I have made a few attempts at focaccia; some are too bready, some are heavy and it has been rather disappointing. Until now! I just made a great focaccia last week; so fluffy yet crisp on outside and with delicate crumb, really light and a delightful flavor. It is topped with fresh rosemary, grated parmesan cheese, kosher salt and fresh black pepper. I am crazy for it! Best the first day; maybe freeze the leftovers? It does reheat nicely. It makes 2 so you can do 2 12 inch breads or make pizza out of the second half. I have my half in the fridge; making pizza shortly.
Here are the ingredients if you want to make sure you have them on hand. I had this flour in my freezer but since last week I made a new batch; easy enough if you have a good scale. I love mine; can do grams or ounces and it will zero off the container you put the flour in which is super helpful. This is definitely a white bread flour. I think you could sub in a bit of brown rice flour; it wouldn’t be quite so fluffy but that would add more flavor to the breads you make with it.
This week I discovered an old college friend has suddenly developed an allergy to wheat and to gluten. When his wife tried to bake gluten free using xanthan gum, he hated the after taste he noticed (I personally have never noticed that phenom but it sure could be so!) and guar gum made him break out in a nasty rash. She loves to bake and just was dismayed with a number of recipes she tried. Terrible texture and heavy especially without the gum. Generally disheartening. I decided immediately that I had to help them out. So after some research here are a few of my ideas, resources and general thoughts to help them.
Of course I wanted to help them out; I love a good challenge and to help friends is a true joy. So, I looked in my cookbook collection last night and discovered that my book by Nancy Cain titled “against the grain” is chock full of gluten free recipes that have no xanthan or guar gum in them. I haven’t made many of her recipes but I think they could work well for my friend. Bonus points as she takes a rather natural approach to baking gf and I am all for natural foods.
My second cookbook choice is “The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, Volume 2” by America’s Test Kitchen. This book contains two gf flour blends neither of which has a gum in them. I have made several recipes from it and can say they are tasty and worth making again. Not all the recipes avoid gums but they mostly use a tiny amount; ¼ of a teaspoon. I feel this could be replaced by several choices.
For that I did a search and found this: bakingkneads.com/substitutes-for-xanthan-gum-in-baking/ by Sarah. This is a wonderful post and I highly recommend you visit it. Here is a brief summary: you can use chia seeds softened in water, egg whites, cornstarch, konjac powder, agar -agar and flax seeds mixed with water (the flax seed “egg”). For cornstarch you use the same amount as a gum. For the flax seed or chia “egg” I believe it is a tablespoon of chia and 2 tablespoons of hot water. Let it stand about 5 minutes. You can grind the seeds up if you want a smooth mixture as whole seeds can definitely add texture or pop to your bread. I can’t wait to try a few of these ideas out. I have used the flax seed egg in the past and it works okay in a cake. I think it would work better in a whole grain bread which would more disguise the seedy texture and flavor.
Another cookbook I like is “Gloriously gluten-free cookbook) by Vanessa Maltin. It focuses on three cuisines: Italian, Asian and Mexican. The red velvet mochi cupcakes with ginger buttercream icing recipe looks amazing and no gum. There are dozens of gorgeous sounding ethnic recipes. I am wondering why I haven’t cooked from it lately!
I constantly use Annalise Robert’s book: “Gluten-Free Baking Classics” I feel you could use one of those six substitutes I mention and alter her recipes to make them gum free. She uses a simple flour blend of 3 flours but you can buy it too; it is King Arthur’s Basic Gluten Free Flour. There is no xanthan gum in it. I is comprised of brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. Has a nice “wheaty” taste to the pie crusts she shares. I won’t make any other pie crust. I get a lot of complements on it. A suggestion from fb; add cinnamon to your baked goods to hide the taste of xanthan gum. I actually do that for a number of my recipes; will do it even more now that I am thinking on it.
Two more choices are “Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking” by Kelli and Peter Bronski and “‘The Gluten-Free Table” by Jilly and Jessie Lagasse. Most of the Lagasse sister’s recipes are naturally gf recipes, there is some use of xanthan but now armed with my knowledge of several gum replacements I feel I could make them gum free successfully. Ditto with enthusiasm for the Bronski book. It is chock full of interesting and mouthwatering ideas. Definitely work the look and maybe the buy!
I buy a lot of gf items at Aldi’s and sometimes Trader Joe’s or Wegmans. Aldi’s has a bread that is fairly new; it is a multi grain wide pan loaf. I find it life changing. Makes amazing grilled cheese and ham sandwiches. About to try french toast with it. So tasty and the bigger slices are the best!
Other advice to newbies; read my original early posts on switching to being gf. Look at my 2014 posts: for most of 2013 I posted on Patch. I do not thing those posts are still available but I reposted most of them in my first few months on my new blog location. Critical to success: new bread pans at 8.5x 4.5 with taller sides, new cake and pie pans unless you scrub the heck out of them. You need to read up on cross contamination as it is a really serious problem. You should invest in a new toaster for only gf breads and bagels. Your cutting boards and rolling pins must be incredibly free of all old flour; maybe if you are going to still have gluten in your house buy a new bread board and rolling pin for gf use only. You will absolutely need a new colander for gf pasta. Mark it so or get one very different in color so you can easily distinguish it. Ditto for wooden spoons. In fact, you need to run everything you plan to use for gf cooking through the dishwasher several times or hand scrub a LOT. I found it too difficult to keep both gluten-based flour and my new gf flours around. I have a few burger buns and a loaf of white bread in my basement freezer for Joe or Aiden. No more do I keep gluten-based pasta or mixes.
In short, eat clean, eat organic when you can, don’t buy packaged gf foods if you can make it yourself and avoid the processed gf treats full of fats, sugar and preservatives. DIY is always healthier if it avoids excesses of those demons especially hydronated fats and all sugars other than coconut palm sugar which is low on the hypoglycemic index and possibly use honey, maple syrup and agave syrup but in moderation. Being gluten free is a journey, an adventure in experimentation and can be surprisingly delicious. GF foods have gotten a bad rap and often folks eating my cookies, brownies, pies, tarts and cakes are shocked at how delicious they actually are. I am generally very happy to be gf. Rarely, on visiting people I find them being insensitive; like baking gluten filled muffins right in front of me and offering me no substitute or alternative. I think that behavior is obnoxious; you knew I was coming. Couldn’t you put off your wheaty muffins a few days and buy a gf mix treat to make while I was there? My pet peeve…. oh well. I survived it and I love to bake gf and we eat darn well around here!
As children we each had our favorite cookies to make, this was traditionally my next older brothers’ to bake but once grown up I began to make them ‘cause they are addictively tasty. I love it made with apricot jam, you can used chopped slivered almonds instead of walnuts for that version. But, any flavor good quality jam will work, pick what you like. I used two flavors this time; homemade peach jam and some store bought but excellently flavored raspberry jam. Like getting two cookies out of one batch of dough.
A few Christmases ago a dear friend gave me a new cookbook “Gluten-Free Christmas Cookies” by Ellen Brown. I have tried several recipes and all were fantastic including this one, I swapped the candied red and green cherries for jam, but you can go old school and use those freaky candied cherries. It is made with cornstarch and white rice flour; not a flour blend but you should be able to find rice flour in a gf flour department or in a Chinese grocery store. Every grocery store has cornstarch. Use the jam you like to put on your toast!
1 ½ cup white rice flour
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
½ cup cornstarch
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
2 sticks unsalted butter sliced into thin slices
1 lg egg
1 Tbsp. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
½ cup jam; raspberry, peach, strawberry
INSTRUCTIONS: Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl food processor, steel blade, blend briefly. Add butter to work bowl and process off and on until it resembles coarse meal.
Combine egg, milk and vanilla in a small bowl; whisk. Drizzle into the work bowl, pulse about 10-12 times until it forms a stiff dough. If it doesn’t come together, add more milk a tsp. at a time. I added a tsp. more of milk to get the dough to form up.
Chill the dough for 15 to 20 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put racks in the middle of the oven. Place chopped walnuts in a wide shallow bowl and roll 1 1/2 inch balls of dough. Roll them in the chopped walnuts, place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Press an indent in with a finger and fill with about ½ tsp. jam. Bake 14-15 minutes, until just firm but not browned. They will be very delicate to the touch. Let cool 2-3 minutes on sheet before carefully moving them to a cooling rack using a metal pancake turner. I bumped a couple and they just fell apart on the sheet; very fragile while hot. They will solidify once they cool. I store mine in cookie tins or Tupperware containers. They won’t last as long as wheat flour based cookies but they get snapped up fast so that shouldn’t be a problem. I supposed you could freeze them for a week or two if necessary.
They are not too sweet and so delicate, great with a cup of tea or coffee. As good, if not better, then when I made them with all purpose wheat flour years ago before I had to go gluten free. Your family will be amazed that they are gf, no one you serve them to will ever guess. Totally tasty and fun to make with your kids! Enjoy.
This is a reposting of the same recipe I posted back in 2016. Minor text changes.
When I first made them I put some in my cookie jar, closed it tightly and 4 days later those cookies (what remains) were still delicious. That is pretty long for a gluten free baked good. By the fifth afternoon my last cookie in there was getting soft so suggest not holding them for more than 4 days in a jar. A big bonus I love isthat they can be frozen ready to bake in like 12 minutes.
Kiffles are a local favorite here in eastern PA when it comes to cookies, particularly Christmas cookies. The Kiffle Kitchen on 512 north of Bath, PA has made their reputation on their outstanding kiffles, now sold on line! I used to enjoy them but never took the time to make them in the past. Now that I can’t eat gluten anymore I thought, why not bake some gf kiffles? They are a sort of local Ukrainian specialty (Their origin is Austria-Hungary in eastern Europe) so finding them in a cookbook and also gf was a challenge. Luckily, early this year I purchased “Gluten-Free Baking Classics The Heirloom Collection” by Annalise G. Roberts. It was published in 2014 and I bought it brand spanking new – not one miss in anything I have baked from it so far. Page 170 had the answer to my search; Rugelach, Kifles, and Kolaki.
I got my courage up and made a batch of kiffles (the preferred local spelling) on Christmas Eve afternoon. I just did jam filled, apricot and raspberry. The cream cheese dough in formed into two discs and chilled before rolling out between wax paper sheets into an 8 inch square. I did find myself chilling the rolled out dough a bit to keep it from getting too soft as I filled and formed the kiffles. Not too cold but chilly. After rolling and a slight chill, cut each big square into 16 two inch squares and put a tsp. of best quality jam on each; fold together so the filling peeps out both ends and chill some more on the baking sheet. I brushed them with heavy cream and sprinkled a touch of granulated sugar on before they hit the 350 degree oven. The cute packets of dough and jam bake up lightly browned and delicate in about 15-20 minutes. Success was felt when my mom ate a few that evening. Her smile told me how yummy they were. I wish she was still around to share them with. This is my first Christmas without her….
Next time I will make them with the nut and cinnamon filling that is very traditional around the Lehigh Valley. I also hear that stores sell special kiffle filling meant just for these cookies. Gonna look for it; hopefully gluten free and therefore safe for me to enjoy.
So if you are gluten free and crave kiffles; this cookbook by Annalise Roberts is the place to find a workable recipe. She has never failed me yet with her desserts and I thank my lucky stars her cookbooks are on my shelf to guide me through holiday, parties and everyday meals. I don’t mean to sound like a salesperson for her but I can’t say enough great things about this new cookbook and her prior best seller Baking Classics – my copy of that is well worn and I couldn’t exist without it. This kiffle recipe is way too involved to type out for you and I think that if you are serious about baking gf you need to check it out and get your own copy, real soon! Here are the ingredients for the dough but this is a three page recipe and you should support the author by buying her awesome cookbook called “The Heirloom Collection.
1 cup King Arthur basic gf flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 Tsp. bakig powder
1/4 Tsp salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter at room temp.
4 ounces full fat cream cheese
1 -3 Tsp rice flour for rolling it out.
Note: I did a search on line for a gluten free kiffle recipe and didn’t really find one; lots of other cookies but these are quite a specialty and not made by most home cooks except in areas where they are popular and what you can buy is definitely not gluten free. I am very happy with these utterly delicious cookies and can heartily recommend them to you for your gf holiday baking. Enjoy
Originally published in 2016; just added ingredient list and minor text changes done 12/2020