Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gluten-Free Adventures, Part 1


Since starting a gluten-free phase in our house about 2 weeks ago, I've been experimenting with various alternative flours for baked goods. There are lots of different "flours" you can use to substitute for wheat flour, and each has its own characteristic qualities which make it good for some kinds of foods and not so good for others. I've baked with sweet rice flour before, and you may have had it as well if you've eaten mochi or other kinds of rice cakes. There are others such as quinoa, nut, millet, soy, and sorghum; I'm planning to try them all out of curiosity to see what they taste like. I've tried a few recipes so far; some have been more successful than others.


I'll start with the one that I think turned out the best (in my opinion): lemon blueberry bread. It's not so much a bread as a kind of tea cake, sort of like the way banana bread is called "bread". I used the recipe I found here, and pretty much stuck with it except that I added chocolate chips and omitted the glaze. It came out moist and flavorful enough that I thought it didn't need a glaze, although if you did add it, I'm sure it would be delicious. The best thing about this bread is that it tasted exactly as if it were made with wheat flour. Couldn't tell the difference.






Next, I tried chocolate chip cookies. I can't find the recipe I used for this batch, but it doesn't really matter. I'll use a different recipe for my next batch. I thought this would be a good standard because everyone loves chocolate chip cookies, but it backfired on me because since it happens to be my favorite cookie of all time, it turns out that they couldn't possibly reach the heights of deliciousness I was imagining. They did look very good, though.





And everyone else in the family seemed not to mind the distinct bean flour taste. Next time I'm going to omit the bean flour and use rice flour instead. This batter was a bit wetter than normal, and the cookies spread out a bit during baking, but they came out nice and crisp (after cooling) all the way through. I added almonds and chia seeds too.



Lastly, I tried making a regular loaf of sandwich bread. I adapted this recipe here, except I swapped out some of the rice flour. Since no one seemed to mind the bean flour in the cookies, I decided to go for it in the bread. I also added sunflower seeds and almonds. This dough looked very strange: it never came together in a sticky dough ball but rather just sat there as a wet blob. I was worried that it wouldn't bake since it didn't really rise much, but it did turn out sort of bread-like, in a way. The slice has a nice airy, almost gluten-y look.



There's a nice crust. It slices well and holds together just fine. I've toasted it, peanut-buttered it, and sandwiched it. Holds up fine. Just like regular bread, but a little denser. And it really tastes different. But who cares what I think of it? TinySprite is perfectly happy with her very own special loaf of bread, and that's what matters.

Have you tried gluten-free baking? Once you stock up on the different flours and additives, I've found it's pretty much the same as regular baking so far. It's just that the batter, dough and finished products often look quite different, and of course the taste varies. I don't know about you, but I always thought gluten-free baked goods would be dry, crumbly and with all the flavor of cardboard. Not so! In my limited experience, some might be an acquired taste, but others are virtually indistinguishable from their wheaty counterparts. Still on my list is pizza dough and pie crust. Wish me luck!

20 comments:

  1. I've always been very curious about gluten free cooking but a little scared to try any of it myself. Thank you for sharing your results! I can't wait to see what else you do :D

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    1. Glad to be the guinea pig Jenn! Hope I can do justice to the established recipes out there.

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  2. Good luck with your gluten-free venture. We are gluten-free. For a few years we had to be grain-free as well, my son could not digest any grains. But somehow I still managed to make bread, crackers, cookies and muffins. We used almond flour and sunflower seeds. Many people also use coconut flour (my son has a coconut sensitivity). So there are so many alternatives. There are also so many great blogs and cookbooks for almost any diet.

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    1. I'm learning that there are indeed lots of options available these days; and I'm looking forward to trying almond flour, especially since one can make it at home pretty easily too. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

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    2. I'd like to second the recommendation of almond meal. It gives a great texture to sweetish baked goods like muffins and cookies. Plus: protein!

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    3. Absolutely! I'd love to try hazelnut flour too; it's a bit expensive but I bet it's delicious.

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  3. It all looks so delicious!

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  4. Cookies! *_*
    I want it all ^^

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  5. Sheri, I have a great gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe if you'd like to try it - I used to use bean flour, but it just didn't taste the same until I developed a combo of rice, tapioca,millet, and coconut four. The coconut flour makes all the difference! I also have a pizza crust/bread recipe that I've spent the last 8 years perfecting if you'd like to try that one too.
    good luck with your gluten free adventures -my son and I have been eating this way for 8 years now, and we are doing great ( and have lots of delicious food to eat)

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    1. Hi Kristie,
      I'd love to see your GF ccc and pizza crust recipes! Have you posted them on your blog?
      I just picked up some coconut flour because I had the same idea that some kind of nut flour (maybe almond too) would really improve the taste. Once I started looking into it, I've found lots of folks like you, who've lived GF for years easily with limited inconvenience. It's very encouraging.
      Thanks for your advice!

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  6. Oooh! That lemon blueberry bread looks so moist .... wouldn't mind to get a slice! And you are so *mean* to make these close-up pictures ^_^!!! Your cookies are hypnotizing me "eat me... eeeeeaaat meeee" ...
    I never tried bean flour... might give an interesting flavor to savory baking I believe..
    Tell me Sheri, is TS allergic or gluten intolerant? Well, anyways, I am just loving to follow your adventures in GF cooking !
    Ah yes! Wish you good luck :) *mwah!*

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    1. Eheeehehe!
      Thanks for all your encouragement L, but you might want to wait a bit before you take a bite while I improve my ability >.<
      There is garbanzo bean flour and fava bean flour, and a combo called garfava flour (sheesh), which sounds mighty high in protein and healthy, right? But the flavor is quite strong and should probably be used mainly in savory dishes, as you suggest. Maybe pizza crust might be a good one.
      I don't think it's a true allergy, but I'd like to see whether her overall well-being improves. I looked at gluten first because it's her number one favorite food and she would eat (bread, crackers, tortillas,) all day if she could. Well, she has gone along with the GF trial without complaint, which is quite surprising (and maybe telling?). Anyway, it's only a couple weeks so far, so too soon to tell.
      Thank you dear!

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  7. I'm eager to see more of your adventurous GF yumminess! I have several friends who are Gluten Free and I'm always worried about what to feed them. Thank you for the explanations and for having the bravery to try them :D

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    1. Happy to shed some light in my very amateurish way! I've learned a lot about GF from friends who I only now realized are GF. Now that I'm aware of it, I'm also surprised to see plenty of GF options available in grocery stores too. Very nice for the starter (like me) trying to make it work.
      Thanks for the encouragement!

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  8. So glad my recipe for lemon-blueberry bread worked out for you :)

    I also have pretty rockin' chocolate chip cookie and pizza crust recipes, if I do say so myself :) Here are the links: www.girlcooksworld.com/2011/12/ultimate-gluten-free-chocolate-chip.html and www.girlcooksworld.com/2012/02/infinitely-adaptable-gluten-free-thin.html

    Gluten-free baking gets easier and easier the more you do it... you'll figure out what flours you like best and what flours to avoid for baking- usually anything stone ground.. although I'm also not a fan of bean flours... mostly because they give raw dough and batter an off-taste.

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    1. Thanks a lot Cate; I will definitely check them out. I'm learning a lot thanks to established GF bakers like yourself.

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  9. We've been doing gluten/casein/soy free bentos for over a year now. It's not always easy to convert, especially since soy is pretty prominent in japanese cuisine (yeah, try finding a soy and gluten free soy sauce!), but it's worth it. I have to blend blogs together to get ideas. Like "adventures of a gluten free mom" and your blog together are pretty good. Also "just bento" and "lexi's kitchen". I tried writing my own GFCFSF bento blog, but it never took off and I didn't have the time for it anyway.

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    1. I admire you for your year of experience; just trying to be gluten-free is challenging enough. I just realized I had to find wheat-free soy and can't imagine the hurdles you're facing. (I just read about Bragg's liquid aminos though, have you tried that?) I search the web constantly looking for ideas and trying to learn from others who went before me. Thanks a lot for your support and encouragement; folks like you keep me going!

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