When I started living a gluten free lifestyle, I didn’t do any research. I look back and I wonder to myself, why didn’t I? A bit of advice and guidance could have saved me a lot of time and money (we all know being GF isn’t the cheapest)
Honestly, gluten free baking has probably been the hardest thing to learn. For along time I didn’t even bother (which was great for the waist line!) and then when I started, I didn’t use things like Xanthan Gum (I have recently just started and if you’re doubtful about using it, check out this video here) Also, I jumped between different flours, never really understanding the difference between them. Some days were a total hit in the kitchen and other days, the rubbish bin ate more baking than we did.
Now days, I like to take my time and really research. Because I am a “reasonably confident cook” I do still experiment, but because I hate food waste, I am a lot more careful about it.
Here’s what I suggest if you’re just starting your gluten free journey, and you’re about to do some baking. I’ve also been lucky enough to team up with Ange from NZ Real Health, who has also put together some great information for you to see you through your gluten free baking adventures. I’ve added snippets from Ange below, but for more on what she has to say, head to her post here.
Many people who are living a GF life cannot afford the products that are sometimes required in recipes. Just remember though – nothing in the cooking world is easy (except maybe boiling water) so if you don’t get it right the first time, or if it tastes great, but the texture or moisture isn’t there – don’t quit! Sit down and work out what you were missing, what you could add less or more of or even what you could substitute something with. And if you feel like you want to add something different – add it! Gluten free baking, like normal baking, is mostly trial and error, and in my case a fluke – so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get it right the first time (expect to feed the bin haha)
How do I know if my baking ingredients contains Gluten?
READ READ READ, and if in doubt, READ MORE.
Here’s one some many not even think about – OATS. They’re a tricky one when it comes to living a gluten free life due to the way they are processed – while they may not contain Gluten, they are processed on the same lines and there is a slight risk. And because they’re in a lot of baking (Apple/Fruit Crumble….) you need to be sure what you’re putting in is OK for you – For me, I avoid them when and where I can, depending on the brand, but check packets to find out what the oats have been processed with – and if you require an alternative, Desiccated Coconut is a fantastic substitute.
Cooking Temperatures May Vary
I tend to time my Gluten Free Baking right down to the minute (when I bake non-GF I walk off, vacuum, forget the oven is on..) For me (and it could be my oven) GF baking seems to take about 10 – 15 minutes less than normal! (however, my cheesecake base takes 10 minutes longer – I believe this has something to do with the amount of butter used) If a recipe that I have adapted to suit me calls for baking at 180 deg, sometimes I’ll drop my oven down to approx 160. It’s better to be safe, than sorry!
And from Ange @ NZ Real Health
Avoiding gluten in meals can be relatively straightforward, but baking can turn into a nightmare. There aren’t many people with gluten sensitivity who have experimented with baking and haven’t ended up with scones like cannonballs or a cake that can only be used as a doorstop! (you know it’s bad when you chuck your dud baking out on the lawn and even the birds won’t eat it…)
Different flours will give you different results
To replace standard baking flour, you have three options – buy a pre-made, general purpose flour mix (such as Edmonds Gluten-Free flour), buy a specific flour alternative (such as buckwheat, coconut or rice flour), or blend your own flour from a combination of different gluten-free alternatives. The latter supposedly can give you the best results, however different combinations will be suited to different baking products. For example, a flour you use for pizza dough will likely not be that great in a sponge cake. Buying pre-made mixes or flour alternatives may not give you the best baking results every time, but it will be far easier if you do baking regularly and don’t have the time to mix your own flours.
Light fluffy baking may not work
Gluten is a stretchy, sticky protein that helps give baked goods their shape. Airy sponge cakes, soft waffles and delicate souffles may seem appealing, but without gluten, they will likely turn out dense and hard. If you have time and patience, you can keep doing trial and error with different flours and try to perfect these fluffy morsels, or you can get close to spot on with baked goods that would typically be more dense anyway. Brownies, dense cakes like Hummingbird Cake, and cookies almost always turn out well.
‘Normal’ recipe quantities may be off
If you’re substituting your flour in a ‘normal’ recipe, be aware that different flours may require different conversions (i.e. 1 cup of flour may not equal 1 cup of rice flour in a recipe). Before you get started check the packet for any conversion suggestions and pay attention to your mix as you go.
About Ange from NZ Real Health
Ange is a personal trainer, yoga instructor and figure skating coach who has helped hundreds of clients make positive lifestyle changes to achieve their goals! How cool is that.
I would love to know if you learn’t anything from us today, about gluten free baking. Also, let me know in the comments what your best and worst gluten free adventures have been in the kitchen.