Archive for June, 2009
Today I’m making dinner for my dad. It’s Father’s Day on our own time, and we chose an evening that we could linger over great wine and food, allowing the conversation to meander where it might. Nevermind the puppy biting at our ankles (and a little tid-bit about that here). Long, warm summer evenings only come once a year and every one of them must be celebrated!
So in planning my menu for this evening I came across a delicious-looking blueberry streusel cake in Gourmet Magazine‘s current issue. Talk about YUM! The blueberries anchor the cake at the bottom, all oozey and gooey, and the streusel topping is about two-thirds of the overall height of the cake. With the well-stocked GF pantry I keep, I knew I’d be able to whip up something delicious, AND totally gluten free. I also thought it would be a good way to show the process of converting a traditional recipe to a GF recipe.
Here’s where that left me:
Blueberry Streusel Cake
For Streusel Topping
[ here the recipe called for 1 cup all-purpose flour. the first four dry ingredients below are my substitutions.]
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 t xanthan gum
1 T plus 1 t packed dark brown sugar
1 T plus 1 t granulated sugar
3/4 t cinnamon
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
[again, you'll note the all-purpose flour substitution in the first four ingredients]
1/4 cup quinoa flour (or substitute GF oat flour if you can’t find quinoa)
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1 t xanthan gum
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 t GF vanilla extract
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 lb blueberries (about 3 1/4 cups)
Accompaniment: Sweetened whipped cream
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line bottom and sides of pan with foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides. Butter bottom and sides of pan, then dust with rice flour, knocking out excess.
Make streusel topping: Stir together flours, xanthan gum, sugars, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture forms large clumps.
Make cake: Whisk together flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together sour cream and vanilla in a small bowl. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg and beat until well blended. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with sour cream mixture and mixing until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top. Crumble half of topping evenly over batter. Bake 25 minutes, then remove from oven and crumble remaining topping evenly over cake. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes more. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Lift out cake using foil and cool completely on rack.
What have we learned? A well-chosen combination of GF flours will make any traditional recipe one worth keeping in your recipe books! My rule of thumb is to keep the porportions roughly one-third starch to two-thirds other flours. Now go! Play! Mix! And if you mess up the results are rarely so bad that you can’t enjoy them with a generous dollop of whipped cream on top.
The Gluten Free Lab consists of three women living fabulous lives. One has celiac disease. One is allergic to wheat. One eats wheat unabashedly but admittedly grows lethargic and bloated after eating a bowl of straight pasta. We totally get that not everybody can handle wheat. We also get that there are some subtle nuances of how our bodies are affected by wheat & thought that might be a good topic to share.
There are three basic divisions in the body’s intolerance of wheat & gluten. Most severe is celiac disease. This is a permanent intolerance of the gluten protein that, when gluten is ingested, causes the body to attack itself. Imagine this: You swallow a bite of pizza (here comes the gluten!). As the proteins in the pizza are broken down and the gluten is absorbed into the intestines, the gluten protein does damage to your intestinal wall. The damage caused by the gluten then allows it into your bloodstream where those same gluten proteins are attacked as foreign agents. This leads to further damage of the intestinal villi (the little hairs in your intestines that help you absorb nutrients) and, all of a sudden, the body is at a disadvantage and has a hard time absorbing necessary nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and calories. Before our very own HP was diagnosed with celiac disease, she was put on a strict diet of Saltine crackers and Cream of Wheat while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with her. Ironic that those very “mild” foods were the very thing causing her to starve to death. It was the overload of gluten proteins that prevented her body from absorbing any nutritional value from her food.
Not as severe as celiac disease is a wheat allergy. In a wheat allergy, the body has a reaction to the consumption of gluten, ranging from skin & mouth rashes, to inflamed lungs sometimes resulting in wheezing, inflamed lips, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Somehow, a wheat allergy affects a different branch of the immune system, NOT the same branch as celiac disease.
Last is the milder case – but no less serious! – of gluten intolerance, which has nothing to do with the immune system. Rather, the body has a difficult time digesting gluten proteins and causes symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain and/or diarrhea. These symptoms generally pass as the food does. Gluten intolerance is akin to lactose intolerance, or the body’s difficulty in processing dairy.
Why does it even matter from which of these afflictions you suffer? Wheat is wheat, and you’re not supposed to eat it, right? Well, sort of. It really matters most for those who have celiac disease, because those folks are in danger of other health problems since the ingestion of gluten may cause them to develop some nutritional deficiencies. Common health issues include thyroid disease, type I diabetes, joint disease, liver disease, anemia and osteoporosis. Yikes! But never fear. Eat well. Eat healthy. You’re not missing a single thing.
Don’t despair, newly diagnosed Celiacs and gluten-intolerants! Say “yes” to the following grains and have seconds, because they’re g-o-o-d!
QUINOA one of our favorite gluten-free grains; good substitute for cous-cous or bulgur (hint: make a fresh, herby tabbouleh using quinoa!).
RICE brown, wild, white, they’re all good for GFers!
CORN can be difficult to digest, but its various forms are entirely safe for GFers. Be careful when purchasing corn torillas, as some varieties are made with wheat.
DAL split peas or beans from India; use these as you would lentils (my fave: bangers and dal, yum!).
KASHA roasted buckwheat groats, with a toasty, nutty flavor. Keep an scrupulous eye out for Russian kasha, which may contain gluten-contaminated oats.
OATS are naturally gluten-free, but they are easily contaminated by other grains growing nearby or sharing machinery. Bob’s Red Mill makes steel cut and rolled gluten-free oats
MILLET may be familiar to you as a common birdseed filler, but it’s delicious for people-eating, too! Look for pearl millet, and consider adding it to soups & stews for added health benefits and extra crunch.