Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A gluten-free newbie attempts to take on muffins

This morning while I was swimming laps, a dull task when there is no tv to watch or music to listen to, my mind wandered every which way it could. One of the things it kept coming back to was a proposition made to me by the director of my girls' school. She suggested I could make the school allergy-friendly muffins to be served in the classrooms for snack and the school would buy them from me. Being that one of my top goals right now is to figure out a way, financially, to keep my kids at this great school for as much of the time as I can, I decided it was really foolish of me to have so hastily poo-poo'd the idea when the director mentioned it. I had balked at the idea of me, a decidedly NON-baker in the first place, attempting to make anything gluten-free that was yummy and healthy enough to serve to all of those people.

But alas, when one swims miles upon miles of laps, one convinces oneself of all manner of hair-brained ideas. Today it was that I could, indeed, bake gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free muffins worthy of serving to the school's teachers and, hopefully, eventually, the school's children.

I started out on my journey by sending a request off to twitter for a delicious muffin recipe. Drat. No replies. No worries, off to Facebook. A few hits there. I then dove in to the great internets myself and found some recipes. I prefer to take food advice directly from other human beings, but these two internet sources that I was akready familiar with provided some recipes.

The first one was Gluten-free Goddess. I took her recipe for Vegan Blueberry Muffins because it fit all of my criteria.

The other recipe I took was from the Whole Life Nutrition site (you might remember I followed their elimination diet!). It was for Rhubarb Muffins.

I made a list of the ingredients I would need to purchase and headed off to PCC (the local food co-op for you out-of-towners). After balking at the price of the flours, I chose the ones I wanted to use. I did make a few executive decisions since I quickly ran out of the money in my budget, but I'll get in to that in a bit.

I made the Rhubard muffins first. I've never in my life used rhubarb. Holy cow that stuff tastes awful raw. But I digress. I followed the recipe exactly except for I used canola oil and pre-made OJ. When I had a choice, I used sorghum flour, potato starch and agave.

For school I would be making mini-muffins, so that's how I practiced. Such cute little things! The first batch of muffins I put in to the oven I sprinkled sugar on, but sadly did not bake quite long enough-- even though my darn toothpick came out clean! I have a knack for under-baking baked goods while always, always think I'm over-baking them. The second batch I forgot the sugar on the top, which made them taste more sour, but baked them two minutes longer which greatly improved the gumminess in the middle. My husband and I declared them a hit overall, except for the rhubarb probably isn't a safe bet for the kiddos. I was extremely pleased that my muffins looked just like the picture on the recipe, too!

The second trial was for the blueberry ones. I made many more changes to this recipe. I used all sorghum flour because I couldn't buy millet or buckwheat. I decided to use regular eggs because I couldn't buy egg replacer (rationalizing that if they were good, I would push them through to testing round two and suck it up and buy egg-replacer). I also used canola oil in these. Again, not enough moola in the budget for the suggested fats on either recipe. I also used frozen blueberries.

Off they went in to the oven. Like the first batch of the rhubarb muffins, I took them out before they were really done, while thinking they were totally, absolutely done. Once I tasted one I balked at them and declared them a failure. Many were deforming under the liquid of the blueberries, as well. I decided to speed things up and make six normal sized muffins out of the rest of the batter. I expected it to fail even worse because the berries had completely thawed in the batter by that point. I baked them for 29 minutes (the only batch I 100% for sure knew the time) and you know what? They were really yummy! I made sure to bake them longer than I thought they needed to be baked (ie I let them bake the right amount) and they weren't gummy in the middle or soggy anywhere from the berries! I was disappointed, however, that neither of my batches looked anything like the recipe picture. My tops were much higher and free-form. I didn't put sugar on them, but it wouldn't have affected the way they looked THAT much, would it? (would it???)

I've decided at this point I'm going to experiment more with the rhubarb muffins, subbing in other berries, see what happens. I hope very soon, and before we need a second mortgage on our house, I'll have something I can "sell" to the school. Wish me luck!


  1. If you're looking for ways to make the muffins cheaper, you can sub bananas for eggs in the muffins. Depending on how many bananas you use, you'll get a slight banana flavor but with sweet muffins, that's not really a problem. It's usually 1 medium banana - 1 egg. Also, you can use flax seed meal to replace some of the oil if you want (though that's probably a higher cost ingredient). I've successfully made muffins using 1/3 the sugar in the recipe, replacing all the eggs with bananas, using 1/2 whole wheat flour, replacing the oil with flax and adding wheat germ. I was pretty proud of that one. :) Good luck! I know you can do it!

  2. This process is so interesting! I know nothing of baking muffins, so sorry I'm no help there. But I am available to taste test…


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