Yesterday was baking day. I truly love to bake - sometimes. What I mean is, there are times when I feel compelled to bake. I turn out muffins, cookies, breads and pies until I'm exhausted... Other times, I really could care less. Curiously, you can often find me baking up a storm during a heat wave, though that certainly wasn't the case yesterday.
Baking has become a little more challenging in the last year, as I've been on a (mostly) gluten-free diet. Wheat flour is preferred by bakers the world over because the gluten it contains has magical properties. Ok, maybe not magical, but it makes pastries flaky, bread chewy & pizza crust crisp. It has been with some trepidation that I've begun experimenting with gluten-free (GF) baking.
Since I cannot live without toast, and the occasional sandwich, I bake bread every week. When I say I bake bread every week, I mean that I buy a bag of Pamela's Gluten Free Bread Mix and toss it in the bread maker. (Thank you, Lex, for the permanent loan of your bread machine!) I'm convinced that the result is far, far better than buying the brick-like pre-wrapped GF loaves available at the store.
We/I have discovered that some of our favorite recipes work just fine, with no modifications other than the straight substitution of GF flours for all-purpose wheat flour and some xanthan gum to help hold things together. Waffles, to a lesser extent pancakes, oatmeal cookies and quick breads seem to be in this catagory. The texture is slightly different than before, but often pleasantly so. Pie dough is challenging, which sucks because I make a damn good pie dough. Almost as good as Mom's. Almost. Now, I am usually reduced to picking up a pre-made gluten & soy free pie crust from the freezer section. It's ok, definitely not the same.
I have quite a collection of cookbooks, most dedicated to baking or desserts, and so I'm determined to learn to just translate or modify their recipes rather than starting a new collection devoted to GF baking. Yesterday, I made two recipes which were originally written without the gluten-intolerant in mind. The first was a plain, buttermilk coffee cake and it turned out beautifully. This is the most basic coffee cake you can make, with a simple topping of cinnamon & brown sugar, but it can be dressed up with additions of fruit or jam or nuts to the batter. The recipe is from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe. I love this book so much, and I clearly remember the day I bought it - 7 years ago. It's chock full of fantastic recipes, and most aren't even bad for you. On the contrary, Ms. Katzen is well known for her healthy cooking.
The second recipe I made was from Big Fat Cookies, and certainly can't be construed as health food. (How could I not fall in love with a book called Big Fat Cookies - seriously?) These are adapted from the Lemon Whoopie Pies recipe. While Lemon Whoopie Pies sound awesome, I was wanting to recreate a favorite cookie from my youth, Archway's Frosty Lemon Cookie. Do you remember those? I loved them. We also had their molasses cookies pretty regularly - yum! I hated the Dutch Windmills. But, I digress. I think that my cookies are a fresher, tastier version of the ones I remember. Plus, mine have sprinkles. So there.
p.s. How do you like my new Spring Banner?