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Archive for January 24th, 2011

Today’s post is a shout out to all my gluten free peeps.  We have so many joyful food choices for eating gluten free, and some of my favorite GF recipes are for muffins.  Since you can also substitute wheat flour in the muffin recipes (and omit the xanthan gum), the recipes at the bottom of this page are for everyone (so no “shout out” to the rest of you, just muffin recipes).

In my GF Survival Guide, I mentioned that it’s best to start out with sweet breads and muffins, to give your taste buds something to latch onto while you adjust to the slightly different taste and texture of gluten free baked goods.  This helped us in the beginning while we were trying out different flour blends.  However, I (like many GF cooks) have come up with my own flour blend that I prefer to use most of the time because it exactly mimics wheat flour in my recipes. I don’t use gluten free cookbooks, except as a reference if I’m modifying something for the first time.  For the most part, I prefer to use my favorite cookbooks and recipes, and make gluten free substitutions when necessary.

GF Newbie Section
If you’re new to gluten free baking, you may be wondering why I keep referring to “flour blends.”  To me, the challenge in gluten free baking is not getting something to taste good – these muffins taste wonderful – but having to deal with the number of different kinds of flours you have to combine (and store) in order to replicate one.  That’s why, in my GF Guide, I recommend starting out with an all-purpose baking mix, like Pamela’s Pancake and Baking Mix, or our Idaho-based Sun Flour Mills blend (sold at Karcher Ranch Market) which is high in fiber.  There are many flour blends available online, and if you find one you like, great!  Since I’m on a tight budget, I prefer to buy the flours individually either in the bulk section (of Fred Meyer for potato starch and brown rice flour, and Winco for white rice flour and tapioca starch/flour) or when they’re on sale (Fred Meyer has 25% off sales on the Bob’s Red Mill specialty flours from time to time).  My basic flour blend costs less than half the price of commercially available flour blends, which typically cost $4/lb. or more!

Brenda’s Cheap & Awesome Flour Blend
I double this recipe and put the ingredients for my flour blend in a gallon-size, zippered freezer bag (then hand it to my daughter to shake vigorously to mix), so I can pull it out whenever I need flour.  I add xanthan gum directly to my recipes, rather than to the flour, since different types of baked goods require different amounts of xanthan gum.  I store frequently used flours (rice, tapioca, potato starch and mixed flour blends) in the refrigerator, and less frequently used flours (sorghum, sweet/sticky rice flour, potato flour, ground flax) in the freezer to maximize their shelf life.  So here is my blend, along with a little tutorial about what properties each flour contributes to the overall awesomeness of my blend:

  • 1 c. white rice flour – it’s the cheapest flour, thus a typical foundation in flour blends
  • 1 c. brown rice flour – it’s double the price of white rice flour, but is the only flour in this blend with fiber
  • 1/3 c. tapioca flour/starch (it’s the same thing) – starches lighten baked goods so they’re not heavy and dense
  • 1/3 c. potato starch (not the same as potato flour) – adds softness to baked goods
  • 1/3 c. corn starch – helps gluten free baked goods to brown more evenly and look more like wheat products
  • 1 T. potato flour* – adds chewiness and moisture, but a little goes a long way
  • 1 T. sweet rice (also called sticky rice) flour – helps bind the flours together and prevents crumbling

*You could stop short of the last two ingredients and get by in most basic cooking, but if you want to have the best texture and be able to swap this for wheat flour in any recipe with confidence, I strongly suggest you add the last 2 ingredients.  You can store these flours in the freezer and they’ll last a long time.

Of course, every gluten free cook knows you have to include one magical ingredient in baking because it is what replaces the gluten as a binding agent – xanthan gum.  According to the suggestions on the back of my package of xanthan gum (found in the baking aisle next to other GF flours), for each cup of flour in your recipe, add the following amount of xanthan gum:

  • 1/4 tsp. per cup of flour for cookies
  • 1/2 tsp. per cup of flour for cakes
  • 3/4 tsp. per cup of flour for muffins and quick breads
  • 1 to 1-1/2 tsp. per cup of flour for breads
  • 2 tsp. per cup of flour for pizza crusts

Since my flour blend is pretty low in fiber, I like to add ground flax seed to my muffins for a little added fiber and nutrition.  I also use Carol Fenster’s sorghum flour blend from time to time, because it has slightly more fiber (3 g. per cup vs. 2.6 g. fiber/cup) and works fine in muffins (but not as well in lighter desserts like cookies).

Carol Fenster’s Flour Blend (from her book, “Gluten-Free, Quick and Easy”):

1 1/2 c. sorghum flour
1 1/2 c. potato starch or cornstarch
1 c. tapioca flour

Either of these flour blends will work in my muffin recipes, except those that call for a Bisquick-type baking mix.  We prefer Pamela’s Pancake and Baking Mix over Betty Crocker’s GF Bisquick because the second ingredient in the Bisquick is sugar.  The Pamela’s mix does not contain sugar and has more fiber and nutrients, but it does have powdered milk, so it will not work for those with a dairy allergy.  My daughter can’t drink milk (although she can tolerate small amounts of other dairy products), so I use this mix sparingly and include dairy free substitutions in most of my recipes.

Since we are cutting back on sugar, some of the recipes will contain a sugar scale, rather than a specific amount.  I’ve found that you can cut back to 1/2 c. sugar in most recipes, without sacrificing too much taste (but if you’re making the recipe for the first time, or are new to eating gluten free, you may want to go with the full amount of sugar).  One tactic I’ve used to help gradually reduce the amount of sugar in our diet, is to use the next smallest size measuring cup for sugar than what’s called for in a recipe.  So if the recipe calls for 3/4 c. sugar, try 2/3 c. sugar, and experiment to see how your taste buds respond.  If you can enjoy a recipe with less sugar in it, your insulin level will thank you later by not causing you to crave sweets all day!

Click on the links below to view my favorite muffin recipes.  You can search for recipes anytime using tag words like, “Gluten free” or “breads.”  Each recipe also shows the tags, so you can tell at a glance which ones are quick, low sugar, dairy free, etc.  If you like, you can subscribe to this blog and have future recipes emailed to you directly.

Muffin Recipes that use a GF Flour Blend (or wheat flour):

Short Cut Muffin Recipes that use a Baking Mix (Pamela’s or Bisquick):

For more gluten free breakfast options and recipes that are lower in sugar, scroll to the bottom of my post on breaking free from the sugar addiction.

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Peach Muffins

These moist, fabulous muffins are easy to throw together with a can of peaches.  Last summer, when I was freezing a bumper crop of peaches, I chopped up a few batches to equal the amount in a can of peaches, and put those in freezer bags for making muffins.  They turned out great, and cut out one step in the prep time.

Dry ingredients:
1½ c. flour (wheat or your favorite *gluten free flour blend)
1 rounded tsp. xanthan gum (omit if using wheat flour)
3/4 – 1 c. sugar (use 1 c. if trying recipe for the 1st time, or 3/4 c. if wanting to reduce sugar)
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 T. ground flax, optional (for added fiber and nutrients)

Wet ingredients:
2 eggs
½ c. vegetable oil
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 can (15 ounces) sliced peaches, drained and finely chopped

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In another bowl, combine the eggs, oil and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened (batter will be thick).  Fold in chopped peaches (I place the peaches in a pie pan and use my Pampered Chef food chopper).  Pour into greased muffin cups.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

*Brenda’s Cheap & Awesome GF Flour blend:
1 c. white rice flour – it’s the cheapest flour, thus a typical foundation in flour blends
1 c. brown rice flour – it’s double the price of white rice flour, but is the only flour in this blend with fiber
1/3 c. tapioca flour/starch (it’s the same thing) – starches lighten baked goods so they’re not heavy and dense
1/3 c. potato starch (not the same as potato flour) – adds softness to baked goods
1/3 c. corn starch – helps gluten free baked goods to brown more evenly and look more like wheat products
1 T. potato flour – adds chewiness and moisture, but a little goes a long way
1 T. sweet rice (also called sticky rice) flour – helps bind the flours together and prevents crumbling

You could stop short of the last two ingredients and get by in most basic cooking, but if you want to have the best texture and be able to swap this for wheat flour in any recipe with confidence, I strongly suggest you add the last 2 ingredients.  You can store these flours in the freezer and they’ll last a long time.

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These slightly sweet, oober healthy muffins are great any time of the year, not just in autumn!  Last fall, I ignored the snooty pants food blogs who said you can’t cook with carving pumpkins, and roasted one (that hadn’t been carved) anyway.  The result was 12 cups of pumpkin in my freezer, already portioned in the amounts I use for baking, from my $4 Wal-Mart pumpkin.  Oh, and it tastes just fine, thank you very much!

Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 c. flour (wheat or your favorite *gluten free flour blend)
1 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if using wheat flour)
3/4 c. old fashioned oats or gluten free oats (we use Bob’s Red Mill GF oats)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 T. ground flax, optional
3/4 c. dried cranberries (if you don’t use cranberries, increase sugar amount)

Wet ingredients bowl:
1 egg
3/4 c. milk (we like almond milk – for sweeter muffins, use vanilla sweetened almond milk)
1/2 c. brown sugar (increase to 2/3 c. if not using cranberries, or use vanilla sweetened almond milk)
1/4 c. oil
3/4 c. canned pumpkin (or thawed frozen homemade pumpkin puree)

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients except cranberries.  In a separate bowl, combine egg, milk, brown sugar, oil and pumpkin.  Add all at once to dry ingredients.  Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy).  Fold in cranberries.

Spoon into greased muffin cups.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Variations:
Another option, for adding a hint of sweetness, is to sprinkle the top of the muffins with cinnamon and sugar.  These also taste good with apple butter.  Another option that we used on Halloween, is to frost the muffins with cream cheese frosting (store bought or homemade) for a healthy cupcake.  (We gave the kids some raisins and candies to decorate with and let them make “cupcake monsters” out of the frosted muffins.)

Cream Cheese Frosting – In a large mixer bowl, beat 4 oz. softened cream cheese, 1/4 c. butter, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract on medium speed until fluffy.  Gradually add 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, beating on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add more sugar, if necessary, to stiffen frosting.  Makes about 1 1/2 c. frosting.

*Brenda’s Cheap & Awesome GF Flour blend:
1 c. white rice flour – it’s the cheapest flour, thus a typical foundation in flour blends
1 c. brown rice flour – it’s double the price of white rice flour, but is the only flour in this blend with fiber
1/3 c. tapioca flour/starch (it’s the same thing) – starches lighten baked goods so they’re not heavy and dense
1/3 c. potato starch (not the same as potato flour) – adds softness to baked goods
1/3 c. corn starch – helps gluten free baked goods to brown more evenly and look more like wheat products
1 T. potato flour – adds chewiness and moisture, but a little goes a long way
1 T. sweet rice (also called sticky rice) flour – helps bind the flours together and prevents crumbling

You could stop short of the last two ingredients and get by in most basic cooking, but if you want to have the best texture and be able to swap this for wheat flour in any recipe with confidence, I strongly suggest you add the last 2 ingredients.  You can store these flours in the freezer and they’ll last a long time.

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These slightly sweet, good-for-you muffins rely on the chocolate chips for a little burst of flavor.  If omitting the chocolate chips, you might want to increase the sugar content slightly (or use sweetened vanilla almond milk) if you prefer a sweeter muffin.  This recipe is a great way to use up a banana that’s overripe, but not totally inedible.

Dry ingredients:
1 3/4 c. flour (wheat or your favorite *gluten free flour blend)
1 rounded tsp. xanthan gum (omit if using wheat flour)
1/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 T. ground flax seed, optional
3/4 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips, optional (Enjoy Life brand has awesome dairy/soy free mini chips)

Wet ingredients:
1/2 c. mashed ripe banana (about 1 small banana)
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce (1 single serving applesauce cup)
1/2 c. milk (or rice milk or almond milk – but not unsweetened almond milk)
1 egg
1/3 c. oil
1 tsp. vanilla (omit if using vanilla flavored almond milk)

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients except chocolate chips.  In a separate bowl, mash banana and add wet ingredients.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Divide into greased muffin cups.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

*Brenda’s Cheap & Awesome GF Flour Blend:
1 c. white rice flour – it’s the cheapest flour, thus a typical foundation in flour blends
1 c. brown rice flour – it’s double the price of white rice flour, but is the only flour in this blend with fiber
1/3 c. tapioca flour/starch (it’s the same thing) – starches lighten baked goods so they’re not heavy and dense
1/3 c. potato starch (not the same as potato flour) – adds softness to baked goods
1/3 c. corn starch – helps gluten free baked goods to brown more evenly and look more like wheat products
1 T. potato flour – adds chewiness and moisture, but a little goes a long way
1 T. sweet rice (also called sticky rice) flour – helps bind the flours together and prevents crumbling

You could stop short of the last two ingredients and get by in most basic cooking, but if you want to have the best texture and be able to swap this for wheat flour in any recipe with confidence, I strongly suggest you add the last 2 ingredients.  You can store these flours in the freezer and they’ll last a long time.

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Orange Cranberry Muffins

This recipe is my favorite for a quick Sunday morning breakfast with some eggs or sausage.  You can also substitute apple juice for the orange juice to make apple cranberry muffins.

2 c. Bisquick-type baking mix (we use Pamela’s GF Pancake & Baking Mix)
1 T. ground flax, optional
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
2 T. oil
1 c. orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. dried cranberries

In a medium bowl, blend together egg, sugar, vanilla and oil.  Slowly blend in the orange juice.  Add biscuit mix and cranberries to liquid ingredients and blend until just combined.

Pour into greased muffin cups and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Apple Cranberry Muffin Variation:
Substitute apple juice for the orange juice, and add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.  You might also want to swap 1/4 c. of the sugar for 1/4 c. brown sugar.

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