If you have recently given up on gluten, by now you must have realised that baking with gluten-free flours can be a bit of a challenge. From figuring out what flours to use, to wondering about gums, leavening and starches, gluten-free baking does require some know-how. If regular baking is basic science, gluten-free baking is advanced chemistry! Obviously, cutting out gluten is a major lifestyle change, but happily, there’s no need to write off sandwiches and birthday cake forever. Here I am with some useful tips for gluten-free baking:
Before purchasing wheat flour alternatives, make sure they’re labelled “gluten-free”. A flour that’s naturally gluten-free could become contaminated during processing or packaging. Labelling will confirm whether the product is 100% gluten-free.
USE SPECIFIC GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES
Use recipes specifically developed for gluten-free baking. This is a particularly good tip for beginners. Once you have a feel for gluten-free flours and the amounts of liquid and gum required, it will be easier to convert traditional recipes into their gluten-free counterparts.
BLEND DIFFERENT FLOURS TOGETHER
Just as with alternative sweeteners, it is best to use more than one flour when making gluten-free baked goods. It helps prevent just one flavour or texture from dominating the final product and also helps with texture.
CUT DOWN THE SIZE!
Since gluten-free baked goods tend to crumble easily, making all baked good smaller tends to improve their quality and keep them “sticking together” more. Think mini cookies, mini muffins, and small loaves of bread.
UNDERSTAND THE PROPERTIES AND MAKE ADJUSTMENTS
When you’re baking with almond flour (for example), it certainly does not behave like a “normal” flour. It’s much higher in fat and therefore needs some adjustments. If you’ve baked with almond flour before then I’m sure you’ve noticed the texture tends to be more on the tender and cake-y side, and that’s because of the higher fat content.
Gluten is what gives baked goods their structure. Without the gluten, foods are more likely to fall apart. Add gums, such as xanthan gum or guar gum, to replace some of that structure. For yeast products such as bread, add 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum or guar gum per cup of flour blend. For non-yeast products, add ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum or guar gum per cup of flour blend. Some people avoid gums because of digestive issues or sensitivities. In those cases, adding psyllium, agar agar, chia seeds, or flax seeds in amounts equal to the gums required can also do the job.
BAKE LONGER AT LOW TEMPERATURE
Gluten-free baking tends to brown faster on the outside than it cooks on the inside so it is a good idea to lower the baking temperature by 25 degrees. While a regular cake or loaf of bread might take 30 minutes to bake, a gluten-free version will often take 45 minutes to an hour. Contrary to regular baking, a good rule of thumb is to keep checking the progress of your baking to figure out the time necessary for the recipe.
USE WET OR OILED HANDS
Wet or oiled hands are often the best non stick utensil when working with gluten-free doughs and batters, which can get very sticky– they don’t have the body and sheen of wheat dough.
SHAPE BEFORE RISING
Because gluten free breads have no rise and punch down and second rise and punch down, you’ll want to shape any breads before the rise (they’ll only rise once!). Dinner rolls should rise in the shape or tin you would like them to bake in; bread sticks should be formed before rising; cinnamon rolls should rise in their pans; challah must be braided and then allowed to rise. Don’t mess with gluten-free dough once it has risen, just bake it!
ADDITIONAL GLUTEN-FREE BAKING TIPS:
- Store your flours or flour blends in the freezer for the freshest products. As with other refrigerated or frozen ingredients, bring the flours to room temperature when baking.
- Wash your hands before you begin, and make sure you avoid contaminating gluten-free items with ingredients containing gluten if you are baking in a kitchen isn’t gluten-free.
- Properly butter or line pans with parchment to ensure your foods do not stick to baking pans. Cookies work best on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Be sure to use a gluten-free baking powder. While you’re at it, check the labels of other ingredients such as vanilla and chocolate chips, as these are not always gluten-free.
- Increase vanilla and other spices for the best, fullest flavour in your gluten-free baked goods. Find a good gluten-free vanilla and use it liberally.