Gluten-Free Baking Tips
Updated: Mar 31
Certainly the most difficult category of foods for someone with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance is baked goods. Making dinner is easy! But making a cake or bread is more challenging. I have thrown out many failed recipes on my way to success. So I offer you some words of wisdom from my many hours of trial and error.
If you are not a baker, get a good gluten-free cook book or find a blogger (like me) who has already done the footwork for you. If you are a baker, do the same. Gluten-Free recipes can be very different from their traditional counterparts. Trying to convert a traditional recipe that uses wheat flour can be really tricky so it is best to start over. Then if you want to add your own twist you have a good place to start. No need to reinvent the wheel!
The flour used in gluten-free baking is always a blend of flour and starches. So stock up on the following ingredients:
•xanthan gum or guar gum;
•super fine white rice, brown rice and sorghum flours;
•potato starch (NOT potato flour)
•tapioca starch or flour-they are the same.
Authentic Foods has several super fine flours and it is worth the effort to find them. My local Whole Foods and Sprouts Markets stock them. They can also be found on Vitacost.com, Amazon.com or Celiac.com which is great one-stop shopping for anything gluten-free. Vitacost.com has its own line of certified gluten-free super-fine flours at good prices. Gluten-free flour blends should be about 2/3 grain flour such as rice, oat, sorghum, millet, teff and 1/3 starches. The amount of xanthan gum will vary by recipe (see Tip #3).
If you do not want to be bothered with mixing up your own gluten-free flour blend, there are many options for store-bought. I like King Arthur's Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose flour.
What about xanthan gum? It is definitely necessary in most gluten-free baking as it is the binder that keeps things together. A gluten-free cake with no binder will crumble before it hits your lips. Unfortunately xanthan gum is a highly processed product and some people do not tolerate it very well. So what to do? The good news is that most gluten-free recipes do not require much. I have found that many recipes require even less xanthan gum than they call for, so most of the time I cut the amount by about 1/4. Too much xanthan gum can make the texture of a cake or muffin, well . . . gummy. However, pie crust, pizza crust and bread are some items that seem to need the full amount.
If you still want to cut out the xanthan gum completely, ground psyllium seed can be a good substitution for breads (double the the amount of xanthan gum to replace).
Another gum substitution, if you are very motivated, is ground buckwheat groats. Using a coffee grinder, grind up 1 ounce of whole buckwheat groats until it resembles flour. Grind up only enough for the recipe you are making as it needs to be freshly ground. Take out 1 ounce of the flour blend in the recipe and replace it with the ground buckwheat groats. I have tried it in cakes and cookies with great success. It did not work so well in a pie crust.
Many gluten-free bakers like to use garbanzo bean flour in their recipes because it creates a very nice texture. I agree, but I also find that it has a very strong flavor that does not go well in a cake or sweet recipe. If the recipe has other strong flavors such as chocolate or spices like cinnamon that mask the bean flour, I don’t mind it as much. It all depends on your palate. I suggest trying a half recipe of something that uses garbanzo bean flour and decide for yourself.
Gluten-free baked goods need a lot of help in the light and airy department. You have no doubt experienced that loaf of gluten-free bread that could replace the 5 pound weights at the gym. For cakes, muffins, breads and anything else that should be light and fluffy I have a couple of tips. First, you can replace some of the liquid (milk, water) with club soda and get it to the oven as quickly as possible. Second, separate the eggs, beat the whites to soft peaks and gently fold them in at the end.
Just because it is packaged in a box and sold in the store, it doesn’t mean it’s good. I’m definitely in favor of using a mix to make my life easier but there are some not so good mixes out there. So far, I have found all of King Arthur's baking mixes to be yummy and reliable.