Ask the ChefsFeb/Mar 2011 Issue

In the Kitchen: Whole Grains, Stevia, Gluten-Free Bread & More!

Beth Hillson answers your questions about special-diet baking.

<br>©Paul Taylor/Digital Vision/Age Fotostock


©Paul Taylor/Digital Vision/Age Fotostock

Many gluten-free recipes contain low-nutrient white starches, like tapioca starch/flour, potato starch and cornstarch. Shouldn’t we be using more nutritious whole grains?

Yes. White flours and starches are overused in gluten-free baking. Although a certain amount of corn, tapioca or potato starch is necessary to bind a baked product, it’s possible—and preferable—to replace some of the starch with high-protein flours, such as bean flours (chickpea or navy), quinoa, sorghum, amaranth and others. If any of these nutritious flours work for you, replace all but about 20 percent of the starch with one or more of these when preparing your gluten-free flour blend. For more about using whole grains to add nutrients and fiber to your gluten-free baked goods, go to LivingWithout.com/greatgrains.

Can I use stevia to replace granulated sugar, confectioners’ sugar or brown sugar in my recipes for cakes, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, muffins, sweet breads and cupcakes?

You should be able to replace those sugars with a stevia product that includes a bulking agent. For example, Truvia, which contains erythritol, works well as a sugar substitute in baking. Truvia’s website recommends replacing half the sugar in your recipe with Truvia to start (meaning use half sugar and half Truvia) to see how you like the taste and performance. I would echo that.  

I have trouble making gluten-free French bread. It’s always overdone on the outside and partially raw inside. Help!

First, check your oven temperature to be certain it’s on target. If it is, reduce the recipe’s temperature by 25 degrees and extend the baking time until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the bread reaches 200 degrees. If the loaf browns too quickly, cover it loosely with aluminum foil until it finishes baking. 

Another suggestion is to cut back on the liquids in your recipe by 2 tablespoons. If the dough is crumbly, add back 1 teaspoon at a time until the dough looks shiny and smooth. Then bake as instructed in the recipe.

I went to a restaurant with my sister who has celiac disease. She ordered from the gluten-free menu but got sick. When we informed our server, he said that my sister’s dish was gluten free but that it had been prepared in the same area as other items. Is there any law regulating the use of "gluten free" on menus?

Unfortunately, no. However, the Gluten Intolerance Group of North American (GIG) offers the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP), a voluntary program that trains and certifies dining establishments as gluten free.

We always advocate speaking up. Restaurants like this need to hear a strong, unified message from the special-diet community. Let the manager and owner know exactly what happened and why your sister won’t be dining there again unless changes are made. (Nothing speaks louder than the loss of business!) Then give them a printout of GFRAP’s brochure (available at glutenfreerestaurants.org) and ask them to participate in this program.

My gluten-intolerant husband has a hard time digesting tapioca starch and most gluten-free flours except rice flour, cornstarch and potato starch. He’s a New Yorker and is dying for some bagels. Any ideas?

Bagels are a treat he need not go without. Try Rebecca Reilly’s bagel recipe (visit LivingWithout.com/bagels). Instead of the flour blend called for in Rebecca’s recipe, use our gluten-free All-Purpose Four Blend on page 71—but replace the tapioca starch with either cornstarch or potato starch.

I have an allergy to eggs. Can I use either egg replacer or flax gel in place of the eggs in your recipe for Easy Dinner Rolls?

You’ll have better luck using flax gel rather than egg replacer in this particular recipe, which is available at LivingWithout.com/dinnerrolls. To make flax gel, blend 1 tablespoon flax meal with 3 tablespoons hot water per egg replaced; let stand for a few minutes until thickened. You can also use either salba seeds or chia seeds in this formula; they have baking properties similar to flax meal. Then add an additional teaspoon of baking powder to the dry ingredients.

Food editor Beth Hillson is a chef and cooking instructor. She is founder of Gluten-Free Pantry, one of the first gluten-free companies in the United States, and creator of Gluten-Free Pantry’s gourmet baking mixes.
Send your questions to Ask the Chef, Living Without magazine, 800 Connecticut Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854-1631 or editor@LivingWithout.com. Include your full name, address and daytime phone number. Letters become the property of Belvoir Media Group, LLC and may be published in other media. Submissions chosen for publication may be edited for clarity and length.

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