From the Kitchen – my first venture into gluten free baking

I made my first venture into gluten-free baking this weekend. I find the whole gluten-free craze to be largely nonsense, especially when people would ask us in the meat department if a steak was “gluten-free”.  However, a friend has muscular dystrophy and prefers to avoid gluten. I had been curious on how the flours worked so this gave me a chance to do some experimenting.

I made my meat pies with a gluten free flour mix from King Arthur and modified their recipe (which also calls for xanthan gum and their clear gel product) for their pie crust by leaving out 1 tablespoon of sugar and adding a cup of shredded cheddar cheese to it. It worked better than I thought it would, with the only minor problem being a little cracking of the dough as I folded it over the meat filling. I may add a bit of water next time I make these to compensate for that. I did use my tortilla press on the flour and it worked just as well as it did with the regular dough.

I baked the pies for about 25 minutes in a 400 degree oven, 10 minutes uncovered and 15 minutes with a sheet of aluminum foil over them to prevent over browning. Some of the gravy did leak out of them but they were very good, with a nice flake to the crust. I had also made some pies with the regular crust I use and everyone said that the gluten free ones were just about as good.

I also made a gluten free version of our chocolate chip toffee cookies,  and used a recipe from King Arthur. These did have a different texture, more like a shortbread, but they tasted the same. As usual, I substituted toffee chips for half of the chocolate chips.   The gluten free cookies do not flatten and spread out like the regular type, so I recommend flattening the balls of cookie dough so they cook faster and more evenly.

I still prefer the regular flour versions but if you can’t eat gluten, or don’t want to, these are a very good substitute.

Eat well!

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From the kitchen – random recipes from a week cooking

I’ve spent the last week at home, using up some vacation days before the end of the year.  It was planned to be a “staycation”, and Superstorm Sandy certainly guaranteed that.  I planned on cooking a lot and I certainly have.  Here’s what I’ve been up to…..

Beef Stew

Beef stew is one of the classic comfort foods for me and my husband.  It probably doesn’t  hurt that the sword and sorcery books we read often have the adventurers eating stew in some inn or tavern just before going off to save the world.  The ingredients are pretty standard; the process, not so much.

Take a 3-5 pound chuck roast.  Remove fat.  Cut meat into approximately 1″ cubes.  While cutting meat up, fry removed fat in large saucepan.  Add a cup of chopped onions and brown them almost burning them with the fat.  Add cubed beef and brown.  Remove rendered gristly bits and throw away; keep the fat and tasty brown bits.  Deglaze pan with one beer, preferably a dark beer.  Add onion soup mix with enough water to cover beef and cover pan, cook on low heat until beef is tender, about an hour.

While cooking beef, peel 4 medium potatoes, 6 medium carrots and two medium onions.  Chop into approximately 1″ chunks.  Place in stewpot with enough water to cover by an inch.  Add herbs and spices to taste, we usually use tarragon, sage, thyme, black pepper and garlic.  Cook until just tender.

Add beef to cooked vegetables. Cook together for 1/2 hour.  We find this keeps the beef the dominant flavor in the stew.  Continue reading “From the kitchen – random recipes from a week cooking”