Every week, Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef -- and Gluten-Free Girl Everyday -- will be sharing smart tips and smarter recipes that will please even the most devout gluten-eaters among us. Come one, come all -- we're going flourless.
Today: Why, if we choose, we don't need gluten in baked goods at all -- plus a recipe for Buckwheat-Rhubarb Scones.
You must have heard of friends going gluten-free or people in your family giving up gluten to feel better. And in your heart -- even if you nodded and smiled and managed to sound sympathetic -- you might have thought, “What a terrible life. You poor thing. No gluten? No good.”
I’m here to tell you that it’s entirely possible to live a good life without gluten. Especially when these Buckwheat-Rhubarb Scones are involved.
You see, it turns out that we don’t need gluten to live well. Those of us who have celiac sprue, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance, or any condition that might be improved without eating gluten? We definitely don’t need gluten. (And by the way, that’s a heck of a lot of us in this country.) After eight years of living a good life without gluten, I don’t want it at all. Given how even as little as half a teaspoon of gluten rips through my system and leaves me sick for 3 full days, a Danish made with bleached all-purpose gluten flour looks about as appetizing as a cup of Drano.
Same effect, really.
Some folks who cut gluten out of their lives also cut out grains of all kinds or any kind of baking. Not me. With the help of wonderful mentors and bakers before me, I’ve learned to bake muffins, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pancakes, waffles, chicken and dumplings, buttermilk biscuits, and apple pie without gluten. For years, I worked really hard to find good substitute flours, gluten-free grains ground into a powder that could fool even the unsuspecting gluten-eater. But in the past few years, I’ve realized something deeper. We don’t need gluten for most baked goods at all.
Think about it. When you make a cake, what’s the last instruction from the recipe writer on how to make the batter before you put it in the oven? “Mix until just combined. Don’t over-stir.” I can feel the desire of the recipe writer to throw a few exclamation points in there. Don’t over-stir!!! Why? Because, if you stir a cake batter made with bleached white flour too vigorously, that cake will be tough. You’ll activate the gluten in the batter.
Guess what? A cake made with gluten-free flours? There’s no need to fear -- stir away.
And when you’re making rhubarb pie, there’s no need to be afraid of the pie dough. You can’t overwork it. If the dough falls apart when you’re putting it in the pan, simply pat it in. If you’re working with cold-enough butter and flour, you’re still going to have a flaky pie crust.
Most of the baked goods that home cooks are making don’t need gluten. In fact, I’m willing to say they are better without it.
If you find the right combination of flours and use a scale to bake by weight, you can bake anything you might want for a weeknight. Banana bread, since those three bananas on the counter are going black? Grab the gluten-free all-purpose flour mix you have in your cupboard and go.
Gluten tends to makes things elastic, which is a quality you might not want in your scones. You want them to be flaky, soft. You want them to be flaky and soft with rhubarb jam and compote. Can you do this while leaving out the wheat flour? You bet.
You see, it’s a good life without gluten.
Makes 8 scones
115 grams buckwheat flour
140 grams gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
115 grams (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup rhubarb jam
3 tablespoons sugared pieces of raw rhubarb (optional)
Photos by Shauna Ahern