When I started following a gluten free diet, baking homemade treats challenged me. My pancakes were paper thin. My bread crumbled. And cookies? They were so dry, they weren’t worth eating. I finally learned that you can’t substitute gluten free flour for all-purpose flour in a recipe. It simply doesn’t work.
After lots of research, both in the kitchen and online, I’ve become comfortable making my favorites—breads, cookies, brownies, pancakes, and cupcakes—all gluten free. If you’re venturing into gluten free baking, here are some tips to get you started.
1. Use a gluten free flour mix. Gluten free flours are made from grains like rice, quinoa, corn, or sorghum, so they don’t have the same properties as wheat. It often takes multiple flours mixed together to give baked goods a favorable texture. I’ve found that pre-mixed gluten free flour blends take the guess work out of gluten free baking when you’re just starting out.
2. Experiment with binding agents. Get a gluten free cookbook and study the section on binding agents, such as xanthan gum and guar gum. You must add these products to your recipes to get that spongy texture that makes cakes and muffins perfect.
3. Follow recipes exactly. I remember the first time I made gluten free muffins from scratch, the recipe called for both baking powder and baking soda. I thought it must be a typo in the cookbook, but I followed the recipe anyway. The muffins turned out perfectly. The lesson: Follow every word of a gluten free recipe from a professional chef or baker.
4. Measure all liquids carefully. Gluten free flours, such as brown rice, white rice, tapioca, and sorghum, absorb liquids quickly. If you skimp on liquids in your gluten free baking endeavors, you’ll be left with dry, crumbly products. I usually try adding extra moisture when I’m converting a recipe. For example, I added a mashed banana to my recently invented pumpkin muffin recipe, and the muffins that came out were incredibly moist.
Finally, don’t expect gluten free baked goods to have the exact same texture or flavor as their glutinous cousins. Wheat flour has its own unique properties. No matter how much you try to replicate it, you can’t. Honestly, I’ve found that I like my gluten free brownies much better when they’re made with almond flour!
Have you ventured into gluten free baking? Tell us what you’ve learned about this culinary challenge in the comments below.
Image source: SXC