Cooking is a lot like a high school chemistry experiment that you eat (or throw out) at completion. Ingredients are assembled, reactions with mixing, heating or cooling take place and voila! Dinner... or disaster. There are many great cooking shows on television, but few (if any) have taken on the challenge of gluten-free recipes and what makes them different on a chemical reaction level. America's Test Kitchen (ATK) has.
(Find out more at: http://www.americastestkitchen.com/)
For those who are not familiar with ATK, their website explains it all in just a few words - "America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe."
There is also book with all of ATK's surprising discoveries for you. It's title is "The How Can It be Gluten-Free" cookbook and details tested and approved recipes (which took them nearly a year to complete). It can be ordered on their website. PBS television stations will also feature ATK's cooking show on gluten-free baking in January 2015. So you don't have to wait until then, here are three tips that rocked their established kitchen rules... and may change the way you cook and bake gluten-free in your kichen forever, too.
What the chefs found out about muffin batter and cookie dough is nothing short of a sea change is gluten-free cooking. "Let cookie dough and muffin batter rest before baking: Because GF flours are so starchy, resting muffin batter and cookie dough for 30 minutes is key. The starches have time to hydrate before they go into the oven, which eliminates grittiness—a common pitfall with GF baked goods..." was one on the key tips in their book.
Ever eat a thick, flat gluten-free bread? The chefs discovered to avoid this, another ingredient is needed. "Yeast breads need a second leavener: Since GF flours are lower in protein than wheat flour, yeast breads don’t rise as well and their texture can be leaden. Adding baking powder (or soda) gives the yeast the boost that it needs to produce tall loaves with a light crumb."
The magic of cream cheese
Just like a chemistry experiment that doesn't turn out because of absorbtion rates are off, the same can happen when working with gluten-free flours and fats in a recipe. The chefs found that "GF flours often need alternate fats: GF flours don’t absorb butter all that well and the end result can be very greasy. The solution: Cut down on the butter and replace the lost richness with more stable fats, such as cream cheese, sour cream, and white chocolate." Mmmm, imagine cream cheese beaten into some gluten-free coffee cake batter to add a luscious flavor...