Gluten free baking is more different from ordinary baking than I could ever have imagined. I understand the chemistry involved but hadn’t realised just how much of a difference gluten made to the finished product, both to the rise and more surprisingly to the moisture content. I’ve fallen flat on my face with both of these.
Early efforts at gluten free baking
Shortly after Tamsin’s diagnosis we went away for a few days. I wouldn’t have chosen that timing but we had a long-standing commitment. It was before we saw the dietitian though and I know now that I made loads of mistakes with the best of intentions, mainly through contamination. I wanted to take a ginger cake to one of our hosts but didn’t want to exclude Tamsin, as my ginger cake is one of her favourite things. It’s also a real volcano of a riser and a bit of a crowd pleaser. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know how badly the GF version was going to turn out when I started.
Being a complete beginner with gluten free baking I took no chances and looked up a gluten free gingerbread recipe on the Doves Farm site. For all that I love the range of GF flours that Doves Farm makes, I really don’t recommend this recipe. Annoyingly I can’t find the image of the finished gingerbread but it was a disaster. The picture here shows it before coming out of the pan but it doesn’t look much better. It was barely an inch high. Having said that it tasted nice straight out of the oven, and if I’d been going to serve it straight away I would probably have got away with it, but this needed to be stored for 48 hours then presented to my hostess – I didn’t think it was going to cut the mustard, somehow.
Instead I decided to cut it into squares and take it away with us as a snack, perhaps for a picnic with a flask of tea. I produced the gingerbread at an appropriate moment, we all took a bite in happy anticipation of the sort of delicious slightly sticky gingerbread we were used to, and we all more or less spat it out. It wasn’t the taste but the texture that was so unnerving. It was dry but not crumbly, rather rubbery and just impossible to force down. Ever since we came home it’s been sitting in the freezer waiting for a suitable occasion to be heated up and drowned in custard.
Gluten free apple cake
This weekend sees an annual family tradition that always includes apple cake and, worryingly, ginger cake.
I felt the apple cake stood a chance as it’s a melted recipe that’s more like a cobbler than a sponge cake. I have a tried and tested recipe that I used, simply subbing ordinary self-raising flour for Doves Farm gluten free ST flour. So far, it looks like it’s worked out just as I hoped. I tried the bits that thoughtfully fell off as I transferred the cake from tin to rack and other than being a bit dry, which I now take for granted with GF baking, it tastes pretty good and isn’t too far removed from what we’re used to.
My biggest concern with the ginger cake is that it will turn to rubber overnight, so I’m going to make it in the morning and hope it cools in time. I’m following the Sticky Ginger Squares recipe that came with the Glutafin freebies, but without the rhubarb topping. I’ll report back. If I can find a good gingerbread recipe then Tamsin will be happy. The next step after that will be gluten free Christmas cake, which must be the ultimate GF recipe to get right.