Monday, August 07, 2006

Here I Go Again On My Own...

I realized something last night. I was in the mood for a treat, so I decided to make some brownies. I’ve made some gluten-free brownies before, but they were based on mashed black beans, not any sort of gluten-free flours. They are pretty tasty, but a little too gooey, and we like brownies gooey, so that’s saying a lot. That and it appears to be impossible to completely mash up the black beans, resulting in what appears to be chocolate chips mixed in -- somewhat bean-y chocolate chips, but chocolate chips. They bother Riley.

So I wanted to make some brownies using Jowar. I have a recipe from Dr. Fenster that I got off the internet several months ago, but have never tried. The batter was VERY thick, and the result was something that definitely tasted like brownies – not very good brownies. They were too cakey, salty, and dry. They might have seemed better if I’d been a celiac since the early 1970’s, and had forgotten what a real brownie tastes like, but my memory of good brownies was pretty fresh, and slightly offended.

I opened up my Purity Flour cookbook to look at an authentic brownie recipe and found that the flour, sugar and cocoa ratio was mostly the same. The recipe for the Fenster Special had twice the salt, a ½ tsp of baking powder that the Purity version didn’t (gosh, would that make it too cakey?) and one less egg.

It appears likely that my problems with the gluten-free recipe arose from deviations in the amounts of the non-gluten-free ingredients. What I mean is, the problem wasn’t the amount of xanthan gum; it wasn’t the amount or type of starch in the flour blend. It wasn’t a problem with any of the special adjustments you have to make when you are getting rid of the wheat flour. It was extra baking powder and not enough egg, which are problems that come from starting with a not very good recipe in the first place.

So why do I start with a gluten-free recipe at all? I often end up having to figure out what to change to make it into something I like anyway. Why don’t I just start with a wheat-based recipe that I am sure that I like, add what seems like the right amount of xanthan gum, and use a Jowar/starch mix in place of the flour. I don’t really trust that the amount of xanthan gum or the starch type/ratio in most of the internet gluten-free recipes are based on anything more that guesswork anyway, so starting with a wheat-based recipe doesn’t put me any further behind. Then I don’t have to go back and take out the baking powder that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

So from now on, when I need to make something I haven’t tried before, I am going to start with a regular, wheat-based recipe. At least then I know what I’m starting with.

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