no gluten

how to make a gluten-free whole-grain flour mix

Last week, I was happily startled to find this lovely piece about gluten-free muffins in The New York Times. Gluten-free in The New York Times! Hot diggety!

(This is Lucy’s favorite phrase of the moment. Hot diggety!)

And then, in the middle of the piece, I read this: “So I put together my own gluten-free flour mix, one without bean flour, and turned to America’s favorite Gluten-Free Girl, Shauna James Ahem for guidance.”

Gulp. Really? Wait. Hot diggety!

I’m honored. Martha Rose Shulman, the author of the article and the creator of all the fine muffin recipes that accompany it, is one of my favorite recipe writers. Unfailingly interested in food, she creates good-for-you recipes that taste fantastic. Just a few weeks ago, Danny and I sipped soup for days that was made with her vegetarian pho stock. If you don’t know her work already, we’d like to suggest that you dive in.

So once again, hot diggety! The fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of people across this country made muffins based on our whole-grain mix this week made us a little breathless. And very grateful.

Then, Danny and I realized. We’ve never explained our whole-grain flour mix succinctly. So here you go.

You might have seen the video we did this summer about how to make a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix. If you haven’t seen it, take a look. It’s the same process you’ll use to make a whole-grain mix. We wrote about this a couple of years ago, as part of a larger post about whole grains and why we don’t use the gums in baking anymore. (Pssst. Baked goods made with psyllium or chia or flax or my favorite — a combination of the three — have always turned out better for us than baked goods made with xanthan gum.)

Want to make a gluten-free whole grain flour mix in your kitchen? Here’s how.

We generally use this ratio: 70% whole-grain flours to 30% starches or white flours.

Let’s make it simple. Let’s make up 1000 grams of whole-grain flour mix.

Choose 700 grams of any combination of the following flours:

Amaranth
Brown Rice
Buckwheat
Corn
Millet
Oat
Quinoa
Roasted Soy
Sorghum
Sweet Brown Rice
Teff

You might notice that I have not put in garbanzo (I don’t like it) or coconut (I don’t like the way it tastes or the way it sucks all the moisture out of a baked good). You might like those. Substitute if you want.

This means that you can make your own blend. If you are allergic to corn, and you know you can’t eat the certified gluten-free oats, blend up 100 grams each of brown rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum, sweet brown rice, and teff. Or make it easy on yourself: 350 grams of buckwheat and 350 grams of millet. (The flavor you find by blending all these different tastes is fascinating. It’s amazing how boring regular AP flour seems after you use this.) Find your own favorite combination.

And then throw in 300 grams of any combination of the following:

Arrowroot
Cornstarch
Potato Starch
Tapioca Flour
White Rice Flour

We like using 150 grams potato starch and sweet rice, at the moment.

Combine the 700 grams of whole-grain flours with the 300 grams of starches in a big container. Shake it all up. Use a whisk to combine them until the flour mix is one color. You have a whole-grain flour mix.

The question always arises: do we really need the starches? That’s up to you. The starches do help lighten the flour mix, so you get more rise and lift in baked goods made with some starches than without. However, I have been playing with an all whole-grain mix — buckwheat, millet, and teff — and it works well with nearly every baked good I love to make. (Not pie. Whole-grain pie crust is just sad.) In fact, before sitting down to write, I ate a warm slice of sweet potato-oatmeal bread, made with coconut sugar and an all whole-grain flour mix. It was utterly delicious.

So it’s up to you. If you’re brand new to gluten-free and used to eating a lot of white bread, you might want to try the gluten-free AP flour mix, then graduate to the whole-grain mix, and then make a mix of whole-grain flours that are entirely whole-grain. After all, just eating gluten-free isn’t enough to be healthy. We all have to find our own way.

Me? I’m finding my way to another one of these cornmeal-millet muffins with sharp cheddar cheese. When we gave one to Lucy today after her swimming session, want to know what she said?

Hot diggety!

CORNMEAL-MILLET MUFFINS WITH CHEDDAR CHEESE, adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe

70 grams millet flour
70 grams cornmeal (make sure it’s gluten-free)
140 grams whole-grain gluten-free flour mix
10 grams (2 teaspoons) psyllium husks (you can also use ground chia seeds or ground flaxseeds, or any combination)
5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking powder
3 grams (about 1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
3 grams (about 1/2 teaspoon) kosher salt
5 grams (1 teaspoon) chili powder
3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) smoked paprika
2 large eggs, at room temperature
40 grams (2 tablespoons) Dijon mustard
300 grams (1 1/4 cups) buttermilk
75 grams extra-virgin olive oil
115 grams (1 cup, packed) grated cheddar cheese

Preparing to bake. Heat the oven to 425°. Grease a standard-size muffin tin.

Combining the dry ingredients. Whisk together the millet flour, cornmeal, whole-grain flour mix, psyllium husks, baking powder, baking soda, salt, chili powder, and smoked paprika in a bowl. When the mixture is one color, set aside the bowl.

Combining the wet ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, Dijon mustard, buttermilk, and olive oil.

Finishing the batter. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the liquids. With a rubber spatula, stir everything until it is almost combined. Add the grated cheese and stir together until entirely combined. Make sure there is no visible flour remaining.

Using a large ice cream scoop, fill each of the muffin cups to 3/4 full.

Baking the muffins. Bake the muffins at 425° for 10 minutes. Turn down the heat to 375° and bake until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean, about another 10 to 15 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool in the tin for 15 minutes then remove them to a cooling rack.

Makes 12 muffins.

gluten-free strawberry shortcake

I’m in the middle of strawberry swooning season. It happens every year. We wait all year long, patiently, and then not so patiently, for real strawberries to appear at the farmstands here. From the fall until spring, we can wait. We freeze the red berries so we have some more smoothies and the occasionally decadent fruit pie in January. There are chilly lovely touches to the winter foods too. However, by April, we can’t wait.

And every year, we fall for it again. Maybe this will be the time that the plastic clamshells stuffed with perfectly shaped huge berries will be right this time. And so we buy one, take it home, tug off the green top, and bite down. Then, we come up with grimaces. We fell for it again. Inside those bright red spheres? White, white, pale and deathly white. Those aren’t real strawberries.

So, when they finally do arrive — smaller than the grocery store strawberries, a bit smushed on one side, and so sweet they taste as though they have been dipped in honey — we go wild. We have a strawberry riot. We let the strawberries sit in some sugar and lemon juice to make jam, then set aside some of that syrupy goodness for homemade strawberry sodas. We make strawberry coulis with black pepper and balsamic. We put whole berries into cold yogurt and make Lu popsicles for the summer evenings. We freeze them. We make pies. And we eat them, by the handful, sighing into the sweetness and that dark dark red inside.

Oh my, it’s strawberry season.

A couple of weekends ago, I had the joy of seeing a passel of kids I adore gathered around our table, hands reaching, bare chests covered in red splotches, giggling, and cutting up strawberries. Some of my best friends here on the island came over to bake bread and talk about our lives. The kids ran around our yard, happily shrieking as they climbed trees or turned sticks into swords. At one point, all the adults were called out to “see the play! We made a play!” We stood on the deck, these women and I, watching our children gather under the cherry tree, holding hands, and babbling something incomprehensible about princesses and rescuing turtles and a pirate with a bandana mistakenly covering his eyes. The kids dispersed to go down the slide and have pretend tea parties and the women and I returned to the kitchen.

Someone asked if I had a strawberry shortcake recipe I like. Having just found one I love, I said, “Let’s make some.” As I pulled more flours out of the cupboard, some of the older kids wandered into the house. “Are you baking? Can we watch?”

We pulled chairs up to the counter for the little kids, who followed the big kids in adoration. As I cut up butter into small cubes and explained why we were mixing flours and butter, I looked to my right to see 8 children under 8, craning their necks, jostling for position on chairs, and asking to feel the dough. In that moment, all was alive in the world.

“Okay, we need some strawberries cut up,” I said. The kids jumped down from their chairs, the older ones shouting, “I know how to use a real knife!” We mamas set up cutting boards and grabbed butter knives and plopped pints of strawberries onto the table. The kids chattered happily, some of them eating more than cutting, juice running down their chins. The sun was shining through the windows from the west, the windows were thrown open, everyone felt released into the warmth of summer that took a long time coming this year.

A few moments later, one of these wonderful women said to me, “This is why I moved to this island. This: kids playing, women baking, wonderful talking, someone is nursing, we’re sharing our lives.”

I felt as much amazement as she did.

 

After we pulled the shortcakes out of the oven, spread a bit of melted butter over the tops, and let them cool just enough to keep them together, we pulled the plates down from the cupboard. We only had five shortcakes — and one had been nibbled to bits by all the tasting — so I plopped shortcakes on plates, topped them with strawberries we had let sit with sugar and lemon juice, then grabbed forks for every kid.

And for a few moments, there was silence. We reached toward those red berries and flaky crumby biscuits and sighed.

Then the room exploded in happy talking, the joy of berries finally in season, the gathering around the table. All the women in the room looked at each other and smiled.

We were here. And so were the strawberries.

GLUTEN-FREE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE, adapted from Cristina Ferrare’s recipe in Big Bowl of Love

After months of working on shortcakes, with recipes from some of my favorite cookbooks turning out fine but not flaky, I was thrilled to find this one emerging from our oven. It’s a sweet, slightly crumby biscuit, with enough gravitas to hold a tumble of sugared strawberries without falling apart, yet light enough to disappear on the teeth.

And we owe this one to Cristina Ferrare.

A few months ago, I had the joy of sharing breakfast with Cristina when she was here in Seattle for her cookbook tour. I’d been a fan for awhile after watching her on the Oprah show and seeing her recipes appear on the big O’s magazine and website. I love her warm and generous nature, which clearly infuse her food. For Cristina, food is the reason for gatherings, for family, for passed plates and stories told, for hands reaching and that feeling of being at home at the table. How could I not like her?

She turned out to be even more gracious and real in person than I had expected. Her daughter (the hilarious Alex Thomopolous) was diagnosed with celiac recently. Alex began reading this site, then started her own gluten-free cooking and baking blog as she also began culinary school. Watch for this one and her website, Dishn’ It Out with Alex. She knows what she’s doing. And so, Cristina came to breakfast open and excited to meet me. (That kills me.) We could not stop talking and laughing and I felt as though I had known her for years. That’s what happens when you sit at the table with someone open to life.

Cristina’s cookbook, Big Bowl of Love, has been in our kitchen ever since. The gorgeous photographs were taken by our friends Todd and Diane, who shot our cookbook trailer (Watch these two. They’re taking over the world.), so we were a little biased going in. But what Danny and I both love about this book is how simple, homey, and hugely accessible the recipes all are. This is food meant to be put on the table on big plates so you can say to your family, “Dig in, everyone.” We’ve been inspired by it.

The keys to these shortcakes? Cold butter. Working deftly and not over-handling the dough. Having a biscuit cutter and cutting straight down instead of twisting into the dough. And mostly, breathing into these and remembering why you are making them. Feed your family. It’s strawberry shortcake.

315 grams Aherns’ AP flour mix

1 teaspoon psyllium husk powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoons baking powder

3 tablespoons organic cane sugar

115 grams (1 US stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/3 cup whole yogurt

2/3 cup cold buttermilk (if you can’t do buttermilk, check this post)

flour for dusting

2 tablespoons melted butter

 

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a large cast-iron pan with butter. (If you don’t have a cast iron pan, may we suggest you get one? In the meantime, you can try the largest skillet you have.)

Combining the dry ingredients. Combine the flour, psyllium powder (if using), salt, baking powder, and sugar. I like to put them in the food processor and let it run for a few minutes to aerate the flours. You can also use a whisk and bowl.

Working the butter into the flour. Put the butter cubes into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse the ingredients together, about 7 times, until the butter chunks are about the size of lima beans.

(You can also work the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or your fingers, if you prefer.)

Finishing the dough. Move the flour mixture to a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the ingredients. Mix together the yogurt and 1/3 cup of the buttermilk. Stir the liquids with a rubber spatula, moving in gentle circular motions, incorporating the flour as you go. The final dough should just hold together, with all the ingredients moist. If there is a bit of flour left on the sides of the bowl, add a dribble more of the buttermilk, then combine, then a dribble more if necessary. If the dough grows too wet, don’t fret about it. Just add a bit more flour. You’re looking for a shaggy dough, not a smooth round.

Sprinkle a little flour on a clean board. Turn out the dough on the board and sprinkle with just a touch more flour. Fold the dough in half, bringing the back part of the dough toward you. Pat the dough into an even round. fold the dough in half again and pat. this should make the dough fairly even. If not, you can fold the dough a third time. Pat out the dough to a 1-inch thickness.

Cutting the shortcakes. Dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter into a bit of flour and push it straight down into the dough, starting from the outside edges. Do not twist the biscuit cutter. Cut out the remaining biscuits. Working quickly, pat any remaining scraps into another 1-inch thick dough and cut the last biscuit.

Move the biscuits to the prepared cast-iron pan, nudging them up against each other. If you nestle the shortcakes alongside each other, edges touching, you will have taller shortcakes after baking. (They have nowhere to go but up!)

Baking the shortcakes. Slide the skillet into the oven and bake the shortcakes for 6 minutes. Rotate the skillet 180 degrees and continue baking until the shortcakes are firm and light golden brown, about another 6 to 8 minutes. remove the skillet from the oven and brush the tops of the shortcakes with the melted butter. let them rest for 10 minutes, then remove them from the pan gently. Split open the shortcakes and serve with strawberries.

Feeds 6.

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