Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gluten-free AND Egg-free Muffins


The bakery in my neighborhood makes wonderful carrot muffins. Full of shredded carrot, coconut and chopped walnuts, I can almost convince myself they are good for me. But there are two significant reasons (besides sugar) why they are not.

First, they contain eggs and I am allergic. There isn't enough egg in one of these muffins to trigger a full blown reaction, but there is enough to make me miserable. Its just not worth it to indulge.

Second, they contain wheat flour and, therefore, gluten. I am not allergic to gluten, but I have Type O blood. And as I wrote in my post about spaghetti squash and the blood type diet, grains in general, and particularly those that contain gluten, are are not well tolerated by us Type Os. Even before I heard of the Blood Type Diet, I noticed that after doing a cleansing diet, reintroducing foods containing gluten seemed to slow me down.

This observation appears to be typical. According to Dr. Peter D'Adamo, author of "Eat Right 4 Your Type," his Type O patients tend to have more energy and lose weight more easily when they eliminate gluten from their diets. Because Type O is the most common blood type, I wonder if some of the current interest in gluten-free foods is driven quite simply by the fact that many of us just feel better when our diets are free of gluten.

For all that, I love the taste of those carrot muffins. And I was not willing to give up on the possibility of enjoying them again. So I set out to find a way to work around my dietary issues and produce something just as delicious. After trial, error, giving up for quite a while, trying again, more trial, and more error, I believe I have finally succeeded.

To deal with the challenge of gluten-free baking, I turned to Annalise Roberts' wonderful book, "Gluten-Free Baking Classics." She's done the painstaking work of testing various combinations of ingredients to develop flour mixes and recipes for tasty breads and pastries that are every bit as good as those made with wheat flour. As it happens, she has a recipe for Carrot Spice Muffins (p.29) that pretty much duplicates the carrot muffin of my dreams. Except for one thing - it calls for two large eggs.

Eggs are important in baking because they help bind ingredients together and keep the baked goods moist. It is a challenge to take them out of a recipe and have a satisfying product. I haven't been impressed with so-called egg substitutes. Egg Beaters are actually eggs, egg whites, no yolks. I am just as allergic to whites as yolks. Ener-G egg replacer is OK, but not great. I have had some success in the past with adding more oil or butter and milk to baked goods (like scones) to replace the eggs, but that didn't work with this recipe. The muffins turned out crumbly and dry. It was when I substituted half & half for regular milk, added 1/2 cup of applesauce, and made several other adjustments that I got the result I wanted.

These gluten and egg-free muffins are moist, rich and flavorful. I really don't think you would guess that these are not made with eggs and wheat flour. They sure don't have that heaviness and cardboard taste that I associate with gluten-free products. They do have all that carrot, coconut, toasted walnut and spicy goodness I've been missing. At last, I can have my muffin and eat it, too!
I took careful notes and made a second batch (see photo above) of my most successful attempt so far to be sure I got it right. The second batch was just as good. So here's the recipe, a combination of Annalise's gluten-free baking alchemy and my experimentation:

Gluten-free and Egg-free Carrot Muffins
Makes one dozen

2 cups of Annalise Roberts' Food Philosopher® Gluten-free Rice Flour mix (basic recipe is 2 c. brown rice flour, extra fine grind; 2/3 c. potato starch; 1/3 c. tapioca flour)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely shredded carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place cupcake papers in muffin tin or grease with cooking spray.
2. Mix all the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. Add the carrots, walnuts and coconut - stir to coat evenly.
3. Add the oil, half and half, applesauce and vanilla. Stir to blend all ingredients.
4. Spoon mixture into muffin pan. Bake 18 - 25 minutes until light golden. Remove from pan and let muffins cool on rack.
5. Enjoy!

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