Monday, April 12, 2010

How to Start Eating Gluten Free-Part Two-Baking

Let me just say that baking gluten free is much, much different than baking with gluten. The biggest shocker for me was the vast difference in the consistency of the dough for bread and pizza crust. With gluten you can roll the dough up into a ball. Gluten free dough is more like a thick brownie batter. My first rounds of gluten free baking involved many skeptical looks, deep breaths and cooking the stuff anyway. Usually it came out fine. Gluten free baking is also a lot more finicky than what you are probably used to. It’s really tempting to make substitutions in recipes and make things your own way, but I would recommend that you find a recipe that looks good and follow it. Once it comes out the way you want it to, then start to tweak it. By tweaking one thing at a time you will most likely avoid the scenario below. I pulled this from the comments section of a recipe I found posted on line.

After 60 minutes, the centre of the cake in a Bundt pan is mushy and I don't think it will improve. Nope: an hour later - bound for the garbage can Time and money spent, all for nothing. I made a couple of substitutes - 2C almond flour + 1C Red Mill 'all-purpose' gluten free flour vs. the suggested flour mixture; 2 Tsp vanilla, 2 Tsp almond flavoring, neither of which was gluten free; added 3/4 Tsp guar gum and 1/2 Tsp baking soda and 2 Tsp baking powder.

Here are the most likely culprits in her cake disaster. The substitution of flours. There are a lot of gluten free flours out there but many are not able to be swapped out cup for cup. If one of the flours is denser or holds more moisture it can drastically change the finished product. If you need to substitute flours do an internet search and see what flours will substitute well for the one you want to eliminate. Usually all purpose gluten free flours can be exchanged out cup for cup, with very little difference.

I’m not really sure why she added the guar gum, baking soda and extra baking powder. I am guessing that the guar gum was used as a substitution for the Xanthan gum in the all purpose flour recipe. Guar gum and xanthan gum are often used in gluten free baking. Gluten is what holds together traditional baked good and when it is removed from a recipe Guar or Xanthan gum are used to help bind the finished product. In this case, I would expect that it is already a part of the all purpose gluten free flour mix.

One other critical mistake was using vanilla and almond flavoring that were not gluten free. Even if the cake had turned out fine, the small amounts of gluten in the flavorings would have contaminated the rest of the cake.

The recipe being discussed above is the one I base my pound cake on.

And yes, I did make a couple of substitutions. I know, I know, I just told you not to do it. A classic case of do as I say, not as I do. I was fortunate and the recipe came out okay. Had it not come out okay I would not know what was to blame. Was it just a bad day? Did the flours change things? Was it the substitution of corn starch for an egg? Then I have to decide if I want to try that recipe again and see if I can figure out the problem, or just move on.

One final note about baking gluten free, it's really easy to get caught up in buying tons of different flours and baking mixes and that gets expensive quickly. I have tapioca flour, potato starch flour, corn starch, corn flour, white rice flour and brown rice flour. Those are some of the most affordable flours and I have founds I can make almost anything I need to with them. When I want to try a new gluten free recipe I hunt for one that uses only the flours I have in my cupboard. If I can't find a recipe using those, then I will buy a new type of flour. It helps.

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