Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hiding pureed peaches in pancakes.

Yesterday and this morning I made pancakes using Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free Pancake Mix, Turtle Mountain Vanilla Coconut Milk, olive oil, and Enjoy Life's dairy-free chocolate chips.  I added a secret ingredient that, thankfully, went unnoticed by my five year old: peaches.  We keep frozen sliced peaches in the freezer just for making pancakes.  I put a few slices in a bowl with hot water for a few minutes to thaw them, then drain the water and add the peaches to the blender with the coconut milk and blend on the "liquefy" setting.  Sometimes I add some sugar or sugar syrup to the mix before I puree.  Peaches are a great fruit to hide in baked goods because they don't change the color of the food.  I have experimented with different fruit, hidden in cupcakes, muffins, and pancakes.  Strawberries turn the dough brown, which is good if you're going for a whole-wheat color.  Blueberries tend to turn the dough greenish blue. Bananas are great in quick breads but they add a strong flavor and can soften the texture of the mix.  Peaches are ideal.  They don't seem to effect the texture of pancakes, they maintain that pale beige color, and they add a hint of sweetness.  Once pureed, their texture converts to a milky liquid that goes undetected by even the most texture-sensitive mouth.  Sure, they add a slight peach flavor, but that can be hidden with generous amounts of chocolate chips.

Peaches are my son's only source of orange fruit.  The only raw plants he will touch are apples (and he'll only eat a few bites of those when promised cookies afterwards), bananas (which make him hyper, probably from the phenols), and sometimes he'll eat a few bites of carrot.  That's it.  But this weekend he ate peaches twice, getting all of their wonderful antioxidants and vitamin C.

I have considered pureeing spinach and hiding that in foods, but I am concerned about e-coli. I read about a toddler who died from the e-coli-contaminated spinach that was hidden in his smoothie by his, very clever and caring, mother who was clearly trying to help him be healthy.  The tragedy of that story has stayed in my memory, even after a few years.  A fan of spinach salad for years, I now try to drink pure cranberry juice with it to avoid food poisoning.  They say that cranberry juice is so acidic that it prevents e-coli from sticking to the interior of the bladder, so I figure it might help flush e-coli from the intestines too.  I have tried cooking with cranberry juice, but it never turns out well.

So for right now, I'm sticking to peaches for pancakes.  I added frozen blueberries to the pancakes I made for my husband and me, but I wouldn't dare put those in Jack's pancakes.  I made the chocolate chip pancakes first, and some of the chocolate melted onto the spatula and ended up in one of my blueberry pancakes.  I was surprised and delighted by the taste.

Gluten-free pancake batter shares some qualities with its wheat-based doppleganger.  Two tips for tasty pancakes made with any flour:

1) Barely mix it.  Over-mixing with ruin the texture of the pancakes.  Add your liquid to your flour mix and slightly whisk it. I use a large silicone whisk and I lightly toss the "milk" with the flour. The dough should be lumpy.

2) Let the batter sit before you put it on the griddle.  The box says it needs to sit for five minutes.  I get better results if I let it sit for closer to ten minutes.  The lumps tend to dissipate into the batter and the baking powder causes the batter to thicken. After ten minutes I toss the batter lightly with my whisk, then I spoon in the blueberries or chocolate chips.  Then spoon or pour onto a hot greased pan.  I use Olive Oil Pam on a nonstick pan that's preheated over medium heat.

Note: using peaches in pancakes will prevent the pancakes from bubbling.  So just let them cook for two minutes, then turn one (spraying the pan again before putting the pancake back down on the pan).  Once you cook a few batches, you'll just know when the pancakes are ready to be turned.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coconut Milk Ice Cream ROCKS!

If you are milk-free and you haven't tried coconut milk ice cream yet, you are truly missing out. This stuff is delicious! I remember the first time I tried Rice Dream ice cream. I grimaced, felt sorry for everyone allergic to milk, and tossed the carton. Soy milk ice cream isn't terrible, but it's really not that great. My son can't eat soy anyway, so it's a moot point for us.

Coconut milk to the rescue. This ice cream, and the chocolate-covered ice cream pops made by the same company, is really good. Giving only the slightest twinge of coconut, this product is closer to milk-based ice cream than any other product I've tried. It is sweet, rich, creamy, and does not have a weird aftertaste. It genuinely tastes good. Most important: our kids can finally eat ice cream like their friends do.

All of the coconut milk ice creams from Turtle Mountain are GF/CF! Even the Cookie Dough flavor is gluten free! Hurray!

One day I hope to make this into an ice cream cake with my bundt pan. It might make a fun birthday cake.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rolls Rise Better on a Cookie Sheet or Pizza Stone

I used my finger to show the roll height.
A few months ago I made a large batch of rolls for a holiday event with my husband's family. Normally I bake in large glass lasagna pans. On that day I didn't have enough room in the lasagna pan so I had to bake some of the rolls in a pie dish. The pie dish has lower sides than the lasagna pan. The rolls that came from the pie dish rose higher than those from the lasagna pan.

Today I wanted to see if the rolls would rise even higher on a flat surface. I skipped the lasagna pans and pie dish and baked half my rolls on a cookie sheet and the other half on a pizza stone. I used the Sesame Bean Bread recipe from the Gluten Free Gourmet Bakes Bread. This was my first time using garfava flour from Authentic Foods.

The rolls rose quickly and nicely. I let them rise in a warm oven for 30 minutes, then I sprayed some foil with cooking spray, opened the oven, and laid the foil on top of the rolls. I turned the oven up to 400 degrees. Betty Hagman's book advises to preheat the oven before baking, but I find that bread does most of its rising during the preheating process.

The rolls on the cookie sheet baked faster but the bottoms mostly burned (a little) and turned hard and bitter. The rolls on the pizza stone took longer and the bottoms caved in somewhat, but they didn't burn or turn bitter.

I'm currently on the Atkins diet, so I cannot eat bread. However I really wanted to try the rolls to see if the new flour really tasted better. I decided to take a bite and spit it out. They tasted so good that I actually wasted a whole bun tasting and spitting! The rolls were soft like Wonder Bread and tasted slightly sweet, much like Challah bread (a bread traditionally served at Jewish Sabbath dinners). I could not taste beans at all! The rolls were a brown color, like wheat bread, because of the two teaspoons of molasses in them. Next time I'd like to try them with maple syrup or honey instead of molasses to get them to look like Italian bread.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Quest for Real Bread continues

The rolls didn't rise. They actually tasted pretty good, but since they didn't rise, my son wouldn't eat them. I'm not sure what I did wrong.

I just ordered garfava flour from Authentic Foods. They claim that their flour tastes less "beany" because they process it. I will try it and let you know. I plan on trying the Sesame Rolls recipe next.

The Quest for Real Bread

I am a mother on a mission. I need to feed my four-year-old picky eater. Creating kid-friendly healthy meals is a task in itself, but some of us have an additional challenge: food allergies. My son, Jack, is allergic to wheat, milk, soy, and nuts.

The hardest part about raising a child without wheat or milk is designing cold portable lunches for school that won't come back home completely untouched by my overly-choosy, and likely hungry and irritable, preschooler. My son starts school next week and he will need to bring his lunch. Most mothers can get by just slapping some peanut butter on store-bought bread. If only it were that easy for the rest of us. Most of the grocery store is off-limits to food allergic kids.

Jack and I have sampled all of the gluten-free breads at the health food store. We have yet to find one that is enjoyable. The bread we've tried takes the joy out of eating. When consuming said bread, I feel like I'm counting down the bites until I finally finish the sandwich. Just 10 more bites, just nine more bites, gag, eight more to go. Jack usually takes four bites and then removes the cold cuts from the sandwich center and eats them plain, leaving the rejected bead remnants looking lonely on his plate.

I have baked gluten-free bread with marginal success. Bob's Red Mill mix makes an atrociously inedible loaf. Bette Hagman's Four Flour Bread recipe, taken from her book, The Gluten Free Groumet Bakes Bread, is better. I've baked it into kaiser rolls and it has a beautiful texture. Unfortunately the garbanzo and fava bean flour taste dominates, leaving the rolls tasting woefully of beans. I've tried adding some garlic, more salt, more sugar. Nothing can hide the bitter taste of beans. The last time I used the recipe, I added so much salt that the resulting bread was inedible.

Today I am attempting a new recipe from the same book: the Casserole Rice Bread. This recipe does not use bean flour. I am optimistic. I followed the recipe as closely as possible, while making some necessary substitutions: organic palm oil-based shortening in place of margarine, So Delicious coconut milk kefir in place of buttermilk, and sesame seed meal (ground in my coffee bean grinder) in place of almond meal.

The rolls are rising now and I am ripe with anxiety. I hate when I waste an entire afternoon and have nothing good to show for it. First I had to go to the grocery store to buy potato flakes. Once I actually started the recipes, it took me an hour to measure out all of the ingredients and get the kefir and margarine at the right temperature (120 degrees F) on my stove. Then once I finally got ready to use the kefir mixture, the temperature had fallen back down to 80 degrees. My overzealous reheating brought the mixture up to a too high 160 degrees, and, having used up all of my kefir, I had to add cold rice milk to get the temperature back down.

Jack has been begging us to take him to Subway, the sandwich shop that markets itself as the healthy fast food choice. It's not healthy for Jack, however, since they do not offer a gluten-free sandwich. The wheat-based rolls are soft, chewy, downright dreamy. My goal is make a gluten-free alternative that is every bit as tender and tasty. If today's recipe doesn't work, I'll have to start over with yet another recipe. I don't want this to be a lifelong quest.