It was just supposed to be an afternoon baking Christmas gifts for my wonderful room moms. I firmly believe that today’s classroom could not exist were it not for our volunteers. They cut, copy, organize, file, grade, clean, prep science experiments — all things that teachers used to have the time to do on their own. But because public education is now about pre-assessments, interventions, re-assessments, post-assessments, and meetings to plan and discuss all of the assessments that tell teachers what they have known all along, the work that volunteers do prevents the modern teacher from going absolutely crazy.
Now that THAT’S off my chest, on to my baking afternoon.
A friend gave me a lovely Strawberry Bread recipe years ago that I made for my room moms each Christmas. Wrapped in a festive dishtowel, it made a warm Christmas gift that said, “Thank you for all you do” on a teacher’s salary. But since becoming gluten-free I haven’t wanted to bake with wheat flour and risk cross-contamination in my kitchen. I almost threw out that Strawberry Bread recipe in the last recipe box cleanout, and I’m so glad that I didn’t. When I came across the stained, tattered recipe card this year, I felt that rush of kitchen excitement as I came up with a fabulous idea.
I decided that not only did I want to bake for my room moms, but I wanted to bake gluten-free for them. Now we all know that baking gluten-free can be very tricky. And I am not a baker to begin with. I am very good at following directions though. Give me a recipe, and the outcome may look as good or better than the picture in the recipe book.
But I needed to substitute the three cups of wheat flour with gluten-free flours. Which gluten-free flour should I use? Today we have so many to chose from, because gluten-free mixes seem to be popping up all over the place. So I decided to have a little Christmas Bread Bake Off with two of them.
I followed the Strawberry Bread recipe precisely, substituting King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour for wheat flour.
Then I made the same recipe again but this time using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour.
I couldn’t wait to find out which bread would turn out better. The actual preparation was fairly simple.
This recipe calls for frozen strawberries, and fresh berries are hard to find this time of year. I thawed the strawberries and placed them in the food processor.
I gently pulsed the strawberries until they were smooth with just a few fruity chunks.
After mixing the dry ingredients, I dug a little well in the mixture and poured the wet ingredients in.
I gently mixed it all together on low speed and poured the batter into two greased pans. Easy, right?
I decided to a second experiment out of necessity. I wondered if my metal pans or ceramic pans would produce the better loaf. I have two of each, so this would speed up the process.
Into the oven they went, and in no time the house smelled delightful.
I should have been paying more attention.
I should have checked the timer.
I should have realized that the hour bake time might not be the same using gluten-free flours.
But what was I doing?
Taking pictures, of course.
The breads in the ceramic pans didn’t burn, but they sunk in on the top, and they were really hard to manipulate without the loaf falling apart.
Bob’s looked pretty in the pans. (Although, the ceramic loaf sunk.)
King Arthur’s seemed more porous and the color was uneven and mottled.
When taking the loaves out of the ceramic pans, Bob’s broke completely into two pieces (right), but I think that was my fault. Patience is not my strong suit, and I think the loaves needed to cool in the pans just a little longer.
King Arthur’s (left) was a total crumbly disaster. Parts of the loaf stuck to the pan. I did my best to piece it back together, but the results were not pretty.
Slicing Bob’s bread was easier with the loaf from the metal pan.
Slicing King Arthur’s bread was tricky. You can tell how much more crumbly this loaf is than the other.
I could actually slice the entire loaf of Bob’s bread successfully.
But King Arthur’s? Well, see for yourself.
So, I finished this experiment full from having sampled way too much Strawberry Bread, frustrated that I had only one out of four loaves that I could possibly give away as a gift, and a little bit glad that my hero, Bob, is still number one.
I should tell you that the bread made from both flour mixes tasted wonderful. There was no discernible difference in taste between the two flours, but I don’t think you can go wrong with most flours when they’re mixed with strawberries, butter, sugar, and eggs. Although the Husband had to eat his slice with a spoon, he declared it to be delicious but as a crumb cake.
And Marcy was thoroughly entertained by the whole process.
But what about my room parent gifts? There is a happy ending, but you’ll have to come back tomorrow to hear it. I’ll have a successful recipe for you then as well.
What’s your favorite gluten-free baking flour?