Saying so long to gluten

December 29, 2011

Here’s my maiden venture into gluten-free baking.

Not bad. Not bad at all. With some tweaking, it'll be pretty freaking good.

It’s banana nut bread, and it ain’t half bad. I didn’t get it sweet enough, chiefly because I forgot to put any sugar in, so the only sweet is from the bananas. It’s kinda flat because I baked it in a 10-x-4 loaf pan rather than a 9 x 3 1/2. But it’s pretty tasty.

As per usual, I mostly winged it. I had bananas that were going south; I had walnuts. I had bought Bob’s Red Mill flours and baking mixes of assorted descriptions. I initially was going to use baking mix, but in reading the package, I discovered one should use xanthan gum. I am not sure what an xanthan is or why that powdery stuff is a gum, but hey, I’m a rookie at this gluten-free business. So I looked at the other bags — one was pizza crust mix, and one was pancake mix. The pancake mix already had xanthan gum in it.

“H’mmm,” sez I. “I betcha if I used that pancake mix, added an egg and some milk and mashed bananas and walnuts, and mixed it quick bread batter consistency, it’d work.

It did. I can’t tell the crumb is much different from basic quick bread. I also added cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and next time, I’ll add some brown sugar — not much.

As best I can tell — as I was mixing by feel and not volume — here’s the recipe:

  • 4 about-to-go-South bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • about a cup and a half Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Stir the dry stuff together. Beat the egg and add the milk, then stir in the mashed bananas. Add that to the dry stuff and stir until the lumps are gone. Fold in the walnuts. Bake it in a greased pan for about 30 minutes at 375. Cool it on a rack.

With the addition of the sugar, which I did not use (you could use agave or honey or whatever, as well), this stuff would be primo.

Leftover Christmas turkey quiche. Good stuff.

We had it with a crustless turkey and Gruyere quiche, in which I put a healthy helping of the left-over smoked turkey from Christmas dinner. I’ve been making crustless quiche since way before the gluten-free thing, because, why not? The crust just gets soggy, anyway. I do want to try the brown rice crust I read about on Food52, though.

Perhaps this gluten-free stuff is not as bad as I thought.

In preparation for more experimentation over the New Year’s holiday, I went by the natural foods store today and bought rice flour, millet flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, and the aforementioned xanthan gum. We will try a legitimate loaf of yeast bread this weekend, we will.

Elsewhere in the Chez Brockwell kitchen tonight, I roasted a piece of pork shoulder in some barbecue rub, made some barbecue sauce to go with it, and cooked a new potato dish that I really think I’m going to like when I get it fine-tuned. It was from a New York Times recipe last weekend for Southwest Potatos, which was in their collection of breakfast recipes. The details:

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh jalapeño, or to taste
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 pounds new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans, well drained
  • 3/4 to 1 cup grated Cheddar or jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish.

1. Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add jalapeño and corn, and sprinkle with salt and pepper; let sit for a moment. When corn begins to brown, shake pan to distribute for even browning. Remove corn.

2. Add remaining oil to pan. When hot, add potatoes. Cook, undisturbed, until they begin to brown around edges and release from pan, about 10 minutes. Continue, at least 15 more minutes, turning potatoes to brown all sides without stirring too often. Add oil if needed to prevent sticking, and lower heat if needed to prevent scorching. When potatoes are tender and golden, add chili powder, corn and beans.

3. Turn on broiler. Place rack about 4 inches below. Transfer potatoes to a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese and run under broiler until cheese is melted and beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.

I left out the beans because I didn’t think I wanted them tonight; another night, you could add the beans and it’d be a complete meal, with some greenery. And I used a canned chipotle in adobo instead of jalapeno, because I don’t like jalapeno, which ain’t nothin’ but a chipotle that got picked before it got ripe. (Don’t believe me? Check it out here.) And I added a finely minced onion, because I thought it needed it.

It was good. I erred in the procedure, because rather than pan-frying the potatos in a fair amount of oil, I tended toward pan-frying them like I normally do, steaming them covered until they got soft and then browning. I’ll do it the way the directions said, because, well, it’s the New York Times and Amanda ‘n ’em, they know how recipes ought to be prepared. But those will be making a reappearance on my table in the future.

The pork shoulder was excellent. I used my standard spice rub, which is as follows:

  • 3 tablespoons each of kosher salt, black pepper, cumin, chili powder, and coriander
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon each of ground ginger, dry mustard, and celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons each ground thyme and dried oregano, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar

That makes about a cup and a half of rub, which can be stored a long, long time in the pantry in an airtight container. I used a small canning jar. Pat a heavy coating of rub onto all sides of the roast. Put it on a rack in a baking dish or roasting pan  and pop it, uncovered, into a 250-degree oven. Leave it there for a couple of hours, basting it occasionally with a sauce I’m going to  tell you about in a minute, then bump the heat up to 325. Keep basting it a time or two.

Mine was about a 3 1/2 pound piece of shoulder, and I roasted it for about four and a half hours. It pulled like a charm.

For the basting sauce — bring 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup oil, about 1/4 cup of the spice mix and about half a little can of tomato paste to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer. When you’re through cooking, add the rest of the can of tomato paste, and a little shot of molasses or honey to the sauce, bring it back to a boil, let it cool and whiz it in the blender to emulsify the oil, and it’s some of the best homemade barbecue sauce you ever ate. (You can add a little bourbon and it’s even better.)

It was a quite excellent dinner. And now we are in the midst of making macaroons, because Child B wanted macaroons, so that’s what we’re doing. And they smell heavenly. You and y’mama ‘n ’em drop on by if you’re in the ‘hood tonight and have one, because these babies are not likely to last until tomorrow.


One Response to “Saying so long to gluten”

  1. Len Cleavelin Says:

    I am not sure what an xanthan is or why that powdery stuff is a gum…

    “Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, derived from the bacterial coat of Xanthomonas campestris, used as a food additive and rheology modifier, commonly used as a food thickening agent (in salad dressings, for example) and a stabilizer (in cosmetic products, for example, to prevent ingredients from separating). It is produced by the fermentation of glucose, sucrose, or lactose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. After a fermentation period, the polysaccharide is precipitated from a growth medium with isopropyl alcohol, dried, and ground into a fine powder. Later, it is added to a liquid medium to form the gum.”

    And now you know! 😉 (You should know by now never to leave me an opening…) 🙂

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