Gluten-Free baking tips, why? Certainly the most difficult category of foods for someone with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance is baked goods. Making dinner is easy! But making a cake or bread is more challenging. I have thrown out many failed recipes on my way to success. So I offer you some words of wisdom from my many hours of trial and error. Here are my top 8 tips for gluten-free baking.
If you are not a baker, get a good gluten-free cook book or find a blogger (like me) who has already done the footwork for you. If you are a baker, do the same. Gluten-free recipes can be very different from their traditional counterparts. Trying to convert a traditional recipe that uses wheat flour can be really tricky so it is best to start over. Then if you want to add your own twist you have a good place to start. No need to reinvent the wheel!
Be sure to check out my full list of gluten-free baking recipes.
Tip #2 – Gluten-Free Flour Blends
The flour used in gluten-free baking is always a mix of flour and starches. So stock up on the following ingredients if you want to make your own gluten-free flour mix:
- xanthan gum or guar gum;
- super fine white rice, brown rice and sorghum flours;
- millet flour;
- potato starch (NOT potato flour)
- tapioca starch or flour-they are the same.
I highly recommend mixing up your own blend. It is a huge cost-saver and allows you the chance to experiment with different gluten-free flours.
My favorite source for gluten-free flours is Vitacost.com, which is one-stop shopping for almost anything gluten-free. They have their own line of quality certified gluten-free flours at very good prices and fast shipping.
Gluten-free flour blends should be about 2/3 grain flour such as rice, oat, sorghum, millet, teff and 1/3 starches. See my blog post Gluten-Free Flour Mixes and Blends for more detailed information on mixing up your own blend. The amount of xanthan gum will vary by recipe (see Tip #3).
If you do not want to be bothered with mixing up your own gluten-free flour blend, there are many options for store-bought. I like King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour.
Tip #3 – Wheat Flour Replacement Blends
There are a few options for gluten-free flour blends that can be used in place of wheat flour in most traditional recipes without adjustments. They already include xanthan gum and the right balance of starch to grain. Bob’s Red Mill makes 1 to 1, King Arthur has Measure-to-Measure and Thomas Keller has Cup-for-Cup and Pamela’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour. The latter three are certified gluten-free. These blends will generally work in cakes, cookies and muffins but not in breads and gluten-free pizza dough since they require a higher protein balance (more grain flour).
These one to one flour replacements are very convenient but I find them to be very starchy. They yields cakes and muffins that are a little more gummy. My biggest issue with these is the cost. I can mix up my own for around $2 per pound while these packaged ones run 3-$5 per pound.
Tip #4 – Gums
What about xanthan gum? It is definitely necessary in most gluten-free baking as it is the binder that keeps things together. A gluten-free cake with no binder will crumble before it hits your lips. Unfortunately xanthan gum is a highly processed product and some people do not tolerate it very well. So what to do? The good news is that most gluten-free recipes do not require much. I have found that many recipes require even less xanthan gum than they call for, so most of the time I cut the amount by about 1/4. Too much xanthan gum can make the texture of a cake or muffin, well . . . gummy. However, pie crust, pizza crust and bread are some items that seem to need the full amount.
Tip 5 – Xanthan Gum Replacement
If you still want to cut out the xanthan gum completely, ground psyllium seed can be a good substitution for breads (double the the amount of xanthan gum to replace).
Another gum substitution, if you are very motivated, is ground buckwheat groats. Using a coffee grinder, grind up 1 ounce of whole buckwheat groats until it resembles flour. Grind up only enough for the recipe you are making as it needs to be freshly ground. Take out 1 ounce of the flour blend in the recipe and replace it with the ground buckwheat groats. I have tried it in cakes and cookies with great success. It did not work so well in a pie crust.
Tip #6 – Garbanzo Bean Flour?
Many gluten-free bakers like to use garbanzo bean flour in their recipes because it creates a very nice texture. I agree, but I also find that it has a very strong flavor that does not go well in a cake or sweet recipe. If the recipe has other strong flavors such as chocolate or spices like cinnamon that mask the bean flour, I don’t mind it as much. It all depends on your palate. I suggest trying a half recipe of something that uses garbanzo bean flour and decide for yourself.
Tip #7 – Holding the Rise
Gluten-free baked goods need a lot of help in the light and airy department. You have no doubt experienced that loaf of gluten-free bread that could replace the 5 pound weights at the gym. For cakes, muffins, breads and anything else that should be light and fluffy I have a couple of tips. First, you can replace some of the liquid (milk, water) with club soda and get it to the oven as quickly as possible. Second, separate the eggs, beat the whites to soft peaks and gently fold them in at the end.
Just because it is packaged in a box and sold in the store, it doesn’t mean it’s good. I’m definitely in favor of using a mix to make my life easier but there are some not so good mixes out there. So far, I have found all of King Arthur’s baking mixes (all certified gluten-free) to be yummy and reliable.
I hope that these gluten-free baking tips will help you to be more confident in your gluten-free baking journey! Let me know if you have any questions.