5 Tips for Baking Gluten-Free From Scratch

May 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm 5 comments

[You're ready to bake from scratch, but don't know where to start. Fear not! Shauna James Ahern, better known as Gluten-Free Girl, is here to share her tips and tricks for baking delicious gluten-free goods.]

1. Let go of your expectations.

You’ve probably been baking one way your entire life: by scooping out a cup of flour from the 5-pound bag of all-purpose bleached white. It was simple to bake this way. Even mindless. However, that bag of flour is now like a bag full of poison for you. Don’t go near it.
When people begin to bake gluten-free, they expect that the process will be exactly the same, but with different flours. (And more expensive flours, too.) Guess what? As is true of everything in life, those expectations are going to hurt you.
As soon as you can clean the gluten out of your kitchen, sweep away the notion that anything will be like it was. And why would you want it to be, when the old way made you sick?

2. You have to combine flours.

Here’s where people also get stuck. Because AP gluten flour works for a multitude of baked goods — and it’s the only flour most people in this culture know — it’s easy to long for that one magic flour when baking gluten-free.
There are a few places where you can use a single flour. I adore these brownies made with teff flour, much more than gluten brownies. And you can make great buckwheat crêpes, with only buckwheat flour. There are a few other examples. (Make socca your friend.)
Gluten-Free Brownies from Gluten-Free Girl
However, for the most part, you have to combine 2 or 3 flours together to make a flour mix that will work for gluten-free baking.
It’s not hard. Take a bag of sorghum flour, a bag of millet, a bag of sweet rice flour, and a bag of potato starch. (We use Bob’s Red Mill flours and all their bags contain about the same amount of flour.) Pour them in a big container. Put on the lid and shake. Shake that flour until it is all one color.
What do you have? Flour. Use that flour for baking cookies, muffins, quick breads, pancakes, waffles, and biscuits. You’re done.

3. Learn to bake by weight.

Americans are VERY tied to their cups. We believe that all baking has to happen in 1/2 cup measurements. Ounces? Grams? That seems like math.
Believe me, if you want to become a confident gluten-free baker, able to make adaptations to all your favorite recipes, substituting one flour for another when you’ve run out of your favorites?
Buy a kitchen scale.
This will tell you why.

4. Play.

You’re going to make mistakes. This is a funny business. Eventually, it will feel like rote, and you’ll wonder why you ever worried.
But this space? This place of jarring differences and new experiences? This is where we learn.
Open yourself to it.
What’s the worst that could happen? A few bad baked goods? Eh, there are worse fates.

5. Psst! Here’s a secret. Most baked goods are actually better without gluten.

You read that right. Better without gluten.
Think about your favorite cake recipe. What’s the last instruction before you put that cake in the oven? “Mix until just combined. Don’t over-stir.”
You know why? Because that lovely recipe writer was trying to protect you from activating the gluten. Gluten in a cake can make your birthday celebration treat tough.
But without any gluten? You don’t have to worry. Let that stand mixer spin. Leave the room and play with your kids. You’re not going to hurt anything.
Gluten-free cakes can be far fluffier and more wonderful than the gluten ones.
Trust me. It’s worth the initial, shocking investment in flours to learn how to do this.
You don’t want to go the rest of your life without making chocolate chip cookies.
- Shauna James Ahern
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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bonnie  |  May 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I have found that by mixing half as much A.P gluten free flour as white rice flour makes an almost perfect combination too. AT least for cookies and pancakes!

    Reply
  • 2. Lauren Nisbet Coghlan  |  May 7, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    A worthy mention also, shelf life of rice flours and some others are limited to around 6 months, it starts to go rancid. Therefore, if you put your flour into a container, always clean out old residual flour first. :)

    Reply
  • 3. Tara Nichols  |  May 8, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Thank you for talking about this today. I went to school to be a FACS teacher (Home Ec.) and sadly, I haven’t baked anything for myself since I was diagnosed with Celiac. I’ve even turned to ordering tastey baked goods from Yumbana. (They are delightful!!!) I now feel confident that I can give baking a whirl again. I usually have to avoid the kitchen when my husband uses AP white flour and that makes life a challenge for me as a stay at home mom. I may even purge the AP white flour for the GF flour mix and save my sinuses the week of sneezing and congestion after hubs bakes. There is hope! (maybe not for my thighs, but still!)

    Reply
  • 4. Food n Thought Peddler  |  May 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Good tips, thank you! I usually keep all of my GF flours in the fridge, to prolong the shelf life.

    Reply
  • 5. Margaret L.  |  May 15, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    7 years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I cried and got depressed when my cookies and pie crust would fall apart. At that time, there was noone to help me learn about how to bake, cook and eat gluten-free. I read one cookbook at the library. Then family members bought two more cookbooks for me. How thankful I was for them! I learned a lot. One of the most important ingredients in GF baking is xanthum gum. For those who don’t know, it helps hold GF dough together like gluten does for gluten dough.Voila! I now enjoy baking as much as I do eating what I bake! My 3 daughters and son, who are adults, say they prefer my GF baked goods over gluten baked goods! :)

    Reply

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