Whether you have celiac disease, a gluten intolerance or are just curious to experiment with gluten-free baking, here are some of the basic rules and guidelines I follow to create delicious, moist, and tender baked goods. And if you’ve ever tried a dried out, rock hard gluten-free baked good, you can appreciate what I’m talking about. Use this as your cheat sheet and I guarantee you will not be disappointed with the results.
When it comes to converting your favorite baking recipes from traditional flour to gluten-free, a simple one-to-one flour substitution will not yield the same results. Gluten is a giving, stretchy ingredient that supports rise, structure, texture and kneadablity. It takes more than a single gluten-free flour replacement to make a cake, bread, muffin or cookie recipe work. A combination of gluten-free flours, starches and xanthan gum are necessary for optimum results. A combination of techniques and little tricks don’t hurt either…
My Top 10 List of Tips and Tricks:
- Adding applesauce, pureed fruit or yogurt to recipes helps gluten-free cakes, muffins and quick breads stay moist.
- Use more vanilla than you’d think. Gluten-Free flours can taste strong and unfamiliar, and a little extra vanilla helps soften their flavor. Don’t be afraid to use more than a tablespoon. And buy the good stuff. Bourbon vanilla is fantastic. Cheaper brands with fillers (like corn syrup) are a pale imitation of true vanilla flavor. Also, add warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to deepen flavor complexity.
- If it’s very humid out, many gluten-free flours grab moisture and become damp – this can affect your outcome. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons less liquid if you suspect your flour is damp from humidity.
- Gluten-free batters can be strange. Cake batter will be thicker than you think. Bread batter will be looser. Cookie dough is almost the same, but sometimes spreads faster during baking
- Gluten-free baked goods and breads get soggy if they stay too long in their pans. Remove loaves and cakes and muffins from the pan as soon as possible. The longer a gluten-free baked good remains in a hot pan, the soggier it gets.
- When baking, you need gum. Gluten creates a certain sticky texture that is most, this can be easily replicated using xanthan gum or guar gum, which improve viscosity.
- Gluten–Free baking needs binding: xantham gum and flax meal help with this.
- If replacing regular flour in a recipe, a good rule of thumb is to use 2 grains & 1 starch for best results. For example if converting a recipe that calls for 1 cup of “regular” flour you might use: 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 1/3 cup sorghum flour, and 1/3 cup arrowroot starch.
- Arrowroot starch provides a lightness to gluten-free baked good, so it’s not a bad idea to incorporate it into most GF baked goods.
- Store gluten-free flour in the refrigerator or freezer, especially if you buy your flours in bulk. Let the flour come to room temperature before you use it. I find baking with room temperature ingredients works best when baking gluten-free.
* Grains, flours, starches and thickeners that are gluten-free include:
- Corn, grits, polenta and cornmeal
- Buckwheat, buckwheat cereal, kasha and buckwheat flour
- Rice flour – white rice, sweet rice and brown rice flour
- Quinoa, quinoa cereal flakes, and quinoa flour
- Millet and millet flour
- Sorghum flour
- Amaranth and amaranth flour
- Certified gluten-free oats and oatmeal
- Coconut flour
- Teff flour
- Nut meals and flours – almond, chestnut, pecan, cashew
- Chickpea, garbanzo, soy and bean flour
- Tapioca starch
- Potato starch
- Potato flour
- Sweet potato and yam flour
- Arrowroot starch