Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gluten Free Gingerbread

      I've been craving gingerbread for the last couple weeks.  I like gingerbread, but there are so many things I like more that I don't usually crave it.  Blame it on the cooling weather.    I browsed my current list of gluten-free resources, but didn't find anything that struck my fancy - or fit the ingredients that live in my pantry.  Almond flour sounds like a really lovely thing to work with, but its expensive; and I really didn't want to have to grind half a cup of six different flours just to make a snack.  I'm willing (occasionally) to admit it: I'm lazy.  So I grabbed my kitchen notebook - that I should have been recording gluten-free experiments in all along - and decided to try adapt the gingerbread recipe I tried earlier this spring.  Would you like to join me?

     Here we have our assembled cast of characters . . . . minus Sugar and Boiling Water.  (Sugar was late that day and Water was too busy working at boiling to grace us for the Cast Photo.)  My kitchen notebook was hosting the party - one page full of the original recipe from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, and one page ready for all my experimental notes.
  Grease (I opted not to flour) one 9 inch baking pan and we were set to get our two bowls out: one for the dry ingredients and one for the wet.  We'll start with dry, since they are far less complicated.

      Since I'm stubbornly sticking to the whole gluten free theory (which occasionally shows up in my dreams - not good!) I changed the 2 1/2 cups of regular flour for the same amount of an all-purpose gluten free mix.  Which I am waiting for permission to post here so y'all know what that is.  But for now, we'll keep going.  On top of the flour I dumped:
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp powdered ginger
approximately 1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger, just because I could

      Originally the recipe called for 1/2 cup butter.  But we only just restocked that lovely ingredient (there are so many things that just taste better when made with butter) and I was a bit gun-shy of running out again.  So I used 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup coconut oil.  (Shh!!  Don't tell Sharpi or Chickadee!)  That went in the bowl and I moved on to the next ingredient, which was our late Sugar. 
Whoa Nellie!  It calls for a cup??  For that small pan?  Phfff!  Forget that.  One of the on-going debates in my house is neatly labeled "How Much Sugar is Too Much", and the lines that have been drawn in the proverbial sand are deep and immovable.  Sharpi and Chickadee  have what I consider Liberal Views on the subject; they view my opinions with suspicion, especially when I started  griping that milk tasted too sweet and stopped drinking it.  (It was suggested that somebody was pouring sugar into the milk pitcher in an attempt to sabotage the no-sugar rule, but I wasn't the one who said so.)  I'm not completely anti-sugar - yet - but a cup definitely seemed like a ridiculous amount.  So I cut it back to 3/4 cup.  (I would like it known that I wanted to cut that silly cup in half, but I didn't in the interests of diplomatic relations.  Points please!)

      Here we beat that sugar and butter/coconut oil until light and fluffy.  Once that is done we add two eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Next: pour in 3/4 cup molasses . . . feel free to lick the spoon of lingering yummy-ness when you're done. 
      Now, if you looked closely at the cast of characters, you might have noticed an additional ingredient that one doesn't usually associate with Gingerbread.  Unless your mum buys black-strap molasses, like mine does.  Black-strap molasses is pretty strong and would have no trouble covering up the spice in this cake, so I thinned mine with some brown rice syrup (I think the ratio was about 1/4 cup rice syrup and 1/2 cup molasses - I was kind-of making it up as I went).  Once you get the molasses beat into your mixture, very carefully add 3/4 cup of the boiling water.  I would really recommend using a hand whisk to mix that in - an electric mixer has a tendency to spit that hot molasses tainted liquid all around the kitchen . . . . ahem, lets move on, shall we?
      Once you get all that mixed up, you can dump in your bowl of dry ingredients and mix it up until well blended.  This is the part where it would have been really helpful to have someone mixing a batch of normal (read gluten inclusive) batch of this recipe with me.  I knew from previous experience that whole wheat flour absorbs water differently than white flour; and through the gluten free experiment I'm seeing learning that the same rule applies for various whole grains - rice doesn't absorb the same amount of liquid as, say, sorgum or oatmeal.  So when I mixed in my all-purpose gluten-free flour mix the batter was really, really runny.  But I plowed on.  Or poured on, if you prefer.

      Halfway through my pour the little voice inside - aka, the Baker's Conscience - started vigorously waving a little red flag that said, "Too much batter for that pan!"  And I listened.  I've had several baking efforts result in reeking, charred messes in the bottom of our oven because the batter Vesuvius-ed out of its baking tin.  And I have no desire to repeat those epic failures.  So I filled my pan halfway and poured the rest of the batter into paper lined muffin tins.  Which begs the interesting question: the recipe originally specified a 9 inch square pan, and I'm pretty sure round versus square won't make half-the-batter difference.  Did pans have taller sides when The Fanny Farmer Cookbook was originally published?  I digress . . . .
      I slid the pans into an oven preheated at 350 F and sat back to wait.
      The smaller pan sizes meant I had to adjust bake-time, but it seemed to work fairly well.  After about ten minutes in the oven the batter was rising nicely; after fifteen minutes it was starting to look like normal gingerbread.  At 22 minutes, the mini gingerbreads were done: at 27 the cake was done. 

   Looks fairly normal . . . . . smells fairly normal.  I think this might have worked.  Wooo-hoo! Smiley   
      Taste tests also proved quite satisfactory, though I don't think anyone would have gone so far as to say, "perfect gingerbread - don't do anything different next time."  The texture was very nice - moist and flavorful, but a little too light.  It made for a little crumbling in the 9 inch cake, so I think if I repeat this experiment, I'll add a little chia meal to the flour as a binding agent.  For some reason the minis didn't have the crumby factor, so they were closer to what I wanted.  Though I still would like a denser cake.

      It isn't quite perfect, but it came close.  And it tasted good, which isn't as easy as it sounds in the world of Gluten-Free.  Mmmm . . . that was tasty . . . .
      Any favorite gingerbread tricks or spice combinations you want to share for my next experiment?


  1. Thanks for the recipe.
    Elizabeth M.

  2. You're welcome Elizabeth! Judging from the baked goods that have come out of your kitchen, I'm pretty sure you probably have a better recipe. (Your mom's ginger cookies are AMAZING!) :) Hopefully you never have a reason to NEED the GF adaptations. :)
    God bless,
    Irish Rose