6 Tips for Baking Gluten-Free
An amateur baker with celiac disease gives some helpful tips to make your gluten-free baking experience easier.
Six years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that causes your small intestine to reject gluten. Through years of trial and error of baking odd grains and interesting recipes, I’ve picked up some tips.
Both diabetes and celiac disease are autoimmune conditions. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, having one autoimmune condition can make it more likely that you will develop another one. Approximately 8% of people with Type 1 diabetes also have celiac disease, but research has not at present established a definitive connection between Type 2 diabetes and celiac disease.
I want to preface my tips by saying that you don’t need to be diagnosed with celiac disease in order to feel better without gluten. Those who are intolerant or sensitive to gluten might have a valid reason to cut gluten out, as well. If your doctor hasn’t recommended a gluten-free diet for you and you’ve been eating gluten for years without a problem, there are no proven health benefits to letting go of the grain. There can be just as much sugar and fats in both gluten and gluten-free foods.
Here are some tips on baking gluten-free:
1. It doesn’t brown—it burns – One of the biggest differences between a regular pie and a gluten-free pie in the oven is that the first one gets golden brown, and the other one burns. Gluten-free baked goods stay a doughy white color, which makes it harder to tell when it’s fully cooked.
2. Bakery mix flour is best – Unfortunately, good gluten-free baking flour comes with a price—but it’s worth it. Most recipes will call for a slew of different flours (such as almond flour, rice flour, coconut flour, etc), but I find a high-quality flour mix works best. If you live near a gluten-free bakery, I highly recommend you go there to buy the mix the professionals make for their own use,. If this isn’t possible, there are ready-made flour mixes in stores of varying degrees of quality.
3. Enhance plain recipes – I would not recommend making any sort of plain baked good when baking gluten-free, as gluten-free baking is prone to blandness. Adding fruits, nuts, or candy to give the baked good more life.
4. Freeze, freeze, freeze – A typical recipe produces dozens of cookies or a dozen muffins, but you’re only one person. To stop yourself from eating 12 servings in one sitting, bag and freeze the majority of what you make in small bags of one serving each.
5. You “knead” to be patient – Gluten-free dough will never be as easy to work with as regular dough. The consistency is usually crumbly and the dough can break apart easily. When the dough does break apart, take some water on your fingers and pinch the broken dough together (it acts like glue). Be patient with your dough and you will be rewarded.
6. Practice makes yummy – Gluten-free cooking is a learning process. Some recipes might just be a one-time thing, but others might become favorites that you make over and over again. Get creative by mixing recipes up, have fun, and enjoy the process.