Some people just LOVE baking, while others consider it not their strength 😉 Either way, fresh baked goods can connect you to your past by recreating Grandma’s cherry pie and connect you to the present by sharing with friends and family. Baked treats are filled with love whether you are the baker or the eater!
This joy can be temporarily lost if you’re making changes to your diet, especially when starting out with gluten free baking. Cooking is like art, there is more room for experimenting that can lead to an amazing and unique end result. Baking on the other hand, is more like science; if you don’t get the right combination of ingredients, your experiment can go terribly wrong! In traditional baking, gluten acts like glue to hold everything together and keep its shape after rising. This doesn’t mean we can’t re-create the same textures without gluten, it just means we need to be a little more creative!
Here are some tips to keep in mind when baking gluten free:
1. Flour Weights and Types
Did you know that wheat flour doesn’t contain gluten? It contains two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, that form gluten when liquid is introduced!
The weight of flour, or how dense it is, is something to keep in mind when substituting gluten-free flour for wheat flour. For example, if a bread recipe calls for whole-wheat flour you would want to substitute with quinoa flour, millet, or bean flours because they are heavier flours and would result in a similar consistency in the end product. If you were making a more delicate baked good such as biscotti, you would need lighter flour such as white rice flour. Generally, you will need to use a combination of different types of flours to get the right consistency. Combining different types of flours will also help to balance out the flavour, as some gluten-free flours, like bean and teff flour, can have very strong flavours. Some companies have taken care of this work for us! There are a variety of gluten-free flour blends out there. These all-purpose blends are usually medium-weight and can be used in most recipes. If you’re ambitious here is a video guide to make your own gluten free all-purpose flour mixture!
Gluten Free Flour Guide
Watch Out for…
|Almond flour||Protein, fibre, vitamin E||Short shelf life||Cakes, cookies, cupcakes|
|Amaranth||Protein, calcium, iron||Bitter taste if too much used, browns very quickly.||Roux, white sauces, soups, stews (emulsifier)|
|Bean and legume flours (chickpea, pinto, navy)||Protein, fibre, calcium||Overpowering taste||Breads, pizza dough|
|Chestnut flour||Fibre||Earthy taste, low protein content||Pasta, cakes, breads, muffins|
|Chia||Fibre, protein, omega-3||Be careful with amount that affects consistency||Cookies, muffins, brownies (Binding agent, thickener)|
|Corn flour (ground corn meal)||Fibre, B vitamins, folate, iron||Slight nutty taste, need to mix with other flours||Waffles, pancakes, breads|
|Coconut||Fibre||Creates a dense product, strong flavour||Cookies, cupcakes(adds moisture, great flavour)|
|Flax||Fibre, protein, omega-3||Cathartic effect in most people||Cookies, muffins, breads|
|Grape Skin||Fibre, iron||Can cause bitter taste if too much used, can be too rich/overpowering||Cookies, cupcakes (goes well with chocolate recipes)|
|Hemp||Fibre||Can be gritty/earthy||Muffins, breads, cookies|
|Millet||Protein, fibre||Short shelf life||Breads, pizza dough|
|Oat flour||Fibre, protein||Not suitable for individuals who are also sensitive to oats||Cookies, breads|
|Potato flour||Fibre, protein||Could cause product to be too sticky||Pasta, pizza dough, breads (binding agent)|
|Quinoa||Complete protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, fibre, B vitamins||Could influence flavour of recipe||Cookies, breads, cakes|
|Brown||Protein||Slight nutty taste, can be grainy or crumbly||Cookies, biscotti(fine grind best for baking)|
|Sorghum||Protein||Can be dry or gritty if not mixed||Cookies, brownies|
|Teff||Protein, fibre, calcium||Taste can be overpowering||Cookies, cakes, breads|
2. Portions and Temperature
Gluten free recipes tend to be more crumbly than their wheat alternatives. Stick to smaller portions at first like mini muffins or cupcakes instead of breads and cakes. This will increase the likelihood that the recipe will not crumble apart. Try these rich dark chocolate coconut cupcakes! Some gluten free flours brown more easily than wheat flour so pay close attention to the temperature of recipes. Also, overcooked gluten free recipes generally become harder and tougher than wheat-based recipes so be conservative with the baking time and don’t forget to check on it! You are generally safer to use a lower temperature with gluten free baking.
3. Binding Agents and Moisture
Like I mentioned, gluten acts like glue in baked goods and helps everything stick together. Without it, we need to add products that bind the mixture of ingredients and create that delicious and airy texture. Xanthan gum or guar gum are commonly added to gluten free flours as starch-based binding agents. If using a premixed flour, check the ingredients to see if binding agents are already included! Eggs are also used as protein-based binding agents. For extra fluffy results, whip the egg whites and fold them into the mixture at the end! Sweet rice flour is also very sticky and can be used as a binding agent. Adding ingredients that provide moisture can also help bind mixtures and create more palatable textures. You can use pureed fruit or shredded vegetables, honey, yogurt, or sour cream. Follow me on Pinterest for more gluten free baking recipes and ideas!
4. Embrace It, Experiment, Experience!
It is important to remember that gluten free baking is a different process. It will take some getting used to so don’t get discouraged if you’re first couple of attempts don’t turn out perfectly. You might be frustrated if you simply focus on replacing wheat flour with gluten free options in traditional recipes as the end product might not live up to your expectations of the wheat flour version. Hopefully, with the right experimenting, you will find that gluten free baking can be even better than traditional baking!
Just like chemists do, you can use your mistakes to learn what works and what doesn’t. You might even make some wonderful, unplanned discoveries! Don’t give up – it takes time and a lot of experimenting to get it right. There are ways you can use the items that don’t work out the way you planned. The Gluten Free Goddess gives a great example of this that she calls the crumb trick: “you can always zap failures in the food processor and use the crumbs in other recipes. I freeze crumbs in a zip-lock bag.”
My Favourite Gluten Free Bakeries
If you’re not much of a baker and don’t want to deal with the mess that gluten free baking experiments can make, there are some great bakeries that provide many great gluten free options. Check out some in your area!
Healthy Foods & More (brownies to die for)
Turtledoves Bakery (try the baguette – oh so good!)
Kelly’s Bake Shoppe (the BEST cupcakes)
Y’ad Never Know (breads, pizza, and her flour blends are the best I’ve tried!)
Much love & good eating,