Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Day 13: Brownie Testing

I made brownies today. That's right. I kicked my butt into gear, and got over my apprehension about gluten-free baking. Well, I guess I made those cookie bars already, but they were just already gluten-free, not especially gluten-free. So anyways, I made gluten-free brownies today.

I actually made gluten-free vegan brownies. They're one of the more presumptious desserts I've ever stared down. I didn't mean to; I meant to make cookies, but then I realized I don't have much butter or any milk. So I hunted down a tried-and-true recipe that didn't have either. (I wanted to make something that A) didn't come from a gluten-free recipe; I wanted to substitute the flours in and B) something that I've made before, so I can mentally compare how different it is. If I just grab that cookie recipe off of Pinterest, how do I know if it's not always crumbly and dry?) And I've made these vegan brownies a few times, and they are just delectable! They're moist, soft, chocolatey, and leave you feeling slightly less guilty after you devour an entire pan. Okay, just as a disclaimer: I'm writing all of this before I eat any of the gluten-free. Yeah, I have two pans of warm chocolatey brownies just sitting on my stove, and I'm over here blogging? Well, I wanted to tell you how I made them and all of that before I make up my mind about them. I'm being very scientific.

If you're confused as to why there are two pans of brownies, well it's because I have two flours. And the best way to delve into the gluten-free world of baking is to make two batches of the same recipe with two different gluten-free flours, right? It made sense to me, okay?

So anyways.. I made some vegan brownies that you can find here. If you aren't forcibly gluten-free like me, I highly insist you make these!

I set out very scientifically to make these brownies the same, adding the same amounts of the same ingredients at the same time, and then stirring the same and everything. The only differences were:
A) The pre-packaged flour suggests you add xantham gum when you use it, and since the one I mixed up yesterday already had xantham gum in it, I added 1/2 tsp.
B) I accidentally added the baking soda twice to the same bowl, but I put the scoops on top of each other, and I managed to scoop out a full 1/2 tsp of just baking soda and put it in the other bowl. So I really don't think that'll matter.
C) I put the mixed flour in smaller bowls.

So I put all the wet ingredients in the plastic bowls next to eachother. These two bowls are perfectly identical in contents, because the flour was in the other bowl.

Then I put the two flours in other bowls. You can see they're kind of different colours. That's my mix on the right, and Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour on the left. The left one also has a bit of xantham gum, as I already mentioned.

Added the other dry ingredients and stirred...

Poured the wet into the dry. So far, everything is the same.

And now, I mixed them. Things got a little funky here, as you can see. The bowl on the left seems more moist, but I'm not sure what made the bowl on the right so... dry seeming?

See? Dry brownie batter. Not so appealing.

Moist brownie batter. As it should be.

Dry brownie batter after being "poured" into the pan.

Moist brownie batter after being poured into the pan.

The two brownie pans about to go into the oven. They look a bit different, and you can tell the textures are different, but they both resemble brownies.

And voila! The brownies fresh out of the oven. They both look chocolatey, but the right one still has a distinctive texture.

Up-close, brownies from mixed flours.

Up-close, brownies from Bob's Red Mill.

And now! I think they should be cool enough, so I'm going to go grab a square of each. So... As you can see, the right one (still the mix) has little tiny white specks in it, like the powder didn't mix enough into the liquids. I didn't mix it very long, admittedly  but it did look good then, and I've read that you shouldn't mix rice flour for long because it makes things come out hard if you do. So maybe that's a problem.

The left one (Bob's Red Mill) tastes moist, and chocolatey. Smooth and sweet. I honestly cannot remember a difference between this little brownie and the ones I made before. It is delicious, and worth eating a whole pan of.

The other one is also moist, and very chocolatey (I might have just gotten a solid bite of chocolate chips). The top of it is harder and crunchier than the other ones, but the brownie from bottom to almost-top-crust is moist and delicious.

Effectively the same. My results?

A looked better, it was more aesthetically pleasing. It was also squishier when picked up, and had an all-around desirable-ness to it.

B tasted the same, but wasn't quite as pretty. The brownies also didn't fill out the same, so it's not as plump or as pleasant to pick up and eat. But once it's in your mouth, it tastes the same.

I then made the two gluten-eating men in the house have one of each, and our housemate says he can't tell the difference between the two and they're "not bad". My husband says the first ones look and feel more like real brownies, and something about the texture in the second one is just off.

So there you have it people. Scientific proof that Bob's Red Mill flour is better than that flour mix for this specific brownie recipe... I really can't go farther than that. It might be the applesauce, or the baking soda, or anything that makes the flours react differently. I'm going to have to make a few more recipes with each of the two flours before I can decide which one I like better. But so far, I really can't say yay or nay. Neither brownie tastes "gluten-free" which is a win in my books.

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