Research leads to some tasty gluten-free ingredients
A wrist fracture early this spring kept me sidelined from my oven for a few months. With the kitchen off limits, this offered an opportunity for me to delve more deeply into a hot topic of the culinary world: specifically, baking with gluten-free flours and ingredient additives.
Sporting a cast while digging through piles of research, it became clear I needed to start where most people begin when switching to a gluten-free life; the specialty section of store bakeries. After a few samples, my taste buds knew exactly why even novice bakers clamor for gluten-free makeovers of their favorite desserts: too much sweet, off flavors and odd textures.
From my writing about gluten-free baking and speaking with home cooks, I know people will invest kitchen time if the finished dessert tastes good.
Often recipe make overs focus on duplicating wheat flour results, when success lies in crafting a different style that tastes like a welcome change.
Deep into flour research, I received an email about Authentic Foods, a California company achieving great results with their gluten-free products. I spoke with founder Steve Rice, and set out to test his company's gluten-free cake flour that boasts 1-to-1 wheat flour replacement, no need for xanthan gum or other additives and finished baked textures rivaling wheat flour based recipes.
What caught my attention was the lack of xanthan gum. This additive works as a thickener, which adds structure in place of gluten. In contrast, Steve's gluten-free cake flour includes a proprietary fiber blend derived from plants. This infuses fiber into the gluten-free cake flour, better mimicking the protein supplied by wheat.
For this baking challenge, a summer poundcake seemed appropriate with light airy texture. I pulled out my lemon olive oil recipe that infuses zesty citrus flavor into traditional poundcake and partners marvelously with fresh seasonal fruit.
It felt great to be back in the kitchen again and I didn't want my laser focus on ingredients to distract from the other components critical to successful baking. First, I checked my oven for accurate temperature. Look for an inexpensive hanging thermometer. Then, I invested in a new heavy duty loaf pan. Wilton and Chicago Metallic offer nonstick options.
Today's poundcake recipe calls for a mixture of whole and egg yolks. This combination brings a balance of fat and protein to the batter.
Just as important, the unusual mixing method for incorporating eggs takes a cue from crafting fresh mayonnaise. Slowly infusing a well beaten egg mixture into aerated fat keeps the batter from breaking into a curdled mess.
Here's where a partnership of two diverse fats create a base that easily handles a large infusion of eggs. Lemon olive oil brings bright flavor and enhanced moistness to the batter. Unsalted butter prevents the oil from becoming greasy and bakes smoothness into the finished texture.
Reducing the sugar to 1 cup kept sweetness in check and a touch of baking powder gives the crumb a slight boost. I brought this poundcake to a dinner party and no one's taste buds identified the dessert as gluten free. With this success, I'll be testing a few more gluten-free products from Authentic Foods this summer. Stay tuned for more.
• Annie Overboe, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lives in Oakbrook Terrace. Write to her at email@example.com.