I've been getting braver with my gluten free baking experiments. I tried making the Joy of Cooking's banana bread recipe with GF flours instead of regular flour, just off the cuff as it were, and it wasn't a total failure! Just a semi-failure.
I've also been making pancakes with various GF flours to get a feel for them. Turns out that buckwheat is quite tasty and sorghum is possibly magical. I made entirely successful - delicious, even! - pancakes both with a buckwheat/millet/potato flour mix, and with straight sorghum flour. Sorghum might be my new favorite thing. (Of course some good, grade B maple syrup doesn't hurt either.)
But there's one thing I've been dreading, been avoiding like the plague, been doing research to see if I can do without. Xantham gum. (insert scary music)
Xantham gum and guar gum are the two things generally used to give GF baked goods a gluten-like texture. They are also, as I understand it, to blame for the gross, gummy texture of many GF goods. In fact, at a GF bakery in NJ the owner let me sample some bread made wtih the xanthan gum she normally uses and then a loaf made with a different brand of it: the second loaf was gummy and not so good. BECAUSE OF A DIFFERENT BRAND. This is why this stuff scares me. Guar gum, for no reason whatsoever, scares me less and is supposedly much cheaper to buy... but I haven't yet found it in a store. Xantham gum, on the other hand, sits right in the baking aisle in Whole Foods... and costs $12 for a bag that I think weighs a pound. Granted, a recipe generally uses only a teaspoon or so, but still. $12! For a little bitty bag of powder! I'm not generally in the habit of buying the kinds of things that carry that sort of cost-to-weight ratio. However, the majority of GF recipes I've been finding include the damn stuff, and the blogger/cooks I've started following (who seem quite knowledgable, based on lots and lots of experience) all include it in their recipes.
So this weekend I bit the bullet and bought some. ($12!!) Then I had to convince myself to use it.
Well, since store-bought GF baked products are hit-or-miss, I haven't bothered buying any pre-made cookies, cakes, or similar. It just didn't seem worth it. But for most of the last week I've been craving something starchy and sweet, warm from the oven. So I picked out two possible recipes to bake - both including xanthan gum. The one I really wanted to try was for GF monkey bread - a sweet, yeasted bread - but between getting home from the gym and leaving for work today I wasn't going to have enough time for the rising and baking, and I sure wasn't going to wait until next weekend when I'd have time to bake again. Instead I made a berry coffee cake kind of thing. (It's billed as a blueberry crumb cake, but I used the frozen mixed berries I had on hand, and was too lazy to make a proper crumb mixture so I just sprinkled brown sugar on top.)
It started smelling delicious about a half hour into the baking, and - miracle of miracles! - it tastes delicious, too!
I'm now at work with a piece of it in a plastic container and as it finishes cooling I keep taking little tastes, hunting for any hint of gummy, gluey grossness. None dectectable so far. This is good news, people. There may be some delicious baking in my future.
“Am I not a man and a brother?”
4 weeks ago