(We’re thrilled that this recipe is being featured at Oprah.com’s roundup of holiday recipes for 2009. For more of our featured posts, visit Oprah.com today.)
Baking gluten-free seems daunting at first, doesn’t it?
I had grown used to scoop and dump. Soften the butter, rip open the bag of white flour, turn on the KitchenAid. I barely had to think. My body remembered the movements of baking for me. Cookies came out crunchy and chewy, the wish come true, nearly every time. Baking, I knew.
And then I had to give up gluten. As much as I embraced it, I didn’t know how I would ever bake again. What the heck is xanthan gum? Can’t I just use rice flour? How do I combine these flours? Wait, now there’s coconut Flour, chia seed flour, and grapeseed flours? Which one do I use? I was confused. Everything felt new.
Now, I know what a blessing this is.
Have you ever noticed how your brain sort of sleeps when you do something you know really well? We may be good at it, but we’re not really looking at it. “In other words, it becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know and think outside the box youve built around yourself.”
Learn something new and you’ll see the world new too.
I have never learned so much as I have these past four years. My mind has been alive with ideas, always kicking, sometimes singing, sometimes stumbling over themselves. Going gluten-free, and especially learning to bake gluten-free, has awakened me.
There are so many flours to play with, most of which render the kitchen counters a floury white mess afterward. If there’s no chance of being neat with potato starch it emits a white poof as soon as you open the package then there’s no chance of being perfect. Might as well play.
Now, four years later, I’m still at beginner’s mind. The first year was exuberant but the recipes didn’t always work. After I met Danny, I learned so much about how food works that I grew more capable. I expect more out of the baked goods now. Life keeps introducing new flours these rolls rely on almond flour, not almond meal, the one I normally use and new techniques. I still don’t know what I’m doing.
That makes the first taste of these dinner rolls the 6th batch we created, the ones that have a light pull-apart inside, a soft crunch, a taste of something familiar and entirely new all the sweeter.
Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls, a work in progress, inspired by this recipe
We love these rolls. More importantly, Little Bean loves these rolls. She’s talking up a storm these days, babbling and exploring the world with sounds and syllables. Her favorite word at the moment, however? “Bread!” In the mornings, she reaches her hand toward the kitchen counter and stretches toward the latest batch of these rolls. Little kids are the most honest critics. If a food isn’t good, they just spit it out on the table. The fact that she loves them so? We think you will too.
One of the keys to these rolls is this particular combination of flours. We have worked and changed them and tried other groupings. You’re not going to go wrong with other flours, but this one is the best combination for us. You’ll see that I have put the ounces behind each measurement, in case you want to substitute other flours. Part of the key to the success of these rolls is the almond flour. Elana, from Elana’s Pantry, has inspired me to start playing with it more. High in protein and fluffy in texture, almond flour makes gluten-free baking far more fun. Elana just put up a useful guide to why she uses almond flour, which you should read too.
I know that many of you might ask about substitutions. I don’t know. I tried some, and I found that flaxseed and water worked as a good egg replacement in one batch. I’ve seen soy milk powder and goat’s milk powder at our local grocery store. The original recipe calls for instant potato flakes, but I just like quinoa flakes better. There are options. Feel free to leave questions here and maybe other readers can answer them. You won’t make the same rolls with different ingredients. However, once you make these rolls, they’re yours. If you can eat each of these ingredients, please do try this recipe exactly as written. Then, feel free to play!
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup water, heated to about 110°
3/4 cup (3 ounces) almond flour
1/2 cup (3 ounces) millet flour
1/3 cup (2.25 ounces) potato starch
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces) tapioca flour
1/3 cup (2.25 ounces) sweet rice flour
1/3 cup (2 ounces) cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon guar gum
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
handful of sesame seeds
Activating the yeast. Combine the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Turn on the hot water in your faucet and run it over the inside of your wrist. When the water feels the same temperature as your skin, you’re ready. Pour the cup of water into the bowl with the yeast and sugar and stir gently. Set aside the bowl in a warm place and allow it to bubble to double its size, about 15 minutes.
Making the dough. Pour the almond flour, millet flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, and cornstarch into the bowl of a stand mixer. (You can also mix this by hand, if you don’t have a stand mixer.) Mix on low speed to combine the flours. Add the salt, sugar, xanthan gum, guar gum, dry milk powder, and quinoa flakes. Mix everything together until the dry ingredients are combined well and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add 6 tablespoons of the softened butter, the egg, and the yeasty water. Mix until everything has combined well, about 3 minutes on medium speed.
The dough will be soft, softer than a traditional roll dough would be. Do not add flour to compensate. The dough at this stage should have the consistency of cookie dough.
Waiting for the dough to rise. Put the dough in a warm place in the kitchen, covered, and allow it to rise to twice its size, about 1 hour. If you have a cold kitchen where you know dough rarely rises, set the bowl on a wire rack, and the rack over a large bowl of hot water. Replenish the hot water every 30 minutes or so. Or, you can heat the oven to 200°, put in the rolls-to-be, put a pan of ice cubes on the rack below the rolls, close the door, and turn off the oven. They will rise well that way too.
Shaping the rolls and rising again. Grease a large cake pan or casserole dish, lightly, on the bottom. Grab a hunk of the dough, about the size of the palm of your hand (like a golf ball on steroids), and roll it into a ball. If the dough is sticky, use a little sweet rice flour to grab it. As best you can, roll the ball of dough and shape it until each piece is smooth and whole. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Set the baking pan in a warm spot and allow the rolls to rise again (see the photographs above to see this process).
Baking the rolls. Preheat the oven to 375°. Melt the butter. Brush the top of each roll with the melted butter, then scatter the sesame seeds over the top. (An egg wash would make the top of the rolls shiny, but I prefer the taste of butter here. Up to you.) Slide the pan into the oven and bake until the rolls are firm and browned on top, about 20 minutes. (You can also take their temperature about 180° internally.) Take the rolls out of the oven and let them cool, about 10 minutes. Remove and put them onto a wire rack. As soon as you won’t burn your mouth, eat a roll.
Makes about 12 rolls.