Following a gluten-free diet can be difficult enough, but when the diet also needs to be sugar-free, the chance of finding a baked good that fills the bill can be downright impossible.
But a new book by internationally recognized baking expert Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace has managed to do both, with some very tasty results.
Reinhart, baking instructor at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, N.C., was in Northeast Ohio recently, teaching classes from the new book, The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking (2012 Ten Speed Press, $30 hardcover), which makes use of nut flours to produce cookies, breads and crusts that are gluten-free, sugar-free, and most importantly, palatable.
With an abundance of gluten-free cookbooks already on the market, Reinhart said he wasn’t interested in producing just another gluten-free baking book. Creating recipes that were also sugar-free opened up the book to a whole new audience, he said.
Co-author Wallace, a Florida resident, began working on recipes for gluten-free, sugar-free baked goods after she was diagnosed with both Type 2 diabetes and a gluten intolerance.
Not willing to live without any baked goods, and determined to get her diabetes under control, Wallace began experimenting with low-carbohydrate nut flours to fill the bill.
Reinhart’s publisher asked him if he would be interested in collaborating on a book project with Wallace, and the sugar-free angle convinced him that it was a book worth pursuing, he said.
Most gluten-free recipes replace wheat flour with an alternative flour — rice, tapioca or potato. The results are baked goods that taste good, but are extremely high on the glycemic index scale, making them bad for diabetics.
Wallace had begun working with nuts and seeds — pecans, almonds and flaxseed — to create flours that have a low glycemic index but also perform well in baking.
The pair created formulas that make use of either Splenda or Stevia products for sweetening, and Reinhart said the book is perhaps more useful for diabetics than it is for those who have to avoid gluten.
“The gluten-free community is about 1½ percent of the population,” he said. The diabetic community is much larger — about 8.5 percent of the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association.
Often diabetics and the gluten-intolerant have “to sacrifice the joy of eating,” Reinhart said.
Reinhart and Wallace tested their recipes with a variety of sugar substitutes and found that depending on that was used as a bulking agent in the sweetener, some sugar substitutes don’t perform as well. That’s why their recipes call for specific brands of sweeteners.
Included among the recipes are one for a bread that actually toasts well. While its texture is more of a quick bread than a yeast bread, it is high on flavor, browns nicely and works great with eggs as a breakfast bread replacement.
The recipes run the gamut of baking, from cakes, pies and cookies, to pizza crusts, breads, crackers and focaccia, items that can be impossible to find in a gluten-free, sugar-free form.
By using nut meals and flours, the items also retain valuable proteins, something that often is lost in gluten-free baking. Most nut flours or nut meals can be purchased at health-food stores or ordered from online sources.
In the Akron area, the Mustard Seed Market in Bath Township, EarthFare in Fairlawn, Seven Grains Natural Market in Tallmadge, Krieger’s Health Foods Market in Cuyahoga Falls, and Raisin Rack in Canton, all are good sources for the alternative flours, and nut meals.
The recipes, Reinhart said, “Fill that yearning for food that’s fulfilling.”
Here are a few to try out:
BASIC PIZZA CRUST
2¼ tsp. (1 package) instant or active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (about 95 degrees)
2 cups almond flour
½ cup sesame seed flour
2 tsp. Splenda or Stevia Extract in the Raw or 1 tsp. New Roots Stevia Sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Mist a 12-inch round pizza pan, or for a thinner crust, a 12-inch square baking pan with spray oil.
In a small bowl, stir the yeast and water together until the yeast dissolves. In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, sesame seed flour, sweetener, baking powder and salt and whisk until well mixed. Whisk the egg, then add it and the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon for 1 to 2 minutes to make a thick, sticky batter.
Transfer the dough to the center of the prepared pan. Using oiled fingers, press it out to evenly fill the pan, making the edges slightly thicker if you like.
Prick the surface with a fork every 1 to 2 inches to help prevent bubbles and air pockets during baking. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate and bake for 10 minutes, just until the dough firms up and starts to brown.
You can immediately top the crust with your favorite toppings or top it later. To bake the topped pizza, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes, until any cheese has melted or until the toppings are heated through and cooked to your liking. Slice and serve immediately.
Makes 1 12-inch pizza crust.
2 cups brown or golden flaxseed meal
2 cups pecan flour
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cups whole flaxseeds (optional)
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups unsweetened soy milk or other milk
8 egg whites
¼ to ½ tsp. liquid stevia (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 4½-by-8-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, then mist the pan with spray oil. If making mini loaves, forgo the parchment paper and simply coat the pans generously with spray oil.
In a medium bowl, combine the flaxseed meal, pecan flour, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt and whisk until well mixed. In a large bowl, whisk the milk, egg white and liquid stevia together until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and stir vigorously with a large spoon for about 2 minutes to make a thick, sticky, slightly aerated batter.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan or pans, filling them to about ½ inch from the top. For a larger loaf, bake for 45 minutes, then rotate and bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes; for mini loaves, about for 30 minutes, then rotate and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The bread is fully cooked when golden brown and springy when pressed in the center.
Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 5 minutes. Before turning out the loaf, run an icing spatula or thin knife around the edges to loosen the bread from the sides. Cool for at least 15 more minutes before slicing. Store the bread in the refrigerator.
Makes 1 large loaf or 4 to 6 mini loaves.
— The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking, Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace