Baking for a Gluten-Free Diet
In an era of get-fit-fast schemes and trendy diets, many are quick to write off gluten-free diets as just another fad that will soon be forgotten.
But for at least 3 million Americans diagnosed with celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet is a medical necessity. For people with the autoimmune disorder, gluten allergies or wheat intolerance, eating gluten-filled foods can cause serious health problems, even leading to cancer.
Others prefer a gluten-free diet to help reduce the symptoms of psoriasis, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In addition, some avoid gluten for all-around well-being, attributing a more balanced mood, more energy and fewer headaches to eating foods without gluten.
Cooking healthy, tasty foods that are free of gluten can be a challenge. Since it’s present in grains like wheat, barley and rye, baking without gluten can be even more difficult than other types of gluten-free cooking. Thanks to an increasing awareness and demand for gluten-free products, many stores now offer quite a few gluten-free flour substitutes that can be used in your favorite recipes in place of wheat flour. And with a few food swaps, you can make just about any recipe safe—and flavorful—for gluten-free eating.
Gluten-free flour substitutes include:
- All-purpose gluten-free mixes, often a combination of several different types of flours and gums
- Almond flour
- Rice flour
- Coconut flour
- Quinoa flour
When choosing a flour replacement, there are four primary factors to consider:
- Dietary restrictions. If a person depends on gluten-free foods because of a medical issue, the type of non-wheat flour may not play a big role, but it will be important to ensure that the substitute was not processed on equipment that also processes gluten products.
- Other allergens. If nut allergies are a concern, options like almond flour will not be safe.
- Dietary factors. If a gluten-free diet is being chosen for weight loss, factors like carbohydrate, fiber and protein content will be important to look at carefully.
- Flavor. Preference really varies by person, so trial and error is the best way to decide which flour you like best. You may also discover one flour works best in a banana bread recipe, for example, while a different one tastes great in chocolate chip cookies.
TIPS & TRICKS
- Look for recipes that don’t call for any sort of flour. For example, you can make flourless peanut butter cookies that taste terrific.
- Be sure to bake breads and rolls in baking pans with raised sides gluten-free products don’t hold their shape on their own.
- If you aren’t using a premade mix, add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan or guar gum to your flour to make it stickier.
- Watch out for cross-contamination—if you don’t normally cook gluten-free, be sure not to prepare gluten-free products on the same surface you prepare products with gluten.
SOME OF OUR FAVORITE RECIPES
- Taste of Home’s Gluten-Free Banana Bread is rich and moist. This recipe calls for all-purpose gluten-free flour.
- Macarons are a great gluten-free treat because they are naturally gluten-free—just make sure you choose ingredients that promise to be free of cross-contamination. The Baker Chick’s has an excellent recipe.
- Peanut butter cookies can be entirely grain-free. Try Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies from Domestic Bliss Squared.
- Gluten Free Girl’s Shortbread Cookies offer a rich, buttery taste.
- Elana’s Pantry has a great German Chocolate Cake that relies on coconut flour for the cake and coconut milk for the frosting—perfect for a recipe that relies on coconut for flavor.