Gluten-free baking can be an intimidating and daunting kitchen adventure. It starts with choosing the right flour, getting the baked goods to hold together and rise, and then also creating a pleasing texture. That is no easy task!
So today I’m here to help, with a few tips I’ve learned in my experience with gluten-free baking. If you search for well-tested recipes and follow them to a “T” you should be on your way to becoming a successful gluten-free baker in no time.
Here are some tips to give you a little added confidence and knowledge as you get started.
Tip #1: Have realistic expectations and patience.
Gluten-free baking is no easy task, so let’s start with this important piece of advice. No matter what type of baking you’re doing, it takes a while to feel comfortable in the kitchen. Start by searching for recipes that get great reviews and are at your skill level. Be sure you read the entire recipe list and instructions in their entirety before starting the recipe. This will let you know if there are any steps to take ahead of time, like letting all ingredients come to room temperature. Or, the item may require refrigeration after baking or a certain amount of time left to cool. It’s important to know all of these details before you start. This way you’ll be fully prepared. It’s also very helpful to read the comments if you have any questions about the recipe. Maybe the author has answered something you’re wondering, or maybe a reader has commented with a helpful piece of advice.
Gluten-free baking success comes with time, patience, and practice. If something doesn’t work, assess why it may have failed. Did you change an item from the ingredient list? Have you checked your oven’s internal temperature with an oven thermometer? Are you measuring flour correctly? There are many ways to set yourself up for success before even starting the recipe.
Tip #2: Use a variety of whole-grain, gluten-free flours.
You may have noticed many gluten-free baked goods you see packaged in the store contain a million ingredients and loads of starches, gums, rice flours, etc. I prefer baking with mostly whole-grain, gluten-free flours.
Sure, sometimes those starches are necessary (like in gluten-free bread, for instance) but oftentimes they’re not. It’s true, the process becomes more difficult when you start trying out different flours and making your own gluten-free blends. However, the results are so much superior than the pre-packaged blends you can buy in store. Also, you can find countless recipes online to help, so all you really have to do is buy the ingredients called for and follow the instructions. Not only do these flours taste better than the pre-packaged blends, but they’re also filled with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Some of my favorite whole-grain, gluten-free flours are:
- Oat flour (look for certified gluten-free if needed)
- Raw buckwheat flour (grind in a blender or food processor from raw buckwheat groats)
- Sorghum flour
- Quinoa flour
- Millet flour
- Teff flour
- Chickpea flour
Tip: Depending on your gluten-free needs, be certain you’re sourcing 100 percent certified gluten-free ingredients. Even things like baking powder and vanilla extract can contain trace amounts of gluten. Also, certified gluten-free oat flour is sometimes not tolerated by highly sensitive individuals. Be sure you know if this is the case when baking for friends and family.
Tip #3: Use nut and seed flours along with your whole-grain flours for a more desirable texture.
The fat content in these types of flours adds a richness to gluten-free baked goods that is simply wonderful. It lends a softer crumb, a lot of moisture and a dense but not heavy texture. I have a thing for almond meal and almond flour (flour is from blanched almonds, meal is from raw, skin-on almonds) but there are many other types of nut and seed flours that work well in gluten-free baking.
- Hazelnut flour
- Cashew flour
- Pepita seed flour
- Pistachio flour
- Sunflower seed flour
Since nut and seed flours have no binding properties at all (since they’re not a grain), it’s common that you’ll need an extra egg to help hold everything together.
Tip #4: Avoid adapting white, wheat or spelt flour baked recipes into a gluten-free recipe.
It’s OK to use wheat-based recipes as a guide, but there are many reasons it doesn’t work to sub in gluten-free flour for gluten-filled flours.
- The flours have different weights, causing the liquid amount that will be needed to vary.
- It’s common you’ll need an extra egg to help hold the baked good together, since gluten-free flours have little binding power. This will also cause the liquid amount to change in the recipe, since one large egg is about 3 1/2 tablespoons of liquid.
- You’ll most likely need more fat. Extra fat in gluten-free baked goods helps create a smoother, richer texture.
- You may want to include applesauce. I use applesauce a lot, not for cutting calories and fat, but to add a lighter texture to baked goods.
- Gluten-free baked goods don’t rise as much because of the lack of gluten. This means you’ll need to add a bit more leavening (baking powder or soda) to your recipe.
And these are just some of the changes you might need to make! I don’t say these things to overwhelm you. I say them to help you! Unless you’re completely OK with kitchen fails and love experimenting!
Tip #5: Gluten-free baked goods typically call for more leavening.
Because gluten-free baked have less rise due to the lack of elasticity in the flours. You’ll notice gluten-free recipes often call for more baking powder or soda than you may be accustomed to seeing. If you’re trying to put together your own recipe, this is something to keep in mind.
Just remember, baking soda needs an acid to react in baked goods and it’s also much more potent than baking powder. Never substitute one for the other.
Along with adding more leavening, I also typically add an extra egg. This not only helps with binding and texture but also gives baked goods more rise.
Tip #6: It’s best to wait for gluten-free baked goods to fully cool before slicing or eating.
Unless the directions state otherwise, this is a great rule of thumb to follow. Not only does the texture improve but the baked goods hold together much more successfully once fully cooled and will be easier to slice. I know it’s hard to resist fresh, warm baked goods but try your best! You’ll be happy you did!
Tip #7: Avoid subbing flours unless noted in the recipe.
Gluten-free recipes are finicky. Recipe creators take a lot of time testing and re-testing recipes to ensure the best possible outcome. With the amount of time that goes into the testing, it’s hard to test different types of flours once you land on what works. Unless noted in the recipe, avoid subbing flours. All gluten-free flours are not created equal!
With these 7 gluten-free baking tips you’ll be on your way to success in no time!