November has arrived and with it, finally, cooler weather. Are you as thrilled as I am to wear something other than shorts and a tank top? I actually wore boots this week.
Another reason I get excited when the temperature dips below 70 degrees (yes, we are Californians!) is the change in food sensibilities. Drinks with ice? No, thanks. Salads? I’m so over them. Ice cream? Well, I still will eat that. But not as often.
Now that the weather is cooler, bring on the stews, soups, and casseroles. And I can get back to baking. I really despise turning on my oven in the summer months, except to bake a birthday cake or two. Or four. But come fall, I am ready to get baking once again.
Normally, baking in my house means bread, pizzas, muffins, and rolls of all kinds made with white, wheat, and whole grain flours. But this year I will be doing more gluten-free baking. One of my teens has decided to go gluten-free.
Various members of my family, for various reasons, have been gluten-free at various times over the past 15 years. So, I have done my share of gluten-free baking, which has resulted in both gluten-free disasters and successes.
What exactly is gluten? It is a combination of proteins found in wheat and some other flours that swell and form a web-like stretchy network in baked goods that give that loaf of bread it’s structure, chewiness and moistness.
Many people are gluten intolerant, meaning they experience abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, headaches, joint pain, depression, and “foggy thinking” when they consume products containing gluten. Celiac disease is the most severe form of this intolerance.
Diagnosis and awareness of gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity has risen dramatically over the past decade and so has the availability of gluten-free food products. This includes the availability of gluten-free flours for baking.
Gluten-free baking can be a little more work if you aren’t using a pre-packaged gluten-free baking mix from companies like Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur. Blending wheat-free flours like brown rice flour, white rice flour, tapioca starch and potato starch will give you a gluten-free all purpose baking flour.
The addition of xanthan gum, guar gum, or agar agar flakes improves the texture and body of gluten-free baked items. These agents act as thickeners and emulsifiers in gluten-free batters and doughs.
Because they lack the structure that gluten provides, gluten-free baked goods can be crumblier and drier than other baked goods. They also go stale more quickly.
But fear not, brave baker! Gluten-free baking has come a long way, baby, and there are many delicious goodies to be had. Thanks to cooks much more clever than me, gluten-free recipes have been developed, tested, and posted in magazines and online for everyone to try and enjoy.
This week’s recipe is from Martha Stewart Living magazine and is a keeper. There is no flour of any kind involved and it uses common ingredients that you probably have in your pantry right now.
If you don’t like almond butter, or don’t want to pay the outrageous price for a jar of it, you can substitute peanut butter instead and the muffins are still delicious (trust me, I tried it). These muffins are a great reason to turn on your oven, whether you are gluten-free or not.
Gluten-Free Banana Almond Butter Muffins
Yields: 1 dozen
- 1 1/2 cups almond butter
- 1 1/4 cup mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 banana, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400. Lightly spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray or brush with canola oil. In a medium bowl or in a stand mixer, mix almond butter, mashed bananas, eggs, sugar, salt, baking soda, and vinegar until combined. Evenly divided batter among 12 muffin cups. Top each muffin with a slice or two of banana. Bake for 18 minutes or until golden brown and tops spring back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and cool five minutes. Carefully run knife around the edges of muffins and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.