One of my resolutions for 2013 is to make friends in my new hometown, so I joined Louisville’s Society of Badass Bakers on Meetup. The theme for January was alternative ingredients, a notion I rarely bother with in the kitchen. But I do enjoy a challenge and love learning…about everything. One of the attendees posted that she was gluten-free, so I decided that would be my challenge.
In researching gluten-free baking, I came across an informative blog that speaks to the challenges of wheat flour replacement. I highly recommend checking out Art of Gluten Free Baking for yourself. I adopted Jeanne’s recipe for a gluten free all-purpose baking flour that works as a cup-for-cup replacement for wheat flour:Brown Rice Flour, 1 1/4 C
White Rice Flour, 1 1/4 C
Tapioca Flour, 1 C
Sweet Rice Flour (Mochiko), 1 C
Xanthan Gum, 2 tsp
If you’re thinking of launching into a gluten-free baking project on a whim, I encourage you to take a more considered approach. Your ingredients can be difficult to find and expensive if you can’t order them ahead of time online. For instance a six ounce sachet of Xanthum Gum, the elasticity agent that allows gluten-free flours to rise, will run you about $12 at the grocery store…if your local store even stocks it. A little goes a long way, but how many gluten-free baking projects do you plan to try? It may be more of an investment than you need to make.
I’d been looking for an excuse to make lemon bars so I thought I’d turn a potential downside of gluten-free baking into an asset and make them with a shortbread crust. The best shortbread is dense and crumbly and doesn’t rise at all, so a lack of gluten wouldn’t pose much of a problem. Here is the recipe I used, adapted from my standard lemon bar recipe (which went down in last year’s vicious malware attack…for shame, hackers).
Gluten-Free Lemon BarsShortbread Ingredients: Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour Mix, 1 3/4 cups Powdered Sugar, 2/3 cup Salt, 1/2 teaspoon Unsalted Butter, 3/4 cup Egg Yolk, separated Vanilla Extract, 1 teaspoon Warm Milk or Water, 2 tablespoons Lemon Curd Ingredients: Lemons, 2-3 Butter, 1/4 cup Eggs, 4 Granulated Sugar, 1 1/3 cups Milk, 1/3 cup Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour Mix, 3 tablespoons
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper set on a diagonal so as not to crinkle your corners with folds. Then unwrap your butter and set it in your mixing bowl on the stove top. It will soften as the oven warms. (If you want to speed the process you can slice it into pats.) Then mix together the dry ingredients for your shortbread and set aside.
When your butter is soft cream it together with the egg yolk, vanilla, and warm milk or water. Mix in the dry ingredients in stages, first a 1/2 cup, then half of what is left, then the rest. The dough should be crumbly and inconsistent. Pour it out on top of the parchment paper in your baking pan and push it into place firmly and evenly. At this point I like to trim up the parchment paper that hangs over the sides before I pop the pan in the oven. Bake the shortbread for no more than 20 minutes. Remember it will have to stand up to another round in the oven with the lemon curd on top.
While the shortbread is baking clean your lemons and begin zesting them. Remember you only want the top layer of the peel for your zest, not the whiter more tender inside. Collect the zest in a Tupperware or bowl you can keep covered so it will stay moist. Juice your lemons until you have at least 2/3 cup of juice and set aside. Place the granulated sugar in a mixing bowl and press the lemon zest into the sugar, then beat in the butter, then the eggs one at a time. Mix in the juice, milk, and finally the flour. Pour over the shortbread and bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until the liquid gels.
Let the bars cool before you slice them. If you want to refrigerate them, that’s fine. Be mindful when you dust them with powdered sugar that it will absorb into the lemon fairly quickly. I advise slicing the bars first, wiping the knife in between cuts, and dusting just before you serve. I was in a hurry to get my bars to the meetup, so the pan went directly from the refrigerator to the car to the table. As you can see below I over baked the shortbread a bit, but the bars were still very tasty!