Gluten-Free Focaccia

It’s been somewhat of an ongoing mission of mine to create a great gluten-free, yeast-free bread recipe (that’s also dairy and egg free). It’s been a challenging task, and my patience has often been worn down in the process, leaving me to give up after the first few failed attempts each time I get back to trying.

One problem is that I haven’t found a sufficiently good way to get a loaf of bread to rise without yeast or eggs or copious amounts of baking soda, which tends to leave a distinct and lingering aftertaste when not used in moderate quantities. I haven’t given up, but I have shifted my mindset to a more reasonable approach: the bread issue is one I’m going to have to tackle by taking baby steps, rather than giant leaps.

I thought focaccia might be a good place to start. By definition, focaccia is a flat bread, which right away solves some of the leavening problems. Sure, many focaccia recipes call for yeast, but I thought that it could easily be replaced. I went through several versions using several different flours, all which turned out decent, but this was by far my favorite. I toasted some slices and dipped them in olive oil, which turned out to be very tasty. I also used some of the bread to make croutons, which I used to top off a creamy broccoli soup recipe I was testing (stay tuned for that recipe in the days to come). I even ate some slices straight out of the fridge — cold — and still enjoyed them. That’s when I knew this was a recipe worth sharing with all of you.

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Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Bread

breadFor those who celebrate Christmas, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I’m back in Michigan, enjoying some quality family time in the midwest before heading back to the Big Apple to start off what will certainly be a busy year. I’m studying for, then taking, the New York Bar Exam, getting married, and will continue the process of looking for a job. Of course, I can’t neglect this blog, as it has been a theraupeutic challenge for me — one that has been a welcome diversion from some of my more stressful, perhaps less enjoyable, everyday tasks.

In between watching chick flicks with the fam (we took in The Proposal last night — a must-see for chick-flick enthusiasts like myself), sleeping in, and post-holiday shopping, I’ve managed to find some time to test out a few new recipes today. This apple cinnamon bread turned out to be a hit. This was much to the relief of my parents, who were quite the skeptics after two failed blueberry cinnamon bread attempts. The apple flavor comes through pretty assertively in this bread. The trifecta of apple juice, applesauce and sliced apple probably had a lot to do with that. Expect an old-fashioned flavor, a soft, moist center and a more crumbly, somewhat drier crust. It’s reminiscent of a coffee cake with a cinnamon crumble topping.

I’m hoping to post again before then, but just in case: Happy New Year everyone!

Gluten Free, Sugar Free Apple Cinnamon Bread:

1 1/2 cups sorghum flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

1/4 cup hot water

2/3 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 medium-sized apple, peeled and sliced thin

2 tablespoons cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together apple juice, grapeseed oil, agave and vanilla. Add wet to dry ingredients and stir to incorporate. Add applesauce and hot water and continue to stir until incorporated. Fold in sliced apples.

3. Pour batter into a greased 9x4x3-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle cinnamon on top and spread evenly with the back of a spoon or spatula (it’s ok if the topping mixes in with some of the batter underneath). Bake in preheated oven  for 50-55 minutes.

4. Cool in pan for 45 minutes. Carefully remove bread from loaf pan to cool completely on a wire rack.


Cornbread Stuffing

I still remember the first Thanksgiving my mom spent after cutting wheat, dairy and sugar out of her diet. I sat across from her at the table, sheepishly enjoying my mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce as she picked at her plate of boiled potatoes and plain turkey. Wow, I never want to have to do that…I thought to myself. Little did I know that three months later I would be sitting in a doctor’s office listening to a diagnosis that was, essentially, a “not to do” list that included some of my favorite foods. I immediately thought about Thanksgiving. For years, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. It’s not just the food, but also the atmosphere. No one is rushed, there is little stress leading up to the big day, and everyone can just eat and relax, take a nap, and watch football. Still, it all comes down to the food, and Thanksgiving just wouldn’t seem the same (at least not to me) without some good old-fashioned sides to go along with the turkey.

Eventually my mom did find a way to bring the traditional sides back to our Thanksgiving meal with some simple substitutions: unsweetend soy milk and Earth Balance in the mashed potatoes, stevia and xylitol for the cranbery sauce, and a cornstarch-thickened instead of flour-thickened gravy. But the one thing we never seemed to be able to replace was the stuffing. This year, I decided to experiment by making a gluten free cornbread stuffing — not an entirely novel idea, but something that, truthfully, I had never thought about making until now. I went traditional with the flavors — nothing too fancy or different — but I think this recipe would be very amenable to additions and experimentaion. I included the gluten-free cornbread recipe here, too, which can be made in advance or just before making the stuffing.

Gluten Free Cornbread:

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk or almond milk

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons agave nectar


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and whisk until incorporated. Pour batter into a greased, 9×9 inch baking dish or cast iron skillet and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Let cool.

Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing:

1 medium sweet onion, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup vegetable broth

1 recipe gluten free cornbread

1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large skillet or saute pan, saute onion and celery in buttery spread over low heat until soft and transluscent, about 15 minutes. Add garlic in last 5 minutes of cooking. Add vegetable broth and increase heat to medium. Bring to a simmer. Remove onions and celery from heat. Crumble cornbread into skillet. Add parsley and thyme. Stir to combine and until liquid is absorbed.

3. Transfer stuffing to a baking dish and bake, covered in foil, in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes to brown the top. Alternately, use recipe to stuff turkey or any other poultry.


Gluten Free Banana Nut Bread

I am so happy to finally share this recipe with everyone. I made six versions of this bread. Each was good, but there was always something that needed tweaking. Pinning down the perfect recipe is sort of like working on a puzzle. Inserting the final piece — or finally slicing the perfect piece, in this case — is always as satisfying as the completion of any other seemingly insurmountable task. But there is one thing that I absolutely hate about having to bake over and over again: dishes. I am not one of those people who finds therapeutic solace in doing dishes. And frankly, I don’t believe those people who claim they do. So I was very happy knowing I would no longer being cleaning up after any more messy, havouc-wreaking baking attempts…for now. I know there will be several other trial and error sessions in my future. Today, however, I’m enjoying my banana bread and my clean kitchen. No more baking.

My experimentation did lead me to uncover some very interesting secrets to a moist and flavorful bread: 1) Mashed silken tofu will yeild a very nice texture, and 2) a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar will elevate the banana flavor.

On a final note, I tried using both Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill Brown rice flour in this recipe, since I was curious as to whether the difference would affect to the results. The first loaf was made using all Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour and no white rice. The texture was very nice. But when I used all Arrowhead Mills brown rice flour, it had hints of the signature grittiness people associate with gluten free baking. So, that’s not good. Therefore, in the interest of creating a uniformly good bread, the recipe calls for part brown rice and part white rice flour, which will work no matter what brand you use. However, if you are using Bob’s Red Mill, feel free to use all brown rice flour in the recipe.

Because this bread is made with tofu, it should be kept in the refrigerator. It should keep for several days.

Gluten Free Vegan Banana Bread:

3/4 cup white rice flour

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour (starch) or potato starch

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

2/3 cup agave nectar

1/3 cup canola or grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 1/4 cup mashed ripe bananas

3/4 cup mashed silked tofu

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water

1/2 cup chopped walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together agave, oil, and cider vinegar. Add to dry ingredients and whisk to incorporate. Fold in banana and silken tofu. Finally, add hot water and slowly whisk batter until absorbed.

3. Pour batter into a greased, 7x4x3 – inch loaf pan. Bake for 60 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. You may have to cover with foil about 40 minutes into baking so that the bread will cook through without the crust becoming too brown. Cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for 25 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.