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.
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.
1 cup white rice flour
3/4 cup gluten free oat flour (see note)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup full fat plain yogurt
1 stick unsalted butter (melted and cooled to room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon or lime
12 tsp of kiwi-lime marmalade (or jam/preserve/marmalade of your choice) – recipe follows
vanilla sugar (optional)
4 tsp lime juice
2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
1. Make the kiwi-lime marmalade (if using) and stick it in the fridge after it’s cooled to room temperature for at least an hour before making these muffins.
ne a standard muffin tin with 12 paper muffin liners. Preheat oven to 400˚ F.
3. Take a whisk and combine the white rice flour, oat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
4. In another bowl lightly beat the egg and egg yolk. Add the plain yoghurt, vanilla, melted butter and citrus zest and stir well.
5. Add the the egg/yogurt mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a large spatula until combined and there are no dry powder pockets.
6. Put a tablespoon or so of batter in each muffin cup (just enough to fill the bottom of the cup). Taking a small spoon, place a generous teaspoon of kiwi-lime marmalade (or whatever jam you are using) in the center of each muffin cup on top of the batter. Try to keep the marmalade in the center, and not touching any of the sides of the cup.
7. Put another tablespoon or so of the batter on top of the muffin cups, covering the marmalade. Make sure to cover the marmalade entirely.
8. Sprinkle the top with vanilla sugar (if using), sparkling sugar, or leave plain if you don’t like your muffins that sweet.
9. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center muffin clean with a few crumbs adhering. Don’t overbake.
10. Cool the muffins in the pan for at least 15 minutes before removing from pan. When cool mix the lime juice with the powdered sugar and drizzle on top in a zig zag pattern to glaze the muffins.
Note 1. Oat flour is “controversial” in the gluten-free community as it sometimes can’t be tolerated by those who are super sensitive to gluten. It used to be that you couldn’t get oat flour or rolled oats truly gluten-free because there was cross contamination with wheat (they were grown next to each other, and the processing plant often times processed both wheat AND oats, so there was always some cross contamination). However pure oats are actually gluten free, and nowadays it’s much easier to get gluten free oats and gluten-free oat flour, free of contaminations (Bob’s Red Mill just started to produce them, and they have national distribution). If you have any doubts about whether you are sensitive to oats, check with your doctor.
I actually didn’t have any gluten free oat flour around, but I did have gluten free rolled oats and oat flour is just rolled oats ground to a powder. You can make your own oat flour by grinding the rolled oats in a food process, a blender or a clean coffee/spice grinder. I find the coffee grinder works best as I can turn it upside down and shake it around to make sure all the bits are ground as fine as possible. I process the rolled oats 1/4 cup at at time with the coffee/spice grinder.
Note 2. I used white rice flour and don’t recommend you use brown rice flour for this recipe. Whenever I used the brown rice flour it tends to get much more crumbly and more gritty.
Note 3. Make sure to use a large bowl for this. It’s deceptive, because the mixture looks small but it will boil up. Don’t cover it though! It’ll make a HUGE mess.