Ask the Chef: August/September 2018
“My gluten-free chicken fried steak doesn’t have much flavor and it’s soggy. What am I doing wrong?”
Q: There are some foods this Southerner can’t live without, like chicken fried steak. I’ve tried to make gluten-free chicken fried steak twice and I just can’t seem to get it right. My first attempt was tasteless and mushy. The second time, they didn’t have much flavor and all of them were soggy. What am I doing wrong? I’m not a fan of soggy food.
A:Finding a crispy, flavorful coating for gluten-free fried foods can be a challenge. I have a few suggestions: First, don’t use egg with the flour batter. It grabs too much flour coating, creating a thicker breading that can become soggy. Try dipping the steak (and other foods you’re frying) in buttermilk or water instead, just enough to help the flour adhere. Secondly, a flour mixture made with tapioca starch/flour or a blend of tapioca starch/flour and rice flour tends to deliver crispier results. Avoid all-purpose gluten-free flour blends that contain gums. Also, season the flour mixture; add salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder and any other seasonings you like and whisk to combine. Gluten-free fried foods tend to look a little anemic. To add color, add a pinch of turmeric to the seasoning blend.
For best results, don’t overcrowd the pan when frying, as overcrowding will lower the temperature of the cooking oil. It’s important to maintain a consistent high temperature so that the food cooks quickly and doesn’t absorb too much oil. If food cooks longer at a lower temperature, the result is soggy food (not crispy).
Q: Chocolate doesn’t agree with me anymore and I miss it terribly. I’ve been replacing chocolate chips with carob chips in my favorite chocolate chip cookies and just happened to notice the ingredient label said the carob was sweetened with barley malt. No one told me! No wonder I’ve been feeling sick.
A You’re not alone. Who would suspect that some brands of carob chips contain malt? Hidden gluten is problematic for people with celiac disease. That’s why it’s imperative that we read the ingredient list of each commercial product every time we buy it. Check vitamins and drugs, too, as they can also contain hidden gluten. (I can’t say this often enough!) I’m glad you found the culprit and hope you’re feeling better.
Q: I made a Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe from your website. It was a single serving made in the microwave, which I thought was an intriguing concept. It certainly cooked quickly but the results were heavy and dense. Did I do something wrong?
A: Cooking desserts, especially gluten-free desserts, in the microwave produces a heavy pudding-like texture, similar to microwaving rice. A microwaved cake will not replicate the texture of a baked cake. For a quick treat for one or two people, this recipe is a good choice. But if you have a hankering for true pineapple upside down cake, try using a gluten-free yellow cake mix (about 15 ounces). Arrange canned pineapple slices and cherries (drained) on the bottom of the pan and sprinkle them with brown sugar before adding the cake batter. Then follow the mix instructions and baking time.
Q: This was my first time making gluten-free filled crescent rolls. It was impossible to shape the dough around the filling. I finally gave up and just piecemealed them together. They were good but they seemed more like biscuits, a far cry from the melt-in-your-mouth, buttery taste of a true crescent roll. And they didn’t brown at all. I had to go by texture and firmness to figure out when they were done. How can I improve this recipe?
A: Gluten-free crescent rolls can be tricky. Replicating the flaky, light texture of the wheat-filled version is challenging. But let me address the issues you mention. First, about shaping the dough around the filling. Gluten-free dough falls apart easily if there’s too much filling or if the dough becomes too wet. Try using less filling on each roll and blot the filling with a paper towel to remove excess moisture before forming the dough around it. About browning, try brushing the top of your rolls with egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk of choice) before baking. That will help them brown and maybe even give them a little luster.
There are a couple of recipes from Gluten Free And More that I think you’ll enjoy. One is Jules Shepard's Baked Apple Crescent Rolls and the other is for Gluten-Free Croissants. Both of these recipes layer the dough with bits of fat, which helps deliver a buttery taste and flaky texture. Give them a try.
Q: I’m gluten sensitive and I can’t eat chocolate or coffee. It seems like most dessert recipes use chocolate. Is there any place I can find gluten-free dessert recipes without it? Can I use carob instead of chocolate?
A: There are many dessert recipes that are not chocolate-based. For starters, check out the luscious pies by Jules Shepard in this issue. You’ll also find a bonanza of gluten-free desserts (such as the classic Vanilla Cake by professional baker Dee Kittle) that don’t contain chocolate on Gluten Free And More's website.
Carob powder can replace cocoa powder as a one-for-one substitute. You can also replace chocolate chips with carob chips. Some brands of carob chips contain barley malt, as I noted in response to a previous question, so be sure to check the label before you buy.
Q: Do I need to make any adjustments in my gluten-free baking if I use two egg yolks in place of each whole egg in a recipe?
A: As long as the wet-to-dry ratio remains the same, the recipe should work. A large egg is generally about 3 tablespoons of liquid. The yolk is generally about 1 tablespoon. So 3 egg yolks can replace 1 large egg in your recipe. If a recipe calls for several eggs, the texture may be a little drier when you replace all the whole eggs with yolks.
Q: I was recently diagnosed with a high sensitivity to egg whites but I don’t seem to react to yolks. I make gluten-free bread every week. I’ve been using a flax seed or chia seed replacement for the eggs in my bread recipe but I’d like to supplement with a few yolks, if that’s possible. Can you help me?
A: Egg yolks are a wonderful way to tenderize and enrich gluten-free bread; adding them to your recipe in place of whole eggs could produce a great loaf. The general rule-of-thumb is to use 3 egg yolks to replace 1 large egg. As long as the ratio of wet-to-dry ingredients in your recipe isn’t changed, no other adjustments need to be made. Start by replacing half the eggs in your recipe with yolks (3 yolks = 1 large egg); replace the remaining eggs with flax gel or chia gel. (To replace 1 egg, combine 1 tablespoon ground flax/chia seeds with 3 tablespoons hot water; let sit 5 minutes to thicken and cool.) The texture may change slightly as noted in my last answer.
Food editor Beth Hillson is a chef and cooking instructor. She is founder of Gluten-Free Pantry, one of the first gluten-free companies in the United States, and author of Gluten-Free Makeovers and The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten Free (Da Capo Lifelong).