I’m not much of one to make New Year’s resolutions, but this year, one thing I’m committing to is putting more into the Dessert Daily blog. Not only will it help me capture all that I have learned through trial and error, but I also want to help you avoid all the trial and error that I’ve gone through! So, for my first post of the year I am excited to share a little bit about gluten free flour and how to use it successfully.
I do not personally have an intolerance to gluten, however I do have quite a few people in my life that have Celiac’s disease and truly cannot consume gluten. This initiated my experimentation with gluten free baking. And while I don’t exclusively eat gluten free, I do try and limit it whenever possible and have not missed it at all in my recent baking! Now I can’t say that all of my recipe conversions have been successful, however I now understand a lot more about gluten free baking than I did a year ago, so I have a much better success rate making gluten free substitutions. So let’s get started.
First, the main ingredient to be concerned with in gluten free baking is the flour. Gluten is a composite of proteins found in certain grains, most commonly in wheat. All types of standard all-purpose flours, including cake flours, contain gluten. As flour is generally a key ingredient in most all baking recipes, finding an acceptable gluten free flour substitute is the key to a perfect gluten free baked good . While I am by no means an expert in gluten free baking, all I can do here is share what I have personally learned about it. So, what kind of gluten free flour can you use in baking? Well, the complex answer is it truly depends on the recipe. When I first experimented with making gluten free chocolate chip cookies about a year ago, I initially substituted regular AP flour with a gluten free AP flour that I had on hand from Trader Joe’s (with the addition of xantham gum, a necessity in GF baking). While I had used this gluten free AP flour in making pancakes without any issues, I could not say the same for using it in cookies! I wish I had a photo to share, but the cookies were basically a soupy nightmare. The cookies did not hold their shape at all and looked like a cookie snowman that had melted all over the ground. I was beyond frustrated and couldn’t understand why the gluten free AP flour didn’t substitute as it had in my pancakes. I have since learned that pancakes are much more forgiving in what types of flour are used and generally will come together and taste good whether you substitute with gluten free AP flour, oat flour, coconut flour or even no flour at all! While that’s one thing for pancakes, more complex items like cookies and cakes are another story.
What I have learned is that not all gluten free flour is created equal and it is pretty important to use a gluten free flour blend in your baking. While blends might differ in which flours they use, a good blend will incorporate several different types of flours, such as rice, potato, tapioca, sorghum, etc. Additionally, if xantham gum is not present in the blend, then that is an additional ingredient you’ll need to add for thickening and structure. But I use a blend that includes xantham gum, which I think it easier.
Another key in searching for a flour blend is whether your gluten free flour is a one to one equivalent or not. There are several gluten free flour blends on the market that are cup for cup (1 to 1) so you can easily substitute it for the same amount of flour called for in the original recipe. If you are not using an equivalent flour substitute, you may have to do a little more research and experimenting to determine how much flour to substitute with. But since I’m all for easy, I recommend getting a one for one blend, unless you know a lot about baking with gluten free equivalents. When I first started searching for a gluten free flour blend, I opted to start with Bob’s Red Mill since I was familiar with and liked their product line. I decided to try their gluten free 1 to 1 baking flour and I have never looked back!
I have to say since converting Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 baking flour, I have a really high success rate in just about all recipes where I have substituted it, like my Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Now, obviously I can’t guarantee it will always work in all recipes, but I feel pretty confident in using it for cake, cupcake and cookie recipes. I also do not typically make any additional substitutions in the recipes other than the flour. At least in my initial attempt, I will only make the flour substitution and then depending on how it turns out, you can always make modifications per your preferences. So no need to change the amount of eggs or anything else! Easy peasy. I also will note, that while gluten free baked goods typically have a reputation for being dry, I have not had that experience with the recipes I use!! In fact, the chocolate cake recipe I use it in received rave reviews from many gluten free baked good experts who claim it was the best gluten free cake they’ve ever had!! Now that’s a compliment!
So, what have we learned here? Well, there are many types of gluten free flour available to bake with and it’s important to use the right flour in the right recipes. I see a lot of questions on recipe blogs about whether one can substitute regular flour for almond flour or coconut flour. My answer to that, generally speaking, would be no. Both almond and coconut flour are different in texture and density and would not adequately replace a regular AP flour called for in a baking recipe. My best advice is to use those ingredients whenever a recipe directly calls for them. Certain items, like french macarons, require a fine almond flour, while most cookies and cakes would not do well with almond flour unless potentially combined with other types of flours. So unless you’re interested in experimenting, I suggest sticking to gluten free flour blends to replace AP flour equivalents for the absolute easiest substitution in gluten free baking.
Lastly, when baking gluten free you will need to make sure any other ingredients you use in the recipe are also gluten free. For example, while most baking powder is gluten free, you should always check and opt for brands that state “gluten free” on the label or that you are sure do not contain ingredients with gluten. With so many gluten free options on the market, it’s easy to create fun variations of recipes using gluten free cookies, cereal, sprinkles and more. If you ever have any doubts of whether an item is gluten free, doing a quick Google search will usually solve any mysteries, and of course, always check your labels.
Happy gluten free baking!