Ask the ChefsDec/Jan 2011 Issue

In the Kitchen: Date Sugar, Xantham Gum, Gluten-Free Flour Mix & More!

chef hat
What is date sugar? Can I substitute plain sugar in the recipe or just add chopped dates?

Date sugar is very finely ground dehydrated dates. Unlike white sugar, this natural sweetener contains vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can substitute an equal amount of regular sugar or lightly packed brown sugar in your recipe. Don’t use chopped dates as they tend to clump together and will not disperse evenly.  

I can’t eat most of the recipes in your magazine. In addition to gluten, I can’t tolerate rice, potato, corn, soy, oats and almonds. Can you concoct a flour mix that would work for me?

The beauty of our recipes is that you can substitute your own safe ingredients and, for the most part, the taste and texture will be the same. Eggs are the big exception but they’re not on your list.

This all-purpose flour blend can replace cup-for-cup the blend called for in your recipes. Note that it contains salt and gum, so omit these from your recipe. Combine ingredients and store covered in the refrigerator until used.


1½ cups sorghum flour
¾ cup quinoa or chickpea flour
¾ cup tapioca starch/flour
2 teaspoons guar gum
1½ teaspoons salt

Is it okay to freeze the flour blends in your magazine? I don't have much room in my refrigerator and I’d love to keep them in the freezer, if possible.

Yes. Gluten-free flour blends can be stored in the freezer. Be sure they’re tightly covered to keep them free of moisture. Allow blends to return to room temperature before using.

If a recipe calls for xanthan gum, can I use guar gum instead?

This question comes up so frequently that the answer bears repeating in this column. Xanthan gum is fermented with corn; the amount is very small but some corn-allergic people may not be able to tolerate xanthan for this reason. Guar gum and xanthan gum are interchangeable in gluten-free baking. Some cookbook authors suggest using 1½ teaspoons guar gum for every 1 teaspoon xanthan gum. But replacing xanthan with an equal amount of guar gum works just fine.

I decided I’m brave enough to tackle homemade bread instead of relying on mixes. The Egg Bread and Potato Sandwich Bread recipes on have instructions for oven baking. Can they be adapted for my Zojirushi bread machine?

Congratulations on deciding to make homemade bread! You will be delighted with the results. The fragrance and taste of freshly baked bread—mmm! Any recipe that contains no more than 3½ cups flour and 2 cups liquid will work in the Zojirushi. If your recipe calls for more flour or liquid or if it’s for two loaves, you may have to reduce ingredient amounts by 30 percent. For settings and tips, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for gluten-free baking.

I’m intolerant to gluten and dairy and I can’t have rice. In your flour blends, can I substitute spelt or kamut for the rice flour?

Spelt and kamut are forms of wheat—they contain gluten. Fortunately, there are many flour substitutes that are safe for you, such as millet, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, teff and Montina. Try using any of these or a combination as a one-for-one substitute for rice flour. Legume flours are also terrific for boosting protein and fiber. 

In my gluten-eating days, my favorite recipe was an applesauce cake with raisins and nuts, made in a loaf pan. Do you think I could modify this recipe to make it gluten free? Would you recommend I use a loaf pan or should I make it in two layers?  

You can definitely make your applesauce cake gluten free. Simply replace the quantity of wheat flour with an equal amount of gluten-free all-purpose flour blend, such as the blends on pages 34 and 60. Most likely, you can use a loaf pan but your cake may require additional baking time since a loaf pan is deeper and the baking surface is smaller than that of a round cake pan. When time is up, keep it in the oven and test it for doneness at 5-minute intervals to make certain it’s baked in the center.

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 creator of Gluten-Free Pantry’s gourmet baking mixes.
Send your questions to Ask the Chef, Living Without magazine, 535 Connecticut Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854-1631 or Include your full name, address and daytime phone number. Letters become the property of Belvoir Media Group, LLC and may be published in other media. Submissions chosen for publication may be edited for clarity and length.


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