Archive for: gluten free
The holiday season is the biggest time of the year for baking. Even people who don’t bake so much as a chocolate chip cookie the rest of the year will try their hand at a batch of gingerbread cookies or a homemade pie sometime around Thanksgiving or Christmas. The baking season can be quite difficult if you are gluten free – or are baking some gluten free goodies for friends and family members with dietary restrictions – because most books and recipes are geared towards traditional bakers. Fortunately, Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays: 60 Recipes for Traditional Festive Treats is designed with gluten free baking in mind and is filled with holiday recipes that you won’t have to create your own modifications for to make them gluten free.
One of the most important recipes in the book is for the homemade gluten free flour mixture found near the start of the book. This is the base for all of the recipes in the book, and although you can buy commercially made gluten free flour mixes, this will get you the best results with these recipes. You can make it in small quantities for small batches or a large quantity if you want to keep it on hand for other baking. The recipes include cookies, cakes, pies, breads and deep fried treats. From a complete gingerbread house to homemade panettone, there is something for every holiday occasion in here.
The book is beautifully put together, with lovely pictures throughout to illustrate the recipes and very clean layouts that are easy to read. Although there are only 60 recipes in the book, it is a good sized volume and there is a lot of additional information in here, starting with a primer on gluten free baking at the beginning to the details of every recipe. The recipes in here don’t need to be relegated just to holiday baking, but you will find a lot of inspiration in here and probably a few favorites that might start some new holiday traditions.
Few things are as irresistible as a fudgy chocolate brownie. Most brownies contain flour to help give them structure and a nice, chewy texture, but I decided to give one of my favorite brownie recipes a makeover and create a gluten-free variation that is completely flour-free. Brownies are actually a good candidate for a gluten-free makeover because many recipes don’t call for a large amount of flour in the first place. A few small changes to a basic brownie recipe and you’ll never know that you’re eating something that is gluten free.
My recipe includes both cornstarch and cocoa powder (both gluten free) and they help to give the brownies some body, so that each bite has a satisfyingly chewy texture to it without any flour. They are very fudgy and have an intense chocolate flavor to them, even though it might seem that there is only a small amount of chocolate in the brownie recipe. This intensity of flavor comes from the cocoa powder, which adds a strong bittersweet note to the brownies and makes them seem incredibly rich.
I added some chocolate chips for another hit of chocolate and stirred in some chopped walnuts for a little crunch, breaking up the fudgy texture of the brownies. You could use another nut, or leave out the nuts entirely if you want to go all chocolate on these. I recommend cutting them into one or two bite-sized pieces for serving. If you want to go bigger, pair each piece with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The ice cream will balance out all that chocolate and give you an over-the-top ice cream sundae.
Rice flour is a fine flour made from ground rice. It is completely gluten free, including even “glutinous rice flour,” which is made from sweet rice and is a staple for making Japanese treats like mochi. Rice flour can be used in a wide variety of culinary uses and is a very popular base for noodles in many Asian cuisines. It can also be used as a thickener in sauces, as a breading for fried dishes and as the base for various baked goods. It is available in white, which is made from polished white rice, and in brown, which is made from whole grain brown rice. Both types of flour work just about the same way in a recipe, but have slightly different flavors and colorings. Brown rice flour can take longer to cook when it is in noodle form, for instance, as brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice.
Rice flour is very commonly used in gluten free baked goods to give them structure and substance, but it is also a popular addition for non gluten free baked goods because of its unique and slightly sandy texture. For instance, a small amount of white rice flour in a buttery shortbread recipe can make that shortbread extra tender and crumbly, with a melt-in-your-mouth feeling. It can also add a heartiness to a yeast bread recipe when a small amount is added, since it contains no gluten and will compact a bread dough somewhat, so it can be found in some dense, whole grain breads.
Macarons are one of my favorite treats to make for special occasions, and they should be one of yours, too. These little french cookies are made with thin meringue shells that have a crisp and chewy texture and they are sandwiched together with flavorful fillings. They’re small, sweet and beautiful to look at. The cookies have a reputation of being difficult to make, largely because the almond-based meringues are delicate when compared to other cookies. That being said, the cookies are not as difficult to make as they might look and with a little patience you can easily make them at home.
Chocolate macarons are one of my favorite flavors. Chocolate shells go with a wide variety of fillings, including Nutella and chocolate ganache, and they can also be paired with a simple buttercream like I’ve used here. The finished cookies have a deep chocolate color and a lovely crisp-chewy texture to them.
The macarons are completely gluten free and start with a paste made with almond flour, cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar. I make an Italian meringue – a cooked meringue that has a hot sugar syrup poured into beaten egg whites to cook and stabilize them – and fold it into the chocolate paste. This gives the cookies a lot of stability and creates enough bubbles in the batter to make the cookies puff up nicely when they bake. The cookies should be piped onto parchment paper or a silpat in small circles and allowed to set for about 30 minutes before baking. This set-up time allows the surface of the macaron to set and form a kind of “skin” that gives the macarons their signature smooth look.
I’ve given the quantities for this recipe in volume and by weight. I really recommend weighing the ingredients out if you have a kitchen scale because you’re going to get the best results that way. If you don’t have a scale, just be sure not to pack the ingredients down tightly (just as you shouldn’t pack flour down when you measure it) when you measure them because your cookies will be a little on the dense side if you do
Gluten free baking is easier than it has ever been before. Just a few short years ago, gluten free ingredients were difficult to find and the results that you would get when working on a recipe could be unpredictable, to say the least. These days, there are a wide range of gluten free flours and baking mixes that are available at most markets and they have helped to raise the bar of gluten free baking, both for the quality of the products you can make and for how easy it is do to it.
There are many to choose from and not all gluten free baking mixes are created equal. Some work better for certain types of baked goods than others. In a recent issue, Everyday Food tested and compared several brands of gluten free flour mixes to see how they performed. Their findings definitely proved that some mixes are better for certain things than others.
- C4C Gluten Free Flour – Overall favorite. This mix was developed at The French Laundry and produced light and fluffy cakes consistently and was good for all types of baking.
- Gluten Free Pantry All Purpose Flour – Good for cakes. This flour had a very mild taste, but could impart a slightly grainy texture to baked goods. Chocolate chip cookies were slightly dry.
- Hodgson Mill Multi-Purpose Baking Mix - Favorite whole grain. Chocolate chip cookies had a great texture and added 3 grams of fiber per quarter cup.
- King Arthur Multi-Purpose Gluten Free Flour - Good for muffins. This mix produced hard, sandy cookies but worked well in very moist baked goods, like muffins and banana breads.
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour – Good for savory dishes. This bean-based flour had a flavor that didn’t mesh well with some sweeter baked goods, though they had a good texture.
In my own experiences with gluten free baking mixes, I would definitely encourage you to do some experimentation. For instance, I did not have good results with the King Arthur mix in my Gluten Free Thin Mints, but had excellent results with Bob’s Red Mill and C4C. These are helpful guidelines, but nothing beats trying a few and seeing which ones produce the best results in your own baked goods.