A little blog about food with recipes, reviews, commentary, and honesty.

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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Gluten-Free Food Made Easy: Stocks, Pasta, Pizza, and Pastry

Gluten-Free Food Made Easy - The Guide


Stocks are sneaky things that contain unexpected gluten or wheat. Of course you could make all your stocks from scratch to ensure all the ingredients are gluten-free; boil up a chicken carcass, simmer some fish bones, or broil up some vegetables, but who has the time to do that everyday? 

Stocks cubes are a quintessential time-saver but some aren't GF friendly. Popular brands such as OXO and most supermarket-own stock cubes contain both wheat and gluten because of the thickening agents or preservatives. But good GF friendly brands include Knorr (the gel pots in particular have a great flavour and use xantham gum as a thickener), Heinz, and Kallo, which are also organic. So any recipe which calls for a stock just use a GF stock cube instead, like my smoked haddock risotto recipe

Ready-to-use liquid stocks are increasing in popularity because of their flavour and consistency. But like the cubes some are GF and some aren't so always check the labels. Brands such as OXO again contain gluten as well as supermarket-own brands such as Tesco, however Knorr is once again a GF star as well as Owen Potts


Like the bread, GF pasta has come a looong way over the past few years. Pasta is one of the easiest ingredients to substitute to GF because the timings are the same, there's a great variety of shapes and types available in mainstream supermarkets, and the texture's not that far off. So any pasta recipe is your oyster! 

Dried GF pastas are by far the most common, as with mainstream, and there are loads of brands to choose from. Dried GF pastas can be made from maize, corn, rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, or vegetables; they all have a slightly different flavour so test some out and see which you prefer. The ones that taste most like mainstream pastas are the ones made from maize, corn, and rice like the range from Doves FarmOrgran specialise in multigrain pasta, premium pasta flavoured with chilli or garlic, and also have a brilliant children's range! Most of the major supermarkets also do their own dried GF pastas within their free-from ranges in a wide variety of shapes. Lasagne and canneloni can once more be on the menu as GF dried pasta sheets are also become widely available; try Juvela or Orgran. 

Fresh GF pasta is more difficult to source from major supermarkets, but Waitrose do lovely fresh penne. Again you can treat the fresh GF exactly the same as mainstream, but just be careful not to overcook as it's liable to turn mushy! 

There are only a few different homemade GF pasta recipes on the internet, but some of them are vastly overcomplicated; I found one that used 3 different types of flour, 3 different starches, and xantham gum, ridiculous! You can use GF flours as alternatives to the traditional '00' flour but you have to remember to add the all important xantham gum; pasta needs the elasticity otherwise it'll be like chewing straw. So try more robust GF flours such as GF plain, buckwheat, or brown rice; but don't use lighter types like cornflour, potato, or white rice. For every 300g of GF flour, use 1 tbsp of xantham gum. 


Unfortunately Dominos haven't yet had a foray into the world of GF pizza, but GF pizza bases are now widely available in major supermarkets and online so create your own and you can customise the toppings how you like! 

Genius do excellent frozen bases with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce already added; it's the most convenient way to create your own. Glutafin do lovely deeper pan bases and DS bases have a crispy crunch and are available through ASDA. Most of the major supermarkets do their own brands now and I recommend Tesco for both price and texture. The best bit about the ready-made bases are the convenience, they take the same time to cook in the oven as regular fresh pizzas, and the texture, which is very similar to mainstream pizzas except they're a bit crispier (which I prefer!). 

If you want something that involves a bit more cooking and so you can dictate the thickness and size of your pizzas, there are now GF pizza base mixes available. These are mostly online or through your pharmacist, but you can find a limited range in larger supermarkets if you look really hard. Orgran are the cheapest and most readily available; there are other brands such as Glebe Farm or Bobs Red Mill but these are really expensive for what they are and only available through specialist online retailers.  

Making GF pizza dough from scratch is again all about substitution and the wonderful xantham gum. You can use GF plain flour like in this recipe from the Gluten Free Student Cookbook, or there are recipes online which use polenta instead of flour but these produce a much harder, brittle base. Just like making your own GF pasta, xantham gum adds the essential texture and elasticity of gluten so don't forget to add it! 


Readers of my earlier blog posts will already know that I hate making pastry, it's my least favourite kitchen job. I buy ready-made pastries whenever available so that I don't have to go through the torment of making my own. 

One of the most recent innovations in GF food is the introduction of fresh GF pastries in some major supermarkets. For cooks like me these are an absolute godsend; you use them in exactly the same way as fresh mainstream pastry blocks, the flavour and texture is spot-on, and you can use them as a substitute in any mainstream pastry recipe. DS sell a ready-made block through Tesco but you can also obtain more specialist brands through the internet such as Goodness Direct. They are more expensive than mainstream ready-made blocks but you do pay for the convenience. 

As with pizza dough you can also get GF pastry mixes that come as a blend of dry ingredients and you simply add water. These are cheaper than the ready-made blocks and don't take a lot of effort or skill so I'd recommend them if you can't find a ready-made block. Orgran do a multi-purpose pastry mix that, depending on the way you prepare it, can create puff, shortcrust, or shortbread; it's a bit of a wonder but can be costly (even more than the ready-made blocks from most retailers). Mrs Crimbles also do a mix for shortcrust which is now available from Sainsburys and is slightly cheaper. 

Of course the cheapest option is making your own but this is the most effort and time. As with pizza the easiest option is to substitute mainstream flour for GF ones, as I do in my lemon tart recipe. If you don't add xantham gum you'll end up with a short, crumbly pastry like mine, which I actually prefer but it's entirely up to you. Adding xantham gum with the GF flour will make the pastry softer and easier to roll out. Doves Farm have a recipe really similar to mine and Glutafin provide a really helpful method video with theirs. 

Next time it's cakes, biscuits, breadcrumbs, and batters! 

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