The Top 10 Basics Of Gluten-Free Baking

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: 

  1. Adding applesauce, pureed fruit or yogurt to recipes helps gluten-free cakes, muffins and quick breads stay moist.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. GlutenFree baking needs binding: xantham gum and flax meal help with this.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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
  • Cornstarch



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