The best gluten-free vegan vegetable muffin in all the land

I spent the summer growing zucchini and developing a zucchini bread recipe that satisfied my trifecta: gluten-free, vegan, and lofty. This is the result. It’s an all-day process, but worth it as a treat a couple of times a year. The muffins are a little more forgiving of moisture variations without going soggy, but the loaves rise better if you get everything right, so it’s up to you.

First, turn your oven to its lowest setting. Ours is 170F.

Makes 1 8″ loaf or 14-16 muffins. Line loaf pans with a sling of parchment; muffin tins with paper liners.

Flour mix:

  • 1/4 c + 2T potato starch (!= potato flour; check the kosher section)
  • 1/4 c + 2T oat flour (can make at home from rolled oats + food processor if needed)
  • 1/4 c white rice flour
  • 1/4 c brown rice flour
  • 1/4 c sorghum flour
  • 1/4 c tapioca flour/starch

Unfortunately, because the liquid:grain ratio is low for this recipe, you really, honestly, truly have to sift it or risk weird gritty results. You’ll lose 1-2T of chaff and grit but that’s already factored in.

More dry ingredients:

  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 4 t baking powder (yes, four)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t xanthan gum
  • 1-2 t spices of choice (cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg is good)
  • 1 c granulated sugar (yes, in with the dry ingredients)
  • handful of rolled oats

Blend flour + dry ingredients together thoroughly. GF bakes suffer if undermixed.

If you keep your GF flours in the freezer like I do, you’ll want to pop the dry ingredients bowl in the warm oven to come up to temp.

Zucchini. You can twist out the juices in a tea towel if you must, but it really works better to freeze it, then thaw, drain, and squeeze:

  • 1 c packed grated zucchini, drained
  • 1/2 c zucchini juices

Set the shreds aside. Warm the juice to 105F, and sprinkle over it:

  • 1 t active dry yeast
  • 1 t sugar

Let the yeast dissolve and get foamy while you grind the following to a coarse powder or meal:

  • 1 T tukmaria (indian grocery) or chia (health co-op)
  • 3 T flax

I use a big mortar & pestle for this, so by the time I have powder, the yeast is pretty happy.

Stir the powder into the yeast juice. You don’t want to dump it in and let it sit without stirring or the chia/tukmaria will clump up irreparably. Let rise for 15 minutes: first rise.

Put:

  • 1/2 c coconut oil

in the bowl of your stand mixer. If your kitchen is cold, put the bowl into the warm oven until the oil has melted.

Once that’s done and the first-rise timer has gone off, fit your mixer with the cookie blade attachment, install the bowl, and add:

  • 2 t vanilla

Scrape in the yeast-juice-meal mixture (it should be fluffy with CO2 and mucilaginous by now) and beat on low, increasing speed until emulsified and pale, about 5-10 minutes.

Add half the warm dry ingredients and beat 5 minutes.

Add the other half and stir to combine. Depending on ambient humidity it may be crumbly or cookie dough-like; that’s okay.

Add the zucchini shreds. If your batter was stiff before, this should loosen it up substantially.

Portion into pans, filling muffin cups full.

Load pans into the oven and turn it off. Let rise 2 hours (second rise) or until visibly inflated. Re-warm the oven as needed to keep the ambient temp above 75F, otherwise the coconut oil will set up and prevent the yeast from expanding.

Remove pans from oven and preheat to 375F.

Baking procedure:

  • Don’t use the bottom rack. If you have more than one pan and a small oven, bake in series, not in parallel
  • Bake loaves 1 hour, muffins 15 minutes at 375F
  • Reduce heat to 325F
  • Check loaves every 15 minutes, muffins every 5, until internal temp reaches 210F

You really, honestly, truly have to bake these to internal temp; the clean-skewer test is an utter lie. The creases and the outer crust will both be the same shade of rich brown when they’re done.

Cool in pans 5 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely. GF starches do not finish gelling while still warm.

Once cooled and set, they’re lovely at room temp, and even better if you can pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds first.

Keep at room temp or frozen. If you must refrigerate them, definitely reheat before serving.

 

Variations:

  • Pumpkin spice muffins/bread: Omit zuke shreds & juice; use pumpkin puree and water or nut milk instead. Warm pumpkin and stir into yeast-meal mixture before first rise. Use maximum spices; include at least 1/2t ground ginger and 1/4t ground cloves. Pumpkin is more yeast-friendly; keep an eye on the 2nd rise and stop once visibly inflated. Over-risen pumpkin bread will collapse after baking, much like a soufflé.
  • Dried fruit: Soak 1/4c chopped dried fruit in warm water, rum, or brandy. Drain and stir fruit in just before portioning batter into pans. Sub orange liqueur for vanilla.
  • Chopped nuts: Toast 1/4-1/2 c chopped nuts. Stir in just before portioning batter into pans.
  • Chocolate chips: Sprinkle on top just before second rise.
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Chicken Tagine with Olives, Prunes, and Preserved Lemons

Last night’s chicken tagine was a big hit, so I’ve written it down. I synthesized this from two or three recipes online: a NYT one containing no fruit, one from TV3 in New Zealand that doesn’t include olives or a dry rub phase, and one from the noshery that uses fresh lemons. If you’re not familiar with moroccan preserved lemons, they’re a salt ferment of the whole fruit. They’re easy to make at home but take a week or two, so plan ahead… or, find a local middle eastern market and ask (they’ll be delighted); or try a substitution — difficult, but maybe equal parts lemon zest, salt, and white vinegar? or perhaps, marmalade and capers? Anyway, on with the recipe.

Obtain:

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on bone in for maximum flavor, but boneless skinless is OK too

Mix, rub on the chicken, and refrigerate 1-3 hours:

  • 1/4 t saffron
  • 1 t ground dried or 1 T grated fresh ginger
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground coriander seed
  • 1 t sweet paprika
  • 1/2 t ground cumin seed
  • 1/2 t salt

Caramelize on medium low in a heavy lidded skillet:

  • 2 onions, sliced thin longitudinally
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t salt

Many recipes will tell you this takes 15 minutes, but really there’s no way to do that unless you use high heat, nearly burning the outsides of the pieces while the insides remain practically raw. For best flavor you want these to be caramel jam all the way through. For that, you need at least 45 minutes: stirring occasionally at first, then more frequently as they go a bit amber to prevent them sticking to the bottom of the pan. Last night ours took almost 90 minutes, but that’s partly because we were prepping 4 other dishes at the same time.

While the onions are going, you can prep stuff into bowls.

Bowl A:

  • 3-5 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

Bowl B:

  • 1/2 c olives, kalamata, cracked green, or a mix, pitted and chopped
  • 3 small or 1 large preserved lemon, pulp & membranes removed, in strips
  • 1 c prunes, dried apricots, or a mix, roughly chopped

Bowl/Pitcher C:

  • 1 c chicken broth
  • 1 T honey

When the onions look pretty good, add a bit more oil if it looks dry and sweat the garlic with a pinch of salt. Then scrape all the alliums back into bowl A.

Add a bit more oil, turn up the heat and brown the chicken on both sides, then remove.

Deglaze briefly with a  bit of C, just to unstick the delightful bits.

Cover the bottom of the pan in the caramelized onions, add the chicken (darkest side up), then scatter B on top, and pour in C. If the liquid doesn’t come halfway up the chicken, add more.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 1.5 hours, gently flipping chicken over and checking the liquid level every half hour or so. You could totally do this part in the oven (325-350F), if your skillets are ovenproof.

This can hold, simmering, almost indefinitely, and just gets more awesome. You can reduce the liquid to a syrupy sauce before serving if you like, or not.

Good over some sort of pilaf. Last night we did quinoa cooked with minced red bell pepper, cinnamon, and zante currants.