Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mastering Gluten Free Baking

Okay, I am no expert especially when it comes to baking. But I have always enjoyed baking and friends and family have always enjoyed eating what I have baked. Going gluten free threw me for a bit of a curve, for a while.

But now I kind of have this gluten free baking thing down. Is everything I bake perfect, no. It wasn't before I started baking gluten free either. So today, I thought I would share a few lessons I have learned along the way as well as some products that have worked for me.

1. A mixture of different kinds of gluten free flours and starches work well. Shauna from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef has a great recipe ratio to use. I tweak my blend a little depending upon what I have in the house.

2. If you don't want to mix your own flours, Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix works for just about everything. I have used it as a substitute for flour in Nestle Tollhouse bars and NO ONE could tell they were gluten free.

3. I like cake-like brownies. I do not like fudge-like brownies. All gluten free brownies I have tried are fudge-like, until last week. I had a package of Bob's Red Mill Brownie Mix that was about the expire. I remembered that my favorite brownie mix had a variation for cake-like brownies - just add an extra egg. So, I added an extra egg to the Bob's mix and viola! I had cake-like brownies.

4. If you are allergic, I am sorry, but eggs really do help gluten free products hold together. I thing I am going to start experimenting with adding an extra egg to recipes and see what happens.

5. Adding chia seeds to recipes adds more "goo" and helps things hold together a little better. Plus they are good for you. I sometimes use gums (xantham and guar) but usually don't. I forget and I guess if I forget it can't be that important, right?

 6. Don't be afraid of the freezer. I often make a batch of cookie dough, bake some right away and then form the rest into balls and freeze them. That way it is easy to bake up just one or two when I want a cookie, or bake up more when I have guests. I have also frozen Shauna's Lemon Poppyseed Bread successfully. Muffins freeze easily. Make sure you label your plastic bag with the contents, the date you froze it and the baking instructions. Believe me, you won't remember later.

 7. I have found that cupcake or mini-loaves cook better than full loaves of quick bread. My quick bread loaves often come out almost burned on the outside and almost raw in the middle. If you want sure success, make muffins instead. Just reduce the cook time and use a toothpick to check for doneness. Same goes for cookies. Make them a little smaller. They will cook better and will be less likely to fall apart when you try to eat them.

8. Gluten free baked goods often dry out by the second day. They are usually best right out of the oven, after an appropriate cooling off. That's why the freezer can be your friend - you can pop something in the oven to bake at the last minute or re-heat items in the microwave.

 9. Which leads me to this tip - if something had dried out a little, put it in the microwave for a few seconds. The microwave re-activates the moisture. Just don't over to it. Literally a few seconds may be all it takes.

 10. Divide recipes in half. Not only will this save ingredients if the recipe fails, you will make less and therefore have less left over to get dry (see points 8 and 9 above). Just do the math before you start and write down the recipe using the ingredients divided in half.

11. Don't tell people that something is gluten free (unless of course they need to also eat gluten free). Most of the time friends and family can't even tell when I have made something gluten free. I made a gluten free mac-n-cheese for Easter and took it to a friend's house for their Easter feast. Everyone loved it and no one suspected it was gluten free. If you tell them it is gluten free they automatically think it is going to be bad and won't like it -- even if it is wonderful.

P.S. It is the day after I wrote the post above and I feel like a fool. I just read this post by Gluten Free on a Shoe String regarding gluten free flours. She is a professional, someone that devotes her time to recipes and writing cookbooks. She dares to cook things that I would NEVER bother with trying to cook. And she has something to say about gluten free all-purpose flours. Check it out!

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