When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I was over 40 years old. I had been cooking and baking since I was a teen, so it was all very overwhelming at first. I have learned quite a few things, but it all became easier as I discovered some gluten free baking tips. The feeling of success, of feeling less isolated and different when I was able to make a dish or dessert and take it to a gathering and share it with others – wonderful. When they didn’t realize they were eating gluten free and ate it all…priceless!
Here are some of my tips on how to convert favorite baked good recipes and make them gluten free:
Unless you are using a gluten free flour mix with xanthan gum added in, you will need to add xanthan gum to your baked goods. It provides structure and keeps the baked goods from crumbling. I prefer to add it to each recipe rather than adding it in to my flour blend. If you do use a flour blend with it added in, be sure to omit the xanthan gum from any of my recipes. Here’s the chart I use for decided how much xanthan gum to use in a recipe:
- For cookies, use 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour
- For cakes, use 1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour
- For breads, use 1 teaspoon per cup of flour
- Gluten free flours do not absorb or work well with as much butter as wheat based flours do. So I usually reduce the amount of butter, or replace it with oil, or perhaps do 1/2 the butter and half oil. Vegetable oils, and coconut oil both work well with gluten free flours. But sometimes you want the butter taste. So just reduce it a bit and see how that works. For example, I would use 6 tablespoons in a recipe calling for 8 tablespoons.
- Gluten free flour has very low protein. This can make baked goods fail to raise, or hold their shape. You will need to increase the protein content in your recipe in some way.
- Try adding dry milk powder. I will add 1-3 tablespoons depending on the recipe.
- Add an extra egg, or an egg white to your recipe.
- Add some almond meal, perhaps 1/4 cup.
- Adding oat flour can be of some help, or some rice bran. These are sources of higher protein and especially helpful in bread recipes.
- Be sure to thoroughly bake the product. I usually extend the baking time. Cakes especially will fall in the middle if removed too soon from the oven.
- For cookies that spread flat:
- Use shortening for some or all of the butter. If you don’t want to use Crisco, Spectrum Organic shortening works great.
- Decrease the sugar a bit ( perhaps by 1/4 cup).
- Add an extra egg or egg white.
- Add some almond flour, or increase the gluten free flour by a few tablespoons.
- Chill the dough before baking.
- Let the batter rest for 30 minutes before baking. Gluten free flour has more starch than wheat, and a rest period lets the dough absorb the liquid better. It also can help eliminate a gritty texture in the final product.
- For cakes:
- Increase the leavening a bit. Add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
- Add an extra egg white, almond meal, or dry milk powder to increase the protein content.
- Decrease the sugar. I generally decrease the sugar in all recipes I am converting. If a recipe calls for 1 cup, I use 3/4 cup. This is really a win/win….better result, less sugar!
- For breads:
Any quick bread that is fruit or vegetable based (pumpkin, zucchini, etc) usually is very easy to convert to gluten free. Just decrease the butter a bit, add an appropriate amount of xanthan gum, and bake thoroughly. If the recipe is an oil based recipe, its usually fine to make as is after adding xanthan gum.
- Yeast breads are a bit trickier. A batter based yeast bread is easier. You will need to increase the protein in the batter, and I would recommend adding some baking powder for “insurance” in raising. I would start with a teaspoon of baking powder and add more after seeing how it works.
- Only use 8×4 inch pans when baking breads. They will hold their structure better and not sink in the middle compared to baking bread in a 9X5 pan.
- Start with replacing wheat flours with gluten free, add xanthan, and go from there. It may take a few trial and errors but soon you will have a recipe to enjoy. And your family can enjoy the failures along the way. Usually, they may not look good, but they taste good! Don’t stress out about it. Think of it as a much more enjoyable high school chemistry lab!