The Gluten-Free & Vegan Recipe Challenge

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on June 8, 2011

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I often like to attack vegan recipe challenges with gusto, spearing my spatula into the air while whisking a flax egg like a crazy person. However, as much as I like to consider myself a fearless vegan baker, there is one type of baking that makes me shake in my boots: Gluten-free baking.

I was recently asked to participate in a gluten-free and vegan recipe challenge with a group of bloggers, organized by Marly. The challenge is to create a gluten-free, vegan baked good, which will be appearing on our blogs on June 30th.

Fear set in.

Questions began to swirl through my mind.

Vegan…and gluten-free?…ahhhh! Would my oven burst into flames protesting the task? Would my husband disown me if I brought home one more ingredient from the grocery store?

Naturally, I hit reply and said I would love to participate. There would be no shaking in my apron allowed!

Given that the deadline is June 30th, I thought I would use the next few weeks to ‘get my toes wet’ with gluten-free baking. The recipe that I agreed to make for the challenge is a muffin recipe, but I decided to start with a cookie because it was ‘fail-proof’.

I think you know where this is going…heh.

I picked up Bob’s Red Mill All-purpose GF flour from the Superstore. I already had some Xanthan Gum, which has been collecting dust in my cupboard for about 2 years (it was originally purchased at Bulk Barn).

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I was now armed to make GF and vegan baking magic happen! whohoo.

Mistake #1: Assuming that I could play around with a gluten-free and vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe….

Recipe called for too much oil.

Less oil, more applesauce, duh.

Too much sugar.

Less sugar, more…something, duh.

Uh oh, the batter is too wet.

More GF flour, duh.

As you can see, I’m a scientist in the kitchen.

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Well, it wasn’t pretty. The batter- for lack of a better description- was like the coating on a worm. Glossy, and elastic. Not cool.

Mistake #2: I figured the oven could fix mistake #1.

The timer started to beep and I ran into the kitchen with nervous anticipation. I opened the door and saw a sight that no cookie lover should ever witness…

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Mushy & puffy chocolate chip cookies that even Eric refused to touch. And this is coming from a man who would probably eat worms if they were covered in chocolate. I wouldn’t even go as far to say that they were ‘cake-like’ or ‘muffin-like’; they did not deserve such accolades.

‘Puffy cookie mush’ is all I can tell you.

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And what the heck is going on with the cookie on the right? It looks like it exploded chocolate chips!

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Alas, it might take me a few days to work up my GF and vegan baking courage again!

Fortunately, there’s always a vegan recipe that never lets me down. Ok, that was a lie.

It rarely lets me down…

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That would be the Green Monster of course. A delight to the taste buds. A thank-you to the body. A reason why you should always check your teeth and green moustache before going out in public!

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I knew today was going to be a hot one, so I set out for a 4-mile run just after sunrise. Before leaving for a morning run, I typically have 1/2 a banana for a bit of fuel. After the run, I did a sweaty 7-minute Whittle My Middle session (KILLER!) and then I made breakfast- a Cherry Banana Green Monster made up of 1 cup non-dairy milk, 1/2 cup frozen cherries, 1 frozen banana, 2 handfuls spinach, protein powder, and 1 tbsp chia seeds.

Perfecto!

Lately, I’ve been adding Nature’s Path Kamut puff cereal for fun. This is the good kind of puff. Those cookies were not.

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[FYI- My Chilled No Bake Double Chocolate Torte is vegan and gluten-free if you are looking for a successful GF + vegan dessert recipe.]

Now, this whole challenge has me curious- do I have many gluten-free readers out there?

Have you ever tried gluten-free baking? Do you have any tips for me?

I have about 20 days to get my act together…or bust!

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

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Tegan June 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Hey Angela!
I’m so glad to hear you’re trying gluten free! I’ve just been diagnosed with celiac and the last few of my gluten free baking attempts have been flops and I’ve been really bummed about it, so I totally understand what you’re going through! Thanks for trying and also asking for help, all the tips out here are really great! Though with all your upbeat attitude and cooking expertise, I know that you’ll figure it out with flying colours!

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Corinne June 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I thought it was just me!!
Not that I hope for anyone to have bad experiences in the kitchen, but I thought I was doomed to never make a vegan, gluten-free (and nut-free) baked taste good and look appetizing. My poor bf has been the guinea pig for many a failure!
I find a lot of the recipes I’ve seen use almond flour which I cannot have. I also avoid the GF mixes because I’ve found that they either have corn or sugar. Sorghum flour works well, as does brown rice flour, but things never come out quite the same as with gluten.
Angela, happy experimenting, I know it is so tough, but I know you’ll figure it out, with beautiful results!

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Angel7 June 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Poor cookies :( Maybe a hungry animal would eat them :) Oh, wait… Can animals eat chocolate, or is that just dogs that cannot have chocolate?

I have never made anything gluten-free, but would like to. Gluten-free is so much better for you.

Good luck!

http://faithfulsolutions.blogspot.com/

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Amy June 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I used to bake gluten-free all the time, and muffins were the easiest to get right. I am a big fan of oat flour which always made moist delicious muffins, and also using banana as a binder rather than xantham gum. Good Luck!

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Stephanie @Lungesandlunch June 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

I’ve been baking gluten-free for several months now but a bad batch still creeps in every once in awhile! You’ll get the hang of it! Don’t give up :)

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Danielle N @ Beauty Lite June 9, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I was gluten free for two years because it upset my stomach. After I went vegan, I tried eating whole grains again and it didn’t bother me! I think once I got all the other “crap” out of my diet, my body was cleansed and was able to digest gluten again. I still eat a lot of gluten free items and am interested in gfree baking, so I’d love to see more of those items on your blog. Also, I’m all for awareness and I know you have a ton of readers, so I feel like it couldn’t hurt :) Thanks, Angela!

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Amy June 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

I’m newly gluten free (2 months now) after 2 days i finally figured out my stomach issues that plagued me for years and years. Finally a stomach that feels normal! I didn’t even know what it felt like for my stomach not to hurt, be bloated and very gassy:( I have started into the gluten free baking as i am all about eating clean whole foods…i have made some really yummy ones that even my finace likes…he didnt always like my healthy whole wheat baking in the past. Check out my blog for my yummy gfree recipes: http://bufftothebone.blogspot.com/ I am really excited that you will be expirmenting more in to gfree baking/cooking. I love your vegan recipes:) I made some VOO the other night for bfast yummmmyyyy…i used flax instead of chia ( i have yet to try chia and didnt have any on hand) turned out yummy and delicious…i still eat dairy just try to limit it. I find if i have too much i can have some stomach issues…its hard though as i love cheese and i LOVE my yoghurt, fresh berries and gfree cereal as a snack.

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Kim @ Vertige de la Cuisine June 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm

I’m so excited to see what you come up with! I’m sure it will be great. I’ve been baking gluten-free for about a year now. I agree some of the other commenters that mixing your own flour blend they way to go. I like using nut and coconut flours in my mixes along with something a little lighter like rice flour. Oat flour could also be really good in cookies, and you can process it yourself:)

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Jane June 9, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Someone may have already mentioned this but the Gluten Free Pantry all purpose flour mix is fantastic as a starting point, and it has the gum already in it. I don’t like the aftertaste of Tyne bobs one. Good luck! Really looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

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Lauren June 10, 2011 at 12:04 am

I am GF and was GFDF for awhile too. I use eggs in baking, so I guess that makes things a little easier. Since I’m not crazy about the variety of GF flours/ratios needed for baking, I usually default to not baking, or going the grain-free route (black bean brownies, black bean cupcakes). I’m excited to see what you come up with!

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Veronica June 10, 2011 at 12:35 am

Oh, this made me laugh so hard! Your descriptions of the failed cookies were just too funny! When making gluten-free recipes, I prefer to make things that use non-funky flours as a base. Like peanut butter cookies that are simply peanut butter and egg (or whatever substitute you want to use) mixed with sugar. No flour required. I know oats can be a problem if they are processed in a facility with wheat flour, but if you get the safe kind, you can grind them up to make oat flour for cookies. I don’t like Bob’s red mill gf flour b/c it tastes too beany to me (I think it uses garbanzo beans!). And nuts ground up with dates is my favorite gf treat, and so simple. Perhaps you could try baking those and see what happens!

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Lorin June 10, 2011 at 2:47 am

I would eat that cookie..the chocolate chips look delish!

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Hillsabee June 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Have you ever used agave nectar instead of sugar>? It is a great substitute and is easier to digest than sugar.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) June 11, 2011 at 6:35 am

Yes I have tried it. :) I find it works in some recipes that call for liquid sweetener, but overall I prefer to use pure maple syrup. when dry sweeteners are called for, I like to use raw cane sugar and Sucanat.

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Gillian June 11, 2011 at 9:43 am

I was also going to recommend Elana’s Pantry — she uses almond flour for most things (I just grind up blanched almonds instead of buying expensive almond flour.) Another alternative is coconut flour — I love baking with it – check out Comfy Belly — her Lemon Poppyseed cupcakes are fantastic! For all of these, it helps to have a vitamix or a blendtec.

If you are going to go with a more ‘normal’ recipe, try using Namaste’s perfect flour — which is non-gluten.

My favorite right now is the coconut flour!

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Krissy @ Make It Naked June 14, 2011 at 10:15 am

Gluten-free is new to me too so I’ve been experimenting a lot with different flours. Like a lot of the commenters, I’ve had most success with almond flour. I just posted GF brownies that are the best brownies I’ve ever had. Would love to see you veganize them! The recipe is from a great site called healthygreenkitchen.com. Good Luck!

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Jamie June 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm

One of my readers requested recipes for gluten free baked goods so I am going to be experimenting with this as well! Will definitely be following your progress also!

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Cynthia Adams - The Pie Lady April 12, 2012 at 5:14 am

Hi, I haven’t read through all of the responses you have, but, I couldn’t help putting in a message! I’m a baker..hence the Pie Lady title. I have used the Bob’s Red Mill flours and I have to tell you that granted they have a good reputation, they obviously have never really made a true bakery pastry or crust. Their flours are too beannnny for baking anything but breads. I work with an all organic company and have managed to play with lots of flours. I devised the most mouth-watering tart crust (even I amazed me). I guess it wouldn’t count if I gave it to you though. Anyhow…..tips: 1.) you should use separate flours and make your own mix, no more than 25% of each type. 2) i prefer the guar gum over the xanathan. 3) try coconut oil for the moisture,,,yum and oh so moist! also, use applesauce, apple butter or similar stuff.
MUFFINS? Try finely ground corn flour! (the organic one I have is awesome) and YOUR imagination which is spectacular! I got my flour mix recipes from several places on-line and kind of combined them to suit my baking needs. The simplest one I use is from
simplygluten-free.com. Good Luck!

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Cynthia Adams - The Pie Lady April 12, 2012 at 5:20 am

If you are not stuck to the muffin challenge…I can steer ya toward a delish tart shell!
I forgot to mention that at my pie stand in our farmer’s market, the GLUTEN FREE/SUGAR FREE/VEGAN pies, tarts and desserts are flying off the table! I found my niche’

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Saira April 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Babycakes NYC (an amazing vegan/GF bakery in the LES in Manhattan)…she has a cookbook too. She mainly uses Bob’s mixes, coconut oil, applesauce and a few other key ingredients. I find it a tad too sweet and cut out the sugar….

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Kayla April 26, 2012 at 11:04 am

I’m gluten-free and dairy free, so I’m considering just going ahead and cutting out the meat as well after watching Forks and Knives. It’s difficult to find gluten-free vegan recipes…

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Welda Johnson May 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I eat gluten free and vegan, and have quite a time of it, getting enough food, because asthma and gout now prevent me from eating potatoes, tomatoes or eggplant (nightshade vegetables cause excruciating pain for gout, which is a form of rheumatoid arthritis). However, I remain cheerful, slim, optimistic, and always ready to experiment with one more recipe! I usually take my own food wherever I go, but since I’m used to it, everyone else pretty much expects it now too. This week I’ve been experimenting with varieties of carrot cakes and frostings (replace cream cheese frosting with vanilla soy yogurt, tofu and sweeteners blended together–there is a prepared cream cheese substitute but I didn’t care for it). To the cake I’ve tried adding carrots, zucchini, dates, pineapple, dried prunes that I wanted to get rid of, a sweet potato–that worked great–an orange, gf granola, cinnamon, nutmeg, stevia or honey or agave or Walden Farms zero carbs, zero calorie, zero protein pancake syrup, almonds and corn flour (I don’t like the prepared rice flour combination). The three cakes I’ve made so far have tasted great. Make sure you grease the pan well and don’t overcook or it dries out. Good luck!

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Pixie May 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I know this post is almost a year old, but I found it searching for a vegan gluten-free cake…and I laughed and laughed while I read it! Oh, you sound like you cook like me – a “real” scientist! Tried and true methods from other people – ha! lol Forge on – make a new recipe, er, flop – and finally figure out a marvelous NEW way of making gluten-free things. Love it. How did your challenge come out?

I’m new to the gluten/wheat-free scene. I’ve been vegan for over 16 years, so I’ve stopped quaking in my apron over that one (although I certainly did when allergies threw me into that arena.) Now, to add something else difficult into the mix, I’m back to quaking again. Only 1/2 of my crew (including me) needs to stay away from wheat – and possibly gluten, although that hasn’t been ruled out completely yet. Therefore, at times I am making 2 versions of a meal when I know the gluten-free choice leaves much to be desired.

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Brooke Fredericksen July 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Hi all, I am the mom of a 10-year-old daughter with celiac disease and I have been baking GF for almost 10 years now (can’t deprive a kid of cookies or cake!). I have also been baking dairy free because my ex husband was lactose intolerant. So…egg replacer is vital. So is some kind of fruit to help with moisture in baked goods. And Vegenaise helps too. I use a lot of Betty Hagman’s gluten free recipes and I twist them to make them dairy fee as well. Let me know and I can send you a few recipes if you want. I just wrote a blog entry for another site about my Best Ever Carrot Cake. Don’t know when it will be published online but it should be coming out soon.

Hang in there, Angela. You make such awesome stuff. You’ll get the hang of gluten free baking too.

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Sofia January 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

My “tip” would be to add a bit of pectin, (like a teaspoon or so per batch). It makes for a moister, longer-lasting product which holds together better, at least in my experience.

As for Bob’s Red Mill gf flour mix, it made for the MOST extrordinary spice cake, (Carol Fenster’s recipe in “Wheat-Free Recipes & Menus, easily adapted to vegan.)

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garden of time April 17, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about gluten free. Regards

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c davis February 13, 2015 at 12:37 am

I know a lady that makes the ultimate Chocolate CHIP cookie in fact it’s called THE COOKIE no one that tries it can believe it no one will ever have to look any further and every other recipe will be tossed she is making a book a it will be out maybe this year I’ll update when it comes out the recipe is priceless but she dosent realize it and it’s glutin free I almost perfected it off hand but cannot give away her ingredients. 3 bucks for one smallish cookie seems to good to be true you’ll spend over 20 dollars going back and back again in one trip you can’t get enough and they are dangerous even for the martinet of health eaters. Ha ha ha I won’t go on but seriously I don’t even look at any other chocolate chip cookies.

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