Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Gluten Free Baking!

By: Danica Loucks, Udi’s New Face of Gluten Free

            Avoided baking after you started eating gluten free but miss all your home-made comfort dishes?

We definitely know we’re a sucker for those freshly baked savory pastries and decadent sweet treats that will fill the entire house with the most wonderful aromas. Well why not still bake your own gluten-free deliciousness?

Initially, you may contemplate how in the world you will be able to create baked goods with flavors, textures, and appearances just as good as their gluten-full counterparts with such different ingredients. But it’s possible! Don’t let the stereotypical image of the gluten-free “brick” scare you away.

We’re here to help your shift to gluten-free baking feel less daunting!

 

Fortunately, baking is really just a chemistry experiment in a mixing bowl. The most basic way to think about the science happening in your mixing bowl is to remember that protein builds structure and fat and sugar break down structure. Consequently, a good recipe contains enough protein to develop structure that can hold air bubbles but enough sugar and fat to achieve a moist and tender texture.

Gluten’s ability to develop long strands of stretchy dough plays a big part in developing the structure that helps the baked goods rise. Gluten also encourages chewy textures over the more chalky and crumbly textures that are often associated with gluten-free baked goods. Yet an aspiring gluten-free baker can create the same delightful qualities by knowing which ingredients contribute to great texture and by paying attention to the balance of structure-building and structure-breaking ingredients. The more you know about what each type of gluten-free ingredient contributes to the characteristics of your final product, the less likely you’ll be pulling a gluten-free baking disaster out of your oven.

 

So how does one go about creating similar effects without gluten? There are many types of gluten-free flours (and the number of options seems to be ever-increasing) that are derived from various beans, grains, pseudo-grains (sources that are actually biologically a “fruit” but have a similar appearance to a grain, for example, quinoa), and nuts. There is even a gluten-free flour made from Timothy grass seed! And, who knows? Maybe we’ll be using “whole algal flour” soon, as well.

In the case of gluten-free flours, higher protein content does not necessarily lead to the king of CO2-trapping structure that gluten protein does. For instance, nut flours have a high protein content but often lead to a dense final product. This would work quite well for baking projects that are meant to be fairly dense, such as brownies, but for more ambitious leavening—cakes and bread—you should expect to use a variety of flours and to add other ingredients to help it along.

 

Here are a few additional tips & tricks for gluten free flours and other baking ingredients:

 

  • Blending flours: Because gluten-free flours from different sources can have quite different characteristics, using a blend of different types of flours can improve structure, texture, and flavor. For example, using only soybean or garbanzo bean flour tends to lead to an overwhelmingly beany flavor and a chalky texture, and using only rice flour tends to create a sandy texture. Quinoa flour or Timtana flour create pretty good textures on their own, but their nutty flavors may be stronger than desired. Using a mixture of different types of flours prevents a particular flavor or texture dominating the recipe. However, each type of flour may absorb liquid to a different extent so you may have to adjust the amount of liquid you add accordingly. You can make your own flour blends—Google search for a recipe or create your own blend that balances starchier flours and protein-rich flours with the mellow middle-of-the-road flours like sorghum—or you can buy pre-made blends that are generally called “all-purpose gluten-free baking mix.”

 

  • Xanthan Gum or Guar Gum: These ingredients, gums derived from corn and a type of legume, should be mixed with gluten-free flours to help mimic gluten’s stretchy behavior.  Xanthan gum tends to be less expensive than guar gum, but people who are sensitive to corn may need to avoid xanthan gum. These gums, which come in powder form, are often included in recipes written to be gluten-free. However, if you’re using a recipe that isn’t specifically gluten-free, a good rule of thumb is:
    • 1 tsp. xanthan/guar gum per cup of gluten-free flour for bread and pizza dough,
    • ½ tsp. per cup for cakes, muffins, and quick breads,
    • and ¼-½ tsp. per cup for cookies and bars .

             *Too much xanthan or guar gum will make your baked goods gummy or slimy—if that occurs with these suggested amounts, make a note for the future that less is needed.

 

  • Eggs: The protein in eggs provides a great binder to encourage your gluten-free dough or batter to stretch rather than crumble. While the egg whites are the source of protein (and can, if you’re looking for some major lift, be beaten separately to create more volume), the egg yolk can contribute to good texture since it works as an emulsifier (somewhat like the gums above), and its fat encourages tenderness .

 

  • Flaxseed: Ground flax-seed is a great alternative to eggs if you need to bake egg-free and can also be a helpful addition to any other recipe as it becomes a gelatinous binder when exposed to liquid. While flaxseed is not as strong of a binder compared to xanthan or guar gum achieves, it effectively reduces the probability of crumbly outcomes.

  • Creaming your butter properly: Many baking recipes tell you to “Cream the butter and sugar.” This process is an opportunity to incorporate more air bubbles into your batter. Make sure to (a) you use room-temperature butter (cold butter doesn’t cream well and melted or very soft butter will not hold air) and (b) not to over-mix the butter and sugar. Mix the butter and sugar (by hand or on low- to medium-speed with a mixer) until it has just about doubled in volume.  A good butter substitute that allows you to incorporate air bubbles in the same manner is coconut oil, as it is also a soft solid at room temperature. 

As you expand your skills through practice, remember to take note of combinations of ingredients that work well, and gradually you may learn to spot unreasonable ratios of structure-building to structure-breaking ingredients. You will also start identifying how you must modify recipes to work in your location (where humidity and elevation may affect a recipe’s behavior). If you frequently use recipes from websites, it can be helpful to look in the comments for any problems people had or changes they made to the original that might help you.

 

Best of luck in your baking adventures!

Add any of your own baking tips & tricks in the comments below.

 

 

34 Responses to “Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Gluten Free Baking!”

  1. Annie-Pi says:

    Replying to Deb, I just made great GIANT blueberry muffins using a tablespoon or two of applesauce. Very moist! I’ve had great luck baking simple recipes (muffins, brownies, chocolate cake, crumb cake) using a new GF flour mix from Wegman’s called “Cup4Cup”. Use your favorite recipe and substitute the mix and white/brown rice flours. I substitute 1/3 to 1/2 of the flour requirement with the GF mix and the remaining flour requirement with white and brown rice flour, adding a (add’l) teaspoon of baking powder for each cup of rice flour. I omit crumb toppings; I found that they sink to the middle. (Don’t overdo the blueberries – same result.) Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top instead. I’ve tried baking with only a flour mix (Domata) but found it tends to make recipes dense.

  2. brimcg says:

    I have been diagnosed with celiac for a year. Udi’s bread is by far the best bread I have tried. I have found that a mixture of quinoa and rice flour with corn flour makes a good flour mixture.

  3. Deb says:

    I’m fairly new to GF so I’d like to know when you are adding yogurt or applesauce to a recipe to make it moist, how much do you add and then what if anything do you cut down on or omit.

    • Jonathan says:

      When bread failures occur; as they often do, I break up the inedible loaves and put them into the food processor and break down the chunks into very serviceable Gluten Free Bread Crumbs for my meat and casserole baking recipes.

  4. I am fixing to try making bread for the first time and I do need some “helps” before I start. I always did hate to have to eat my “mistakes” all by myself!

  5. Laura says:

    I’ve been doing some GF baking for a while and have gotten pretty good at substituting for non-GF recipes. My only problem is that, if I use chocolate chips (white or semi sweet) in a bread, brownie, or muffin, they melt into my batter while in the oven which turns into a gooey, uncooked portion in the center. Has anyone else had this problem? How did you fix it?

    • Jonathan says:

      I have had some success with undercooked centers by using a larger baking pan and thus reducing the thickness of the product…. Sometimes this works well but, of course, your brownies and breads will come out of the oven looking thinner. I hope this helps!

  6. Cindy says:

    I want to make family favorite – carrot cake, which calls for 2 cups of flour. If I try gluten free, I’m not sure which type to try and how much or if a mixture of flours would work better.
    Has anyone tried to bake carrot cake?
    trying to feed my sweet tooth!

    thanks,

    • Laura B says:

      Carrot cake is something I’ve had really good luck with baking! It is one of my absolute favorites and it comes out almost identical to the non-gluten free version. I use this recipe: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/carrot-cake-iii/Detail.aspx
      and I substitute the flour for King Arthur gluten free all-purpose flour, (or a mix of 2 parts white rice flour, 1 part brown rice flour, one part tapioca starch to hand mix the flour – it can be cheaper this way). Make sure to add xanthan gum to either mix. I have a package of xanthan gum that says to add 1 tsp per cup of flour for cakes.

      Enjoy!

    • Laura B says:

      Oh! Forgot to mention, I do substitute the flour 1:1, so your recipe that calls for 2 cups of flour should still take 2 cups since it’s already a moist cake if you want to use the same recipe you’ve always used!

    • Jonathan says:

      I like to use Coconut Flour for my “sweeter” baking projects. Coconut Flour holds more moisture, so bear that in mind when converting your recipes.

  7. Linda says:

    I’ve had great luck with Pamela’s products. They have an all purpose baking and pancake mix. Recipes on the bag for cookies, muffins, banana bread, pancakes, scones, and even add a little Crisco to make a Bisquick substitute. Pamela’s also has cake mixes, corn bread mix, brownie mixes. ALL of them are GREAT and you don’t have to mix flours, add guar gum and do all that experimenting. Really easy and great results. Most places have it. I order in bulk from Amazon and keep it in the freezer to prolong shelf life.

  8. Edwin Aviles says:

    I have made pancakes with Gluten Free pancake mix. However, I add a teaspoon of olive oil, one egg, and at least one teaspoon of BAKING POWDER. I use a metal stainless steel bowl to mix all my ingredients, but more importantly; I use another bowl with hot water and place the above bowl in it. I let it sit and rise then softly mix one time. i then cook them in a non-stick frying pan with a small amount of butter. Get ready to eat the best pancakes ever. Better then the regular pancakes that make us sick.
    I believe when baking add extra Baking Powder and watch the results. good Luck, Ed Aviles

  9. Rachel says:

    Adding yogurt to cake/cupcake recipes will make them much more moist! Delicious!

  10. RunEatRepeat says:

    These are super helpful tips! I prefer eggs or a replacement every time.

  11. Nora Hiller says:

    Nancy, GF makes all the difference in the world for some with IBS. Just keep it simple, don’t load up on a bunch of GF baked goods and snacks. Jovial makes an egg noodle GF that is wonderful, whole foods, Annie Chung makes a brown rice pad thai noodle, very good, Udi’s pizza crust is a good one, the breads are good but not like real bread. There is a great brown rice cereal, and my all time favorite Bob’s GF oats. I eat avacodos, almonds and bananas for fast food. Good brands of cold cuts like turkey breast just shop carefully. Challenging at first, worth it. Feel free to view my profile on Linked In, best of health to you

    • Danielle says:

      Great tip!! I will try that!! What have you used it in?

    • Marcie says:

      I found in the frozen foods section of grocery stores a brand of bread called Rudi’s. Their Ancient Grains bread is so close to non GF bread in texture and flavor. I recommend it highly. The rice breads are way too dry tasting to me.

  12. Maggie says:

    Use psyllium husk instead of the gums – equal amounts if a recipe calls for gums! Adds fiber and does the same job as the gums do, without adding processed junk to your food.

  13. Chris says:

    Andi,what kind of steamer do you use?

  14. Andi says:

    I’ve found that letting bread rise in a steamer helps a lot with getting it to rise properly. If you steam it longer it gets slightly “bagely” in texture, which can be nice as well, but I’ve had the most success putting the bread into the steamer for about 20 minutes, then taking it out and baking it in the oven the rest of the way. It will bake slightly while it rises in the steamer, but this way you don’t get the “steamed” bread effect of bread that won’t brown properly, but you do get the benefits of a nice high rise.

  15. Colette Bell says:

    I cook gluten-free, vegan & paleo, baking & savory meals, snacks, etc. I write a blog: http://www.becomeunglud.wordpress.com & have a fb page. Please feel free to stop by & check out my recipes. I’m happy to help. I love Udi’s products, bug life-saver when I first went gluten-free. (I’m gluten-intolerant, as well as other various food allergies)

  16. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and my doctor suggested I try a Glute-free diet. I need help. Where can I find prepared gluten-free foods as I am in poor health and cannot stand for long.

    • DamselflyDiary says:

      Glutino, Amy’s and others make gluten free prepared meals which you can find in the freezer section. My King Soopers (Kroger) store carries several. However, for more selection you may need to seek out a Whole Foods (or similar). Udi’s and Amy’s both make gluten free pizza as well.

    • Laura says:

      Purdue makes frozen chicken fingers that are good. Prepared salads are nice. Taste of Thai also makes easy-prep meals.

      • Deb says:

        How much applesauce do you add to your recipe for a more moist baked item? Do you omit anything then since you’ve added the applesauce? Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Nancy,
      Most supermarkets have on staff a Dietitian. Right after being diagnosed as Celiac (it took 11 years of “bowel” nightmares, doctor visits and drugs before a correct diagnosis), my earlier shopping forays were real frustrating until I met the store dietitian while browsing the Diet Specialty aisle in my local supermarket. She led me in the right direction in finding solutions to my needs. She also took into consideration my suggestions for other GF products on my subsequent visits to the store.

  17. Kendra Kuntz says:

    When using a regular recipe to make GF muffins or sweet breads (substituting GF flours), I always add some applesauce to the mix. It seems to help keep the muffins moist and soft. :)

    • AJ says:

      Hi Nancy – you can find prepared gluten free foods in many specialty grocery stores (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Mustard Seed, etc.) as well as most mainstream grocery stores. Ask somebody at your nearest store and I am sure they can point you in the right direction.

  18. Sandy says:

    I love the book Gluten Free Baking Classics- I bake from it all the time and no one can tell its GF!!
    The cakes are very Udi’s-esque!

    • Jonathan says:

      I also started out reading Analise Roberts books, though I didn’t much like her method of keeping her prescribed flour blends on hand. I now find more useful (and successful) results in Bette Hagmans books. Her methods utilize more specific flour blends for each recipe. In the course of time, I have also developed a better sense of ingredients to use when converting non GF recipes. I keep a supply of various flour types (usually “Bob’s Red Mill”) on hand for this purpose and don’t need the extra space to store pre-mixed blends!

  19. Liz says:

    Earth balance Butter is vegan and they sell it in sticks and tubs. Egg replacer that I have tried is flax seed meal and water, 1 Tablespoon flax meal to 3 Tablespoons water. You have to let it sit after stirring for about 5 minutes. I like this better than the tapioca egg replacer that I have. Hope this helps.

    • Jonathan says:

      I fully agree! Using Flax Seed Meal also keeps the Cholesterol in my diet to a minimum. I also like the idea of substituting Coconut Oil for butter…. For the same reason.

  20. BJMarley says:

    I would love tips for baking gluten-free and vegan (without using eggs or butter).

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