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Baking without Gluten Guide

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The ultimate guide on gluten free baking. Includes tips, tricks, and tested recipes. Learn how to easily & deliciously make gluten free food. 

So if you want to:

  • Bake delicious gluten free treats 
  • Get better results in your baking 
  • Know how to transform your family recipes into gluten free favorites 

Then you will love this guide! 

Going gluten free to avoid wheat, barley, and rye doesn’t mean you need to give up delicious things like cookies, pies, and pizza! All it takes is a little creativity in the kitchen and a new understanding of how gluten free ingredients work. 

The best advice I can give you is to make recipes following the recipe exactly. Gluten free baking is a science and the different ingredients are usually measured out to be exactly what is needed for each recipe. Following the recipe as close as possible is the best way to ensure good results. 

But when you’re ready to start adapting your family favorite recipes, here are some tips and tricks to help you get the best results. 

It’s true, gluten free ingredients work differently than the wheat flour that you may be used to. However, this article is here to walk you through all you need to know to start making some mouth-watering desserts and healthy dinners. 

a set of caucasian hands is holding a double handful of flour with more flour on the kitchen countertop

What is Gluten? 

Gluten is the protein structure in things like wheat, rye, and barley that give it strength, stretch, and support. However, some people are allergic to wheat, intolerant of gluten, or have celiac disease and can’t digest gluten at all. So total avoidance of wheat and gluten is a must. 

Need a little refresher on what gluten is, where it can hide in products and ingredients, and symptoms of a wheat/gluten allergy? I gotcha! Make sure you check out my Wheat Allergy 101 article that covers all that and more. 

Want to know answers to common gluten questions? Check out this What is Gluten Guide!

The Basics 

Why does gluten free taste different? 

When baking gluten free for the first time, I wouldn’t blame you if you were surprised at the difference in taste and texture. When not made correctly, gluten free baking is often gummy, dense, and lacking in flavor. 

Gluten free baking also tends to dry out and become more stale quicker than wheat flour based items. 

This is because of a few reasons. First, most people are used to eating wheat/gluten filled baked goods and products. Anytime you are switching to a new product without wheat/gluten you will be surprised by the difference of taste. 

Second, gluten free products require a mix of different ingredients to get the same results as with gluten filled products. This mix can sometimes be off or use

But with a little practice, your gluten free goods will taste similar to your wheat-filled favorites! 

What other products may contain gluten? 

Flours are not always the only thing you need to avoid when allergic to wheat or avoiding gluten. It can often hide in other ingredients! Always make sure that everything you purchase says gluten free on the labels. If you are unsure, make sure to contact the company before using. These ingredients are typically when you can also find gluten:

  • Baking Powder
  • Confectioner’s Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Other starch based thickeners 

For a full list of hidden names of gluten in products, check out my wheat 101 article

a collection of ingredients for making a gluten free pie crust on a kitchen countertop in various sizes of bowls

Best Flours to Use 

Depending on your allergens, you can use gluten free flours with nuts or without nuts. Here is a quick rundown on the different types of gluten free flours you can use. 

Gluten free blends of flours. Different companies have developed different blends over the years and they work better in different recipes. (See next section for my favorite store bought blends.) 

The best gluten free blend will contain rice flours, starches, and xanthan gum.  This combo mimics wheat flour the most closely. 

Xanthan gum is a thickener that is derived from birch trees. It is used in gluten free products to help stabilize the flours, helps to thicken the batters, and helps emulsify the batter together. 

Rice flours are the main ingredient in many gluten free blends. This is because of their neutral flavor and ability to give a good body to the recipe. 

Cornstarch helps to lighten things up, gives gluten free cakes a lighter texture, and overall helps to thicken the recipe. Double check your cornstarch to ensure it is gluten free. 

Oats are not often used in gluten free baking. This is not because of the oat itself, but rather, the cross contamination that occurs when processing. If you use oats in a recipe it is ESSENTIAL to make sure you get your oats from a certified gluten free source. To date, I have found Bob’s Red Mill to be the only place I can safely get oats and oat flour. 

Potato Flour / Starch can be a very helpful ingredient in quickbreads, breads, and pizza crusts to get the perfect “chew” for a recipe. However, too much of this turns recipes gummy. 

Other types of whole grains, like quinoa, amaranth, teff, and millet are often used in gluten free blends, or on their own. They provide fiber, nutrition, and different flavors. 

Tapioca flour /starch is very often used in gluten free baking and cooking. It adds volume, texture, and helps the recipe structure. However, just like potato flour, too much will make the recipe gummy. 

My Favorite Store Bought Gluten Free Flour

Here are some of my favorite store bought flours to use. 

King Arthur Baking Mix – Hands down one of my favorites! It has a good mix of flours, plus it includes baking powder to give it a great rise! I reach for it anytime I want to make anything from cookies, pastries, pancakes, and cakes. 

Pamela’s Artisan Blend – This flour blend makes for some of the most wonderful cookies, pie crusts, and quick breads! 

King Arthur Measure for Measure – Super similar to their baking mix, this time without the baking powder added. That makes it perfect for recipes where I need to control the leaveners used. Think things like cakes, pastries, cookies, and breads. 

Better Batter – This was my first gluten free flour I used and it is a great all-around flour to have in your kitchen. It makes great cookies, breads, and cakes.

Krusteaz – For a potato / nightshade free option, this one is another favorite! It has a heavier texture thanks to the quinoa and sorghum flours, so it is great in any recipes that call for whole wheat flour. Think things like muffins, quickbreads, and cookies. 

want to know the best things to swap for different recipes? make sure you check out my food swap guide!

How to Replace Flour

Replacing flour in a recipe isn’t always as easy as simply swapping gluten free flour for the wheat flour. Make sure you read the tips and tricks below for getting the best results every time! But for a quick guide, here are my recommendations:

For recipes with less than 1/2 cup wheat flour, simply replace it with your favorite brand of gluten free flour. No other changes necessary. 

For recipes with more than 1/2 cup wheat flour, replace with your favorite brand of gluten free flour while also implementing one or more of the changes below. Adding more moisture, letting the dough rest, and a longer baking time are three good places to start. 

For yeast based recipes, I do not recommend directly replacing gluten free flour. Yeast baking and gluten free baking need more changes than can be quickly outlined here. 

Tips + Techniques

Measuring Gluten Free Flours 

Most people scoop the measuring cup into the bag of flour and level with a knife to get a cup of flour. This technique does not work well for gluten free flours. The weight of gluten free flour is different from that of wheat flours so you will not get an accurate measure. 

The best way to measure gluten free flour is to place your measuring up onto the countertop and using a spoon, scoop the flour into the cup until you have a heaping amount. Then, gently using the back of a knife, scrape the excess flour into the bag. 

Don’t tap the flour or press it down into the measuring cup. You can gently shake the flour to get it to settle into the cup as you are spooning flour inside. 

Mix the Night Before / chilling 

When making things quickly, I found that sometimes my gluten free goods would taste amazing and other times it would be very grainy. That graininess is from not letting the batter rest before baking. 

Letting the batter rest gives time for the different flours to absorb the moisture, fluff up their grains, and make for a better final result. 

For all gluten free recipes, you should let them rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes before baking to allow for the flours to rehydrate. This wait time works best for recipes like waffles, pancakes, or muffins and cakes. 

Some recipes, like pie crust, cookies, or breads and pizza crust, need a longer wait time. 60 minutes to even overnight in the fridge can not only help avoid graininess, but also can help develop flavors. 

Add Extra Moisture 

To that effect, adding extra moisture to your gluten free recipes can be super beneficial. This is because gluten free grains soak up more moisture in their resting and baking periods. Start by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra liquid to a recipe until you get a result you love. 

a collection of different ingredients on a white kitchen countertop in various bowl sizes with eggs and flours

Using Dairy to Help 

One of the best tips I’ve discovered over the years of baking gluten free is the combination of gluten free products and dairy products in my baking. Dairy proteins mimic gluten proteins, however they don’t cause a reaction if you are allergic to wheat or avoiding gluten. 

In your recipes, begin with adding 2 tablespoons of softened cream cheese to the butter, 2 tablespoons of cottage cheese or sour cream to the wet ingredients, or 3 tablespoons of dry milk powder to your dry ingredients. 

How to Mix Batter

Normally, wheat flour based recipes tell you to avoid overmixing the batter as you don’t want extra gluten strands to develop, which make your final result taste hard and dry. Gluten free baking is the exact opposite. 

You WANT to mix things for longer! 

When mixing gluten free batters and doughs, don’t be afraid to turn the mixer on high or to mix for 5 minutes or longer. This does a few things. 

First, it allows for more air to get into the batter, which helps with rise and lift in the recipes. 

Next, it allows for the ingredients to be better incorporated and distributed through the batter. 

Finally, it helps with the structure of the batter, allowing for mix-in ingredients to be better supported in the batter, for example, blueberries in gluten free blueberry muffins will be scattered throughout the muffin and won’t all sink to the bottom. 

How Long to Bake 

Gluten free flours do not often develop the same golden brown color as wheat based flours do, so learning when to judge a gluten free item is done baking can not be done with color alone.

Give your recipes a few extra minutes in the oven to avoid having undercooked results. 

It’s also important to note that making sure your oven is the correct temperature will help in baking gluten free. Purchase an oven thermometer and check your oven at least 2 times a year to ensure your oven is really 350F when it says it is. 

High Altitude Baking 

Baking gluten free at high altitudes can be an extra level of tricky when it comes to getting consistent results. Normally, troubleshooting can be done by changing one of three things:

Add less moisture to your recipes. Because of the altitude, the grains will not need as much moisture. Start by removing 1 tablespoon of liquid from your recipes. 

Increase the oven temperature by 15F degrees to help with baking times. 

Increase the baking times of your recipes overall by 5 minutes. 

Need to avoid other ingredients? Make sure you check out these articles. 

Wheat, coconut, dairy, egg

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  1. I just recently got my Alcat allergy test result back and I have to avoid, arrowroot powder, tapioca starch and oats.
    I had just made a double batch of your GF flour blend and had already made one dessert with it. I loved it, however, it did not love me back.
    I already replaced the milk powder with cashew powder, as I also have an allergy to cow’s milk.
    Any suggestions on the other three?

    1. I’m happy and sad to hear it worked for you but didn’t work for you. So for starches, basically any starch can be replaced with another. If you have to avoid arrowroot and tapioca, I would suggest either cornstarch or potato starch. To replace the oat flour, that provides a depth of flavor and slight nuttiness. I would suggest an equal amount of one of the following: Sorghum, quinoa, buckwheat (isn’t wheat, but a type of seed), or even almond flour. I haven’t personally tried any of these suggestions, but they are my best guess based on how long I’ve been working gluten free. I would say to make a half batch or even a quarter batch of this flour blend and try it in a recipe to see how it works for you and your allergies. Something like a simple cookie or muffin. That would make the final recipe look something like this:

      1 cup white rice flour
      1 cup brown rice flour
      1 cup sorghum OR quinoa OR buckwheat OR almond flour
      3/4 cup cornstarch OR potato starch
      3 tablespoons dry milk of choice (you said you bought cashew)
      1 tablespoon xanthan gum

      I’m starting to experiment with banana flour, coconut flour, and tiger nut flour. I have friends who have successfully baked with them before! These could also work for you depending on your allergies and sensitivities. Let’s keep in touch as we experiment together! Good luck!

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