Do you want to bake gluten-free goodies but get stuck on the substitutions? Have you tried baking without gluten but couldn’t get the right texture or flavor?
Gluten, a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley and rye, gives foods their shape and structure. It helps dough rise and provides that delightfully chewy texture that we all love in baked goods. Recreating those sensations without gluten takes some finesse and, unfortunately, often results in crumbling cookies or heavy hunks of cake.
It’s true: Baking without gluten can feel challenging. But, it doesn’t have to be!
You can successfully bake gluten-free treats at home without sacrificing flavor or texture, assures Shelly Henley, owner of No Label at the Table Food Company in Carmel, Indiana.
Henley created the entirely gluten- and dairy-free bakery to help her son, who is on the autism spectrum, achieve his dreams in the food industry. The company provides employment opportunities and job skills training for people with autism.
Henley’s son has been on a gluten- and casein-free diet since he was a toddler. “Eighteen years ago, no one knew what gluten-free was, so I pulled him up on the kitchen island and we baked,” she recalls. “Baking and cooking are process-driven. You follow the steps and in the end, you get a yummy reward. It’s very satisfying work for him.”
4 Keys to Successful Gluten-Free Baking
Here are some of Henley’s best tips to take the stress out of gluten-free baking:
Convert Recipes to Gluten-Free
The trick to successful gluten-free baking isn’t just to swap one flour for another. Instead, to compensate for gluten’s job of helping dough rise, it takes some additions. While you can find gobs of gluten-free recipes on Pinterest, you might want to convert one of your non-GF faves. There are handy conversion charts on the internet. We like this one because it explains the science and math behind the conversions (and includes a tasty cookie recipe at the end).
Use the Right Ingredients
Not all flours are gluten-free, of course. Beyond the obvious white and wheat flours, some others to avoid include flour made from barley, rye and spelt. For guidance, check out this list of the best gluten-free flours and other baking ingredients. Remember, though, that you can’t swap a gluten flour for a GF flour without some additional conversions.
Some gluten-free mixes are available to take care of those substitutions and conversions for you, but they’re not always a seamless replacement, depending on what you’re making. You may have to trial-and-error your favorite recipes with some of the pre-made mixes available.
Let Your Dough Rest
Allow your dough to take its time before you bake, and you’ll end up happier with the texture and consistency of your treat. “A good tip is to hydrate your doughs,” Henley says. “If you make a batter or dough, let it sit for 20 or 30 minutes. Gluten-free flours need more time to take in the fats and liquids of the recipes.”
Henley also finds that coddling the eggs helps with the process. “Remember in your chemistry class in school, you learned reactions happen faster at higher temperatures. Baking is science, molecular gastronomy.”
Know When to Give Up
Perhaps Henley’s best advice involves giving up. “Give up on trying to buy the perfect blend of GF flour,” she says. “There’s not one. You’ll always need to substitute a couple flours to get your desired result. Breads will need more protein. Cakes more starch.”
Maybe even more important is giving up the idea that you are living without something, Henley says. “Don’t try to recreate your old diet. It was probably making you sick anyway. When you focus on what you can have versus what is off limits, the whole world opens for you.”
Ready to master the art form of gluten-free baking? Check out our 7 Essentials for the Gluten-Free Baker.