Gluten-Free Wheat-Free Baking Tips + Substitutions
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Need wheat-free gluten-free baking tips? Here's what works- and what doesn't- in quirky Gluten-Free Baking and Substitution Land. From Karina, Gluten-Free Goddess®.
Baking Substitutions for Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free and More
Notes on GF Flours:
Gluten-free non-wheat flours generally fall into three basic weights- light starch, all-purpose medium, or heavier whole grain. A blend of medium and heavy flours with some starch mixed in to lighten, tenderize, and help bind the batter or dough works best, and tastes best (too much starch can result in a gummy texture).
Light, starchy GF flours include sweet rice flour, white rice flour, and the ubiquitous gluten-free starches- tapioca starch, cornstarch, potato starch (NOT potato flour, which is whole different animal) and arrowroot starch.
Medium flours are akin to 'all purpose flour'- these include sorghum flour, certified gluten-free oat flour, and superfine brown rice flour. If you cannot find sorghum flour, certified gluten-free oat flour is the closest option.
The heavier grains (including psuedo-grains like quinoa) tend to contain more protein. Think of flours like buckwheat, quinoa, millet, cornmeal, nut meal, and bean/legume flours as akin to baking with whole wheat flour. You get a similar denser product, often darker in color, and with less rise.
*Note on rice flours- arsenic levels in rice products is a new wrinkle to be aware of- especially for those of us avoiding gluten; we eat more rice/rice flour on a daily basis than your average glutenous citizen.
I have switched away from baking with rice flours. Please do some research and decide if alternative gluten-free flour choices may be appropriate for you as well.
For substituting flours:If you are going to substitute a flour choice, match your flour weight as best you can. Sub a medium weight flour such as sorghum flour with GF oat flour, or fine brown rice flour (medium weight to medium weight). Sub a heavier flour like millet flour with heavier buckwheat. Sub a light starch such as cornstarch with potato starch or tapioca starch (starch to starch). Note: Potato starch rises soft, and tender, while tapioca starch tends to get a tad tough on its own, though it does brown nicely. You may wish to combine these two starches to achieve both softness and a golden crust.
I favor a higher protein (but tender) texture to my baked goods; so you'll find many recipes featuring whole grain sorghum flour, almond flour or hazelnut flour, buckwheat flour, (not a grain at all, but a groat, related to rhubarb) and millet flour.
In general, we've found that typical GF blends based on white rice flour and starch will give you an inferior, gummier product.
Check the liquid levels. If the batter is runny- add a tablespoon or two of more GF flour to thicken it a bit.
Starches:As mentioned above, gluten-free starches include cornstarch, arrowroot starch, tapioca starch/flour, and potato starch. In baking they are- for the most part- interchangeable. That said, tapioca starch on its own can bake up tough. Blend it with potato starch or cornstarch for a softer end product.
Note: Potato flour is not the same as potato starch. I don't use potato flour in my baking; it's heavy, gluey and best used sparingly for thickening a gravy. But I love potato starch in breads and muffins and cakes- it gives breads spring, and tenderness.
You can also add 1/4 cup flax seed meal to your flour blend for added fiber and texture.
Using Baking and Pancake Mixes as a Basic Flour Sub:
This is a super easy solution- especially for those not familiar with gluten-free baking. For an all-purpose baking, waffle and pancake mix try Pamela's Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix. Please note* it contains dairy (buttermilk) and almond meal- so it may be off limits to some, but it is the best gluten-free baking mix I've tried.
Butter is a tough ingredient to sub because it brings that luxurious creamy-buttery flavor to the recipe. However, I've been baking and cooking successfully without it for years. And even butter eaters admit, with a few flavor tweaks, baking vegan can be amazing.
I also recommend coconut oil, Earth Balance stick, or organic shortening for pie crusts, fruit crisps and crumbles, and streusel toppings.
Sugar-Free? Sugar substitutes include:
Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk:
For Evaporated Coconut or Non-Dairy Milk:
Here are some thoughts:
I've been avoiding xanthan gum etc lately- here's my post about it.