t have millet, and they said it is hard to source sorghum that is guaranteed soy-free, which we also can’t have.  Around this time I found coconut flour, and while a very little goes a long way (seriously, never use more than about 1/4 cup at a go), it adds binding and fiber to the mix, and it absorbs liquid really well, which I think helps prevent chewiness.  It also seems to help the baked product keep its shape, even without egg.  Tree nut allergies are one set of allergies we don’t worry about here.

Through all of this I realized that every year I come up with a new flour blend for standard baked goods.  Now that there are so many pre-blended all purpose gluten free flours on the market, I keep wondering if I should just experiment with those and give up blending my own, but, for now, I like the control and the ability to keep learning about the properties of different flours.

The go-to flour blend of 2014 ends up being….

  • 2 parts sweet rice flour- sweet rice flour has glutinous properties (without the gluten!).  It makes for a nice texture, but helps the baked good stick together.  It isn’t sticky enough though for egg-free baking all by itself
  • 1 part tapioca flour- like I said, I didn’t get rid of it all together, I just try to keep it in check, never more than about 1/2 cup per recipe
  • 1/2 part coconut flour- up to 1/4 cup.  Never more, or the coconut taste takes over and it’s too heavy.  Coconut flour is very high in fiber.
  • 1/2 part potato starch- this seems to give baked good structure without making them too sticky. Like the sweet rice flour it brings some lift and lightness to the blend.

What will 2015 bring?  No idea.  But I’m interested in exploring modified tapioca starch.  I’ve heard good things about it for making bread.  I’m still trying out good bread recipes.  I’m just not happy yet with breads, but who knows, maybe 2015 is the year.  But enough about bread and flours, on to the pie.

This recipe evolved thanks in part to a Good Eats episode on pie crust, and the book Allergy-Free Deserts by Elizabeth Gordon.  The end result isn’t like either of their recipes, but I’m an academic and I like to cite my sources 😉

This is a double recipe and makes enough for about 2 pies, or enough to make at least a dozen pie jars.  Seriously, if you’ve never made pie jars before- do it.  Just remember to use the wide mouth jelly jars and you are in business.  That was our 2014 homemade gift to co-workers and teachers.  I made them all apple-quince-cranberry pie jars.  They were a big hit.

Flaky Gluten Free Pie Crust

  • 2 sticks butter, chilled
  • ½ cup ice water, aproximate, will depend on the day
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • 1 ½ cup sweet rice flour
  • ¼ cup Tapioca Flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon table salt

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flours, xanthan gum, and salt by pulsing 3 to 4 times. Add butter and pulse 8 to 10 times until texture looks coarse.

2. Dice the butter and measure out the water.  Place both in the refrigerator while you prepare the flour

3. Remove lid of food processor and drizzle the surface of mixture with water. Replace lid and pulse about 5 times. Add more water and pulse again repeating until mixture forms a ball when pulsed. Place mixture in large zip-top bag, squeeze together until it forms a ball, and then press into a rounded disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. Remove dough from refrigerator. Place a little less than half of the dough in a pie bag and sprinkle both sides with flour. Roll out with a rolling pin to a 10 to 11-inch circle, making the dough about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. When rolling, roll in one direction only and rotate the dough and 1/8th of a turn with each roll, until the dough is large enough to fit a pie plate. If the dough is too thick when it reaches the right diameter, put less dough in the bag for rolling.

5. Open the bag again and set a pie pan on top of dough. Turn everything upside down and peel plastic from bottom of dough. Trim edges if necessary, leaving an edge. If the dough cracks, just press it back together.

For blind baking: poke holes in dough and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of dough and fill with dry beans. Press beans into edges of dough and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove parchment and beans and continue baking until golden in color, approximately 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Let cool completely before filling.

For filling right away:  Fill raw dough with your favorite topping and bake per your recipe’s directions. Use the extra dough to roll out a top.

Remember- leftover dough stores well in the freezer until the next time you need pie crust.

 Sorry no photos this time either.  I never think to take pictures of the food anymore!  This recipe isn’t very hard.  Go make your own pie and then you’ll now what it looks like.  Feel free to post a picture below 🙂  Have a lovely rest of winter!


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A season for observation

Hello all who may still check this site…

it’s been a while.  A long while.  We’re still here.  Still trucking along gluten-free and edible landscaping.  It’s just been incredibly busy.  You’ll note the drop off in posts coincides with the arrival of our newest sous-chef, almost 2 years ago now.  Its amazing how much time growing kids takes, and I don’t mind.  The garden and yard will always be there, as will cooking adventures, but these babies are only babies once.

I don’t have any new recipes, although I’m sure if I thought hard enough about it, I could come up with some fun ones to share.  I mostly wanted to say hello to anyone who’s still checking in here, and also to put out into the ether my hopes and future directions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the logistics of eating well.  It’s all fine and good to tell people to eat more fruits and veggies, and whole grains, avoid sugars and the like, but in the real world that is really hard.  I’ve been helping to run a CSA stop for 3 years now, and one thing I notice are the people who subscribe have either money or time or both if they are lucky.  Those with money can afford to waste what they can’t process before it goes bad, those with time have the capacity to cook meals from fresh foods.  Those without time or money have a hard time eating fresh, minimally processed foods.  It takes time to clean and chop food, to cook the food, and to clean up the food.  A friend recently told me, “I’ve stopped eating fresh foods.  I can’t clean it up fast enough and I don’t want bugs in the house.”

These observations deflate me.  Many of us in the allergy community, or maybe just those of us in my house, have little choice but to cook fresh foods.  Even if I wanted pre-processed foods, there are few out there that are safe for my family.  What do those with allergies like ours do if they are time poor?  Our solution was for me to deliberately work less outside the home, and I have no regrets.  To have allergies and health mostly under control is completely worth it.  But I realize we are blessed to be able to pull this off.

When I get back to writing, I want to explore this more.  I want to start cataloguing the recipes and techniques that are fast and easy, even for the time poor.  I’m sure others have already done this to some extent, so I’m just looking to add my voice here.  If you’re still reading this and know of good resources, add them to the comments, maybe they’ll help someone.

In the mean time, here’s to the bounty of August.  I don’t even have pictures this time around, but despite the polar vortex, tomatoes and corn and beans are in full swing right now.  It has been a great summer for eating, even if the Ohio peaches were destroyed this winter.  (And they are sorely missed right now).  I”m still trying to make homemade ice cream when I can.  My latest was the sweet corn and blackberry ice cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at Home.  It was amazing.  I highly recommend that book.

Eat something fresh and local today, and if you can, help someone else to do the same.  Imagine if we all ate fresh food, how healthy we could all be.

Peace,

April


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Wild edibles from the blogosphere

This summer I have my hands full, which makes gardening and recipe creation difficult. Lately I’ve been fascinated with edible flowers. Check out this post on edible roses including the links at the end. I think rose ice cream is in my future.

http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/ukrainian-preserved-rose-petals-rozha-z-tsukrom.html

On a related note I made dairy-free beet ice cream last week and shared it at my City Fresh stop. It was a hit.
I will try to edit this post soon to include the recipe. I’m blogging from a 4 inch screen at the moment

I hope your garden and/or kitchen are bringing you joy this summer.


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Interesting article

I’ve been way off line lately.  I’m working a few hours a week and still growing these kids and the garden and working with a local CSA which is all enough to keep me busy. I don’t have a recipe this post although I’ve got some to share. I do have an article though. For those of you who have struggled with the mental health side of gluten intolerance, you’ll appreciate it.

Getting used to blogging via a mobile ap.  Thanks for your patience while I do so.

The gluten made her do it: How going gluten free saved my daughter’s mental health – Anchorage Press: Anchorage Press News

http://www.anchoragepress.com/news/the-gluten-made-her-do-it-how-going-gluten-free/article_39e2478e-4585-11e2-a80c-0019bb2963f4.html?TNNoMobile


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Thanksgiving Redux

It was a great Thanksgiving in our corner of the world.  We’ve been gluten-free for a little over 2 years and this is the first Thanksgiving that there was no cross contamination, no after dinner reactions.  Just a lovely visit with family and good food. A sample of our menu:

Pulled pork (who needs turkey?)- tastes great as is, with BBQ sauce, or with enchilada sauce

Baked sweet potato or mashed potato

Cranberries and jello

Soft Bread- I tried the Brown Bread from the Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Book by Elizabeth Gordon.  We made it with hard cider rather than beer, since we have a hops allergy here.  Wow is all I can say.  It was a great, soft bread.  Even if it tasted like apples from the cider.

Cooked Carrots

Pumpkin Pie.  We made a pie crust, only instead of butter, I used 6 tablespoons palm shortening and 2 tablespoons coconut oil.  Then we used this pumpkin custard using flax for the eggs and agave for the sugar.  Yum!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Chex Mix- how hard could it be?  It was really easy:

  • 4 ½ cups Rice Chex
  • 4 ½ cups Corn Chex
  • 1 cup gluten-free snack chips , Snikidinks work well or find a dairy-free snack chip
  • 1 cup gluten-free lentil crackers, pepper flavor is good, broken into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup peanuts, optional
  • 6 tablespoons butter or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
Preheat oven to 250.
2.Combine Chex, chips, crackers and peanuts in a 13×9 pan and set aside.
3.If using butter, melt and add the Worcestershire sauce and spices to the butter or oil. Stir until well combined.
4.Pour the seasoning mixture over the Chex mixture and toss until everything is coated.
5.Bake for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

There you have it.  Christmas baking here I come!

What was your Thanksgiving success story?  If you have a great recipe share it in the comments section.