The difference between our wheat/spelt or rye breads and our gluten-free (GF) pastries and breads are the flours we use. After all, the body of any pastry is flour.
What we do is take advantage of the characteristics of each flour that impart flavor, texture, color and the treasures when combined with other GF flours, which amplify flavors dimensionally, because each flour is very different from the other. The ability to mix and match GF flours is greater because of their varietal differences. This is something we can’t get with gluten flours, because there are only a few: American wheats, European wheats we call wild varieties (spelt, emmer, einkorn), barley and rye. Even though the wild wheats are more nutritious, complex and rich in flavor alone, the ability to blend GF flours with their distinctive characteristics gives the baker extraordinary freedom to create.
Most gluten-free commercial mixes consist of one grain flour, often another refined flour, and 2-3 starches. The starches used in GF mixes are cheap fillers to replace the expensive whole grain GF flours that should be there, resulting in little flavor, and not much nutrition. We use only whole grain GF flours–such as quinoa, long grain brown rice, buckwheat, millet, soy, oat, amaranth, yellow and white cornmeal. In essence I make my own mixes every time I create a pastry. I’m blending flours with other ingredients, which frees me to be very flexible in how I approach any food idea. There is an exception with starches; I do use arrowroot and/or cornstarch in my GF shortbreads and breads. I don’t use salt in the muffins or scones and seldom elsewhere.
I bake by inspiration from and for the public, meaning that I want them to have something delicious and healthy that they may not get elsewhere. And to do so, inspiration comes by a flavor or a specific ingredient that lures me. A combination of flavors, maybe something cultural, perhaps an idea comes at night, or I want to celebrate a holiday, a season or an event with food. I build a pastry around whatever it is that’s inspiring me, and if, for example, it’s something Asian, I’ll use brown rice flour as the foundation and add Asian-influenced ingredients.
Each pastry may be built with 2-3 flours. Seldom are pastries made with only one flour, although I make a pan bread with only buckwheat flour to emphasize its taste and ingredients that boost and complement its flavor. Buckwheat is technically not a grain but seeds from a plant related to the rhubarb family. I make 2-4 different pan breads the same each week for a few weeks then will switch them out for other kinds of pastries. This gives the public time to try the pan breads and maybe be inspired to make something themselves at home. I hope this serves as a good template for you to experiment and develop baking on your own.
I would like to see people try new flavors and combinations and learn about pastries in technical terms, but also think of pastries in new creative ways. Learn about the grains so they can serve as solid foundations for your pastry and food development. I think grain is very good for people to eat, but with little or no sweetness on a daily or weekly routine. Please add some exercise to your life, food works better for you when your body demands more nutrition.
I want to touch on the reasons why GF is more expensive than wheat pastries. The GF flours are two to three times the price of wheat. Why so? These grains have not been mass produced for our society on the scale wheat has been. The supply is much less than something as common as wheat. For any baker gluten-free flours don’t have the working volume of wheat, simply because there is no gluten–the proteins that give wheat its stretch, and its ability to expand when liquid and a leavener have been added. So, this means we have to use up to three times as much GF flour to create a pastry comparable to a wheat pastry. Another cost consideration is many gluten-free pastries take longer to bake, sometimes more than a half hour longer. Baking in general takes time, patience is needed, and GF baking is not so easy; it takes more time with careful judgement with proportions. It is much more exacting than wheat baking. The different flours pose more factors of change because of their unique differences and how they blend in the baking process under oven heat. It’s an understated affair of un-predictability.
We should not try to make gluten-free like wheat, but to love its characteristics for what they are and enjoy knowing that anyone who can eat grain, can eat a delicious treasure we call pastry.
We infrequently create pastries which are VEGAN (containing no dairy, eggs, or other animal products), and may include muffins, coffee cakes, scones, fruit pies or doughnuts. Please check our Facebook page to find out what we are currently baking.