By Isaac Delamatre, Food Service Coordinator
We first experimented with this recipe a week ago and it impressed us. Usually gluten-free foods are sandy in texture, crumbly, and are generally lacking structure and flavor. Vegan baked goods tend to be similar, only dry, and often remind me of chalk.
This tragedy is mostly due to the lack of fats present in many of these products, as well as the absence of gluten, which maintains form and structure. Fats, usually in the form of butter, milk, lard, or shortening provide baked goods with rich flavors, moistness, and delicate textures. Gluten maintains the integrity of the general structure of the baked good. It is what enables gases, created by the chemical reactions caused by baking soda and heat, to be trapped and leaven the product. After baking the gluten becomes ridged and the structure remains. This is called rise.
Though we are faced with significant challenges in creating acceptable baked goods without fats or glutens, engineering a tasty muffin without the use of animal fats is not as bad as it first seems. Olive oil (not extra virgin, as its flavor is too assertive) will be a fine replacement. You can also use coconut oil or any other non-animal oil you prefer.
To address the gluten dilemma, we boost the binding power of the batter by adding a ground flax and water mixture at a ratio of 1:3 (a gummy mess that is a fantastic replacer for eggs), and we simply use flours that are suitable for a gluten-free diet—in this case, Teff and brown rice.
Teff is a small grain that is primarily grown in Ethiopia. It is very nutritious, containing many vitamins and minerals, and it enjoys the distinction of being the world’s smallest cereal grain. Teff, rice flour, and flax can be purchased where ever Bob’s Red Mill products are sold, usually at any grocery store that cares about what they are doing or specialty health food stores.
At the end of the experiment, we ended up with some dense, moist muffins with very good flavor. The students responded by devouring all of them within two service periods. It is a recipe we will be repeating.
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup Teff flour
- ¾ cup brown rice flour
- ½ cup corn starch (non-GMO)
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tbsp. ground flax meal mixed with 6 tbsp. water
- ⅓ cup olive oil or preferred fat
- ⅔ cup water
- ½ cup chopped walnuts or any chopped nut or dried fruit
- Preheat your oven to 400˚F.
- Grease up your muffin tin (use olive oil if you want to keep the muffins vegan).
- Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls.
- Gradually add the wet to the dry, mixing constantly until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
- Portion the batter into the greased muffin pan and bake for about 25 minutes.