Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gluten Free Baking

If you've ever stood in the organic aisle at your local grocery store and scratched your head over the choices of gluten free flours, sweeteners, and other baking ingredients, you are not alone. Whether you are simply adjusting your pantry to healthier, more nourishing ingredients, or you've been recently diagnosed with food allergies or autoimmune issues concerning gluten, the change can be overwhelming. What ingredients do you buy? What works best for which applications?


The good news: with a little careful substitution and some tried and true recipes, you can discover a whole new world of gluten free dessert creations that will please your palate and treat your body right.

Gluten free flour blends can be a great option, because they require little adjustment and are generally a cup for cup substitution. Looking to make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? This is the way to go.

For more complicated recipes, like gluten free angel cake and bagels, or even certain cake recipes, you’ll want to blend your own flours. This gets challenging, because you’ll need to add elasticity agents like xanthan gum and/or guar gum that help to mimic wheat flour in recipes. You can find some awesome flour blends on various websites, or you can experiment with the nature of the different flours and create your own. Warning: this may involve a lot of trial and error. But for the kitchen warrior who has a willing taste-tester, it can be a blast.

Curious about what kinds of flours are out there? Here’s a breakdown of the different kinds of flours and how to use them.

If you are adventurous, you can explore specific flour recipes. Almond flour recipes are often delicious, with a hearty finish. Coconut flour creates a delicious flavor with a sweet edge. Chickpea flour creates amazing treats. You can even skip the flour altogether with these bean-based brownies.

Not sure where to start? You can even find boxed gluten free/alternative flour mixes at just about any grocery store.

Sliced bread in a basket

A couple of tips on baking for the newbie setting off on this adventure:
  • Explore recipes online and read the comments. Using different flours also means creating different textures. Gluten free batters often look a lot wetter – and sometimes thicker – than what you are used to. See what tips others offer before you start. 
  • Almond flour and coconut flour get much browner than traditional flour – and even more so than other alternative flour. Coconut flour can appear to be burned, but taste fine. Tapioca flour, when used alone, doesn't brown significantly, but if baked for too long, can turn rock hard. So while your rolls will look pale and perfect, you may break a tooth trying to take a bite! 
  • Allow some latitude for flavor and texture. Each flour and blend has its own benefits and drawbacks. You may find that you like your old recipe better…or the new one. And if you are making food for someone who has a food allergy, what might taste a bit strange to you may very well be a thrill for them. Remember that they haven’t had the “regular” recipe in probably quite a while. For example, I love gluten free pancakes, and I can’t remember the taste and texture of wheat-based ones anymore. 

Ally Bishop
Contributing Writer

I will leave you with one of my favorite recipes to make for guests – Brazilian Cheese Bread. It’s delicious, gluten free, and folks will be begging you for the recipe!

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