Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chocolate - Gluten = Good Results! Tips from a gluten-free beginner!

(Chocolate Cupcake Recipe at bottom of post)
I have a gluten free wedding cake coming up this month so I've been buckling down and testing out a variety of gluten free recipes. My goal is to find one thats tasty and 'cakey'. I've learned more about gluten free baking by attempting recipes then I ever thought I'd know.

Here's the rundown of a few quick tips I've heard/learned/read concerening baking without gluten:

** Don't be afraid!
It's a bit daunting to start baking without the most common ingredient , flour. I looked for recipes with the least amount of ingredients and started there. It was a little less overwhelming that way and my initial shopping trip wasn't very hefty. After testing a few recipes you'll get an idea of what taste good to you and what you might want to try and tweak. It was a little investment to start mostly becuase I don't stock many gluten free ingredients in my regular pantry at home, but for about $15 you'll have enough ingredients to play around with several recipes.
My new must have gluten free ingredients are:
Coconut Flour
Sweet Rice Flour
Xanthan Gum
Agave Nectar
 ***Mix your flours: One type of flour isn't enough to simulate the gluten texture of cake. I tried coconut, garbanzo bean, and sweet rice.  No matter what any recipe said garbanzo bean just tasted like beans..eew! The combo of 2 parts coconut flour and 1 part sweet rice flour worked well for me.

***Xanthan gum: Use it!
 A few recipes called for it  and a few didn't, but I found when I used it and when I upped the amounts the result was a lighter cake.

What is it???
Xanthan gum derives its name from the strain of bacteria used during the fermentation process, Xanthomonas campestris. X. campestris is the same bacterium responsible for causing black rot to form on broccoli, cauliflower and other leafy vegetables. The bacteria forms a slimy substance which acts as a natural stabilizer or thickener. (

Again...eew! But no worries it comes clean and powdered ready to go. Although its new to most home bakers, myself included, Xanthan gum has been around for quite some time and used in most commerical made salad dressings and ice creams.
For baking it  helps keep the cake light and fluffy , by stabalizing or suspending the ingrients, the job gluten usually helps with. It's pricy but I found small .32 oz packages at the local organic food store for $.69. The chocolate recipe below doesn't use the gum, but for all my vanilla cake trials adding 1 to 1 1/2 tsp per cup of flour helped a lot.

***Finally when in doubt treat it like cake! 
After several attempts to come up with a new way to create lighter fluffier cake, I did what I would do to "regular" cake.  Adding a few tablespoons of milk, playing with the sugar ratios and not over mixing, my results were getting better and better with each try. I also found that boosting the oven temp worked well (375F).  Keep an eye on the cakes but the higher temp helped all the liquid turn to steam quicker and puff up the cakes. a bit more.

Chocolate Gluten Free Cupcakes 
(adapted from Gluten Free Cupcakes by Elana Amsterdam)
Makes 9
2 tbl Coconut Flour
1 1/2 tbl Sweet Rice Flour
1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
4 large Eggs
2 tbl Melted Butter
2 tbl Oil
1/4 cup Agave Nectar
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar

Preheat oven to 375F. Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl combine the flours, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.  In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, melted butter, sugar and agave nectar.
Blend the wet ingredients into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until combined about 30 strokes.
Scoop batter into each cup until about 1/2 full.
Bake 18-20 minnutes, rotating the pan half way.
Let cool in pan for 1 hour.  Frost with favorite buttercream.
Enjoy! (These freeze very well!)

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