Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gluten Free Baking

This summer while I was working in the kitchen at Three Mile Island, I was exposed to quite a few people who had allergies or intolerance's to wheat. Since I did not have much experience with gluten free baking, nor availability of the required ingredients, I did the best I could and made a lot of fruit dishes. Yummy examples included warmed pineapple, coconut, and toasted pecans; sliced apples, cranberries and a dollop of spiced whipped cream; locally picked blueberries heated with lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch, and of course more whipped cream (who can't get enough homemade whipped cream!); and peach cobbler with a gluten free topping that I made by crushing gluten free cereal and adding sugar, spices, and nuts. I also resorted to the classic, naturally gluten free dessert that is tantalizing to many... the coconut macaroon.

But, as yummy and appetizing as fresh fruits are for dessert (especially summer time berries), I just wasn't satisfied. So upon returning home I did some research, went out and bought the necessary ingredients to make gluten free baked goods, and started baking. Key items to have in your pantry include rice flour (sweet, white or brown), potato starch, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum. All are reasonably priced except for the xanthan gum, which you only need small amounts of. Bob's Red Mill carries a plethora of good quality products, many of which have recipes on the bag, so check out their website or go visit your local grocery store to see what they have in stock.

So once I had the ingredients, I needed some basic recipes to try out and I found two great websites to work with...Karina's Kitchen and Land O'Lakes. My first try was with a chocolate chip cookie recipe found on Land O'Lakes website that I kind of tweaked by mistake. My final recipe came out like this:

Gluten Free Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies - 3 dozen average sized

2 cups white rice flour

2/3 cup potato starch

1/3 cup tapioca flour

1.5 teaspoons xantham gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1.5 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 cup white sugar

1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/4 cup soft butter

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 - 3 cups chopped milk chocolate chunks

Cream butter and sugars until fluffy, add eggs and vanilla, combine dry ingredients and add, throw in chocolate chunks, and mix just until incorporated. Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 - 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool on sheets for about 5 minutes then take off of pan and let cool on racks. Eat warm with a glass of milk for a gluten free nirvana!

My next delicious gluten free baking experiment was to make a savory muffin. Now with this recipe I put a little of this and a little of that, so I am not sure of my exact measurements on some things, so here goes:

Sundried Tomato, Basil, and Parmesan Muffins - makes 6 smaller muffins

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2 Tablespoons white sugar

2 Tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup white rice flour

1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons freshly chopped basil

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

4 chopped sundried tomatoes that have been packed in olive oil

Combine egg, milk, and olive oil. Add sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Add cheese and spices. Fold in sundried tomatoes and scoop into greased muffin tins. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 - 20 minutes or until tops lightly spring back when touched. These little creations were sinfully good and would be a wonderful accompaniment to many savory meals.

In sum, gluten free baking is easy to do once you get the basic ingredients and find some good recipes. No need to spend lots of money on the ready made gluten free mixes when you can just make your own. On a rainy day, warm up the oven and do some bulk baking so you can freeze some of your goodies for later. Leaving out the gluten doesn't mean leaving out the flavor, so try out some gluten free goodies just for the sake of experimenting with something new... or to make your gluten free friends very happy!


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