Shortly after removing gluten from my diet, I set out to conquer the mystery that is gluten-free baking. There have been successes, and oh yes, there have been failures. Gluten-free baking is tricky. You have to throw all of your “wheat flour” baking knowledge out the window. There is no kneading of bread doughs. Bread doesn’t “rise” in the same manner. The batter for cakes doesn’t always look like typical cake batter. Gluten-free batters and doughs react differently. The earliest tests of gluten-free baking either resulted in overly moist, crumbly messes, or dry-as-a-bone bread that you had to choke down. These occurrences happen less and less frequently as I practice, but in the interest of full disclosure, they still do happen from time to time.
But honestly? I feel more comfortable baking now than I ever did prior to my gluten-free days. Why? The need to experiment has freed me. When I used to bake, I felt that I had to strictly adhere to the recipe, or else disaster would result. I did not have an understanding of the roles each ingredient played in the finished product. Not that I’ve since come to a complete understanding of the science behind baking, but the use of alternative flours has opened my eyes. There are so many textures and flavors available. As long as I understand that I’ll need leavening, something to bind ingredients together, and a certain level of moisture, usually I’m pretty good to go. Not “Gee, I don’t even need a recipe anymore” good, but I can honestly say I’m a better baker now than I have ever been.
My current obsession is to take any ol’ recipe and convert it to gluten-free. I’ve had some success with this in the past (remember the tres leches cake?), but I’m still working on it. My hope is to not feel as though sacrifices have to be made because a gluten-free diet is required. We can have our gluten-free cake and eat it too, so to speak!
With this in mind, I present to you these chocolate banana muffins. The recipe is several generations away from its original inspiration (Elise’s banana bread recipe at Simply Recipes). These are some of the best gluten-free muffins I’ve ever made, if I do say so. They were moist and chocolatey, not overly sweet, with a tender crumb that held together well. Perfect for a holiday morning treat, or for any time of year.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Muffins, adapted from Simply Recipes
3 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 c melted butter
3 T peanut butter or almond butter
½ c white sugar
½ c light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 t vanilla extract
1 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
½ t nutmeg
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ t salt
½ c teff flour
½ c sorghum flour
½ c tapioca starch
1 t xanthan or guar gum
1-2 T turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In mixing bowl, add bananas, melted butter, and peanut butter. Mix on low until combined. Add sugars, egg, and vanilla and mix until combined. Sprinkle baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder and salt over banana mixture, and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, mix flours and xanthan gum. Turn mixer on medium-low and add flours in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed, until well-combined. Pour into prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a minute or two, and remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool. Makes 12 muffins.
Want a chance to win a free 2010 North Texas Food Bank calendar and some other cool stuff? Check out my other blog, Feeding North Texas, for information! The giveaway ends December 18, 2009.