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Cheaper Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays – Think Inside the Box

December 23 2011 - 1:59 PM

Hanukah CupcakesAlthough I’d love nothing more than to have Rose’s Bakery in Evanston cater to all of my gluten-free baking needs for the holidays (their seeded sandwich bread is some of the best) I simply can’t afford to spend 8 bucks on 6 cookies – as tasty as they may be.

I’ve consulted recipe books for the perfect flour replacement blend but unless I order online, I haven’t been able to find all of the ingredients I need at one store. The closest I’ve come is True Nature Foods in Edgewater. They carry almost the entire line of Bob’s Red Mill products, but wouldn’t you know it – they were out of tapioca flour this week.

In the spirit of the holidays and having to bring my own gluten-free options to parties (of course I never tell anyone it is gluten-free), I’ve started experimenting with alternatives that have proven to be cheaper, faster, easier and still pretty tasty.

I’m all about ease-of-box baking and with the price of xanthan gum, sorghum flour and all the other gluten-free baking essentials, I’ve found that the 5 dollars you pay for the box mix is a great way to go – if you find the right box.

One brand I’ve had good luck with is Glutino’s Gluten Free Pantry. All of their baked goods have a rice flour base.  The chocolate chip cookies were a little sweeter than the traditional chocolate chipper but I liked that. One box makes over 2-dozen cookies and they taste even better after spending some time in the freezer. The pie crust was a little more involved in terms of additional ingredients but still easy to make. One box produces four 8-inch crusts. The results were a little flakier than a traditional crust but the flavor was spot on. The old-fashioned cake mix was OK but not as big of a hit as the cookies or pie crust. One box makes one 9-inch round or one 8 x 8 square, which is not too impressive when you’re substituting it for a traditional layered cake. The mix has a good flavor but is dense and fairly crumbly, probably a byproduct of the rice flour. Their suggestion to make it into a coffee cake would have been a better choice.

For a perfect, "you’d never know it was gluten-free", chocolate cake mix my favorite so far has been Bob’s Red Mill. They use a blend of Garbanzo, Sorghum and Fava Bean Flour. One bag gives you two 8-inch rounds or 24 cupcakes. The sorghum gives it a fluffy, cake quality with none of the denseness and ultra sweetness of the rice flour version. And for 5 bucks, you just can’t beat it.

–Stacy Kenny