Whether you’ve just been diagnosed gluten intolerant or Coeliac, or you’ve been trundling down struggle street for years. You’ll know just how hard gluten free baking can be. Like really really hard. It starts off great, you celebrate and jump for joy when you realize that creating gluten free lunches and dinners are actually pretty easy. You even go a little nuts in the health food aisle at your local supermarket. Which results in you buying up every single gluten free marked product within sight. You relish in your store bought gluten free cookie high!! But then you start to feel a little lacking. Just a little sad, as you stare forlornly at that (tiny) look cookie in your hand. You’ve just realized that baking a fresh batch of cookies and eating them warm from the oven will probably never happen again. You’ve just realized that pretty much everything you’ve ever truly enjoyed eating is now off limits.
Because hey, gluten free baking is hard right?
OK so I’m going to burst your sad little bubble right now! I mean really, no one should be sad whilst eating cookies of any description. Irregardless of how tiny they are!! But gluten free baking honestly does not have to be hard. You don’t have to miss out. I’m
standing, OK sitting in front of my computer, with my hand on my heart. I’m pleading with you to hear me! Because honestly, GLUTEN FREE BAKING IS POSSIBLE!! Say it with me now! And not only is it possible, but it actually can be quite easy. Oh, and damn tasty! So tasty that the average ‘normal’ can’t even tell that that cupcake you just whipped up is gluten free!
I bet you think I’m crazy!
It’s not really doable is it? Well yeah it actually is. You just have to sit down for a moment and have a think, oh and read the rest of this post! I have put together my top 7 tips to help you nail gluten free baking, because I don’t want you to have to miss out. I don’t want you to think that only a handful of us weirdo glutards on the web can nail this stuff. Because you can too.
Sadly there will still be screw ups. No one’s perfect and anyone who tells you they nail a gluten free recipe first time, EVERY SINGLE TIME, is a liar. Or trying to impress you. I’ll be the first to put my hand up, I screw up. I screw up recipes all the time. Especially when I first started out gluten free baking. 5 years ago I was a naive little thing that figured it would be so easy. I just swap wheat flour for this gluten free stuff I got a the shop, right? Pffft yup, NO! I did create some spectacular disasters though. Like reaaaaallllly bad. Almost as bad as that time I made custard with no sugar in it….. blyyyuuuuckkkk!!!
This lovely gluten free Victoria Sponge cake may of looked great, but it was a hard as a rock!! Gaaah!! It was only just edible!
Practice, Practice, Practice.
But I have learnt so much over these last few years and it would be mean of me not to share my insights with you. So without further ado, here are my top 7 tips to nailing gluten free baking. Oh and don’t feel like you have to do every single one of these either! Yes, you’ll get better results if you try to implement all 7 steps but hey, who has time for that. Make a couple of changes to the way you think and you’ll baking up a storm in no time!
Let’s get into it!
Awesome Gluten Free Baking?! It’s definitely not a myth!
1. Don’t Be Afraid
I think an awful lot of it all comes down to mindset. No we’re not running marathons here (good for you if you are one of those crazy ass people though!). But changing the way you think about baking is a key starting pointing. If you go into a recipe thinking you’ll screw it up, chances are you will. I actually apply this to most aspects of my life.
But if you see a recipe on, say Pinterest, and you really want to try and recreate it, only gluten free. JUST GO FOR IT! OK so it may not look exactly the same or taste perfect, not that we remember what real food tastes like though. But don’t be scared to experiment. In all of my screwed up recipes, only one or two of them have been truly inedible. Even then, nothing a good drowning in custard or cream won’t fix! Honestly though. Just don’t be put off.
2. Change Your Expectations
OK so don’t go crazy and just presume everything won’t work automatically. Remember? We just covered this one above. But there is something to be said about knowing the limitations, or more importantly understanding what gluten is and how it works in baking. Baking is actually quite scientific, it’s one of the things I love about it. So when it comes to choosing a recipe have a think about what will work and what is seriously not achievable. Gluten Free Croissaints? Hmmm yeah, not that easy to master! (Doable, So I’ve been told! But maybe just don’t start here!) Making a gorgeous, light No-Bake Lemon Berry Cheesecake though? Oh that is waaaaaay easy! Have at it! Simply take the time to look at a recipe and see just what you have to swap out, if it’s as simple as using gluten free biscuits as the crumb like in the cheesecake above, go for it!
3. Know Your Flours
Enough about your brain, let’s get into some actual physical gluten free baking advice. Sadly there is no one single flour that can replicate gluten/wheaten flour. Maybe in the future? Hmm yeah I won’t hold my breath. The good news is there are quite literally dozens of flours readily available on the market that when mixed together come pretty damn close to gluten. In fact, I would even go as far to say that some of them even work better than gluten! My gosh! I know, how dare I!
Gluten free baking isn’t as simple as just using one single GF flour though. It’s all about the blend! So pop on over to my Complete Guide to Gluten Free Flour and read all about them. Once you know how each flour works or what it does, then you’ll be able to make an educated guess as to which to use in which recipe. Should you use Rice flour in your biscuits to make them melt-in-your-mouth? Or maybe you need some Tapioca flour to give a little more texture and stickiness to that pastry.
While you’re at it, head over to the side bar >>>>>> and sign up to receive my downloadable gluten free flour guide in an easy to print table. Stick it to your fridge and you’ll never be second guessing yourself again!
4. It’s All In The Fluff
The one thing that gluten definitely does that can’t always be easily recreated is LIFT! So next time you’re looking to change a normal recipe to gluten free be sure to add extra baking powder. Look at how much flour is in the recipe and then add the appropriate amount, it’s easier than working out you generally need 25% extra. Sadly it does vary recipe to recipe, but as a general rule, increase it!
This also applies to Xanthan Gum (or Guar Gum). Though sadly gums can cause stomach aches in some people so definitely test this one out before you use it in everything. I personally love xanthan gum and find it really helps in the binding and structure of goods. I tend to add it into my flour blends rather than an as an additional ingredient, though you can use it either way. (Always check store bought pre-mixed flours, some add it in, some don’t!)
As a general guide use in the following quantities:
Baking Powder – 2 tsp per cup of flour
Xanathan Gum – 1 tsp per cup of flour for pizza crusts/dough/bread
– 1/2 tsp per cup of flour for cakes/cupcakes etc.
5. Fats Are Your Friends
I mean I’ve been saying it for years!!! (hehe) But when it comes to gluten free baking, extra fat is most definitely your friend. An often mentioned problem in gluten free baked goods is that they are too dry or crumbly. This generally comes from a lack of fat or liquid. (Which can be made worse by the overuse of certain flours, like coconut flour!)
When I converted my husbands’ Gran’s Melting Moments recipe to gluten free I really had to play around with it. It took quite a few shots before I got it right, but in the end the amount of butter was to blame. It actually came down to the difference of 10 grams! But Melting Moments are a high butter recipe and can be notoriously painful. Baking’s not normally that temperamental.
So if your baked goodies come out too dry, try adding more fat next time. Whether it be butter, oil or even an extra egg! In fact, most cupcakes and cakes can do with an additional egg white added in to help reduce this problem! Oh and a note on milk? If you’re not dairy intolerant I definitely recommend using full fat milk, vs skim or reduced fat. It makes a big difference, especially in things like frosting!
6. Whip It! Whip It Good!
I swear I’m not singing. Really.
But this is probably the easiest gluten free baking tip I can give you. Have you ever read in a gluten recipe, mix until just combined? Yeah I reckon you probably have, a lot! Why? Because when you over beat or whip gluten it becomes stiff and hard and creates a horribly dense product! Well lucky for us, we don’t have that problem!!
Now I know, I sometimes do say just stir till combined, but that may be because it’s a delicate recipe. However the general rule with gluten free baking is that you can whip it all you like. And this is good! Because it creates more air and lift and will help you create a gorgeously light and fluffy cake! So getting whipping!
7. Baking Times/Temperatures Vary – A LOT!
I don’t know how many times I’ve read in gluten free baking articles that you should reduce the temperature of your oven. It is true that some gluten free baking, especially cakes, can brown faster than usual. Though you can combat this by placing a piece of baking paper on top of the cake to stop it from browning further. However in my personal experience it’s sadly not as simple as cooking slower for longer.
I don’t have a one size fits all answer for you, except maybe this. 180° Celsius is generally a good place to start and most of my baking is done at this temperature. Though I would stick to your recipe as a guide. The key though, is to not really take your eyes off of it whilst it’s baking. I’ve had gluten free cakes that should take an hour to cook, take nearly two! And my chocolate chip cookies (made with gluten) would normally take 20 minutes, now they only take 10! It will vary with every recipe, so I always set my timer for shorter than recommended and check on the progress at that point. All else fails, I end up sitting on the floor in the kitchen reading cook books…. it’s totally normal, right?
My last tip is to get yourself an oven thermometer. It would surprise you how badly your oven could be out. Cookies spreading and taking longer to cook? Your oven is probably not as hot as you think it is. Simply setting your oven to 180 degrees isn’t enough unfortunately. Home ovens in particular are notorious for being wildly out. You can pick up a basic, cheap oven thermometer from any kitchen store, simply pop it and and start cooking! You’ll see very quickly just where your oven sits and how you need to adjust it. You’ll be cooking perfectly crispy, chewy chocolate chip cookies in no time!