The good, the bad, and the ugly-what works in gluten free baking, and what doesn’t.


 

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Over the past couple of years,  I have gotten a bit of gluten free baking experience under my belt.  If anyone had told me when I started this journey that I would be giving advice and sharing baking recipes, I would have told them that they were crazy.   Yet, here I am.

I have found, through trial, error, and many wasted cups of flour, sugar and dairy free milk what works and what doesn’t.  Some flours just don’t work in some recipes.  Some dry to wet ingredient ratios are off.  Even the best sites, like King Arthur Flour, post recipes that make me scratch my head in confusion.   It’s all about trial and error.  Even the best intended recipes sometimes fail.   So what can be done about it?  I’m glad you asked!

Here are some things I have discovered:

Not all recipes can be converted.

Even when using a cup-for-cup gluten-free flour substitute, sometimes the liquid to flour ratio is off.  Even if you follow the recipe exactly.

Bundt cakes don’t fare well when converting to gluten free

I have made several converted bundt cakes.  The ones that involve using cocoa powder don’t fare well for some reason.  I think because the cocoa powder acts like additional flour, and the amount of liquid in the original recipe is off.  I did succeed in using rice flour in my Applesauce Pumpkin bundt cake, but that’s the exception.  But that recipe was already converted and tested.

My latest disaster was a Red Wine chocolate bundt cake recipe that I converted (it was so dry I deleted the recipe).  It had plenty of liquid. I suppose I could have added an extra egg, but because of the large volume of batter needed for a bundt cake, if you tweak it too much, it won’t bake right.

Yeast breads and biscuits really can’t be converted (there are exceptions but I’ve yet to find one)

I have tried several biscuit recipes, both converted from regular recipes, and those using gluten free mixes and flours.  They just don’t translate.  The biscuits are flat and doughy. They just don’t rise and brown.  Sometimes you just have to throw in the rolling pin.  It’s extremely difficult to roll out or fold gluten free dough to form a cohesive mass that allows cutting with a biscuit cutter or knife.  Drop biscuits aren’t much better.

You cannot convert yeast bread to use gluten free flour.  It won’t come out right.

Pie crust is best bought pre-made

I did make a chicken pot pie, but I doubt I will do it again (I just wanted bragging rights).  Working with the gluten free pie dough was something that I still have nightmares about.  You can’t just “sprinkle some flour on it” to keep it from sticking.  The same goes for pizza dough (another epic battle I was able to conquer).  Save yourself the  heartache and buy a pre-made gluten free pie shell.  You’ll thank me later.

Quick bread does much better with converting

I have had much better success in converting quick breads to gluten-free.  In fact, I just baked a really great pumpkin quick bread today.  That is what is pictured at the top of the page.  It’s really yummy, and yes, quick.

I used my go to King Arthur Measure for Measure flour in this recipe.  It really is amazing, and no, I don’t work for them.  I just love it.

Check the amount of liquid in the recipe you are converting

If the liquid to dry ingredient ratio is low, you might want to avoid converting the recipe.  You could try adding an additional egg, but that won’t always work.  Here’s a handy chart to help you out.

Not all flours can be substituted cup for cup

You can’t just sub a cup of rice flour for a cup of wheat flour.  You’ll need a blend of flours, but that’s where it gets difficult.  Not all recipes for flour blends will work in all recipes. You can sometimes sub a cup for cup commercial blend, but not always.  Every recipe calls for a different blend, and most of us don’t have the pantry space.  I avoid these recipes like the plague.  I usually convert recipes that call for wheat flour.  For more on gluten free flours, click here.

So how can you bake delicious gluten free confections?

Start with an already converted recipe

Start with a recipe that uses a gluten free commercial flour blend or mix.  It will be much easier than buying all kinds of gluten free flours.  The work has already been done for you.

Bettycrocker.com, Kingarthurflour.com and Pamelasproducts.com are good places to start

Rely on commercial mixes and flours

It’s ok to rely on pre-made mixes and flour blends.  You will save yourself time and money in the long run, as well as your sanity.

Make sure recipes are tested.  Read comments

Comments on a recipe are really telling.  If everyone is questioning an ingredient or saying, “not sure what happened”, or “terrible recipe”  run away!  Don’t even go there. Read the entire post if the recipe is on a blog.  If the person doesn’t explain that they made the recipe several times to work out the kinks, look elsewhere.  There are millions of recipes out there.  You will find the right one, I promise.  All of the recipes I post have been tested, unless otherwise noted.   

Taste is subjective

Just like wine, one person might rave about it (usually the poster) and another might say, “this is crap”.   Everyone’s taste is different.  But again, read the comments.  If everyone finds a problem with the recipe, move on.

If you don’t succeed, move on

It’s fine to keep trying to tweak a recipe, but personally, I don’t want to spend the time or money to do so.  If a recipe doesn’t work, I try something else.  If it’s your passion to try to make a recipe work, by all means, go for it!  But don’t feel you failed if you don’t.  It’s not your fault if a recipe fails.   But if you want to try to make it work…..

Ask for help

Write to the author of the recipe or the website where it was posted.  Tell them what went wrong and maybe they can give you some tips to improve it.

I hope by sharing my thoughts and experience I have encouraged you to go out there and bake.  I did, much to my surprise.  Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, but so are chocolate cake cravings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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