The challah trials (and tribulations) continue at our house. For several months, I have been using Bob's Red Mill GF Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix with chocolate chips on top, for added appeal, for Lillie's challah. It was passable. She tended to eat the chips off the top, and about half a muffin. As far as affordability, one packet of mix (about $5) yielded enough muffin size challah rolls to last me a month (I use 3 per Shabbos). But, there was always an unappealing sliminess (sorry Bob that's the only way I can describe it) in the mouthfeel of these rolls. Then a product crossed my radar called Better Batter. The product is a blend of rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, potato flour, pectin and xanthan gum. It differed from my standing favorite flour blend, Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, in that it contained brown rice, as well as white rice flour (Jules also uses corn flour). In certain applications, I felt the Jules flour did not have enough structure and was too delicate for certain applications (those Souther Belles!). So I set out to see if Better Batter is better.
The flour is sold both online and in health food stores. Their website offers numerous recipes, including many vegan options. The fact that the flour could be used in eggless, dairyless recipes has particular appeal to me, as I can make one baked good for the entire family instead of gluten free items that contained eggs and egg less items that contained wheat flour. Better Batter wasn't available in any store near my home, so I ordered a 5 lb. box online (I was optimistic). It is also available in 2.5 lb. and 25 lb. boxes and cases. The company also sells pancake and brownie mixes. The shipping and handling charge was a bit off putting when I calculated the value of the product versus those available in the supermarket, or Jules' flour--which often has free shipping deals. But if Better Batter is ordered by the case (which is only 4 boxes), it actually works out cheaper than Jules'. I inquired at my local health food store if they can give me a case discount, and they said they would and looked into ordering the product. It pays to ask!
When the very chic pink and brown box arrived, I decided to put it to the test according to the instructions on the back. For yeast breads (loaf), it instructs you to double the liquid in the regular recipe, and for shaped yeast breads, halve the liquid. Since I wouldn't be shaping my challah, I went with the doubling method. I decided to use my standard, white flour, egg challah recipe from The Taste of Shabbos. When I opened the Better Batter I noticed it was closer in texture to wheat flour than Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, which resembles more a fine powder (not surprising since the first 3 ingredients are tapioca, potato and corn starch). It also looked more like real flour; I attribute this to the brown rice flour, which adds some appealing tannish flecks to the blend. In addition, the smell was similar to wheat flour. I was cautiously optimistic. I loaded the ingredients into my special-reserved-only-for-gluten-free-flour bread machine and set it on the dough cycle. I looked in the window after a few minutes and noticed it seemed a bit too dry. I pondered whether it was the flour blend or me. Hmmm. Then I realized when the box said "double the liquid", they didn't just mean the water in the recipe. The challah recipe also contains oil and eggs---both liquids. I added a bit more water and oil and set the bread machine in motion once again. The result was a nice fluffy batter which I spooned into oiled muffin cups. One batch yielded18 muffin sized rolls. Enough for 6 weeks. In terms of economy, Better Batter was shaping up to be as good, if not better than Bob's bread mix. But, the proof is in the pudding. If the baked good tastes awful, economy goes out the window (or in the trash can).
The challah came out nice and fluffy, with a light golden crust. I popped a barely cooled roll out of the muffin tin and tasted it with some jam (Trader Joe's makes the best). It was delicious! Whoopie! The texture straight out of the oven was just like a baking soda biscuit. The roll of course lacked the chewiness of wheat bread, but that is the case with all gluten free bread. It is the strands of gluten which are created in the kneading process that lend chewiness to wheat bread. This challah was more like a not too sweet muffin. When I gave it the ultimate test (Lillie), it passed with flying colors. Even without chocolate chips, Lillie munched through the entire roll and uttered an "Hmmm, good!" So, I knew I had a new challah recipe (an unslimy one to boot)!
The next, and ultimate in my opinion, litmus test was Rosie's favorite chocolate chip cook recipe. If Better Batter could hold up in an eggless recipe, I knew it was a keeper. It passed with flying colors. In comparison to Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, Better Batter held together, well, better. Without eggs as a binder, and without gluten to similarly bind the batter, gluten free baking can be tricky. But I found the Better Batter yielded a soft, chewy cookie that didn't fall apart.
Lately, I seem to breathe a sigh of relief when I find a gluten free product I can "settle on". That is, the end of the road, so to speak, in my search for the perfect pasta, challah, cake mix, etc. With so many balls in the air in my daily life, it's one less thing I have to worry about. So finding "go to" products is a big relief.
I definitely intend to use Better Batter in more of my baking; I will probably order a case next time. As for Jules, I am not tossing her aside entirely. Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour will be like my cake flour. The more delicate texture is perfect for cakes and shortbread cookies. The wonderful thing about gluten free baking is there is room for so many different flours. Like a family, they each have their own unique qualities and talents!
This challah recipe tastes best when warmed before eating. I wrap the individual rolls in foil, and store them in a Ziploc bag in my freezer. I thaw and heat as needed. The Better Batter website also offers a braided challah recipe.
from The Taste of Shabbos, p. 3
4 1/2 cups of Better Batter Gluten Free Flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Tablespoon salt
1 packet dry yeast
2 cups warm water (more as needed)
1/3 cup oil
3 large eggs (plus 1 for egg wash, if desired)
Add ingredients to breadmaker according to manufacturer's instructions.
Set breadmaker to dough cycle. If dough appears too dry after first mixing, stop machine and add additional water.
Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Spray two muffin pans or 2 medium sized loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.
When cycle is complete, scoop batter into prepared baking pans. Beat egg with 2 teaspoons of water. Brush top of batter with egg wash. Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes for muffin pans and 30-40 minutes for loaf pans. Remove from oven when top of bread is a light golden brown. Cool on racks.
Store tightly covered in the freezer if not using immediately. Heat in a 225F degree oven for 10 minutes prior to serving.