One of the many things I love about my job is we encourage – and are encouraged – to try just about every product we sell. We constantly have formal and informal tastings of items, along with some information about the items, because you can’t talk to a customer about something if you don’t know what in the hell it is. Sometimes the tastings are as simple as opening up some new cookies or slicing a new cheese. Other times it’s a bit more complex – like trying different flours.

Anyone who knows me knows my disdain of fad diets – and the gluten free dieters are probably on the top of the list, right now. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked “Is this gluten-free?” and when the answer is “No” the response is “Well – a little won’t bother me” as they shovel the food into their mouths. It seriously diminishes the people out there who really do have gluten issues.

But there are folks out there who really do have gluten issues – and there are more and more options becoming available to them. My challenge was to come up with three items using three different faux-flours – Coffee Flour, Coconut Flour, and Almond Flour – so the staff can taste them and get an idea of what they can be used for.

In basic baking, fat and sugar are used for tenderness, while eggs and flour are used for structure. It’s the ratio of those four items that make a crisp cookie or a soft cookie. Using non-wheat flour changes that. Without the flour’s ability to trap the leavening gasses and expand and rise, more eggs are generally needed for structure.

I haven’t done enough faux-baking to start writing my own recipes, so I went to Chef Google to help me out.

First one is Sweet Potato Bread using coconut flour.

Of the three recipes I chose, this one is bothering me the most. The batter tasted really good, but I’m not keen on the look. I won’t be tasting any of them until tomorrow, so I may be over reacting – but I’ not sold on this one. It was easy to put together – actually, they all were.

The recipe came from Wholefood Simply.

The second is Coffee Flour Brownies.

It’s been known forever that a bit of coffee added to chocolate intensifies the chocolate flavor. This one may have just a tad too much coffee for my taste. The batter had a sharp raw coffee flavor that wasn’t really that great. On the other hand, the finished product smells great.

The recipe came from Honest Cooking.

The third – and possibly my favorite based solely on batter-flavor – is Almond Flour Blondies.

This recipe came from Meaningful Eats.

I made it with coconut oil for our dairy-free staff and in place of all the chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and pecans, added a couple cups of chopped pistachios – because I like pistachios. They came out the most like a traditional blondie – both smell and flavor. I made a double batch in a sheet pan and it just seemed right. The proof of the pudding will be the tasting, tomorrow, but I think they may be my personal winner.

So… if you are having folks over and someone is gluten-free, there are more and more real options out there – and possibly a few things that even the most discerning gluten-eater will enjoy.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a taste-and-texture critique of each of them!

Okay… here we are with the results!!

The Blondies were outstanding! They were really like any ol’ blondie you’d make with wheat flour. The pistachios worked really well – and I’m really glad I didn’t do the chocolate chips in them. Flavor and texture rocked.

The Coffee Brownies were liked by a lot more people than me. I thought they were just a bit too ‘earthy’ but I was in the minority. I think they really needed one more flavor in there to pull them together – and either vanilla or a couple shots of whiskey would probably round them out.

The Sweet Potato Bread was – okay. It was a bit spongy and would probably benefit from a teaspoon or so of xanthan gum. I’m a gluten-free novice, here, so it’s merely a guess. Flavor-wise, it was good and the crew liked it.

The final result is – they’re all winners. Buy ’em and use ’em. Have some fun!