When I went gluten-free, one of the first problems I had was with baking. I had years and years of recipes collected and tons of cookbooks, and I soon found out that cup-for-cup gluten-free flour replacements are a myth. Here are a few tips on how to convert a baking recipe to gluten-free without resulting in a dry crumbly mess:
- Double the baking powder – Use double the amount of baking powder as the recipe calls for.
- Add xanthan and/or guar gum – Use 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour for yeast breads and pizza dough. Use 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour for cakes, muffins, or quick breads. Use 1/4 tsp of xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour for cookies and bars.
- Add xanthan gum last – After all other ingredients are mixed together limiting your stirs to about 5 – 6 strokes by hand or on lowest electric mixer speed, because stirring xanthan and guar gum too long or hard will negate their ability to thicken and give rise to your baked good.
- Add vinegar to recipes with baking soda – Baking soda needs an acidic ingredient to raise your baked goods. If you don’t want to add vinegar because you’re afraid it will mess-up the taste of your final baked good, replace the baking soda with baking powder (remember to double the baking powder amount). You’ll find a good explanation of how baking powder works here.
- Use less flour – Reduce the amount of flour the recipe calls for. My rule-of-thumb is to reduce the flour by 1/8 cup per cup of flour in the recipe.
- Recipes with lots of moisture work best – Recipes with added applesauce, yogurt, buttermilk, honey (honey is a humectant) or lots of fats in the way of nut butters or oils work best. Gluten-Free baked goods have gotten a bad reputation, because they were often made using the same ingredients and proportions as their gluten-filled counterparts, which meant without gluten to hold them together, were dry and crumbly. Recipes that rely on lots of moisture or fats work best.
- Include a starch in your flour mixture – If you are not using a prepackaged all-purpose or baking flour mixture, including a starch as part of your flour mixture will give your baked goods a lighter fluffier texture. I usually use about a 1:1 or 1:2 starch to gluten-free flour ratio for baking. Starches include: corn starch, tapioca flour or starch, potato starch or you can use sweet (glutinous) rice flour.
- Use dark pans to enhance browning – Gluten-Free baked goods often look pale in comparison to their gluten-full cousins. Using a dark colored pan will help to brown the final product.
And most important of all, remember to be patient with the process of converting your recipes. Look at each recipe as an experiment in learning how to make baked goods without depending on gluten for structure. It’s also helpful to judge your baked goods on their own merits and not as a replica of the gluten-full recipe. Gluten-free baked goods have fine taste qualities like for instance, the nuttiness of almond and soy flours as compared to their bland gluten-full counterparts.
As always if you have some tips of your own for converting your baking recipes to gluten-free, please share it with the rest of us in the comments section.