Making a gluten-free Thanksgiving? Arrowroot powder is your friend

Arrowroot powder is a gluten-free thickener that can be used in pie crusts, casseroles and gravy.
Arrowroot powder is a gluten-free thickener that can be used in pie crusts, casseroles and gravy.

In our big pie section today, I wanted to make sure to share a gluten-free pie crust in case you’re looking for one this holiday season.

This version comes from “Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Celebrations: A Year of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes for Every Occasion” (Ten Speed Press, $35), and it’s based on arrowroot and blanched almond flour. There are lots of different gluten-free flours on the market, and though any combination of them might work in this recipe, I’d stick with the ones she calls for if you’ve never made a pie crust before.

But the real takeaway is that arrowroot powder might be the handiest gluten-free tool you have in your pantry this Thanksgiving because of its thickening power.

If you want to make gravy that even the gluten-free folks at your table can eat, sprinkle a little of the arrowroot powder in broth to make a slurry, just like you would with regular flour, before continuing with the gravy. Arrowroot powder is available alongside the other specialty flours in the baking aisle of many grocery stores. It might also be in the bulk section if you only need a little.

Gluten-Free Pie Crust

You can substitute 3 tablespoons grass-fed unsalted butter or ghee for the palm shortening if you’d prefer. Omit the coconut sugar if you’d like to use this crust in savory dishes.

2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1 cup arrowroot powder
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 eggs, chilled
3 Tbsp. cold water
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
4 Tbsp. palm shortening, chilled

To make the pie dough, combine the almond flour, arrowroot, coconut sugar, eggs, water and salt in a food processor. Process for 10 seconds, or until combined. Add the palm shortening, spacing out where the tablespoons are dropped into the dough. Pulse 4 to 5 times, until pea-size bits of dough form.

Gather the dough into a tight ball and flatten it into a disk. Wrap tightly and freeze for 1 hour.

Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate and press it into the bottom and up the sides of the plate, using the palms of your hands to ensure the crust is even throughout. Press together any breaks in the dough, then crimp or flute the edges with your fingers.

To partially bake the crust, cut a round of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the crust and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes, remove the weights and parchment paper, and bake for 5 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. Cool completely on a wire rack. Makes enough pastry for one 9-inch single-crust pie

— From “Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Celebrations: A Year of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes for Every Occasion” by Danielle Walker (Ten Speed Press, $35)

How to keep dough from sticking to the counter and tricks to baking better pies

As you might have guessed, we went all in for pies in this week’s food section. It’s our latest Year of Baking project, so we have a fun little video with some of our tips, but the real meat is in this story, which has some basic recipes and advice on making better pies.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind this pie-baking season:

  • Foil is your friend. As soon as you see the edges of the crust start to get brown, put a sheet of foil or one of those pie shields on top. It’s so easy to accidentally burn a pie crust, in part because recipes often call for lowering the heat at a certain time and cooks forget to do that, or because your oven burns a little hotter than you might realize.
  • Use a pizza cutter when slicing strips for a lattice, and don’t feel confined to the 1/2-inch strip. You could vary the widths of the pieces, make them all somewhat thick or crisscross them at less than 90 degrees. If you’ve never woven a lattice before, practice with strips of paper, just like you might have done in elementary school art class.
  • Rather than create the lattice directly on top of the pie, you can practice on a pastry cloth — an old school tool that might become your new best friend — or piece of parchment paper and then gently lay the completed lattice on top of the pie.
  • If you’re worried that your fruit pie filling is too runny, pour off some of the liquid and combine it with a few tablespoons of cornstarch. Some bakers always toss their fruit with cornstarch alongside the sugar and spices before baking.
  • No need to toast nuts before adding them to your dessert. They’ll get that rich, roasted taste as they bake with the rest of the pie.
  • To transport the dough from your floured counter or pastry cloth, gently roll it up so that it folds over the rolling pin.
  • A pie will keep on a countertop for a day or so, but cover and refrigerate after that.

    To get the hang of making a lattice, think like a third-grader in art class. Practice weaving with strips of paper, or you can cut strips of dough and practice weaving them together on a pastry cloth or sheet of parchment paper, so you can start over if you mess up. Place the dough back in the fridge if it starts to get too warm. Tina Phan / American-Statesman
    To get the hang of making a lattice, think like a third-grader in art class. Practice weaving with strips of paper, or you can cut strips of dough and practice weaving them together on a pastry cloth or sheet of parchment paper, so you can start over if you mess up. Place the dough back in the fridge if it starts to get too warm. Tina Phan / American-Statesman

Skip the box and make this DIY cake mix instead

61yt6NY0JXLReady to totally change how you bake cakes?

Good. Me, too.

I’ve been stuck on boxed cake mixes for as long as I’ve been baking. They are just so easy! And cheap! And remind me of my childhood!

Well, Caroline Wright’s childhood was filled with baking cakes from scratch, so it’s no surprise that her new cookbook “Cake Magic! Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations” (Workman, $17.95) aims to help scaredy-cat bakers like me get over their fear of baking cakes that aren’t from a box.

All the recipes in the book revolve around a DIY cake mix that you then use to make hundreds of different cake variations. In today’s food section, we ran an interview with Wright that included a bunch of baking tips, but I wanted to share the base recipes on the blog.

carolinewrightcakeCake Magic! Cake Mix

You can double or triple this recipe and keep the mix on hand in an airtight container or resealable bag.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. table salt

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together well to combine. Whisk the mix again before measuring to make a cake. Makes 4 cups, enough for one 8- or 9-inch two layer cake, one 9-inch-by-13-inch sheet cake, one 10-inch Bundt cake or 24 cupcakes.

Vanilla Cake

In “Cake Magic,” Wright uses the base cake mix to make eight basic cakes, including lemon, chocolate, coconut and mocha. Here is her recipe for the most basic of cakes: vanilla. You’ll see that the main recipe calls for full-fat plain yogurt, but you can substitute buttermilk.

Unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the pans
All-purpose flour, for dusting the pans
4 cups Cake Magic! Cake Mix, whisked well before measuring
3/4 cup full-fat plain yogurt (preferably not Greek yogurt)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, or 1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and side of the pan(s). Dust with flour to coat, then invert and tap out any excess. (If making cupcakes, use liners instead of greasing and coating the tins.)

Place the cake mix in a large bowl. Stir in the yogurt, butter, water, vanilla and eggs until moistened and no lumps remain (be careful not to overmix). Divide the batter between the prepared pans.

Bake until the layers are domed and golden brown, and a few moist crumbs cling to a skewer inserted in the center of the cake, about 35 to 40 minutes (40-50 minutes for a Bundt, 25-30 minutes for a sheet cake, 20-25 minutes for cupcakes).

— From “Cake Magic! Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations” (Workman, $17.95) by Caroline Wright

Ask Addie: We love the Year of Baking but don’t eat sugar. Help!

I got a call a few weeks ago from a reader, who had this question, which he allowed me to transcribe and publish in today’s paper:

My wife does not eat sugar of any kind, so I read every label in the store to avoid it. I like to bake and have been following your Year of Baking stories, and when I bake, I try to use xylitol as a sugar replacement, but it’s pretty coarse and doesn’t blend as well. What other suggestions do you have? We use maple syrup and honey, also, but we’d love any thoughts you have for folks who are on a sugar-free diet who want to bake and enjoy something sweet.

Mack Edwards

Susanna-Booth-bookBaking with xylitol is uncharted territory for this food writer, but from what I’ve read, it’s a tricky proposition because of that texture issue you mentioned. However, there are lots of alternatives, depending on what kinds of sugar your wife is able to eat. Honey and maple syrup, although suitable sugar substitutes, can still cause a spike in blood sugar, so you might consider other sugar alternatives that are lower on the glycemic index, such as agave syrup or stevia.

There are a few recent cookbooks that address this issue specifically. “The I Quit Sugar Cookbook: 306 Recipes for a Clean, Healthy Life” by Sarah Wilson (Clarkson Potter, $27.50), “Sensationally Sugar Free: Delicious Sugar-Free Recipes for Healthier Eating Every Day” by Susanna Booth (Hamlyn, $29.99) and “Cut the Sugar, You’re Sweet Enough: Cookbook” by Ella Leche (Andrews McMeel, $24.99) feature hundreds of recipes for sweet and savory dishes with minimal or no added sugar.

The best for baked goods and desserts is “Sensationally Sugar Free,” which has ice creams, puddings, breakfasts, granola bars and other foods that are typically packed with sugar. Some of these dishes are sweetened naturally with fruit or ingredients such as roasted, pureed beets, while others use some of the many sugar alternatives that are on the market today, like the stevia powder in these brownies. You can use a dairy-free margarine in place of butter in this recipe to make it vegan. (And if you missed the brownie recipes we ran in our Year of Baking series earlier this year, go to austin360.com/yearofbaking to find the recipes and how-to video.)

These brownies from “Sensationally Sugar Free” by Susanna Booth are sweetened with stevia powder. Photo by Haarala Hamilton.
These brownies from “Sensationally Sugar Free” by Susanna Booth are sweetened with stevia powder. Photo by Haarala Hamilton.

Chocolate Brownies

Sunflower oil
7 oz. butternut squash
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chopped
2 tsp. stevia powder
3 oz. no-added-sugar semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
3 eggs
3 1/2 oz. pitted dried dates
Scant 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
Scant 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil an 8-inch square baking pan with sunflower oil, or line the pan with parchment paper.

Seed the butternut squash and chop into 1-inch cubes. You can keep the skin on — it provides extra nutrients, and you’ll never notice it in the finished brownies. Spread the chopped squash out in the baking pan and roast for 20 minutes until soft. Let cool for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter, stevia powder and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as most of it has melted, remove the pan from the heat. Let stand until everything has melted.

Place the roasted squash, eggs and dates in a food processor and process for about 1 minute until the mixture is as smooth as possible. Add both flours, baking powder and salt, followed by the melted chocolate mixture. Process for about 30 seconds until everything is well combined. Stir in the walnuts.

Spread the batter across the baking pan and smooth it flat with a spatula. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the brownie has shrunk away from the sides of the pan but is still soft in the middle. Let cool in the pan, then cut into 16 pieces.

— From “Sensationally Sugar Free: Delicious sugar-free recipes for healthier eating every day” by Susanna Booth (Hamlyn, $29.99)

Recipe of the Week: Strawberry Cobbler from Jack Allen’s Kitchen

Strawberry cobbler is one springtime dish you can make with fresh berries and a few ingredients you probably already have on hand. Photo from Jack Allen's Kitchen.
Strawberry cobbler is one springtime dish you can make with fresh berries and a few ingredients you probably already have on hand. Photo from Jack Allen’s Kitchen.

Fresh strawberries alone make a wonderful dessert, but as soon as you start adding whipped cream or ice cream or maybe a little crunchy streusel topping or a biscuit, then you start building something even more special.

I’ve been eating plenty of strawberries with shortcake, drop biscuits and scones this spring for our most recent Year of Baking stories about strawberry scones and shortcake. But I haven’t yet made a cobbler.

Dee Dee Sanchez, the pastry chef at Jack Allen’s Kitchen’s, bakes desserts that change with the seasons. A few weeks ago, she was making strawberry rhubarb cobbler, but now that rhubarb is phasing out, she’s making a strawberry-only cobbler under a buttery streusel topping. At the restaurant, they bake these in ramekins and serve the cobbler with Amy’s Mexican vanilla ice cream, but you can use a larger pan at home and serve with whatever’s on hand, including whipped cream or even a drizzle of heavy cream.

Strawberry Cobbler

2 lbs. Texas strawberries, hulled, washed and cut into quarters or halved if berries are small
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. Mexican vanilla
For streusel topping:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oats
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Toss berries, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl and set aside.

Grease a 9-inch-by-13 inch pan. Set aside. In large bowl, mix streusel ingredients together using fingertips and rub together until butter is incorporated, keeping streusel crumbly and light. Small chunks of butter are good, but no larger than the size of a pea. Do not knead into a dough.

Place strawberry mixture and juices in baking pan. Crumble the streusel topping loosely over top of strawberries and to edges of pan. Bake on top of a sheet pan to avoid any strawberry filling bubbling over edges of pan. Bake for about 45 minutes until streusel is golden brown and edges are bubbly. Cool for about 10 minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream. Serves 12.

— Dee Dee Sanchez, pastry chef, Jack Allen’s Kitchen

Why we don’t use deer antlers to leaven our cakes any more

Baking powder is a somewhat modern leavening agent. For centuries, bakers used hartshorn, made from ground deer antlers. Photo by Rainer Zenz.
Baking powder is a somewhat modern leavening agent. For centuries, bakers used hartshorn, made from ground deer antlers. Photo by Rainer Zenz.

King Arthur knows what’s up with baking.

The Vermont-based flour company has (wisely) expanded its customer base by providing not just recipes, but all kinds of helpful information about how baking works.

For our Year of Baking story tomorrow, I used King Arthur’s base scone recipe to make my own strawberry scone, and in the process of researching the difference between scones and shortcakes, I found an incredible helpful article about leavening.

(“Ooooo, leavening!” I can hear your excitement through the computer, my friends.)

If you’ve baked even a handful of times, you know that there’s a difference between baking soda and baking powder, and if you’re an above-average cook, you’ll know that’s because baking powder has cream of tartar, which activates the release of carbon dioxide without the addition of an acid. Baking soda relies on something like buttermilk to “turn on” its leavening powders, but baking powder does not.

That’s why so many recipes today call for baking powder instead of baking soda, unless the baked good needs an extra lift, and then you might find both.

That King Arthur article also includes all kinds of other info about what bakers used before commercial baking powder and soda was available (hartshorn, made with deer antlers), where baking soda comes from today (Wyoming! Who knew?) and how to know if your baking powder has lost its mojo.

Even if you think you know everything about baking, check it out.

Your quick breads will thank you.

 

 

WATCH: What happens when this strawberry shortcake fangirl makes scones?

These strawberry shortcake-inspired scones are our latest Year of Baking project. Photo by Addie Broyles.
These strawberry shortcake-inspired scones are our latest Year of Baking project. Photo by Addie Broyles.

As a child of the 1980s, when you say “strawberry shortcake,” I think of the cute red-headed Strawberry Shortcake character, whose doll I had when I was a kid.

(The doll smelled like strawberries, too.)

Yeah, we also ate strawberry shortcake, but that was a last-minute dessert my grandmother would make with Bisquick or maybe those little store-bought angel food cake cups.

I hadn’t thought too much about the differences between strawberry shortcakes (and biscuits and scones) until I started working on this month’s Year of Baking project. Turns out, there’s an immense variety in what people mean when they say “shortcake.”

For some, it’s those drop biscuits made with Bisquick. For others, they mean the angel food cakes sold right next to the strawberries in grocery stores. Then there are others who take a more handmade approach with from-scratch biscuits and scones, where the butter is cut into the flour, or an actual cake, where the butter is first creamed with the sugar and then mixed with the liquid and flour.

In Wednesday’s food section, you can read about the version I decided to make for this month’s baking experiment: Strawberry scones, a deviation from the standard strawberry shortcakes that I knew growing up but one that makes sense to have in my growing baking repertoire as an adult.

Scones have so much in common with biscuits that I’d argue that they are nearly identical, distinguished only by how the dough is shaped and the expectation that you can add whatever the heck you want. Square- or circle-shaped biscuits, on the other hand, are usually a vehicle for butter, jam or other spreadable accoutrements.

I chose to top my scones with a ton of sliced almonds and throw chopped strawberries into the dough, but the base scone recipe can be adapted in many ways, depending on your own tastes and what’s in season. (Want to see all of our Year of Baking stories, which so far have included muffins, brownies and cream puffs? Click here to fulfill your sugary dreams.)

Up next? An old-school recipe for skillet strawberry shortcake and what I learned about baking powder from King’s Arthur while working on this story.

Strawberry Scones

This scone recipe makes a dough that you shape with your hands on a parchment-lined baking sheet. You can bake the scones after you've sliced them. Photo by Addie Broyles.
This scone recipe makes a dough that you shape with your hands on a parchment-lined baking sheet. You can bake the scones after you’ve sliced them. Photo by Addie Broyles.

Serve these scones with macerated strawberries and whipped cream for a shortcake-inspired spring treat.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for topping
3/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
2 large eggs
3 tsp. vanilla extract or the flavoring of your choice
1/2 cup milk (or half and half)
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Whipped cream and sliced strawberries mixed with sugar, for serving (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Using a fork, pastry cutter or your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until it is unevenly crumbly. Stir in the strawberries.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla and milk or half and half. Reserve 2 tsp. of the milk mixture.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Gently fold together and then dump the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat your hands in flour and divide the dough in half. Form two circles that are between 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch thick. Brush each circle with reserved milk and sprinkle with sliced almonds, sugar and a pinch of salt.

Using a knife or a pizza cutter, slice each circle into six wedges. For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Bake the scones for 15 minutes and remove them from the oven. Cut through the score lines again and then bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown.

Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. When they’re completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days.

— Adapted from a recipe by King Arthur

Year of Baking: You, yes YOU, can make cream puffs

TINA PHAN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN. 2/29/16. Statesman food writer Addie Broyles makes cream puffs in the Statesman studio on Monday, February 29, 2016. Broyles pipes out the pate a choux dough on a baking sheet using a star tip on a pastry bag.
Pate a choux dough is used to make cream puffs and cheese puffs, as well as eclairs. Photo by Tina Phan.

I conquered another baking project!

As part of our ongoing Year of Baking series, I made cream puffs from pâte à choux, a word I’d never heard of until I was well into adulthood.

To learn the technique, I took a pâte à choux class at Make It Sweet, which is one of their most popular, I was surprised to find out.

In today’s food section, you can read about about why cream puffs and eclairs are making a comeback and how you can make them at home, even if you don’t consider yourself an expert baker.

I’ve been hearing from lots of readers who loved our brownie recipes from last month, as well as others who have tried the cherry wheat germ muffins from January. Next month, we’re making quick breads, but let us know what other kinds of baking projects you want to learn about!

 

 

Not ready for banana ice cream? Here’s a good ol’ banana bread for ya

Welcome to the Year of Baking!

It’s an exciting food section day, my friends.

Today, we’re launching a yearlong baking project aimed to get you baking more than chocolate chip cookies and pecan pie for Thanksgiving. It’s inspired by my own desire to expand my baking skills and, frankly, just bake more. During the holiday season, I realized that I bake primarily during that quarter of the year. That’s unlike people like my friend and former co-worker Melissa Martinez, who bakes all the time, it seems. She’s written lots of baking stories for us in the past, so I asked her to compile her best baking tips, as well as a pantry list to get us started.

In coming weeks, we’ll start to roll out videos for each of the baking projects. In the meantime, check out this first dish, cherry wheat germ muffins from James Briscione’s new book “The Great Cook: Essential Techniques and Inspired Flavors to Make Every Dish Better” (Oxmoor House, $29.95).

I actually used flaxseed meal when I made these, which is easier to find and just as healthy as wheat germ.

Let us know what kind of baking dishes you absolutely love to make and what you’d like to learn how to make. I’m hoping to find some sweet stories, like this one a year ago from Sharon Bright, who bakes every week for the folks at Hospice Austin.

Cherry flaxseed muffins are a fiber-packed treat to help you wake up on cold January mornings. Photo by Laura Skelding for the Austin American-Statesman.
Cherry flaxseed muffins are a fiber-packed treat to help you wake up on cold January mornings. Photo by Laura Skelding for the Austin American-Statesman.

Cherry-Wheat Germ Muffins

Dried cherries add a hit of sweet-tart flavor and could be replaced with any other kind of dried fruit. Throw in a handful of nuts if you like. If you don’t have buttermilk, stir together 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar. Let the mixture stand 5 minutes, then add to your recipe. If you’re weighing the flour, which I’m trying to do more myself, use 6.75 ounces.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next seven ingredients (through allspice) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, oil, and egg in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups, and coat liners with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.