Experimenting with Gluten-Free Baking

March 19, 2012

My neighbor mentioned to me that she would be hosting/attending a few events in the near future and she might want to order some cupcakes. Then she asked if I could make the cupcakes gluten-free (GF). Well…I’m sure I can, but I’ve never done any GF baking before and I honestly don’t know anything about it.

So I Googled around looking for recipes and trying to get a handle on the ingredients common in GF baking. Most regular cake recipes have the same basic ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, flavoring, flour, leavener, salt, liquid (like milk or water). Luckily, all of those ingredients are already GF except for the flour (and some leaveners are not GF, but many are). I found in my search for recipes that many GF recipes replaced the normal white or cake flour with a GF flour mixture plus xanthan gum as a binder.

I chose a really simple recipe to experiment with – it simply called for a GF flour instead of a normal flour and did not call for xanthan gum. After a tip from a friend on Facebook, Caelan and I headed to the organic section of our grocery store in search of an all-purpose GF flour. I was utterly overwhelmed when I saw all the options. They had every different kind of flour you could imagine. Or, more accurately, they had every different kind of flour I had never heard of: rice flour, potato flour, tapioca flour, bean flour, quinoa flour, spelt flour, etc. But I didn’t actually see an all-purpose flour (even though such a thing does exist and I’ve now learned that it is usually a mix of some of the aforementioned flours). Not wanting to buy 5 different bags of flour (and I would seriously have no idea which ones to choose anyway), I grabbed a bag of brown rice flour and was on my way.

I mixed up a 1/4 batch (6 cupcakes) of this recipe for GF chocolate cupcakes. They looked like regular cupcakes. The batter was similar to regular cake batter. They appeared to bake like regular cupcakes (though for a little bit longer). And when they were all done and I iced them with a chocolate buttercream, they tasted pretty much like regular cupcakes. They were slightly drier and crumbier but if someone just gave me this cupcake to eat and didn’t tell me it was GF, I wouldn’t know. So I call it a success 🙂

Next time, I am going to experiment with a vanilla cupcake recipe. The ones I found in my Google search pretty much always called for xanthan gum. Though that was available in my grocery store, I really didn’t want to spend $12 on an 8oz bag that would last me 500 years. I think I may try to find a smaller quantity from my BFF (Amazon).

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Experiments in Cupcakes

June 27, 2010

June 2010

I have 3 cakes to do in the next 6 weeks so I thought this weekend would be a good time for some practice. I had a list of 5 different things that I wanted to test out – mostly things that I will need for my upcoming cakes – so I whipped up a batch of cupcakes to help me out.

First, Almond Cake. I used this recipe from Wilton for a basic white cake (which I had not made before) and replaced the vanilla extract with almond extract. I quartered the recipe and came out with an even dozen cupcakes, so I can only assume the full recipe would yield 4 dozen (!).

Next up was, Raspberry Filling. I have made cakes with raspberry filling before but I have always used seedless raspberry preserves out of a jar. They are delicious, but slippery and tend to bleed through the cake, so I thought I’d try my hand at a homemade filling. I picked this recipe at random and I found it to be easy and tasty. I halved the recipe and got a little more than a cup of filling. The only downside to this was that it was not seedless.

My next step was Filling the Cupcakes – another first for me. I cut into each cupcake on an angle and sliced a circle out of the top. I just used a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off to pipe the filling into the cupcake, and then I replaced the top. Cinchy!

Now for icing. First up was Dark Chocolate Ganache. The family friend who made my brother-in-law’s wedding cake (and mine also!) used this icing on their cake and it was SO good. She kindly shared the recipe with me and I whipped up my first ganache. Delicious!!

Finally, I wanted to try an Amaretto Buttercream. I ended up with sort of an adapted Swiss Meringue buttercream. I started with the same adapted recipe that I used for the Margarita Cupcakes (Annie’s Eats, adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe). I had planned to replace the tequila and lime juice with amaretto. Except that I didn’t get around to stopping by the liquor store. So I used some almond extract instead. It turned out well. Next time I will not be so lazy and I’ll pick up some amaretto!


Swiss Meringue Buttercream

March 28, 2010

March 2010

I finally decided to experiment with something other than American buttercream! I wanted to try a meringue, or something with cooked sugar, but I didn’t have a candy thermometer and I honestly had never really worked with egg whites before. But I found this recipe for Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream on Annie’s Eats – she adapted it very slightly from Martha Stewart’s recipe – and I decided to give it a try.

I picked up a candy thermometer at Walmart and it seemed to work pretty well. Then it came to putting the sugar/egg/salt mixture in the KA mixer until it formed “stiff peaks”. I had a general idea what this should look like, but never having done it before, I was flying a little blind. But I think I got it right. Next, I added an un-Godly amount of butter. I mean I like butter as much as the next girl, but when a recipe calls for it in pounds – yikes.

So, after finishing the icing and piping it onto some plain white cupcakes, the verdict is…YUM. It is very delicious and it definitely solves the over-sweet issue with American Buttercream. But it is SO RICH. I couldn’t even eat one cupcake! I’m actually not sure I’d want to ice an entire cake with it. Next time, I may try to adjust the butter/sugar ratio and see what happens.