Gluten-free baking can be intimidating if you’re new to the game. But with the right tips, you can pull it off with ease. Gluten-free baking doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here are 3 tips to help ease you in.
There are many health conditions for which a gluten-free diet is the only treatment. The gluten-free diet centers around a strict avoidance of gluten-containing grains. This means staying away from all baked goods except those specifically labeled gluten-free. This can be challenging, as gluten is an important structural component of breads, cakes, cookies, and other baked treats.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, as well as any food derived from these grains. Wheat is the most common grain used in baking. This is because gluten acts as a “glue,” holding baked goods together and providing the soft, chewy texture we’re accustomed to. Gluten also helps make dough easier to mold and shape.
Gluten-free grains lack this ability and that is why gluten-free baking is so complex. Also, gluten-free baked goods are often lacking in some key nutrients, such as fiber and folic acid. With the right tips and tricks, however, it is possible to have success with gluten-free baking. I’ve been at this for seven years and here’s what I’ve learned.
Gluten-free Baking Tip #1: Don’t Use Just One Flour, Mix Grains
There are many naturally gluten-free flours you can use for baking. These include rice flour, corn flour, almond flour, amaranth flour, and quinoa flour, among others. But each flour has different properties and can produce varying results when baking. The key here is to use a blend of flours. This will provide similar characteristics as with wheat-based baking.
Each flour in your blend will serve a different purpose. For example, almond flour is a great gluten-free option for baking foods with a crunchier texture. But if you mix almond flour with corn flour, the dough will be easier to mold. For gluten-free bread, it is helpful to mix three flours: rice flour for consistency, corn flour for smoothness, and almond flour for texture. Never use just one.
Gluten-free Baking Tip #2: Focus on Measurements
Accurate measurements are always important, as baking involves a series of chemical reactions. This is even more true when it comes to gluten-free baking. Measurements in gluten-free baking tend not to be equivalent to those used in wheat-based recipes. For example, gluten-free recipes will require more fat than regular baking to help with structure. And because gluten-free baked goods need more protein, the proportion of eggs may also change.
Also, keep in mind that some gluten-free flours are less dense than wheat flour, and this also affects your measurements. Getting to know the properties of each flour can be very helpful. There are also a number of online tools and other resources that can serve as a guide.
Gluten-free Baking Tip #3: Add Gums
As mentioned above, the biggest challenge when it comes to gluten-free baking is the lack of that “glue” to hold everything together. It is this property of gluten that makes wheat-based dough easy to work with, as well as providing the chewy texture that characterizes certain baked goods.
There’s a way around this, though. Gums can be used in gluten-free baking to replicate that sticky effect. The best part is that these gums are not needed in large amounts. As a general rule, you’ll need just one teaspoon per cup of flour. The exact measurement will depend on the types of flour you’re.
The two most common gums used in gluten-free baking are guar and xanthan. Guar gum is made from an Asian seed and it is best for cold foods, such as gluten-free pies. Xanthan gum is made from bacteria and it is better for baked goods. For example, if you add 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum to your gluten-free baking flour mix, your bread will have more chew and a softer texture.
These are three of the most important tips for gluten-free baking. I hope you find them easy to follow, and I promise they really make a difference. If you are new to the world of gluten-free baking, these tips will help you avoid the most common mistakes, and save you a lot of time and frustration.
I have many other gluten-free baking tips to share, so stay tuned for more in this series.