Perhaps you’ve been there . . . a friend asks you to dinner, and your heart starts to pound. What, to others, is a simple supper, is, to you, a minefield of possible pitfalls– will the hostess be offended if your food allergies forbid your eating what she serves? Will she be upset if you bring an allergy-free dish of your own to share? Suppose there is no other “safe” food, and you end up eating nothing? Does that gratin contain flour? Do the green beans contain ham juice or any other pork? Would it be rude to ask the contents of every single dish on the table? Should you just be quiet and eat, knowing you will be sick as a dog later, to avoid offending your host? It almost makes your head swim, just to imagine the kinds of severe food allergies that some people deal with on a daily basis, at every meal. Every single bite must be scrutinized. You must explain your food allergies every single day, at every meal– even those meals with friends. You start to fear restaurants, because they are booby-trapped with so many possible illness-causing foods. It becomes absolutely exhausting.
A very good friend of mine has severe Celiac Disease. This just means that she has to eat Gluten Free everything. I listened, in interest, to her one day, and the more she talked . . . the more I was amazed. The level of “food policing” she has to do is astounding. So many things contain gluten– so many more things than your average, say, bread dough. She was telling me all the crazy places that this stuff lurks– everywhere from pasta (yes, egg noodles and whole wheat have it, too), to chicken bouillon. Many times, soups, sauces, cereals, and even desserts also have traces of gluten. It’s crazy. She has been forced to become a label-reading Nazi, and, as she tells me, GF products are almost always lacking in flavor and texture, compared to your average, gluten-filled recipes.
I decided to try my hand at GF baking to see if we could bring back some of her most missed dishes, but in Gluten Free form. I tell you what . . . Gluten Free baking is a whole different animal. But the more I practiced, the better I got. And you can, too! Whether you are trying to learn this technique for GF friends, or whether you have a dietary allergy, yourself, anyone can learn! I’d like to do a good variety of GF recipes on this blog, in addition to regular baking ones. Just because you have a food allergy shouldn’t mean that you’re sentenced to gross, tasteless food for the rest of your life.
With the leaves starting to turn colors, the nights getting cooler, and the mornings becoming more crisp and fallish, autumn is definitely in the air. What do you say we start this GF journey by making some chocolate chip, pumpkin muffins? They will be Gluten Free . . . but I bet no one will be able to tell. Yes. They’re that good.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
I originally found this recipe at King Arthur Flour, here. I have changed it up and tweaked it to my own tastes, and you can, also! Here is my adapted version:
1/2 cup oil
1 cup white sugar
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
3 tbsp. maple syrup (King’s Syrup and molasses work, too)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups GF baking mix (I use King Arthur Flour’s GF baking mix)
2 cups chocolate chips (optional)
Beat together oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla. Gently add baking mix. When mixture is combined, fold in chocolate chips (toss chips with 1 tsp. baking mix to ensure that chips do not sink to the bottom of the muffins during baking). Fill muffin cups and allow muffins to rest 10 minutes before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow finished muffins to rest for 5 minutes before removing them to cooling rack to finish cooling.
Let’s walk you through this GF baking thing! You’ll be a pro in no time 🙂
Good baking first starts with good ingredients. Feel free to try any GF baking mix you like . . . but I have tried a variety of GF ingredients, and I find King Arthur Flour’s to be the best. I got this box at Walmart in the baking section for around $6. This is NOT GF flour. It is GF BAKING MIX. There is a difference. Make sure you grab the mix.
Beat together the oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla. It will be like a thick liquid, and it will smell awesome.
Slowly beat in your baking mix. Generally, I use the lowest speed on the mixer for this. GF baked goods are more fragile than normal bread, and they kind of fragment if you overbeat. Make sure that your baking mix and liquid ingredients are well incorporated– using the low speeds. It should look like this– and it will smell like the kiss of Fall 🙂
Have you ever gotten a muffin where all the “goods” (blueberries, chocolate chips, etc), had sunk to the bottom? Here is an easy way to prevent that sinking from happening. Before you add heavy ingredients to your batter, add about 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp. of whatever flour you are using (in this case, GF baking mix), and toss the chips in the flour before adding them to your dough. This baking mix coating helps the chips to be a little more “gritty” and hang suspended in the dough, rather than all sinking down to the bottom during baking.
After you toss them with baking mix, your chips will be delightfully dusty. Now they’re ready for action. Go ahead and pour them into the batter, but don’t mix yet.
You have to mix GF doughs a little bit differently than you would normal baked goods. Because they lack gluten (what normally holds together and puffs up regular baked goods), GF doughs are very tender and delicate. To avoid bruising them and having them come out tough and dense, fold in your floured chocolate chips. To “fold in” ingredients, you basically never stir– just gently turn your spoon under and over them (kind of like continually making an “O” shape over and under the batter) until the ingredients are all coated in batter.
The “folded in” chocolate chips will look something like this– and the dough will rest like this without tearing apart (as it would if you stirred too hard or too vigorously).
I can tell you’re getting nervous. “Oh no! How will I know if I stirred too much! Did I ruin these muffins?” Naw . . . just be gentle. Even if you don’t get the “folding” motion completely right, being gentle will be OK. You’re still going to love these 🙂 Your muffins will be the most tender if you handle gently, but they will taste great either way 😉 No worries!
At this point, I really recommend a muffin scoop. I have a 1/4 cup muffin scoop, again, from King Arthur Flour, here
. I truly love their baking products– you really can’t beat them, and the customer service is fantastic. If you have a problem with ANYTHING, they replace it or make it right. To give you an idea of how customer friendly this Vermont-based baking company is, let me tell a quick story . . .
One year, around Christmas, I placed an order on the King Arthur Flour website. Somehow, I forgot to include an online coupon for 15% off my purchase. I applied a free shipping code, instead. When I contacted the company, they said that their policy allows only one coupon per order. I asked if I could switch from the free shipping to 15% (saving myself more money), and the agent said he would get back to me. In about an hour he wrote and said, “In honor of the holidays, we have decided to honor both coupons, this time. Happy baking, and Merry Christmas from all of us here at King Arthur Flour.” Wow. Try getting service like that from any other company. Not going to happen. I am a customer of theirs for life.
This scoop is great, because it kind of “forms” the muffins into a domed muffin shape. The weird thing about GF baked goods is that, unlike regular baked goods, they don’t really change shape while baking. If you plunk regular muffin dough into your muffin cups, they will puff and dome while baking. GF muffins won’t. In fact, when you’re making GF loaves, you have to use wet fingers to smooth the dough in a peaked loaf shape– because it will come out of the oven the exact same shape as how it went in. Bizarre. But, anyway . . . this scoop helps the muffins to have a nice rounded shape when they come out.
Once you scoop the dough into the muffin cups (again, gently), allow it to sit, untouched, for 10 minutes. This resting step is important for GF baked goods– it keeps them from collapsing in the oven. While you are waiting, I’d preheat the oven to 350. That way, it will be ready to roll when your muffins are done resting.
In 10 minutes, the muffins are ready to bake. Place them in the oven at 350 for 25-30 minutes. I usually rotate my pans halfway through baking to ensure even baking. You will know the muffins are finished when a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, with no “goop” on it. Unlike regular muffins, these don’t really get brown– so don’t keep baking, waiting for them to get brown. They won’t. Use the toothpick trick to tell.
When the muffins pass the “toothpick test,” allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes in the muffin tins, before removing them to a cooling rack to finish cooling. This resting in the tins gives them the support they need to stand “proud and tall” when you take them out. Usually, GF baked goods need a little more support since they don’t have the gluten to hold them together.
Seriously. Taste these. They are awesome. I think I may even prefer these to regular pumpkin muffins. Since GF baked goods are usually tasteless shells of their regular siblings, this is a real triumph. Why not bake these today for yourself or a friend? I bet they will love having a taste of something delicious, without dietary guilt! I can’t wait to see how you like them! 🙂
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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