I vividly remember my first glance into the world of celiac disease. I was somewhere around 8-10 years old, and our entire Sunday school class had gone to Chuck E Cheese’s for pizza and games.
There was one boy in our class who couldn’t have the pizza and, worse yet, had forgotten his lunch. He took it in stride and spent his time playing in the arcade while we ate, but I still felt really sorry for him. How sad to not be able to eat pizza!
My next encounter with gluten-sensitivity was when I met my husband in 2009, and my first real experience with gluten-free baking wasn’t until after we were married later that year. I have a couple of pretty good recipe books, and my mother-in-law to consult with, but I still made my share of foibles until I learned some of the basic guidelines of gluten-free cooking.
Now that I have a bit more experience and education, and a few rock solid principles with which to work, ugly things happen much less often.
I firmly believe that anyone can bake gluten-free, regardless of how much or how little experience you have, as long as you stick pretty closely to these tried and true guidelines.
Gluten-Free Baking Tips
- Bake bread at a lower temperature. Gluten-free bread batter tends to be very moist and needs a lot longer baking time than wheat bread. In order to accomplish baking a loaf that’s done in the middle, but not too brown on the outside, lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees, and lengthen the baking time.
- When in doubt, Use gum. I’ll be the first one to shout “You don’t need gum in everything!” as a money saving tactic. Still, if there’s any doubt, use the gum. It can save you a lot of dispointment and wasted ingredients. I typically use guar gum, because it’s cheaper, or you can use xanthan gum. The point is that since gluten-free flours aren’t sticky like wheat is, you need to replace it with something. Generally, you’ll use about 1 teaspoon of gum per cup of flour for bread, and 1/2 teaspoon per cup for everything else.
- Use a blend of flours. Of course, I highly recommend using a rice flour blend as a money saving strategy, but blending in some buckwheat, corn, and/or millet is really nice for flavor – especially in things like bread that don’t have a lot of other flavor contributors.
- Go mini. While you can make large loaves of gluten-free bread, it’s much, much easier to get awesome results with small things. So think mini loaves, cupcakes, and such.
- Increase baking powder. Once again, without gluten, flour isn’t very sticky, which makes it hard to trap the gasses caused by leavening agents, making your baked goods rise. You can increase baking powder by up to 25%. (I haven’t had very good results with increasing baking soda, but maybe that’s just me…)
- Add extra eggs to things like pancakes for extra moisture. Pancakes and waffles are really easy to make gluten-free, but the moisture of an extra egg is really nice!
- Add some protein! Gluten is a protein, which gives baked goods structure. You can combat the lack of gluten by adding some plain gelatin. This is much the same as adding gum, and I know some folks use gelatin instead of gum, but personally, I haven’t had great results doing that.
As you gain experinece using these general principals, and get a feel for how various batters and mixtures should look, gluten-free baking becomes second nature and you’ll find that you can tweak recipes to your liking, and even convert wheat recipes to gluten-free, all with amazing results. In fact, I think you’ll find the world of wheat-free food easy to love!
What are your best tips for successful gluten-free baking?