my doc has put me on a gluten-free trial. i am not pleased. not because i need bread or cannot live without pasta. heck i’m not even overly perturbed about the baking. what i’m not pleased about is that i am now a fussy eater. i can’t stand that i now have to ask people what is in the food that is being put in front of me. i grew up with the notion that if someone was kind enough to feed you the least you could do is shut up and eat. as my twin (non-biological) would say…no es bueno!
it will take some time for me to adjust to my new pickiness with food but i guess i don’t really have a choice in the matter.
i am however reasonably confident that i can pull off gluten-free baking.
a couple of weeks ago i stumbled upon KitchenSpells’ banana and salted caramel blondies. now let me just say that i am not a fan of white chocolate, mostly cos its not chocolate. i mean it tastes nice but really now…when i want chocolate i want the real deal. so in truth the idea of baking blondies has never really appealed to me. this recipe however had me salivating over my keyboard. banana…yum! salted caramel…double yum! i had to give it a go.
we were screening the ladies French Open final at the tennis club with a braai and potjie for lunch. i thought this would be the perfect time to try this recipe.
after a quick breakfast at the oranjezicht city farm market (now relocated to the lookout at granger bay) and a quick (unsuccessful) check for super ripe bananas i got home and started baking. my own bananas were not as ripe as i would like them to be but i figured the salted caramel and white chocolate would make up for the deficit in banana-on-steroids flavour.
my niece proved to be a useful kitchen assistant. i set her to work weighing out ingredients and mashing the bananas. KitchenSpells takes you through the recipe well enough so i’m not going to do that here. what i am going to do is give you some pointers and observations and tell you how i converted the recipe into gluten free. hold onto your knickers!
as you may have read, i have made caramel once or twice before. today for some reason unbeknownst to myself i decided to mix the sugar/water mixture continuously. the short answer is don’t do this. the spoon acts as a nucleation site for the deposition of sugar crystals out of the super saturated solution. sorry…engineer brain just kicked in. what i mean to say is that the sugar “undissolves” leaving a hard crystal layer on the spoon and the sides of the pot. i must stop being so silly really.
so i added more water, re-dissolved the sugar and started again…this time swirling the pot every now and then. i made the same mistake that i always make. i took the caramelisation too far resulting in a more bitter end product than i would have liked. in my defence i hadn’t gotten to the recommended 130deg C that the recipe stipulates.
but here’s my two cents worth of advice. when you note the sugar just starting to change colour get ready to take it off the heat. i kept forgetting that the caramelisation keeps going after you remove the pot from the heat so stop before you want to. also note that from the first colour change things go pretty quickly so the first signs of golden browness should have you on high alert. after removing the caramel from the stove top i added the butter, cream and salt and stirred. i checked to see if the saltiness was enough, added more salt and set the caramel aside to cool. i use finely ground maldon salt for caramel. you can use any salt you like but i would highly recommend a good quality himalayan or maldon salt.
i melted the butter and white chocolate in the microwave using several low-power 20 second intervals. when the butter had melted i stirred the mixture till the white chocolate had done the same. at this point the white chocolate tragically split (i am convinced that this was an act of rebellion on the part of the white chocolate) leaving a buttery layer on top and a chocolate mass underneath. in truth i was not particularly perturbed. i think this comes from my complete lack of respect of white chocolate. i know, i know…i’m a bad person. i tried to re-incorporate the mixture but when it was clear that this was not going to happen i simply handed the mishap over to lola who did such a marvelous job of beating the accident into the sugar and egg mixture that no-one was the wiser.
the gluten-free aspect of the recipe happened like so. i substituted the flour with a 50:50 mix of gluten free flour and corn flour. i also added a quarter teaspoon of xanthum gum. when going gluten-free you have to be very vigilant. gluten is sneaky and is hiding all over the damn place. also the degree of sensitivity to gluten is a big factor. the more sensitive the more careful you have to be. this stuff gets properly complicated. there are cases where the ingredients are all gluten free but the factory used to make the product also handles goods that contain gluten so there is potential for contamination…blah blah blah. my advice…understand ingredients. know the aliases for gluten and if in doubt go without. i just made that up right now. for this recipe in particular check the chocolate (yes it’s a flippin’ atrocity but even chocolate isn’t safe) and check the cornflour.
i added pecan nuts and chocolate chips (proper actual dark chocolate…i took this as a redeeming factor for the wanton use of white chocolate in the earlier stages of baking).
the blondies were demolished by the tennis club. thank you kitchenspells!
lessons learnt: that whole bit about the caramel. gluten-free baking can be delicious!