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Gluten Free Ratio Rally – Brown Butter Apple Spice Quick Bread

April 6, 2011

I’m technologically challenged. Yeah. It sucks big time.

This blogging thing is a major passion for me, but it is tough. I didn’t realise just how technologically challenged I was until I got involved in the Gluten Free Ratio Rally.

Here in my own little space I can hide it. It’s just you and I. I deal with all the behind the scenes technological nightmares on my own and I get to present you with the bright and shiny result. But when you’re working together with others to produce the bright and shiny it’s a lot harder to hide your faults.

I’m that annoying person who you thought knew something but in fact knows a whole lot less and will panic and mail you with dozens of stupid questions related or unrelated to the situation at hand. I’m just slightly neurotic. Sometimes its hard to keep a lid on the crazy. But the more I learn the easier it gets. Perhaps someday things will be bright and shiny behind the scenes to.

Whether that’s true or not, you never stop learning. Putting technology aside, in the past few weeks I have learned more about gluten-free baking than in the 7 months I have been gluten-free. You can only learn so much on your own. Eventually you’ll need the input of others to move forward.

That’s what the Gluten Free Ratio Rally is about for me. Learning from others and becoming better so you can, in turn, help others.

It’s also about ratios. With the risk of sounding dramatic… ratios have changed my life. They free you from the limitations of recipes and allow your creativity to shine through. As long as you know the ratios you can bake just about anything.

This month’s challenge was hosted by Silvana Nardone of Silvana’s Kitchen. She chose quick breads. The general ratio from Rhulman is 2:2:1:1, flour:liquid:egg:fat by weight. There are a few other vital ingredients not included in the ratio due to the way the amounts vary from recipe to recipe.

You need a raising agent for instance. Baking powder or bicarbonate of soda would do the trick, but which one you use depends on the other ingredients in the recipe. Bicarb needs an acid to react with in order to produce the rise you need. When using bicarb, buttermilk is a good liquid to use as it contains the necessary acid. Other common forms of acid to use in baking are lemon juice, vinegar or cream of tartar. A small amount of either of these would work well. If you’re using baking powder then you don’t need to worry about any of that. The amount of raising agent you use depends on the amount of rise you want from your quick bread. I find that I need to use less raising agent when making muffins than I need to use when making a loaf, especially if I’m using flax/chia seeds in the recipe. A good rule of thumb is 1 tsp/5 ml/5 g baking powder or bicarb for every 4 oz./110 g flour.

Another varying ingredient is sugar. Are you making a savoury or sweet quick bread? If you’re making a sweet one, sugar is vital. But people are different and the other ingredients in the recipe will also determine the amount of sugar to use. A good rule of thumb for sugar in quick breads is to use the same amount of sugar as fat. Use that as a starting point and look at the other ingredients. If there are other ingredients in the recipe that are high in sugar then you’ll need to reduce the amount of sugar you put in.

Salt is also vital as it brings out the flavours of other ingredients. Use about 1/2 tsp/ 2.5 ml /3 g salt for every 4 oz./110 g flour.

When using gluten-free flours you need some kind of binder to hold the mixture together. Xanthan Gum is one of the most well-known “gluten replacements” used in gluten-free baking these days. Another product is Guar Gum, which is a vegetable gum similar to xanthan gum. The gums however, have certain drawbacks. They tend to give a rubbery texture to some baked goods and it is becoming more widely known that they can have adverse affects on the digestive system. In larger amounts, gums can be used as laxatives, so some people who eat a lot of baked goods made with gums have been known to suffer bad effects. Another option which is being explored more and more is using flax/chia seed as a binder in gluten-free baking. Shauna from Gluten Free Girl and The Chef recently wrote a post about this which seems to have sparked off a revolution. Her view, and one I’ve come to agree with, is that a lot of baked goods, such as muffins, cookies etc. can do without a binder. For those that can’t, such as yeast breads and larger cakes, flax/chia seed can provide the binding and lift needed. There’s still a lot of experimenting left to do before we understand it’s uses for gluten-free baking completely, but it is proving to be an effective and healthy binder. It also adds lift and a fluffy texture to baked goods. A good rule of thumb to use as a starting point is to add as much ground flax or chia seed as you would xanthan gum, mixed and gelled with 2 – 3 times as much boiling water. But different recipes will need different amounts and that’s where the experimenting comes in. In my (limited) experience with this, I found about 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground flax/chia for every 1 cup/125 g flour seems to work well for quick breads.

After you’ve got the basics down, go wild. What flours do you want to use? That’s where us gluten-free people get to have a bit of fun. Plain wheat flour is well, just plain. Gluten free flours each have their own character. They all have different tastes and textures. Do you use milk, buttermilk or substitute some out for juice? White sugar, brown sugar or honey? Butter, or one of the many oils that are available? Don’t forget the fold ins. Chocolate chips, blueberries, apple compote, chopped nuts, etc. There are so many different combinations you can use.

I was thinking apples for this one when my mom walked in the door with a box of the biggest apples I have ever seen in my life. If that’s not a sign what is? I decided to use the basic ratio for the first try on a loaf and see if it needed tweaking from there. The result was quite dense towards the middle of the loaf but still had wonderful flavour. I didn’t think the ratio needed tweaking but I knew muffins would make this recipe shine. And they did. Soft and fluffy with good rise, a nice crunch from the toasted pecans and a burst of tartness from the apple pieces.

I strongly urge you to give baking with ratios a try. All you need is a scale (ratios work better by weight), a bit of perseverance and some creativity. It is so worth it.

Brown Butter Apple Spice Muffins with Pecan Nut Struesel:

  • 67 g/2.4 oz. brown rice flour
  • 67 g/2.4 oz. millet flour
  • 67 g/2.4 oz. white rice flour
  • 67 g/2.4 oz. tapioca flour
  • 67 g/2.4 oz. potato flour
  • (OR 335 g gluten-free flour mix of your choice)
  • 10 g/2 tsp baking powder
  • 5 g/1 tsp salt
  • 3 g/1 tsp ground flax or chia seeds
  • 15ml/1 tbsp boiling water
  • 100 g/3.5 oz. dark brown sugar
  • 40 g/1.4 oz. castor (superfine) sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of mixed spice
  • 335 ml/12 oz. milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170 g/6 oz. butter
  • 200 g/7.1 oz. apple compote
  • about a handful of chopped pecan nuts

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Place muffin liners into a muffin pan and set aside.

Place the butter into a small saucepan and heat over high heat until melted. Continue heating, stirring frequently, until the butter begins to brown. (You will start to see little flecks of brown) Continue until you have a nice brown colour without it being too brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Sift together the flours and baking powder. Add the sugars, spices and salt and whisk to combine.

Place the ground flax/chia seeds in a small bowl and add the boiling water. Stir to combine and leave to gel for 2 – 3 minutes.

Whisk together the milk, eggs and browned butter in a medium bowl.  Add the flax/chia mixture to the wet ingredients and whisk to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until completely moistened and combined.

Fold in the apple compote.

Fill the muffin cups to about 3/4 full, sprinkle with chopped pecans and bake for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are golden brown and spring back when pressed lightly with your finger tips.

Cool on a cooling rack.

Be sure to check out everyone’s creations as their posts go up today… Visit Silvana’s Kitchen for the list of links.


34 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2011 8:06 am

    Great post Robyn and so happy you joined the rally! Love the flavors you chose too – ha it’s funny, I’ve made quickbreads without adding an extra binding agent and they’ve come out great, but then when I was making these it was just a habit to toss in a little guar gum – I need to be more comfortable with only using it when I really need it…

    • April 6, 2011 8:18 am

      Hey Jenn,Thanks! :) lol. I’m the same, the gum comes out of the baking cupboard with everything else. But I’m so excited about not using them as I found they have been affecting me!

  2. April 6, 2011 12:25 pm

    Your post is really nice, and those muffins just want me to bite into them. It’s one of the great counterpart of the GF Ratio Rally to get to discover such blogs as yours. Thanks :)

    • April 6, 2011 1:40 pm

      Thanks Flo! It’s great to become part of a gluten free community such as this. I’m looking forward to learning a lot from everyone!

  3. April 6, 2011 3:07 pm

    Oh, these muffins are gorgeous! I’ve got some extra apples, will have to try this!

  4. Gluten Free Canteen permalink
    April 6, 2011 5:42 pm

    Robyn – those looks amazing. Your photos are beautiful! I’ve given up on the gums, too and love chia/flax seed mush. Works great. And anything with pecans on it, I’m so there! Yum.

  5. April 6, 2011 8:40 pm

    I always use an existing recipe as a base when I am creating something new and I’m not a gluten free baker but the ratio information is so useful it inspires me to get in the kitchen and start experimenting, thank you!

    • April 6, 2011 10:09 pm

      Edible Rose I am so glad to hear that! :) Luckily the Ratios work for both Gluten-full and Gluten-free baking.

  6. April 7, 2011 5:40 am

    Wow, these look so fantastic, and what a perfect way to use those apples. I’m glad you discussed the chia/flax seed combo and the lack of gums. I was reading Jenn’s comment above and I totally do the same thing – the xanthan gum comes out on the table with the baking powder and salt automatically. But I need to experiment more with gum-less baking – you’ve inspired me!

    • April 7, 2011 12:13 pm

      I’m so glad! We should all be striving to use the best ingredients for our bodies, can’t wait to see how your experiments go!

  7. April 7, 2011 5:56 am

    Math is hard.

  8. April 7, 2011 5:19 pm

    Your muffins look wonderful! Glad to have you rallying with us. :)

    • April 7, 2011 9:34 pm

      Thanks Britt :) I’m so amped about the rally, it has been amazing to meet so many new people and to learn from everyone!

  9. April 8, 2011 3:55 am

    Those look wonderful. I need to find me some millet flour.

  10. April 9, 2011 5:54 am

    What a wonderfully informative, inspiring post! I wish I was having one of your muffins for breakfast tomorrow. By the way, that really is a crazy huge apple, and your photos are gorgeous. :)

    • April 9, 2011 7:00 am

      Thanks Tara :) I have no idea where those apples came from… weird…

  11. April 9, 2011 1:38 pm

    Mmmmm brown butter spice with apples…I’m lovin’ it! Such a great recipe. Enjoy your weekend and happy to be a part of this GF Rally with you!

  12. kro22 permalink
    April 10, 2011 1:28 am

    They look gorgeous, very inspiring.

  13. mcrseattle permalink
    April 10, 2011 9:08 am

    I’ve recently stopped using gums and actually haven’t noticed any difference at all. I’m happy so see your discussion of it – we need to get the word out! Love your combination of brown butter and apple – so yum!

    • April 10, 2011 11:55 pm

      I agree, It’s important to be able to make informed decisions about whether or not to use these things, even though they’re not bad for some. Besides the digestive system thing, the texture difference in some baked goods is phenomenal. It’s exciting stuff!

  14. April 12, 2011 4:05 am

    I really like your recipes, so I couldn’t go without subscribing.
    Waiting for more nice post.
    Thank you

  15. Melissa Lombard permalink
    April 13, 2011 9:39 pm

    Nicely done Robyn! Now how would we convert this into a savoury muffin? I seem to have more and more gluten intolerant friends and when baking/cooking for them I’d like to be considerate of their restrictions.

    • April 14, 2011 8:14 am

      Hey Mel! To convert to a savoury muffin, just use the amounts for ingredients, but leave out the sugar, apples and spices. You can increase the salt if you like, and you can use canola, olive oil or regular butter in place of the brown butter (Direct substitution). Then add a handful of what ever chopped, fresh herbs you want to, and a handful of chopped ham/bacon etc. Basically what ever you like! I usually just go by the handful with add-in’s. Cheese is nice to. Hope that helps!


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