Gluten-free, yeast-free bean bread

Today I tried out the basic yeast-free bread recipe from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by Bette Hagman, using the Four Flour Bean Mix described in my previous posting with the standard supermarket flours using in Indian cooking (Mustafa being the only supermarket I know that stocks them, though!).

The result was rather uneven: some parts did not rise much – the very smooth, close-textured parts – and other parts had huge air bubbles.

However, taste-wise and in terms of ‘mouth-feel’, I’m pleasantly surprised! The very green smell from the green bean flour disappeared after baking, and the bread was springy to the touch, much like real bread (despite the cake-like appearance). Actually, the texture reminds me very much of kueh lapis!

I tried it with a variety of savoury and sweet toppings as well as plain with butter, and it tasted fine every time. I couldn’t stop eating… how wonderful to be able to eat ‘bread’ and not be worrying about exceeding my wheat & gluten limit.

The recipe for a small loaf:

DRY INGREDIENTS

2 cups Four Flour Bean Mix : I used 1/3 part chickpea flour, 1/3 part green bean flour, 1/3 part sorghum flour, 1 part cornstarch, 1 part tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp Xanthan gum
3 Tbs brown sugar [which I reduced to 2 Tbs – still rather sweet]
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp Egg Replacer [omitted; Hagman uses this to provided additional protein and leavening power]
1/2 tsp salt

WET INGREDIENTS

Eggs – 2 plus 1 white [I used 3 small whole eggs, also because I omitted the Egg Replacer]
2 Tbs melted butter [replaced with ghee as I was too lazy to melt butter!]
1 Tbs honey [replaced with light argave syrup]
3/4 cup buttermilk [used substitute]
approx 1/3 cup water [used much, much less]

[Hagman also uses optional dough enhancer, which I have omitted completely here.]

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease loaf pan(s) and dust lightly with rice flour.

Whisk together dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and egg white(s). Add melted butter, honey and buttermilk. Blend with mixer on low speed.

Add dry ingredients and continue to blend on low speed.

Add ‘sufficient water to make the dough the consistency of cake batter.’ This was the hard part! What is the correct consistency? I’ve seen a whole range of consistencies of cake batters. Anyway, using my judgement, I only needed to add about a tablespoon of water. The batter was strange-looking because of all those sticky flours, the cornstarch and tapioca starch, not at all like cake batter.

Beat 1 minute on high.

Spoon into prepared pans and bake for 55 to 60 mins, covering with aluminum foil after 30 mins.

Problems

* The bread rose tremendously in the oven the collapsed afterwards, which suggests that I should reduce the amount of leavening agent next time.

* The texture was very uneven, it did not affect the taste, but certainly is less than ideal. Bette Hagman constantly gives strict instructions to follow recipes exactly as substituting ingredients may end up with a different result. As usual, I can never follow a recipe precisely so I guess I will have to keep experimenting.

* Hagman also suggests that overly dense texture might be due too much liquid, and from my experience with muffins (which is what this essentially is – a muffin method, dry + wet ingredients then mix) is that it could also be case of over-mixing. I might just make this by hand next time; the mixer is unecessary and might have contributed to the over-mixing.

Verdict

Whatever the problems, I was really pleased with the result. I fear the little test loaf in the freezer won’t last long at all. Am definitely making this again, and at double the quantity :).

Here are Hagman’s quantities for a large loaf:

DRY INGREDIENTS
Four Flour Bean Mix (see above) – 4 cups
Xantham gum – 3 tsp
Brown sugar – 1/3 cup
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Baking powder – 1 rounded tablespoon
Egg replacer – 2 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp

WET INGREDIENTS
Eggs – 3 plus 2 whites
Butter, melted – 6 Tbs
Honey – 2 Tbs
Buttermilk – 1 1/2 cups
Water (more or less) – 1/2 cup

31/10/08 Update: experimented with this recipe a second time, making some tweaks and getting a much better result. Read more here: Improved recipe for gluten-free, yeast-free bean bread.

Gluten-free flours in Indian cooking

Food sensitivities come on many levels and the last few months I’ve tried to work on fine-tuning my diet to take into account foods that I can tolerate, but which aren’t actually great for my system. So I’ve had to face up to the fact that chocolate should only be an occasional indulgence (the same way alcohol is to others, perhaps – both impair brain function!), and now, finally coming out of denial about the effect of wheat and gluten on me. This has been hard because I love baking so much, and alternative flours will always be that much more difficult to work with, requiring plenty of patient experimentation.

Just got a new gluten-free recipe book today, The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by the late Bette Hagman, and the best thing about it is the explanation of the results from different types of flours. Hagman has moved beyond the rice-based GF flour mix she used in her earlier recipe books — and many gluten-free recipes from other sources also use mainly rice flour as a replacement — as the results are noticeably different from using wheat flour, particularly in terms of texture. She has found that bean flours are much better, particularly for bread.

Hagman’s Four Flour Bean Mix recipe (available ready mixed from Authentic Foods) :
2/3 part: garfava bean flour (a garbanzo/chickpeas flour + fava flour mix, produced by Authentic Foods)
1/3 part: sorghum flour
1 part: cornstarch
1 part: tapioca flour

This sounds pretty exciting but first of all, I needed to stock up on bean and other alternative flours. I immediately thought of shopping at Mustafa, which turned out to have everything I was looking for and more! No need to turn to Bob’s Red Mill flours which costs S$5 upwards for about 500g :). A wide range of non-wheat flours are common to Indian cooking and thus easily available at affordable prices. Cornstarch and tapioca flour are common in Chinese cooking and easily available at regular supermarkets in Singapore (NTUC is the best for a wide range of Chinese & Southeast Asian flours).

Here’s what I bought in Mustafa:
* Jowar flour = sorghum
* Besan/ chana dhal flour = garbanzo beans/ chickpeas [can be easily made at home too]
* Green bean flour = mung bean — the Indian variety looks coarser and less refined than the Indonesian type (hoon kwee flour), possibly the the latter has had the skin removed
* Urid/urad dhal flour = black gram (similar to mung beans)
* Roasted ragi flour = finger millet
* White rice flour — similar to that used in Chinese cooking but the Indian version seems a bit coarser and less white, which could suggest less bleaching (have always wondered about this when it comes to Chinese rice flour)

Other non-wheat flours sold at Mustafa include:
* Bajra/ kambu flour = pearl millet
* Kotu/ kuttu flour = buckwheat
* Makka flour = cornmeal, comes in fine & coarse (different from cornstarch)

Of course, one route to gluten-free bread substitutes is simply to make the Indian dishes that use these non-wheat flours. Here’s a sampling:
* Jowar/ sorghum flour: jowar roti, jowar paratha
* Besan/ chana dhal/ gram flour: besan puda, besan and zucchini pancakes
* Mung/moong dhal/ green bean flour: moong dhal dosa
* Urad dhal/ black gram flour: urad dhal dosa
* Ragi/ finger millet flour: ragi neeru (a drink), ragi idli, ragi biscuits, ragi chakli (looks like murugu), ragi mudde (balls), ragi sandige (fritters)
* Bajra/ kambu/ pearl millet flour: bajra roti, another bajra roti, bajra paratha, sweet millet biscuits
* Kotu/ kuttu/ buckwheat flour: buckwheat pakora in yoghurt sauce, kotu poori, kuttu paratha
* Soy flour: ragi, oatmeal & soy dosa
* Rice flour: rice flour dosa, rice flour roti
* Makka flour/ cornmeal : cornmeal & potato kachauri, cornmeal roti,

Need help deciphering ingredient names in various Indian languages? See this glossary.

For more information on non-wheat flours:
Cook’s Thesaurus: Non-wheat flours
Recipe Tips : Non-Wheat Flours – Grains
Recipe Tips : Non-Wheat Flours – Seeds
Recipe Tips : Non-Wheat Flours – Legumes
Recipe Tips : Non-Wheat Flours – Tubers
and you might also want to refer to my page on using flours in general.

I’ll mix the chana dhal flour with a mix of the other bean flours to replace the ‘garfava flour’ in Hagman’s Four Flour Bean Mix. Will have to open the various packets to check if the other bean flours have a particularly strong taste that will affect the flour mix. Here’s hoping all goes well when I try out a gluten-free, yeast-free bread recipe soon!

My bento bags: cream-coloured Muji

Some readers have asked about my bento equipment, which I occasionally – only very occasionally – write about. Perhaps my favourite of all my bento things are my bags, a natural extension of my love of bags in general :). I love the shape of lunch bags and in my pre-bento past, have been known to carry Daiso lunchbags as handbags, even the silver-coloured insulated ones!

muji-bento-bag-view-4001.jpg

To kick off my bento bag series, here is my classic cream-coloured Muji bag (about S$13), which I bought after having busted my third Daiso lunchbag! (They’re OK for just a simple lunchbox but a 700ml bottle of drink will certainly bust those cheapo S$2 handles!). It’s the same Muji bag I wrote about here, but this one came separately, not in a set.

The high quality of this Muji bag was such a welcome relief and indeed a pleasure. The silky, lined interior and botton-clasp top flap are lovely touches.

It also matches well with my white Asvel bento box, and white plastic cutlery.

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My other bento bags: green & orange Reisenthel and double-layered Tzu Chi.

Getting a good cuppa out of a teabag

It’s frustrating that a good cup of English-style tea is so hard to come by, even in fancy cafés. I hate paying a lot of money only to end up thinking that the best tea in Singapore is to be found at my home!

Actually the root of the problem is very simple, and it doesn’t have to do with using expensive or loose leaf teas. It’s that the amount of tea leaves must be in the correct proportion to the amount of water. Anywhere that tries to get away with giving you one tiny teabag in a whole pot of water is cutting corners and giving you little better than dishwater :P.

Different brands produce teabags of different size too, so don’t be afraid to use two bags in a mug. For example, I used to think Lipton tea wasn’t very nice, until I realised that one Lipton bag is only good for a teacup of about 150ml, whereas most mugs are about 250ml.

Marks and Spencer teabags are fuller and good for a mug, whereas the fancy organic London Tea Company teabags are Lipton-sized (and don’t taste all that great either, will continue to stick to M&S when I want organic).

When brewing in a teapot for several people, use an appropriate amount of tea, even if that means one bag per person — don’t be a cheapskate!

Chye tau kueh (fried savoury radish cake)

Recently, some friends gobbled down two plates of chye tau kueh from the hawker centre in front of me whilst I munched on my gluten-free carob muffin. They felt a bit guilty comparing their fried dish with my healthy snack but actually I really wished I could eat chye tau kueh too!

I came home and flipped through my mountain of cookbooks and finally found a somewhat poorly-written recipe for ‘Singapore-Styled Stir-Fried Turnip Pudding 星洲炒蘿蔔糕’ in a Hong Kong produced cookbook called Asian Snacks Cooking Course 亞洲小食製作教程.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a more authentic recipe in any of my Malaysian cookbooks (an excuse to buy even more :) ?!?). Anyway, it worked really well so am sharing here with you. You may want to compare this recipe with the one from Lily’s Wai Sek Hong.

This is a great snack option that’s wheat- and gluten-free, also no sugar. As long as you don’t find fried foods too unhealthy :).

INGREDIENTS FOR STEAMED RADISH CAKE

960g white radish/daikon
320g rice flour

Wash, peel and chop the daikon.

Use a blender to puree it, then using a sieve, squeeze out as much juice as possible. You need 3 cups of daikon juice.

Mix rice flour with daikon juice in a pot over low heat. The original recipe only uses the juice, but I put in all the daikon pulp as well so as not to waste it.

Stir until it the mixture thickens. This part requires careful attention as it can take quite a while to thicken on low heat but if the stove is too hot, it will clump together very quickly.

Pour the thickened batter into a greased mould, such as an aluminium cake tin. A 9-inch round tin is actually better than the one I used in the photo because it won’t be so full, and because the cake won’t be in such a thick layer, it will take a shorter time to be fully cook. Dark-coloured heavy cake tins are not good for steaming, they don’t seem to conduct heat very well.

Steam for 1 hour. Test for doneness with a chopstick, which should come out clean.


FRIED RADISH CAKE

Cut the steamed and cooled cake into cubes.

Fry ingredients of your choice until fragrant, such as garlic, shallots, minced meat, red or green chilli, spring onions. Add seasonings of your choice.  Traditionally, this is cooked with thick dark soya sauce and preserved turnip and preserved Chinese sausages are a must, with a special chilli sauce for those who like it spicy.

Add the steamed radish cake cubes and fry until browned.

Push ingredients to one side of the wok (or remove from pan), add a beaten egg and when semi-cooked, toss well with all the other ingredients.

My version shown below is cooked with salt (or organic tamari), garlic, stir-fried shallots, green and red capsicums, and topped with raw spring onions and deep fried shallots.

Verdict: close enough to the real thing to keep me happy! Loved the distinct daikon taste in the cake. Now if I can just figure out how to make preserved turnip or chye poh at home, the other members of the family might actually enjoy this as much as me :).

Nearly 1kg of daikon makes a lot of chye tau kueh and I had this in my lunch bento for days!! Next time I’ll only make half the quantity!

Breakfast: baked beans, brown rice cake & Chinese tea

Now I can join the rest of my family when they eat baked beans & toast for breakfast with my own version :)!

* homemade baked beans

* organic, salt-free brown rice cake from Lundberg — a crumbly rice cake, not as smooth a texture as Kallo brand, but then again, this one is brown rice. Most rice cakes are soft and taste stale straight out of the packed, especially Lundberg, but nothing a couple of minutes in the oven toaster won’t fix. Be careful as rice cakes burn easily, so set the oven toaster timer for just 2 minutes but leave the rice cakes in for 5 minutes to crisp up slowly in low heat.

* Pearl of the Orient tea from Gryphon brand — Singapore brand of gourmet teas in elegant packing. The extra-large fine mesh bags seem excessive but actually tea leaves need space to expand and release their full flavour. Gryphon’s Earl Grey is lovely (the brand’s best-selling tea in Singapore) but Pearl of the Orient, a jasmine+rose Chinese tea is definitely over-fragranced. Cheapest place to buy Gryphon teas is NTUC Finest at S$10.50 a box of 20 tea bags, $2 cheaper than chi-chi gourmet delis like Culina.

Baked beans – homemade & failsafe!

For ages, I have been watching my family members eating tinned baked beans for breakfast, unable to join in because of the tomato sauce which is high in glutamates, amines and salicylates (not to mention plenty of salt & sugar)!! The other day, I finally got down to making Failsafe baked beans from the recipe in the Friendly Foods cookbook.

The result was wonderfully satisfying! Even my family members who are used to the over-flavoured commercial version pronounced this ‘surprisingly edible’.

RECIPE

300g (1 1/2 cups) dried beans – navy, cannellini or flageolet
1 leek, washed and sliced
2 sprigs parsley
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 x 5cm pieces celery
2 Tbs soft brown sugar
1/4 tsp citric acid
3/4 tsp saffron threads [which I omitted, hence the anemic colour of my baked beans]
sea salt

Wash beans and soak overnight with 1.5 litres water. Drain the next day.

Place beans & leek in saucepan. A heavy-bottomed pot for slow-cooking is good, such as a cast iron pot. You can also use a crockpot.Main-Main Masak-Masak › Edit Post — WordPress

Tie the parsley, garlic and celery into a bouquet garni with a piece of string and add this to the pot.

Pour in enough water to cover the beans. Simmer uncovered for about 1 hour or until tender. Remove the bouquet garni.

Add the sugar, citric acid, saffron and salt to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Here I used dried organic navy beans which I bought at Nature’s Glory.

If you don’t have time to soak the beans overnight, you can use canned beans. It can be hard to find navy/cannellini/flageolet beans, but I’ve seen them at Carrefour and Cold Storage, as well as at health food stores like Eat Organic and Nature’s Glory. Basically, check the stores which stock more western ingredients.

With navy and cannnellini beans being more unusual products in Singapore, even the non-organic canned ones only come in relatively expensive foreign brands. The good news is that tinned, organic navy and cannnellini beans are available at about the same price as non-organic ones :), S$2.30 per tin for Eden brand. Other organic brands cost about a dollar more.

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6/12/8 Update:

Tip 1: Make a large batch, divide into serving portions and freeze. Defrost as necessary.

Tip 2: Aside from eating baked beans with bread (gluten-free bean bread for me) and rice cakes, it’s also good with rice. Especially quick and easy if you have cooked rice on hand at all times in the fridge or freezer.

Recently, I enjoyed a midnight snack of Japanese rice and homemade baked beans, topped with strips of Japanese nori seaweed — delicious!
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