Monday, February 3, 2014
Gluten Free Baking Tips
I recently was interviewed for an article about cooking/baking when you have food allergies. At the end of the interview, I was asked to write down tips specific to allergy free baking. I quickly rambled off about five for gluten free baking because that is all the article had room for. Over the last couple of days, I began to write down more tips as I thought of them. Here is the list so far (for gluten free). If you have something to add, please feel free to share.
* Be exact when measuring gluten free flours. Even a little extra can make the recipe not bake correctly.
* Be mindful of recipes that require both butter and salt. If the recipe calls for unsalted butter and salt and all you have is salted butter, you must reduce the salt. Too much salt can ruin a baked real quick.
* Recipes calling for pureed fruit (bananas, pumpkin, sweet potato, applesauce, etc.), yogurt, sour cream and honey will ensure a delicious, moist baked good.
* Using brown sugar instead of refined white sugar helps elevate the flavor profile of a recipe.
* Add more vanilla...the real kind NOT imitation. Use a tablespoon when the recipe calls for a teaspoon.
* Adding chopped nuts, dried fruits, shredded coconut and chocolate chips will add texture and flavor to a recipe.
* Make sure if recipe calls for eggs that they are at room temperature, and if you are using yeast, it needs a warm environment to work.
* Get an oven thermometer. Some of you will be surprised how "off" your oven is. I recently discovered (during baking items for a photo shoot) that my oven was 25 degrees lower than the digital read out said. Gluten free generally takes longer to bake anyway so I was wondering why everything I was baking was taking FOREVER to be done.
* For cookies...chill dough and use parchment paper. Trust me on this. Seems so simple but it makes a huge difference. Gluten free dough tends to spread out super quick and then bake funky. Both of these tips will help tremendously.
* As I mentioned above, it will take longer for your gluten free item to bake. You must keep an eye on your oven. Your baked good may look nicely brown on the edges but still a smidge jiggly in the middle. Either turn oven down by 25 degrees or put aluminum foil around the edges. The center should be firm. If you are fearful of over baking something, then take it out when edges are brown and middle is not all the way firm. It will still bake for a minute or two longer while still in the pan. Taking out a baked good too early may cause your item to be gooey in the center. I can't tell you how many times I have put the gooey middle of something in the toaster oven for a few minutes...still tastes delicious!
* Take baked goods that are baked in pans out ASAP. Place cupcakes, muffins, cakes and loaves of bread on a cooking rack sooner rather than later or they can get soggy.
* Speaking of loaves of bread...use smaller loaf pans and you will find higher rise (for breads recipes using yeast) and a tastier, crispier crust.
* Some gluten free flour blends contain ingredients (whole grains, legumes and nut flours) that are higher in fat content and can spoil more easily than regular flours. Make sure you check the "use by" dates and keep flour in the freezer if possible.
* THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP...You probably have been baking a certain way your whole life (using wheat flour) and you suddenly find yourself having to figure out how to bake gluten free either for you or someone you love. Is the baking process going to be the same? NOT EVEN CLOSE. Trust me though when I say that "practice makes perfect" when it comes to any kind of baking and this is especially true with gluten free recipes. Give up your crazy expectations that you will bake gluten free goodies perfectly the first time. You're going to have some complete bombs. I recently tried to make mini dinner type rolls for hamburger sliders and the results were less than stellar (imagine round dough balls of gluten free jaw breakers). When you do master a recipe, the feeling of accomplishment is truly awesome. Don't give up. Like any talent, gluten free baking takes time to master.