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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Tahini soy muffins (no sugar)

Looking at my stocks, I realised I had some recently-expired kinako to use up so I decided to make nutty no-sugar muffins using kinako (soya beans) and tahini (sesame). You can buy kinako in Japanese grocery stores or Daiso, or even make it yourself from roasted soya beans. This was pretty experimental and I improvised all the way through, using a buttermilk muffin recipe as a base.

Incidentally, to give sugar-free muffins a bit more kick, eat them preferably hot, with salted butter, plain yoghurt, cream cheese or fresh cream (^_^) **mmmmmm**….

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Ingredients

[N.B.: If you want to stick more strictly to anti-candida principles, then omit the pine nuts and replace dairy milk with alternatives.]

1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 cup kinako
2 Tbs okara [because I happen to have plenty lying around after making soya bean milk] — be sure to grind to fine powder
1 tablespoon black sesame & walnut powder [a packaged powdered grain drink, can omit]

11/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

handful of toasted pine nuts as desired

1 egg
3/4 cup soya bean milk
3/4 cup buttermilk [which I substituted with plain milk + 1/4 tsp citric acid]
30g melted butter – about 1/8 cup
3/8 cup tahini made from unhulled sesame seeds [I put the melted butter into measuring cup and added tahini up to total of 1/2 cup]
1 tsp vanilla essence

1) I sifted all the dry, powdered ingredients together.
2) Then stirred in pine nuts.
3) In another bowl, I combined egg, soya bean milk, buttermilk, butter and tahini.
4) Added dry ingredients to wet, mixed quickly in a few strokes till just mixed. Did not want to make the mistake of over-mixing which would make the muffins heavy and too dense. Although initially there seemed to be quite a lot of liquid, the mixture was just nice.
5) Preheated oven to 200℃. On previous attempts, my muffins never seemed to rise much so I decided to try a higher temperature and it seems to have worked. The muffins were done in precisely 20 mins as well. I suspect my 15 year-old oven is not as hot as what is the temperature dial but I’ll need to get an oven thermometer to check.

These taste delicious, even at room temperature! Plus the texture is the best of all the batches of muffins I’ve made recently (read about my muffin problems here). They are just right, not at all gummy, not too dry and the crumb texture is fine and even without much tunnelling.

Now the only thing is, the crack appears on the side of the muffin top, not in the centre. Maybe I’m just being silly here but I want my muffins to look perfect too!

Because the tahini I used was very dark brown in colour, these muffins came out in this deep colour. So the colour isn’t actually from the miniscule amount of black sesame powder but from the unhulled seeds in the tahini (which was made from normal white sesame seeds, not black sesame seeds).

Rolled oats, okara & almond bars

Rolled oats & okara bars

With okara left over from making soya bean milk, I had to find a recipe to use it in, and my stock of on-the-go snacks had also run out, so these rolled oats bars seemed a good thing to make.

I started with the recipe for rolled oats bars in Sue Dengate’s Failsafe Cookbook and replaced some of the flour and oats with okara and chopped almonds, halved the sugar and used plain wholemeal flour+baking powder instead of self-raising flour.

3/4 cup wholemeal flour [if self-raising flour, omit baking powder]
1/4 cup okara [original recipe is total 2 cups flour, no okara]
1 tsp baking powder (I guessed the amount, seemed OK)
2 cups random mix of rolled oats, okara and chopped almonds
150g butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs golden syrup

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.

Melt butter, add golden syrup and mix into dry ingredients.

Press into slice tray and bake for 15-20 mins at 160ºC until brown.

Cut into bars while still hot and leave to cool before removing from tray.

Makes 20.

The result was very crumbly. I knew from my previous experience making okara oatmeal cookies that when cool, the mixture hardens and sticks together better, and when I bought a commercial organic flapjack (basically an oat bar), it was also very loosely held together. However, I’m not too keen on an overly loose texture and it makes this very messy to eat. I might try increasing the proportion of flour next time to see if that helps the ingredients to hold together better. Taste-wise, it turned out great though.

Failsafe cashew-carob paste

From The Failsafe Cookbook, p. 187, ‘Deborah’s Cashew Paste’ with carob variation.

I halved the quantities, so I used:

1/2 cup raw cashews
approx. 2 tbs canola oil
1/2 tbs carob powder
1 tsp caster sugar

Put cashews in blender, blend briefly. Add carob powder and sugar. Add oil a little at a time and blend until the desired consistency is reached. Use as sandwich spread as a Nutella substitute.

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Notes:

1) Bought organic raw cashews from Eat Organic. A pack (seems like just over 1 cup) cost S$12 but tastes very fresh, unlike a lot of commercial raw nuts which have a raw and stale taste.

2) I bought toasted carob powder from Organic Paradise, S$3.70 for 250g (Eat Organic doesn’t sell carob, I was rather surprised.). There was a choice of raw or toasted. I wonder if there is any difference between the two for Failsafers?

3) Reduced the amount of sugar in recipe – have done so for all recipes in The Failsafe Cookbook and found the result more than sweet enough. In any case, carob doesn’t have the bitter overtones of pure cocoa so tastes sweeter, and hence less sugar is needed when replacing cocoa with carob.

4) End result tastes very nice, and strangely enough, tastes like banana!?!

5) *WARNING* the cashew-carob paste is terribly heaty/yang! I tasted 1/4 tsp and my throat started to hurt immediately. I will just have to save this for special treats and consume in tiny amounts. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because of the concentrated nuts and oil. My guess is that carob is not as heaty as real cocoa but my guess is that it is still on the heaty end of the scale, and the fact that I used toasted carob must have made it even more yang.

Moral of the story: Failsafe eating may avoid certain nasty food reactions but doesn’t mean it’s good for you in terms of having a balancing constitution in Traditional Chinese Medicine terms *sigh*……