Monday, July 12, 2010

Baking free

No gluten.  No dairy.  No corn. 
After 4-5 years, you'd think I had this down.  But no, I still manage to burn a batch of cookies by doing something dumb, like not thinking. 

So here are a few of my lessons learned the hard way: 

Turn the oven down.  This is the one I get caught on most frequently.  I go into autopilot and turn the oven up to 350*.  Casseroles still cook at 350*.  Cookies and cake go in at 325*. 

Cream the sugar with the eggs, not the fat.  Something about gluten free foods reduces the structural stability of the finished product.  Beating the eggs with sugar helps to build the framework that gluten would otherwise offer. 

To help things rise, beat the eggs in a liquid.  I have no idea why this works.  But if I measure out the liquid first, then beat in the eggs, then fold the dry mix in, I get nice floofy pancakes instead of creamy crepes. No baking soda required (which, in turn, means no sugar is necessary.  The batter isn't sweet, but it isn't bitter either.) 

Use a smaller container.  There just isn't the same stability in gluten free cooking.  Especially when you don't have butter.  (or margarine)  Smaller containers offer the batter something to climb up against, to cling to, to push on.  Whatever the mechanism, they are less likely to come out of the oven with a dense, flat cake. 

Extra grease or parchment paper is a must.  GF goodies stick, and crumble.  Loosen them ASAP, too.

Chill the dough.  Cookies spread less and really are easier to work with if you take the time to toss the dough into the fridge for half of an hour.  (Yes, I still skip this step a lot.  And I get a lot of well-done cookies to show for it.)

Use spices for flavor.  Nutmeg and cinnamon add a nice touch to just about anything sweet, especially when you don't have vanilla.  Using brown sugar instead of white addsd more depth of flavor, too.

Don't expect your creations to mimic Mrs. Field's famous cookies.  Just be happy that they are sweet and satisfying, especially if you can't handle the gums.  

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