Gluten Free Cooking & Baking Tips

Wednesday December 16, 2015

Gluten free

When you first start out and even a while after, gluten free cooking and baking can be a bit of a challenge. Follow the tips below and you will be making delicious recipes in no time!

Familiarize yourself with safe and unsafe grains and starches

Being gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to eat rice every day. There are lots of gluten-free grains out there and many people never even try them until they can’t eat gluten any longer. You may already know about quinoa but how about other gluten-free grains such as tapioca, millet, amaranth, fava, teff and buckwheat? Each has its own taste and texture and work well as side dishes, cereals or in baking.

Unsafe Grains - Wheat, spelt, durum, semolina, graham, faro, emmer, einkorn, triticale and kamut in all of their forms including brans, germs, flours, sprouted and fermented wheat

Safe Grains - Amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats*, quinoa, rice flours including brown, white and sweet, sorghum and teff

Safe Gluten Free Bean Flours - Fava bean, garbanzo (chickpea), garfava, pea and soy

Safe Gluten Free Nut Flours - Almond, chestnut, coconut, hazelnut, pecan

Safe Gluten Free Starches - Arrowroot, potato starch, potato flour, tapioca

*Note – the use of oats in gluten free diets is controversial. The Canadian Celiac Association approves the use of moderate amounts of gluten free oats but other organizations do not. It is also difficult to purchase certified gluten free oats in Canada.

Read labels to avoid gluten in processed foods

A whole foods based diet is the way to go but if you are incorporating some processed foods know your stuff and read the label first. Quite often fillers are used to reduce the cost of a product and most often are of the gluten variety. If you don’t know whether and ingredient is gluten free or not don’t purchase it. Better safe than sorry.

Prevent cross contamination in your kitchen

Chances are not everyone in your family will be eating gluten free. If so there are few things you should be cautious about.  Ensure that you are using separate toasters, condiments, knives or any other equipment and ingredients that can cause cross contamination. Also be careful on how gluten free pantry items are stored and ingredients in the fridge are situated. With several people using these areas cross contamination is likely.

Experiment with gluten free package mixes

Gluten free baking can be challenging and more so in the beginning. For some successful first round attempts why not try gluten free package mixes. There is a ton of variety out there including everything from pizza crust, muffin and cake mixes to pancakes and bread. You will be pleasantly surprised at how great they taste.

Make Your Own Bread Crumbs

Commercial gluten-free bread crumbs are available or you can make your own. Put leftover gluten-free bread (whether bought or homemade) in a food processor and store the crumbs in a storage bag in the freezer. Other substitutions for bread crumbs are cornmeal, corn flake crumbs, quinoa flakes and rolled oats that have been certified gluten-free. These all make perfect binders for burgers veggie loaves and vegan meatballs

Bump Up the Flavour

Losing the gluten doesn’t have to mean losing the flavor. Gluten-free grains are more dense so you might want to bump up the flavor with some extra spices and condiments. Keep your pantry stocked with gluten-free versions of tamari, hoisin sauce, Worcestershire sauce, veggie broth and hot sauce. Other toppings that are gluten-free such as hummus, guacamole and salsa add awesome flavor as well.

Read Lots of Gluten-Free Recipes

To be more savvy in the kitchen start reading gluten-free recipes, web sites, blogs and cookbooks. Why not reap the benefits of all the lessons learned by other gluten-free cooks? The more recipes you read, the more you learn the purpose of each ingredient and how to substitute for others. That makes it easier to read any recipe and figure out on your own how to make it gluten-free.

Keep It Simple

Keep it simple by focusing on whole, naturally gluten-free foods. Just because there are gluten-free versions of almost everything out there doesn’t mean you have to buy and eat lots of processed convenience food. Fill your plates with a rainbow of vegetables and fruits. Satisfy your hunger with legumes, nuts and seeds. And don’t forget potatoes – who doesn’t love a veggie-topped baked potato for dinner?

Thickening Stays the Same

In recipes where a tablespoon or two of flour is used as a thickener, you can use a gluten-free flour blend in a one-to-one replacement. This includes most stews and soups.  As with wheat flour, let the gluten-free flour cook for a minute before whisking in the liquid. This will cook out some of the raw, starchy flavor in the flour.

Breading Meats and Other Items

When a recipe calls for breading you don’t have to pass on the pork chops or eggplant parmesan.  Use gluten free bread crumbs and a starch such as corn starch for the flour portion of the bread. The results will be just as delightful.

Consider cornflakes

Cornflakes (as long as they are produced in a gluten-free facility) are another option that can be used in place of bread crumbs for casseroles and other topped meals. Keep in mind however corn flakes tend to be a bit sweeter.

Look Elsewhere for Richness

Have some of your gluten free dishes fallen flat on richness? In most cases you can compensated by adding another rich ingredient, such as cream cheese, sour cream, white chocolate, or even almond flour.

Increase the leavener to lighten the load

Less glutinous protein means bread doughs can’t hold on to air bubbles as well, and the end result can be heavy and dense bread. Gluten-free recipes often benefit from a bit more baking powder, baking soda, or yeast as compared with traditional recipes.

Add a binder for structure and elasticity

A binder (xanthan gum, guar gum, or psyllium) helps in most baked goods. A little goes a long way in producing a much better chewy type texture to breads, cookies, pancakes and cakes.