A guide to gluten-free baking

With one in 100 people are avoiding gluten because of celiac disease and hundreds more avoiding it in an attempt to have a healthier lifestyle, avoiding gluten has become a major part of life for many people. Then, when so many products these days contain gluten ingredients, living gluten-free can be a very stressful experience.

Blueberry muffins
Gluten-free blueberry muffins

Making gluten-free food can sometimes be easier, cheaper and nicer than buying it. But, if you are new to gluten-free baking you will find that it is easier said than done.

So whether you are cooking for yourself, a friend or family member, here is a helping guide to gluten-free baking, along with some tips from people that have experienced gluten-free baking.

A few ingredients that should be a permanent sight in you cupboard include gluten-free flours, eggs, sugar and butter as well as, xanthum gum and gluten free baking powder.

When it comes to gluten-free flour you can use a pre-made mixes like Dove’s plain flour and self-raising flour mixes, or you can have a few different types of flours and make your own mixes.

There are over 15 different types of gluten-free flours available including, rice, potato, tapioca, maize, buckwheat, soya and many more. A blend usually consists of different types of gluten-flours.

Sometimes it is better to create your own flour blend; this will help increase your control over the recipe and the final product. Some gluten-free recipe books contain gluten-free flour blend recipes.
If you are in a hurry to bake or do not fancy making your own mix you are better off using a ready to use mix. A plain flour mix is the best to make sure you always have in your cupboard as you can add raising agents to it if necessary. It’s better than a self-raising flour mix most of the time as you will then have more control over how much it rises. If you have a gluten-free baking powder you can use this with the plain flour to make products that need a raising agent.

Be careful with baking powder, as while there is usually no gluten ingredients in it, the factory process may cause it to have gluten contaminates in it. So be sure to read the label carefully or buy one from the ‘gluten-free range’ in the shop.

In gluten-free baking, Xanthum gum is your new best friend. Gluten is the ingredient in bakery products that holds it all together and stops it crumbling taking it away will cause everything to fall apart easier. Xanthum gum acts like gluten, holding all ingredients together. Although be careful with how much you put it otherwise it might become too sticky, even once cooked.

Oats is another thing you need to read the label of before buying or using. Most oats are processed on the same machinery as gluten products, contaminating them. However, most supermarkets sell gluten-free oats which have been processed on separate machinery.

Remember, when baking gluten-free is that you may need to add extra liquid to ensure the final baked product does not end up too dry. The downside of this though can be that if you are making dough, like a pastry, it could end up hard to handle and sticky.

A majority of the time baking gluten-free is full of trial and error. If you make something that is too dry, add more liquid. If it crumbles, add Xanthum gum etc. Although, Jeanne Sauvage from the www.artofglutenfreebaking.com, says “make sure you follow the recipe and do not make substitutions until you know how the recipe works”.

Torie Jayne, owner of http://toriejayne.blogspot.co.uk advises, “Use fresh fruit in cupcake recipes to keep them nice and moist as gluten-free baking tends to be quite dry”.

Gluten-free baking can be quite frustrating sometimes. One that Torie Jayne finds particularly frustrating “is that the ingredients are expensive” especially compared to non-gluten-free ingredients.
If you are planning on baking gluten-free and gluten-filled products at the same time, try and bake the gluten-free product first to avoid any unnecessary cross-contamination.

The most important thing you need to do is keep an eye on the label to ensure that the product has not been contaminated during manufacturing.

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