Weedy Ways

... for a better you!

Gluten - Free Baking - Cooking Tips and Tricks

This page will continually be under construction please be sure to check back periodically for additions, updates and changes!   There is A LOT of information within my gluten free pages, please take the time to scroll through, not all may be new to you, but you just never know what you could learn!

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What's the difference between Potato Starch, Potato Starch Flour and Potato Flour?

1.     Potato Flour

        a.     Heavier than potato starch flour, has potato flavor.

        b.     Velvety texture.

         c.    Not used as a main flour in recipes.

         d.     It will absorb much liquid and can create a gummy texture.

          e.   Used in small amounts to increase moisture and hold the product together.

2.     Potato Starch, Potato Starch Flour

         a.     Finer than potato flour, has bland flavor.

         b.     From uncooked potatoes where all fibers have been removed.

         c.    Dehydrated until only the starch remains.

         d.    Mixes well with other Gluten Free flours for baking.

         e.    Good for use in high temperature recipes.

         f.     Adds chewyness and moisture to baked goods.

        g.     Can be used in place of cornstarch or arrowroot as thickener.

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CHECK your oven temperature regularly. If the temperature spikes 20+ degrees you may need to use an additional baking sheet as insulation and/or turn your product half way through it's baking time. This will make a big differnce when cooking gluten free!

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Wheat flour is one of the toughest ingredients to substitute successfully. The problem is that no single alternative flour works as well.

Baking can be frustrating when you have to relinquish the comfortable precision of tried and true recipes to bake with food substitutes.  If your experience in the kitchen is anything like mine, you've had more than your share of "door-stop" breads, rock hard or mushy cookies, and deflated or soggy cakes.  But don't be discouraged!  You can successfully bake with substitutes if you first spend a little time understanding the function that ingredients play in a recipe and follow some basic guidelines.

 

Understanding the Basics:  Baking is all about science.  The final product is simply the end result of reactions or combinations that occur between the ingredients under certain conditions such as:  oven temperatures, rack level, baking time, pan size, pan type and color, and kitchen as well as weather temperatures and humidity levels.  Oven temperature affects texture, consistency, appearance, and baking time.  The amount of heat absorption or reflection depends upon pan color and material, rack position, and product size and shape.  These factors also affect the total baking time.  Atmospheric pressure and humidity determine how much liquid and leavening agents are needed and also impact the total baking time.

 

Most of the information needed to understand substituting ingredients is right in your home.  Many cook-books provide a wealth of information somewhere in their binding offering text and tables to explain many of the basic measuring concepts, functions of common ingredients, and food substitutions.  In addition, your six senses (smell, sight, taste, touch, hearing, and intuition) can help guide your with your choices.  Your senses and instincts can provide valuable clues to how much and which substitutes are best, based on taste, water content, melting point, texture, and ability to absorb moisture and heat.

 

What function do ingredients serve in baking, beyond overall taste and nutritional value?  Specific ingredients and amounts are chosen to create a final crumb texture, structure, and mouth feel (literally how the product feels in your mouth).  Most recipes and mixes include one or more of the following ingredients:

  • whole (3.3 to 3.7 percent fat content) cow's milk.
  • large chicken eggs (where 1 egg = 1/4 cup liquid).
  • real butter, corn oil, or solid shortening (i.e., Crisco).
  • wheat flour.

When you cannot eat one or more of these ingredients, substitutions become necessary.  And these substitutes have unique properties that differ from the real counterparts and affect baking specification and overall product outcome.

 

Wheat Flour is one of the toughest ingredients to substitute successfully.  The problem is that no single alternative flour works as well.  Wheat flour provides structure or bulk, crumb texture, moisture absorption, and particularly in the case of breads and pizza dough, vital gluten protein.  Think of gluten protein as a waffle that can trap air inside its cell structure and stretch like a rubber band.  This elasticity helps provide the chewy texture.  The waffle-like structure allows leavening gases (reated from the byproduct of baking powder and/or yeast) to be trapped, causing the product to rise. Wheat-free/gluten-free flours differ from wheat flour in starch content, texture, taste, and ability to absorb moisture.  Since no single wheat-free flour has all the attributes of wheat flour and since each has some less-than-preferred qualities, the trick is to blend several wheat-free/gluten-free flours using final product texture as a guide.  

 

For example, if a lighter end product with softer crumb is desired (like for cakes), use a higher ratio of starchy, lighter, refined flours.  For a heavier, heartier crumb texture (like for breads), use less of the starchy flours and more of the heavier, grittier flours. Bette Hagman, a pioneer in gluten-free baking, provides a good basic flour blend in her cookbooks that can be used in equal (1:1) substitution for regular wheat flours.  Her gluten-free flour blend suggests that for every 3 cups of flour, use 2 cups white rice flour plus 2/3 cup potato starch plus 1/3 cup tapioca starch well blended with the appropriate amount of xanthan or guar gum.  Once you're comfortable with this blend, you can further refine it using the principles discussed above.  Any additional protein that can be added, such as milk, egg or gelatin, helps offset the lack of gluten protein.

 

Depending on the product and its reliance on the gluten structure, a substitute binder for gluten will be needed.  Breads rely heavily on gluten for structure, cakes to a lesser extent, and cookies almost not at all.  The more starchy and/or more refined the crumb, the less the need for gluten.  Most wheat-free/gluten-free recipes rely on xanthan or guar gum as a binder replacement.

Here's a quick rule of thumb for how much binder to use:  For every cup of wheat-free/gluten-free flour, use 1 tsp. xanthan or guar gum for cakes, 2 tsp. xanthan or guar gum for breads or pizza, and 1 tsp. or no xanthan or guar gum or most cookies.

 

Wheat/gluten-free flour dough will be stickier, heavier, and softer than regular wheat flour dough.  There is little to no elasticity to the dough.  For these reasons, use a batter beater, not a dough hook, and a heavy-duty stand-up mixer to beat extra air into the dough and blend it thoroughly.

 

Milk provides mouth feel, flavor, moisture, richness, protein, and a creamier, softer crumb texture to baked goods.  Most milk substitutes available today work well in baking if you account for how they differ from whole milk and modify accordingly. Milk substitutes differ in water and fat content, sweetness, and ability to color the baked goods.  For example, rice milks, powdered milks, skim milk, and juices all contain more water than whole cow's milk.  Rice milk and juices tend to be sweeter and, therefore, may affect the final taste of baked goods.  Soy milk tends to brown baked goods prematurely, while a potato-based milk tends to whiten products. Milk is the least crucial ingredient in baking, so if you need to cut back somewhere on liquids, start here.  As you experiment with recipes you may find that some milk substitutes are easier to work with than others. For example, when using rice milk it may be beneficial to use 2-3 tablespoons of extra oil to help offset the watery consistency in the dough.

 

Eggs:  Most baking problems start when substituting eggs for fats.  Eggs are a challenge to substitute.  In baking, eggs provide richness, color, protein, and tenderness.  When beaten, egg whites provide extra volume and air.  Eggs also create leavening/rise and binding.  The trick is figuring out the purpose the egg serves in your recipe - is it binding, leavening or both? A general rule of thumb is to look at the number of eggs required in the recipe.  If the recipe calls for 1 egg, typically it serves as a binder.  In this case, almost any egg substitute will work.  Some possibilities (for one egg substitution) include the following:

  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed plus 3 tablespoons warm water.
  • 1 tablespoon unflavored, unsweetened gelatin plus 3 tablespoons warm water.
  • 1/4 cup ground soft tofu.
  • 3 tablespoons pureed fruit + 1 teaspoon baking powder.
  • 4 tablespoons silken tofu + 1 teaspoon balking powder. 

If the recipe uses 2-3 eggs or more, the eggs provide leavening.  Several good substitutes (for one egg) include:

  • 1 heaping tablespoon Ener-G Food Egg Replacer® plus 2 tablespoons warm water.
  • 1 heaping tablespoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon oil plus 1 tablespoon warm water.
  • 1 heaping tablespoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon cider or apple vinegar plus 1 tablespoon warm water.

When in doubt, assume that eggs are in the recipe to provide leavening, and use the second set of substitutes.  More than 3 eggs may be difficult or impossible to substitute successfully.  And in some cases (e.g., angel food cake and some brownie mixes), only real eggs will work, so check the recipe box for details.

 

Fats: Although fats often get a bad rap, they are important in baking.  They give a product flavor, richness, mouth feel, tenderness or crispness, and prolonged shelf life.  Fat substitutes have different water and fat percentages and display different characteristics under high temperatures than real butter or solid shortening.  These differences become most problematic when making cookies (particularly cut-out cookies) and pie crusts. Many fat substitutes are not designed for baking ~ Typically high in water content, they will cause the product to become too gummy.  Check the package label to see if it specifies where the fat will work well in baking and how to modify the amount.

 

Here's a simple, quick test to determine whether a fat substitute like butter will work in your recipe:  Put a small amount of the fat in a microwave on high power for 15 seconds, and examine the end result.  Does it separate or burn?  Does it look and behave like real butter would under similar conditions? A frequent baking error is substituting butter or oil in recipes that require solid shortening.  Solid shortening melts at higher heat than butter, and the two are not necessarily interchangeable.  Even if tolerated, texture can be compromised.  Shortening produces a softer, thicker, chewier end product.  Butter produces a crisper, thinner end product.  Generally, substituting oil for solid shortening in cookies doesn't work, but it can be done successfully in some cake and muffin recipes.  The wrong fat will cause your cookie dough to flatten and spread like pancakes, make your cut-out cookies or pie crust dough way too sticky to roll out, and turn your pie crust or cookies hard as rocks when cooked. Always check the package or recipe directions for proper fat substitutes.  If oil or butter can be successfully substituted for shortening, typically you need to use less to account for the added moisture.

 

One of the few successful soy-free, corn-free solid shortening or hard butter substitutes on the market is food-grade coconut butter ( not cocoa butter).  Solid shortening and butter can be successfully substituted with 3/4 the amount of coconut butter in most recipes (by reducing the amount of coconut butter, you are accounting for the extra water content in it).

 

More About Leavening: When incorporated in a recipe, baking powder and/or yeast create leavening by giving off carbon dioxide gas that gets trapped in the dough.  Without a mechanism (like a gluten structure) to trap the gases, little to no leavening can occur.  Hence, the "door stop" bread. Any baked goods that use yeast can be successfully created with an appropriate amount of baking powder instead.  What you give up is the yeast-like taste. If you use wheat-free/gluten-free flour, you need to create a mechanism in the dough to trap the leavening gases.  That's where a high-powered, stand-up mixer with a batter beater attachment comes in.  Beating air into the dough gives the leavening agent a place to release the gases and makes the dough rise.  If you're sensitive to corn and can't use commercial baking powder, make your own.

 


So what are the basic rules to follow in food substitutions?

  1. Measure carefully.  Use the correct measuring tools (glass measuring cups for all liquids, plastic measuring cups for all dry ingredients).  Measure liquids at eye level, looking at the meniscus (the lower part of the curve).  Level off flours with a flat knife, and don't pack them down.  Sifting all dry ingredients is a large help for recipes.
  2. Use all liquids (including eggs) at lukewarm or room temperature.  This is particularly important with dough consistency.  If the ingredients are too cold or warm, they will give you a false idea of true batter or dough consistency and may activate (or kill) the yeast permanently.  Batter/dough consistency is your only true guide to determining how much more liquid to add and whether all ingredients are truly blended.
  3. Use a high-powered, stand-up mixer of 220 watts or greater and the batter beater, not the dough hook.  The stiffer and stickier the dough, the more mixer power is required to ensure proper blending. 
  4. Follow the recipe or package directions carefully.  Yes, it's confusing when every bread machine, cookbook and recipe give you different baking instructions, but each recipe was tested using those specific instructions for success.
  5. Remember that baking times are only estimates.  Ovens and bakeware vary, which can affect final baking time.  Changes in ingredients can also affect baking time.  Use proper tests for doneness, according to package or recipe directions.  When using soy milk, fructose, gluten-free flours, and some other ingredients, color may not be a good indicator of doneness.  These substitutes often cause products to brown before they are done.  If this happens, cover the baked goods loosely with aluminum foil until the inside tests done.  This helps drive the heat back down to the center way from the outside crust.  Sometimes modifying the rack position up or down accordingly or varying the bakeware can help, too.
  6. There can be a domino effect in food substituting.  One change can be significant; two can be a disaster.  Each step affects the end product, and changes in any one step can affect the outcome.  It may help to do a small, scaled-down version of the recipe first, making the necessary substitutes one at a time.  
  7. A good substitution for Guar Gum is Knox Unflavored Gelatin.  Use two times the amount of gelatin as the recipe calls for in Guar Gum.

A good way to bake with multiple substitutes is to start by adding the egg and fat substitutes first and half the amount of milk or water.  Blend the batter well, and check the dough consistency.  If it is too dry, add more of the reserved liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, blending well in between until the correct dough consistency is achieved.  Always add liquids slowly in this way.  If using a bread machine, thoroughly pre-blend all the ingredients (including the yeast) in a stand-up mixer before spooning it into the bread machine pan.  During the end of the first knead cycle, continue to add the reserved liquid slowly until the dough forms a nice ball around the knead paddle(s) and moves away from the sides of the pan, making definitive swirls on the top of the dough.

Cornstarch substitution: use equal amounts of potato starch, tapioca starch/flour, or arrowroot powder.

Cornmeal substitution: use equal parts of almond meal or use brown rice flour reduced by 2 Tablespoons.

 

Keep Trying!! When all else fails, remember that recipes are the success stories, the end results of many tries and failed attempts ~ even the experts have failures.  It's what they learned from their failures that helped them make a successful recipe so don’t ever give up .. reuse the failed attempt elsewhere or freeze until a use arises ~ Make it fun and enjoy!

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HINTS WHEN CONVERTING WHEAT RECIPES TO GLUTEN FREE

~ Compliments of Connie Sarros during her presentation

at  the Richland County Celiac Support Group 2008

 Gluten-Free Cookbooks, www.gfbooks.homestead.com

 

  1. Tricks to make baked goods tastier:
    1. Substitute at least half of the liquid in the recipe with fruit juice or pureed fruit.
    2. Increase vanilla or almond flavoring 1 ½ to 2 times. If no vanilla is called for, add 1 t.
    3. Increase the amount of spices used.
    4. Stir in something with flavor: dried fruit, chocolate, toasted coconut, nuts, liqueurs.

 

  1. Tricks to make baked goods lighter:
    1. Whip liquid ingredients in a blender for 30 seconds before adding to shortening.
    2. Add something acidic – use buttermilk in place of regular milk.
    3. In place of half of the liquid, use a carbonated beverage (not sugar free though)
    4. Use twice the amount of backing soda or baking powder called for in the recipe.
    5. Add an extra egg.

 

  1. Pie Crust Tricks:
    1. To make a shiny, sweet crust, brush top crust with milk then sprinkle with sugar before baking.
    2. For a glazed crust, brush top crust with a combination of egg yolk whipped with a little water.
    3. Roll the piecrust between 2 sheets of plastic wrap that have been dusted with powdered sugar.
    4. For nut an coconut crusts, toast nuts or coconut first to release their natural oils.

 

  1. Cake Tricks:
    1. Add 1 T. mayonnaise (not low fat), yogurt or sour cream to cake batter.
    2. Reduce oven temperature slightly to help baked goods back through and help prevent cracks in the top.
    3. When making brownies or muffins, directions often say: “Stir in until blended” … with gluten free items, it’s usually necessary to ship ingredients until light.

 

  1. Cookie Tricks:
    1. Never bake cookies on a dark pan.
    2. Place cookies on a baking sheet, then refrigerate for 20 minutes before baking to keep cookies from spreading.
    3. Don’t judge when cookies are done by their color, they are done when no imprint remains.
    4. Leave cookies on the hot cookie sheet for 3 minutes so they can settle before transferring to a cooling rack.

 

  1. Bread Tricks:
    1. Add 1 t. vinegar to yeast bread recipes for a lighter texture.
    2. Replace ¼ to ½ of the flour mixture with sorghum flour.
    3. Flavor yeast breads with cinnamon, vanilla, almond, molasses, maple syrup or parmesan cheese.
    4. Replace some of the water with cold, brewed coffee or juice such as pineapple, orange, or apple.
    5. For a sweet and shiny crust, heat 1 T. sugar with 5 T. milk just to a simmer then brush on loaves.
    6. For a soft crust, brush hot loaves with melted butter then cover with a town to retain steam.
    7. For a light crust, place a pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven while the loaf bakes.
    8. For a medium crust, brush loaf with milk before placing in the oven; re-brush with bread is half done.
    9. For a crunchy crust, whip an egg white with 1 T. water until frothy, brush on loaf before baking.

 

DON’T THROW AWAY YOUR MISTAKES OR LEFTOVERS!

 

Breads:

1.     If your bread has dried out, brush a slice on both sides with a little milk, wrap in wax paper then microwave for a few moments to make it moist again.

2.     If your bread dries out, cut it into large cubes and let it air-dry to make bread pudding.

3.     Cut the cubes a bit smaller for use as stuffing.

4.     Toss bread cubes with a little olive oil and seasonings (garlic powder, Italian seasoning, grated parmesan cheese) and bake til crisp for croutons.

5.     Take any remaining bread bits and crumbs, dry them out, then whip in a blender or food processor with seasonings to make homemade breadcrumbs.

 

Cookies and Cakes:

1.     Cookies that have dried out may be salvaged. Wrap each cookie in a moist paper towel and microwave for a few seconds then enjoy.

2.     To re-crisp cookies,  place them on a baking sheet and bake at 300 for a few minutes.

3.     If your cookies have crumbled or over baked, dry them out completely in a 200 degree oven then place in some melted butter to make a cookie piecrust or a crust for cheesecake.

4.     Cut dried out cake into slices or squares to use as a base for a truffle with layers of pudding and whipped cream.

5.     If the cake has not been frosted, cut slices of the dried-out cake and toast in the toaster oven. Top with a scoop of ice cream for a quick dessert.

 

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When Mistakes Happen, Focus on Comfort

 ~ How Celiacs can More Quickly Recover from Gluten Exposure

Article from Celiac.com 09/25/2008 -

Even after identifying yourself as having a wheat or gluten allergy and asking for a specially prepared meal, it is a common mistake to have a server deliver soup with crackers, or the entree with a side of Texas toast.   I get frustrated just thinking about the number of times my salad has arrived with croutons.  However, getting upset, or pointedly reminding the server can ruin the ambiance of the meal, as well as leave a bad impression with your dinner companions. It is helpful to remember that you are in the very small minority of their customers, and simply consider it an honest mistake.  Do not remove the croutons, crackers, cheese, etc. and eat your contaminated food—SEND IT BACK TO THE KITCHEN—politely, please.  State that you cannot eat what they have brought you, and repeat that you are allergic to the offending food.  Use the opportunity to gently remind your server and educate them about gluten.  Hopefully the next time they will be more conscientious.

If you are wheat or gluten intolerant, and have the genetic component that leads to celiac disease, there is no going back to gluten.  As your body heals, you may think that you will be able to cheat once in a while, and that your sensitivity to gluten will decrease once you are not getting "too much".  In fact, the opposite seems to be true.  Once the body begins to get rid of its toxic load, heal damaged tissues, and regain health, it becomes more sensitive to gluten.  I see this over and over again in the clients I counsel, and in my cooking class students.  You will know right away if you cheat, or if you are accidentally "glutened".  Your body, fortunately or unfortunately, will tell you.  It is important to learn techniques to sooth your symptoms as much as possible until recovery takes place.

Symptoms of gluten exposure in a gluten-intolerant person can vary widely, but some commonly reported ones are abdominal discomfort, bloating, pain, swelling (sometimes extreme) and cramping, followed by diarrhea, or loose stools.  For those with dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), even very minor exposure can provoke itching and a return of a healed or nearly healed rash.  Others report headaches, or experience a sudden decrease in alertness and clarity of thought.

Short-term treatment strategies for gluten exposure include taking an over-the-counter anti-histamine (check with your pharmacist for gluten ingredients), drinking nettle leaf tea (a natural anti-histamine), and using a warm castor oil pack over your upper or lower abdomen, wherever the pain and cramping are centered.

Longer-term strategies include rebuilding your intestinal health through following an anti-inflammatory diet, taking supplements like L-Glutamine, coconut oil, fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K, Calcium, Magnesium, B-Vitamins, Essential fatty acids (EFA's), and probiotics.  Dr. Thomas O'Bryan, a nationally recognized speaker on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, also recommends Carnitine, an amino acid, in the treatment of celiac/gluten intolerance.  L-Carnitine helps in the a bsorption and transport of essential fatty acids into cells, and also helps to protect nerve membranes from free-radical damage.

You may have good results with the tummy rescue smoothie recipe below, which I developed in response to a "gluten emergency" of my own.  The healing properties of each ingredient are also listed.  Puree in blender until smooth, and slightly thickened.  It is most soothing when consumed while still warm from the hot tea


Tummy Rescue Smoothie:

  • 1 cup hot freshly brewed nettle leaf tea (anti-histamine, anti-spasmodic)
  • ¼ cup Santa-Cruz pear juice (flavoring/sweetener - pears are the least allergenic of fruits)
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon whole fennel seed (reduces gas & bloating)
  • 2 Tablespoons slippery elm powder (healing & soothing to mucous membranes and the gut)
  • 1 Tablespoon flax seed oil (soothing, anti-inflammatory)
  • ¼ - ½ cup rice milk (hypoallergenic, use to thin to desired consistency)

This smoothie is best consumed in small sips over an hour or so.  Magnesium also helps with pain and relaxes muscle spasms, so taking a little extra magnesium may be of benefit. For severe symptoms, drink the smoothie while reclining in bed, with a warm castor oil pack over the abdomen, covered by a heating pad set on low.  Do not leave the pack in place for more than an hour.

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