Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dry Onion Soup Mix

Ever wanted to use a recipe calling for Lipton's Dry Onion Soup/Dip Mix and then, realize that you don't have it or forgot to get it.  This recipe for Dry Onion Soup/Dip Mix can be adapted or adjusted to your need.  You can use more or less ingredients or more or less of the amounts of the ingredients.

I used to keep packages of Lipton's Dry Onion Soup/Dip in the pantry. I used it for making dips, hamburgers, meat loaf, roasted potatoes, quick spaghetti sauce, slow cooker roast beef and many other recipes.   For a long time, the original dry mix was gluten free.  But Lipton changed their recipe and included a yeast extract from barley as an ingredient.  Unilver, which makes Lipton products, states that it is made in a facility that processes milk, eggs, soy, wheat, sesame seeds and sulfites.  That makes the Lipton's Dry Onion Soup/Dip Mix cross-contaminated from ingredients which can cause allergic reactions or intolerant gluten reactions.  As stated on the back of the box, these are the ingredients:

     Onions (deyhydrated), salt, cornstarch, onion powder, sugar, corn    
     syrup, hydrolyzed soy protein, caramel color, partially
     hydrogenated soybean oil, monosodium glutamate, autolyzed
     yeast extract (barley), natural flavors, disodium inosinate, 
     disodium guanylate and sulfur dioxide.

     Made in a facility that processes milk, eggs, soy, wheat, sesame 
     and sulfites.

The critical ingredients for the dry onion soup mix are dried minced onion, beef bouillon powder, onion powder, crushed celery seed and sugar. It can be made solely with those ingredients. There are many good Copycat recipes for Lipton's Dry Onion Soup/Dip mix but I thought something was lacking in them which hinted -- this is not Lipton's.

Of course, I'll just have to get over the corn syrup and caramel color which means it won't be as sweet and will be a lighter color.  There is new research on caramel coloring  but still not conclusive that it causes cancer in humans.  The disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate are for savory and meaty flavor.  Those can be replaced with powdered broth and spices.  The sulfur dioxide is used for preservation and longer shelf-life. Since huge amounts are not being made by us, preservation will not be a problem.

So to the kitchen I went. Since my diet has to be gluten free, I started with gluten-free dehydrated diced onions.  Herb Ox bouillon from Hormel Foods is gluten-free and gives the meaty flavor.  (If you don't have to worry about the gluten, any dried bouillon brand you like will do as well as any brand of dehydrated onions.)   The spices used to substitute for the flavorings are onion powder, celery salt, paprika, ground black pepper, parsley flakes and a small amount of turmeric for the earthy taste. The turmeric also adds color.  The savory spices are garlic powder, cumin and Old Bay Seasoning.  Corn syrup can be replaced with sugar or a sugar substitute of choice.

Linda's Version of Dried Onion Soup/Dip Mix

  • 1 ½ cups dried minced onion (gluten-free if needed)
  •  cup beef bouillon powder (gluten-free if needed)
  • 2 ½ tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or the equivalent of a sugar substitute
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

Change any combination and amounts of the ingredients you like.  Experiment to find what you like.  Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. About 4-5 tablespoons equals a single 1¼-ounce package of Lipton's mix.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Make It Sourdough - The Gluten-Free Starter

Gluten Free Whole Grain Sourdough Starter
The above sourdough starter was made with a a blend of gluten-free flours and warm filtered water, nothing added to encourage the fermenting process.  (The recipe can be seen below). The starter has a doughy and yeasty aroma -- great!  It is a little over 2 months old. 

Sourdough bread is made by fermenting dough.  Remember the symbiotic relationships you learned in biology?   Naturally occurring strains of lactobacilli and yeast work together to make the starter. Done properly, the bread has a tangy to sour taste with a hard crust.  It's texture is somewhat like French bread.

The Food Science of Sourdough Starter

When flour and water are combined and left to ferment, natural enzymes in the flour break down the starch to glucose.  The yeast uses the glucose as food and gives off by-products which the bacteria can use.  The bacteria then gives off by-products which the yeast can metabolize and produce carbon dioxide.  The carbon dioxide then helps the bread rise. The lactobacilli in the dough produces acetic acid, which gives sourdough bread its mild sour taste. The long natural fermenting process of water and flour, without any additives, will produce a starter. The sourdough starter is then used to leaven and flavor bread.

The starter of flour and water will usually live as the maintenance of feeding occurs either on the countertop or in the refrigerator.  The feeding and temperature help keep a balance between the bacteria and yeast, thus becoming and remaining a balanced and stable sourdough starter. That symbiotic relationship is very important for the sourdough starter.  If it fails, the sourdough starter will die, sour too much and will have a rotten smell. The starter then must be discarded and started again.

Research is showing that sourdough breads are better for diabetics and celiacs because the fermenting process improves digestability and lowers the glycemic index of wheat  flour (and some gluten-free flours.)  This research states that fermenting lowers the glycemic index of sorgham and teff flours.  Even though research is showing that the fermenting of wheat flour improves the digestability and glycemic index of the flour, those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance should not eat wheat sourdough breads, for now.

Differing Opinions on Making Sourdough Starters

The opinions for making sourdough starters are endless.  If you research, explore and experiment making sourdough starter, you will find your easiest and favorite way to make it. If you don't succeed the first time, try again using the same method or try another method. I found I prefer the simple, nothing extra added, method.  Your choice could be different.  Use your choice of methods, as long as you get a good tasting and lasting starter. If done correctly, a sourdough starter should take only a little attention after the starter is balanced and working.

In the past, I used wheat flour to make the sourdough, but those days are gone  I now have to go the gluten-free route.  Several authors and bakers state that gluten-free starters are more difficult to make and sustain. Several bakers state that it is best made only with rice flour, white or brown.  Other authors are a little more lenient in the flour they say must be used.  I do not make it with rice flour because rice flour has a high glycemic index and it also contains a higher percentage of arsenic.

I feel I have to be careful in stating whether to use wild yeast or commercial yeast when making a sourdough starter.  I found collecting wild yeast relatively easy because I have made bread for years.  The Joy of Cooking cookbook states that making a sourdough starter is easier with wild yeast organisms if yeast baking has often occurred in the kitchen.  The wild yeast are plentiful in the air where yeast baking has occurred. The Joy of Cooking recommended using commercial yeast if little to no yeast baking had occurred in the kitchen.  Sharon Kane, The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking, says that commercial baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), a more powerful yeast, can't be fermented completely as wild yeast (Saccharomyces exiguous) can.  Bob delGrosso states that a simple starter of water and flour can last for a very long time if maintained correctly.

Some bakers disagree with the idea that wild yeast is in the air.  Some state that yeast is naturally on the grains of the flour. Some state that the white film on a grape is yeast.  Some encourage using whole grapes, cabbage leaves, water kefir, or kumbucha to help the yeast grow.  Once the yeast  is established, the cabbage leaves or grapes are removed from the starter. Sharon A. Kane in The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking uses water kefir to get the starter fermenting quicker.  She says there are fewer failures making the starter with water kefir. She also believes that a gluten-free starter should be made fresh with every loaf -- since she can make a starter in three days using water kefir.  She also thinks that a gluten-free starter gets weaker with each use.  Jessie Hawkins, The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread, does not share that opinion. She is a purist when making sourdough starter. She states that to get all the nutrition and healthy benefits from sourdough, it should be prepared with wild yeast as it was before the production of baker's yeast in the late 1800's,

There is a theory by some researchers that fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes,  have specific bacteria that produce lactic acid which cause the fermentation to occur quicker.  That same bacteria creates sauerkraut. I find that the natural fermentation will occur in about 5-7 days without the fruit or vegetables. I agree with Bob delGrosso that feeding the starter is the most important part of starting and keeping a healthy and balanced starter.  I like this experiment, by Bob, using the scientific method.  I think he was disappointed that he was unable to prove his hypothsis. He was not able to make a definite conclusion about not using cabbage with a sourdough starter.

Gluten-free sourdough starter is different from gluten sourdough starter.  Gluten-free sourdough starter needs to be feed twice a day whereas gluten starter is fed once a day. It, also, takes much more starter to bake gluten-free sourdough bread. For most gluten-free sourdough bread recipes, the dough is half starter and half gluten-free flour. Most wheat versions use a ratio of 1part starter to 3 or 4 part flour.) These two facts would be a reason to make a larger amount of the flour blend used in the starter mix.

Making the Sourdough Starter

My sourdough starter mix uses this flour blend:

97 grams (1 cup) teff flour
97 grams (1 cup) buckwheat flour   } or 290 grams of one in this group ( I used all three as written)
97 grams (1 cup) amaranth flour

290 grams (2 cup) sorghum flour
290 grams (2 1/3 cup) millet flour
145 grams (1 cup) oat flour
229 grams (1 3/4 cup) bean flour  } can be one kind or combination of bean flours

I've included the conversion for cups of flour but the more accurate measurement is grams. The conversions will give a smaller amount of the flour blend because I didn't include the extra teaspoons and tablespoons of flour needed for the accurate conversions.   (It took some time to convince myself to use a metric scale but I found using a scale is much easier and faster than using volume measuring.)

When I make the above flour blend, I double the ingredients. Doubling the recipe gives a huge amount of flour blend but the starter needs to be fed everyday when on the counter; the flour will be used up quickly.  If you would rather use other flours, check out these substitutions.  If you like, brown rice flour can be substituted for the teff, buckwheat, and amaranth flours.

Whisk all the flours together.  The flour blend should be one color after it is combined.  Store in an airtight container and use it when making the sourdough starter and feeding the sourdough starter.


First Day:  (It should have the consistency of thick gravy)
To make the starter, combine the mix and filtered water in 1:1 ratio.  (I used 2 cups of the flour blend above and 2 cups filtered water). Mix throughly with whisk (incorporating lots of air)  and pour in a glass container that will hold at least 1/2 gallon.  Cover with several layers of cheese cloth, an unbleached coffee filter or kitchen towel.  Secure with a rubber band.  If using unbleached coffee filter, make several pinholes so that the naturally occuring wild yeast spores can enter, if the theory is true. At any point, the yeast needs the oxygen for aerobic growth.

This is the feeder which has been whisked to incorporate air.

Let the starter sit in a warm (or at least not cold) place on the counter.  For the next three days, do not adding anything to the starter but, stir the starter at least once a day for the three days.

Second Day:
Stir the starter at least once this day.

Third Day (or the day it bubbles):  (Look for the hooch - it is the layer of somewhat clear liquid )
If there are bubbles or hooch on the third day, whisk 1 cup of Starter Mix and 1 cup filtered water in a small bowl.  Stir the feeder into the jar of starter and mix well with a spoon or spatula. Replace the cover and rubber band. Any time there is hooch, feed the starter!  Too long and to much hooch will kill the starter.  Some sourdough bakers feel that the hooch is waste from the bacteria and yeast and pour the hooch off. Others stir it in with the feeder.  I choose to stir it in with the feeder.

Fourth Day:
Stir the starter at least once a day.  Do not add anything to the starter, unless there is hooch.  If there is hooch, feed it.

Fifth Day:
Feed it by whisking 1 cup of Starter Mix and 1 cup filtered water in a small bowl.  Pour in the starter and mix. The Sourdough Starter is ready to use.

Some starters take more than 5 days to be ready.  Patience and persistent monitoring is needed.  If the smell is not that of yeast and baking bread, or if there is a colored mold growing on it, throw it out, clean the container and start again.

This recipe was adapted from  The original recipe for the starter included brown rice flour and sweet rice flour.  I do not use rice flour and substituted the teff, buckwheat, and amaranth flours for the brown rice flour and oat flour for the sweet rice flour.

Important Facts to Remember About A Sourdough Starter

When beginning the starter, the combination of the flour and water, hopefully, in a few days will grow yeast and lactobacillus bacteria.  But it is important to remember that there will also be other strains of bacteria growing in it.  It does not become stable for at least a week or so.  It took mine 2 weeks to become stable. Feeding it water and flour encourages the yeast and lactobacillus to grow and overtake the other bacteria.  To maintain a healthy starter, it needs to be feed the 1:1 ratio of water and flour.

Refrigeration and Freezing of the Starter

The starter can be slowed down by placing it in the fridge but it still must be fed once a week to sustain it.  It can be feed as little as 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of filtered water per two cups of starter.  I feed it, once a week, 1/4 cup flour blend and 1/4 cup water whisked together, incorporating lots of air.  When ready to use again, it will take about 2 -3 days to get it ready.

Day 1 :  When ready to use it for baking, remove from fridge and let it come to room temperature.
Day 2:   Feed it with 1:1 ratio flour and warm water.   Feed the starter twice more this day.
Day 3:  The next morning, feed it again.  If a dome forms in 2-3 hours, it is ready.  If not ready, feed it again 3 times.  When foamy, it is ready, though, I read that the new flour added takes about 7 hours to be completely fermented.

If you are really tired of the starter, stick it in the freezer.  When ready to use it, take it out of the freezer and thaw.  When it can be stirred, follow the directions above for refrigeration Day 1- Day 3.

This is a great website with information to help with care of the sourdough starter.  Other resources are listed below that helped me. In a few days I will post recipes for soft wraps, pancakes, waffles and other breads to use with the sourdough starter. This web page gives other great uses for the sourdough starter.  Who knew -  chicken feed and compost conditioner?

Make It Sourdough - Gluten-Free Sourdough Wraps, Waffles & Pancakes
Make It Sourdough - Gluten-Free Sourdough English Muffins
Make It Sourdough - Gluten-Free Sourdough Basic Sourdough Bread #1


"Does Fermentation Break Down Gluten In Sourdough Breads and Beer" Gluten Free Web. 19 May 2014.     <

"Does Yeast Grow Faster with or without Oxygen? - Homework Help - Web.19 May 2014  <>

"Food & Function." Influence of Sourdough on in Vitro Starch Digestibility and Predicted Glycemic Indices of Gluten-free Breads - (RSC Publishing). Web. 19 May 2014.<!divAbstract>

"Foods to Lower Your Blood Sugar: Sourdough Bread | Reader's Digest."Reader's Digest. Web. 19 May 2014.   <>

"Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter." - For Dummies. Web. 19 May 2014.>>

Hawkins, Jessie. The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread: Unlocking the Mysteries of Grains, Gluten and Yeast. Franklin, TN: Thistle Publications, 2012. Print.

"Healthier Cereal Products." Potential of Sourdough for Healthier Cereal Products. Web. 19 May 2014. <>

Kane, Sharon A.  The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking:  Blending An Old World Technique with Allergen-Friendly Ingredients. eBook format by, 2012. 

"Lactic Acid Fermentation in Sourdough." The Fresh Loaf. Web. 19 May 2014.  <> 

"Potential of Sourdough for Healthier Cereal Products | DeepDyve."DeepDyve. Web. 19 May 2014. <>

Rombauer, Irma S., Marion Rombauer. Becker, and Ethan Becker. Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition - 2006. S.l.: Scribner, 2006. Print. <>

Monday, May 12, 2014

Gluten Free French Toast Muffins

Whole Grain Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter 

I've been experimenting with gluten-free sourdough bread made with a wild yeast starter.  Sourdough bread is a very good bread for diabetics. (This is one of many websites explaining why). Put a gluten-free diet on top of that, and sourdough bread is certainly a good idea. I'm not quite ready to share the experiments of my adventure in good gluten-free sourdough bread using wild yeast. Wild yeast is exactly that; they are the yeast in the air we breath. They are captured in the flour and warm water as a starter and used to make the dough rise with no commercial yeast. I have the starter of whole grain sourdough starter (with no rice flour) perfected and stable. The bread from my starter and flour blend is not in a sharing situation yet. The share is getting closer, though.

I am going to share one of my failures.  I made some very sad gluten-free sourdough baguettes. Gluten-free bread failures are usually cubed for crutons or stuffing or crushed for bread crumbs.  I broke these baguettes in half and threw them in a zipper bag.  

The sourdough failure tasted good and it did rise but never to an acceptable extent. I could have done a couple of things. The dough had been rising for 6 hours in a baguette pan. I could have let it rise longer by putting it in the fridge but I didn't have enough room in the fridge for the baguette tray and it was getting late at night; so,  I baked them.  Another problem with the dough was that it was much too sticky.  The original recipe called for rice flour. I do not use rice flour because it has a high glycemic index and not good for diabetics.  I substituted a mixture of my whole grain flour blend and my all-purpose flour blend; needless to say, the adapted recipe needs several adjustments.  The orginal recipe by the Gluten-Free Doctor was firmer and could be slightly manipulated and formed.  This dough could not and I didn't want to add much more flour because I know adding more flour makes gluten-free bread dry and crumbly. I pretty much knew that these two baguettes were failures before I put them in the oven.  Because the flours are expensive, I didn't want to throw them out. I baked them.  As it turned out, so glad I did!  The toasted crumbs are excellent for many uses and I found a wonderful use for the bread cubes.

Sad Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread Failure

I accidentally happened upon a blogger's website,  Her website and Facebook page are incredible.  She isn't exactly a gluten-free cooker or baker but her recipes are healthy and easy to adapt to gluten-free. It was this recipe, the French Toast Muffin,  that led me to her site.  As I read the recipe, I realized those muffins were made with sourdough bread. Bingo! Those ugly loaves weres were still sitting in the kitchen in the zipper bag.

I went to the kitchen to whisk the eggs and added coconut milk, stevia, cinnamon, vanilla and cinnamon and sugar free maple syrup.  I cut half of one of the baguettes into cubes and soaked them in the egg mixture for 5-10 minutes.  (I was so excited about the experiment that forgot to note the time).  I then placed the bread in muffins cups and spooned the remaining milk mixture over the bread and baked them. That bread failure turned out delish and the recipe is a keeper! Next time I make these, I will add more bread cubes in each cup because the muffins were small.  As usual, gluten-free bake goods fall in height as they cool.

 I can imagine this muffin recipe with blueberries or raisins, maybe bananas and shredded coconut. How about using sausage or ham or chicken?  Would the muffins be great as savory with kale, spinach, cheese, and savory herbs?  As I try other recipes, without the sugar and maple syrup, I'll update. 

Gluten Free French Toast Muffins  (6 servings)

Several slices of gluten-free sourdough bread, cubed
2 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 teaspoon sweetener of choice (I used stevia)
1/4 c. coconut milk
1/2 - 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup (I used sugar-free maple syrup -  :-( 

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Combine eggs, sweetener, milk, vanilla and maple syrup in a medium size bowl and whisk lightly.

Taking a handful cubes of bread at a time, soak them in the mixture, then arrange them inside a muffin pan cup. Repeat with the remaining slices of bread until your muffin pan is full. If the bread absorbs more of the egg mixture than expected, make more egg mixture as needed, even halfing the recipe if necessary.  Spoon any remaining egg mixture over the bread in the cups.

Drizzle the tops of the muffins with a bit more maple syrup, then place them in the oven for 25 minutes.
(The orginal recipe stated to bake for 20 minutes but egg mixture wasn't completely done in that time.  I baked 5 more minutes.)

If I wasn't diabetic, I would sprinkle the muffins with powdered sugar or even lightly glaze them.  My choice was to lightly drizzle with sugar-free maple syrup just before eating. I could have made a sugar-free cream cheese glaze with cream cheese, vanilla extract, stevia and cream.  That experiment is for another day.

Store the remaining muffins in a zipper bag in the refrigerator or freeze for later use.  (I microwaved a cold muffin for 15 seconds and it was warmed perfectly.)

If you are using a 12-cup muffin pan, double the recipe.

Hope this recipe, in its many forms, works for you.