Magical Kiwi-Lime Marmalade filled Muffins (gluten free with no xanthan/guar gum)

by Irvin on May 17, 2010 · 16 comments

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So apparently May is Celiac Awareness Month and so I present to you the very first wheat free, gluten free baked good I ever made: Kiwi-Lime Marmalade Filled Muffins!

It’s a little confusing to me that May is listed as Celiac Awareness Month, as I always thought October was Celiac Awareness Month. But I guess if you have Celiac disease and your body attacks itself when you eat anything with gluten in it, you deserve more than one month. I say people should be aware of the disease year round, but I don’t make the rules about these things.

I don’t have celiac disease, though I know a few people that do…no one local however. In fact, other than a slightly lactose intolerance (that I either keep in check by lactaid pills, or by avoiding dairy products) and the fact that I lack the alcohol dehydrogenases enzyme to break down booze, I’m fairly lucky that I can eat/drink most anything. My slight lactose intolerance even comes in handy as a good excuse from me getting fatter than I already am, as Bi-Rite Creamery, an ice cream shop that AJ and I are so obsessed with that we actually dressed up as our favorite flavors of ice cream for Halloween, is a mere block away from me.

Just for the record the pints of ice cream costumes that we made were totally ridiculous, as we made them  for a gay Halloween costume party, where the invite specifically said “Remember boys. Less is more!” While everyone else was wearing speedos (how is that a costume exactly? I’m not sure – I guess the boys were dressing up as Michael Phelps) we were wearing our huge cardboard ice cream pints. Needless to say we stood out. Though I will say that when we stopped by the creamery, we did get a free scoop of ice cream.

On a side note, I also realize that I am not really fat. More like gay fat. You know, straight skinny but gay fat. But that’s another topic of conversation for another time.

I digress (which I oft do). I do have a good friend, Kim, that is wheat allergic who lives here in the city, and when I first met her years ago I had never heard of such an allergy as severe as her’s before. Growing up, my dad had a slight wheat allergy, but it wasn’t very severe (it basically just exacerbated his hay fever more than anything) and since I’m Asian (Taiwanese-American to be exact), we had very little bread in the house anyway….our main source of starch was rice. Bread and other wheat products weren’t a staple in our house but they weren’t avoided all that much either.

My friend Kim, however, was severely allergic to wheat and when we met her, through our mutual friend Glenn, he warned us ahead of time about her allergy. We were going up to Glenn’s brother’s cabin in Sonoma and I had told him that I wanted to bake something for the trip (I always bring baked goods wherever I go – keep that in mind if you ever want fresh homemade baked goods, just invite me along on the trip). This was a good seven or eight years ago, way before the current explosion of gluten-free goods have hit the market, and before I was aware that there were people who had food allergies that could be impacted by my baked goods.

I was a bit taken back with trying to figure out how to bake without wheat flour, but I hit the internet and started looking around at alternative flours. For me, the idea of baking wheat-free sounded like a fun challenge and I so I dived in with zeal and zest.

The trip ended up being super fun. AJ and I hung out with Kim and Glenn all weekend, where I learned both Kim and Glenn have a complete obsession with The Go-Go’s (apparently that’s how they met, as Go-Go’s groupies). Being a music buff, I seemed to impress Kim with my Go-Go’s knowledge (specifically of my favorite Go-Go, Jane Wiedlin whom I love, and I’m not quite sure why. I think I became infatuated with through her limited acting roles as “Joan of Arc” in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure as well as the singing telegram girl in the movie Clue. Either way Kim seemed super excited that I not only owned a few of her solo albums but also owned the album Frost by the band Cold – of which she fronted after leaving the Go-Go’s. The band Cold apparently is so obscure that it’s not even listed on Jane Wiedlin’s wikipedia page. Quick Kim, go fix that!)

Kim and AJ bonded over their science geekiness (Kim’s a scientist and AJ is a chemistry professor) and when the subject of how AJ’s ex-wife resembled Helen Hunt came up, I made a joke about how if she was Helen Hunt, that would probably make AJ the Paul Reiser (a Mad About You reference). Kim started to laugh hysterically (way more than we thought it was merited) until she explained that she thought I had said “She looked like Helen Hunt. If you polarized her.” AJ and Kim then proceeded to laugh like insane mad scientists while Glenn and I looked at them as if they truly were insane. To this day Kim still brings up the joke.

If I have to explain the joke to you, don’t bother asking me. It won’t be funny. Just know that to science folk it’s hilarious.

On Sunday morning I work up and naively made an oat flour-rice flour muffin – without any binders like xanthan gum or guar gum. Magically it worked! Kim (who had only recently been diagnosed with the allergy) said it was the first time that she felt like she was eating a normal baked good after her diagnosis. That made me pretty happy.

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Nowadays, when I bake gluten free (and at every dessert party that Kim is going to attend, I usually make sure there’s at least four or five desserts that are gluten or wheat-free), I always use xanthan gum or guar gum (I actually prefer xanthan, as the guar sometimes imparts a funky bean flavor to the baked product that I’m not so into) which imitates the binding properties of gluten. But back then, I didn’t know any better and xanthan/guar gum was much harder to get ahold of. Not knowing that, I apparently lucked into a recipe that didn’t need it.

The photo on the right (taken by the fantastic amazing Shauna over at Gluten Free Girl) is an example of what happens when you don’t use xanthan gum in a cake. It pretty much rises, explodes and then collapses in on itself. In short, xanthan or guar gum is pretty important for baked goods without gluten.

Except when it isn’t. Examining the muffin recipe today, years later, I tried to replicate my results and they didn’t work very well. The muffins were fairly crumbly (I ended up tinkering with a couple more times and I still had problems with them being too crumbly). But I knew that I was able to do it once, so keeping in the original spirit of the challenge of baking wheat-free, I decided to really take a look at the recipe, start from scratch and build it from the ground up, and see if I could make a good muffin without xanthan or guar gum. Because even though the stuff is now more readily available, I figure some people just don’t have it around the house or have access to it.

And after my fourth try I stumbled across how to make it work! I realize a couple of things about it that probably that helped out in this experiment. One, it’s a muffin, which, unlike a cake, doesn’t have as much large surface area to bind together like a cake might, so the binder doesn’t have to be as strong. On top of that, muffins have a more rough crumb in nature. I wouldn’t know where to start in building a cake with a fine delicate crumb without xanthan gum or guar gum. Second, I bake my muffins in a paper cup liner, which means the muffins already have a “container” to help keep the structure intact. Third, the original recipe called for buttermilk but I found that full fat yogurt worked best, as the yogurt has a mild binding quality to it (vegan baker sometimes use soy yogurt as an egg substitute). Finally, I added an extra egg yolk as a binder and emulsifier (the natural lecithin in the egg yolk helps keep all the ingredients bound together).

All these ingredients are easy to find at a normal grocery store. The only ingredients in the recipe that might be hard to find is gluten free oat flour (I put a note in the recipe about how to make your own if you can’t find it) and white rice flour but I was able to find that at my local big chain grocery store so hopefully that won’t deter people. Because the other thing I wanted to to do was make a recipe with ingredients that are fairly easy to get at any old grocery store.

Or I could just be making up all the reasons why my fourth attempt worked. Maybe it’s just magic that makes it works. AJ has a t-shirt that says “Magic is just stuff that science has made boring yet.” So yeah, I’m going to go with magic.

And though this recipe might be a tiny bit better if you added a binder like xanthan gum or guar gum, it’s totally not necessary. Seriously. So if you are gluten intolerant, celiac or wheat allergic and you’ve run out of xanthan/guar gum or you can’t find it, or if you have a friend who is gluten intolerant or allergic and want to entertain them, or if you just want to give your body a break from gluten (it’s always a good idea to mix it up when you eat as much baked goods as I do), go ahead and try this recipe out, and see what you think.

Happy Celiac Awareness Month. That sounds weird. But you know what I mean.

Whilst baking these I listened to The Go-Go’s Greatest, in honor of Glenn and Kim. I tried to find my copy of Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s but for whatever reason I couldn’t. *sigh*

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark @ Cafe Campana May 17, 2010 at 11:01 am

Great looking muffins. I like how the marmalade is stuck in the middle.


Karen May 17, 2010 at 10:35 pm

God, I love that"polarize her" joke! I got a fresh laugh out of that story.

Even though AJ is the scientist by career between the two of you, I must say that you give great technical explanations for how different ingredients in the recipe act on the texture/final outcome of your baked goods. You really are a science geek at heart!


kudzu May 18, 2010 at 2:36 am

As Karen said, the really authoritative information you give to us is invaluable. The internet and our lives are filled with so much unfounded "advice" or just opinions when it comes to cooking, it is great to see some kind of back story that makes sense and makes things actually WORK.

Even if you two dress in ice cream cartons.


Stephanie May 18, 2010 at 4:07 am

Wow! I can't wait to try this. I love kiwis!
From a celiac who doesn't tolerate oats, I think I'm going to sub quinoa flakes for the oat flakes, and grind them to a flour. They are supposed to make a decent sub for oats.
Thanks for sharing such a yummy recipe! I'm a muffin fiend!


Rita May 18, 2010 at 4:23 am

I don't get the joke.

Yet the way you wrote it still made me laugh very hard.

I find these posts delicious!


Mr. Jackhonky May 18, 2010 at 5:19 am

@Mark. Thanks! I love the idea of jam or marmalade filled muffins. I think the original author (Sheila Lukins) said she was inspired by jelly filled donuts. These muffins aren't nearly as sweet though!

@Karen. Ha! Clearly you are a science geek! And yes, I am probably (secretly) a science geek too. But shhh…don't tell anyone.

@kudzu. Thanks! I don't know if I would say I am an "authority" on giving this sort of advice, but I'm just glad I was able to pull my knowledge of baking and make it work! It only took four tries!

@Stephanie. I LOVE kiwis too! I think you'll love the marmalade, it's so easy to make and so yum! Let me know how it goes with the quinoa flour on the muffins!

I went on an "alternative" flour kick and bought a whole slew of flours like quinoa, teff, millet, sorghum, amaranth, graham and potato at our local natural food store (they have over 30 types flours in the bulk section!) all inspired by the book Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. Of course, I haven't used any of them (except for the sorghum). I need to start experimenting soon…

@Rita. I love that you laughed even though you didn't understand the joke. Yay!

And I love that you you find these posts delicious!


JessicaW May 18, 2010 at 6:32 am

Great looking muffins! I've just gone Gluten-Free this spring, and giving up baked goods is so hard.

I will try these sometime. The last time I bought Xanthan gum, it was $26.99 a pound. (@*)%#*!) Next time I'll buy it on the Internet.

If you want to play with an alternative flour, give Teff a try, it's an Ethiopian grain and it is fantastic. It doesn't have that "dirt" flavor of bean flours but it has that sturdy consistency. It provides a better mouth feel than the rice, potato and tapioca flours that have a sticky texture and it gives some much needed color to GF baked goods. 🙂 Also, don't buy it at a natural food store. It will cost about 1/8 as much at a local market that caters to the East African Community (Ethiopians, Somalis and Sudanese people cook with Teff a lot!)

I just did a rhubarb/strawberry crisp with 1/2 teff and 1/2 GF flour mix. It came out great. 🙂

Happy baking! 🙂


Tara May 19, 2010 at 1:21 am

That marmalade looks delicious! Why have I never thought to pair kiwis with lime????

I'm impressed that you came up with a xanthan gum-free gf muffin recipe – the last muffins I made sans xanthan fell apart at first bite! The yogurt is a great idea.

And one of my early pastry mentors would always call herself a "fat skinny person," by which she meant that, although she was small, she was still flabby and needed to work out more. I'm thinking this sounds similar to gay fat? (In which case I can totally relate!)


Mr. Jackhonky May 20, 2010 at 6:08 am

@Jessica. Just because you've gone gluten free doesn't mean you have to give up baked goods! Sounds like you found that out!

Xanthan gum can totally be expensive, but I'm lucky that I live in a city that has many natural food stores and I can buy it in bulk which is so much cheaper – and in smaller quantities. Guar gum is a pretty good substitute and much more reasonable in price I've been told.

As for Teff, it's on my list of flours to experiment with! I have it, along with a bunch of other flours just waiting for me to try it out. I really need to get to it. And it's actually surprisingly cheap at my local health store in their bulk food section. I'm sure I could get it much cheaper at a different local market, but I'm just lazy sometimes. When my local food co-op ells 30 different types of flours in the bulk section, it's just easier to get them all there!

mmm. Strawberry Rhurbarb crisp sounds delish! I love rhubarb. I think this season's rhurbarb has been so great, and strawberries are everywhere right now!

@Tara. kiwi and lime is such a great combination! I highly recommend it! and SO easy to make!

Yeah, don't be TOO impressed with the xanthan gum free muffins. It took me four tries! But it worked out in the end! look at how the muffins held together in those photos! I was so pleased.

And yeah, gay fat = skinny but flabby. And after this past weekend where I went to this black tie food event (which I will blog about soon) I am even more fat. Once you see my photos, you'll understand why!


Jennifer May 27, 2010 at 3:02 am

Hmmmmm, these are incredible. I'm a no oats GF type of person so subbed sorghum. A couple of questions though…
For the oats you have 2/4 cup, was that supposed to be 3/4 or 1/4 cup? I'm thinking 3/4 since I barely had enough dough with 1/2 cup but with 3/4 cup I think it might need a tad more liquid.

2nd there's no baking powder in the ingredients but mentioned in the dry ingredients to mix together. How much was there supposed to be?


Mr. Jackhonky May 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm

@ Jennifer. Oh no! I apologize. I totally made a mistake on the recipe. It is definitely suppose to be 3/4 cup of at flour, and the baking powder/baking soda ingredients were either left out or mixed up. MY BAD.

I'm SO sorry. I gone ahead and fixed it. 2 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda.

The dough defintely should not be too dry, but sorghum flour is probably a little more dense (and absorbs liquid more) than the oat flour I made. Plus I made oat flour at home (via a coffee grinder) so it was a little more coarse.

I would probably add 1 Tbsp of yogurt at a time until the dough gets the right consistency – probably one or two Tbsp should be enough. You definitely do NOT want the dough dry. It should be moist, and look like oatmeal. Well, it looked like oatmeal when I used the oat flour. But you know what I mean!

Thanks for pointing out those mistakes! I'm mortified!


Shila July 7, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Okay I am totally late, but the marmalade looks AMAZING!!! I love making homemade jam/marmalades and made two giant vats of citrusy strawberry marmalade after going berry picking with some friends. After that, I never wanted to see strawberries again (partially recovered now), but it was so satisfying and my friends have definitely appreciated the jam.

Will let you know if I try the recipe!


Mr. Jackhonky July 9, 2010 at 11:35 am

@Shila. Well I LOVE making jam and marmalade and such, but I'm WAY to lazy to can. So I usually make one small batch at a time and eat it. Of course I can only make it seasonal then…

And I don't know if I could EVER get sick of strawberries! I LOVE them. A citrusy strawberry marmalade sounds delish! You must share you recipe with me when you have a chance!


cooking rookie May 29, 2011 at 11:59 am

Great recipe ! I’ve never seen a microwave marmalade – goes right to the top of my cooking wish list :-).
I just found your blog through a friend’s “stumble” recommendation – love it and will be following!


Hamilton Courtney October 26, 2012 at 11:07 am

Ooft, these look amazing.

I have two food fetches, limes and gnocchi.
I’m always on the hunt for recipes to do with limes – this one will be being shoved in my bookmarks album labelled “LIMES” haha.

I kind of hate marmalade, but I just have to remember this one has no oranges!


Irvin October 26, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Marmalade actually can be made with any citrus fruit. It just means it’s a preserve made with the rind of the fruit. This lime one is super bright and lovely but I’m also very fond of lemon marmalade which is tart and refreshing. I do love a good orange marmalade but sometimes it can be too sweet for my taste. Glad you enjoyed my recipe!


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