Saturday, April 11, 2009

Gluten Free Flexibility and a Muffin Recipe

So, when I began the process of learning to live without wheat in July I was very hesitant. Because I love to bake. Muffins, cakes, quick breads, you name it. Baking without wheat? I've never used any other flour. In fact, I remember checking out a cookbook from the library shortly after our allergic kiddo was diagnosed six years ago and thinking: "Whoa. This one's not for me. These are all weird ingredients. I don't need this, I refuse to cook strange things. I am going to cook normal food." It had a section in the front explaining all the types of flours to use in place of wheat, along with other allergy friendly replacement options explained. Here I am six years later not only using an increasing number of 'weird' ingredients, but embracing the opportunity to try new and unusual options. Anything to help make our diet tasty, interesting, and have options close to what her friends at school are eating.

In fact, on any given day I have six types of milk in my fridge. We're not talking different flavors. Five to eight types of flour in the freezer. Quite a turnaround. I am slowly learning what properties make which ingredient best in each recipe. Hemp or coconut milk work best in recipes that need rich flavor that thin watery rice milk can not provide. And so on. (It's really amazing how easily you can adapt to living without other allergens. I think wheat is the hardest to get used to and to avoid. Personally speaking.)

Where was I? Oh yes! Baking without wheat. I started with a gluten free flour blend and began to replace the flour in my regular recipes with this blend. The results were edible, but certainly nothing to rave about.

Then I began to find recipe after recipe online that called for each gluten free flour individually. Mix as you go. DOH! I already mixed all my flour into my blend. Shopping again, for more flour. Leave some out, mix some up. Frequently I would put off trying a wonderful sounding recipe because I was missing one of the types of four it called for. Hmmm...that sounds yummy, but I don't have any sorghum flour. Search on. After all, if they were calling for sorghum it had to be because the properties of that flour made it best suited to that recipe, right?

HA! Some days I am so slow to catch on. It finally hit me- even in gluten free baking the flours are interchangeable. Did it really take three months to get the courage to experiment? It's true, some flours lend a better flavor or texture to a given recipe. But it is subject to individual preference. The three way bulb in my brain finally kicked off the nightlight setting and onto the 60 watt setting. I saw the light.

And now I am experimenting with flours like a woman possessed. If you have any interest, I can post a listing of flours I have used and what qualities they lend to my baking. Of course, you can find that on about a million other blogs too, if you want.

Long story incredibly longer, all this ranting to tell you of my latest experiment. Two weeks ago I made applesauce muffins that relied primarily on buckwheat flour. Great texture, not a great aftertaste. This week I decided (being too low on flour to rely on one type alone for flavor) to use EVERY flour in the freezer in the recipe. And see what happens. The result? Delicious. Seriously. Not as light and airy, but no icky aftertaste either. I'll take it.

The lesson for you? Just use what you have. The end result should be the same amount of flour called for in the recipe, but it does not matter the type. Use good baking judgment- a mix of flour and starch, a pinch of xanthan or guar gum. Free yourself, if you haven't already. Here is my crazy version, so you can see what I did. My apologies to the original cook, as I can not find the recipe I used as my jumping off point.

Mixed Grain Applesauce Muffins

1/4 c buckwheat flour
1/4 c brown rice flour
1/4 c white rice flour
1/4 c sorghum
1/4 c amaranth
1/4 c potato starch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 c applesauce
1/3 c safflower oil
2/3 c brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 EnerG eggs
4 Tbsp apple juice

Sift together dry ingredients. (When using potato starch I like to sift to break up the lumps and evenly distribute. It likes to cling together.) Mix wet ingredients in small bowl and add to dry. Stir until combined. Transfer batter to muffin tins and bake 20-25 minutes at 350. Enjoy.

(Note: I also altered the spices and the amount of sugar, as the original was too sweet for my taste. And I'm almost out of cinnamon too. Had I been out of apple juice I would have thrown in some random milk. The need for shopping yields creative cooking.)

Original recipe: Applesauce Muffins

3/4 c buckwheat flour
1/2 c sorghum
1/4 c tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthan
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 c applesauce
1/3 c olive oil
1 c brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 EnerG eggs
4 Tbsp apple juice

Directions are same as above.

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