Saturday, August 27, 2016

Whole-grain, gluten-free baking mix recipe/about the recipe:

My blend


290 g sorghum flour
260 g brown rice flour
150 g buckwheat flour
125 g tapioca flour
125 g glutinous rice flour
 50 g potato flour

Measure, mix

1kg baking mix

The above recipe is actually a stand-alone ingredient—and it’s just one component in another very involved recipe. I’ve blended it for use in Jesse’s Whole-Grain, Gluten-Free, Sweet-Potato & Salmon Doggy Muffins.

I remember telling you that I don’t give two shits about gluten-free (gf) crap…and here I am developing a gluten-free dog muffin/pupcake recipe. I’m not going to lie here, I’m still not sold on gluten-free baking—and trust that we’re not transitioning to a gf household (I love my sourdough starter too much); however, I do enjoy a bit of a challenge. This is technically part 1, although, you’ll probably read it last or never.

At any rate, this is the first part I wrote; and I typed most of the following last night before I made any muffins. So, you’ll need to excuse the tenses and the fact that I didn’t know if this would work. However, now that they’re out of the oven and several have been consumed by both of my dogs, I’d call it a success and will be using this mix for my future gluten-free endeavors; and I’ll talk more about it in the next post.

If you’re not a gf expert, I would definitely suggest checking out this website and this one before proceeding. Both provide an invaluable amount of guidance for going in that direction. And if you’re thinking about blending your own gf flour mix, this is where I got the basis for my whole-grain, gluten-free baking mix.

As an experienced white-flour and a novice whole-wheat flour baker, I was under the mistaken impression that going gluten free was as simple as swapping one flour for another and add a bit of xanthan gum; however, it’s not. If you checked out any of the links above, you’ll quickly learn, as I did, that it’s best if you blend a number of different gf flours since each flour behaves differently when combined with other ingredients. By blending the fours, you’ll not only take advantage of their different flavors but also help augment the properties of the mixture to end up with something that performs more like regular, all-purpose white flour.

Also, I found that it’s not all about the flours when going gluten free—it’s also about the starches. Potato, tapioca, and corn starches as well as arrowroot are almost essential to lighten some of the heavier flours to ensure success when baking gluten free. FYI: Tapioca flour is the same thing as tapioca starch; however, potato flour is not the same as potato starch. Also, glutinous rice flour doesn’t have gluten in it—it just means that it’s “sticky”.

And back to xanthan gum… Xanthan and guar gums help gf free flours bind together in the same way gluten would; but they can also cause digestive issues and have their own allergy warnings. Even thought I don’t know that it will affect them, I wanted to steer clear of digestive issues with my boys. Also, as I’ve previously mentioned, I’m somewhat prejudiced against xanthan gum—and no, I don’t care that I’ve never used it or don’t even know that it’ll be a problem before I chose to exclude it (I don’t think it’s healthy to just like—or try—everything). I will tell you that xanthan is readily available by itself or as a part of most “off the shelf” gf all-purpose baking flour mixes; so if you decide to go the easy way (and this time I wouldn’t actually shame you for doing so), you’ll probably be using it.

A note about the easy way and why I won’t shame you: at this point, I don’t know that my whole-grain, gf baking flour will work or even produce something which will be edible. I’ve done my best to research my flours and follow the guide for how to blend them (ratios of whole grains to starches and other flours), but I know I’ve chosen the more difficult and less definite route. I don’t mind taking the risk; and I’m a fairly, experienced baker—so this is a challenge I’m willing to take. Plus, the search for all the different flours (more on that later) listed in my mix was fun, for me; and a novel occurrence for my mom who accompanied me during my hunt.

Back to the gums… If you are plagued by digestive issues yourself or know that your dogs are sensitive to xanthan or guar gums or if you are and don’t want it in your house or if you’re prejudiced like me, there are alternatives—several of them actually and probably more than I researched. One is gelatin—not the jello mix kind, but the plain kind like you’d use if you were making homemade marshmallows. Another is agar agar powder which is a vegan, gelatin-like substance derived from seaweed and what I’ve opted to purchase. (post-script note: I didn’t end up using any check out the about the recipe for Jesse’s WG, GF, Salmon & Sweet Potato Doggy Muffins to see why it was omitted).

Note: gelatin is not vegan because it’s made out of the skin, bones, and connective tissues (and sometimes hooves) of animals like cows—if you live in a vegan household and don’t like the gums and are reading this for tips on gf baking for yourself (or have never known about gelatin before and now that you do—yuck), agar agar powder (I’m not actually sure if the repeated agar is necessary, but I’ve seen it listed that way multiple times) will be a good, tasteless alternative for you to explore (it doesn’t taste or smell like seaweed).

If this is about baking for your dogs, the fact that it’s vegan really won’t matter as your dog is a carnivore by nature and an omnivore from centuries of meddling on the part of humanity (yeah, that comment is a direct result of a documentary we watched a few days ago about the origins of dogs and how they became domesticated). I know I’ve made a lot of vegetarian and even vegan treats before (all of my proceeding recipes posted have been meatless), but that’s mainly because I’m concerned about keeping the treats I make as “clean” and lean as possible. My boys are not vegan—hell, Jesse is roughly a quarter wolf. They had our left over steak last night and lamb is one of the main ingredients in their regular dog food. Treats are meant to supplement their diet and are only offered as an occasional diversion to their normal food or as a reward or because one of their daddies is a chump (not really) and likes to spoil our boys…

In short, I went with the agar agar powder because I liked the sound of it; and I was able to buy it from the bulk spice section of my local natural market.

If you take care to blend your flours and ingredients, you may not need any gums (or their alternatives) at all if you include enough of the “stickier” varieties or use extra binding agents like ground flax or (cha cha) chia seeds (more on that later, as well).

The day I’d planned to hunt for flours my mom was jonesing for a distraction from my other siblings, so she came up and went hunting for gluten-free flours with me. Truth be told, it probably would have been cheaper to have purchased a pre-mixed all purpose gf flour blend, especially considering my local natural market had it in the bulk section right next to all the other flours I bought in bulk (not to mention I only use a fraction of it in the actual anticipated recipe).

If you go the whole grain route, you’ll probably have to buy the flours separately; and if you do, I’d definitely encourage you to skip the urge to buy those pre-packaged bags sold off the shelf and head directly for the bulk section. I found sorghum, brown rice, and buckwheat (which doesn’t contain wheat, fyi) flours all reasonably priced in bins where I had to scoop it in a bag myself. I’m a fan of the bulk section not only for the price but also because it allows you the opportunity to only get what you need or want.

The tapioca flour/starch I already had and purchased from the ever so interesting Asian market just down the road from my house. This is also where I turned to find buy glutinous rice flour. Both packages are covered in writing I’ll never understand or be able to interpret myself; but they were both incredibly cheap at this source (right around $1.29 per pound which beats the $2.00+ price point of even the bulk section of natural market) as both of these products are common components of Asian cooking and baking.

I also bought a package of potato flour at the natural market since I didn’t find it in bulk; and while I only used a little bit of it (mostly because I bought it), it’s one of the heavier flours and better for breads than it is for cakes and muffins. After some more (internet-based) research, I’ve found that it does help keep things moist; so I figured I’d give it a go. All in all, it’s the flour I used the least—only 50 grams—and you could probably do without if you do so choose.

Now is probably a good time to tell you what else I found out about gf flours and why there are weights in this section and not good ole fashioned volume measurements. As we’ve already touched on, gf flours all have different properties like taste and how they absorb moisture; and, well, they all weigh differently, too. So volume doesn’t really help us out when we’re working with them since a cup of very fluffy tapioca starch is not really the same amount as a cup of the more dense buckwheat flour.

Most bakers will tell you that precision is key when it comes to baking as it’s science; and the most accurate way to bake is by weight—be it grams or ounces (I’ve opted for grams because the wg, gf baking mix guide I used is in grams—and my kitchen scale has a button on the bottom to switch from imperial to metric). Originally, I purchased my kitchen scale at the closest big box retailer in order to properly feed and maintain my sourdough starter; and I like the results when weighing out my ingredients. Since I’m new to gluten-free and am wanting to be as successful as possible, I’m going to weigh out my flour mix into my recipe; however, since I don’t have a viable solution for if your egg isn’t as big as my egg, the flours are the only thing that’ll be weighed.

Just for the sake of posterity (and mostly if you’re opting not to read the guide I did for mixing your own flour mixture), the whole grain flours are sorghum, brown rice, and buckwheat flours; while the regular flours are tapioca, white rice, and potato flours. The amounts used of each were slightly dictated by the amounts of which I purchased since I didn’t measure them as I was gleefully scooping them into their bags from the bins of the bulk section—which accounts for why it’s only 290 grams of sorghum flour and not a round 300—I didn’t have it… and I made up for it with 10 extra grams of brown rice flour.

I know I’ve been making light of this whole gluten free baking experience and that’s because this is all really just an experiment for me; and it’s fun because I’m not, nor is anyone else in my household, gluten intolerant. For those of you who are or are wanting to bake for someone who is or if your pet is, I feel for you—I really do—because I don’t know what I’d do without gluten in my life. Having said that, I hope you can tell that I really did approach this undertaking quite seriously this time; and I think we all know I’m not going to half-ass anything I make for my dogs despite my overall caviler attitude.

Also, I learned that while oats by themselves are gluten free they are not always by themselves. Oats are typically grown and processed with wheat and other grains which contain gluten and which also may lead to cross contamination. In order for oats to be totally free of gluten, they must be grown, harvested, and processed in fields and facilities that either only handle oats or only process other gluten-free grains. For most of us, the 99% anyway, it probably doesn’t matter and you can still claim gluten-free bragging rights even if they’re not labeled gluten-free; however, the other 1% will still need to adhere strictly to only those oats which have that label just to be on the safe side.

FYI: I mixed mine in a large bowl using a smaller bowl to measure out the individual flours, then I used a whisk to make sure they were blended well before putting it in an air-tight zip-top bag. Before using, I shook and whisked the bag again as the mixture can settle. 

As a note: these treats will be made in a facility (my kitchen) and with equipment (my KitchenAid mixer, bowls, spatula, and muffin pans) which also regularly produce items which contain gluten (bread, cakes, muffins, cookies, and other dog treats).

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