Gluten Free Cheat Sheet

by Jenn on May 8, 2015

in Gluten Free

Yeah, umm… if you didn’t figure it out by now this blog is done. C’est fini. Just one last thing to add, a summary of the past few years of blogging. What did I gain from it? Well, some awesome friends, for one. Some fun adventures, and a community of other like-minded people that like talking about food. I also found it a great venue to explore and develop my photography and writing. I also have a digital cookbook of sorts (nothing formal, just a folder of pdfs) of my recipes, the things I liked to make, and how they work (not to mention some pretty pictures hanging on my walls). Would I do it all over again? For sure. What knowledge do I take away from this awesome experience I had? Well I’ll summarize below – my gluten free “cheat sheet”:

Do all conversions by weight. GF ingredients have different densities and are milled to different degrees of fine/coarseness. The only way to be sure you have the same amount of “stuff” in your baked good is to go by weight. It’s as close to “moles” (converting to the same # of atoms) as you are going to get in cooking, which is important since it’s chemical reactions that do all the transformation.

This is all just based on my personal experience, from having a food blog for 6+ years, being part of a gluten (and more) free family for 8+ years, being a scientist with expertise in both physical and organic chemistry, a writer/recipe developer for a national and awesome gluten free magazine for 2 years, and having a determined personality that is too stubborn to give up on a goal until I figure it out.

note my definitions of “grain” and “whole-grain” likely have nothing to do with any dietary definitions, they are just how I tend to group certain ingredients.

How to make an all-purpose gluten free flour mix:

  • 1/3 “grain” (millet, sorghum, fine almond, chickpea, corn, certified GF oat flour)
  • 1/3 rice (white or brown rice flour)
  • 1/3 starch (potato, tapioca, arrowroot, mochiko/sweet rice flour)
  • **gum (guar, xanthan, guar/xanthan, or psyllium husk), 1 T per every 2 cups mix

**optional (for homemade pasta, bread, rolls, pizza, anything that needs to be rolled out and stretched, or trap air – NOT necessary for cake, pancakes, waffles, cookies, brownies, muffins, quick breads or pie dough. combining gums creates synergistic effect with more gelling properties than either gum by itself. so could be useful to try say, 1/2 T of guar and 1/2 T of xanthan instead)

How to make a more “whole grain” AP gluten free flour mix:

  • 1/6 “whole grain” (teff, buckwheat, chestnut, quinoa)
  • 1/6 “nut” meal (almond, hazelnut, coconut)
  • 1/3 “grain” (millet, sorghum, chickpea, corn, certified GF oat flour)
  • 1/3 starch (potato, tapioca, arrowroot, mochiko/sweet rice flour)
    **gum (see above)

Sorry I have little experience with completely paleo mixes to feel comfortable making a recommendation.

My favorite “out of the box” mixes/recipes:
•King Arthur AP GF flour – I get this at the grocery store when I’m too lazy to make my own mix, or don’t have time to do recipe development. Because 9 times out of 10, it just works.
•Namaste GF flour – can buy big 2lb bag at Sams for like $13. organic even. have yet to come across a better deal.
•Bisquick GF mix – makes some really great savory southern-style biscuits. Add in some herbs and cheese or else a bit flavorless. But texture is perfect.

What to use as thickeners:
•Gravies/Roux – 1:1 replacement of all purpose GF flour mix of choice, not plain rice flour, nor starch by itself.
•Clear sauces – 1:1 replacement of arrowroot starch/cornstarch or simply reduction technique
•Chili/marinara – Reduction technique, or add in some tomato paste

Tips for working with GF dough/batter:
•Measure by weight, not volume, especially when determining equivalent amounts of new ingredients.
•Wet your fingers before handling dough. Often a bit wet/stickier than conventional recipe.
•Let dough rest ≥30 min in the fridge before handling.
•Keep moist, often dries out easily – cover dough not working with right away with damp paper towel, etc. I usually break off ball of dough I am working with, wrap rest up with plastic wrap, and store in the fridge until use.
•Roll out between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap, taking care to flip over frequently. When finished, peel off one side, then flip into dish and peel off other side. Helps to avoid tearing issues with GF dough or sticking to counter. Keeps rolling pin fairly clean!

Tips for recipe development:
•Start with 1:1 replacement of GF ingredients by weight. THEN tweak. You may not need to tweak at all from there. See Ratio – Michael Ruhlman.
•Does the recipe actually utilize gluten’s chemical or physical properties? If not, then don’t need to do anything special. If yes, then think about what properties of gluten you need to replace – stretch, air trapping, etc? will help guide adjustments to ingredients and ingredient choice.
•Some GF ingredients absorb water really well/don’t absorb water well. It may be necessary to alter liquid:dry ingredient ratio. If possible, wait ≥30 min to check consistency of batter/dough before making these decisions. Fridge all dough before rolling it out.
•Some ingredients add more moisture than you think – if you decrease butter content, don’t be surprised to see a drier dough as well due to the moisture the butter contributes.
•Incorporations of some nut flours can alter fat ratios of ingredients. Add minimally or adjust accordingly. If working exclusively with almond flour – see Elana’s Pantry blog.
•Write down your trials. Note what did and didn’t work about each trial. I keep a “kitchen lab book”.
• Learn some organic chemistry to understand what controls the types of reactions that occur in the kitchen, and what is responsible for the flavors and properties of foods. At least some general chemistry about mole balancing, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, and acids/bases. It really does help. Chemistry is part of life skills, just like basic algebra is needed in figuring out how much tip to leave at a restaurant or how to cross-check your online bank statements.

{ 1 comment }

Chicken and chives frittata

“Where thou art, that is home” – Emily Dickinson

It is said that home is where the heart is – and that having a home is not about the perfect HGTV worthy historic colonial with an impeccably manicured lawn, but rather about having a sense of place, security, and comfort, especially in the company of loved ones.  We have found ourselves at the end of our lovely experience over on the other side of the “pond”, and are now back home with friends and family whom we had missed so much.

Not quite four and a half years ago, my husband and I set off across the world, to arrive in a charming snow-covered city on Lake Geneva. Since then, living in Europe has been an incredible set of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but like all good things must at some point come to an end, in order to start the next chapter in our lives. But really, while my husband and I always thought of our time in Switzerland as merely a place to live (we never even bothered to decorate because well, what was the point if one day we’d have to pack it all up anyways?), in a way for that time at least, Switzerland was home too. After all, Switzerland is the only home that our daughter has ever known, and I know it’s been hard for her as she doesn’t quite understand why Mama and Daddy have been packing up every single item we owned into boxes to send off – but she’ll figure it out soon enough. When it was time for bed the first night out of our little apartment and in the hotel room, she told us, “No, night-night home!” When she figured out we weren’t going to be going back to our apartment that night, she expressed her disappointment in the clearest way that a toddler can – by crying. I felt so bad that my attempts at explaining that we were moving had failed to be articulated in a way that she could understand.

For us too, leaving was a little bittersweet – over Easter , we decided to spend one of our last Swiss weekends with our good friends Jonell and Peter up in the Alps of Villars – The mountains were still snow-capped even in mid-April, and we enjoyed our last trip into the scenic Swiss alpine landscape with an equally fitting last Swiss dinner – la fondue aux tomates and la raclette at the Refuge de Solalex.


[click to continue…]


Buckwheat scallion pancakes with Irish smoked salmon, avocado and rocket Buckwheat scallion pancakes with Irish smoked salmon, avocado and rocket

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

This month marks 6 years since I created this blog, and 5 years since I began using a DSLR camera and started learning photography (Ok, actually I got my first DSLR about 6 months before that as a wedding gift, but it literally took me several months to figure out how to turn it on and take a picture that didn’t result in a solid black rectangle rather than an image – so I decided it’s better to start counting from when I actually took photos). It’s kinda crazy to think that I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade now, but it’s been extremely rewarding. I’ve come a long way (at least I like to think so), and am really excited for where the future will take me.

[click to continue…]


The Floating City

by Jenn on February 18, 2014

in Photography,Travel

Venice Diptych1


Ah Venice, the City of Love…

What better place to spend a family Valentine’s weekend? Baby girl loved the canals, pointing out everywhere “wah wah” (water) and “boat” (of which there were many, haha). It was fun to have a little change of scenery from the dreary gray  up here on the lake, try some delicious food (amarone risotto is an awesome idea by the way), and admire a gorgeous market filled with sea critters that even this New England gal had never set eyes upon before. Sometimes it’s just fun to get away for a couple days. As an added pleasant bonus, there was no precipitation nor wading through flooded streets this time like our last visit three years ago at Christmas. No, instead the sun came out in the afternoons, warming everyone up after a chilly morning.

So why don’t you relax, macchiato in hand, and come take a stroll with me through one of my favorite cities?

[click to continue…]


Wright's Orchard

I always look forward to going back to the States for the holidays, especially for being able to reconnect with family and friends – we cook, we laugh, we watch our little ones with pride as we see them interact and grow – but really, it’s the coming together that is most important. One of the things I love is that when our family grows because someone gets married, their family becomes part of our family too.

Todd and Joyclyn are part of our extended family – an honest and down-to-earth couple with a cheery disposition, they pour their heart into their family-run business, Wright’s Orchard – and it shows in the quality of food that they grow. There’s a variety of all sorts of delicious and beautiful products from the height of summer and all throughout autumn. There is produce from apples to peaches to pumpkins, an exquisite selection of dried flowers and even Christmas trees during the end of the year, along several other delights. This New England orchard is simply a beautiful place, set in the rural hills of northeastern Connecticut.

Wright's Orchard Wright's Orchard

[click to continue…]


Resolutions and Reflections

by Jenn on January 3, 2014

in Photography

I’m not normally one for resolutions. I usually find the structure of putting a personal habit onto a calendar makes it work rather than the soulful introspection it was intended to be. But even still, I’m always up for turning over a new leaf, looking back at where I’ve been, and seeing if/what I want to change.

So what did I really learn this year? I learned to take myself less seriously. To blog less, and live more. To take fewer photos, and make more of them count. I learned to commit only to what is really important. I learned to take risks, and that when I am presented with a challenge, if I relax and trust myself, I will rise up to it. I got to see how an amazing publication, Simply Gluten Free, has grown over the past year, and see what kind of food writer I am (yes, shameless link plug, I am a paid contributor to Simply Gluten Free mag and therefore of course think you all should subscribe).  I’ve developed my artistic style more, and even when I couldn’t really see, I was still always thinking about light and shape – while I still have a long journey ahead of me, these will always be at the core of my being.

And with that in mind, I think it’s fun to reflect on my path over 2013 –

We hiked high up in the Alps:

And snowshoed with some photography friends in view of the stunning Matterhorn:

Matterhorn view from Riffelberg


[click to continue…]