Baking you can’t tell is gluten-free

For many people baking loses its appeal when they discover they cannot eat gluten. Yet they still yearn for fluffy cakes, fresh bread or pastries.

This is an edited extract from How to Bake Anything Gluten Free by Becky Excell, published by...
This is an edited extract from How to Bake Anything Gluten Free by Becky Excell, published by Quadrille.
But London-based food writer and IBS sufferer Becky Excell is on a mission to show that if you are gluten-free you can still turn your kitchen into your own personal bakery without the results tasting or looking like it’s ‘‘gluten-free’’.

‘‘Sharing my recipes over the last decade has made me realise that anybody can become an accomplished gluten-free baker.’’

Excell, inspired by what she experienced in European gluten-free bakeries, wanted to combat that feeling a gluten-free person gets when they walk into a bakery and realise they only have two options — the token gluten-free option or even worse nothing at all.

‘‘So I absolutely had to re-create the excitement that comes with tremendous variety and choice.’’

Excell also did not want her food to taste like it was gluten-free.

‘‘So naturally, every single bake in this book had to be utterly indistinguishable from its gluten-containing counterpart, with none of the dry, crumbly or dense textures that so often give gluten-free baking a bad name. Fortunately, that’s what I’ve always strived for anyway.’’

She strived for the ideal — being able to share a slice of cake with friends and family.

‘‘After all, if nothing tastes or looks gluten-free, muggles have no reason to turn their noses up at it, right? It’s definitely something I took for granted until I wasn’t able to do it any more and I never realised how much I truly missed it. So naturally, all the recipes in this book had to reach the point where, if you didn’t tell someone that your bake was gluten-free, they’d never even notice.’’

Her new book How to Bake Anything Gluten Free follows closely on the heels of last year’s book How to Make Anything Gluten Free which went to the top of many best-seller lists.

She hopes the new book helps those who are gluten-free feel confident in the knowledge they can re-create the simple joy of feeling ‘‘normal’’ whenever they like.

Even at Christmas. She includes a whole chapter dedicated to Christmas recipes.

‘‘Best of all I managed to do it without using tons of strange, unobtainable ingredients or a top-secret flour blend — I actually used a simple, commercial gluten-free flour blend from the supermarket for almost every single recipe.’’

Cinnamon rolls

Believe it or not, my cinnamon rolls are soft, oozing with a sticky cinnamon swirl and slathered with frosting (or a simple, quick glaze if you’d prefer). This is definitely not one to be rushed, but after a decade without even being able to eat one of these, a little chilling and proving time is nothing.

Makes 8 large or 16 small rolls

Ingredients

Low lactose: use lactose-free milk, lactose-free cream cheese and coconut milk powder.

Dairy-free: use dairy-free cream cheese (minimum 30% fat), dairy-free milk, a (hard) dairy-free alternative to butter and coconut milk powder.

Takes 1¼ hours

+ 4 hours chilling

+ 2½ hours proving


For the dough

350ml (1½ cups minus 2 tsp) warm milk

10g dried active yeast (ensure gluten-free)

170g (¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar, plus 15g

360g (2¾ cups) gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour

80g (½ cup) tapioca starch (ensure gluten-free), plus extra for dusting

50g skimmed milk powder

2 tsp xanthan gum

2 tsp gluten-free baking powder

15g psyllium husk powder (ensure gluten-free)

1 tsp cider vinegar

2 large eggs

165g (scant ¾ cup) butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing

For the filling

70g (⅓ cup) butter, very softened

90g (½ cup minus 2 tsp) light brown sugar

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

For a cream cheese frosting

30g (2 Tbsp) butter, softened

115g (½ cup) full-fat cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

200g (1½ cups) icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted

1 Tbsp milk

For a simple glaze

200g (1½ cups) icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted

1 tsp vanilla extract

2–4 Tbsp milk or water

Method

In a jug, stir together your warm milk, yeast and 15g of sugar. Allow to stand for 10 minutes until frothy.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together your flour, tapioca starch, milk powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, psyllium husk powder and remaining sugar until well combined. Add the vinegar, egg, melted butter and yeast mixture.

In a stand mixer fitted with a beater attachment, or using an electric hand whisk, mix on a high speed for 3-5 minutes until well combined.

It should look thick and sticky. Place in a clean bowl, cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours (or overnight) to completely chill (or chill in the freezer for 2-3 hours). After chilling, I check the dough’s internal temperature using a digital food thermometer — it usually gets down to about 8degC–13degC. This will ensure the dough is workable and no longer sticky.

Lightly grease a baking tin, about 28×18cm , or two 20cm round cake tins.

Place your chilled dough on a surface well dusted with tapioca starch. Knead until smooth then roll out to a rectangle 40cm×25cm and 5mm thick. Spread the softened butter all over your dough. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle this over the butter.

With a long side closest to you, cut the dough into 8 strips (for large rolls), or 16 (for small rolls). Roll each into a tight swirl and place in the tin(s), with a little room between each. If they won’t all fit, pop any extra in another tin. Cover and leave to prove in a warm spot (not too warm or the butter will melt) for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 160degC fan / 180degC. Bake for 35 minutes until golden. Halfway through baking, cover with foil (shiny-side up) if they’re getting too dark. While baking, prepare the frosting or glaze.

For cream cheese frosting, beat together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the icing sugar and mix well. Add enough milk to achieve a spreadable consistency.

To make a simple glaze, mix the icing sugar and vanilla together, then add enough milk or water so that it is smooth but thick and spreadable.

While the rolls are warm, spoon and spread the frosting on or drizzle over the glaze. Enjoy fresh and warm on the day that they’re baked or refresh in the microwave.

Bagels

You absolutely cannot beat a bagel topped with crunchy seeds, and a soft yet chewy texture that’s ready to be crammed full of your favourite fillings. And fortunately, with this recipe, being gluten-free doesn’t change that fact.

Makes 4–5

Takes 1 hour

+ 1 ½ hours proving

Ingredients

265ml (1 cup plus 2 Tbsp) warm water

10g (2½ tsp) caster (superfine) sugar

7g (¼ oz) dried active yeast (ensure gluten-free)

250g (2 cups) gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

35g (4½ Tbsp) tapioca starch (ensure gluten-free)

½ tsp xanthan gum

15g (½ oz) psyllium husk powder (ensure gluten-free)

1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

1 tsp salt

55g (4 Tbsp) butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

A little oil, for greasing

1 Tbsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

35ml (2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp) maple syrup

1 medium egg white

Poppy or sesame seeds, for sprinkling on the tops

Method

Put your warm water, sugar and yeast in a jug, then stir. Allow to stand for 10 minutes until it becomes nice and frothy.

In a large mixing bowl, mix your flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, psyllium husk powder, baking powder and salt until combined. Add the melted butter, vinegar and frothy yeast mixture and mix in until fully combined. It should create a fairly thick, sticky dough.

Transfer your dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film (plastic wrap). Leave to prove in a warm place for about 1 hour until noticeably increased in size.

Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment and lightly dust it with flour. Remove your dough from the bowl and place it on the sheet. Split the dough into 4-5 even portions and roll each piece into a ball. Use your thumb to make a 2.5cm hole in the middle. Space apart evenly, cover with cling film and leave to prove for 30 minutes.

Fill a large saucepan with water and place over a medium heat. Add the bicarb and maple syrup, then bring to the boil. At the same time, preheat your oven to 200degC fan / 220degC and line another baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment.

Add one bagel at a time to the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds, then flip and cook for another 30 seconds on the other side. Remove and drain any excess water before transferring to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all of your bagels.

Brush egg white over the top of each bagel, then sprinkle with your choice of seeds. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden and the bottom of each bagel sounds hollow when lightly tapped.

Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Enjoy sliced in half and toasted, or simply sliced with all of your favourite fillings.

Once cooled, store in an airtight container, or freeze for 2-3 months. If not eaten on the same day as baking, these can be refreshed in the microwave or oven.

Salted caramel cake

Does it get any better than this? The buttercream is infused with salted caramel and a little more of it (or a lot more if you’re me) drizzled on top goes a long way!

Makes 12 slices

Takes 1 hour + cooling

225g (1 cup) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

225g (1 cup plus 2 Tbsp) light brown sugar

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

225g (1¾ cups) gluten-free self-raising flour

1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

¼ tsp xanthan gum

For the salted caramel

125ml (½ cup) double (heavy) cream

½ tsp vanilla extract

125g (scant ⅔ cup) caster (superfine) sugar

75ml (5 Tbsp) water

Sea salt

For the salted caramel buttercream

200g (¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp) butter, softened

430g (3 cups) icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted

120g salted caramel (see above), plus 80g for drizzling

Method

Preheat your oven to 160degC fan / 180degC. Grease two 20cm round cake tins and line with non-stick baking parchment.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (I use an electric hand whisk or stand mixer for this). Add your eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition. Add your vanilla extract and mix that in too. Add your flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and mix until well combined.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two prepared tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and cooked through — check by poking a skewer into the middle — if it comes out clean, then they’re done.

Remove from the oven and leave the sponges in their tins for about 5 minutes before turning them out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the salted caramel. Mix the cream and vanilla extract together in a jug. Put the sugar and water into a large saucepan, ensuring the sugar is evenly spread across the base. Place over a medium heat and allow the sugar to dissolve and the mixture to bubble: under no circumstances must you stir it! Keep a careful watch over it, and when the mixture reaches an amber colour, which should take about 10 minutes, remove from the heat and slowly pour the cream into the pan, stirring constantly until well combined. Pour into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool completely, before stirring in a little sea salt to taste.

For the buttercream, I use a stand mixer, but an electric hand whisk will do the job just fine too. If making by hand, ensure you mix for longer, until everything is well combined.

Mix your butter on a medium speed for 5 minutes until it has turned a lot paler in colour. Add your icing sugar in two or three stages, beating for 3 minutes between each addition. Start your mixer slowly to avoid creating a mini icing sugar explosion, but then increase the speed to medium-high for each of your 3-minute mixing intervals. Add in 120g of your cooled salted caramel and mix until fully combined.

To assemble your cake, place one sponge on a serving plate and spread over half the buttercream. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of salted caramel on top of the buttercream. Place the other sponge on top and finish with a final layer of buttercream. Drizzle with more salted caramel, allowing some to drip down the sides too.

Tip: If you want to speed things up a bit, you can always use store-bought caramel that comes in 397g cans instead of making your own — just add a little salt to taste.

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