Wheat-Free Rice Flour Muffins

Preparation time: 10 minutes to prepare; 20 to 25 minutes to bake
Yield: About 8 medium-sized muffins

Just about any grain can be ground into flour, and each has its own distinct personality and flavor. You can buy many kinds of flour at natural foods stores, usually in 2-pound bags. Store them in an airtight container in a cool dry place--ideally the freezer--to keep the flour fresh.

Most "alternative" (non-wheat) flours need to be combined with at least some wheat in order for the final product to hold together and feel good in the mouth. This is because wheat flour is the only kind that contains sufficient gluten-forming proteins to give coherent structure and texture to the result. That said, sometimes you can get away with leaving the wheat flour out--and I know this is important for those of you with wheat allergies. These wheat-free muffins are a case in point. They have a lovely flavor and a texture much more delicate and crumbly (almost powdery, in a nice kind of way) than "regular" muffins.

Nonstick spray for the pan
1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup millet or barley flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk (plain soy milk will also work)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or light honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons canola oil or melted unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Lightly spray 8 standard-sized muffin cups with nonstick spray.
  3. Place the flours in a medium-sized bowl with the baking powder and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  4. Measure 3/4 cup milk into a 2-cup liquid measure, and measure in the maple syrup or honey. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat gently with a fork or a small whisk until well blended.
  5. Slowly pour this mixture into the dry ingredients, along with the oil or melted butter. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl until the dry ingredients are all moistened. Don't overmix; a few lumps are okay.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. For smaller muffins, fill the cups about 4/5 of the way. For larger muffins, fill them even with the top of the pan. If you have extra batter, spray one or two additional muffin cups with nonstick spray, and put in as much batter as you have.
  7. Bake in the center of the oven for to 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven, then remove the muffins from the pan and place them on a rack to cool. Wait at least 30 minutes before serving. (To reheat, don't try splitting and toasting these, as they are too crumbly. Better to just heat them, whole, in a toaster oven. )
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