New to gluten free baking? These tips will help.
- Sub a gluten free blend for the all purpose flour. Of course, right? I’m not being a smartass here, but it has to be mentioned because there are people who have no idea that white flour comes from wheat, what gluten is, the meaning of gluten free, etc. Pick up a ready to use blend like the one from King Arthur Flour, Pamela’s, or make your own at home. Pamela’s Artisan Blend contains guar gum, so no additional binder is needed. What’s a binder? Read on.
- Add a small amount of xanthan, guar, psyllium husk, etc. Without any sticky gluten, a binder will help keep wheat free goods from crumbling. Tapioca gel, chia seed gel, and eggs are also very helpful for the gluten free baker. The amount of gum added to a recipe is dependent on 1) how the recipe is formulated and 2) what you’re making. In general, cakes and muffins need 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum (blended thoroughly with dry ingredients) per cup of flour. Gluten free bread recipes typically call for 1 teaspoon of binding gum per cup of flour. Note: most traditional bread recipes will not convert easily.
- Watch the liquids. I usually reduce the total liquid of a recipe when mixing, then make adjustments as the batter takes shape. Applesauce and yogurt are really great moisture enhancers when incorporated as part of the total liquid. Don’t even think about reducing the fat in a recipe by using applesauce in place of oil. At least, not right now. Gluten free baked goods love fat.
- Little tweaks can make a big difference. Gluten free recipes generally benefit from extra leavening (baking powder, yeast) and the liberal use of spices and extracts. The exact amount depends on the recipe. But this is something to keep in mind if your baked goods are lackluster or flat in any sense.
- Divide and conquer. Cut your recipe in half (or even smaller) for experimentation. It’s easier to practice conversions on a smaller scale and a more frugal way to experiment. Start with a reliable recipe for conversion, too. Just throwing that out. A full fat recipe with eggs is the easiest to convert.
- Take notes. Write the recipe down that you’re testing. Don’t divide a recipe in half in your head . . . while converting to gluten free, answering the phone, and cleaning up a mess in another room. Note any changes to the recipe and date it. Because when you make numerous batches and tweaks to a recipe, it’s easy to forget the details.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Chances are it’s been done before, in a book or on a blog. Visit a library and check out the plethora of gluten free cookbooks available. There are many different approaches to gluten free baking, so really, look around. I mentioned some books in a previous post that may prove helpful.
- There’s more than one way to make anything. Two very different recipes can be equally delicious. And sometimes, converting a recipe means making drastic changes in order to arrive at a similar end result.
- Mix it up. If you’re new to gluten free baking, ease into it by using mixes at first. Mixes may seem expensive, but they can give you an idea of how gluten free batter looks and behaves. As for stand mixers, they’re great but not an absolute necessity. I use a mixer for thick cookie doughs and some breads.
- Keep it classy. If you’re in an area that offers gluten free baking classes, take one. Again, a class may seem expensive. But there’s really no substitute for seeing how something’s done and learning the whys in person.
Next up: Gluten Free Chocolate Cake