The business of gluten-free baking has been much less scary than I thought it might be. I’ve realized recently that our roots in traditional baking have been a great help, when I was worried that our deep attachment to gluten-based baking would make the transition hellish. More to the point, I think my own comfort with improvising on the fly, combined with my faith in the chemistry of baking, have together made this whole transition feel extremely low-key.
I’m getting used to being surprised in unexpected ways too, as with this conversation with my husband the other day:
He: This chocolate chip muffin is definitely the best muffin you’ve ever made. Ever.
He: This one, it’s the best. Ever.
I won’t pretend to continue with transcribing a conversation that was lost to the mists of time before it finished ringing in my ears, but the essential message is this: No, my husband, who has long been known to deride and avoid any baking done with chocolate chips, has not lost his mind. What he was trying to say, I gradually teased out of him, was that the flour blend used as the basis for that muffin had become his favourite since we transitioned to GF-baking. Actually, he is surprisingly fond of the chocolate chip version, but he’s that much happier when I produce the version seen here, straight-up blueberry, or any combination of berries with nuts. (Youngest son adores the straight blueberry, and oldest son won’t touch blueberries, so he waits and waits for a chocolate chip train to come along.)
It really is all about the flour blend in gluten-free baking, and I’m pretty sure that this also comes down to taste as much as anything else. Certainly, a flour blend will succeed or fail based on a number of factors, but the truth is that I’ve found and concocted numerous blends that work, more or less, but only the one that makes everyone under our roof happy and asking for more.
Now, I’ve read that most GF flour blends will have less then 30 per cent of each flour or starch involved, and while you can go that route (and it works), it seems overly complicated for me. I’ve also seen recipes (I’m pointing at you Peter Reinhardt) that use 100 per cent of a specific type of flour (think almond), and – in my opinion – they don’t work.
If, like us, you are going gluten free and you are fortunate enough to be able to use nut ‘flours’, then you might agree with this: 40 to 50 per cent sorghum flour and 40 to 50 per cent almond flour is a rather nice and stable combination; that (optional) last 10 to 20 per cent, when given to coconut flour, is really lovely.
Sorghum flour doesn’t come out as strongly as buckwheat flour in the nutritional stats, but it’s still a solid contender, with a single cup containing 9.5 grams of protein (compared to 14 for buckwheat), 8 grams of dietary fibre (buckwheat offers 12), and about 20 per cent of your daily requirement for iron (similar to buckwheat). And frankly, it ‘plays nice’ with texture and flavour in ways that the ‘assertively flavoured’ buckwheat can’t claim to do. But I’m a buckwheat fan, so my next quest will be in revising my favoured GF-flour blend to reduce the sorghum and add in some buckwheat. I can’t upset the family though, so I’ll take it slow.
Almond flour? Well, almonds are known as one of the most nutritionally complete foods, so what more do you need to know? Low in dreaded carbs, high in protein, dietary fibre, vitamin E, magnesium…well, of course.
One of the best resources I have found on the road to creating a gluten-free kitchen is the Gluten-Free Goddess. A big thanks again to readers who made a point of pushing me in her direction. Some of my favourite recipes are based on ones found on her site. The blueberry muffin recipe that I’m sharing here today is based heavily on a recipe from the Gluten-Free Goddess. The sorghum/almond pairing definitely began here. The love affair with coconut flour totally started here.
The main changes to adapt this recipe to my household were really about removing nutritionally-vacant flours (tapioca in particular) in favour of more of the nutritionally rich options that we can enjoy. I also swapped out the hazelnut flour with our preferred almond and simplified the method just a little bit. This muffin is moist, firm and delicious, as any good muffin should be. Without further ado:
Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins, based on this recipe from the Gluten-Free Goddess
1 cup almond flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sunflower oil
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups blueberries, washed, drained well
Optional additions: 1/2 cup chopped almonds or other nuts, 1 tbs orange zest
While I do tend to use mostly organic ingredients, I don’t bother to note that in recipes. That’s up to you.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line or grease a 12-muffin tin. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add in the oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla and beat to combine. Continue beating for about half a minute or so until the batter is smooth. This is meant to be a moist, cake-y batter. Stir in the blueberries and other optional ingredients. Using a spoon (or an ice cream scoop, as I like to do for uniformly sized muffins), drop the batter into the 12 muffin cups. Bake in the center of the oven for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown and tops spring back to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.