Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why Xanthan Gum is Important: Zucchini Bread Failure and Recovery

Zucchini "Bread" drizzled with Cream Cheese frosting.
This week we made a huge pot of spaghetti sauce for dinners, Ceci LOVES pasta and sauce, it's one of the few things she will eat without convincing.  Lately we have taken to adding zucchini and carrots to the sauce to increase her veggie intake.  I know any Italian Americans reading this are horrified, but it's one of the only ways she won't reject vegetables, and I'll take anything I can get.  In the process of making the sauce I realized there was a lot of zucchini, so I set some aside and planned to make Zucchini Bread, one of my favorite quick breads.

I was in such a hurry the day I made the Zucchini Bread that I neglected to add Xanthan Gum to the batter.  It could have been that I was trying to entertain, feed, potty train, and educate a busy 2 year old while making bread.  Ceci was in fact helping me mix flours, but I was struggling to make sure she didn't spill the containers of flour.  I should also mention that her creativity continues to this moment, she is literally sitting on top of me over one arm while I try to type on the laptop, but the intermittent snuggles are worth it.

"Ta-da!"  "I helping Mommy!"
We got the batter all mixed and into the pans, put it into the oven and set the timer, without a problem.  After about 15 minutes I checked the oven and noticed that the bread was not rising at all, and didn't look like it was dry and fluffy.  I looked like a pan of brown bubbly goo, and there was nothing I could do at that point.  This has happened one other time and I caught it before I put the item in the pan and was able to add Xanthan Gum before I baked it.  Sadly that did not happen here so I let it bake through and sadly pulled it out of the oven when it was done.  I did taste it when it was cool enough and it was very moist and delicious!  I decided to save it and figure out what to do with it later, besides eat it.

We were invited to dinner and I decided to recover the second loaf of Zucchini bread, for dessert.  I flipped it out of the pan and prepped some cream cheese frosting, which I thinned out with some orange juice so that it could be drizzled over the "cake".  Tim and I have discussed at length what we should call the resulting concoction with no good result, options include a cake, bar, mess, but mostly delicious.  Above all it is really yummy, lots of spice from the cinnamon and moist from the zucchini and oil, with a crispy crust from the sugar.  Everyone enjoyed the dessert and said it was no problem I had forgotten an ingredient.  I was really relieved that it was accepted, and I got a chance to use up the bread and didn't have to throw it out (I don't like to throw out food.)

As you can see, Xanthan gum is a binder, and often used as a replacement for Gluten.  It has no taste, but it's coagulation/solidifying properties are far more important than taste.  To better understand you can visit the Wikipedia article on Xanthan Gum, where it is explained far more scientifically, and clearly than I could ever try to.  I have also learned that some people cannot tolerate xanthan gum due to it's source of origin, and xanthan gum can be derived from wheat.  Please check your sources, if you can digest xanthan gum, be sure to buy it from a reliable Gluten Free distributor. Such as Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum.

Here I've given you the proper recipe for the proper Zucchini bread, but if you are feeling a little crazy, by all means go ahead and leave out the Xanthan gum and see how you like it.

Zucchini Bread

3   Eggs, beaten
1   Cup Vegetable or Canola Oil
2   Cups Sugar
2   Cups Grated Zucchini

1/4  Cup Soy Flour
1/4  Cup Brown Rice Flour
3/4  Cup Sweet Rice Flour
3/4  Cup Tapioca Starch
1     tsp Xanthan Gum
1     tsp Salt
1     Tbs Cinnamon
1     tsp Baking Soda
1     tsp Baking Powder
2     Cups chopped Walnuts

Combine eggs, oil and sugar in bowl, and mix well.  Add Zucchini and blend well.  Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and combine together.  Add dry ingredients to wet mix and blend slowly, just until combined.  Gently fold in walnuts.  Pour into 2 greased loaf pans and Bake at 325 degrees F for 60 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting, is delicious on top of this to elevate it to a true dessert.  I added a couple Tablespoons of Orange Juice to 1 cup of the frosting to thin it down some.  It added a little hint of citrus kick and allowed the frosting to drizzle instead of having to spread it.