If you are new to gluten free baking, it might seem overwhelming. I would like to make it a little less scary so you will try your hand on an alternative way of baking and feel better sooner.
Gluten is a protein you can find in wheat and other related grains such as rye, spelt and barley. For some of us this protein is either hard to digest (gluten intolerance) or causes our bodies to attack itself (coeliac disease). No matter the reason why you or a loved one has to eat gluten free, this doesn't mean you have to sit at the dinner table and watch others eat mouthwatering food.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind. The gluten protein in wheat, rye, spelt and barley makes sure that the dough gets it's stretchiness. Seeing gluten free flours such as rice, sorghum, millet and potato flours do not contain these which means you can't just substitute one for the other. You need help from pretend-glutens such as xanthan gum, guar gum and flax for this. If you can't digest xanthan gum well, try out one of the other two. This substitution is especially true for our traditional breads like a sour dough or crusty French. The bread you make with gluten free flours will never be exactly like their gluten counterparts but we can get quite close.
When it comes to cakes, cookies and such, things are a little easier. These scrumptious bites are not dependent on the gluten to keep it together. So if you have a recipe for any of them you might be able to substitute gluten free flour for the regular flour, but you will have to adjust the amounts. Rule of thumb is to:
- substitute 1 cup of regular flour with 140 grams of gluten free flour
- substitute 100 grams of regular flour with 125 grams of gluten free flour
You will have to start weighing your flours! There can be a huge difference in how much flour is in a cup. The proper way to fill a cup is by using a spoon. Spoon the flour into the cup without compacting it and level of the top with a knife. If you just scoop the flour with your measuring cup there will be more flour in it due to the fact it gets pushed down when you do that. Best way to bake gluten free or otherwise is by weighing your ingredients.
If you mix your own gluten free flour mix you will have to add some kind of "gluten"
- Start of by adding 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum for every 140 grams of gluten free flour in your recipe
Sometimes the recipe needs a little tweaking, mostly by increasing the amount of flour you need. Play around with it. If you use a package gluten free flour mix check the ingredients list to see if any gums are added.
If you have baked something like muffins or cookies in the past with regular flour you have been warned not to over-mix the dough or batter because the gluten gets activated and makes the baked goods tough. Well, this is the opposite for gluten free baking.
- Mix your dough well by beating it, because by doing so you will be adding air into your dough creating a lighter result
Don't expect to be rolling out dough with a rolling pin in neat layers. Gluten free dough tends to be sticky and you will have to get stuck in there. Roll up those sleeves and wet your hands with water or a little oil. This will protect you from getting stuck to your goodies and will be easier to clean up afterwards.
Remember the first gluten free breads and cookies that came on the market, how dry they were? Gluten free used to be equal to either cardboard or styrofoam. Well not anymore! Throw out your fear for fat because you need a little more butter or butter substitute such as Earth Balance to be able to enjoy your baking. This will keep it moist and tender for a while longer.
Forget those big, crusty breads for now. Start making little bread rolls and small loaves instead. You will find that when you bake gluten free that the outside turns a nice, deep brown color while the inside is still raw or your bread turns out as flat as a pancake after removing it from the oven. The way around it is by making the loaves smaller. This way the heat from the oven can penetrate the center and gives it a chance to bake evenly.
I mix my own gluten free flour mix because not only do I find tapioca starch hard to digest, which is always one of the starches in pre-mixed packages, it's also more economical. What you have to keep in mind is that you need a combination of whole grain and starch, ideally to a 40/60 ratio. This is the ratio for an all-purpose flour.
Whole grains are:
- brown rice
- corn flour
- sweet potato
- potato flour
- potato starch
- arrow root
- corn starch
- sweet rice
- white rice
If you want to increase your whole grains for something like a bread recipe, increase your whole grains to starches to a ration of 70/30.
I like the mix that Shauna James Ahern from Gluten Free Girl uses. She mixes 200 gram of sorghum flour, 200 gram of millet flour, 300 gram of potato starch and 300 gram of sweet rice starch together. This makes a great all-purpose mix for almost everything.
Play around with flour combinations, we all have different palates and the only way to find out what you like is trying it out!