As if going gluten free wasn’t confusing enough. All this ingredient list reading and can I eat this? questions. It’s enough to do your head in. Let alone when you decide to whip up a simple batch of chocolate chip cookies, I mean it can’t be that hard right? Enter my Beginner’s Guide to Gluten Free Baking, if you’re brand new to this and have no idea where to start you are in the right place. Check out my simple tips to get you baking up a storm in no time.
Let’s be very honest here, baking from scratch before going gluten free could be difficult enough. But now things just don’t work! Your cakes are flopping, your cookies are spreading and you’ve got no idea why. I mean what is with all these different types of gluten free flours anyway? Should I be using them?
Fear not my friend you are not the only one who feels this way. In fact of all the bakers I’ve spoken to over the years (and yup that’s A LOT!) pretty much all of you feel this way at some point. It’s a daunting thing and it can knock the hell out of your confidence. Especially when you have flop after flop and all you want to do is a bake a beautiful birthday cake for your family.
We All Start Somewhere
Believe it or not, we all start here, right at the beginning not knowing what to do. And yup, we all make mistakes and have epic failures too. (Seriously let’s not talk about the very first gluten free sponge cake I ever made, yikes!) But unlike me, you’ve got this handy little guide to get you through. I’ve done all the hard work for you and if you work these handful of steps I can guarantee you’ll be baking up a gluten free storm in no time. So let’s get into it!
A Guide to Gluten Free Baking
- Know what kind of baker you are
This might seem rather silly, but if you never scratch baked before you went gluten free, don’t think you can just jump straight in and whip up some gluten free croissants now. Baking is an art and a skill that takes some learning. It comes down to lots of little technical details so learning to bake is just as important here as understanding gluten free baking.
If you are an experienced scratch baker it will definitely be easier for you to take these next steps. Remember though, those little details that made baking a technical skill before are now even more important going gluten free.
- Understand just what gluten is doing
This is a science experiment. Albeit a tasty and fun one! But all baking at it’s core is a science experiment. Every ingredient you add, and in what order or state they’re in (example, softened, vs, melted vs room temperature butter). It all changes the way they interact with one another and in turn your end result.
But to really understand what it is you’re doing we first need to understand what the gluten protein actually does in your baking. Now this is a fairly in depth topic, one that I cover more fully in The Sweet Course Academy. But to give you a quick idea:
The gluten protein has 3 main attributes within baking:
So when we look at a recipe, we need to look at what is the gluten protein doing in it and how do we need to replicate it. Now if this was as a very simple thing everyone would be doing it and everyone would be enjoying gluten free baking. BUT it does take practice and some knowledge. Which you will learn over time!.
- Overhaul your pantry and learn how to shop
Building a solid base to work from is one of the most important steps here. But there’s no need to go out and buy every random flour you see marked GF in the health food aisle.
My first tip for building a solid gluten free baking pantry is to ignore most of whats in the health food aisle and learn to read labels ASAP. The Coeliac Australia App is a great purchase here and I highly recommend investing in it.
Secondly some of the best baking ingredients can be found in the regular baking aisles at the supermarket, such as Nestle chocolate! All of the nestle white, milk and dark drops, melts and chips are all gluten free!
Lastly there’s often no need to buy expensive fancy ingredients. All you need to be a successful gluten free baker is a simple list of basic ingredients. Below is a copy of my go to gluten free shopping list so you can start building a collection of simple ingredients that you can start whipping up a storm with!
- Understand Gluten Free Flour Blends
There are so many gluten free flours on the market these days it’s so easy to get confused. Trust me, I’ve tried just about all of them! So to make your life that much simpler I’ve written this fabulous blog post about the top, easy to access Gluten Free Flour Blends in Australia.
At the end of the day my favourite is the Well and Good range for basic baking and the Bobs Red Mill 1 to 1 (blue label) for cakes. But it really does come down to personal preference.
- Start with the basics
Now that you’ve got your gluten free pantry sorted and your favourite flour sorted you can start baking! The key to gluten free baking is not to dive straight into the deep end. Again we refer back to the basics. If it was a difficult recipe to bake choc full of gluten then of course it will be even more difficult gluten free.
The more simple the recipe the easier it will be to bake gluten free. So look for easy and delicious recipes from reputable sources. (Not every recipe online was developed well!). As you nail simpler recipes you can move on to more advanced recipes. Just remember, I’m friends with some of the best gluten free bakers in Australia and most of us still haven’t been able to nail a really good gluten free croissant! Some things just won’t convert well.
- Have fun and don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong
The biggest tip I want you to take from this guide to gluten free baking is exactly this! We all make mistakes, hell I do this for a living and bake every single day, and I still make mistakes. So please don’t ever think it’s not possible.
Have fun, get baking and experimenting!