If you’ve recently started a gluten-free diet, you may be wondering how you can make many of your favorite breads, cookies, and cakes into gluten-free versions. After all, the all-purpose flour that you might normally bake with is definitely out of the picture when it comes to gluten-free baking.
But swapping out all-purpose flour for a gluten-free flour isn’t always as straightforward as switching the flour you use. Gluten tends to play an important role in baking, and using gluten-free alternatives can call for some experimenting on the recipe developer’s part to get a recipe just right.
Gluten-Free Baking Essentials
Because a lack of gluten in baked goods can affect the texture and flavor of the end product, many gluten-free recipes call for certain ingredients that you may not find in traditional baking recipes to compensate. To make sure you have all the gluten-free baking essentials you need, check out our list of suggestions before you foray into the world of GF baking.
One of the main adjustments you’ll have to make to your baking recipes is to exclude all-purpose flour and use a gluten-free flour instead. Which type of flour you use often depends on what kind of baked good you’re making.
Nowadays, many major flour manufacturers offer gluten-free all-purpose blends that work very much like traditional all-purpose flour, making it easy to stock up on this substitute.
Some recipes will call for using your own custom blend of gluten-free flours, typically using a mix of almond flour, coconut flour, and/or rice flour. The best way to figure out which route you go is to read the recipe developer’s notes on why they chose to use the flour they did to see if the flour is interchangeable or if it is specifically used for a special reason.
Binders: Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, and Psyllium Husk
Because gluten-free baked goods lack gluten, leaveners like baking soda and baking powder become incredibly important, more than they typically are. This is also true for binding agents like xanthan gum, guar gum, and psyllium husk.
These binding agents are used to help stabilize baked goods, maintain structure, and promote proper texture in baked goods. Using these kinds of agents can also prevent many baked goods from feeling gummy or dense, which is why you’ll often see one of these listed in gluten-free recipes.
When you’re baking gluten-free and avoiding allergens beyond just gluten, such as eggs, vinegar can be your foolproof ingredient to creating baked goods. Vinegar has the ability to act as a structure-supporting agent, lifting agent, and tenderizing agent, all in one.
Many of the baked goods we love, such as a crusty loaf of bread, have a chewy component to them. This chewiness comes from the way gluten forms in traditional recipes and the web of structure it builds in baked goods.
To mimic the same effect, you’ll often see starches like tapioca starch used in gluten-free recipes. The starch helps with binding and lends chewiness to baked goods like bread and pizza.
Gluten-Free Rolled Oats
Not all oats are created equal, which is why it’s important to read the label. Rolled oats are common in gluten-free recipes like cookies as a means to add texture and body. Just make sure that you look for gluten-free rolled oats when you’re shopping for them. The label should clearly mark that the oats are GF-friendly.
It may seem odd to add club soda to your gluten-free baking essentials list, but club soda can be really useful when you’re making foods like bread, where height and rise are important.
Swapping out the water in recipes with club soda can help you achieve a higher rise in your baked goods thanks to the carbon dioxide bubbles, which encourage volume in bread loaves.
You may also see pectin used in many gluten-free baking recipes. Pectin isn’t just an ingredient that’s used for jams and jellies. Bakers will typically use pectin in a baked good recipe to promote moistness.
Just a teaspoon of pectin used in bread batter, for example, can help keep the bread feeling moist and tender.
Gluten-Free Baking Is All About Experimenting
At the end of the day, you can have all the necessary gluten-free baking essentials that you need, stocked in your pantry, but the success of your baked goods is dependent on the recipe you use.
Knowing when to use what and how much of it to use is often a recipe developer’s biggest challenge and takes dedicated experimentation to get just right. As a home cook, try to read reviews for the gluten-free recipes you’re hoping to test out and see what’s worked with the recipe or what tweaks others have made.
As you continue to become more experienced in the world of gluten-free baking, you will begin to develop a keen sense of just which gluten-free ingredients you will want to use for a recipe and how to achieve the perfect ratio for gluten-free baking success!