Gluten-free baking is a real challenge, so much that there are shelves full of cookbooks devoted to turning out baked goods that, hopefully, aren’t dry, crumbly, dense, starchy, greasy, gummy or tasting of cardboard. The truth is, gluten-free flours just don’t act like wheat flour – it’s not in their chemistry. In most circumstances, you can’t just substitute all-purpose gluten-free flour for regular flour and have your cakes, cookies, or pie crusts come out right. Gluten-free flour does not adsorb moisture in the same way as regular flour, and to further complicate that, different gluten-free flours don’t even adsorb moisture in the same way! In essence, even following someone else’s tested recipe is prone to failure, and more so if the least substitutions or omissions are made. Often when something turns out well, I wonder how much pure luck was a factor.
As is the case in other aspects of life, it never hurts to turn to science to reduce the “pure luck” to “reproducibility”. That is why my favorite gluten-free cookbook is America’s Test Kitchen The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook. Like no other cookbooks that I know of, America’s Test Kitchen explains the science behind the ingredients and techniques, and leads you through their testing process to show you how they settled on “the best” recipe. Each recipe has a section called “Why this recipe works”. Each ingredient has a purpose, and sometimes they come up with unexpected solutions – such as adding milk powder to the flour to aid in browning, or adding cream cheese or sour cream instead of butter to add richness. There are also many taste tests and reviews of gluten-free products which are extremely helpful. I highly recommend this handbook to anyone serious about eating gluten-free.
I recently blogged this Peach Upside-Down Cake, using what seemed like Version 15 of gluten-free flour blends that I had concocted. I was SO pleasantly surprised with the cake – it had the texture and taste of pound cake. I mean I KNOW pound cake – I am Southern that way. Was it luck? Well, luck is not generally reproducible, so I tried the cake recipe again sans peaches. Just put the batter in a loaf pan and baked it. We both agree – this is great pound cake. It rose up well, split in the middle like a good pound cake will, and had a nice texture that was rich, dense, and moist, but not greasy. What I don’t know is if it will work with other flour blends, or if I happened to hit on the right combination. I’d love to hear back from anyone who tries it!
I promised my recipe for All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour, so here it is, with the pound cake recipe. After all that talk above about no substitutions, I made substitutions to the Test Kitchen’s flour blend. In their blend, they use both white and brown rice flours, but I wanted to use a more multi-grain approach and less rice. The purpose of the brown rice flour was to add more “earthy” flavor and protein and to balance the starchiness of white rice flour. I decided to use oat flour, which also has more protein and a nice whole-grain flavor. I think it works well!
It works best to measure most of these ingredients by weight, since cup measurements can be off significantly depending on how the flour is “packed” into the cup. You’ll end up with about 8 cups of flour, and you’ll need a large storage container with a lid to mix and store. I recommend these items for weighing and storing flour: EatSmart Digital Kitchen Scale, Cambro Square Food Storage Containers (lids sold separately).
Gluten-Free Flour Blend (modified from America’s Test Kitchen)
- 24 ounces white rice flour
- 7 1/2 ounces oat flour
- 7 ounces potato starch (NOT potato flour)
- 3 ounces tapioca starch
- 3 tablespoons nonfat milk powder
Whisk all ingredients together until well combined. Store in airtight container; refrigerate up to 3 months.
Recommended flours and starches: Bob’s Red Mill.
Recommended Nonfat Milk Powder: Organic Valley
Gluten-Free Lemony Pound Cake
- 3/4 cup blanched almond flour
- 3/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
- 1 1/2 t baking powder (aluminum-free)
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/4 t xanthan gum (needed for structure of cake)
- 6 T unsalted butter (pastured), at room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 T neutral-tasting oil (I used grapeseed oil)
- 3/4 cup granulated organic cane sugar
- 1 1/2 t lemon extract
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a small loaf pan (I used a ~ 9-in x 5-inch glass loaf pan).
- In a medium mixing bowl, blend the flours, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum together using a whisk. Set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the 6 tablespoons butter and 2 T oil with the cream cheese until blended. Add the sugar and beat together until fluffy, several minutes. Beat in the lemon extract, then the eggs, one at a time.
- Add the dry ingredients to the batter in 2 stages, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Keep that mixer going and BEAT WELL until the batter is nice and fluffy (several minutes). This will make the cake’s texture lighter. (Do not worry about overbeating a gluten-free batter.)
- Spoon the batter in the loaf pan, smoothing it out from edge to edge.
- Bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rules for a “regular” pound cake always included “Do not disturb” until close to the end of cooking, so I didn’t open the oven door until I checked it at around 40 minutes. I don’t know if it applies to gluten-free pound cake, but it certainly won’t hurt.
- Allow to cool for around 20 minutes in the pan, then turn it out onto a serving dish. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Enjoy!
Had occasion to check in with some old favorites recently. First up is Neil Young with A Letter Home. Young keeps changing it up, this time recording an album of covers in Jack White’s 1947 recording booth. Primitive and heartfelt, Neil gives us his version of Dylan (“Girl From The North Country”), Jimmy Reed, Bert Jansch (“Needle of Death”) and a few Willie Nelson songs. Stellar stuff from the man who won’t stay still.
Came across 461 Ocean Boulevard from Eric Clapton the other day, and I guess I had forgotten what a gem this album is. From originals such as “Let It Grow” to covers such as “Willie and the Hand Jive”, “I Shot The Sheriff” and Robert Johnson’s “Steady Rolling Man”, this mid-’70s, Tom Dowd-produced album was one of Slowhand’s biggest sellers, and it still holds up today.