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I'm very pleased with myself today.  I figured out a gluten-free piparkūkas recipe, which actually tastes and feels like the real thing!  Husband-approved.  Plus, I suspect it takes a lot less physical strength to make them gluten-free, based on the stories from my mother-in-law and my husband!

I used the traditional recipe and simply altered the kinds of flour, substituting by weight. Sorry, but I didn't actually measure volume -- but you can look up the weight-to-volume ratio for the different flours and try it that way [edit: I did measure on my second batch - amounts are somewhat approximate, and I do prefer the weight method; but this should work if you don't have a kitchen scale. ].  I also added a little xanthan gum.  Oh, and I cut the recipe in a quarter, because that gives plenty of cookies without an overwhelming amount of work.

Note: I did not actually have pre-ground oat flour.  So I used quick-cooking oats and a blender to chop them up, then made sure to sift them in.  Worked fine.  

  1. Bring to a boil, stirring:

    3 Tablespoons honey
    1/4 cup molasses
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup salted butter
    5 more teaspoons salted butter (original recipe calls for lard, which I don't have).
  2. Mix spices, then add to bubbling mixture:

    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ginger
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1/4 teaspoon cloves
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon cardamom
    1/4 teaspoon coriander
  3. Turn off heat.  Sift into mixture, stirring constantly:

    110 g oat flour [1 cup + 1 Tablespoon] (original recipe calls for 7/8 cup all-purpose flour)

    Let cool.
  4. When NOT HOT -- but still warm and gooey! - mix in:

    1 well-beaten egg
  5. Mix flours (original recipe calls for almost 3 cups all-purpose flour):

    120 g oat flour [ 1 cup + 3 Tablespoons ]
    120 g rice flour (white or brown, doesn't matter) [ scant 3/4 cup ]
    120 g potato starch (NOT FLOUR!) [ ample 3/4 cup ]

    Also mix, for later kneading and rolling:
    100 g rice flour
    100 g potato starch
    [ figure using about 1:1 volume wise, with a little extra potato starch. ]

    (Note: I had some left over, but it'll depend on a lot of factors so you might as well mix it all.  You can use the leftovers as an all-purpose flour for gravies, etc.)
  6. Sift almost half the flour onto a work surface, dump the dough (still gooey) onto it, and cover with the rest of the flour.  (Or put the whole business into a really heavy-duty mixer with the mixing paddle, not the dough hook.  Don't try this with anything that can't do a really stiff bread dough.)
  7. Sift on top:

    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon xanthan gum (not in original recipe)
  8. Knead it all together (or use the heavy-duty mixer to do most of the hard work). Add more sifted flour until the dough doesn't stick.
  9. Keep kneading until the dough is a bit shiny and not very sticky.

    At this point, if you've made a large batch you can wrap some up and keep it in the fridge for rolling out later.  Otherwise, keep going:
  10. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface, using a little flour here and there to keep it from sticking, as usual.  Roll it really, really, really thin - so thin that the dough is nearly translucent.  Don't worry -- I know with usual gluten-free recipes it has to be thicker, but that's not true here.  Make it super-thin.  Just keep rolling.  Cut with your favorite cookie cutters.
  11. Bake on a parchment-covered cookie sheet at 300° for 9.5 minutes.
  12. Cool on racks, but you can enjoy them still warm, too. :)
piparkūkas, gluten-free!

Sweet Sourdough (Gluten-free)

sourdough, cooking, kitchen
An experiment last night yielded a reasonably successful loaf of bread this morning.  It's a little beany, a little sweet and mild; you really can't tell that it's a sourdough (that's what all the soda is for).

1/3 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour
2/3 cup tapioca flour
2/3 cup buckwheat flour (I used light)
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 tablespoon sweet whey
1 teaspoon baking soda*
1 teaspoon baking powder*
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup sourdough sponge**

Mix dry; mix wet.  Combine.  It's kind of goopy and bubbly, like muffin batter, but not runny at all.
Place in 8"x4" bread pan and let sit in warm place overnight.
Bake at 350 deg. F for about 35 minutes, or until it smells fragrant and a toothpick comes out clean.
Makes 1 loaf.  My son liked it.  I liked it.  Even my husband said it was okay. :)

* For a corn-free version, use 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar.

** The sourdough sponge had been living on my counter for a few weeks, and was originally made by my 3-1/2-year-old son when he needed something to do.  We mixed buckwheat and potato flour, some milk, and some yeast.  He was quite interested in the bubbles, and enjoyed feeding it from time to time with more buckwheat or potato and water.  I eventually found that it liked potato starch and water very much, but as I don't want to get it too excited I only give it that on special occasions.


The Herald of Misery
Sunday: Alex fussy during our visits. At night he vomits, twice, in his bed.
Monday: I'm a little congested, but otherwise fine. I figure it's some sort of allergy. Alex has a bit of a fever, but seems over the vomiting.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Doctor
Tuesday: Erik becomes congested. Alex and I have sore throats. We go to the doctor, thinking it might be strep throat from the nanny's grandchildren. Luckily, test is negative. Throat culture does induce a vomit from He of the Strong Gag Reflex, though. Lucky for the 1st year med student in the room, he didn't get her. Of course, I didn't have a change of clothing for myself, either. (We always bring a change for him.)

We've all been vaccinated against the various flus.  The doctor tells us that it's just a cold/virus, and take care of it as usual with plenty of fluids, etc.  And by the way, as long as he's not dehydrated, don't worry too much about the height of the fever.

You Won't Believe It's Not the Flu
In the wee hours of the morning, Alex has a 103.8 degree fever.  We pull it down with tylenol and compresses, and gratefully go back to bed.  Pediatrician's office is closed, of course; but we're not supposed to worry anyway.  Feeling okay in the morning; when the nanny arrives toward afternoon, I go into work.  Bad idea; I'm falling asleep at my desk.

Thursday: Whammo.  I must've been run over by a truck.  Fever overnight, chills, the works.  Alex's fever is down a bit, though, averaging around 100 degrees.  Alex refuses to nap, probably because the nanny is there and Erik and I are both trying to rest.  Finally Erik has him planted in front of Kipper (our new best friend) on the TV and I got a nap.  We check in with the pediatrician, and also with our doctor; both tell us that they've seen this one take two weeks easy.  Sometimes longer.  Great.  But no, it's not the flu.  If it is, we're darned glad we got our vaccinations because we wouldn't want this to be any worse than it already is!

Friday: Despite my optimistic notions of being well enough to go back to work, I'm not.  But it's a moot point, because the nanny is now sick.  Sounds like something different, but with this thing, who knows?  We're all congested and tired and cranky and really hoping this'll be over soon.  But we're not even at the one-week mark yet.  Erik is feverish and sluggish, and naps for half the morning.  Oh, yes, and starts developing unmentionable symptoms.  Yuck.

Saturday and Sunday blur together.  Nights are generally interrupted.  Alex wakes up thirsty, or his blankets fall off, or I have to get up for coughing or whatever.  By Sunday Alex's temperature is hovering around 99.5 degrees.  We cancel all family plans (including plans Erik and I had for an actual date - dinner and a show), though in-laws have been kind enough to shop and make soup for us.

Overnight on Saturday the cold made a bid to move into my chest.  By waking up at 3am and coughing up phlegm into the sink (among other methods), I forestalled it.  But we all progressed to one of many coughing stages about then.

Monday: It should've been over by now.  Why am I still sick? Nanny still sick too, so Alex wears me out in the morning and then I nap and work from home in the afternoon.  Completely knackered by nightfall, and Erik agrees to take the morning shift so I can recover from putting Alex to bed.  Alex's temperature stubbornly hovers around 99.5 degrees.  Erik's aunt is in the hospital with pneumonia, apparently from much the same cold as we're dealing with.  Or at least that's as much sense as we can make of it in our groggy, phlegmatic state.

Tuesday: Although Alex is now sleeping through the night again, I'm still not.  I'm unsuccessfully trying to avoid tiring things like cleaning up after an army of messy bowl-plate-and-spoon-users.  At least we still don't have to cook, as there's plenty of chicken soup and beef stew in the fridge.  In-laws stop by with extra tissues.

Wednesday:  Erik thinks his cold is basically over.  He works all morning, shovels the deck, works all evening, and watches Alex in between.  I'm feeling better finally; it now feels like a normal cold just before you get over it instead of like something super-awful that might last forever and ever and ever.  Alex's temperature considers coming down to normal range, but continues to average 99.

Thursday: Erik was wrong.  Alex is feeling pretty good but stuffy and coughing; temp still around 99.  I'm feeling decent when not coughing my brains out.  Cold made another bid for my chest last night; I again held firm against the wicked post-nasal drip.  Still tired.  Considering a nap, but I should actually do some work while I have a chance.  It is, after all, Thursday and I've now been home for a solid week.  Nanny hasn't been heard from yet.  Think she'll be in tomorrow?  Place your bets, folks, odds are 50/50.

Friday... to be determined.


Recipes: Gluten Free

Pancakes: These are heartier than your average pancake, and a little heavier than regular wheat flour pancakes (similar to whole wheat, actually), but have a soft texture and a nice flavor. They can also be baked like muffins, esp. if you dot each with butter so it melts in.

Serve these with honey & butter, or applesauce & cinnamon sugar, or maple syrup, whatever your preference. They're okay without sweetening, even, but my sweet tooth likes them better with!

(I did my measuring pretty inaccurately, so some of these are best guesses according to the size of my hand...)

2 eggs
1/4 plain yogurt
~ 1 c. milk, depending on how thin or thick you want the batter. This made pretty thick pancakes and decent muffins, so for thin pancakes you'd add a little more.

1/2 - 3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. baking powder
< 1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 c. garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour
1/4 c. sorghum flour
1/2 c. corn masa flour (different from regular corn flour; also called masa harina)

Mix it all together and cook on a pan, like a pancake, 'cause that's what it is.


Corn, Sorghum & Peach Muffins
Heat oven to 375° F. and prepare muffin pans however you like.

1/2 cup masa flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
~ 1/8 cup sugar
~ 1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
~ 1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp sweet whey

Combine dry; cut in:
1/4 cup butter

Mix together wet:
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

Mix into dry.

Add 1/2 cup peaches. I used canned and cut them up. If you use fresh peaches, you might need to toss them with a little sugar.


Ho Cobbler

This one is based on an old recipe passed down from my Mother's family.

While oven heats to 375° F:
Melt 6 Tbsp butter in a baking dish - a 10" pie plate, or 8x8 square works well.

Mix together:

1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour or potato starch (NOT potato flour)
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup oatmeal, or, if you're avoiding oats too, use rice flour

1/2 tsp. xanthan (or other) gum
1 - 2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit you use. For apples, use 1/2 cup.

Pour in and mix:
3/4 cup milk

Pour mixture into melted butter in baking dish.

Arrange fruit on top: 1 cup blueberries, or enough apples to cover the top, or 1 cup rhubarb, etc. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar on top if desired.

If you eat oats, you can also add a crisp topping, like oats, brown sugar, etc. Be creative!

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 20-30 minutes.

The Blob That Ate My Kitchen, Part II

sourdough, cooking, kitchen

After some rather strange quinoa sourdough pancakes, I decided to try a plain buckwheat sourdough. I didn't have the time or all of the ingredients for the recipe I wanted to try, so I found a very simple buckwheat sourdough that was meant for pancakes and just made bread from it.

4 cups buckwheat flour
2 cups water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

So I took 1 cup of starter, used 3.5 cups of flour and 1.5 cups water (figuring that I had about 1/2 cup of each in my starter already). I added 2 teaspoons honey ('cause honey is always better, right?) and 1 teaspoon salt.

Alex helped me, of course.

We mixed the goop in the mixer, greased a couple of glass loaf pans and popped 'em into a warmed oven to rise overnight.

They did indeed rise! I probably should have let them rise a bit more, but it was either bake now or sit another 8-9 hours while I went to work, so I baked them before work, for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees F.

The result is not pretty, but it is edible. It's a hearty farm bread, with a flavorful, dense and springy crumb.

The crust is light green... because I used light buckwheat flour, which ends up sort of a puce color when mixed with water. The sides browned. I expect it might brown a bit better if I preheated the oven, and brushed the surface with water. Instead it looks like dried mud, cracked and chalky on top.

It's tasty with butter, and not bad with a cup of cocoa.

It is, at least, encouraging. Yes, Virginia, you *can* make a gluten-free sourdough.

Gluten Free Shortcake

It's strawberry season here in Vermont, and our local farmstand has the best strawberries imaginable. I couldn't go without strawberry shortcake! That would be unthinkable.

I had tried converting my grandmother's recipe with some success previously. I'd gotten the flavor close, but the texture was always too dense. This time, the flavor is stronger, but good; the texture is light and crumbly, and it's extra-yummy with strawberries and whipped cream, just like Grammie's always was.

The main flour this time is masa harina. It's available in the grocery store locally in the mexican/ethnic aisle. Don't substitute regular corn flour, it's different -- besides, the masa flour will probably cost less. :)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare a loaf pan -- if you have it, use a smaller 8"x4" pan instead of the standard 9"x5" loaf pan. It helps the bread bake more evenly through, improving the texture. This recipe makes one loaf, regardless. Grease and flour, or use parchment paper, or a bit of cornmeal; the goal is to let the loaf release easily.

3/4 cup masa harina flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 Tablespoon sweet dairy whey
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar

Combine flours, then cut in:
1/3 cup butter

In a separate bowl, beat together:
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Combine liquids and flours until well-mixed, any way you like.

Add, at some point:
1/4 (or more!) cup blanched almonds (optional, but adds a nice sweetness. If you don't want the crunch, try subbing in a little almond meal for some of the flour instead.)

Spread the batter evenly in the loaf pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Happy Independence Day!

UPDATE: I didn't have blanched almonds so I took some slivered almonds, pulsed them in the blender until they were sort of crushed, like a coarse almond meal, and just added them in place of the blanched almonds without adjusting any of the flours or liquids. yum! I think that's tastier than the blanched almonds and a better texture, too.

I did all the mixing by hand this time and, true to Grammie's old recipe, it came out with a more uneven crumb -- moist and crumbly in a biscuit-y way. If I use a blender, it comes out nice and even, but I think I prefer the hand-mixed result.

The Blob That Ate My Kitchen

No, no, I haven't gained *that* much weight!

I'm talking about my Great Sourdough Experiment. I'm attempting to grow a real sourdough using gluten-free flours.

I began a couple of weeks ago. I started with two cups of warm milk, and let it sit out for a day or so to "trap wild yeast". Then I added some potato flour, and let it grow and grow and grow.

It soon began to smell.

I skimmed a layer of potentially colorful growth off of the top, and underneath found gorgeous white sponge-like stuff that indeed, smelled sour.

Then I put it in the fridge, which I probably shouldn't have, but I don't think it did any harm. However, when I took it out again it smelled like cheese instead of sourdough.

I let it warm up, fed it more potato flour and water, and let it sit some more.

Fruit flies were born. My kitchen took on a strange odor. I searched for inconspicuous places to set the thing out to grow some more.

Finally I decided to branch out. My yeast seemed active enough by now to start adding other flours.

sourdough experiment jars
I started four likely candidates: quinoa, corn masa, buckwheat and brown rice.

My initial observations: quinoa and corn masa both did wonderfully. The masa might have risen slightly more, but the quinoa smells a bit better to my nose. Both smell right -- reasonably mild, sour, and like the flour. The buckwheat also did well, and had a longer rising before it attained peak height. The brown rice fermented, but didn't really do much as far as rising.

Two days went by, and this evening my helper and I fed them. I tossed the brown rice one, as it had developed a white scum on the top (maybe just something that rice does; I added some sweet rice flour to my initial starter and it had a similar scum when I checked it, just not as much) and it didn't smell great, and it hadn't risen. I pulled some starter from my initial batch, which I also fed with more potato flour, and added chickpea flour to it for a new fourth jar.

Again, the quinoa and the masa flours are the early risers, and seem to be very active. I'm waiting to see what happens with the buckwheat again, and of course to get an idea of what the chickpea flour might do.

I may try to bake something with them over the weekend. We'll see!

In other news, I've borrowed a bike trailer from a friend to see if Alex likes it. A helmet should arrive tomorrow from Amazon.

UPDATE: July 2, I had to toss the masa starter. One jar was getting a bit of pink discoloration on top, much like the initial discoloration I skimmed off the potato starter. The other jar had some almost fuzzy-looking scum on top of the hooch. So down the drain they went, and in their places I tried two more flours: sorghum and millet. Then I tossed the remainder of the original potato starter, as it doesn't seem to keep all that well. Atop the hooch was some scummy stuff, which I skimmed and them poured off all the liquid, and the solids smelled pretty mild and looked white, so that's what I used to start the sorghum and millet. We'll see how they do. My guess is that they won't rise all that well, because both are a bit dense. Worth a try, though.

I'm going to try some sourdough pancakes tomorrow morning, I hope. Probably with the quinoa, because I'm planning to try these buns with the buckwheat starter this weekend. It'll be a bit adapted, but that looks like a good start.


Going TV-less (but cheating)!

A couple of weeks ago we bought a Roku player, which is the size of a 500-page paperback novel and connects to our Netflix instant queue as well as Amazon Video. They're looking to partner with more content providers as well. We did this with the idea of dropping our cable TV subscription, which cost us way more per month than it was worth to us for the amount we watch.

So we tried it out, it worked, and I just now spoke with a very nice Comcast cable rep to remove our TV service. Boy, is cable service confusing! I'm sure they do that on purpose just to keep people from changing too much, but our poor service rep had to call other departments at least 3 times during our conversation. We found out that our grandfathered Adelphia package has been saving us a *lot* over the time that we've had it - about $35/month at least (I guess Adelphia was worth something after all). Of course, if we'd been paying their current prices for all that stuff we didn't use, we would've canceled it a long time ago!

We're pretty happy right now, though. Our new service will give us better internet service for about half of what we're currently paying for both TV and internet. The cable guy comes on Tuesday to make the switch.


What do your kids think about?

After reading the StrollerDerby blog, I was amused enough to think about this re: my own kid.

My guess as to what Alex is thinking:
Can we go outside?

Can I see the mechanism?

Of the remaining 50%:

I'm a baby cat!

Is that a present for me?

How many movies can I convince them to let me watch? If I ask again, maybe the answer will change!

Chase me!

Activity du jour -- play dough, gardening, cooking, etc.

I'm a baby penguin!

Whose house will we visit today? What cool toys will they have?

I'm a baby dog!

Can I eat oatmeal?

May I please be excused (3 minutes after sitting down to a meal)?

Whose computer can I use next?

I'm a baby seal!

I'm a baby frog!

I'm a baby <other>!

That's a chipmunk.



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