Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #118
A New Year and a New Goal
The year 2019 was a challenging one for many of us, and I for one am happy to begin 2020. (By the way, 2019 was not the end of the decade. Technically a new decade begins with the number 1, so 2021 will be when we hit the new decade button. If you don't believe me, read this tidbit from NPR).
Before we begin with the mailbox, I have a question for all of you. Several years ago I wrote and published a cookbook. It was filled with color photographs, food histories, and personal stories. A fun project for sure, but the color pages drove up the cost, so much so that I fell short of my sales goal.
In a moment of insanity, I've decided to do it again—I'm considering another foray into the publishing world, but this time without the stories, without food histories, and without costly color photographs. Just recipes, the recipes I share on Hub Pages with all of you . . . if you are interested. So would you like to have a copy of "Carb Diva's Recipes" on your shelf? Let me know what you think (there's a poll at the end of this article to make it simple and anonymous).
The First Questions of 2020
Let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.
Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.
I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.
How to Bake a Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake
I recently published an article on how to make the "Perfect Dark Chocolate Cake." That prompted a question from Donna Rayne:
"Hi, Linda, This chocolate cake looks so yummy! How would I turn it into a gluten-free cake? Also, I use a splash of coffee for cakes and cookies, brings out wonderful flavors and makes them soft and moist to eat. I look forward to reading more of your recipes! Love your hub!"
Donna, as you probably know, gluten-free baking can be a bit of a science experiment. When viewed under a microscope, gluten protein looks like a spider web; it is that “web” that traps carbon dioxide bubbles. The other important part of wheat flour is starch. When heated, starch becomes firm and it supports the protein webs.
When you bake a loaf of bread, there's yeast alive in there, giving off carbon dioxide, creating air bubbles that let the dough double in size, but it's a slow process. Normal proofing takes from 45 minutes to 2 hours. So you need more gluten with the lasting power to hold up those bubbles, maintain the structure of the dough, and give you a brilliant loaf (as opposed to a hockey puck).
For a cake that is leavened (made to rise) with baking powder and/or baking soda, a lower amount of gluten is needed. The baking powder and soda won't be making huge bubbles and they will act quickly.
Where I'm going with all of this is that substituting gluten-free flour in a cake recipe is not as difficult as if you were to attempt gluten-free bread.
Non-gluten flours can be used in baking, but how to do that depends on the type of flour you have.
- If your gift is labeled as "all-purpose gluten-free flour" then it can be used in place of regular all-purpose flour, at a ratio of 1:1.
- If you use rice flour you will need to add starch and "sticky stuff" to mimic the gluten that is missing. Mix this up and store in a canister for future use: For every 3 cups of rice flour add 2 cups of potato starch, 1 cup of tapioca flour, and 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum. You now have a rice flour that can be used in place of cake flour.
Here's a link that will provide more information. I hope these tips help you.
Gluten Free Cooking Help
Donna asked another question about gluten-free cooking:
"Linda, do you have a gluten-free dessert dishes and entre dishes? I get tired of making the same things over and over again. I'm also allergic to eggs but not in cakes and stuff, I just can't have scrambled eggs or omelets. Any new recipes would be appreciated."
I could certainly find links for gluten-free for you, but I don't have first-hand experience with that type of cooking or baking. I'm going to suggest that you contact my dear friend on Hub Pages, Doris James, also known as MizBejabbers.
Doris is allergic to wheat and has a wealth of ideas on recipe conversions and where to source the best gluten-free brands.
Homemade Salad Dressings
"Linda do you have a good 'go to' salad dressing? Currently I just use olive oil and apple vinegar. I am the only one who will use it so I don't need vast quantities. A simple affair with easy to get ingredients would be perfect."
Mary, here's a link that I shared on my article about making your own seasoning and sauce mixes. https://www.macheesmo.com/homemade-salad-dressing. If you're in the mood for something creamy, I have two more recipes to share, a Mock Caesar (real Caesar has anchovies and my vegetarian daughter refuses it), and a ranch dressing that tastes so much better than bottled, you'll never buy salad dressing again.
Mock Caesar (concocted after a bit of trial and error)
- 3/4 cup plain Greek Yogurt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon capers, rinsed and drained
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon grated/minced fresh garlic
- black pepper, to taste
Place all ingredients in the jar of a blender and whirl until smooth and well-blended.
- ¾ cup sour cream
- ½ cup milk (whole or 2 percent)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh, flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Stir together milk and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside for about 5-10 minutes. (The milk will thicken. It may look a bit curdled, but don't worry).
- Combine milk mixture and sour cream in a medium-sized bowl, whisking until smooth.
- Add dry ingredients and whisk until thoroughly combined.
- Transfer dressing to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate.
And here's one more. Sometimes I like to make a salad with fresh fruits; this berry vinaigrette uses strawberries, but any fresh berry would work.
Winter Squash Casserole Recipe
Last week I mentioned the menu I had created for a Christmas Day dinner. Kari Poulson asked for the squash casserole. Here it is.
- 2 cups cooked mashed winter squash (butternut, acorn, or sugar pumpkin are great!)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place squash in the bowl of a food processor; add the sugar, milk, 3 tablespoons melted butter, salt, and vanilla. Process until smooth. Add eggs and pulse until blended.
- Pour into a 1-quart baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray.
- Combine all ingredients for the topping in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the squash mixture.
- Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes or until golden.
Cornmeal Biscuits Recipe
Mary (Blonde Logic) liked the Christmas menu too.
"Your Christmas dinner sounds delicious. Those cornmeal angel biscuits sound interesting. I love cornmeal, although Ian isn't too keen. I'd love a recipe."
Your wish is my command:
- 2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 cup shortening
- In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Add to buttermilk and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in yeast/buttermilk mixture and knead just to bring together about 5 or 6 times.
- On a lightly floured surface, pat dough out to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch round cutter. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Biscuits should be almost touching.
- Cover and set in warm, draft-free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes or until browned.
Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.
Here's a link to that Table of Contents.
I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.
Are You Interested in a Carb Diva Cookbook?
Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: email@example.com.
And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.
© 2020 Linda Lum