I have made up a cart at Amazon, at Bob’s Red Mill, and at a couple of other websites that sell gluten-free flours–and then left the site without buying anything.
Why you ask?
Because the frugalista in me seriously balks at spending $50 or more on a few little bags of flour. I can get a 25 pound bag of white wheat flour for $8 at the case lot sale! $3.59 for a measly pound of millet flour? Geesh.
But the facts of my life are, if I want to eat baked goods, I have to spend more to buy the grains that don’t make me sick.
So yesterday I bit the bullet and went to the Bob’s Redmill site and shelled out my $45.00 for brown rice flour, millet flour, potato starch, corn starch, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum ($12 for half a pound! But it should last a year or so.)
Then I went to the grocery store and saw that they had brown rice flour and potato starch there. And I picked up an on-sale box of 6 half-gallon canning jars to store all these treasures in. I’m reading Annalise Roberts Gluten-Free Baking Classics in preparation of reviewing it for you guys, and my memory was that one of her flour mixes was brown rice, potato starch, and corn starch. I knew any recipe would call for xanthan gum, but there was no way I was spending the $14 my local store charged when I’d already ordered some. I figured I’d wing it.
Then I got home and realized it was tapioca flour, not corn starch, in the mix.
(Don’t you love my cookbook holder-opener? Keeps your place AND prevents scurvey. Nice, eh?)
Okay. Okay. No big deal. I wanted to make blueberry muffins (blueberries were on sale!), and I wanted to use the recipe in the book–but I was okay with the recipe not being exact, and so not really part of my review.
I just wanted a muffin.
Measuring gluten-free flours is quite the ordeal. According to Annalise, you have to put a measuring cup into a bowl, then spoon the flour into the cup. Her book says not to just dip the cup into the bag like you might do with wheat flour. You also have to put the flour into a container and give it a shake to put some air into it.
After all that, you have to use a spoon to get the flour into the jar, too. (Unless, I suppose you’re using a really wide-mouthed canister.) As I was going through this ritual, I realized that gluten-free baking was definitely going to make me more mindful of my food. Wasting a 1/4 cup of $8/25 pound wheat flour is one thing. Wasting even a tablespoon of flour that costs as much as this stuff does is something else.
How many times have I made Jiffy blueberry muffins for my kids? I never took too much time to think about what was in them. I knew that they weren’t the best quality food, but they were a treat. A cheap and easy treat. The mix, an egg, and 1/3 cup of oil cost no more than $.75.
These muffins? Easily $3.00 worth of flours, 2 eggs, oil, fresh blueberries ($2), spices, vanilla–these are $6.00/dozen muffins. When I buy flour in bulk, the price will go down, but still. These are NOT Jiffy muffins.
Okay, back to my adventure.
Here’s where it gets good.
I didn’t have tapioca flour for the flour mix. I also didn’t have xanthan gum. I did have a commercial brand of GF muffin mix that included tapioca flour and xanthan gum. I only needed 1/3 cup of tapioca flour, so I opened that package and winged it. This is why the title of this post has ‘sort of’ in it. I did use a little bit of mix. But I’ve made those muffins a few times, and the ones I made by mixing flours–a totally different creature.
I was tempted to add another egg to make up for the lack of the proper amount of binding-power from the xanthan gum. But in the end I didn’t, because the batter was the perfect consistancy and I didn’t want to make it too liquidy.
The recipe perfectly filled 12 muffin tin cups. I used liners, and sprayed them with cooking spray because I’ve had trouble with gluten-free muffins sticking to the paper. That worked perfectly.
My little cowgirl wants to be in every picture.
I put some cinnamon sugar on top of the batter before baking. After 20 minutes, the muffins were golden brown. They’d raised up some, but not as much as their gluten-full cousins. But they were moist and had a perfect crumb. Even without enough xanthan gum they weren’t crumbly. Bob’s Redmill grinds their brown rice flour fine enough that these didn’t have much of a gritty texture. They did have a tiny bit of grit, but it was more like a bite. They were less cakey than gluten-full muffins.
As you can see in the picture, the heavy blueberries sank during baking, and so they were all in the bottom half of each muffin. Anyone have any tricks for avoiding that?
Anyway. My first non-mix gluten-free baking experience was a success. I’m super excited now to get my other flours. I’ll be making up the real Annalise Roberts brown rice mix, as well as her bread flour mix, and trying them out for your reviewing pleasure.
Real blueberry muffins. Even my non-intolerant kidlets approved.