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Ask the ChefsOct/Nov 2012 Issue

In the Kitchen: Vinegar, Rice Allergy, Baking Powder and More!

Beth Hillson answers your questions about special-diet baking.

Beth Hillson

How can your recipe for Baby Back Ribs be gluten-free when it calls for vinegar? My doctor told me to not eat vinegar as it makes a difference for me.

Celiac experts state that most vinegars—apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, distilled white vinegar, wine and rice vinegars—are safe for those on a gluten-free diet; the distilling process removes the gluten. The exception is malt vinegar, which should be avoided. For more about these kinds of distinctions, consult Gluten-Free Diet, A Comprehensive Resource Guide, by Shelley Case. However, only you and your doctor can decide what’s best for you and if eating vinegar doesn’t promote your optimal health, stay away from it. As a substitute in recipes that call for vinegar, try using an equal amount of lemon juice.

I’m sensitive to both xanthan and guar gum. Is there anything I can use as a replacement?

Try an equal amount of agar powder or unflavored gelatin. You can also use potato flour (not potato starch), usually 1 tablespoon for each teaspoon of gum replaced.

I’ve been gluten free for several years and was recently diagnosed with an allergy to rice. As I’m relearning how to bake, I’m wondering what type of flours can be used to substitute for the different rice flours I find in almost every gluten-free recipe. I’m particularly interested in what to use in yeast breads and pie crusts.

There are many wonderful flours that can be used in place of rice in your recipes. A good all-purpose replacement would be sorghum flour or corn flour. For yeast bread or pie crust, choose flours that are higher in protein, such as amaranth, chickpea, millet, sorghum, teff or quinoa flours. Try this gluten-free, rice-free high-protein blend:

1½ cups sorghum flour or corn flour
1 cup other high-protein flour (or a combination)
¾ cup tapioca starch/flour
¼ cup cornstarch or potato starch (not potato flour)

I created a recipe for gluten-free strawberry cake that I love but the cake and cupcakes rise quickly and then fall in the middle. I use eggs and baking powder. Could it be I’m using too much baking powder? Should I use part baking soda?

It’s possible you’re using too much baking powder but without seeing the actual recipe, I’m more inclined to say you might be using too much liquid. Try cutting the liquid back by 1 to 2 tablespoons and see if you have better results. If the batter seems too stiff, add back some liquid a little at a time until the batter is smooth and shiny but not thin. I hope this helps.

I’m trying to stay away from all the nutrient-depleted processed “white” flours and use more whole grain flours. Before my daughter became gluten free, I used to grind my own wheat flour when I made bread. I’m not sure what to do for gluten-free baking.

It’s easy to use whole grains in place of “white” flour in gluten-free baking. Two of my favorites for replacing ubiquitous rice flour are sorghum flour and buckwheat flour; I then use amaranth, quinoa, millet or chickpea flour as another part of my blend. Take a look at the basic formulas for high-protein flour blend and high-fiber flour blend in the back of every issue (page 69) or try the blend above. Use your whole grain flours of choice, keeping to the flour/starch ratios given. For more about baking with alternative flours, go to LivingWithout.com/flourpower.

I’d like to attempt your Chewy Granola Bar recipe but I need to make it without refined sugar and dairy. I was going to replace the butter with coconut oil. Will that work? And what should I do about the brown sugar? Can I simply increase the amount of honey in the recipe?

You can certainly use coconut oil in place of the butter. If you want to use honey to replace the brown sugar, increase the honey by ½ cup and then add a couple extra tablespoons of a dry ingredient (like your flour blend) to compensate for the additional liquid. Eyeball the batter as you mix the ingredients to make sure the texture isn’t too wet. Other sweet options to replace brown sugar are dried date sugar, sucanat (dried sugar cane juice) or coconut palm sugar. Each is a minimally processed natural sugar that can be used as a one-for-one replacement for brown sugar.

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 author of Gluten-Free Makeovers (glutenfreemakeovers.com).

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