If GF is your new BFF, our new VP has got some baking tips for you.
Considering cutting gluten from your diet but nervous that such a decision would mean the end of delicious baked goodness for you and your loved ones? Right when you mastered plant-based baking (goodbye butter, hello vegan margarine!) now you’re expected to deliver flaky, spongy, crispy awesomeness that’s both animal-friendly and easy on the cilia?
I’ll admit that cracked buckwheat pancakes, chalky cookies and soupy cakes are ghosts of my gluten free/plant based baking past I’d rather forget. There’s also the time I tried to invent gluten free gnocchi. Part one saw me painstakingly form and score dozens of little dumplings. Part two involved watching them dissolve in a pot of boiling water like it was the end of the world. In a way it kind of was.
I don’t quit when it comes to bread and such, though. Now, after lots of trial and error, I forget to tell people that the scones, cakes, pizza crusts and pies my family loves to share contain no gluten. Happy endings rule.
- Motivated to break out the muffin tin again? Here are some tips I live by:
- Keep it simple. I don’t know about you, but blending ten kinds of flours I don’t even like the smell of is not an inviting way to spend a spontaneous Sunday afternoon a-baking. Bob’s Red Mill makes an awesome Gluten Free All Purpose Flour that now even many enlightened corner stores are carrying. Whole Foods generally has solid deals on this product. This can be used cup for cup to replace gluten-containing flours in virtually any recipe, though...
- Do be prepared to use extra flour if your batter texture looks thinner than needed (ie. the recipe says to roll the batter into balls, but you can’t quite form anything with it – add a little flour shake by shake and you’ll get there). Extra sweetener to balance things out is worth considering if you do this. Just taste your batter or dough as you go to gauge sweetness, but…
- Don’t freak out if the raw batter or dough tastes slightly odd. Gluten free flour has a stronger taste than wheat flour, and often you need rising action and flavor melding opportunities in the oven to get a real sense of what you've got.
- Mix longer than with gluten containing baked goods. We say not to mix too much with wheat-based baking because that would over-activate the gluten and make some tough little muffins. In gluten free land you want to activate what gummy potential there is in the batter, as this will help hold everything together later. For recipes where we want to avoid over-blending the fat molecules (such as with scones or pie crust), just mix until combined as suggested in the recipe and count on...
- The arrowroot powder or tapioca starch (available at all grocery stores) that you’ll add one tablespoon of per cup of flour of for every recipe you convert to gluten free for the rest of your life. Don’t ask me about Xanthan Gum. Never met the guy. I just can’t spend that much on something that doesn't taste like chocolate or pizza.
- The right cookware makes a big difference. Cast iron (I love LODGE brand) and high quality non-stick pans and tins (silicone muffin tins are pretty awesome) will definitely give you a leg-up when dealing with slightly more delicate baked goods. Gluten free baked goods solid up like champs once they cool, but if your recipe calls for de-panning stuff before totally cooled, a non-clingy pan is your best friend. So are parchment paper or thorough greasing of all baking surfaces.
- Be flexible. In the event things don’t go as planned, be ready to produce “crepes” instead of flapjacks, “crispy” instead of chewy cookies. Baking will feel a little more like cooking in those moments where you realize you need to tweak things to achieve the desired result. Eventually you’ll be confident about pulling your recipe into the station in one piece come what may. It does take some time and a few mistakes. What good thing doesn't, though?
- Have a recipe you’d like to make plant-based and gluten free but don’t know where to start? Just send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll take a crack at it and get back to you.
Click image for link to gluten free grains, flours and starches.