I’ve always been very interested in eating healthy and making sure that my family does the same. That being said, there is nothing quite like a good old-fashioned baked treat at the end of a long day. I am an avid baker. It is my go-to stress reliever and I find it cathartic. I could always look at a recipe and know instantly if it was going to work. I thought nothing could surprise me about baking. Then I was thrown a giant curve ball.
A while back, my mom was diagnosed with a gluten problem. Without getting too personal or too medical, she cannot have any gluten at all. This means not wheat, barley or rye, period. When she was first diagnosed, it put the whole family into a funk. No more pasta, bread, pies. No more streusel toppings, breakfast muffins or chicken noodle soup. No more birthday cakes or Christmas cookies. Eating at a restaurant? Forget about it. There are traces of gluten everywhere, even in soy sauce! We were not happy campers. Sure we could have been selfish and gone on eating our favorites while she looked on longingly, but we aren’t that mean. If one of us has to give something up, then the rest of us do our best to show our support. This was a bigger challenge than we had bargained for.
It was scary at first, but the more research I did, the more hopeful I became. I tried countless recipes. There were a lot of great gluten-free recipes, but most of them had a definite gluten-free taste or texture. In the time since my mom was diagnosed, I have done a lot of research, testing and failing and more testing and succeeding. My goal all along was to create recipes that no one would ever suspect were gluten-free. My family is brutally honest, so they never hesitate to tell me when something doesn’t work. I don’t know if I will ever live down the avocado chocolate mousse debacle.
A lot of people have tried bad gluten-free food in the past and they often snub their noses at anything that is sans gluten. It conjures up memories of brownies and cakes made with bean flours or tasteless, crumbly cookies. Gluten-free has changed so much in the last few years. I know that a lot of people are jumping onto the bandwagon. It may or may not be a passing fad, but what I do know for sure is that my family will be eating gluten-free, at least part-time, for years to come.
I thought I would share a quick autumn recipe with you. If you have any leftover pumpkin from your Thanksgiving feast, then it will go to good use in this recipe. I made a version of this for years, using regular flour (and you still can, just omit the xanthan gum and substitute all-purpose or whole wheat flour for the gluten-free flour). This was a huge hit with my mom and her friends at a recent get-together.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread
Makes 2 loaves
For the Bread:
- 2 cups fresh pumpkin purée (or 30 ounces canned pumpkin)
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- ¾ cup canola oil
- 1 cup white sugar (or evaporated cane juice)
- 1 cup packed brown sugar (I like dark, but light works as well)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups gluten-free multi-purpose flour (for this recipe I like King Arthur Gluten-Free Multipurpose Flour)
- 1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
- 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice (or your favorite combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, mace and cloves)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 cups chopped apples (whatever you have laying around. Most recently I used a fuji, a granny smith and a honeycrisp but any apple will work)
- 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
- 3 Tablespoons seed mixture * (optional)
For the Topping (optional – you can double this if you want lots of topping):
- ½ cup old fashioned rolled oats (gluten-free from Bob’s Red Mill are great)
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup packed brown sugar (again, I like dark but light works)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lightly oil two 9”x5” loaf pans.
- Toss together topping ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together pumpkin, egg, oil, sugars and vanilla.
- In another bowl sift together flour, xanthan gum, pumpkin pie spice, sea salt and baking soda. Fold in apples, pecans and seed mixture.
- Pour batter into prepared pans. Divide topping and sprinkle evenly over batter.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow the bread to cool in the pans.
*For the seed mixture, make a combine your favorite nuts (such as almonds or walnuts), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax etc.) and goji berries in desired quantities. Grind everything together in a mini-food processor or a coffee grinder and store in a container in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. This is a great nutrition boost and it goes well in most quick bread recipes, pancakes or on top of yogurt. For a really great seed mixture recipe, check out the one in Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook: My Father’s Daughter . It is my go-to recipe (and the cookbook is one of my all-time favorites).