Saturday, April 28, 2007

Day 118: Rice Flour and Xantham Gum

So, I’m riffling through month-old magazines that I still haven’t had a chance to actually read (money well spent, let me just say) and I found several recipes that I’m hankering to try this week. First of all, I should say that I recently purchased some rice flour, in bulk, from a trip to Vitamin Cottage. Ever since I made such a great buy, I’ve been trying to figure out what in the world to do with it. Can you just switch flours in recipes? I’m not entirely sure. There has to be a concern with density at least part of the time, but I don’t know what the differences are, so I haven’t done a thing with it. Luckily for me, Natural Health magazine published a recipe using rice flour to make pizza dough. I’m copying it here (with abbreviated directions, as is my curse), though I will apparently need to purchase two additional ingredients in order to move forward with the recipe.

Quick White Rice Flour Pizza Dough
Makes 2 8” crusts.

3/4 c. white rice flour, plus additional for forming loaves
1/2 c. blanched, slivered almonds
3/4 c. tapioca starch
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xantham gum
1 T canola oil
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine rice flour and almonds in food processor to consistency of fine meal. Add tapioca starch, salt, baking powder, baking soda, xantham gum; process to mix. Combine oil, yogurt, egg, and 1/2 c. water. Add all liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and process to form fluffy, sticky batter, about 20 seconds. Scooping out batter with rubber spatula, form 2 equal mounds on baking sheet, 5” apart. Flatten each gently into a 8” disk, making rim slightly thicker. Bake until firm but not brown, 8-10 minutes. Add pizza toppings of your choice and bake an additional 12-15 minutes, until edges are crisp and golden brown.

What in the hell is xantham gum? I asked Wikipedia and found this answer: “Xanthan gum (C35H49O29) is a natural gum polysaccharide used as a food additive and rheology modifier. It is produced by a biotechnological process involving fermentation of glucose or sucrose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. . . . One of the most remarkable properties of xanthan gum is its capability of producing a large increase in the viscosity of a liquid by adding a very small quantity of gum, on the order of one percent. . . . Foods need high viscosity at low shear rates to be stable but, when consumed, they must not seem thick and heavy in the mouth” (, April 28, 2007). According to Natural Health, April 2007 issue, flour varieties such as rice flour are gluten-free, making it difficult to achieve the same structure to your baked goods as regular, gluten-filled flours. “Xantham gum, made from corn sugar, is especially useful for providing elasticity and structure to gluten-free breads and other baked goods, and to help keep them from drying out” (p. 82).

I haven’t been able to find any reason why tapioca starch beats out regular starch, in this recipe or any other. So I’m pretty sure that this random thing is just an annoying, rather than necessary, part of the crust. I’ll replace the tapioca starch with regular starch because I see no reason to fetch another ingredient. And I am eager to see the difference in “mouth feel” of my pizza crust with and without the xantham gum. Isn’t it silly to get a chemically-derived but still-natural ingredient just to make the rice flour taste equal to chemically-bleached and nutrient-free white flour? I guess if you’re going gluten-free it’s important, but for me, what’s the point substituting chemicals? Nada.

Moving on, my Health magazine from March 2007 had an easy pullout in their Healthy Weight section that I thought was nice. The concept is This+That=Fiber Boost (p. 108), and I realize now that this is where my inspiration for pumpkin oatmeal came from. They didn’t add any spices to it and used milk where I didn’t, but same general idea. Mine tasted more like pie with the spice, so I’d probably do it again my way. Anyway, they also have a super quick recipe for creamy pea soup that sounds good. For a 1-1/2 c. serving, it packs a light 204 calories, 5.5g of fat, and 14g protein, 9g fiber. Here goes. . .

Light and Creamy Pea Soup

2 c. low-sodium chicken broth (I’d use vegetable broth here)
2 c. frozen green peas
1 T minced fresh chives
1/4 c. reduced-fat sour cream

In a pot, bring broth to a boil. Add peas, reduce heat and cook 3 minutes; cool slightly. Put soup in blender with sour cream; blend until smooth. Garnish with chives.

Then from my March issue of Shape, the Recipe of the Month turned out to be Orange Custard with Strawberries. This one seems like more of a pain to make, but it sure looks pretty in a jell-o type mold with berries spooned over the top. And I do love a nice dessert. Try making this if you have a little extra time to put in.

Orange Custard with Strawberries
Serves 4 (Prep time: 9 min.; Chill time: 3 hours)
2 c. lowfat vanilla yogurt
4 T triple sec, divided
1 T plus 2 tsp sugar
1/3 c. orange juice
1 envelope plain gelatin (about 1 T)
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 teaspoon grated orange rind

Whisk yogurt, 1 T triple sec, and 1 T sugar until well combined. Set aside. Pour juice and 1 T triple sec into a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over juice mixture, stirring until the powder is blended in and no longer visible. Let stand about 1 minute. Place saucepan over low heat and stir until gelatin is just dissolved, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk warm gelatin into yogurt mixture until combined, about 1 minute. Pour custard into 4 half-cup ramekins or a 2-cup soufflé dish. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until fully set. Combine strawberries with 2 T triple sec and 2 tsp sugar in a small bowl. Remove ramekins or dish from fridge and run a sharp knife along sides of each mold. Place hot water in a large bowl. Dip each mold into hot water until yogurt begins to pull away from mold, about 30 seconds. Invert molds onto four individual plates (or one large plate, if using one mold), then top with strawberries and orange rind.

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