Monthly Archives: May 2008

My First Sale, Before Even Finishing my Portfolio!

I was quite thrilled today to discover I sold my first article for usage rights from my online portfolio!

It was completely unexpected as I only just uploaded it!  I got the editor’s approval of the article and the sold notice virtually simultaneously in my inbox!  I wasn’t actually anticipating any sales yet, as I am still building my portfolio and haven’t even been able to upload a photo to my profile (tech is working on that).

The idea that despite all this, someone wanted to buy from me anyway makes me smile!  Makes me think that perhaps my work “speaks for itself”!

🙂

🙂

🙂

AVT

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Gluten-Free Wackiness…

Well, as I mentioned yesterday my latest wheat-free baking was inedible.  I tried a classic wacky cake recipe.  If you’ve never baked Wacky Cake (and can have wheat) google the recipe and give it a go!  I grew up on Wacky Cake and it’s great.  Traditionally it’s chocolate, and the recipe was apparently developed in the Depression during food rationing.  Wacky Cake requires no eggs, no milk, and no butter.  It’s great for vegetarians, people allergic to eggs, lactose intolerance…. great cake.  Also, there’s no dirty dishes!  You put all the ingredients directly into the cake pan and stir it with a fork, so it’s perfect for kids.

I checked out a few websites and decided to substitute sorghum flour, potato flour and tapioca starch for the flour.  I also added 1/2 a teaspoon of xanthan gum to “capture” the air from the leavening.

They came out very flat.  I think part of the problem is I was TOO CONFIDENT since I’d baked this so many times before.  Traditional wheat Wacky Cake is VERY forgiving – I’ve even made it with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (because I was out of veggie oil), Hot Chocolate Mix (because I was out of cocoa) and Malt Vinegar (because I had no white vinegar)..AND..I baked it in a loaf pan.  It still tasted good!  As a result I threw in a couple of handfuls of ground hazelnuts – I think this made the texture too course and allowed the air to escape.

I think I also need more xanthan gum, to capture the air.  The chocolate chips I threw in sank right to the bottom, the texture of the cupcakes was very crumbly and the bottoms were oily.  Everything separated.  The nice thing is, Wacky Cake is very cheap to make!

I picked up the America’s Test Kitchen Annual cooking magazine – a “best of” thing and there was a great recipe for Guinness Beef Stew.  I going to christen our slow cooker with it – though I can’t get hold of one bottle of Guinness!  I have to buy a whole six-pack and neither myself nor my sweetie are beer drinkers.  Also, I don’t know if Guiness has wheat.  I picked up a single large bottle of an English Ale – St. Peter’s Organic – which is apparently wheat-free, so I’ll try that.

I should get off the computer now, as I start my new job at the hardware store in the morning!

🙂

AVT

Getting Things Done! Yay, me!

I’ve finally replaced my blog’s generic header image (now that I have de-fracked my Photoshop!). I’m no graphic artist, but the image will do for now!

My first article on Fructose Malabsorption Disorder is finished and will be uploaded to my portfolio on Constant Content in the morning – then it will take a couple of days for the editor to approve posting it. I start my part-time job on Monday, so Tuesday I’ll start on the next article – something more in-depth.

I think my article on Self-Respect vs. Vanity will be polished soon, and I was inspired today looking at, of all things, a bottle of water. According to the “Nutrient Value” label on the side, water’s not very good for you! All the entries were of course, zero, zero, zero. Water after all, has no vitamins or minerals or carbs. It struck me that, while the Nutrient Value label on foods can tell you many things – it is not giving you the whole story. I’ll have to keep that article very focused though, goodness knows the “food nutrition” articles are a dime a dozen.

My novel is really coming along! Now that I have Photoshop back, I made myself a photo montage desktop wallpaper using images of my novel’s main characters, so each time I boot up the computer I see them. I am very visual. The actors I have mentally “cast” are David Andrews (JAG,CSI) as the male lead, Chris Mulkey as his brother (and the female lead’s former fiancee), Olivia Hussey/Seeta Indrani as the female lead, and Patrick Kilpatrick/Nick Chinlund/Zachary Quinto as the villain.

My latest wheat-free baking attempt was inedible again. ~sigh~

I will upload pics and write an entry tomorrow.

🙂

AVT

Wood! Anniversaries and bookshelves

Well, today is largely off for me – I’m giving myself a day off writing and baking because my sweetie and I are celebrating our fifth anniversary today!!

We’re not actually “married”, so we celebrate the anniversary of our first date (and since we moved in together a week later, it might as well have been our wedding, LOL!!).  We decided that since all our money is going into renovations we wouldn’t buy each other gifts, but traditionally the fifth anniversary is wood, so…  I think I’ll throw some more decking material on the Visa and call it his anniversary gift!

I’m also adding another link to my blog’s sidebar…. I’ve discovered Shelfari!  The idea is you create a profile for yourself which includes all the books you’ve read.. (and I’ve read some obscure books, but they were all in their database with cover art and everything!).  When people check out your profile, they see a virtual bookshelf with the books you’ve read on it. You can friend other people who’ve read the same books and join groups on shelfari.  Groups have their “recommended” virtual bookshelves.  You don’t have to have read those books to join, but checking out their selections really gives you a good idea about where they’re coming from as a group.

If you’re a reader, check it out!

🙂

AVT

Gluten-free Chiffon & Freelancing Collide!

My obsession with adapting my love of baking with my newly discovered wheat intolerance (from Fructose Malabsorption) has met my burgeoning writing career! I have embarked on the first of a series of articles on Fructose Malabsorption! YAY!

I love it when passions meet!

THE CAKE:
My latest foray into wheatless baking was trying to adapt a recipe for Chocolate Chiffon Cake. What is distinctive about a chiffon is that it uses a lot of eggs, usually 5 to 7. They are separated and the yolks are mixed with the flour, and the white are beaten to a stiff meringue with the sugar, then the two components are folded together into a batter. This kind of cake uses the air in the meringue as the leavening, and the egg structure holds the air inside. I was hoping this type of cake would be better suited to a gluten-free flour blend (better than my last attempt – see my prior entry).

Also, many gluten-free bakers has spoken about problems with wheat-free breads and cakes not cooking in the middle. Chiffon cakes are traditionally baked in a tube pan, so I hoped that would also work in my favour.

As you can see, it didn’t fall – though the cracking indicates to me that it needed a lower oven.
wheatless choc chiffon cake in the pan

I had obeyed the directions in the recipe for a 350F oven (yes I have an oven thermometre), but changing the flour must have an impact.

Here is the finished, frosted cake:
wheatless choc chiffon cake, frosted
wheatless choc chiffon cake - slice

The texture is alright – a little too rubbery/tough, but not bad. As a matter of course, I had added xanthan gum to the wheatless flour blend and I don’t think it was necessary. Xanthan gum is meant to replace the gluten structure and help hold the air in the cake, but I should’ve realized it wasn’t necessary with all those eggs. Next time I’ll omit it.

The batter was not well blended as you can see. I didn’t have any Cream of Tartar – which is standard in most chiffon cakes – so I had to google a recipe without it. The recipe I used instructed melting the chocolate in a saucepan WITH a half cup of hot water! By the time the choc was melted the water had evaporated. As a result, by the time the choc was mixed with the yolks and the flour is was very dry and crumbly. I didn’t know if that was normal for this recipe or if the water wasn’t supposed to have gone…I ended up putting a little more water in to make the mixturee lighter, but trying to fold into the meringue was virtually impossible, even after lightening the mixture with a few heaping spoons of meringue.
The flours I used were rice flour, chickpea flour and tapioca starch/flour. The chickpea flour gave it that “stringbean” smell that chickpea flour seems to give everything. Gotta switch it for a different flour.

All in all, the cake was okay – the frosting saves it – but next time I will use potato starch/flour instead of chickpea, and use a familiar Cream of Tarter recipe that I know will blend well….and turn down the oven to 325F.

THE FROSTING:
As I have FructMal, sucrose (table sugar/brown sugar/icing or confectioner’s sugar) must only be used in moderation. The more I can switch to dextrose (glucose) or even stevia, the better. The problem is, dextrose is only about a third as sweet as sugar – but almost the same calories.

This frosting is PERFECT for dextrose as the texture and chocolatiness is great, it’s very easy to make, but – to my palate anyway – sickeningly sweet when made as directed with confectioner’s (icing) sugar.
I substituted half the required sugar for dextrose and it was still much too sweet – so next time I’m making it entirely with dextrose and it will taste rich insead of sweet. I got this recipe from Yahoo Answers, so I am posting it here under it’s original name, though modified with dextrose:
Please note: measurements are in American Cups.

Kahala’s Fluffy Chocolate Frosting – Dextrose Redux

1/2c softened butter
2/3c cocoa powder
3 1/2c dextrose
1/3 + c whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Mix butter, cocoa & sugar in medium bowl. Slowly add milk and vanilla. Add extra milk by the tablespoonful as need (while still beating) to attain desired texture. *Be conservative! It doesn’t take much milk to radically change the texture of this frosting,

This recipe makes a lot of frosting. I frosted my chiffon cake and only used about half. You could frost quite a large cake, even between layers with this recipe.

Well, now I’m off to write and pick up cream of tartar (and sorghum flour for my flatbread baking!).

🙂
AVT

Gluten-Free Fallen Dreams! :(

fallen amaranth cupcakes

I refuse to think of this as a failure.

My first attempt at baking gluten-free from scratch was…inedible. BUT, educational! I was using a combo of amaranth flour and arrowroot powder, neither of which I’d used before. The concept of putting these two flours together came from a wheatless, stevia muffin recipe I have.

Instead of using the muffin recipe though, I used a recipe for a Chocolate Mayonaisse Cake. For those not familiar with a Chocolate Mayo Cake, the idea is that the mayo substitutes for the butter and the egg, and gives you a moist cake. I had chosen the recipe because many sites about alternate flour mentioned dryness being an issue.
I also added a tsp of xanthan gum to the recipe as a gluten stand-in. As the photo illustrates, all for nought.. ~~sigh~~

What went wrong?
Amaranth flour feels a lot like cornmeal…very gravelly. As you can see from this photo, not all the little, white amaranth seeds get ground up in the flour – some are still whole:
amaranth cupcake - amaranth seeds visible

I’ve heard amaranth baking described as “pleasantly crunchy”, but if these cupcakes are an indication….it’s like having little stones, or course sand in your cake! This, I believe, was a major source of the lost leavening. Watching them in the oven, they did rise. They fell immediately, though. I think the flour was too much like gravel and just let all the air escape.

Yes, there was also arrowroot powder in there (which clings to EVERYTHING! Even the outside of the measuring cup came out of the bag with powdr caked on the outside of it), but the ratio leaned heavily toward the amaranth.

The cupcake were also very greasy and oily. Even with their little paper cupcake cups on, they left an oily footprint on the counter when I set them down. Again, I think the amaranth was too course to absorb the fats.

On the up side, even though they fell they were not hockey pucks! The texture was still fluffy and cake-like.

Next experiment will be a switch to softer flour – rice, maybe chickpea, and a recipe that uses egg to advantage for leavening. Maybe a chiffon cake.

🙂
AVT

Gluten-Free Cupcake Fun!

So! Before I try and modify existing recipes for my FructMal, I decided to make up a batch of cupcakes from a gluten-free (GF) mix and get a feel for how the batter feels and looks when you work with alternative flours.

I used THIS mix:
Bob's Red Mill GF Chocolate Cake Mix

Bob’s Red Mill has a lot of flours and mixes if you are trying to avoid wheat. I had heard from many people that when using alternative flour, it’s common to have it very well-done on the outside while still raw in the middle – so I did cupcakes!
This mix uses Garbanzo bean flour, fava bean flour, sorghum flour as well as leaveners etc.

The cupcakes were great! I thought they tasted just like the real thing, though my husband (who has a very discerning palate) said they didn’t taste exactly the same, but very, very good! I tossed a few chocolate chips on each one before they when in the oven!
Chocolatey fun:
Red Mill Cupcake Torn

The texture was bang on! Exactly like a “real” cupcake. The smell was good too. I’m glad I decided to do this because the texture of the dough when it was raw was very different from the batter I’m used to with wheat flour. It smelled very strongly of string beans! LOL! The finished product was great though, and I know as I do my experimenting how close you CAN get with alternative flour.

Can’t start though until I get xanthan or guar gum. These are in almost every GF recipe to replace the elasticity of gluten. hmmmm…..

🙂
AVThompson