Gluten-free Biscotti

 The next stage in this project is converting my recipes to gluten free. This is the first time I’ve ever used gluten-free flour, so I started with the simplest recipe, almond biscotti.

When I make biscotti, I usually make 4 batches at a time. The kitchen gets set up for a full workload, including flouring the board. I finished mixing the gluten-free dough and dumped it on the wheat-floured board. I immediately realized what I had done and scooped up the dough and cleaned and re-floured the board. This probably added about mere teaspoon or 2 of flour to the dough, but still, if I were baking for someone with Celiac disease, not a good thing.  Gluten-free baking is going to take some adjustment on my part.

King Arthur Flour makes gluten-free multi-purpose flour, which has both white and brown rice and tapioca and potato starches. This is a mild-flavored flour. Bob’s Red Mill also sells gluten-free all-purpose flour, which has garbanzo flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sorghum flour, and fava flour. I’ve ordered the flour and plan to use in the next testing session. I’m curious about the flavor. The beans and sorghum have dominant flavors and it may be necessary to increase the amount of flavorings used, such as extracts or liqueurs.

To make up for the loss of gluten in the flour a gum is added to stabilize the dough. Two gums are recommended for this type of baking: guar gum and xanthan gum. Without using one or both, the dough collapses into crumbs. My research shows that using half and half provides the best results. A total of ½ teaspoon, total, per cup of flour is sufficient.

Xanthan gum is a byproduct of corn used as a thickener. Too much xanthan gum in a recipe may produce an unappealing gumminess to the dough, so measure carefully. Anyone with corn allergies should probably not use this product.

Guar gum comes from the seed of a legume, the guar plant. It is also a thickening agent with a high-fiber content. Too much of this gum produces a stringy dough.

King Arthur Flour sells gluten-free flour and xanthan gum and Bob’s Red Mill sells all online. Amazon.com sells a variety of brands. Health stores, such as GNC, and natural foods stores commonly carry a full range of gluten-free products.

The results: The almond biscotti held together. The flavor is a little dull. More nuts and a dose of an almond liqueur in addition to the almond extract should fix this. Next I made a peanut butter chocolate biscotti. The peanut butter acts as an emulsifier and made the dough easy to work with, though the ingredients ooze out; just push them back into the turned out dough as you roll the log. The strong flavors of the peanuts, peanut butter and dark chocolate provide excellent flavor.

I am very pleased at such a successful first venture into gluten-free baking. There are so many products on the market these days, that it makes it much easer for novices. Many thanks to all those who have gone before to pave the way bringing awareness and creating the market!

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Biscotti
Yield: ~ 2 dozen

Glaze:
1 large egg

Biscotti
2 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (Jif or Skippy – natural PB is too oily)
2 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon guar gum
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 cup salted peanuts
3.5 ounces dark chocolate (85% cocoa), cut into small chunks
3.5 ounces milk chocolate, cut into small chunks

Set up:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Beat one egg until frothy and set aside with a pastry brush.
Prepare a lined, lightly greased large (~10” x 15”) baking sheet.

Put the eggs, sugars, vanilla extract and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl and beat on medium high until the mixture becomes thick and turns a light beige, about 2 minutes.

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Blend in the peanut butter.

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Add the flour, baking powder and gums to the mixing bowl and beat on low, scraping the sides as needed. Once the flour mixture is moist, scrape the sides and beater once more and then toss in peanuts and chocolate; mix on medium high for 15 seconds, the batter should look smooth.

The cookie dough pliable and easy to work with, but it is slick and the peanuts and chocolate separate easily from the dough, this is true of the wheat version as well. Turn out the dough on the floured board and knead into a log, pressing the peanuts and chocolate into the log as you roll.

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The finished log is 18-inches long by 2 inches wide. Cut it in half and place both halves on the prepared baking sheet. Press the log to about a 3/4-inch thickness.

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Brush the biscotti logs generously with the egg wash and place them in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the log is firm to the touch.

"Cold" biscotti log ready for slicing.

“Cold” biscotti log ready for slicing.

Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on a cooling rack, to prevent sweating, until cold. This takes a bit of time, but it’s necessary. If the log is warm, it is less stable and prone to breaking.

Use a very sharp, serrated knife to slice the cookies on an angle about 1/2-inch wide. Cutting the cookies on an angle and using a sawing motion as opposed to slicing down with pressure helps prevent the biscotti from breaking. Set each one on the baking tray with the flat side down. Return them to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Remove from the oven, cool on a cooling rack and store in an airtight container. Cookies last up to two weeks and freeze well.

To refresh softened biscotti, preheat the oven to 300ºF and bake for 10 minutes. Cool and store as instructed above.

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