In the past, I’ve written general tips about living, shopping, and eating well without gluten, (most recently, my favorite gluten-free pastas!), but today, we’re just looking at baking. Gluten-free baking is notoriously difficult because gluten is the key to binding the ingredients together. Sometimes, the result can be a dry and sad thing that somewhat resembles what you were hoping for. However, gluten-free baking can be done – and it can be done very well, and in a way less difficult and expensive way than I originally thought when I became gluten-free. Here are a few of my pretty-average-but-hardworking gluten-free baker tips.
When You’re Up for a Challenge
- Take time to learn baking basics because you will certainly need them as you venture into a more complex realm. Look them up online, ask people in your life, and watch some YouTube videos. And get an electric scale to make sure you can measure important ingredients like flour perfectly. I like my Etekcity scale.
- Accept that it will almost certainly not taste the same as gluten-full (is that a word?) baked goods. However, refuse to accept dry-as-a-desert baked goods as your only possible destiny. (This video making fun of the gluten-free experience is hysterical.) You will learn and grow. Laugh at your failures when you can.
- Some recipes convert well to gluten-free, and some don’t and you will want to find a specific gluten-free recipe for it. Your taste buds will guide you. Also pay close attention to your classic recipes’ bake times – they may need less or more time than you are used to.
- Regardless of how well your favorite recipes convert, invest in a cookbook or two and explore some blogs. Here are some of my favorite books and a collection of my favorite online recipes. (They’re in a general cooking and baking folder I’ve put together about the low-FODMAP diet, a special diet for people with irritable bowel syndrome – don’t adopt any special set of foods without speaking to a practitioner! But the recipes are pretty much universally delicious).
- Before you commit yourself to a recipe, look at the ingredients and be honest with yourself about how often you bake. Avoid recipes with specialty ingredients if you know you bake only a few times a year. There are tens of different flour types you could end up with and almost never use otherwise; just get yourself a basic one-to-one replacement gluten-free flour. (Not that I know this from personal experience.) Good grocery stores have the replacement flours as a standard item at this point.
- Xanthan gum is the binding ingredient that is key to gluten-free baking. Some one-to-one replacement flours already have xanthan gum in them, so make sure to double-check this before you bake – most recipes will tell you how much xanthan gum to add – or your dessert can end up being gummy.
When You Don’t Want to Recreate the Wheel
- If you are in the mood for baking, but don’t have time or patience to make all of the parts, you can often find pre-made gluten-free making essentials like pie crusts in the freezer section or wherever else you find GF products.
- If you want sweets and aren’t in the mood for baking, Sweet Loren’s and Immaculate Baking Company’s refrigerated place-and-bake cookies… just yes. Udi’s instant brownie-in-a-mug packets and King Arthur’s microwave chocolate chip cookie bowls are delicious. They can be found near baking mixes most of the time, and if you want the convenience of a boxed mix, King Arthur’s tends to be my go-to for all different baked goods.
- Go on a little road trip to a specialty baking shop (and double-check if it has a special set-apart kitchen if you need that). There may also be some local-ish bakery’s products in the freezer section of a good grocery store near you. And if they have a crappy selection, something sweet that is naturally gluten-free, like kettle corn popcorn, can save you for the day.
I hope you have fun! Comment what your favorite recipes are so we can enjoy them, too.