Gluten-Free: two words that can test even the most experienced of bakers, and yours truly. Baking without wheat flour? Is that even possible? More importantly, will it taste good? To my surprise it can!
It was only recently, in the past year or so, that I became more educated on gluten intolerance and celiac disease. It's impacted the lives of several people I know. My friend C. is gluten intolerant and in my own family I have several cousins who are reducing their gluten intake for health reasons.
In my quest to find safe treats for my gluten-free posse I came upon a great baking book called The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook. It's chock full of favorite baking recipes that are made without gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy and nuts. I first heard about the book when the author, Cybele Pascal, made an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show. One of her children suffered from severe food allergies and she learned to tweak recipes so that he could enjoy them. Lucky for us she decided to share them with the world so that everyone could partake.
The snickerdoodle recipe was the first one I tried and I was quite amazed at how much the cookies looked and felt like the wheat version. Down to even the crackly texture that's synonymous with these cookies. They tasted close to the real thing as well. I admit there is a bit of an aftertaste but C. told me it was probably from the xanthan gum, a plant derivative that mimics gluten, that was used in the recipe. Apparently this is normal for most gluten-free baked goods.
I had C. and my family try the cookies and they liked them a lot which is all the encouragement I need to try out more recipes.
NOTE: Baking gluten-free is more expensive than regular baking. I found most of the ingredients at Whole Foods or in health food stores.
Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles (recipe from The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook)
2 1/2 cups + 2 Tbl Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix (recipe follows)
1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup dairy-free, soy-free vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbl light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 2 Tbl rice milk
1/4 cup + 1 Tbl rice milk
2 Tbl granulated sugar + 2 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine the flour mix, xanthan gum, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the shortening, granulated sugar and brown sugar, mixing on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg replacer.
On low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the rice milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Roll the dough into heaping tablespoon-size balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Roll the balls in the the cinnamon-sugar mixture until they are coated no all sides.
Place on the baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 13 minutes, rotating the pans halfway thru. The cookies should have spread out a bit and have crackly tops.
Let cool completely on the baking sheets.
Basic Gluten-Free Baking Mix
- 4 cups superfine brown rice flour (preferably from Authentic Foods)
- 1 1/3 cups potato starch
- 2/3 cup tapioca flour or tapioca starch