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My husband and I were invited to a potluck this weekend. We are visiting Denver and my husband’s family thought it would be nice if we could all get together and share some food. We were asked to bring a dessert. My first thought was ok, no problem. In Denver you have to do high altitude baking, but I could manage that. Then my husband told me that the dessert must be gluten, dairy, and sugar free. I started to laugh because I thought it was joke, when he didn’t laugh I realized he was serious. When you are chef there is already a high expectation that you will bring something delicious to a party, so when you have to cook with dietary restrictions it just adds to the pressure. I am always up for a challenge though, so I took on this task full force.  

Because the potluck was a lunch, I knew I wanted a simple dessert that people could grab at their leasure. My first thought was cupcakes, so I turned to BabyCakes for a recipe. BabyCakes is known in New York for their scrumptious desserts, period. It just happens that they specialize in gluten free and vegan baking. I decided on a recipe for banana loaf that I could easily alter to make cupcakes. I also wanted banana because I knew with the natural sugar I wouldn’t need much additional sweetener. The basics of this recipe call for gluten free flour, xantham gum, and agave. I have never bought gluten free flour or xantham gum, but I had no problem finding them at the Whole Foods in Denver. The thing I found difficult was the sticker shock! The flour is about 5 times the price of normal flour and the xantham gum was $12 for an 8 oz bag. I guess the good thing is that most recipes use very little xantham gum so it will last awhile. The bad thing is you can’t scrimp on the xantham gum in gluten free baking; since there is no gluten it is the thickening agent.

To top the cupcakes I came up with my own recipe. One of my favorite combos is peanut butter, banana, and chocolate, so I made a frosting based with creamy peanut butter and unsweetened cocoa. I added some rice milk and agave to get the sweetness and texture I wanted. The frosting was a success and almost had a nutella quality. It never really does a hard set like buttercream, but stays soft and creamy.

So what was the verdict on these cupcakes: they tasted delicious and you couldn’t even tell they were lacking in gluten, dairy, and sugar! The con: they cost about 4 times as much to make.

Gluten Free Banana Cupcakes
Adapted from BabyCakes banana bread
Yield 18 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour (gotta be Bob’s, no sub)
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp Salt
1 TBSP Cinnamon
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
2/3 cup Agave Nectar
1/2 cup Rice Milk
2 TBSP of Vanilla Extract
1 1/4 cups Bananas – mashed

Peanut Butter Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup Peanut Butter – creamy, organic
2/3 cup Cocoa Powder
2 TBSP Agave
1/4 cup Rice Milk  

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the cupcake pan with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, measure in flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon and whisk. Add oil, agave nectar, rice milk and vanilla and then mix again. Fold in bananas until nicely distributed.
  3. Pour batter into cupcake pans (about halfway) and set in the oven. After 20 minutes, check on the cupcakes and continue baking until it passes the toothpick test (about 8 minutes more) Remove from oven and cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Make the frosting by combining all ingredients and mixing with a handheld mixer until creamy. Add more agave to taste and more rice milk if the frosting is a little thick.
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