Sunday, December 25, 2011

Gluten-free Holiday Baking

The holidays are upon us and this means it’s baking time. If you’re gluten-free, there’s no need to opt out holiday baking. The holidays can be an ideal time to dive in to the world of gluten-free (GF) baking. Baking itself can be intimidating and GF adds another layer of difficulty. However, GF baking has come a long way over the past 10 years. There are a multitude of GF flour products and ingredients out on the market and an abundance of baking guidance exists online and in bookstores. If GF baking is foreign to you, you’re not alone, resources are available at your fingertips.
As you venture into the world of GF baking, you might be baffled by all of the different flour products. Grain flours, nut and seed flours and legume flours are at your disposal. The key to GF baking is deciding what flours to use and for what products. And, it’s best to combine them to achieve the best possible result. When you study GF baking recipes, you’ll often see multiple flour products. In my opinion, it’s best to use about 2-3 different flours when you’re baking GF.

The first is what I refer to as a base flour. I recommend whole grain flours like sorghum or brown rice because they are subtle and neutral in flavor. The second flour is a starch. Starches are less dense and they can lighten up your baked products and I would suggest using tapioca flour, white rice flour, potato starch or arrowroot. The third flour may be another whole grain flour like amaranth, buckwheat, millet or teff. It’s best to use these flours in smaller amounts because they have stronger flavors and are heavier in weight. You may also see products such as guar gum and xanthan gum in GF baking. These are binders and can replace some of the binding an elastic qualities of gluten. They become more important in egg-free GF baking.

One of the advantages of GF baking is that you’ll often use products that are more nutritious. Whole grain flours like sorghum and brown rice have more nutrition than refined wheat flours. Similarly, almond and hazelnut flours and chickpea/fava bean flour blends can add more protein, essential fatty acids and fiber to your baking. GF baking can also give you an opportunity to learn about these products and figure out what flavors and textures you’re drawn to.

Gluten-free baking absolutely takes time and patience and a lot of experimentation. There are myriad opportunities to showcase your baking talents around the holidays. So dive into your flour products and online resources and perhaps you’ll even prove to your friends and family that GF baking can be just as tasty, if not more delicious than traditional baking!

All-purpose Gluten-free Flour Blend for muffins, cookies and quickbreads (makes 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon guar gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Apple Cranberry Cornbread Stuffing
This stuffing is the perfect accompaniment to squash, turkey or serve it as a side dish at your holiday feast.

For the cornbread:

1 cup yellow corn meal (Arrowhead Mills is a good brand)
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
1/4 cup succanat or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt, kefir, or buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add egg and yogurt. Stir until mixture is smooth. Pour batter into a 8” x 8” square baking dish or 9” x 9” round dish and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Chef’s note: Prepare cornbread one day in advance. Let cornbread sit out on counter so that it dries out a bit.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Gluten-free Warrior: Gluten-free and wheat-free whole foods recipes by Genevieve Sherrow. Warrior Press, 2010.

For the stuffing:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Chop cornbread up into cubes and toast the cubes on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes or so. Don’t overcook or overbrown them. When they're nicely toasted remove the baking sheet from the oven, set aside and allow the cubes to cool.

4-5 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil, for frying and to taste
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup sweet onion, diced
2 large Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 teaspoon thyme, dried
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup dried or fresh cranberries
3/4 cup vegetable broth, more, as needed
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Heat about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large deep skillet. Saute onion until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the thyme, curry and cinnamon; add the celery, apples and cranberries; cook until softened. Remove the skillet from the burner and set aside to cool a bit.

Stir in the toasted cornbread. Mix well. Add a little more olive oil, and the broth, pouring in a little at a time and gently stirring to combine. Add the maple syrup. Stir. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Some folks like a very soft dressing- if you are one of these, feel free to add more broth.

Stuffing recipe adapted from, Karina Allrich.