Our food editor answers your baking questions.
Q: I’d like to adapt several of my favorite dishes—most notably some soups and jambalaya—to suit my low-FODMAP diet. These recipes all call for making a roux first. I’ve tried corn flour but the roux is grainy. Can you recommend another kind of flour that would work in these dishes and still be okay for my diet? I really enjoy your “Ask the Chef” column and can’t wait to read the questions as soon as I get your magazine.
A: I’ve had great results using finely ground brown rice flour to make a roux for soups, sauces, gumbo and jambalaya. White rice flour also works. Both are allowed on a low-FODMAP diet. If you don’t have fine-grind rice flour, simply process regular rice flour (either brown or white) in a clean coffee grinder, food processor or blender until finely ground.
Q: Is it safe to use gluten-free flour that’s outdated if I keep it in the freezer?
A: There are two reasons why flour goes bad. (1) It becomes infested with little varmints (moths and bugs—but let’s not go there) or (2) It turns rancid, which occurs more quickly in flours with higher oil content, such as flax meal, amaranth flour and almond flour. Keeping flours in the refrigerator can prevent both mishaps and extend the shelf life by as much as nine months, depending on the flour. Storing flours in the freezer can extend the shelf life even longer. Both refrigeration and freezing will allow you to keep and use your flour beyond its “best use” date, as long as the flour was fresh when you stuck it in there. Don’t store xanthan gum or guar gum in the refrigerator or freezer, however. Chilled gum tends to absorb moisture, causing clumping. Unless instructed otherwise in your recipe, always bring flours and starches back to room temperature before using them for baking.
Q: Most gluten-free baking recipes call for xanthan gum. My daughter is allergic to corn and I’ve heard that xanthan gum contains corn. Can I switch out xanthan gum for guar gum?
A: Xanthan gum is fermented on corn. Although experts claim that no corn remains after the xanthan gum is processed, you should avoid using it if you’re concerned your daughter will have a reaction. By all means, use guar gum instead. It’s a one-to-one substitution for xanthan gum that works equally well in baking recipes.
Q: My family has a sourdough starter that we’ve had for ages. I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease but I’d still like to use this sourdough starter. If I use the starter enough times with only gluten-free flours, will it eventually be safe for gluten-free breads and other goodies for me? How many times would I need to use it before the parts-per-million of the original wheat flour in the starter would be low enough to be considered safe?
A: I know that people can become very attached to their sourdough starter. But it’s pretty risky business to dilute the gluten content over time in the hope that it will be safe for someone with celiac disease. Do not jeopardize your health! Instead, create a new tradition by making your own gluten-free sourdough starter. Feed it, use it in all your recipes and treat it as a new family heirloom. For gluten-free sourdough recipes, go to livingwithout.com.
Q: I just purchased a professional KitchenAid stand mixer. KitchenAid doesn’t seem to provide any recipes for making gluten-free bread in this mixer. I’ve already used it successfully to make gluten-free cakes and cookies but haven’t attempted anything yet with yeast, like pizza dough or bread. Can you give me tips on using a stand mixer for gluten-free bread?
A: The KitchenAid stand mixer is great for all gluten-free recipes, including yeast breads and pizza dough. This machine does not require special gluten-free recipes. Just prepare your recipes as you would using any mixer. I do have two simple tips: Use the paddle attachment, not the dough hook. And scrape the dough down the sides of the bowl as you work so that all ingredients are incorporated.
Q: I’m gluten-, dairy- and yeast-intolerant. Is there a pizza dough recipe for people like me?
A: All of our pizza crust recipes are gluten free and can be made with dairy-free alternatives. Replacing the yeast is a challenge but it’s not impossible. Here’s a way to do it. Replace the amount of yeast with the same amount of baking soda and lemon juice. Use equal parts of each to total the amount of the yeast. Stir them together to make a paste; add it to the batter after the wet and dry ingredients are combined. (Don’t be tempted to use another acid like vinegar. Lemon juice works best.) When you use this substitution, the dough doesn’t need to rise.
There are several wonderful pizza recipes at livingwithout.com. Use this formula in any one of them to create a yeast-free pizza crust.
Q: I make gluten-free bread every week and I always proof the yeast by adding it to warm water and brown sugar. I notice that some gluten-free bread recipes don’t include this step. Is there a reason not to proof the yeast?
A: Some chefs proof their yeast before baking bread. I generally feel there’s no need to do this unless I suspect my yeast is getting old. Fresh yeast is important for activating properly. It’s always worth purchasing new yeast before making any recipe. If you bake a lot with yeast and keep it on hand, pay close attention to the expiration dates and store it in the refrigerator or freezer to increase its shelf life. Be sure to bring it to room temperature before using it.
Have a baking question? Submit your question to editor@LivingWithout.com or mail it to: Ask the Chef, Gluten Free & More, 800 Connecticut Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854-1631. 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.