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If you know someone who can't eat gluten — or who just loves banana bread — this recipe is sure to please. 

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley that provides the elasticity needed for the bread and other baked goods to rise and hold their shape. But those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or gluten or wheat allergies cannot tolerate any gluten in their diet. It is possible, though, to still enjoy breads and other baked goods while going gluten-free.

A few years ago when I was experimenting with recipes for a class I was teaching on cooking for those with food allergies, I tried some gluten-free bread recipes, but found they left an aftertaste in the mouth and were not very good a day after baking. A couple of years later when I was researching for another workshop I was teaching, I happened to find an excellent book called, “Gluten-Free Makeovers” by Beth Hillson.

Hillson had done a lot of research along with product and recipe testing, and had come up with some special flour blends to use in baking yeast breads, quick breads, cakes and cookies. The flour blends she developed yield wonderful moist, tender breads. Anyone who has tasted the breads has been impressed with the taste and texture, whether they are gluten-intolerant or not. There are many products available now in the grocery stores to make gluten-free baked goods, such as flour, cakes mixes, cookie mixes, etc., but I prefer to use these flour blends because of the quality of the finished product.

In her book, Beth also describes all the different flours, grains, starches, etc. that may be used in your baking and substitutions that can be used. The following recipes are from her book.

Self-rising flour blend

The baking powder is included in this flour blend since it is called for in most recipes in the quick bread category. Baking soda is not a constant, and is left to the baker to add as needed. The addition of sorghum and amaranth flour makes for a nutritionally dense, high-fiber blend, yet the mix produces light, delicate baked goods.

1¼ cups white rice flour (6.5 oz.)

1 cup sweet white sorghum flour (4 oz.)

¾ cup amaranth flour (3 oz.)

¾ cup cornstarch (3.5 oz.) or potato starch (4 oz.)

¼ cup tapioca starch/flour (1.1 oz.)

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1½ teaspoons salt

Banana bread with streusel crumb topping

You will be delighted with this tender and light banana bread that Beth Hillson developed for a good friend of hers who had celiac disease. You would never believe it is gluten-free, since the bread has such a wonderful flavor and texture.

Makes 2 medium loaves

Ingredients:

2 cups self-rising flour blend (*Recipe above)

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1½ cups very ripe mashed bananas (about 2 medium)

1 cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup chopped pecans, optional

1 cup streusel crumb topping (recipe follows); use non-dairy buttery spread if you need dairy-free)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil two 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pans. Combine the flour blend, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, bananas, sugar and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in the pecans, if using. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Sprinkle ½ cup of the streusel topping over each loaf. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes away clean. Set on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Turn the breads out onto the rack and let cool completely. Wrap with plastic and let set overnight before slicing.

Streusel crumb topping

Makes 3½ cups or 3 cups without the nuts

Ingredients:

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup ground pecans, walnuts or almonds (optional)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter or non-dairy buttery spread, at room temperature

Directions:

Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, salt and pecans, if using, in a large bowl. Mix well. Cut the butter into small pieces, add to the mix, and use your fingertips to mix just until crumbly. Use as a topping for apple pie or coffee cake.

Bread flour blend

If making yeast bread, the bread flour needs to expand to allow the yeast to rise, and therefore at least ⅓ of the blend should come from a high-protein flour. A bread blend also requires a teaspoon of xanthan or gar gum per 1 cup of flour to ensure the end result will be a satisfying loaf with a chewy texture. The following blend gets its protein from sorghum flour and amaranth flour.

1¼ cups white rice flour (6.5 oz.) or brown rice flour (5.5 oz.)

1¼ cups sweet white sorghum flour (5.25 oz.)

½ cup amaranth flour (2 oz.)

¾ cup cornstarch (3/5 oz.) or tapioca starch (3.2 oz.)

3 teaspoons xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

Delicious slicing bread

This all-purpose bread makes great sandwiches and toast. It can also be used to make a cinnamon-sugar monkey bread. I have made the bread using caramelized garlic olive oil instead of the vegetable oil and it gives a wonderful flavor to the bread.

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

3½ cups bread flour blend (recipe above)

½ cup non-fat dry milk powder or milk substitute

½ cup lightly packed light brown sugar

2¼ teaspoons instant active or active dry yeast

1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons water (105–110 degrees)

2 large eggs

¼ cup vegetable oil

Directions:

Spray an 8½ x 4½-inch or 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with vegetable spray. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, add the flour blend, milk powder, brown sugar, and yeast and mix to combine. Mix together the water, eggs and vegetable oil in separate bowl. Add to the dry ingredients. Beat on low for 1 minute. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth, shiny, and has thickened. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free area until the dough rises to the top of the pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and bake on the middle rack for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top sounds hollow when tapped and the internal temperature reads 190 to 200 degrees. Remove and turn out onto a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing.

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Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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