03 September 2012

Gluten free, casein free cupcakes that don't have the texture of rocks

Gluten free and dairy free cooking is getting easier. It's pretty common now to find plenty of options even at basic stores. A recent trip to France showed me that even in the world of baguettes and Brie, a country Leclerc sells gluten free flour and soy cream as standard.

But the problem is that these substitutes are not perfect - you just won't get the same result as if you had used standard flour or butter. I'm getting better at making up for this though, and here are a couple of tips for cake making:

Use ghee instead of oil or margarine. Ghee is usually casein and lactose free because all the milk solids are taken off in the process, basically leaving some gorgeous tasting fat. Don't tell yourself it's good for you, but as long as you're not spooning it onto your breakfast cereal, it's not really that bad in moderation. Vegetable ghee is another alternative, but as it is hydrogenated to give it the correct texture and appearance, it's probably best avoided (nasty trans fats). If you are highly allergic to dairy, you should probably stick to Nuttelex or canola oil - sorry about that.

Know your flours. There are heaps of great gluten free mixes out there, and I use several of them. There's always Doves Farm Self Raising (can't taste the baking powder) and Schar Dolci (it's a dry blend, but very stable) in the cupboard. I find however that there are certain flours that are useful to add to improve texture. Tapioca tends to lighten up the mix and binds nicely. Teff makes cookies crumbly. Buckwheat gives pancakes and crepes a springier texture. Sorghum and brown rice flours have a lovely flavour. The problem with using any of these flours on their own is that they tend to need a gluten replacement to hold it all together, and I've had various degrees of failure with these. Xantham gum in particular tastes revolting when overcooked or over-used - bitter and almost tongue numbing (by the way, it's made from mould). The gluten free flour mixes already have the gluten replacement in there, so I find that my lazy self enjoys just mixing into that as a base.

There are other ways to change the texture of your baking, and it's not always to do with flour. Eggs are magical things - traditional flourless chocolate cakes use them for body rather than a starch. Fruits like bananas or dates can add moisture and chew to a cake. Some gluten free cooks swear by gelatin or arrowroot to elasticize and soften. I'm a huge fan of egg whites - they're easy, and always in the pantry ready to use. Even just separating the eggs before putting them in, then whipping up the whites to soft peaks can lighten up any recipe.

So - below is my best cupcake recipe so far. Seriously light and fluffy gluten free and casein free cupcakes. Very easy too...

  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup ghee
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • pinch salt (x 2)
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 cup gluten free flour blend (Schar Dolci)
  • 3 tsp baking powder

  1. preheat oven to 170ᴼC. Beat egg yolks and ghee until creamy, then add sugar, salt and vanilla. Finally add flours and baking powders, alternating with the soy milk until well combined.
  2. Set aside, wash your beaters, dry carefully (water is a no-no when beating egg whites), and then beat to soft peaks. Fold in about a third of the whites quite well, and then add the rest and fold very lightly, taking care not to beat the air out.
  3. Pour into cupcake moulds and cook for 20 minutes or until golden. It's best not to open and close the oven too much if you can avoid it.

I have iced them with a dairy free white chocolate frosting, using a 150g block of dairy free white chocolate, a tablespoon of soy cream, and about a cup of icing sugar. However, the cupcakes are already quite sweet and don't really need the topping.

Have fun, and if you have any tips or ideas please leave them in the comments below or direct me to your blog - I'd love to hear about it.

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