The one thing that people worry about when they hear they have to cut gluten from their diets is that they won’t be able to eat irresistible baked goods like bread, cake and biscuits. Well, we’re here to tell you that you can have gluten-free bread, cake AND biscuits, you just need to experiment a bit and make some adjustments to your favourite recipes.
Gluten-free baking — where to start
Sometimes you need to add something extra
Because gluten is the protein that gives most baked goods their springy texture and binds them together, the ingredients you use in your gluten-free baking need to mimic those properties. This is really important to remember if you’re baking things that need to be worked or kneaded, like bread, pizza or hot cross buns. The often need something added to them to get a really great end product.
And that ‘something’ is usually…
…xanthan gum, psyllium husks, chia seeds or ground flaxseeds. They may sound mysterious, but they work like gluten, binding the ingredients in baked dishes and improving their texture. They also absorb a lot of liquid, so don’t be alarmed when that happens! If you see any of these ingredients in a dish, you can usually replace them with each other (so a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds for a teaspoon of xanthan gum or ground chia seeds).
Speaking of usually…
…when you start delving into the world of gluten-free baking, things may be a little difficult at first, and you may have to go through some flops before you learn what works for you. Experiment with favourite recipes by swapping wheat flour for gluten-free alternatives — the texture will be different and you might need to adjust a recipe until it’s perfect, but the end result will be just as tasty.
Mix it up
Sometimes the best gluten-free flour is a mix of flours. This doesn’t mean you have to go mixing your own flours (of course, you can if you want to), because most specialty health stores have gluten-free flour mixes available that are already perfect for using in cakes and biscuits.
How to add moisture to cakes and muffins
Because of the nature of gluten-free flour, sometimes gluten-free bakes can be dry. To combat this, you may need to add a portion of ground almonds or fruit, such as mashed banana, to increase the moisture of cake mixes.
Don’t be alarmed if things are a little different
If you’re used to baking bread with wheat flour, you may have to adjust your expectations for gluten-free baking. When baking gluten-free breads, always use a mould or loaf tin as the soft dough doesn’t keep its shape. This is because gluten-free mixtures are often softer than normal ones (sometimes bread ‘dough’ can be the consistency of cake batter), don’t be tempted to add extra flour to the mix — you’ll end up with rock-hard bread or cake.
DISCLAIMER: Before starting any diet, you should speak to your doctor. You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.