It may sound contradictory but to learn how to bake delicious, moist gluten-free foods, you have to understand how gluten works. Don’t worry, we will keep it really simple. Gluten is a protein and it provides structure and strength to baked good’s so they don’t crumble and fall apart. Gluten also creates a network of air pockets in the batter and that is what makes the baked goods so light and fluffy. Gluten also creates elasticity which makes baked goods tender. So if gluten is responsible for baked goods’ structure, strength, lightness, fluffiness and tenderness, what happens in gluten-free baking? How can we compensate for all the things that gluten brings to the party?
Trying to use only one type of gluten-free flour in your recipe will lead to a dry, crumbly texture. You need to use a blend of flours and starches to replicate the flavor, texture and density of gluten flours. You can buy a gluten-free flour blend (such as Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 baking flour) or you can make your own. There are many other pre-made gluten-free, all-purpose flour blends on the market that have done all the work for you. Some use more nutritious flours than others. Read the labels to see which blends use the flours you prefer. We try to find a blend that has more high-protein, whole grain flours and less rice flour. Also, be sure to check whether the blend you buy already has the xanthan gum added to it. Some do and some don’t so read those labels.
If you choose to make your own gluten-free flour blend, there are many flours and starches to choose from. A few examples of gluten-free flour includes: rice flour, sorghum flour, amaranth flour, quinoa four, millet flour, buckwheat flour, teff and bean flours, coconut flour, nut/seed flours, and soy flour. Gluten-free starches include tapioca, potato starch, cornstarch, and arrowroot.
The rule of thumb is a 2:1 ratio of flour to starch. A gluten-free flour blend could be as simple as 1 cup of rice flour for every ½ cup of tapioca starch. However, too much starch can lead to gummy results and not a lot of nutrition, so it is best to use flours of different protein contents, weights and densities.
Gluten-free baking takes practice, patience and a sense of humor but if you keep trying, you’ll soon learn that it’s easy to make moist, light and delicious treats.