Friday, October 29, 2010

Homemade Baking Mixes, Simplified

When I published my post "Homemade Baking Mixes," I worried how it contained so many possibilities that it might overwhelm many of you. In the past, I have experimented with an array of different flours and mixes. However, in the past year or so, I have really been in simplifying mode. I have enjoyed using the same mix for most my baking. That is the 1/3 part brown rice flour, 1/3 part oat flour, and 1/3 part bean and starch mixture- 1/3 of the bean and starch portion is bean and 2/3 of that is starch. For the starch I usually use 50% cornstarch and 50% tapioca starch. (Potato starch works great 50% with tapioca, if you have that on hand). For the bean flour, I usually use dry lentils, ground in the blender.

This is a very economical mix for me, especially when I buy oats in bulk. I know if you buy gluten-free certified oats the price goes up, but I'm guessing in comparison with other gluten-free certified products, you still will have a good priced mix.* This mix is a nutritious mix with good flavor and balance of texture. It has a sweet and nutty taste. The texture is moist, and not grainy. It feels great to know that when my girls are eating banana bars or muffins or bread and honey for a snack, the flour that I used is nutritious and wholesome. It's almost all whole grain.

For traditional-type cakes(ie yellow, white, or chocolate), I still consider a more light-weight gluten-free mix, such as rice and starch. But even if the mix is rice flour and starch, I use brown rice flour. I see that there are many mix recipes out there that have rice flour, starch, and garbanzo bean flour, and I think that is a good possibility for more traditional cakes, too. When I bake cakes or cupcakes such as banana, zucchini, or pumpkin, I use my all-purpose oat/rice/bean/starch mix. These more wholesome cakes have been more satisfying to me and my kids than the couple of traditional white cakes that I've baked for them. One of my favorite birthday cakes was my daughter's kabocha squash cupcakes I baked for her first birthday. They were deliciously flavorful and moist. We had coconut cooked frosting on top that really complemented the pumpkin flavor.

There are many good possibilities for baking without wheat. I do recommend checking out my other post "Homemade Baking Mixes" just so you're aware of many options. Perhaps you'd like to be in experimental mode with many different flours and mixes like I was for the first couple years. For me right now, however, it's great to have a simplified system of purchasing the same few ingredients, and with bulk prices, and to be eating whole grain products. I created this post to help simplify if any of you are overwhelmed. Perhaps my family again will venture to use alternate grains such as millet, quinoa, and teff at times in baking. I think it is a good idea to have a variety of healthy grains. But then those could be used in cooking rather than in baking mixes. Millet works great in any dish where rice is used, for example, you can have a millet stir fry instead of rice stir fry. Or easier, millet mixed with tomato sauce is something my girls like instead of spanish rice. Quinoa is also good for stir fry. I've made a chicken-basil bell pepper quinoa stir fry that I really like. (The girls didn't go for it, but I think they might go for quinoa- chicken-soy sauce stir fry).

*By grinding my own flour at home, I save significantly. I buy oats and rice in bulk. Oats and lentils grind in a blender to make flour. If you have a VitaMix or grain mill, you'll be able to grind rice into flour as well, or alternate kinds of beans, like white beans. I've even tried grinding white beans in a little cereal grinder, and though the flour was a little courser-textured, it was satifactory.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Simplifying "Really Good Yeast Bread"

Simplifying "Really Good Yeast Bread"

I've been thinking that the yummy yeast bread I previously posted might daunt a few of you because it has so many ingredients. Plus, I wondered if I can have a cheaper, simplified version that uses fewer specialty ingredients. I also wondered if my all-purpose wheat-free mix I keep in my freezer would work well to bake yeast bread. Here are two experiments and the results:

Experiment #1

Recipe as previously posted, except used lentil flour instead of sweet rice flour. Lentils are cheap and easy to come by and store, and grind easily in a blender(I grind a batch of lentils and store it in a quart size bag in the freezer). I substituted sugar for honey. I added a bit of molasses to complement the lentil flour. RESULTS: This bread had a really nice flavor. It was sweet and nutty, similar to a whole wheat flavor. The texture was light and airy. It was such a light loaf, that the bread was hard to slice. Perhaps I could have the batter a little thicker next time for a little more structure. It was really enjoyable bread.

Experiment #2

Used my all-purpose wheat free mix that I keep in the freezer. This is 1/3 part brown rice, 1/3 part oat, and 1/3 part starch(usually 50% tapioca starch and 50% cornstarch). Didn't add any other dry ingredients except for xanthan gum. Didn't add sweet rice flour or gelatin. Added a drop molasses. Used sugar instead of honey. RESULT: This turned out well. The loaf was about the texture of regular homemade part whole wheat yeast bread. Good flavor.


I baked three batches of bread this day. When cool, I sliced and then wrapped the bread in plastic wrap, in groups of 2-3 slices. Then I stuck the slices in freezer bags. Two things were wonderful to see from this baking day- one, my daughter could have bread very conveniently out of the freezer, and often! Before, she had to patiently wait until Mom made time to bake bread for her. Two, I realized it is really easy to bake bread for her, with a mix prepared ahead of time, stored in the freezer. When I run out of this mix, I can just mix extra proportions of each dry ingredient, excluding yeast, next time I bake bread. The extra proportions can go into a big bowl, be stirred together, and then stored in a gallon size bag. It's great to see that even more simple, my all-purpose mix that I keep on hand works well. Grab the dry mix out(let it sit to room temp if you remember ahead of time), add yeast, whisk together flaxseed meal and water in separate container and let sit while you heat water. Add most of water and then oil and drop of molasses, then remaining water if needed. Mix 3 1/2 min. Spoon into pans...let rise, then bake...I will bake bread more often for my daughter now!