Gluten-Free Baking 101

I’ve been on an ambitious and slightly impractical baking kick lately.  I’m tired of near misses in the world of gluten free bread; I’ve resolved to come up with some successes, so I’ve been honing the “easy stuff” – gluten free muffins and quick breads.  The procedure for making muffins, especially the gluten free variety, couldn’t be easier:  Sift together dry ingredients; combine wet ingredients; pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until combined.  The gluten free variety are easier simply because you can mix the batter endlessly with no fear of overworking the gluten and creating a tough muffin.  No one wants a tough muffin.

But someone does want these gluten-free blueberry muffins with vanilla blueberry syrup:

Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Blueberry Muffins with Vanilla Blueberry Syrup

Ingredients

1 c.  cornmeal
1 c. gluten-free flour mix, like Bob’s Redmill
1 t. xanthan gum
1 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. blueberries, dusted with g/f flour
1/2 t. ea. cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
2 eggs
1/2 c. plus 2 T. canola oil
1 c. water

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 and fill muffin tins with foil or paper wrappers.

Sift together dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until combined. Fold in blueberries, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Meanwhile for the syrup….

Bring one cup of sugar and one cup of water with the scraped innards of a vanilla bean to a boil.  Boil for about 2 minutes, and add blueberries.  Turn off the heat, and allow to get increasingly yummy over time.

When I make this recipe again, I will probably use melted smart balance in lieu of the canola oil and soy milk instead of water.

Buoyed by the success of these muffins, I decided to challenge myself to take a delicious “Suburban Mom Style” recipe (read: white flour, white sugar, butter, milk, eggs) and make it vegan, gluten-free, and sweetened with agave nectar. 

The recipe I chose was Banana Chocolate Chip Bread, which I thought was particularly smart for two reasons:  When you have to compromise on ‘essential’ ingredients its best to do so in a medium that is full of flavor – namely delicious banana-chocolate flavor.  Also, banana is a natural leavener, making the inclusion of eggs obsolete.

I began with this recipe:

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Ingredients

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 c. mashed super-ripe bananas
1 egg
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. milk
3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips

As expected, this banana bread was delicious and slightly dense, studded with beautiful gooey chocolate chips.  It was stupidly simple to make and, I think, would make an excellent ‘Thank You’ loaf for anyone who, say, drove you around for a week after your recent car accident.

The adaptation for the ‘Dirty Hippie’ variation (GF/CF, Vegan, blah blah blah) was fairly simple.  On my next attempt, I’m going to try either eliminating the xanthan gum altogether or cutting it in half.  I also might increase the flour just a touch to offset the extra moisture generated by the agave nectar.  That said, I consider this to be my biggest success in the world of ‘Dirty Hippie’ baking.  Huzzah!

GF/CF, Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Ingredients

1 1/2 c. gluten-free flour mix
2 t. baking powder
1 t. xanthan gum
3/4 c. gluten-free chocolate chips
1 c. mashed super-ripe bananas
1/4 c. soy milk
1/2 c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla

and voila:

Side by side, these two breads look AND taste very similar.  I actually prefer the look of the second batch because the g/f flour lends a little more visual intrique.

The piece of the left is from the Suburban Mom variation and is, thus, slightly lighter in color.  The Suburban Mom variety definitely has a richer, fattier taste and mouthfeel, but if you weren’t comparing the two bite for bite, I daresay you wouldn’t be able to identifiy the slice on the right as anything other than delicious, chocolately banana-y bread.  My only real gripe with bread number two is the quality of the chocolate.  I used Ghiradelli semisweet chips for bread number one and Enjoy Life brand gluten/dairy-free chocolate chips for the second.  The chocolate is certainly inferior but not so much so as to be a bummer or even an impediment to bread enjoyment.

Coming next down the pike, I’m going to try some gluten-free pie crusts, all working up to my eventual goal of perfecting a loaf of gluten-free bread.  I’ll be keeping the kitchen hot despite the 90-degree weather and notoriously stifling Richmond humidity.  Why?  because I care…..

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