Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins- No Xanthan Gum


Deliciously gluten-free blueberry muffins without xanthan gum. From Karina, Gluten-Free Goddess.

Baking Without Xanthan Gum, I Am.

When I first set foot on this lonely gluten-free road (it was 2001, remember, pre-gluten-free boon; there was nary a gluten-free bagel or wheat-free blueberry muffin in sight), I wrestled with converting my beloved tried and true wheat flour recipes, gamely baking and tossing too many gluten-free hockey pucks and brick loaves to count. Until I discovered xanthan gum- the weirdo secret ingredient that gave gluten-free batter and dough a hint of that elusive stretchy tenderness that gluten once gifted. Xanthan gum was a find.

And it has been a nifty little problem solver for many years.

Until it wasn't.

After a decade or so of cooking, baking, and eating strictly gluten-free I began to feel- shall we say- less than wonderful after eating something with xanthan gum (or guar gum, or locust bean gum, or carrageenan).

Ingredients my grandmother never heard of. Ingredients I never used to eat. Or bake with.

I had a gluten-free shakabuku.

I was seeing gums and emulsifiers added to everything. From coconut milk to olives, from gluten-free gingersnaps to vegan ice cream.

Then I read this.

And I decided to go back to the way I used to eat- still gluten-free, of course- but- no xanthan gum. No guar gum. No carrageenan.

Guess what?

My tummy is (WAY) happier. My digestion is normal (translation- no pain, no bloat, no kill me now existential ennui).

I've been experimenting with baking without xanthan gum. And I'm here to share my blueberry muffin success. I'm using flax seed meal to help the batter a bit. And so far?

So good.

Karina's Side Note: I baked these tasty little gems in my new Cuisinart Deluxe Convection Toaster Oven Broiler (our new apartment has no oven, so after researching counter top toaster ovens, we ordered one of these from Amazon.com). I love it- it keeps the kitchen cool (gives off very little heat) and the convection baking is super efficient for baking gluten-free goodies. So far we've made my xanthan gum free Dark Chocolate Brownies, and the new Blueberry Muffins in it, using the convection method.


Gluten-Free Blueberry Scones

Gluten-Free Blueberry Scones


Blueberries and summer. I cannot imagine one without the other. It is virtually impossible. Beyond my control. The same way a certain scent, caught unexpectedly in passing, can- in a single heartbeat- transport you to another time and place.

Scents and tastes and memories link and embed themselves deep in the mushy hardware of our brain, micro-threading bits of life experience into electrical impulses that spark and conjure images and emotions that rival the blinking hot concept of time travel. Sun warmed wild mint, for instance, jolts me into my six year old body faster than you can wish for blueberry pancakes, tugging me into a swirl of loneliness and boredom I can almost taste, the heat and dust of a summer afternoon prowling a parking lot, looking for a tiny piece of shade apart from the bees.


In a perfect world I would have been blueberry picking, roused from innocent rumpled sleep before first light by a beloved grandmother or a tender hearted aunt, and given a small metal pail to fill, tasting every other silvery blue berry I picked, listening to my steady companion hum I'll Fly Away.

But I have no blueberry stories of childhood.

My picking days came later. As a young mother bending and reaching under a cobalt Cape Cod sky, plucking berries into buckets. Back then summer was forever woven with the fate of blueberries. Scattered on clean white scoops of yogurt in an antique bowl, baked into tender blueberry breads drizzled with lemon glaze (the cherished, hand written recipe given to me by an old friend, Cape Cod Kitty- it was her mother's famous blueberry cake), or bursting out of muffin tops glittering with sugar, and scented with cinnamon.

But the truth is I cannot rewrite my childhood. Nor change what is beyond my control to change. And I do not believe in destiny. I am not a fatalist. I do not believe in a master plan. I wrestle with mystery and meaning every single day, with nary a satisfactory answer in sight. It seems to me that nothing happens for a reason. And everything happens for a reason.

Because life is for learning.

And each day breaks with a fresh beginning.

So darling. What will you choose today?

Make it good.


Strawberry Spinach Salad with Berry Dressing


Strawberry spinach salad with vegan berry dressing



The older I get the more I crave simple. 

The sweet, relaxed comfort of home cooking. An impromptu picnic on the patio with family-style classics like horseradish spiked potato salad. Instead of growing worldly and sophisticated and dabbling with truffle oil (a chemical taste beyond awful), each new gray silver hair spins my taste hula hooping into simplicity faster than Lady Gaga can waggle. Well, maybe not that fast. She is pretty nimble. But you get my drift. I'm whipping up ten-minute rice stir-fries, not Coq au Vin. I’m blending up pomegranate smoothies, not roasting Duck a l'Orange.

And lucky me, the dawning summer season is all about simplicity. 

Who needs complicated and fussy when the farmers’ markets are abundant with glorious, fresh ingredients? Vegetables in every color. Ripe and voluptuous fruits. And every one of them gluten-free. And dairy-free. That’s the beauty of it. No imitation here. No game of let’s pretend. This is nature’s bounty, pure and raw and beautiful. 

No deprivation. Zero. None.


Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

Karina's Strawberry Rhubarb Muffin Recipe with Streusel Topping #glutenfree


Strawberry Rhubarb Love


Can't get enough of the classic spring pairing of strawberries and rhubarb? Me neither. 

So I baked a batch of muffins, dressed up to party with cinnamon streusel topping. These easy to toss together treats are tender pull-apart bites of grainy buckwheat sweetness studded with bits of tart rhubarb. A recipe perfect for brunch or afternoon tea.

Or Mother's Day!

XOX


How to Make Easy Gluten-Free Baguettes with a Baking Mix

How to use Pamela's gluten-free bread mix for easy French style baguettes.


Why do you always crave the things you can't have? 

Is it because desire dims upon acquisition? Is it the crusty chestnut that the chase is more interesting than the catch? Do we simply take for granted the things we hold, the things we use, the things we eat, day after day? Familiarity breeds perhaps not contempt but a subtle numbness. We slowly turn off to the everyday beauty, the generosity of the simple luxuries in our life. It seems to me a form of forgetting. A spiritual amnesia that coaxes us into believing we want what we don't have. And we neglect to appreciate what we do possess.

Which brings me, I'm sorry to say, not to any esoteric mystery, but. To bread.

Here's why. 

While I do - truly - appreciate (and have, for years) the convenience and kind-to-my-tummy nutrition that an organic brown rice cake offers me as a humble, gluten-impaired celiac, I frankly admit that it is difficult to conjure any semblance of passion, or for that matter, what I would describe as desire, for this go-to celiac snack food. Yes, these foamy chewy discs have saved my life on more than one occasion. Yes, I keep a bag of them in the car at all times. Just in case. And yes, I am grateful for their existence on this fragile planet.

But I have never daydreamed about rice cakes.

I have never painted Still Life with Rice Cake.

Or written a poem about one.

Though come to think of it, I have photographed a rice cake. In the car. With my iPhone.

It does sport a  certain beauty all it's own it. In its own quirky, ricey way.





But it's not a baguette. It's not a rustic, crusty, warm from the oven loaf of golden goodness. It doesn't go with wine. And it's not a good match with garlicky olive tapenade. So as much as my bruised and enlightened heart can embrace a rice cake and accept my gluten-free fate in a quasi-Zen go with the flow sorta way, there is a longing I have nurtured for the last eight gluten-free years. A deep, unfulfilled desire.

The truth is, Darling- I miss a long, slender, warm, fresh baguette.

Now don't get all Freudian on me. I'm still talking about bread here. And as far as bread goes, we gluten-free folks have much to appreciate. Even revel in. There's this recipe for delicious gluten-free bread. And this multigrain recipe with cornmeal kick to it. We're no longer as deprived as our earlier, last century celiac counterparts in the bread department. We can make cheese sandwiches.

But lately I've been dreaming of the continental culinary jewel known as the baguette. A mainstay in every student's romance repertoire (if you were an art student, especially; if you majored in accounting or football, the allure of a blanket, baguette, a bottle of wine and thou may not have blipped on your radar screen, and that's truly a shame and a deficit you ought to repair this very minute- go!). And not only dreaming. I've been actively craving an olive tapenade and the classic vehicle to smear it on.

So I experimented with what I had on hand- a bag of Pamela's baking mix. I could have mixed my own flours, it's true. But it was late in the day when the burning desire hit. And Yours Truly just wanted to whip up a pre-dinner rendezvous comestible.

To quench my unbridled yearning.


Gluten-Free Whole Grain Strawberry Muffins

Gluten-free Goddess Whole Grain Strawberry Muffins

Whole Grain Wheat-Free Muffins with Love.


I've been thinking about muffins. And not just any ordinary, ho-hum, run-of-the-mill, starchy, gluten-free muffins. Nope. A tender, whole grain, lower sugar, vanilla scented muffin that bursts with fresh strawberry flavor. Warm from the oven, these pleasantly grainy breakfast treats are pull-apart soft with juicy bites of strawberry. Sweet- but not too sweet.

I used pure maple syrup for the primary sweetener, and a mere two tablespoons of organic brown sugar. And now for the interesting part. I also experimented with no xanthan gum. This is highly unusual for me. I've usually rely on xanthan gum to give my gluten-free batter and dough the stretchability factor- a trait removed when I booted gluten from my kitchen and wished it vaya con dios. But inspired by Lauren, the Celiac Teen, I decided to try baking without it.

But here's the thing.

Shunning gluten is a complicated issue. Gluten imparts a flexibility to batter and dough, and baking without it can lead you to crumbly, gritty ruin if you're not careful. You're giving up protein. And you're giving up elasticity. And not only that, you're saying buh-bye to the toothsome texture you are accustomed to.

Reaching for xanthan gum was a quick fix, an immediate solution to this lack of flexibility problem. But many of you now report you don't want to use it. For some it's a price issue (xanthan gum ain't cheap, Darling). For others it's a digestive issue (xanthan gum or its alternative, guar gum, can be hard on sensitive digestion). And for some, it's an allergy issue (to mold or the growth medium, most often cornstarch).

Gluten-free baking without gums is tricky. This, I know. So my first foray into this venture is not vegan. I used two free-range organic eggs. Egg whites help give gluten-free batter that precious stretchability factor. And the protein factor. They bind, and they leaven.

My choice of flours reflects two things- what I had on hand this morning, and my desire to use whole grains (I am liking starches less and less). I picked hazelnut flour for the delightful nutty flavor and protein; millet, brown rice, and sorghum flour because they are whole grain and higher protein than white rice flour or potato starch; and I used coconut flour because it attracts moisture and adds a lovely texture to gluten-free baked goods (not to mention, for its high fiber status).

The result? A tasty, blog worthy success. I absolutely love these strawberry muffins.

And I hope you do, too!