Sep 20, 2014

Cooking with RICE FLOUR

Like most Americans, I have used all-purpose bleached wheat flour most of my life. However there are many kinds of flour from tapioca, to garbanzo, even sunflower flour, but rice flour has really caught my interest ever since I moved to Hawaii. There are so many Asian recipes using rice flour here, and many of them are delicious. 

Rice flour is a flour milled from rice and has been used in Asia for a very long time, in all kinds of dishes. There are 4 kinds of rice flour, white rice flour (used as a thickener in sauces or in combination with other flours, glutinous rice flour (also know as sweet rice flour, used in baking), brown rice flour (milled from whole grain for more flavor and nutrition), and roasted red rice flour (used in flat breads like roti). The glutinous one is called sweet rice flour for some reason, because the truth is that it is not sweet at all and contains no gluten, but it does go very sticky when cooked, and it binds baked goods together, like the Bibingka recipe below. Also if you want to thicken a sauce without using wheat flour in a roux, try white rice flour, it thickens liquids quite nicely.

If you want to produce fried fish, shrimp, oysters, calamari, or onion rings, etc. with a remarkable crispness, then here is a restaurant secret. Dip fish, etc. into sweet rice flour, that you pre-season with any dry seasonings you like (pepper, herbs, garlic, etc.), then into beaten eggs. Roll egg coated fish lightly into Panko (Japanese bread crumbs). Now here's the secret, after rolling in Panko crumbs and before you fry in canola oil at 375˚F, always put battered items in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. When the Panko gets frozen to the egg wash it sticks like glue and the crumbs don't fall off, leaving you with extra crispy fried fish. Shhh! Don't tell anyone!

I may have confused you, but I am just learning about this remarkable rice flour myself. For more information on rice flour and "The Gluten-free Diet", check out the story I wrote a couple of years ago. Click here.

Filipino Coconut Pineapple "Bibingka"
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This cake is considered a delicacy in the Philippines. I have a friend who lives there, Ann Supan who recently had a birthday. She asked if I had ever heard of "Bibingka", and that she only has this special cake during the Christmas season. I researched it and came up with this recipe. It is a sticky cake, very different from other dryer American cakes, because of the glutinous sweet rice flour, which makes it have a unique soft, sweet, and gelatinous consistency, sort of like the Japanese Mochi. There are many different Filipino versions of the Bibingka, including a version that my Filipino friend Estella Ramos likes that uses cooked sticky rice instead of rice flour and only light brown sugar, not white sugar, plus a little less coconut cream. This dessert is a winner Ann, Happy Birthday!

Ingredients for cake:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 cups white granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 pound (3 1/2 cups) Mochiko brand sweet rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 15-ounce can sweetened cream of coconut, not coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained of the juice
1 tablespoon Crisco brand shortening
9 x 13 inch metal sheet pan, or glass Pyrex pan

Ingredients for topping:
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Procedure:
In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the remaining ingredients and stir, until smooth. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan. Combine the topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Place in oven on middle rack and bake in a 350˚F oven for approximately 60 minutes. After 30 minutes of baking, cover the cake lightly with a sheet of foil to keep the coconut from getting too brown, then continue baking for 30 minutes more. Turn off heat and allow the cake to rest in the oven for an additional 20 minutes before removing. Now remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour, then cut into small pieces. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Note: The cooking time may vary depending on your oven, and the pan you cook in. For example I cooked this cake in a glass Pyrex baking pan and had to increase the time by 30 minutes. If the cake center jiggles when you give it a shake, continue cooking, and check again every 5 minutes. The cake is done when the top springs back to the touch.

Italian Fried Chicken
Chicken parmesan is a classic recipe, but using rice flour makes it even more crispy and delicious.

Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 large eggs
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
canola oil, for frying
2 cups tomato sauce, heated (see note below)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
Italian parsley, for garnish

Procedure:
Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Cut or pound the chicken into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In large bowl, beat eggs and set aside. In another large bowl mix together the rice flour and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Coat the chicken in egg and then dredge it in the flour-cheese mixture. Shake off any excess and set coated chicken pieces aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. After the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is golden and cooked through.

To serve, top the cooked chicken with hot tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with penne pasta and steamed asparagus. Makes 2 servings.

Note: Tomato sauce is easy to make and much better than store bought. In a medium sized pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add 1/2 of a chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Now add 2, 14 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste, and a 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Makes about 2 cups of sauce.

Sesame Rice Crackers
Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1 cup roasted sesame seeds
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
3 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup warm water

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Mix everything together in a mixing bowl. The dough shouldn't be too sticky and should come together. You can add a little more rice flour if it seems too sticky and wet. Let the mixture sit for five minutes.

Spray a large baking sheet. Take teaspoon size pieces of dough and roll in to balls. Take a small square of oil sprayed parchment paper and press the ball on to the pan. You can use your hands, or you could use a heavy glass. You want the cracker dough to be very thin, but you don't want it to rip. Even if it rips though, it's still tasty. The crackers do shrink a little in the oven - so it's ok if your dough rounds are touching. Bake in oven for around 15-17 minutes. Check to make sure they don't burn. Cool on 
rack.

Lilikoi-Mango Mochi
So what is Mochi? Mochi is a Japanese confection, found usually in the shape of a small, round rice cake. This Mochi recipe is very Hawaiian because it has fresh mango covered in a sweet rice dough flavored with lilikoi juice.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups lilikoi juice (passion fruit juice)
1 1/4 cups sweet rice flour
cubed ripe mangoes
cornstarch for dusting
powdered sugar
12 paper cupcake liners

Procedure:
Add lilikoi fruit juice and rice flour into a microwave safe bowl like pyrex. Mix until combined, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes on high. Carefully remove plastic wrap and stir - the center should be slightly liquidy and the edges stiffer. Cover again with plastic and microwave for another 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir. You should now have a 'dough'. 

Dust a cutting board with cornstarch and turn the dough out onto the board. Wait about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the dough is cool enough to handle. Dust the top of the dough with cornstarch and form into a 1 1/2 inch thick log. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (keep covered to prevent from drying out). Cut off a 1 1/2 inch piece and form into a flat circle (make sure your hands are well starched so the dough doesn't stick). Place some fresh cubed mango in the center of the dough and pinch closed. Place each lilikoi-mango mochi, with the pinched side down, in cupcake liners and dust with powdered sugar. Makes 1 dozen pieces.

Note: This lilikoi-mango mochi is best made the same day that they will be eaten, otherwise the mochi might dry out and start to get hard.
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