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Gluten Free Apple Bread

Gluten Free Apple Bread

This recipe for gluten free apple bread is an easy quick bread made from scratch with rich apple butter and all the right warm spices.

slice of apple butter bread on small white plate with apple butter on top

When you think of apple bread (do you think of apple bread?), you may imagine a quick bread (which is really more like a cake in loaf form, just with a slightly firmer crumb) with chunks of apple in it. I’ve got something even better for you, though.

This apple bread is made with less butter than you might imagine combined with rich, thick, sweet, and spicy apple butter. Apple butter isn’t like nut butter, which is mostly fat (not that fat isn’t lovely; it is!). It’s everything that applesauce wanted to be, and failed. Sorry applesauce! Love you still!

I make my own apple butter (recipe link below), like I make my own pumpkin butter, because it’s way cheaper and always better. But you can buy it during the same time of year you’ll find you’re most interested in making this gluten free apple bread. 

And you will be interested in making this apple bread. It’s perfect for breakfast, or as an afternoon snack.

Oh, and if you don’t have apple pie spice, I share how to make your own in the recipe Notes section. You can also just use ground cinnamon, and maybe a touch of nutmeg, at least?

Overhead image of raw apple butter bread batter with crumble topping in loaf pan with hands on corners

Why I like to add crumble topping

I am a big, big fan of crumble topping. It has that nubby texture everyone loves, and even its “bad” qualities (falling off of baked goods) are actually good (those little pieces are free game for anyone).

I like crumble topping so much that I frequently have a container of it just hanging out in my refrigerator. It sits there, waiting to be added to muffins, quick breads, or even cookies.

Make as little or as much as you like

All the recipe calls for is gluten free flour, sugar, warm spices, melted butter, and a touch of salt for balance. I’ve included a recipe for crumble topping below that calls for brown sugar, since it adds richness. But you could just as easily use granulated sugar in its place.

The secret to a good crumble topping is like the secret to all good baking: good ratios. Of course, you need high-quality ingredients, but if you want something that contains butter to hold its shape in the oven and bake up crispy but not dry, you need the right ratio.

The crumble topping recipe below makes just enough crumble to cover this gluten free apple bread in a single layer of crumble, broken into modest-sized pieces. It makes a very small amount of crumble. But you can double the recipe, and then keep some on hand in a sealed container in the refrigerator and add it to sweet baked goods on a whim.

How to make a simple crumble

All of the ingredients except the butter are added to a medium-sized bowl, and mixed together. Then, the melted butter is added, and mixed in. The mixture will be thick but soft.

Pop it in the refrigerator while you make the quick bread batter, and it should be cold by the time you are ready to use it. If you’re in a rush, just place it in the freezer to speed things up.

Using the tines of a fork, break up the crumble into clumps that are on the small side. That way, most of them will stick to the bread even after you slice the baked bread.

Whole baked loaf of apple butter bread overhead image

What is apple butter, and where do I get it?

Apple butter is like applesauce that’s been cooked down with a sweetener and warm fall spices. The spices and sugar reduce along with peeled, cored, and shredded apples into a sweet, spicy and fragrant spread.

Apple butter is very similar to pumpkin butter, but made with apples instead of pumpkin puree. You can buy it in stores, especially around the holidays. 

Instead of buying it, I make a big batch (recipe linked below) and store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Although I don’t bake with apple butter as often as I bake with pumpkin butter, I’m more likely to spread it on a slice of toast than I am pumpkin butter.

Why bake with apple butter?

There are multiple benefits to baking with apple butter instead of applesauce. I love applesauce, and it’s a great way to add moisture and even some structure to baked goods. But it has nearly no taste once it’s baked.

Here, baking with apple butter gives this bread tons of apple flavor without making the bread fragile, like adding chunks of apple would do. You can add a few finely chopped apples to the top, along with the crumble topping. Don’t try mixing apple chunks into the batter, though, as they’ll make for a too-wet loaf that rises and then sinks.

Overhead image of one slice of apple butter bread on a small white plate with apple butter on top

Ingredients and substitiutions

Dairy

If you can’t have dairy, I recommend using vegan butter in place of dairy butter in both the quick bread batter and the crumble. My favorite brands are Melt and Miyoko’s Kitchen.

For the crumble, you can also use Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening in place of butter. If you use Spectrum in place of the butter in the cake batter, your batter will be too dry.

If you’re feeling adventuresome and want to try it, watch the how-to video and pay close attention to the consistency of the raw batter. You can try adding a bit of water to the batter at a time, mixing well after each addition, until the consistency looks right.

Eggs

There are two eggs in this recipe. You can try replacing each of them with one “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel).

Cornstarch

If you can’t have corn, try using arrowroot. Even potato starch should work fine.

 


Stack of 5 slices of apple butter bread on a small white plate with apple butter on the top slice

Apple Butter Bread in a stack and one slice with apple butter on a small white plate

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 1 standard loaf quick bread

Ingredients

For the crumble topping (optional)
1/2 cup (70 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

3 tablespoons (40 g) packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 tablespoons (35 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the quick bread batter
2 cups (280 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1/4 cup (36 g) cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons apple pie spice (See Recipe Notes)

3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar

6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 eggs (100 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

2/3 cup (5 1/3 fluid ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature (See Recipe Notes)

5 ounces apple butter, homemade or store bought, at room temperature

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and line a standard 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan and set it aside.

  • If you plan to use the optional crumble topping, you need to make it first so it has a chance to cool and solidify before using it. In a medium-size bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and mix to combine, breaking up any lumps in the brown sugar. Add the melted butter, and mix to combine well. The mixture will be thick. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for about 10 minutes or until firm (or the freezer for about 5 minutes) while you make the quick bread batter.

  • To make the quick bread batter, in a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, baking soda, apple pie spice, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the butter, eggs, buttermilk, and apple butter, and mix to combine well. The batter will be very thick.

  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, pressing it into all corners of the pan. With wet fingers and/or a wet spatula, smooth the top of the batter into an even layer. Using a small, sharp knife, score the top of the loaf along the length in the center, about 1/4-inch deep. Remove the (optional) crumble topping from the refrigerator, and break it up into relatively small pieces with the tines of the fork. Sprinkle the top of the raw loaf evenly with the crumble topping and press gently to help the pieces adhere to the batter.

  • Place the loaf pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the top is domed and lightly golden brown in color, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with no more than a few moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. For the most even baking, rotate the pan one half turn halfway through baking. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve once cool.

Love,
Nicole

Gluten Free Cheese Sauce | For Queso, too!

Gluten Free Cheese Sauce | For Queso, too!

This gluten free cheese sauce made from scratch is perfect for dipping, making into queso, and even making the easiest mac and cheese ever!

Hand dipping a chip in cheese sauce in a small white bowl with salsa on top

Why this creamy gluten free cheese sauce recipe is small batch

I used to make a casserole-style baked macaroni and cheese every week. It was so easy and even though my kids were little, no one complained. It was a beautiful thing.

Then, one at a time, they dropped off. Either their tastes changed, or they were just asserting their independence. If only they could have dyed their hair green instead.

I used to have a hard and fast rule about not cooking multiple meals, or even meals with multiple options. I was determined not to martyr myself. Nobody likes that guy!

Small batch cheese sauce is so adaptable

Now that my children are teenagers, I realize that most of my work is done. If they are going to turn up their noses at macaroni and cheese, so be it. They can just have the plain pasta.

But since macaroni and cheese is still the easiest meal on the planet 🌏, I want to be able to make it for those of us who adore its creamy, smooth and rich taste. Plus, it’s nice to have a recipe for cheese sauce that can easily be made into queso by adding some fresh Mexican salsa.

This recipe makes a small batch of cheese sauce, whether you make it with a roux (that mixture of cooked butter and flour that thickens liquids) or without. No cheese sauce reheats perfectly, though, so it’s nice to make it in small quantities.

And then, you can always serve The Picky Eater the plain pasta tossed with butter. Even though he does love cheese, and will gladly toss some plain shredded cheddar on top of his plain pasta. 😢

The only difference between cheese sauce you plan to use for a simple macaroni and cheese and cheese sauce for dipping is thickness. The recipe below includes instructions for how to add a bit more cheese to thicken your sauce if you’re planning to use it over pasta.

Macaroni and cheese in a white boat with a fork, on a dark gray napkin

Troubleshooting cheese sauce

If you’ve ever shied away from making gluten free cheese sauce from scratch, maybe it was because you were afraid of making a roux. Or maybe it’s because you tried once, and it was grainy. I can help!

If your cheese sauce seems grainy…

Sometimes, you’ll find a recipe for cheese sauce on a website, and there are commenters swearing that the recipe is awful because their sauce wasn’t smooth. Instead, it was grainy. That’s a terrible experience, but it’s also generally user error.

When you heat milk, you must heat it very slowly over a very low flame, whisking often. If your milk is a bit on the older side, it’s likely more acidic, which will make it much more likely to curdle when heated (even though it smells fine and isn’t spoiled).

If you’ve added an acidic ingredient to your sauce, or cook it at a temperature that’s a bit too high, it may curdle a bit. That just means that the milk proteins are clumping together.

It’s unpleasant, but you can usually just skim the curdled clumps off the top. If you’re making a pudding or custard, you can also blend the milk to smooth out the curds. I promise I won’t tell anyone.

Can I reheat my cheese sauce?

Ideally, cheese sauce is eaten fresh, immediately after it’s cooked. That is true for both roux-based sauce and no-roux sauce. But that doesn’t mean you absolutely can’t reheat it.

If you reheat your cheese sauce too quickly, it’s likely to break and curdle. But if you reheat it very, very slowly on the lowest possible flame in a small saucepan on the stovetop, it should be fine.

Part of the reason that your sauce thickens as it stands is that some of the moisture will evaporate. Just add a splash more milk, and reheat slowly.

Better than reheating the sauce, though, is making this small batch. Then make the easy sauce again when you’re ready for some more!

Cheese sauce falling off black spatula into saucepan

Ingredients and substitutions

Dairy

I have tried so many dairy-free cheeses, and many are really good (Violife is great; Daiya has really stepped up their game), but none of them melt into a cheese sauce like the real thing. I just cannot recommend that you use any of them in this recipe.

If you’re dairy-free, you really need a separate recipe for mac and cheese or cheese sauce for dipping as queso or plain. Years ago, one of my children was dairy-free for over a year and she really loved mac and cheese, so I tried and tried to develop a great recipe.

But I failed on my own. The very best dairy free mac and cheese sauce recipe I have ever tried is from my friend Alisa Fleming of Go Dairy Free from her book. She does have a recipe on her site for a dairy free cheese sauce, and it looks very similar to the one in her book. Use that!

Flours

I always have at least 2 cups of our gum-free gluten free flour blend in a sealed glass container in my pantry. It’s useful for so very many things. But if you don’t already have a batch of it made, I wouldn’t bother making it so you have the single tablespoon of it for this recipe.

In its place, you can use an equal amount of superfine sweet white rice flour, or even cornstarch or arrowroot. The same goes for the cornstarch in the no-roux recipe.

 

Cheese sauce in white bowl surrounded by chips on white tray


Hand holding a fork lifting macaroni and cheese from a narrow white bowl

Cheese Sauce on macaroni in a long bowl and with salsa being dipping with a corn chip held by fingers

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 3/4 cup cheese sauce (easily doubled)

Ingredients

For roux-based cheese sauce
1 tablespoon (14 g) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon (9 g) gum-free gluten free flour (See Recipe Notes)

5/8 cup (5 fluid ounces) milk, plus more as necessary

4 to 5 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (fresh, not preshredded)

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For cheese sauce without a roux
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) milk, plus more as necessary

2 to 3 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (fresh, not preshredded)

1 teaspoon (3 g) cornstarch (See Recipe Notes)

2 ounces Kraft deli deluxe American cheese slices (about 3 slices) (See Recipe Notes)

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For making macaroni and cheese
2 ounces dried gluten free elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions and tossed with 1 tablespoon (14 g) unsalted butter, then set aside

For making queso
Mexican salsa fresca/pico de gallo

Directions

  • For the roux-based cheese sauce, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour (blend), and whisk until smooth. Cook slowly, whisking frequently, until the mixture is just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes or less. Pay close attention, as it will begin to change color very quickly. Add the milk, and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk to smooth out the clumped mixture, and cook until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and add 4 ounces of the shredded cheese. (If you’re making macaroni and cheese, add the remaining 1 ounce of the cheese.) Mix until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. If necessary to melt all of the cheese, return the saucepan to the stovetop over very low heat, mixing constantly. Add salt and/or pepper to taste.

  • If you’re making macaroni and cheese, add the sauce to the cooked macaroni and butter, toss to coat and serve immediately. If you’re making plain cheese sauce, serve immediately. If you’re making queso, add the salsa, mix, and serve immediately.

  • For the no-roux cheese sauce, place the milk in a small saucepan over very low heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking very frequently. Continue to cook until the milk just begins to reduce (about 3 minutes). If the milk curdles at all, try to skim any solids off the top. Toss 2 ounces of the shredded cheddar in the cornstarch, remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the cheese and starch to the hot milk. (If you’re making macaroni and cheese, add the remaining 1 ounce of the cheese.) Mix to combine. Tear the cheese slices into about 4 pieces each, and add them to the mixture, too. Mix until smooth. If necessary to melt all of the cheese, return the saucepan to the stovetop over very low heat, mixing constantly. Add salt and/or pepper to taste.

  • If you’re making macaroni and cheese, add the sauce to the cooked macaroni and butter, toss to coat and serve immediately. If you’re making plain cheese sauce, serve immediately. If you’re making queso, add the salsa, mix, and serve immediately.

  • Roux-based cheese sauce adapted from our recipe for stovetop gluten free macaroni and cheese. No roux cheese sauce adapted from Serious Eats.

Love,
Nicole

Gluten Free Cinnamon Sugar Drop Biscuits

Gluten Free Cinnamon Sugar Drop Biscuits

Buttery, sweet gluten free cinnamon sugar drop biscuits, with beautiful cinnamon bits marbled throughout, are ready in minutes!

Cinnamon sugar drop biscuit with white drizzled glaze on white paper

What makes this recipe special

Drop biscuits are a much simpler way to make pastry. They don’t require any real shaping, and although they don’t boast flaky layers, they have a tender fluffiness and crisp edges.

You begin with cold ingredients and handle the ingredients lightly, like you would with any pastry since you need cold pieces of fat (here, butter) to be surrounded by the remaining ingredients. When they hit the heat of the oven, the butter expands an creates a lightness.

Since they’re drop biscuits, though, there’s no shaping; there’s only scooping. If you take a classic drop biscuit recipe and just add some ground cinnamon and sugar to the mixture, your biscuits will just look discolored. To create a marbled biscuit, with pockets of light brown cinnamon bits and pockets of classic biscuit dough, you make the dough in two parts.

First, you whisk together the dry ingredients (GF flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar) and add in the cold butter pieces. Second, separate out about 1/4 of the mixture by volume (just eyeball it; precision is not important) and mix in the ground cinnamon to that smaller portion.

Moisten each of the two portions with a corresponding portion of the buttermilk in the recipe. Begin by adding about 3/4 the buttermilk to the plain portion, adding more by the drop as necessary to moisten any dry bits.

Finally, add the rest to the cinnamon portion and combine the two gently. You don’t want to create a uniform whole. Instead, we want the cinnamon spiced chunks to interrupt the plain chunks. We just press them together into scoops.

Cinnamon sugar drop biscuit raw with cinnamon sugar being sprinkled from a spoon

A small batch of biscuits that’s easily doubled

This recipe for gluten free cinnamon sugar drop biscuits only makes 6 biscuits. It’s just the right amount for a snack.

Since it doesn’t contain any eggs, I created a small batch recipe. When a recipe contains eggs, the rest of the ingredients must be in whatever proportions are appropriate for at least one whole egg (or egg white or egg yolk).

The recipe doubles very easily, though. Just multiply each ingredient by two, and follow the instructions as written. You’ll have 12 biscuits.

Make ahead instructions

You can even double the batch, create 12 portions of dough and freeze half in a single layer. Store the frozen half in the freezer until you’re ready to bake them, and bake off the remaining 6. 

When you’re ready to bake the frozen biscuits, you can bake them right from frozen. Make as many or as few as you like at a time.

Brush them with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake at 350°F for 5 minutes and then increase the oven temperature to 375°F.

You’ll probably need to bake them for another 12 to 15 minutes, for a total of 17 to 20 minutes. But if you begin baking the frozen dough at the full 375°F as instructed in the recipe, they may burn before they’re baked evenly all the way through.

baked cinnamon sugar drop biscuit broken in half on white paper

Ingredients and substitutions

Dairy

If you need to replace the buttermilk in this recipe, and you can have dairy, you can easily replace with 1/4 cup (65 g) plain yogurt + 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) milk. If you can’t have dairy, just use non-dairy plain yogurt and non-dairy milk unsweetened nondairy milk.

If you can’t have dairy, try replacing the chopped and chilled butter with 2 1/2 tablespoons (30 g) Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening + 2 tablespoons (28 g) vegan butter. My two favorite brands of vegan butter are Miyoko’s Kitchen and Melt.

In place of the melted butter that’s brushed on the biscuits, try using melted vegan butter or even Earth Balance. I do not recommend using Earth Balance buttery sticks in place of the chopped and chilled butter, as it has way too much moisture and the biscuits will melt flat in the oven.

Cornstarch

In place of cornstarch, which helps to lighten the flour blend, try using arrowroot. If you’re using a higher starch blend like Cup4Cup (or my mock Cup4Cup blend), replace the cornstarch with an equal amount (18 grams) of that flour blend.

Cinnamon-sugar

This recipe is based on our recipe for plain gluten free drop biscuits. If you’d like a plain biscuit that isn’t sweet, and is a great complement to any meal, try that recipe instead!

 

Spoon sprinkling cinnamon sugar on raw mound of cinnamon sugar biscuit

Cinnamon Sugar Drop Biscuit whole on white paper and broken in half on white paper, both with drizzled white glaze

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 6 biscuits

Ingredients

For the biscuits
7/8 cup (123 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)

Scant 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

2 tablespoons (18 g) cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons (40 g) granulated sugar

4 tablespoons (56 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into a 1/4-inch dice or grated and chilled

1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) buttermilk, chilled

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon (14 g) unsalted butter, melted

Cinnamon-sugar mixture for sprinkling (see Recipe Notes)

For the glaze (optional)
1/2 cup (57 g) confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon lukewarm water, plus more as necessary

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

  • In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the chopped and chilled butter, and toss to coat. Working quickly so as not to melt the butter, flatten the pieces between your thumb and forefinger. If you’ve used shredded butter, just toss to separate as many of the pieces as possible. Transfer about 1/4 of the butter and flour mixture to a separate, medium-size bowl, and set it aside.

  • To the large bowl with the remaining 3/4 of the mixture, add about 3/4 of the buttermilk (3 fluid ounces), and mix to combine. Add more buttermilk by the drop as necessary to bring the whole mixture together without any dry patches. To the medium-size bowl, add the ground cinnamon, and whisk or mix to combine. Add the remaining buttermilk to the cinnamon mixture, and mix until fully combined, creating clumps of dough. Add the cinnamon mixture to the large bowl with the remaining mixture, and mix gently until the cinnamon clumps are evenly distributed throughout the plain mixture.

  • Using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop or two spoons, scoop the dough into 6 equal portions, each about 2 1/2 tablespoons, and place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops of the mounds of raw biscuit dough lightly with the melted butter, and sprinkle generously with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

  • Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 5 minutes (or the refrigerator for longer) to chill until the raw biscuits are very cold to the touch. Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits are firm to the touch and golden brown on the edges and underside. Remove from the oven and allow the biscuits to set for about 5 minutes before serving.

  • If serving with the glaze, wait for the biscuits to be completely cool first. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, place the confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon of water. Mix well, until a very thick paste forms. Add more water by the drop, mixing to combine well, until the glaze is thickly pourable and drizzle over the cooled biscuits. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature before serving.

Love,
Nicole

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