Your favorite foods, made gluten-free |

Your favorite foods, made gluten-free

Susan Hart
Special to the Appeal
Courtesy photo Gluten-free brownies, as yummy as those made in the traditional way.

I have been cooking and baking without wheat flour for 12 years, since my son was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance. Jay was 15 years old at the time, and packing away enormous amounts of food like a boy that age would, but was having intestinal pain and getting thinner and thinner before my eyes.

After an agonizingly long time of failed diagnoses and treatments, Jay was tested for food allergies. The list of allergens came back looking as long as a Thanksgiving grocery list, but the main thing he had to avoid was grains with gluten Ð wheat, barley, rye, and oats by association, as they are often shipped in the same containers as wheat.

It only took about a week for Jay to feel better when he stopped eating wheat products. He has lived well without gluten for 12 years now, is 6 foot, 4 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. I think he’s a handsome guy, too, but I can’t guarantee that’s because he’s gluten-free.

I love to cook, and enjoyed the challenge of re-creating our family’s favorite foods in gluten-free form. Over time I have learned some of the tricks of gluten-free baking. First, two or more different flours and/or starches are combined in any given recipe to create different effects.

Each cookbook seems to have its own blend of flours to use as a baking mix, usually a blend of two parts rice flour to one part that is a mix of two starches, such as potato starch and tapioca.

For instance, six cups of mix could be made using four cups of rice flour, 1.5 cups of potato starch, and 1Ú2 cup of tapioca flour.

Such a mix can be used as a direct exchange for wheat flour in a basic recipe, except that some amount of Xanthan gum needs to be added when baking with gluten-free flours to bind the batter or dough.

I usually use a 1Ú2 teaspoon of Xanthan gum to each cup of gluten-free baking mix, but individual recipes may vary.

Yeast doughs using gluten-free flours require a bit more yeast than wheat flour doughs, but need only to rise once, not twice. Also, when a recipe calls for baking powder and baking soda, like biscuits or coffee cakes, some extra “pop” is nice in the batter.

This can be achieved by adding a little apple cider vinegar Ð 1Ú2 teaspoon or so Ð to the liquid in the recipe, and stirring the amount of baking soda called for in the recipe into the vinegar-liquid mix. Baking powder should continue to be mixed with the dry ingredients in the recipe.

When Jay was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant, I decided to be tested as well, because there can be a genetic component to the condition. I have the allergy, too, and have been challenged by the realities of living gluten-free. What I have presented in this article is a mere dollop of information on gluten-free baking and foods.

So, the recipes I chose to share with you are for brownies and pizza crust, some basic things that I missed most after giving up gluten. I hope you enjoy them.

Gluten-free pizza crust

1Ú2 C. sweet rice flour

1Ú2 C. lukewarm water

11Ú2 tsp. sugar

1 package active dry yeast (21Ú2 tsp.)

Combine all ingredients and make a sponge in a bowl. Let the sponge stand, covered, for about half an hour until it is very bubbly. In the meantime, in a mixer or food processor, pulse together:

11Ú4 cups brown rice flour

1Ú4 cup fine corn flour

1Ú4 cup corn starch

1 tsp. Xanthan gum

1 tsp. kosher salt

In another bowl, mix:

3Ú4 cup lukewarm water

1Ú4 cup olive oil

1 egg, beaten

1Ú2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Add the liquid ingredients and the yeast sponge to the dry ingredients and mix for three minutes. Place the dough (it will look more like batter) in an oiled bowl and let it stand, covered, in a draft-free place for an hour or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 410 degrees. Stir down the dough and spread it with a spatula on a 14-inch pizza pan, either nonstick or oiled. If you like a crispy crust, let it stand 5 minutes, then bake it untopped for 12 minutes, top it with your favorite toppings, and bake again for 20-25 minutes. If you like a doughy crust, let it stand for 15 minutes before topping it, then bake at 410 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Onion confit topping with goat cheese

2 onions, sliced in rounds 1Ú4- to 1Ú2-inch thick

4 T. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp. sugar

1 T. fresh thyme leaves or 1Ú2 tsp. dried thyme

3Ú4 cup red wine

2 T. balsamic vinegar

6 oz. herbed chevre, crumbled

1Ú4 C. grated pecorino Romano cheese

Add onions, olive oil and salt and pepper to a pan and cook on medium heat, covered, for five minutes. Add the sugar, stir and cook for another five minutes. Add the thyme, red wine and vinegar, uncover and cook for one hour over low heat.

Top the prepared pizza crust with the onions and the cheeses. Bake as indicated in the pizza crust recipe.

Gluten-free brownies

3Ú4 cup canola margarine

10 ounces gluten-free semi-sweet chocolate chips (Tropical Source is guaranteed gluten- and dairy-free; DuBois’ Health Center carries it)

1Ú2 C. sweet rice flour

1Ú4 C. potato starch flour

1Ú2 tsp. Xanthan gum

Pinch of salt

4 large eggs

11Ú2 C. brown sugar

1Ú2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Grease and dust with cocoa a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the top of a double boiler, melt together margarine and chocolate chips. When they have melted, whisk them together and take them off of the heat.

While the chocolate mixture is cooling, in a bowl mix flours, gum and pinch of salt. In a food processor or mixer, place eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla and beat together until thick and shiny Ð about four minutes.

Transfer the egg mixture to a larger bowl and fold in the cooled chocolate mixture, then the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

Let them cool for a half-hour before cutting them.

• Susan Hart lives in Carson City and is working on a cookbook of gluten-free recipes to be published this summer. She can be contacted at