Saturday, August 1, 2009

Gluten-Free Baking, Take One

Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake

I've always been a better cook than I am a baker. I'm not very good at measuring precisely, and recipes are more like general guidelines to me. Perhaps this is why I never excelled in chemistry. I much prefer cooking, where I can taste as I go and season as the mood strikes me. The only reason I bake, really, is because I love to eat what I make. Unfortunately, gluten-free baking is kind of like advanced chemistry. Every ingredient is essential for a different reason, and getting the amounts correct makes a huge difference. Now that I've rejoined the gluten-free world, and this time for good, I have to learn the science behind gluten-free goodies.

To start, I picked a couple of recipes I wanted to try and headed to the gluten free mall where I ordered a medley of flour alternatives (potato starch, sorghum flour, corn meal, and the essential xantham gum). My package arrived only two days later, and I happily planned my first gluten-free baking expedition.

I hurried home from work today, excited to make gluten-free cinnamon rolls. I found a scrumptious looking recipe at I Am Gluten Free, and armed with my potato starch and xantham gum, began measuring away. I followed the recipe almost exactly, making only two changes. I brushed the rolled dough with melted butter before adding the filling (because that's what my mom does). And for the filling, I used half white sugar, half brown sugar instead of all brown. But aside from that, I did everything as the recipe called for. At least I think. As I said, precise measurements are not exactly my forte.

My first clue that I had messed up somewhere came when I tried to cut the rolls and place them in the pie dish. They were too mushy and kept falling apart. It quickly became clear that it wasn't going to work. I considered just eating all the batter and pretending it had never happened. (Just kidding! Well, actually I did think about it, but the thought was fleeting). I ended up putting the whole batch of dough in the pan together and smoothing it over with a knife. Goodbye cinnamon rolls. Hello coffee cake!

It turned out the texture was more like that of coffee cake anyway, so it all worked out in the end. I didn't learn how to make cinnamon rolls, but now I know how to make a great cinnamon walnut coffee cake!

This gluten-free baking thing is going to take a lot of practice, but overall I'm pretty satisfied with my first try at it. I won't be attempting this recipe again any time soon because it's very calorie dense and should really only be made once a year (as my mom only makes her cinnamon rolls once a year, for Christmas). But I'll have to try it again before Christmas. I'm determined to have gluten-free cinnamon rolls to eat on Christmas morning!

And in the meantime, I'll be experimenting with gluten-free bread and learning to expand my gluten-free meal repertoire.


Brian said...

This looks pretty good for your first GF baking attempt. No one would be the wiser if you hadn't said that this was supposed to be cinnamon rolls instead of coffee cake :)

LucindaSarina said...

Thanks Brian. You're right, but I figured I might as well tell the truth. :)

paco said...

it tastes delicious. really good dessert, nice and rich, a good amount of that it doesn't just flake apart like most gluten free baked goods. just sad that you said its so calorie dense. oh well, my belly still appreciated it.

LucindaSarina said...

Thanks Paco. Glad you enjoyed it, despite the calorie density.

Grace said...

Im hungry over here in LA...cake for little sisters too...?

I Am Gluten Free said...

Hi Lucinda,

Ellen here (you got the cinnamon roll recipe from my blog)! I'm trying to imagine what might have gone wrong when you tried to cut the dough into pieces. I can't believe that the sugar change would've made that happen so I can only imagine that the fact that you brushed melted butter onto the dough might've contributed to them falling apart. The dough is definitely fragile to begin with so I'm thinking that the extra wet factor from the butter might've been what unglued them. What do you think? I like the fact that you didn't give up and ended up with a delicious coffee cake. Sounds like a good way to make the recipe!

LucindaSarina said...


That seems like a possibility. I'll try it without the butter next time. Thanks for the recipe though! It was delish!


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