As my adventure continues in the world of gluten free, xanthan gum free living, I often lament my love for baked goods. I have determined it is as much about texture and a sensory need as anything else. After all, I have not cut sugar from my diet, nor carbs for that matter either. There is just something about a piece of cake… sigh…
When I made a run through our local grocery store yesterday, the bakery section got the best of me. Man, I was jonesing for a piece of coffee cake… with cinnamon and sugar… mmmmm.
Now you are probably thinking, Kim, my dear, you can get gluten free baked items in all sorts of places. There are all sorts of gf baking mixes you can just substitute. What’s the big deal?
Well, in a word (or two) it’s the xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is made from fermented bateria, cultured on a few different mediums. No one ever claims what the medium is but one of the mediums is often wheat (or corn). Hmmm… A polysaccaride (long chain carbohydrate) is produced and used to make the gum. Then this “organic” item is used in just about EVERYTHING you find these days- seriously, check your ice cream and salad dressing, and any sweet potato french fry in the freezer section. It is in all gf baking mixes, because it is the cheapest of all of the “gums” and is even added by gf bakers to their recipes.
What is so great about this little bitty ingredient? Well, in some things, it helps to keep the ingredients together. Think about your vinaigrette. Oil and water do not mix and separate over time. Apparently the world has become lazy… so we add “emulsifiers” like sodium phosphate or xanthan gum so that we don’t need to “shake well.”
Xanthan gum has also been associated with increasing the “silky texture” of foods, likely again because of the above. They stick and stay together nicely. And again for this reason, it is used as a replacement for the gluten in gluten free baking since it helps with elasticity. Think about baking a chocolate chip cookie. Put it on the pan and it spreads a little, but nice rounded sides form. GF cookies without xanthan gum added will keep spreading until you basically have just chips sticking out the top. I am not sure what it is about xanthan gum that gets me, but man, it does. Could be the fermentation process- which gets me in some wines and beers. Could be the growth medium. Sigh… I always thought I was doomed.
Then I started to explore kitchen chemistry. Surely there were other emulsifiers that I could use. Sure enough, egg yolks are an emulsifier! This made total sense. Since going gf, most of the baking I have done has been centered around eggs and sugar (and chocolate!) I make a killer chocolate raspberry torte- not a drop of flour but oh so yummy! Its main ingredient? Separated eggs. The problem for every day baking with flour however, is that these baked goods were really dense. No wonderful fluff…
As I continued to look and test, I thought about another common ingredient used in baking… baking soda. Well, it turns out that baking soda needs a nice acid to get its bubbly goodness working. Remember adding baking soda to vinegar! Ohhhh… bubbles! Baking powder can act the same way in the absence of an acid, but single acting and double acting baking powder were too much for my brain to handle before coffee. One could also use whipped egg whites for fluff but never had any luck with simply adding that…
Finally, the issue was finding a flour mixture that didn’t taste like dirt. Nothing worse that the aftertaste that some gf flours can leave in your mouth. *Shudder* In scouring the internet, I discovered that most tried and true bakers were going with a combination of rice four, tapioca starch, potato starch and brown rice flour. I was totally stoked to find that specific blend in a box, made by King Authur Flour.
With all this in mind, I headed off to look for recipes to tweek! The recipe below is adjusted from several sites but primarily King Authur Flour…
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter)
- 1 1/2 cups King Authur Gluten Free Multipurpose Flour Mix
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 cup brown light sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Gluten Free Multipurpose Flour Mix
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 2 extra large eggs
- 1/2 cup milk (can use buttermilk and exclude vinegar)
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of square pan. Set aside.
Topping: Blend all dry ingredients in a bowl and then add melted butter. Combine until evenly mixed, making sure to break apart larger clumps and combine with remaining dry ingredients.
Cake: Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl. (flour, sugar, baking soda) Mix well. Thoroughly combine milk, vinegar, eggs and melted butter in separate bowl. (*The use of milk and vinegar can be replaced with 1/2 cup buttermilk.) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just blended.
Add 1/2 of cake batter to square pan. It will be just about enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over layer. Using fork, marble the filling through the bottom layer. Cover with remaining batter.
Add all of the struesel mixture to the top.
Bake for 32-38 minutes. Knife inserted into center should come out clean when done. (The original recipe called for 22-26 minutes but this version was no where near done then.)
Let cool and enjoy!!! Store in sealed container.
Since this is at this point a one off deal- as in this is the first time I have made this- I would love to know if you try it and how it worked for you!