Gluten-free baking can be — to put it mildly — intimidating. Open up any recipe for gluten-free baked goods, and you will probably be confronted with a very long list of ingredients. Xanthan gum, flours made from beans, and other mysterious ingredients figure prominently.
This is one reason why Elana Amsterdam's books are so attractive: her ingredient lists are remarkably short. This strawberry cupcake recipe, for instance, only calls for eight relatively familiar ingredients. And yet it's also outstandingly delicious!
Elana Amsterdam of the popular blog Elana's Pantry has gained quite a following for her gluten-free recipes. But where other gluten-free bakers tend to use a complex mix of rice and bean flours, Elana opts instead for almond or coconut flour. Her first book, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, was a runaway hit. Cooks clearly preferred the simple approach of using just one sort of flour in their gluten-free baking.
This cupcake book has 50 recipes that take this same approach. All use either almond or coconut flour. This was my first time baking with coconut flour, and I found it quite delicious. It has a nutty, faintly coconut taste, but this doesn't overwhelm the final product. In fact, I wouldn't be able to identify coconut as the dominant taste in these cupcakes.
The recipe for these strawberry cupcakes came together swiftly. It calls for coconut flour, a little arrowroot powder, and quite a few eggs. (Coconut flour sucks up moisture; it takes a surprising amount of eggs and sweeteners to balance out the small amount of flour here.) Elana also prefers agave nectar in her recipes. I made this recipe twice — once with honey, and once with agave nectar. The one with the agave nectar was far superior; I think that the quality of moisture in the two sweeteners is different. So do stick with the recipe exactly as written.
How do these taste, then? They are incredibly delicious. I do not eat gluten-free, most of the time (although I like having a few good gluten-free recipes for friends living with celiac disease). But simply as a lover of cake and all things sweet, I found these cupcakes delightful. They are moist, with a sponge cake texture, and a delicate strawberry flavor. I topped mine with a simple unsweetened whipped cream. My husband, who is not a fan of very sweet desserts, loved these. They were fruity enough, and not too sweet, and yet with a delicate texture and moist crumb.
Two thumbs up for Elana's method, at least in this recipe! I'm looking forward to experimenting with more recipes in this book, and trying out some of the almond flour recipes as well.
Have you tried any recipes from this new book? What did you think?
• Find the book and see more details about the recipes inside: Gluten-Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour, 9.99 at Amazon. Published by Celestial Arts, April 2011.
• Visit Elana's blog: Elana's Pantry
Gluten-Free Strawberry Cupcakes
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, arrowroot powder, salt, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Blend the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a handheld mixer until thoroughly combined, then fold in the strawberries.
Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 1 hour, then frost and serve.
(Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour. Copyright © 2011 by Elana Amsterdam, Celestial Arts, an imprint of Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA. Photo Credit: Annabelle Breakey.)
(Cupcake images: Faith Durand)