October 13, 2011

Gluten-free Pear Cake

aking gluten-free is not something I have done very much though most of my everyday cooking is mostly free of gluten since our diet is largely consists of rice, lentils and legumes, vegetables, fruit and occasionally eggs.
In fact, the only other time I have baked gluten-free was when I made some cookies which were pretty good. I had always considered all-purpose flour (or whole wheat) an intrinsic part of baking so when I discovered there were a lot of people baking without them, I was intrigued.

When I first took to baking seriously, many recipes were a challenge because a lot of ingredients beyond the basic ones were not available in the stores where I live. So the challenge of adapting recipes and substituting for ingredients to produce something close to the original became the norm for me.
I now quite like the idea of challenging myself to try newer ways of cooking/ baking and trying gluten-free baking has always been on my list of things to do. However some of the ingredients usually used by gluten-free bakers have been my stumbling block, so to say. I however decided to go ahead and explore gluten-free baking, this time with my baking buddies Arundati, Arundhati, Arundathi and Nandita.
After doing some reading, I discovered that many gluten-free flours like arrowroot amaranth flour (rajgira atta/ flour), sorghum flour (jowar atta/ flour), millet flour (bajri ki atta/ bajra flour), buckwheat flour (kuttu ka atta), white and brown rice flours, soy flour, etc., have long been used in India and are available in most places.

Some ingredients like chia seeds, potato starch, tapioca starch and xanthan gum are not available here. I decided to bake without the chia seeds, substitute potato/ tapioca starch with corn starch (corn flour as we know it in India) and had my sister bring me some xanthan gum on her last visit to India. Xanthan gum is used in gluten-free baking to reproduce the texture that is provided by gluten in wheat based bakes.
I understand that guar gum (which should be available in in India, since it is the largest producer of it in the world!) and gum Arabic (known as “gond”) are reasonably good substitutes for xanthan gum though I’ve never tried using them in gluten-free baking so far.

I had bookmarked this gluten-free Peach Coffee Cake a couple of months back, when peaches were in season here. While I used the peaches to make a few things including some granita, by the time I got around to making this cake, the peaches were all gone! So I made the cake with pears instead which I thought didn’t matter much as the cake was good.

The verdict in our home was unanimous about how good this cake was. I got requests for second helpings and there wasn’t enough left for thirds! The cake has a slightly dense texture reminiscent of a fruit cake, yet is still light enough. If I hadn’t made the cake, I wouldn’t have even suspected it wasn’t a “regular” cake made with all-purpose/ whole wheat flour.
Serve the cake slightly warm for the best taste. Serve it with ice-cream for an even nicer experience.

Please note that the original recipe for this gluten-free cake is also egg-free and diary-free, but I made my cake with both eggs and dairy products.

Gluten-free Pear Cake
(Adapted from the Gluten-free Goddess)


For the cake:

1 cup sorghum flour (jowar atta)
1/2 cup millet flour (bajre ki atta)
1/2 cup corn starch
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
120gm butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup Demerara sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 medium sized pears, peeled and sliced 

For the crumb topping:

4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp sorghum flour (jowar atta)
25 gm butter
1 tsp cinnamon 


Whisk all the dry ingredients for the cake in a large bowl to mix well. Put all the wet ingredients , except the eggs and the sliced pears, into another bowl and whisk together till Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredient mix. Add the beaten eggs and using an electric mixer, beat the batter for 2 minutes.  
As Katrina says, “Gluten-free vegan batters do not behave like wheat batters. They are often stiffer at first, then they get rather sticky and stretchy as the xanthan gum and egg replacer do their vegan g-free thing.”
I used eggs but the batter was still pretty stretchy and sticky and kept climbing up my beater attachments. Katrina advises moving one’s hand held mixer to a slower speed, slightly lifting the beaters to encourage the batter to move down into the bowl, and then moving the mixer around the bowl in figure eights at a slight angle. 

Scrape the batter out into a lightly greased and dusted 9” pan (dust with sorghum flour). Spread it evenly and arrange the pear slices on top, in a pattern.
Rub together the ingredients for the crumb topping and sprinkle it over the peach slices. Bake the cake at 180C (350F) for about 30 to 40 minutes until the cake is firm and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool the cake slightly on a rack. Serve warm as it is with coffee or tea, or as a light dessert with vanilla or butterscotch ice-cream.
Serves 8 to 10.