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It doesn’t always work the way you think it should

This, my friends, is an empty plate (now there’s a ‘no duh’ if I ever saw one, right?). It was supposed to be filled up with a favorite cookie, rugelach (which is technically speaking just a crescent shaped rolled up cookie filled with various fillings).

But it’s not. Those went out to feed the chickens, frankly, an experiment that went really…really wrong. Sometimes, it’s just not worth trying. Recipes ARE, after all, recipes, but I figured what the heck. I wanted to see if I could make a rugelach with no gluten in it. Gluten is the form of protein found in wheat and many other grass-based grains. All proteins are not the same; nor are they created equal.

Now, I could make a rugelach with LOWER gluten in it by using cake/pastry flour (this flour uses a totally different wheat which has lower gluten in it, which is why cake/pastry flour is absolutely worthless for making things like breads; it’s the gluten which holds everything up in breads. It’s also, for some people, what gives them celiac disease and Crone’s Disease and makes their lives a living hell, with semi-permanent residency on the toilet, but that is another topic for another time). But, I did not want to make a LOWER gluten product; I wanted no gluten at all. Zippo. And I have to admit that I have absolutely no experience with no gluten baking; there are many people out there in Blogland and in the commercial baking business who have come up with recipes and baking mixes and Xanthem gum and arrowroot flours and all sorts of amazing stuff so that people can bake things that are fairly edible but which will not send them racing for the bathroom.

I, on the other hand, am a woman who is willing to throw caution (and a block of cream cheese) to the wind to see if, oh what the heck, I can substitute something for the flour.

And I can tell you for certain sure — you cannot substitute garbanzo bean flour (aka chickpea flour, aka gram flour – not to be mixed up with ‘graham’ flour which is an entirely different beast altogether) for wheat flour in cookies and come out with anything that looks, acts, crunches or tastes like a cookie, much less the cookie you were trying to bake. I basically ended up with something that was crunchy but had the taste of burned dried beans covered in nuts and cinnamon.

A waste of good nuts and cinnamon, I might add.

So, from the position of ‘first principles’, here is the basic recipe for Rugelach:

Dough:
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces (that’s the small square block)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour

So, you can see that if you want to double that, it’s easy-peasy – you use the big block of cream cheese (Neuchatel cheese will work just as well), 2 sticks of butter and 2 cups of flour.

You cream the butter, mix in the cream cheese, mix in the flour until you get a ball of dough, then wrap it up and put it into the fridge to chill. Then cut it into 2 (or 4 if you doubled it) pieces, take out one (leave the rest in the fridge), roll out on wax paper as thinly as you can without it tearing, into an oblong, cut it into triangles and then cover with whatever filling you want. The traditional ‘my sainted aunties used this’ filling is chopped walnuts, sugar and cinnamon, with added chopped raisins if you want to go crazy. So, you cover the triangles with the filling, roll them up wide end first, put on a greased cookie sheet, and bake for 20 minutes (plus or minutes 5 minutes)until crispy and browned. Some people go so far as to refrigerate the cookies on the cookie sheets before they are baked; I always figured that if my great aunties could turn out great ‘ruggies’ without modern technology, then I could too.

But then again, they never tried to substitute chickpea flour for regular flour…

So, why doesn’t this work (besides the Baking Gods not wanting anyone to break any of the rules?)? Let’s look at the nutritional info:

All-purpose commercial white wheat flour……….vs……….Chickpea flour
1 cup……………………………………………………………1 cup
Calories……………455……………………………………….356
Fat………………….1 gram…………………………………..6 grams
Carbs……………….95 grams………………………………..53 grams
Fiber………………..3 grams………………………………….10 grams
Sugars……………..0…………………………………………..10 grams
Protein……………..13 grams………………………………….21 grams

The carb to protein ratio in the white wheat flour is almost 7.5 to 1; for the chickpea flour, it’s about 2.5 to one and that’s the deal in a nutshell. Now, that is not to say that a baker who wanted to put a little oomph (or more protein bang for the buck so to speak) couldn’t substitute a couple of tablespoons of chickpea flour for a couple of tablespoons of wheat flour. That would work. Or even use something like dried dairy whey to do the same thing, but 100% one for one will…not…work. Not from a baking aspect and not from a taste aspect (these actually tasted quite horrible; I was surprised at how dreadful they really tasted, even covered quite completely with chopped nuts and cinnamon). The dough also did not behave well, even chilled – it stuck to everything because it did not have the stretch that gluten gives.

So, a colossal failure. But educational, nonetheless.

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2 Comments

  1. Duchesse says:

    I admire your attitude and willingness to experiment.

    (I would rather make a pan of brownies and buy gluten free cookies if someone requires them.) Gave a friend with a gluten-sensitive husband a much-lauded gluten-free cookbook and she made him all kinds of baked goodies, so nice he can have his version. But he claims to “have a dispensation for carrot cake”- the ‘real’ kind.

  2. Ava says:

    Gluten-free baking is kind of a crazy adventure! It generally requires 3 or more different flours/starches/meals to substitute for white gluteny flour, and often some kind of a binder thrown own (that’s why people use xanthan gum; chia or flax seed, or even egg, can also work). The bean flours are notoriously hard to work with, even in blends, so it’s not just you! There are other flours, and commercial mixes, that are more forgiving. Cup4Cup is a new flour blend you can buy that’s apparently really easy to work with, and made so that its weight and volume both batch regular gluteny flour – whereas with most GF baking, substituting by weight is sort of necessary if you’re trying to adapt a gluteny recipe.

    But maybe this would help? It’s from a very good GF blog! http://glutenfreecanteen.com/2011/12/11/hanukkah-collection-gooey-good-rugelach-gluten-free/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hanukkah-collection-gooey-good-rugelach-gluten-free

    Those of us who can’t eat gluten always appreciate when people who *can* are willing to make the attempt to try GF baking/cooking. It’s sort of it own crazy adventure, but it’s kind of fun trying all these different blends of ingredients! I probably would never have discovered the delicious magic that is teff flour if I hadn’t had to stop eating gluten. So it’s not all bad, and good GF baked things can be *good* – but it’s kind of a totally different thing from regular gluteny baking. 🙂

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