Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gluten-Free Southern Biscuits

Gluten-Free Southern Biscuits

Since going gluten-free, I MISS bread. A lot. And I'm pretty sure I ate less of it than many people do. The funny thing is, I think I miss it mostly because I can't have it anymore, rather than because I actually miss it. But I do miss the opportunity to make homemade bread -- baking gluten-free is expensive and it doesn't work as well as gluten-laden bread (or at least I haven't figure it out).

A friend and I tried making gluten-free baguettes not too long ago and I can usually depend on her to bake gluten-free with me. Unfortunately, she's traveling right now (and will be gone about a month total) and so I'm baking on my own more.

On Friday mornings, I have breakfast with Annie, Brenna, and another friend. Usually I make some sort of egg casserole, vegetable saute, and/or a baked thing (I love it when Annie brings baked goods!). We've decided we like having a combination of sweet and savory and these breakfasts force us all to eat a real breakfast at least once a week. The rest of the time, you'll find us eating yogurt and cereal, or oatmeal, or fruit, or a granola bar. We use the time to talk about our weeks, our weekend plans, about family, the men in our lives, politics and religion. Over the past three years, we've talked about so many topics, I'm beginning to think there's nothing we won't talk about over Friday breakfast--and I'm going to miss these breakfasts when I move soon (ehm, Annie, you should move with me).

This past Friday, I wanted to make biscuits to go with my mulberry jam (mostly so that Annie and Brenna could try the jam and help me eat it! We picked another gallon and a half or two gallons of mulberries on Thursday and I'd made most of the ones I took home into jam that night). I hadn't tried making biscuits gluten-free yet and I was a bit intimidating since gluten-free flours are heavier and might not rise as well as traditional wheat flour. But, I started with Alton Brown's Southern Biscuit recipe, which is the one I usually turn to (yes, it uses shortening. It's southern.)

Since I used gluten-free flour, I added xantham gum. I also don't particularly like the "gluten-free" taste that some gluten-free products have, so I added in rice flour to help balance out the strong taste of "gluten-free." You may need to add a little more liquid, depending on exactly which flour blend you're using. Gluten-free flours sometimes absorb more water.

Since I didn't want to waste expensive gluten-free flour, I made this biscuits as "formed" drop biscuits -- I dropped them and then shaped them a little and pressed my thumb lightly into the middle. The good thing about these biscuits -- since you're not reforming the dough to cut out the second set, the biscuits stay tender (and save well).

Gluten-Free Southern Biscuits

1 ½ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill
½ cup white rice flour
2 teaspoons xantham gum
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup buttermilk, chilled
1/2 cup whole milk, chilled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, xantham gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk and whole milk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Spoon dough onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, about 2 tablespoons at a time and shape with your fingers to form 1-inch circles. Rearrange biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Press your thumb lightly into the top of each biscuit. Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.
Yields: 12-15 biscuits

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mulberries Galore! (Part 2 - Gluten-Free Mulberry Scones)

Lime-Mulberry Scones, Gluten-Free
Once I made my mulberry jam (and knowing I'd make more with the mulberries Annie, Brenna, and a few other friends picked with me Thursday afternoon), I wanted to get to the important part -- using up my jam! I had company over and thought scones would be a nice morning surprise (and, I've been wanting to make these scones gluten-free ever since I discovered the recipe).

While my guest slept, I got up, walked my dog, and made these gluten-free scones. The original recipe comes from Joy the Baker, but I've modified it to be gluten-free and more like the scones I used to get from my favorite restaurant in town -- scones that have a lovely fruit filling, and a glaze. If you're new to gluten-free baking, these scones are pretty easy to make, since I relied on Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour. If you use a different gluten-free flour mix, check first to see if you need to add xantham gum.

Lime & Mulberry Buttermilk Scones (gluten-free)

makes four large or six small scones
1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons xantham gum
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lime zest
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold buttermilk
Mulberry jam
Powdered sugar (approximately ¼ cup)
Lime juice (enough to make a thick glaze)
Place rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, xantham gum, sugar, lime zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. In another bowl, combine egg yolk and buttermilk and beat lightly with a fork. Add to flour mixture all at once, stirring enough to make a soft dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead about 15 times. Roll or pat out into a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into 8 large or 12 small squares. On half the squares, spread a thin amount of mulberry jam (amount will depend on the size square you’re using and how much jam you want. I make small squares and use about 1-2 tablespoons jam). Place the remaining, squares on top to make a “sandwich.” Place scones on prepared baking sheet. and bake at 425 degrees F for 12-15 minutes.  
While the scones are baking, create a thick glaze by combining powdered sugar with just enough lime juice that you can create a thick paste. Once the scones have come out of the oven and cooled about 5 minutes, spread the glaze over the top of the scones.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mulberries Galore! (Part I - Mulberry Jam)

Mulberry Jam

Mulberries, despite what the children's song would like you to believe, don't grow on a bush. They grow on a tree--a tree that can become huge. Some people see mulberry trees as a pest, something they'd like to get rid of, because when birds eat mulberries, it turns their poop purple. Charming, right? But I'm not convinced that purple birdcrap is any worse than white birdcrap.

The town where I live has a ton of mulberry trees in the parks and they're all heavy with fruit right now. The other day, I went mulberry-foraging with Annie. We expected to collect maybe a pint of mulberries and if we'd been working alone, that would've probably been about right. However, together we were able to collect a half gallon of mulberries in about two hours (mostly spent wandering around seeking mulberry trees with branches low enough we could reach). Teamwork made this easier. One of us would grab a branch and pull it down (thus pulling other branches into reach). We'd strip the branch of ripe (black and dark red) mulberries and then start in on another branch.
Because mulberries are delicate, usually the best bet is to take a large towel or sheet and just shake the tree -- the ripe berries drop onto the blanket for easy collection. We, however, didn't have a large sheet with us (oh well) and our foraging resulted in purple fingers (and a few close calls with poison ivy) for both of us.

Annie talked about putting her mulberries over ice cream (yum!) and I decided to make mine into jam -- especially since we'd already made plans to collect more berries later in the week. I looked at recipes online. Either they called for a TON of sugar, or none at all. Since you should add some sort of acid to jams (i.e. - lemon juice or lime juice) you plan to preserve, I wanted some sugar added -- just enough to balance to acid. I wasn't planning to can my jam -- or even make freezer jam -- because I wasn't making enough, but I do believe in practicing safe preserving methods whenever possible.
The recipe I developed lets the flavor of the berries come through, is slightly tart, and just sweet enough. If you like super-sweet jams (or you prefer jellies without all that texture-y goodness) there are recipes online that looked wonderful. I let my jam cook about 30 minutes over medium-low heat and it firmed up more as it cooled.

Mulberry Jam (low sugar)
1 quart ripe mulberries, soaked and rinsed 3x
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add all ingredients together. Stir occasionally and allow the mixture to come to a high simmer/low boil. Cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Yields approximately 10-12 ounces.

You could certainly can this jam with a pressure canner, or a water bath, make freezer jam (or, like me, put it in the refrigerator and use it in the next few days).

Mulberry Jam on a NutThin