Isn't it great when you learn something new? It's funny that when you're younger, you so want to seem that you know what's going on, that it's almost impossible to say, “Hey, I didn't know that.” Well … it's pretty awesome to be a little older and admit that you're not so wise! I recently learned something new about gluten-free baking.
I have always assumed that the sour taste of my batters was due to the use of xanthan gum. Cybele Pascal, allergen-free cook extrodinaire, told me that the sour taste was probably due to the gluten-free flour I was using, and not the xanthan gum. I put her theory to the test today.
The gals from The Last Crumb Bakery gave me some samples of their Cheatin' Wheat Gluten-free Flour Mix when we were at the Gluten-free Cooking Expo to try. When I'm trying a new product, I like to use it in a tried and true recipe. I don't have a more reliable recipe than my chocolate cake from our upcoming Welcoming Kitchen cookbook (out next spring). I mixed it up using the Cheatin' Wheat flour instead of the flour that I usually use. The one I usually use includes bean flour as part of the flour mix. This one is bean-free. I have to say that the batter did taste better. The cake tasted good, too (although it tastes great with the bean-blend flour, too). It definitely had a lighter texture than other flours that I've tried.
The thing that I've learned over the past several years of cooking allergen-free is that you can't expect your recipes to taste the same as traditional recipes. That holds true for both the batter and the finished product. More importantly, though, I not only believe -- I KNOW -- that you can make absolutely scrumptious foods that are safe for almost everyone. The great thing about the increased availability of products for the special-diets market is that there are so many quality options. Whether you need a gluten-free flour mix that is bean-free, corn-free or something else, there are good things to try.
So … even if it's ok to lick the spoon (and if it's egg-free, and the flour doesn't taste sour before it's cooked, you can), you still need to be prepared for the weirdness of xanthan gum. It will still make your hands and counters slimy if it gets wet. Just be sure to clean it up well, and know that it's helping your baked goods hold together spectacularly.
Kim and Megan