Today is the second part of my interview with KitchenAid’s home economist Jo Richardson. If you missed the first part yesterday then click here to read it.
Jo is particularly passionate about gluten free baking and many of my readers are looking for gluten free recipes and cooking tips, so I thought it would be a good idea to pick her brains all about it! Not to mention my mother-in-law is following a gluten free diet, so she had some great questions for me to ask Jo too.
Don’t scroll to the end just yet, but there is Jo’s fantastic gluten free brownie recipe down there that I have made three batches of, and each one turned out perfectly. That’s a picture of the gorgeous little things above.
Jo, how did you get into gluten free baking as one of your niche specialties?
Well it’s been a world of discovery for me. My boy was born very unwell and it became obvious that he was not digesting anything properly. We found out, from a very young age, that he was very allergic to wheat and gluten. We’ve come a long way now, but 14 years ago a diagnosis like that was quite new, so I started having a play around with recipes. I had to, because gluten free food back then was awful and I just had to come up with a way to make it better.
It was a huge challenge and I did think at first it was going to be easy by just substituting regular flour with rice flour or whatever, but the results were shocking! And I thought, this is disgusting, I can’t eat that, so I just got into the kitchen and played and played and played. Trial and error. By the time he was a toddler going to birthday parties I was much better and over the years I’ve refined my recipes even more.
So you can’t just substitute regular flour for gluten free flour in recipes? Damn, that would be too easy. Why not?
Everyone knows that wheat is very strong as a particle. In baking it adds colour, it adds flavour, it adds texture and it also tenderises. So when you take wheat out of something, it changes a hundred and one dynamics of it. I had to really experiment with lots of different ingredients to get similar results.
What’s an example of an unusual ingredient that works well for you?
I like to go back to lots of old fashioned techniques and did you know that during the war there was actually a time when potato was used in pastry? It was when there was a butter shortage and so that’s where the idea came from to make my gluten free potato pastry. The potato works to bind it as well as help with the flavour and texture.
Tell us about gluten free flour. What is it and are there ones that are better than others?
In the beginning I found it very difficult to take some rice flour then add some cornflour and tapioca or arrowroot flour – there was all these flours and it was so confusing! Then to top it all off just by adding 20g more or less of one or the other and you would totally change the end consistency. It was very frustrating and completely dumfounding to me and many others so I just searched for what was available commercially.
The secret to great gluten free baking and cooking is to really love the gluten free flour combination that you use and the brands vary a lot so it’s well worth buying a few and trying them out. The one I absolutely love is by a company called Vitarium and it’s found in health food stores. There’s nothing extraordinary in it, just rice flour, cornflour and tapioca but they have got the balance just right. That’s the secret.
Why do gluten free cakes and breads sometimes taste so dry (and inedible!)?
That’s because they have far too much rice flour in them. Again, it comes down to a delicate balance of the elements; rice flour is very drying and adds bulk, cornflour gives you a bouncy texture and tapioca or arrowroot gives you pull and stretchiness. These elements need to be kept in ind when you are deciding on quantities.
What is xanthan gum and how do you incorporate it into gluten free recipes?
You need to add xanthan gum or another product which is known as gluten substitute to mirror wheat protein. You see, wheat protein is the most remarkable glue, it’s like cement, and when you remove that cement (as in, the wheat) from recipes they just don’t have the structure and won’t set. Instead, they go all crumbly and dry. Xanthan gum is made from fermented corn syrup and has a rubber chemical reaction that provides the glue in place of wheat. It is actually twenty two times stronger than wheat flour and is so strong it’s like real cement! Therefore, you only need a tiny amount to add back that much needed structure in gluten free recipes. Without it your dishes will probably fall apart.
Are there any of your recipes that really stand out for you?
I’m really proud of my gluten free recipes and a lot of people that I get to taste them really can’t believe it’s gluten free. I recently did some recipe development for an article in a magazine making gluten free pizza and there were some real big hotshot food editors there and they were absolutely gobsmacked that what I served them was gluten free. I worked very hard at getting the texture and flavour just right. Unfortunately I can’t share the recipe yet because it’s going to be published exclusively on the KitchenAid website in the coming months.
Thanks Jo it has been absolutely fascinating learning about gluten free baking – I was especially interested to hear about xanthan gum and loved cooking with it in your brownie recipe (see below). Delicious!
Fig & Cherry received the KitchenAid Artisan Mixer with compliments of KitchenAid.
Fudgy Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies
Recipe by Jo Richardson on behalf of KitchenAid
250g butter, chopped
250g good quality dark chocolate (gluten free)
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup gluten free plain flour
1 teaspoon cocoa
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoon caster sugar
100g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Extra cocoa and icing sugar, for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 190C. Grease and paper line 5cm deep x 18cm square pan.
2. Heat butter, chocolate, brown sugar and vanilla in a heavy based saucepan over a low heat, stirring constantly until smooth, melted and glossy. Set aside to cool.
3. Attach the flat beater to the standmixer with the pouring shield. Mix the flour, cocoa and gum on speed1 until well combined, remove from the mixing bowl.
4. Attach the whisk to the standmixer. Whisk eggs and sugar on speed 6 until thick and creamy. Reduce to speed 2, add the cooled chocolate mixture and flour and mix until combined. Add the nuts and fold through.
5. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes or until just set. Set aside to cool completely.
6. Dust with extra cocoa and icing sugar. Cut as desired.