If you’re part of the 3 million Americans with Celiac disease or the many more with gluten sensitivities, you probably miss all of the yummy baked goods that are no longer safe for you to eat.
Most grocery stores have shelves of gluten-free options these days, but gluten-free baking in your oven gives your gluten-free goodies with that homemade taste. Baking without gluten can seem overwhelming. Starting out slowly and knowing the basics of gluten-free baking can help.
Keep reading for tips on gluten-free baking for beginners.
- Start Simple
Are you wondering how to start baking without gluten? It’s best to start with simple, easy recipes that don’t take a lot of ingredients or have a lot of steps. Think about the types of recipes you would start with when teaching someone who’s never baked anything.
Choose one of your favorite simple baked goods, such as chocolate chip cookies or brownies, and find a gluten-free baking recipe for it. Using a recipe designed to be gluten free will often give you better results and take the guesswork out of gluten-free baking.
Test out different flours, add-ins, and other gluten-free baking tips on that simple recipe. It can be your baseline to help determine which ingredients and methods yield the best results.
Once you master your simple recipes, you can move on to more complicated items. Yeast baked goods are often more challenging to make gluten free, so save those for later.
As you try new recipes, keep track of the ones you like and that work well. Create your own gluten-free recipe book of your favorite dishes so you have go-to options the next time you bake.
- Test Different Gluten-Free Flours
Head to the baking aisle or gluten-free section of your favorite grocery store, and you’ll likely find a range of all-purpose gluten-free flour mixes. Many of them claim to be a cup-for-cup replacement for regular flour.
They’re not all created equally, though. All of the gluten-free flour mixes contain different ratios of various gluten-free starches and whole grains. Most mixes aren’t ideal for yeast breads, either.
Starting out with a gluten-free mix might make you feel more comfortable when you try gluten-free baking. Look for a gluten-free baking recipe formulated with the commercially prepared gluten-free flour mixes for the best results.
You might also need to test out several different gluten-free flour mixes to find one that you like. Just like any food, the flour mixes can taste different and produce different results in your baked goods based on what flours they include.
Many of the gluten-free flour components taste a lot different than the flour you’re used to tasting. You might prefer the flavor or texture of different gluten-free alternatives.
- Make Your Own Gluten-Free Flour Mixes
If you’re feeling adventurous, try making your own gluten-free flour mixes. Choosing your own flour options and starches gives you more control over the flavor and texture.
Don’t be afraid to play with different flours and combinations of those flours. You can buy cassava flour and other types of gluten-free flours to build your collection. Make small batches of different combinations to find what you like.
You can find various recipes online for making your own gluten-free flour mixes, but one easy option is to use about 40% whole grains and 60% white flours or starches. Examples of gluten-free whole grains include brown rice flour, quinoa flour, buckwheat flour, and sorghum flour. For the white flours and starches, try white rice flour, cornstarch, cassava flour, potato flour, or arrowroot flour.
- Use Gums
Adding xanthan gum or guar gum to your gluten-free baking projects helps add a chewier texture to the finished product. Many gluten-free recipes call for these gums anyway. Think of them as a substitute for the gluten.
When making sweet baked goods, such as cakes or cookies, you’ll generally need about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of guar gum or xanthan gum for every cup of flour. Bread recipes usually call for more gum.
Always stick with the recipe guidelines when adding gums to your baked goods. If you go overboard, it can cause the baked goods to have a gummy texture that makes them unpleasant.
Keep in mind that commercial gluten-free flour mixes you buy at the store typically include some type of gum already. Read the ingredients before buying to verify that it includes gum already.
- Add Proteins and Other Swaps
Since gluten is a protein, it makes sense to add in some protein to your baked items to help compensate for the lost protein. This is especially helpful if you’re using a standard recipe and converting it to gluten free. One simple swap is to use an egg or egg whites to replace 1/2 cup of water in a recipe.
Eggs also come in handy if your dough is too dry once you add all of the ingredients. Add one extra egg white to the dough to help moisten it.
For a richer recipe, consider using buttermilk instead of regular milk. Using brown sugar instead of white flour can also add moisture to your recipe.
- Up Your Baking Powder
Gluten-free baked goods can often use a little extra help with rising. Baking powder is a good addition to your recipes to help with this.
If the recipe already calls for baking powder, increase the amount by about 25%. That means if it calls for 1 tablespoon of baking powder, you’ll add 1-1/4 tablespoons. You can also use a general guideline of adding 1 to 2 tablespoons for every cup of gluten-free flour you use.
- Measure Precisely
You might be used to experimenting in the kitchen and using the recipe as more of a suggestion than something to follow precisely. With gluten-free baking, following the recipe is very important, especially when you first start.
Gluten does a lot to hold a recipe together. Without it, the balance of ingredients is even more delicate. If you start experimenting or measuring ingredients loosely, you can disrupt that balance quickly and end up with a huge baking flop.
Use precise measurements for all ingredients to keep the ratios correct. Weighing flour is often the most precise option, but use the method and measurements provided in the gluten-free baking recipe you choose.
If you’re measuring dry ingredients by volume, spoon them into the measuring cup, especially flour. You don’t want to pack the flour down in the cup. Use the flat side of a knife or another straight edge to level off the flour to ensure a precise amount.
As you get more comfortable with baking, you might use some of your standard recipes and test them out with gluten-free flours. Making some of the swaps previously mentioned, such as buttermilk for milk or eggs for water, can help those traditional recipes translate better into gluten-free options.
- Shrink the Size
One of the easiest gluten-free baking tips is to shrink the size of what you’re baking. Gluten-free foods can sometimes get crumbly. When you bake them in smaller pans, the ingredients are more likely to stick together, reducing the crumbly quality and making them come out better.
Grab a few mini baking pans, such as mini loaf pans, small cake pans, and mini muffin tins for baking without gluten. When you bake cookies, make them smaller. Not only do the smaller items hold together better, but they also make portion control easier when you’re enjoying your baked goodies.
- Bake With Parchment Paper
Gluten-free recipes tend to be stickier than their gluten-filled counterparts. It can be difficult to work with, but parchment paper can help.
Put parchment paper down on surfaces when you need to work with the dough. Line your baking pans with parchment paper before baking.
Parchment paper is usually rated to work safely in temperatures between 420 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it’s usually safe for slightly higher temperatures up to 500 degrees. Since cookies and other baked goods usually call for temperatures under 400 degrees, parchment paper should be safe for most of your gluten-free baking.
- Use Cooling Racks
Cooling racks are useful in all types of baking. They help your baked goods cool quickly and evenly.
That’s even more important when baking without gluten. If your baked item cools slowly in the pan, it’s more likely to develop a gummy texture. The steam stays inside and creates the gumminess.
Instead, move it out of the pan and onto a cooling rack. This lets the air swirl around your finished edible creation, allowing it to cool quickly and evenly to avoid an unpleasant gummy texture.
- Save Your Mistakes
When you start your gluten-free baking journey, you’ll likely have some baked goods that don’t come out right. Your cake might sag in the middle or your cookies might crumble. Your homemade gluten-free bread might be hard or crumbly.
Even if they don’t turn out like you want, you might be able to use them for other purposes. You can run that hard bread through the food processor to make homemade gluten-free breadcrumbs.
You can save the good parts of the cake and turn them into cake pops. Other sweet desserts can be crumbled into a sweet dessert topping.
Improve Your Gluten-Free Baking
When you decide to test out gluten-free baking, keep in mind that it takes a lot more precision than traditional baking. Expect a few flops along the way, but keep experimenting. The reward is delicious gluten-free baked goods fresh from your oven that taste a lot better than commercially produced options.
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