Mark and I have been trying to follow a gluten free diet since the new year. It was actually my idea. To get a little personal (and maybe a bit TMI), I’ve suffered from IBS for a number of years. It tends to be sporadic and typically unpredictable, although periods of high stress and bad diet make it worse. After a time of particularly bad bouts, I figured I’d give gluten free a shot and see what happens. Of course I had to tag Mark along to make it easier on the cooking and eating front (heh), but he’s always game for trying new things. Now, I know that in recent years, going gluten free has become something of a fad amongst non-celiac and non-gluten sensitivity folks, and you may be thinking that I’m one of them. Sure, some of it is that going gluten free is a lot easier these days with all the products available, but mostly I was getting sick (literally and figuratively) of the IBS bouts. Since I’ve eliminated most (not quite there to all just yet) gluten sources, I have felt a lot better and have had less IBS bouts. So… coincidence? Maybe. I’m just happy to suffer less.
The thing I miss most about gluten free is not being able to eat all the delectable baked goodies that I once enjoyed. As a tried and true carboholic, quitting bread, cakes, muffins, biscuits, pies, etc. (have to stop listing because I’m drooling) has been the hardest part. Not only that, I love to bake. Always have and always will. It’s been a source of stress relief for many years. Would I really have to give up baking?
Gluten free baking can be intimidating and downright confusing. So many different types of non-wheat flour available, but which one is best? What combination is perfect for cakes? What about breads? How do I make bread that doesn’t turn out like a heavy, dense brick that’s more suitable as a weapon than it is for toasting?
Thankfully, Michael McCamley’s cookbook, Gluten Free Baking, has helped me to overcome my fears and try out a recipe for a baked good that I’ve always loved.
One of my dear friends got me this cookbook as a birthday gift and I’ve flipped through the pages numerous times over the last few months, curious to try some of these out but equally afraid. I usually like to leave the gluten free baking to others. It just seems like a whole lot of work. And what if the end product isn’t even edible? But I was really feeling like I needed to bake something and figured I’d at least give it a try.
I picked this scone recipe because it looked straightforward and on my metre of “likely to eff up”, it scored fairly low. So on we go!
I adapted the recipe somewhat with what I had available at home. Michael provides recipes for gluten free flour mixes, but I had a bag of All Purpose Baking Flour in my pantry so I figured I’d use this instead of making the gluten free mix. The other ingredients are rice flour, gluten free baking powder, xantham gum, confectioners’ (icing) sugar, butter, plain yogurt, and buttermilk (sadly missing from the bunch because I had a brain fart). On a note about the yogurt, I prefer my yogurt thick, rich, and full-fatty, so the kind I picked is 10% MF. No need to use such a full-fatty yogurt, but seriously, why not use the full-fatty? It’s full-flavour! Anyways, I digress.
Xantham gum is a peculiar product. It’s powdery fine and smells a bit sour, but if used correctly, it can imitate the “spring” in bread and prevent cookies from becoming too crumbly. I’ve had awful gluten free cookies that were just so dry and crumbly, and I’m guessing whoever made them did not use xantham gum in their recipe.
Cube the butter into small pieces. I like to put the butter cubes in the freezer for about 5 minutes after I handle them. My hands tend to be on the warm side and the butter melts a tad while I handle it. Giving it a quick freeze ensures that it stays nice and cool.
Sift the flours, baking powder, xantham gum, and icing sugar into a bowl. Add the butter cubes and rub them into the flour mixture until it resembles fine bread crumbs. You can use a pastry cutter if you have one, but I prefer just getting in there with my hands.
Mix the buttermilk and yogurt together in a small bowl, and add to the dry mixture. Give it a good mix with a spoon. I find it easier to work with dough when it’s turned out on a floured surface. The dough is really sticky, so use plenty of extra flour mix to keep your hands (and the surface) from getting all doughy.
Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. I’m kinda lazy so I just pressed out the dough with my hands instead of getting out my rolling pin. Because that’s how I roll. Get it? Anyways. Find a nice circular cutting instrument and punch away. I really should get one of those round pastry cutters because the only thing I could find that worked was a small tupperware container. You should get about 10 scones to begin with. If you’re the type to roll out the scraps until almost every last bit of dough is used, you can get a few more. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a 400F oven for 15-20 minutes, until well risen and golden.
The verdict? Not bad! I was relieved to see that they rose. Phew. They smelled wonderful, too. And the taste test? Pass! They’re a bit denser than normal scones, but they were still moist, tender, and buttery.
These turned out much prettier than the plain scones. All I did was add a cup of shredded cheddar into the dough. It’s a great base that can be used with any number of ingredients. The original recipe actually called for raisins. Not being a huge raisin fan myself, I omitted them. I imagine that adding some dry herbs and omitting some of the sugar would make some excellent herb scones. Or what about some olives and sun-dried tomatoes for another savoury version? Oooh, the possibilities are endless!
First gluten free baking session? Success!
Gluten Free Buttermilk Scones (adapted from the original recipe for Buttermilk & Golden Raisin Scones)
- 1 2/3 cups gluten free, wheat free, all-purpose flour*, sifted, plus extra for dusting
- 1/3 cup rice flour, sifted
- 1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder
- 2 tsp xantham gum
- 3 tbsp confectioners’ (icing) sugar
- 3 1/2 tbsp butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease a large baking sheet and line with parchment paper.
Sift the flours, baking powder, xantham gum, and confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, rub it into the dry mixture until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
Add the yogurt and buttermilk, and mix to form a soft dough ball.**
Knead the dough on a floured surface and roll out to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. Cut out 8-10 circles with a pastry cutter and place on the baking sheet.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until well risen and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
*The all-purpose gluten-free flour mix recipe in the book is: 1 1/2 cups sorghum flour or brown rice flour, 1 3/4 cups tapioca flour, 1/2 cup almond flour, and 1 tsp xantham gum.
**At this point, you can add cheese, herbs, or any other ingredients to customize the scones. Or add the raisins. I won’t judge.