10 Tips for Easy & Healthy Gluten-Free Baking
The Ultimate Guide to Baking with Gluten-Free Flour
Are you new at baking gluten-free desserts? Are you looking for some tips to improving your gluten-free bread? Well, you've come to the right place. Baking is a tough work of art. Throw in a gluten-free requirement to the recipes often calls for disaster and a tasteless baked good with odd texture.
Without gluten to give baked goods its elasticity, gluten-free desserts can be gummy, tasteless, or gritty. Baking with gluten-free flour can be a challenge, but with some practice and armed with this guideline, you will be a gluten-free baking expert in no time.
The best gluten-free recipes utilize a combination of grains, as well as extra ingredients that give texture and binding factor. Gluten-free coconut flour can stand alone in certain recipes. However, when it comes to other flours, a blend of different types of flour will yield a more balanced flavor.
Gluten-free baking is all about experimenting with different flours until you find one that will become your favorite "go-to" flour blend. It's not as simple as adding in all-purpose flour like in normal baking recipes.
1. Pre-Made Gluten-Free Flour Mix
- If you are a beginner at gluten-free baking, it is advisable to begin with using pre-made mixes. Is this considered cheating? I think it’s rather smart to keep a couple of boxes of mixes. The drawback to using a pre-made mix is that it can be expensive.
- You can buy gluten-free pancake batter, cookie mix, and even bread flour mix to start off with. They are more commonly found in health food stores and sold at online stores such as Amazon.
2. Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
- You can use Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Mix, or King Arthur's Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour.
- I have tried several different gluten-free flours, and I personally prefer King Arthur's over Bob's Red Mill. Their flour has a better consistency and does not have the gritty texture. If you plan on baking cake or bread where texture is more important, I would suggest using King Arthur's.
3. Learn how to mix your own gluten-free flour blend
Some of the best gluten-free flours are a blend of the following flours. These flours are made from "ancient" grains that are packed with nutrients!
- Almond flour is one of the healthiest flour, with a good amount of fiber, protein, and minerals. It has a slightly nutty, sweet flavor.
- Brown rice flour has a nutty, sweet flavor. Us this flour instead of white rice flour as a nutritious whole grain base.
- Buckwheat flour and millet flour are also high in protein and fiber.
- Coconut flour has a nutty aroma and has the highest content of fiber and protein.
- Buckwheat flour can be used to bake bread with added antioxidants. It is also rich in protein and minerals including flavonoids, vitamin B, and carotenoids.
- Quinoa flour has all the essential amino acids, in addition to phosphorus, calcium, iron, vitamin E and B.
- Others include: millet, sorghum, and teff.
Additional tips to mixing your own gluten-free flour:
- Almond, buckwheat, coconut, and quinoa flour tend to yield denser results if you add too much. Start with a third to half cup in your blend.
- Sweet rice flour is very starchy so start off slowly with 2 tablespoons.
4. Start off with this basic gluten-free flour
Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix
- 1 cup sorghum flour or brown rice flour
- 1 cup tapioca starch (or potato starch)
- 1/3 to ½ cup almond meal (or buckwheat flour or millet flour)
- 1 teaspoon of xanthum gum
Self-Rise Flour Mix
- 1 cup unleavened gluten-free flour mix (see above)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
5. Understand gluten-free batter
- Gluten-free cake and muffin batter is thicker than regular batter.
- Bread batter is slightly stiffer compared to regular bread batter.
- You can expect cookie dough to resemble regular dough, but could spread faster. A secret to preventing that from happening is to put the cookie dough in the freezer before baking it.
- When baking brownies and cookie bars, it is extremely easy to overbake them. You can take them out when the center is a little bit soft. Or, if you prefer, turn the oven down by 25 degrees and let it continue to bake for a few more minutes. Remember, the brownies will continue to bake after you take it out of the oven.
6. Adding moisture and flavor
- When adding vanilla, add more than usual. Gluten-free flours can taste strong, so add a little extra vanilla helps soften their flavor. Buy the good, quality vanilla extract. Cheaper brands with fillers are nothing close to amazing.
- Add warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to enhance the flavor. Cinnamon goes really well with chocolate.
- Applesauce, sour cream, or yogurt can be added for moisture.
- Use organic brown sugar instead of white sugar for better flavor.
- Add honey, maple syrup, or agave for sweetness.
7. Baking times
Baking times vary depending on whether you live at a higher altitude or at sea level.
- If you live at high altitude, gluten-free recipes require less liquid and a higher baking temperature. Increase your oven temperature by 25 degrees. You might have to bake for a longer time.
- If you live in a humid or dry area, gluten-free baking can be trickier. The flour tends to absorb more moisture, leaving the outcome damp. Start with 1 tablespoon less liquid.
8. How to store gluten-free flour
- Gluten-free flour has a shorter shelf life compared to other flour.
- Keep your gluten-free flour in a tightly sealed canister and store it in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.
- Whole grain flours (such as brown rice flour) get rancid quicker since they have not been over-processed.
- Gluten-free flour can be kept in the freezer for up to a year.
Watch this (quick) video to learn the proper way to measure gluten-free flour
9. Measure gluten-free flour
- Gluten-free baking desserts such as cupcakes and bread can be finicky. When measuring your flour, use a spoon to scuffle the flour and then scoop it into the measuring cup. Do not scoop from the bag directly as this will compress the flour.
- You can also use a digital scale to accurately measure out flour in grams.
Fresh out of the oven: gluten-free bread
10. Baking gluten-free and wheat-free bread
Baking gluten-free bread my seem like a tricky endeavor, but it doesn't have to be that way! Just follow these tips and you'll be fine.
- As with any yeast, it needs a warm environment to rise properly. The ideal temperature is around 100-120 degrees. Anything hotter than that range of temperature will kill the yeast. Make sure the yeast is not expired. "Proof" your yeast by adding a teaspoon of sugar to warm water.
- Learn to visualize the gluten free bread dough. It should look shiny and stiff, just like cake batter. It will not be as thick as cookie dough.
- When you add water or liquids to your flour mix, add it slowly. Different types of flour and mixes behave differently, so I do not recommend just dumping the water in. You should expect a stiff dough. If you happen to add too much water, simply sprinkle some rice flour until you've reached the desired consistency of your dough.
- Digital thermometers are very useful for gluten-free baking. To avoid overcooking or taking your bread out too early, buy a thermometer and eliminate the need to guess! I like my bread to reach a temperature of about 208 degrees F, which is higher than regular bread.
- Gluten-free bread will keep its shape better overcooked than undercooked. I'm not suggesting you overcooking your bread. However, it in doubt, keep your bread in for a bit longer.
- If you are new at baking gluten-free baking, I would suggest using a recipe that calls for baking by hand, rather than using the bread machine. There are just too many variables to consider, and it will be much easier for you to control. Don't get me wrong, some people swear by their bread machine. They are indeed useful. Baking gluten-free requires a bit of experimenting in the beginning so I think it's best to simply use a mixer and oven.
- When baking gluten-free bread with using the oven method, metal pans are better than glass!
- If you have problems with your gluten-free bread sinking, do not take the bread out too quickly! Instead, turn off the oven after it's finished cooking and open the oven door slightly. Let it cool down for a few minutes. If this doesn't work, that means your recipe has too much liquid resulting in too much moisture. Next time, use less liquid or add 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal.
- Substituting gluten-free beer for water will help give bread more volume and flavor!
What type of gluten-free desserts have you baked?
More tips and adjustments
- Gluten-free baked goods and breads get soggy if they stay too long in their cozy pans. Remove loaves and cakes and muffins from the pan as soon as possible. The longer a gluten-free baked good remains in a hot pan, the soggier it gets.
- If your end product is gummy in the center—or if it falls in the middle—the problem is most likely too much liquid. Use 2-4 tablespoons less when you mix the batter or dough next time. Add only a little liquid at a time to achieve the consistency you need. If it happens often, your flours may be damp or your oven too cool. Or you may be taking the baked good out of the oven too soon; if so, bake it longer.
When you bake with gluten-free flour and ingredients, try to be open-minded and forgiving. Yes, you will mess up. You will make mistakes. Gluten-free baking is like driving a stick shift car. It’s hard and weird at first, but with patience and practice it will become a valuable skill. And don’t beat yourself up if the loaf of bread comes out hard as rock. If that happens, just feed it to your dog or grind it up in a food processor and use as bread crumbs for entrée recipes. That’s just part of baking, really. Have fun!