NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Gluten-Free Baking

Gluten-Free Baking

 

          A rapidly growing number of Americans avoid gluten, the protein in wheat, rye, and barley, because of an allergy or sensitivity, or because they feel its absence promotes digestive health. For some, gluten-free eating is a serious concern: roughly one percent of Americans have celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune response to gluten that can only be treated by avoiding all traces of the substance.

          Baking without gluten can be challenging because gluten contributes important properties to baked goods.  Gluten is most often associated with wheat and wheat flour but can also found in barley, rye, and triticale – a wheat hybrid.  Gluten proteins in wheat flours make dough elastic and stretchy, and trap gas within baked goods, providing a light, airy structure. Additionally, gluten can be found in products made with these grains like salad dressing, sauces and even toothpaste.

          A wide variety of gluten-free flours, starches and baking aids can be used in combination to produce high-quality baked goods and pasta. Recipes calling for 2 cups of flour or less are more easily adapted, especially those that use cake flour because they contain lower levels of gluten.

          White rice flour and starches usually can be stored in the pantry but because of higher fat and protein content, purchase whole grain flours and meals in smaller quantities and store in the refrigerator or freezer. Because of the relatively short shelf-life, you may want to take a small taste of the flour before blending to determine if a rancid taste has developed. Several of these flours, such as almond, can be made at home with a coffee grinder.

          The most common binder in gluten-free baking is eggs. Eggs can replace many of the functions that gluten provides, such as binding, enhancing texture and helping set the structure of the final product. Besides eggs, which are protein-based, two starch-based products often used to bind and thicken gluten free baked products are guar gum and xanthan gum. These products are largely interchangeable and are used in small amounts (1/2 to 1 teaspoon per cup of flour) to add volume and texture to baked goods.

          To increase the moisture content, and thus tenderness, of gluten free products, add gelatin, extra egg or oil to the recipe.  Honey or rice malt syrup can also help retain moisture.  To enhance flavor, add chocolate chips, nuts, or dried fruits and increase the amount of spices.

          When using a combination of gluten-free flours and mix together thoroughly before adding to other ingredients.  Combine and sift again (together) after measuring to improve the texture of the product.  To reduce grainy texture, mix rice flour or corn meal with liquid. Bring to a boil and cool before adding to recipe.  Starch flours also need more leavening than wheat flours.  A good rule-of-thumb: start with 2 teaspoons baking powder per cup of gluten-free flour and adjust downward as need for altitude.

          If baking soda and buttermilk are used to leaven, add 1 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar for each 1/2 teaspoon baking soda used to neutralize acid.  For better rising ability, dissolve the leavening in liquid before adding to other ingredients or add a little extra baking powder.

          Gluten-free baked goods can lose moisture and quality quickly. Wrap them tightly and store in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container to prevent dryness and staling.

 

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