Gluten-free, yeast-free bean bread

Today I tried out the basic yeast-free bread recipe from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by Bette Hagman, using the Four Flour Bean Mix described in my previous posting with the standard supermarket flours using in Indian cooking (Mustafa being the only supermarket I know that stocks them, though!).

The result was rather uneven: some parts did not rise much – the very smooth, close-textured parts – and other parts had huge air bubbles.

However, taste-wise and in terms of ‘mouth-feel’, I’m pleasantly surprised! The very green smell from the green bean flour disappeared after baking, and the bread was springy to the touch, much like real bread (despite the cake-like appearance). Actually, the texture reminds me very much of kueh lapis!

I tried it with a variety of savoury and sweet toppings as well as plain with butter, and it tasted fine every time. I couldn’t stop eating… how wonderful to be able to eat ‘bread’ and not be worrying about exceeding my wheat & gluten limit.

The recipe for a small loaf:

DRY INGREDIENTS

2 cups Four Flour Bean Mix : I used 1/3 part chickpea flour, 1/3 part green bean flour, 1/3 part sorghum flour, 1 part cornstarch, 1 part tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp Xanthan gum
3 Tbs brown sugar [which I reduced to 2 Tbs – still rather sweet]
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp Egg Replacer [omitted; Hagman uses this to provided additional protein and leavening power]
1/2 tsp salt

WET INGREDIENTS

Eggs – 2 plus 1 white [I used 3 small whole eggs, also because I omitted the Egg Replacer]
2 Tbs melted butter [replaced with ghee as I was too lazy to melt butter!]
1 Tbs honey [replaced with light argave syrup]
3/4 cup buttermilk [used substitute]
approx 1/3 cup water [used much, much less]

[Hagman also uses optional dough enhancer, which I have omitted completely here.]

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease loaf pan(s) and dust lightly with rice flour.

Whisk together dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and egg white(s). Add melted butter, honey and buttermilk. Blend with mixer on low speed.

Add dry ingredients and continue to blend on low speed.

Add ‘sufficient water to make the dough the consistency of cake batter.’ This was the hard part! What is the correct consistency? I’ve seen a whole range of consistencies of cake batters. Anyway, using my judgement, I only needed to add about a tablespoon of water. The batter was strange-looking because of all those sticky flours, the cornstarch and tapioca starch, not at all like cake batter.

Beat 1 minute on high.

Spoon into prepared pans and bake for 55 to 60 mins, covering with aluminum foil after 30 mins.

Problems

* The bread rose tremendously in the oven the collapsed afterwards, which suggests that I should reduce the amount of leavening agent next time.

* The texture was very uneven, it did not affect the taste, but certainly is less than ideal. Bette Hagman constantly gives strict instructions to follow recipes exactly as substituting ingredients may end up with a different result. As usual, I can never follow a recipe precisely so I guess I will have to keep experimenting.

* Hagman also suggests that overly dense texture might be due too much liquid, and from my experience with muffins (which is what this essentially is – a muffin method, dry + wet ingredients then mix) is that it could also be case of over-mixing. I might just make this by hand next time; the mixer is unecessary and might have contributed to the over-mixing.

Verdict

Whatever the problems, I was really pleased with the result. I fear the little test loaf in the freezer won’t last long at all. Am definitely making this again, and at double the quantity :).

Here are Hagman’s quantities for a large loaf:

DRY INGREDIENTS
Four Flour Bean Mix (see above) – 4 cups
Xantham gum – 3 tsp
Brown sugar – 1/3 cup
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Baking powder – 1 rounded tablespoon
Egg replacer – 2 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp

WET INGREDIENTS
Eggs – 3 plus 2 whites
Butter, melted – 6 Tbs
Honey – 2 Tbs
Buttermilk – 1 1/2 cups
Water (more or less) – 1/2 cup

31/10/08 Update: experimented with this recipe a second time, making some tweaks and getting a much better result. Read more here: Improved recipe for gluten-free, yeast-free bean bread.

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Gluten-free pumpkin muffins with carob topping

Here’s another experiment with alternative flours and this one is actually gluten-free, adapted from The Best Wheat and Gluten Free Baking Book. This is my first completely wheat and gluten-free recipe made with alternative flours intended to mimic the result of wheat flour.

I didn’t have the exact combination of flours used in the book’s recipe for Squash Muffins, so I improvised from things I had in the kitchen, and I was pleasantly surprised by the palatable result. So you too should not shy away from experimenting with alternative flour mixes. To be on the safe side, I added 1 tsp of xantham gum, which not required in the original recipe.

The original also calls for pure cocoa powder, which I replaced with carob powder.

The pumpkin is such a versatile ingredient – from savoury dishes to sweet desserts, that I often like to have one lying around in the fridge as a staple, which explains the frequency of pumpkin recipes on this blog.

gluten-freecarobpumpkinmuffins-0.jpg

WET INGREDIENTS
170g butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin, cooked and mashed — i didn’t have enough so made up the remainder with pureed canned pears (which I have frozen in ice cube trays for easy usage) and 1/2 cup of red lentil dip. The latter was added by accident as I thought it was pureed pear! I wasn’t concerned about the mix-up though, remember how Jessica Seinfeld puts all sorts of vegetables into sweet cakes in her Deceptively Delicious recipes.

DRY INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup sugar [reduced to 1/4 cup]

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 tapioca flour
1/2 cup sweet potato flour

3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xantham gum
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup raisins, coated in a bit of flour to prevent them sinking in the batter
1/2 cup hulled sunflower or pumpkin seeds, oven dried and ground in a coffee grinder

TOPPING
2 Tbs carob powder
2 Tbs butter [I guessed the amount, and ended up with probably about twice that amount!]
2 Tbs cinnamon
2 Tbs brown sugar

1) Preheat oven to 200°C and grease muffin tins.
2) Beat butter and sugar until light & fluffy.
3) Beat eggs and add into butter/sugar mixture one tablespoon at a time and beat well after each addition.
4) Add mashed pumpkin and mix well.
5) Sift the dry ingredients together to mix thoroughly.
6) Add dry ingredients, raisins and ground seeds to wet mixture. Mix well
7) Spoon into muffin tins,
8) Spoon on topping mixture.
9) Bake in lower third of oven at 200°C for 20 minutes or until well done.

Verdict: The flours I used seem to have a relatively neutral taste and this muffin tastes less ‘odd’ than the Kamut cranberry muffins. The carob topping seemed far too liquid, although it hardened nicely. Could have done without the carob topping. Can’t detect pumpkin taste. I like the way the ground seeds add body and protein to this muffin.

Incidentally, I recently came across this excellent baking blog, Pattycake.ca, that includes many recipes for those facing gluten-free restrictions (and other special diets). Like me, the author enjoys the creative challenge of food restrictions!

Kamut cranberry muffins

Kamut is another wheat substitute I’ve just tried. It’s supposed to be an ancient variety of durum wheat and replaces wheat easily in recipes. Kamut is a trademarked name for this strain.

I got some Bob’s Red Mill brand kamut flour, which can be found in health food shops and Marketplace supermarkets.

For my first kamut recipe, I also wanted to use the cranberries I had in the fridge, and fortunately I found this kamut cranberry muffin recipe. I omitted the orange peel and replaced the honey with light agave syrup.

It also happens to be a buttermilk-based muffin recipe, which is similar to my current preferred basic muffin recipe. You can see my other buttermilk muffin recipes here. As buttermilk is rather expensive in Singapore, I always substitute it with milk+citric acid or cream of tartar (as I’ve described here), or use some of the yoghurt I already have in the fridge.

I jazzed up these muffins with some inspiration from this kamut raisin walnut muffin recipe: I added a crumble topping made from kamut flour, sugar and butter (same as the recipe but I omitted the walnuts as I didn’t have any).

Verdict:

Buttermilk muffins generally give a good texture so no problems there. The taste is discernable from wheat, but still very palatable. With the crumble topping, this muffin is sweeter than than the sugar-free muffins I tend to make, and cranberries provided a welcome change to the usual raisins, so this was a sweet treat rather than just a solid tummy-filler.

Kamut flour is quite expensive though – a 567g (20oz) packet costing over S$5 would probably only last me two batches of muffins, so I don’t think I will be using it as a staple flour.

Okara sponge cake

Here’s another way to use the leftover lees from making soya bean milk, as well as a way to work with alternatives to wheat flour. This recipe from Shurtleff’s Book of Tofu doesn’t do away with wheat flour entirely, though, so it’s more for those who are interested in some degree of food rotation rather than those with a true wheat intolerance problem.

okaraspongecake-0.jpg

Ingredients

1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup fresh okara [if using dried okara, add about 3/4 cup of soya bean milk to reconstitute to consistency of fresh okara]
3 eggs, separate yolks and white
4 tablespoons honey [replaced with light agave syrup]
1/2 tsp vanilla

Method

1) Sift together dry ingredients.
2) Beat egg yolks, then combine with okara, honey and vanilla.
3) Stir dry ingredients into egg-okara mixture.
4) Whisk egg whites till stiff peaks form. Fold gently into the rest of the mixture.
5) Spoon into lightly oiled pan and bake at 200°C. If making cupcakes, they will take at least 20mins or until toothpick comes out clean. The high temperature gives a strong browning effect to the cake.

You can see I made this into cupcakes, which is what I normally do with cake recipes. It’s easy to freeze the batch and take out one or two for a snack bento. I usually wrap them individually in paper towels which soak up any moisture from defrosting cakes, and also help to keep them from drying out should I decide to microwave them before eating. Most of the time though, cupcakes and muffins which defrost on their own inside my snackbox taste great without any microwaving at the time of eating.

Next time, I won’t use paper casings. As there’s no fats in this cake, it sticks like crazy to the paper :P.

okaraspongecake-1.jpg

The texture is distinctive, more bouncy than normal cakes and also light and airy. It reminds me of some Chinese New Year mini sponge cake. Perhaps this is the kind of texture that’s created when no fats are used. It’s also flavourful without being sweet. A good change from same old muffins in my snack bento.

Spelt pumpkin muffins (no sugar)

Here’s my first experiment with non-wheat flour. It really doesn’t taste very different, but that’s because spelt is actually a variety of wheat. Even if you don’t have an outright wheat intolerance problem, food rotation is a good idea.

I came up with this recipe after comparing the Pumpkin muffin recipes from the following books:
Diana Linfoot, Muffin Magic (Perth, Western Australia: Diana Linfoot, 1990)
Miriam Kasin Hospodar, Heaven’s Banquet: Vegetarian Cooking for Lifelong Health the Ayurveda Way
Mary Ann and Mace Wenniger, The Best-Ever Wheat and Gluten Free Baking Book

Spelt is not gluten-free so there really was no need for the last book, but it was still interesting to note the spices, raisins and nuts as well as orange juice used as milk replacement in the recipe (no citrus juices in large quantities for me – high in salicylates).

Both the vegetarian and gluten-free books’ muffin recipes use buttermilk or yoghurt, and I’ve found I prefer the texture from this mix than the old recipe I was using. I also use 2 eggs now instead of the 1 egg I did before.

The Ayurvedic book also melted ghee, butter or oil interchangeably for muffins, so I opened the first tin of ghee I’ve ever used . I already had it sitting in the cupboard, waiting to be experimented with.

For the flour mix, you can replace up to half a cup out of a total of two cups with alternative non-gluten flours.

You don’t need any sugar as the pumpkin, raisins and walnuts give this plenty of flavour.

speltpumpkinmuffins-0.jpg

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs
1/4 cup melted ghee
3/4 cup yoghurt
1/4 cup water

1 cup pureed cooked pumpkin (if you have extra you can freeze it)

1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly roasted by dry-frying without oil in a skillet over low heat – you may want to sieve out the tiny pieces which get burnt during the roasting process
1/2 cup sultanas

1) Sift together dry ingredients. This is important to combine the leavening agents and flours properly. If they are not evenly mixed, there will be large holes in your muffins. I often have a problem sifting wholegrain flours with leavening agents because the large flakes in wholegrain flour don’t go through the sieve and I can’t get at the smaller clumps of baking powder/soda to break them up and press them through the mesh. Right now, I’m trying to get round the problem by using my sieve which has a coarser mesh.

2) Mix wet ingredients together. Put the eggs in last, because if you mix raw eggs with hot melted butter you will get cooked egg (yes, this happened to me before!).

3) Mix the pumpkin puree thoroughly with the wet ingredients. I like to use a whisk for the wet ingredients.

4) Coat the raisins and nuts with flour to prevent them from sinking in the batter whilst baking.

5) Mix all the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients all at once quickly and lightly with just a few strokes. It’s ok if there mixture is clumpy.

6) Mix in the raisins & nuts.

7) Put into greased muffin tins. Paper casing is unnecessary. I have discovered that unless the cake has a high fat content (such as this cake recipe), it will stick to the casing. Pour water into any unused holes in the muffin tin to keep the tin from warping, and to produce steam which helps to create crispy tops on the muffins.

8) Bake at 180°C for at least 20 mins, or until toothpick comes out clean and muffins are fragrant.

Pumpkin loaf cake

A while back I noted my unpleasant reaction to Dole bananas. While I suspect the intolerance is specific to certain strains of banana, I have been avoiding all bananas to be on the safe side.

At the same time, I’ve been dying to have grandma’s wonderful banana cake again. After cracking my head as to a suitable replacement for banana (what has the same consistency?), I decided to try pumpkin.

pumpkin-loaf-0.jpg

And the result was fabulous!! The taste had the same underlying flavours as the banana version, but with an added creamy richness from the pumpkin.

I used wholewheat flour, which gave a slightly gritty texture that my friend mistook for semolina/sugee.

Instead of the 115g instructed by the original recipe, I put in 60g — definitely more than sweet enough. Although my tendency is to reduce the sugar as much as possible in most recipes, I recently read that sugar grains help to create pockets of air that make the cake light and airy when baked. So far using a little as 1/4 the recommended amount of sugar has worked well for me, but I wonder if my baking would have turned out with better texture more of the time if I wasn’t so radical with the sugar reduction.

I used quite a lot of pumpkin, probably equal to the volume of two bananas. This produced a close-textured cake that was at the same time extremely soft and moist. Will definitely be doing this one again!

All about scones

Scones are one of those inherently plain staples that you can add as much or as less little topping to, and which can be made sweet or savoury. That makes them ideal for those with food sensitivities as the whole family can enjoy the scones, customised to each individual. I’ve also turned to plain scones and muffins as bread alternatives when candidiasis has forced me to stay off yeasted breads.

I love scones when there’s nice thick cream available (Carrefour is a good source, in the form of the house brand crème frâiche), topped with a little bit of jam (my vote goes to Meridian brand organic fruit spreads, which have no added sugar and are particularly low in total sugars – as much as half of standard jams or even other organic brands) and enjoyed with a cup of strong English tea (my secret: Marks and Spencer tea bags, especially Red Label or Gold Label, and works out cheaper than standard supermarket brands). Recently, I tried out a few different scone recipes, including a new method I’ve never used before.

The first batch of scones I made were based on this recipe from my grandmother’s notebooks. omitting the sugar and salt. Comparing with Delia’s Smith’s recipe, the amount of butter looked too little to me, so I used a total of 50g butter. I’ve already written a fair bit about the method of making scones here, so please have a look.

N.B. I always make my scones with wholemeal flour. Sometimes I use all wholemeal, the scones here have been made with half wholemeal-half plain flour. The appropriate amount of baking powder to add is 4g (approx. 1tsp) per 100g of flour. Be careful: the same volume of wholemeal and plain flours weigh in differently.

You’ll notice in the photo that my scones were hexagonal in shape. That’s because I used a honeycomb scone cutter (which I’ve described here) that saves you having to roll out the leftover edges again and again. Each time you roll out the dough, it gets more tough too.

The scones came out OK. Even internal texture, dense in the way that scones should be but maybe a little too heavy. The bread-like consistency of this batch could also have been due to the fact that I used high-protein wholemeal bread flour because my packet was expiring and had to be used up quickly.

When I made scones again the following week, I decided to try out an interesting alternative method, which I saw on an America’s Test Kitchen free online video. In this method, the block of butter is frozen, then grated, and the grated bits then quickly mixed into the flour, without rubbing in. After adding the milk to make a dough and rolling it out, more grated butter is sprinkled evenly over the rolled out dough. Make sure that all your ingredients, not just the butter, are very cold.

Similar to making puff pastry, the dough is then folded in half and rolled out again, then put in the freezer to chill. After a short while, repeat the process by sprinkling more grated frozen butter, folding over and rolling out again, then put it back into the freezer.

Reading the buttermilk biscuits recipe in Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America, I’ve just learnt more about this method:

This dough is rolled and folded repeatedly before it is cut into biscuits, a technique referred to as lamination. Laminating a dough in this manner creates layers that add extra flakiness and height to the finished biscuit. Try to make as few scraps as possible. After cutting, you can reroll the dough scraps and cut out more biscuits, but the biscuits made from the trimmings are usually a little less tender than the first ones.

As I didn’t have the exact quantities of butter from the video, I adapted this cheese & garlic scones recipe I have used with great success many times. Instead of the 1/2 cup grated cheese, I measured out the same amount of grated butter. The main problem is that in the hot Singapore weather, grated butter bits melt faster than you can say ‘frozen butter’, which a big problem as you need to prevent the butter from melting in order to get the desired flaky texture.

When you take the dough out from the freezer after it’s chilled, roll out and shape the dough into a rectangular piece about 1/2-inch thick, this time, you can add dried fruit (raisins, blueberries, cranberries etc), distributing them evenly over the dough surface.

Fold the rectangle into thirds, so that it resembles a sort of loaf shape. Slice the loaf into pieces to shape the scones. I much prefer this method of shaping scones to using a cutter. It’s messy to keep having to roll out the dough and be left with odd bits, not to mention the problem of overworking the dough through repeated rolling out. Another method of shaping I use is to pat the dough into a round and cut into wedges.

Bake as normal. Recommended hot oven of 220°C for about 10 minutes or until golden and fragrant.

As you can see from the photo, the results here were distinctive in the lighter, flaky texture produced by the butter and puff pastry method. I loved it! According to the video, the trick is in really, really cold butter and dough, and quick, light handling.

The original recipe included plenty of sugar as well so that this scone is more like eating a piece of cake, without any extra cream, butter, jam that needs to be added when serving.