Yesterday afternoon, I baked up one more batch of these pull-apart dinner rolls for our friends visiting for lunch (and for the photograph, of course. I took it quickly and apologized for making them wait). Marie tried one, then dipped it in the residue of maple syrup on her plate from our sourdough waffles. “These! These! These are so good!”
You might think a fluffy dinner roll is impossible without gluten. It’s not, of course. These are grain-free too, so feeding someone who cannot tolerate grains well at your Thanksgiving feast just grew easier.
The key here is the psyllium husk. This natural insoluble fiber absorbs water in a way you won’t believe the first time you use it. The dough here will be wet, thickly wet, and it will dribble off the whisk. After you have let the dough rise and the flours hydrate for 90 minutes, the dough will be still tacky but much closer to bread dough. Tuck those dough balls into each other in a pie plate and you have soft, fluffy dinner rolls for Thanksgiving.
And if someone you love can’t eat dairy, you could use melted coconut oil in place of the butter here.
(We’ve been doing a gluten-free baking column at Food52 all fall, and I just realized I haven’t told you about it yet! Doh! We’ve been doing mostly grain-free baking there, as well. This year, I’ve started playing with grain-free baking, since so many people I love have learned they really need to be grain-free, in addition to gluten-free. And it turns out that I love grain-free baking. Almond flour, always one of my favorites, is especially good with starches like arrowroot and my current flour crush, buckwheat. This is some of the best baking I’ve ever done. So try this poached quince tart, or this coconut-squash cake or this almond honey butter cake, which is like a warm almond butter and honey sandwich with crisp crusts. You can see all the recipes here.)
So, you’d think that a grain-free dinner roll, which can easily be made dairy-free and egg-free would be a hit, right?
I posted the recipe this morning, on Food52 and the Facebook page. Within an hour, I had a request from a different person asking how to substitute every single ingredient in the recipe.
I am not kidding.
Someone is allergic to tapioca. What can she eat instead? Another can’t do nightshades. How does she substitute for the potato starch? Of course there’s a nut allergy so how can I do it without the almond flour? There was a question about how to substitute the yeast, the psyllium, and the honey. That leaves only the arrowroot flour. Wait, I forgot. Someone asked on Twitter about that, since it’s not available at a store near her. That leaves only salt. That’s the only ingredient someone didn’t ask about changing.
Oh, and of course someone else wanted me to change the grams to cups.
So here’s the deal. I’m done. I’ve tried hard for years to figure out the substitutions because I don’t want anyone else to feel left out.
Our friend Greg Johnson, whose work we adore, wrote a post I have been thinking about writing for months, a hugely exaggerated and very true-feeling piece about the impossibility of creating a recipe that works for everyone. Danny and I laughed so hard when we read it. And we sort of wanted to cry, too.
Do you know how much work it takes to create a grain-free, dairy-free, and egg-free dinner roll that is actually good? In the midst of the time when we are developing five recipes a day, six days a week, for an impending cookbook deadline? (I’ll leave off the rest of our lives, the exciting developments and the daily duties of being parents to a very active five-year-old.) I don’t throw recipes up there lightly. We work, and work again, to make sure these are as good as they can be.
I can’t make every substitution for you. I just won’t do it anymore.
So here’s the deal.
* Buy a scale if you want to make our recipes. We’re not going to convert the recipe to cups.
* Part of the reason we put all the flours and liquids in grams is so you can substitute what you can eat for what you can’t, easily and gracefully.
* We don’t know what will work best in place of psyllium or yeast or salt because we worked hard to make that particular recipe, not the one you need.
* If you are new to having a food allergy or intolerance, seek out the blogs or cookbooks written by other people who have those same allergies or intolerances. (Readers here wrote a huge number of valuable suggestions on how to bake and cook without dairy and how to bake without eggs. Please consult those first.)
* If all else fails, there’s always Google. I suggest you try that.
This is now our official standard policy. Sorry if you’re offended but this is how it’s going to be. We have lobster rolls to create, sweet potato pie to bake, sourdough bread and black and white cookies and johnnycakes with fresh cranberry sauce to make in our kitchen. And that’s just tomorrow.
Our recipes are offerings. There are no guarantees they will work for you. We are constantly, constantly playing in our kitchen. We suggest you do the same. Make the recipe your own.
Update: Thank you to the many of you who have written comments about this. For those of you who are now so angry at me that you claim you will never read the site again? Go in good peace.
Our friend Laura Russell, who wrote a wonderful book called The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen: Recipes for Noodles, Dumplings, Sauces, and More, wrote a particularly apt comment: “A recipe developer can not guarantee the success of a recipe she has not tested personally. Sometimes even tiny changes in a single ingredient throw the whole thing off. It is completely reasonable to expect people to spend their own time and money on ingredients to experiment with changes they need in their own kitchens.”
If we offer substitution suggestions in a recipe (we offered two of them in the recipe above), it’s because we have tried those substitutions and know they work. We want recipes to work for you. So we cannot comment on substitutions we don’t know.
We have, of course, spent 8 years offering suggestions and trying to help with substitutions. Here are some of the many links that someone who has a substitution question could consult. Most of them are on the sidebar menu of this site.
If after reading all those, you have a question about substitution, you can check the comments section of any baked goods recipe I have put up for the past 8 years and learn from other people who have the same intolerances as you.
I realize that this all seems scary when you begin. I have been trying to guide and mollify readers for 8 years. However, there comes a time when boundaries have to be clear. There are plenty of ways to learn and begin to bake, joyfully. Find those ways.