The Right Foot

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

This was the perfect Daring Bakers challenge for our family’s transition to a gluten-free, casein-free diet this month, and rather than loaves, I made a whole bunch of muffins. We eased into the dietary changes slowly, omitting only dairy for the first two weeks, so my first few quick breads still contained gluten. First up, shown above, was a batch of cornbread muffins, sweet and moist, loaded with healthy fats from coconut milk. Although the Bob’s Red Mill medium-grind cornmeal I had on hand made these muffins grittier than I prefer, they were so fluffy and moist—and not overtly redolent of coconut—that I might not go back to using buttermilk or sour cream in my cornbread even if given the chance!

It was surprisingly, and somewhat dishearteningly, difficult to find recipes that omitted only casein. Everything either emphasized vegan or gluten-free, or both gluten-free and casein-free, or every-possible-allergen-free. Since we were already losing the nutritional profile of dairy, I certainly didn’t want to remove eggs from the equation also. I chose to make banana muffins first, so I just substituted freshly made clarified butter for the regular butter in this recipe; coconut oil (or probably a nut oil like walnut) would have also worked nicely here.

Nolan loved the banana muffins and devoured almost the whole batch singlehandedly, so I made a second batch with a slightly different approach: grain-free, casein-free muffins with coconut flour. I even made half the batch with walnuts for eating at home, and the other half with just chocolate chips for taking to preschool as snacks. (One of the kids in Nolan’s class has a peanut allergy, so they really cracked down on making all snacks peanut- and tree nut-free, which is unfortunate because he loves all sorts of nuts and nut butters, and I’d love to experiment more with almond flour.) I didn’t get a photo of the batch, but Nolan seemed to think they were alright, although after eating a few, he mostly just cracked into them to pick out the chocolate chips.

After two weeks without dairy, we also removed gluten from Nolan’s diet. According to the peptides test we had done last fall, he had a much stronger response to casein than to gluten, so this hasn’t been an overly traumatic experience so far (she says a week into the process). To keep things easy on myself, I used the Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour mix to start out, and selected a recipe for pumpkin muffins with coconut flour streusel since Nolan (and everyone else I know!) is a streusel-lover. I thought these tasted good, but Nolan didn’t like them, probably because the streusel wasn’t mega-crunchy and sort of melded into the top of the muffins. They also seemed to dry out rather quickly, which problem I have never had with a pumpkin muffin before.

Finally, I couldn’t let a month of quick-bread muffins go by without trying some zucchini muffins. For two years now, I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making zucchini muffins from dehydrated zucchini shreds, and I finally got to it! I soaked the dehydrated shreds for about 15 minutes in some coconut milk tonic (basically coconut milk thinned for drinking), but the next goal is to try making a recipe that just uses them dry; an overnight soaked batter would be ideal!

Double-Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

My gluten-free flour blend here was 70% (brown rice, sorghum, buckwheat, and oat flours; in descending order by weight) and 30% (tapioca, potato, and arrowroot starches; in descending order by weight); I made a large batch and shook it all up before scooping out one cup for the recipe. Also, if you want to make these muffins with freshly shredded zucchini, the original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of shreds and no coconut milk.

3/4 C dried zucchini shreds (equivalent to 2 C fresh), covered with enough coconut milk to equal 1 C
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 drops liquid stevia, optional
1 C gluten-free flour blend
2 T coconut flour (optional; use 1 T at a time to thicken batter if necessary)
1/2 C cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C coconut sugar
1/2 C coconut oil, melted
1/2 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F and line your cupcake tin with papers or silicone cups. Mix together the dehydrated zucchini with the coconut milk in a liquid measuring cup and allow to soak until the zucchini has softened. Stir eggs, vanilla, and liquid stevia into this mixture.

In a large bowl, combine flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar.

Dump the liquid ingredients over the dry, along with the melted coconut oil, and stir to combine; stir in the chocolate chips and dish about 1/4 C of batter into each of 12 muffin cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Source: Adapted from Vegancraftastic.

So, some new favorites and some—let’s say, yet-to-be-appreciated—muffins: all in all, a gentle introduction to the somewhat intimidating world of dairy-free and gluten-free baking. So, thanks so much, Lis, for getting me off on the right foot!

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