21 May 2011

Adventures in Gluten-Free Baking

I love having company over. It's a lot of fun and I make a lot of food. One of the greatest joys I get from baking is the happiness it brings to other people. Unfortunately, some of these people can't eat what most others can. Namely: gluten, eggs, or dairy.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a house guest last weekend that needed her own specialty cake. It was interesting for me to bake this way; very different. There were some challenges (guar gum is harder to find than the much more expensive xanthan gum) and uncertain moments (don't know how I feel about those fake butter sticks...) but overall, it turned out great.

 For the cake I used the same chocolate cake recipe from Martha Stewart that I used before in this post, but changed it up a bit.

Instead of regular butter I used Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, almond milk instead of cows milk, applesauce and baking powder took the place of eggs, and I found some gluten free flour and guar gum. I'm glad I found the guar gum in bulk because I only needed a little bit.

Just a little note: I used 1/4 cup of applesauce plus 1 tsp of baking powder per egg. It worked really well.

The first step was to cream the butter and sugar. It looked a little too curdled for my tastes, but I figured that's just what those buttery sticks did; confirmed later when I made frosting. More on that later. It did eventually smooth out as I creamed it a little more.

 I still was having some doubts after I added the chocolate mixture, though. The first picture is the dairy/gluten free cake and the second picture is the cake I made for everybody else. 

See? Not as creamy and also a little too liquid like. Perhaps it was the applesauce but I guessed (hoped) that's how it was supposed to look and poured the batter into my pans and put them in the oven. 
I love my 4 in. springforms, they're so cute!  

They needed a little more baking time than the recipe called for, but so did my other cake so I paid that no mind. What bothered me was when I pulled them out how fast they began to sink.

This is why I can't wait next fall when I'll be taking actual courses. I'd like to know what makes this happen... was it one of the ingredients or was it just that my music was too loud? Crazy kids, blasting their music when baking.
Sinking aside, it looked and smelled like cake! Once it was torted, it was fine.

Now... the frosting. I used the standard Wilton buttercream recipe, again substituting those vegan sticks for real butter. I did not take any pictures of this because it was making me so angry. Seriously, I could not get the frosting to thicken up and not look so grainy. I finally stopped adding powdered sugar in fear I would send my guest into a sugar coma.

This is what it looked like once it was done. Coffee-flavor frosting on top an ultimate chocolate cake.

Those dots made me angry, too. The frosting, as mentioned, would not thicken so it looks more like spiky-doom cake than sweet-polka dot cake. 

So how did it taste? Pretty good, actually. My guest was very impressed and ended up taking the whole thing home with her. It was fudgy, almost like a brownie, and the frosting tasted like it was supposed to. I was very glad to hear that.

Overall, I was happy with the flour and egg substitute but I am not sure how I feel about those Earth Balance sticks. They worked just fine in the cake, but I think next time I need to make dairy free buttercream I'll only use vegetable shortening instead of the half and half method. Lesson learned.



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