Saturday, March 30, 2013

The First Foray into Gluten Free Baking

My Kitchen Aid mixer has been gathering dust since my venture to the healthy side.  It has not creamed butter and sugar for about two months.  I don't want any kitchen appliance to feel neglected, so Thursday evening I set to baking.

I had to make a treat for Little Sweetpea's school Easter party Friday, and I had to make dessert for dinner with some friends Friday night.  I originally had this grand plan of bunny shaped petit fours with pastel colored glaze, but guess what didn't happen.  I was tired, I got started after 7pm, and frankly 2 year olds don't fully appreciate labor intensive baked goods.

So, for Little Sweetpea: traditional oatmeal cookies with dried cherries (no nuts for daycare!).  For friends: gluten, egg, and (mostly) dairy free oatmeal cookies with walnuts and dark chocolate chips.

In the interest of full disclosure, my cookies cannot technically be considered GF because I did not purchase GF oats.  Apparently oats cannot be assumed to be GF unless specifically noted due to potential cross contamination.

First thing I noticed, mixing the dough for the GF cookies was faster and ostracized the mixer.  As I poured 3/4 cup of maple syrup into the bowl, I was thinking 2 things.  1) this is expensive and 2) does it really matter what kind of sugar I use?  Doesn't the body treat all sugar like sugar?  To address the questions in thing 2, I started off with Google, or "Dr. Google" as we like to refer to him at work.  There is various information out there on refined sugar vs. natural sugars, but I am always very apprehensive at anything floating in the interwebs.  Who knows if it's written by some uninformed quack just like me?  So I turned to my favorite source of information: PubMed.  First I entered "maple syrup" as my search term, which returned over 1100 references to articles on maple syrup urine disease.  A search using "refined sugar" yielded more relevant results with riveting titles such as "Intake of Whole-Grain and Fiber-Rich Rye Bread Versus Refined Wheat Bread Does Not Differentiate Intestinal Microbiota Composition in Finnish Adults with Metabolic Syndrome".

I found articles stating the antioxidant properties of different sweeteners varied, articles discussing the impact of refined carbohydrates on non-verbal intelligence, publications on using nutritional therapy in mental health, and implications of sugar intake on hippocampal function.  There is a lot of info out there.  It seems that regardless of sugar source, moderation is the best policy.  Added sweetness increases calories and excessive calorie intake (whether as carbohydrates or fats) contributes to the American epidemic of obesity. The data on whether our bodies process the sugars differently is conflicting, but many sources agree sugar sources have the same nutritional value. (A very complete review of fructose was particularly interesting, as well as a comparison of sucrose and HFCS)

Anyway, back to the cookies.  After completing both batches, GF and non-GF, I had my sister do a blind taste test.  She preferred the GF, stating it had more flavor.  I think that might have been the tablespoon of cinnamon.  The texture of the two was very different, as I would have expected.  The GF were more like granola bars than cookies.  I would consider them a success.  A lot of the other GF recipes for baked goods I have looked at are much more complex so texturally they may be more similar to traditional baked goods.
Traditional oatmeal cookies

GF version

No comments:

Post a Comment