Ask the ChefsOct/Nov 2011 Issue

In the Kitchen: Gluten-Free Cake Mix, Sulfite Allergy, and More!

Is it possible to substitute a gluten-free cake mix (it’s 15 ounces) in a recipe that calls for a “regular” cake mix that’s 18.25 ounces? I’d love to be able to convert some of the recipes I enjoyed before going gluten free.

You raise an excellent question. A recipe’s success is based on the ratio of wet to dry ingredients. The two cake mixes (15 ounces and 18.25 ounces) have different values in that equation so substituting one for the other isn’t likely to produce satisfactory results. To correct the difference in amounts, you can do one of the following:

(1) Add an additional 3.25 ounces of this or any other gluten-free cake mix to equal 18.25 ounces. Most gluten-free cake mixes contain a similar combination of flour blend, sugar and baking powder so you should be able to use them interchangeably, provided they’re the same flavor variety.

(2) Use the 15-ounce gluten-free cake mix but reduce the liquids in your recipe by 18 to 20 percent. This option can be tricky in terms of getting the exact measurements and you may need to adjust your entire recipe accordingly.

(3) Use an 18.25-ounce gluten-free cake mix. The outcome should be very similar to your original recipe.

I recently spotted your recipe using the bottom of muffin tins to make small pie shells—but now I can’t find it. Can you help me?

or Black Bean Chipotle Chili in Masa Cups instructs readers how to shape gluten-free dough into mini-masa cups to make tasty appetizers. You can find this recipe at LivingWithout.com/masacups.

This technique is an easy way to create mini-shells for bite-size pies, quiches and tarts. Lightly grease the cups of a mini muffin tin (usually 12 or 24 cups per tin). Then press a small ball of gluten-free piecrust dough into the bottom and up the sides of each cup. Add your favorite sweet or savory filling and bake, usually at 350°F, until filling is cooked through. You can also prebake these little cups. Once cooled, fill them with gluten-free, dairy-free pudding; chill and enjoy.

I’ve made your gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free French bread and am totally impressed. But how do I add seeds to the outside without using an egg wash? I tried oil once but it didn’t work.

We’re delighted you’re enjoying our recipe for allergy-friendly French bread, available at LivingWithout.com. To get seeds to stick to the outside of your loaf, simply brush the surface of the dough with a light coating of milk (whatever type you can tolerate) and sprinkle seeds over the surface. Place loaf in the preheated oven and bake as instructed. The seeds should adhere. 

I’ve had almost no success with making gluten-free bread or finding a commercial brand I like. I was thinking about trying a bread machine and wondered if there’s any reason to purchase a specific brand for baking gluten free. I’d rather not use a mix.

Gluten-free bread dough tends to be much denser than conventional dough partially because of the guar gum or xanthan gum that substitutes for the gluten in wheat flour. These gums replace gluten’s “glue-like” characteristics, which help the bread rise, hold together and have a pleasant mouthfeel or texture. For that reason, select a bread machine with a very powerful motor and two paddles. I prefer a horizontal loaf to a vertical one. Look for a machine with a programmable cycle, so that just a knead-and-rise cycle can be selected, or one that features a gluten-free cycle. The three brands that contain some or all of these features are Breadman, Cuisinart and Zojirushi. For my money, any of these are a good choice for gluten-free breadmaking. Since you’re not keen on using commercial bread mixes, try the delicious bread recipes at LivingWithout.com.

I have celiac disease and my son has a very bad sulfite allergy. I see you have lots of gluten-free recipes but what about sulfite free?

In general, sulfites aren’t found in the recipes we publish. Dried fruit can contain sulfites, as can wines and deli meats. For these items, select sulfite-free brands, such as Applegate Farms and Wellshire Farms deli foods, and look for organic wines with no added sulfites.

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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