Saturday, April 2, 2011

Considering the Gluten-Free...

Barring my possible allergy to oysters and raspberries, there are no food allergies in my family. As I lead a pretty gluten-full existence most of the time, I haven't really given much thought as to what it would be like not to eat any wheat. No wheat. Wow, just thinking about it makes me panic a little. Everything I know about baking depends on this staple, and the way that the unseen power of gluten works its magic of stability and structure in a baked good. I have never gone out of my way to think about gluten-free baking before, and since I'll be hosting a gluten-free guest tomorrow, I figured a bit of experimentation this past week was more than warranted.

Last year, Peef and Lo went gluten-free for a whole weekend. I remember reading and wondering why they would do that. Maybe I'm of the ideal that I don't adhere to any culinary abstinence unless I have to, or maybe I didn't really know anyone first hand to stand in solidarity with, but I now fully understand their empathy with gluten-free individuals. Gluten-free is a challenge, but it's also delicious!

When I shopped this week, I made a point to peruse the gluten-free aisle at the grocery stores. It seems that the food industry is fully aware of the problems associated with this type of baking, and adjusts their prices accordingly. 5 lbs. of GF baking mix was over $20! I actually considered for a brief moment getting a box mix for $5 or $6 just to try it out. Then I came to my senses. I didn't realize just how much gluten-free material I had to work with at home, and that thanks to the Vita-Mix, I could make all of it into flour.

That's why, at 5 PM on a Friday, I was hovering around my oven, watching crackers bake. I stumbled over these crackers from Gluten Free Goddess by accident, and began looking at the ingredients. I de-veganized them by using an egg and milk, and substituted buckwheat flour for the sorghum. Tapioca starch is the same thing as tapioca flour according to Google, so I used leftover polviho (manioc) flour from my pao de queijo escapades. The result was a sturdy cracker, that will be perfect for dipping into artichoke dip.

I ground the amounts of quinoa, millet and almond in the dry canister of my Vita-Mix. Almond meal and quinoa and millet flours can also be found at food co-ops, specialty stores or online. (I'm not sure how a food pro or a regular blender would do whipping those into flour.) I had no trouble with the mixture being too dry using the amounts below, but you could add a bit of water to make a roll-able dough consistency. Be sure to check out the source recipe for dairy-free (vegan) substitutions!

Gluten-Free Multigrain Crackers (adapted from Gluten Free Goddess)
  • 1/4 c. quinoa flour
  • 1/4 c. millet flour
  • 1/4 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 c. tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
  • 1/4 c. nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. onion powder
  • 1 t. granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
  • 1 t. brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. almond meal
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. milk
Preheat oven to 350.

Mix the flours/dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix the egg, oil and milk in a measuring cup, beating the egg well. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon, and then your hands.

Line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Roll the dough (I used a pastry roller) out into an even layer. (I liked the thicker consistency of my crackers, but you can easily use two pans, and spread the dough thinner. Just remember they will bake faster.) If you have trouble with sticking, you can use oiled hands, or put a piece of parchment over the top and roll on that.

Cut the crackers using a pizza roller or a fluted pastry wheel. I cut the edges even first, about 1/2 inch from the edge of the pan - the cutter won't reach all the way to the edge anyway, and this way, I got to eat all of the ragged ends! No need to try and separate them, they will bake up, and then break apart easily. Prick each cracker several times with a fork.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned and crisp. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.

Eat right away, or store in the freezer.

I don't often "pretty-up" the baked goods, but these deserved it...

I think that gluten-free baking may be a challenge, but a rewarding one. Since I am already fond of alternative grains, putting them to good use instead of just having them on hand is good kitchen sense. Earlier in the week, I tested out some quinoa flatbreads, and quinoa in particular is something I'd never have though of using as a flour. If you love quinoa, and it's amazing protein profile, give them a try. I used chia seed and an egg (after reading the comments) and ate far too many hot out of the oven.

Now, off to the freezer with you so I don't eat you all up.


  1. I'm so honored to have inspired such a kitchen adventure! ...and I can't wait to dig into these little beasties tomorrow.

  2. I remember reading that in some European countries with nationalized healthcare, gluten-free people actually receive stipends or prescriptions to offset the higher cost of the gluten-free products they need to eat. I bet gf Americans dream of that day every time they look at their grocery bills.

  3. Thanks for this great and wonderful post! You guys are amazing! keep it up!

  4. It was interesting how that gluten-free weekend opened our eyes to a different world, and made us truly understand what it might be like to live gluten-free.

    It's been proven that giving up gluten entirely if you don't have to isn't a very good idea, health-wise, but I think the whole gluten-free landscape is interesting in that it really does highlight numerous high-quality grain products that might otherwise be overlooked. Buckwheat and quinoa are to that really stand out.

  5. I'm so glad you're taking a stab at the GF thing. It was intimidating for me at first, but now I feel like I've got it down and it was A LOT of fun to experiment--especially with the challenge of no dairy, no egg as well. I will def. try to make these crackers (vegan). Thanks! Annie


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