Friday, June 10, 2011

Whole Grain Blueberry Pecan Muffins with Ricotta Filling (Gluten-Free)

Here's the gluten-free muffins as promised - tender, moist, and flavorful. I am now a firm believer that gluten-free baking can work without gimmicks or difficult tricks, and be super tasty.

I relied on Gluten-Free Girl again to understand how to use the variety of gluten-free flours and starches that I've got in my cupboard. She's made gluten-free baking work without xanthan gum, or any other gum to provide binding in the baked goods, which is good news both for those who might be digestively sensitive to the gums or who would have a hard time finding them in the grocery stores.

Now that I've tried these, I fully believe what GFG says - gluten-free baking can produce lighter, better texture than gluten baking, because gluten can bind things up and weigh them down. That's why some recipes tell you not to over mix the batter - because the mixing action will create too much gluten and make a dense product.

You have a choice about the flours and starches you use in these muffins; GFG suggests keeping a supply of your own whole grain flour mix around, and provides a ratio of flour to starch (70/30) that you can use to create your own (I recommend reading her post linked above, it's much more thorough).

It is important to note that your baked goods will taste like the flours you choose; I was super curious about teff flour, so I mixed it with sweet sorghum and amaranth flours, with white rice flour as the starch and a few whole oats thrown in for texture. Teff turns out to have a fairly strong flavor (reminded me of a powdery buckwheat), so I would reduce the amount I would use of teff next time in proportion to the other flours, and probably choose another flour that does not have such a fine texture as the ones I chose. That being said, I still devoured four muffins as soon as they came out of the oven. Plus another one later - so, yeah, they turned out okay.

To make your own gluten-free flour mix, take 70% whole grain flours and mix with 30% starches.

Whole Grain Flours:
Brown Rice
Sweet Brown Rice

Potato Starch
Tapioca Flour
White Rice Flour

I also integrated a little advice from the Barefoot Contessa (incidentally, she is someone who I imagine never actually goes barefoot) who suggests greasing the tops of your muffin pans as well as the inside of the cups, to help you remove the muffins when they've cooled:

And I decided to make a ricotta filling for the muffins to use up some ricotta in the fridge, so I used the technique and amounts at this smittenkitchen recipe.

You can add any combination of nuts, dried or fresh fruits, or spices that you like - I went with frozen blueberries and pecans. The flavor of a lot of these flours is nutty, so the pecans were a good complement, and added nice texture.

It's possible to make the whole thing dairy-free too; just replace the buttermilk with almond or soy milk that you've curdled with 1 T apple cider vinegar, and eliminate the ricotta filling. GFG says that you can make them without eggs, but you'll have to see her instructions to see how to accomplish that.

Whole Grain Blueberry Pecan Muffins with Ricotta Filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin pan or two (with filling, my batter made 17 muffins).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together to combine and aerate:

350 g whole-grain flour mix
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
180 g brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt

In a separate bowl, whisk together:

2 eggs
1 1/4 C buttermilk*
1/3 C grapeseed oil

Use a rubber spatula to mix the wet ingredients into the dry. When they are almost fully combined, throw in any additions to you want (about a handful of chopped nuts and a handful of fruit will do; firm fruits may take longer to bake soft). Stir until all traces of flour are gone.

If you want the ricotta filling, combine:

1/2 C ricotta cheese (fat-free is fine)
6 T Greek yogurt or sour cream
pinch salt

Fill each muffin well 1/3 full with batter, plop 1 T of ricotta filling on the batter, then cover with more batter until the well is 3/4 full. The muffins will rise, but not like crazy, so you don't have to worry if the wells are close to full.

Bake about 25-35 minutes, until muffins are browned, the tops spring back to touch, and a knife comes out clean.

*Buttermilk may always be replaced by regular or soy/almond milk that has been curdled with apple cider vinegar. The proportion is 1 T vinegar to 1 C milk; just dump the vinegar in the milk before you set up the rest of your ingredients and pans, and it will be ready when you need it.

*** I'd like to note that the best whole grain combination I've come up with so far was a mix of cornmeal and almond meal for the whole grain flours, and corn starch for the starch. Great texture and taste!

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