Ramblings and thoughts by a Mensch or two.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Experiments in food

There's an old Dilbert strip where he's attempting to cook, but doesn't have the right ingredients...and so he makes a number of substitutions. Things like butter for marjoram, and eggs for cheese ("Eggs are just like cheese, but from chickens!"). By the time he's done, he ends up with a rather solid looked cake, having set out to make a soup...

Well, my wife is on an elimination diet, attempting to isolate which foods encourage colic-like behavior in our newborn son. But today was her birthday, so I felt the need to produce a "cake." With no dairy, eggs, or wheat. Or chocolate. Or corn products. Or soy. Or citrus...the list is long, but those are the key things someone might want to put in a cake that she's not eating for at least the next few days.

SO, what to do? Search the Internet for some really great recipe? If only I had planned ahead that far... Instead, there I am at Whole Foods looking at wheat flour substitutes, trying to guess which ones might work. And while I was at it, I was looking for gluten substitutes. If I'd had my wits about me, I might have also looked for egg substitutes, but I didn't get that far.

In any event, when I got back, I again scorned the Internet and instead used Joy of Cooking to give me a rough idea as to what one might do to create a cake. Then I winged it, fully realizing the risk that I would be reenacting a Dilbert cartoon. But it worked! At least, approximately. We ended up with something quite tasty, though I could have probably cooked it longer. I've adjusted the temperature below to attempt to cook it a bit better--the original called for 375, but it was looking quite brown, and seemed done when I took it out, though there were parts that were a bit less done.

So, in case someone else wants to experiment, here's what I did, give or take:

Wheat, Egg, Gluten, and Dairy-Free Tapioca Cake

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 8-9" cake pan.

Sift together three times:
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp pinch of salt.

Combine in a small bowl:
1/3 cup rice milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
dash of almond flavoring, unless you want the final result to taste like marzipan, in which case 1/4 tsp is about right. :)

Combine in a pan and whisk:
1/4 cup of tapioca flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp xanthan gum (a powder--you can buy it at Whole Foods it turns out)
3 tbsp water (or more until the mixture is somewhat liquidy--didn't really measure this one...)

After you've done what you can to introduce bubbles in this, set it aside.

Then combine, in a bowl mixer if you have one:
1/3 Cup Coconut oil (palm oil would also probably work, or any solid-at-room-temperature oil).
1/2 Cup Sugar

Blend until smooth. Then alternate adding the flour mixture, one third at a time, and the rice milk mixture, half at a time. Blend some more. :)

Then we get back to that funny tapioca mixture. Pretend these are egg whites. They don't really look like them, but the finished product was tasty, so don't complain now. "Fold" them in to the batter using a rubber spatula, and spread the batter in the cake pan. Cook until a toothpick comes out clean--18-25 minutes, or so.

We used the extra almond flavoring, and it really did taste like marzipan--especially the parts that weren't as well cooked. The parts that did cook well were light and fluffy--I really liked it.

If you're not avoiding corn, you could cover it with a sugar glaze, mixing powdered sugar with water until you get the right consistency, and then pour/spread it over the cake (after it's cooled, of course!). Powdered sugar has corn starch in it, though. Odd, but true.


KnitMensch said...

The cake was yummy and much appreciated! It baked up rather flat (though not overly dense), so Tim cut it in two and layered it. Looked pretty good with candles on. Happy birthday to me!

-Deborah (Tim's wife)

Mary Frances said...

Wow! You deserve a special treat for making a birthday cake for your wife when all of these restrictions for you.

Since the no-wheat thing is new to you, I wanted to make sure that you knew that most oats in the U.S. are contaminated with wheat. Bob's Red Mill sells GF oats and many people consider McCann'sIrish oats to be safe, since no wheat is grown is Ireland. (At least that's what I've heard, and I haven't had any bad reactions to the McCann's). Sorghum flour might be a good replacement until you two figure out what's going on with the little one.