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Welcome to your first gluten free cooking and baking lesson! This lesson will educate you on gluten free flour, what to use to replace gluten, and general information about the gluten free diet. You will learn substitutions for gluten and gluten free ingredients, nutritional levels of some ingredients including their protein and carbohydrate levels, and how to develop your own gluten free flour blend.
Get Familiar with Gluten Free Flours & Other Ingredients
To familiarize yourself with gluten free ingredients, please view the flours, starches, gums, and other ingredients listed on the Gluten Free Products page. There you will also learn the symbols for certified gluten free products. If you are gluten intolerant, this will come in handy. When I started my website, I began adding gluten free ingredients by categories and brands on the same page. It got to the point that so many new products were on the market, I just began to review a few here and there. You can find those reviews here.
If you are intolerant to any of the ingredients listed on the above page, please look on the Substitutes page for a replacement. It makes a good read whether you are allergic or intolerant to anything besides gluten. There, I answer one of the most frequently asked questions, “Can I use a gluten-free all-purpose flour instead of the flour and starch listed in the recipe?”
All-Purpose Flour and Self-Rising Cake Flour Blends
Many of the recipes you will make in this course call for Carla’s Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour Blend, which is a homemade recipe. Others may call for the Carla’s Gluten Free “Cake” Flour Blend, which is also homemade. Note, not all cake recipes call for the Cake Flour Blend. The cake flour blend contains a high amount of baking powder and baking soda, which will cause a dome on most cake recipes. The cake flour blend, however, makes perfectly risen muffins, cupcakes, and heavier baked goods like carrot cake. Both of these flour blends call for “superfine” rice flour.
Superfine Rice Flour
Superfine rice flour is a finer, smoother ground rice flour compared to those simply labeled “rice flour”. Superfine rice flour should never be used in yeast-risen dough as a substitute for gluten all-purpose flour. However, when combined with starches and other gluten free flour, you can use a little bit of superfine rice flour. Using just a small amount in yeast-risen baked goods help provide a closer to gluten texture. You just have to be careful not to use too much or it will cause your baked good to be super heavy.
I just use a little superfine rice flour in yeast-risen baked goods along with some regular ground rice flour, sorghum flour, or millet flour, plus 50% or so of a combination of a couple of starches like tapioca flour, cornstarch, and potato starch. When using just superfine rice flour and 50% starch, it results in heavy and gummy bread/dough.
In addition to the ingredients in the all-purpose and cake flour blends, you’ll come across recipes that call for brown rice flour, white rice flour, sorghum flour, and more. Unless these flours state “superfine,” never use superfine ground flour.
Measuring by Cups or Weight
While all of my recipes are listed by measurement, if you wish to use weight measurements, please see the Weight Conversion Chart. There, you can also learn why weight measurements are beneficial. While some gluten free experts will have you replace one gluten free flour with another by their weight alone, I do not. Instead, I prefer to use the protein and fiber content as a guide instead. Protein and fiber are extremely important when substituting one flour for another. A good example of this is coconut flour. Coconut flour cannot replace rice flour in equal weight amounts because coconut flour is an extremely absorbent flour due to its high fiber content.
Gluten creates a stretchy dough. In gluten free baking, a gum is used in place of the missing gluten. Gum not only provides stretchiness to dough but also structure. What I mean by structure is stability. Without gum or a gum substitute, dough would collapse or not even rise. Gum also creates a chewy texture and almost a moistness. Gums contain fiber which absorbs liquid to create its texture.
Xanthan Gum: One gum, which is derived usually from corn, is xanthan. I have found that xanthan gum develops the best dough. For bread recipes, I standardly use 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of flour/starch/meal. For lighter yeast-risen items like rolls or pizza dough, slightly reduce the amount of xanthan gum. The more delicate you desire your baked goods, the less xanthan gum you should use. If you greatly reduce the xanthan gum, you may need to reduce the liquid. Having adjusted the liquid, you will certainly need to reduce the baking time. However, if you just reduce the xanthan gum slightly, you should not reduce the liquid at all. You’ll end up with a softer, more delicate bread, or baked good.
Guar Gum: If you are allergic to corn, feel free to use guar gum. Guar gum is derived from the sugars of guar beans. As an estimate, when replacing xanthan gum with guar gum, use equal amounts. Since ingredients vary per recipe, so does the amount of guar gum needed. Guar gum creates a little less structure than xanthan gum in most cases, but not all. By the time you are done with this course, you’ll know the consistency required for the dough you are making and will be able to judge the amount of any gum required.
Too Much Gum: If you ever have a dough that you know is too stiff or you’ve added too much gum in error. This can be fixed. Just add additional liquid until the dough or batter reaches the desired consistency.
Psyllium Husk Powder: In some people, gums cause the same digestive problems for them as gluten does. My favorite gum substitute is psyllium husk powder. Psyllium husk powder is derived from a plant grown in India. Traditionally, psyllium husk powder along with plenty of water is taken as a stool softener. However, this high fiber powder is perfect as a replacement for xanthan and guar gum in gluten free baking. Because of its high fiber, psyllium husk powder absorbs more liquid than gums. One baker that I know uses psyllium husk powder as a substitute to for gums in all recipes. She adds about two teaspoons of water or liquid per teaspoon of psyllium husk powder used in a recipe. However, sometimes I find that three teaspoons (or one tablespoon) is required. Again, it depends upon the recipe ingredients.
Eggs: Cooked egg whites have an almost bouncy texture. Imagine that texture added to baked goods. It creates an almost moist texture as well as pliable/bendable. In addition to the egg white, egg yolks contain lecithin. Lecithin helps all of the ingredients stay together. Different types of lecithin are added to baked goods to keep them together, just like gums do. Lecithin is known as an emulsifier. Oil and water naturally separate. If you add lecithin, the water and oil mix together and stays mixed for longer periods. So, due to the lack of gluten in gluten free ingredients, lecithin helps the ingredients stay together. So, using whole eggs is a winner as a gum substitute, but not in all recipes. You would need to add way too many eggs to most recipes in order to replace gum. However, you can use only eggs as an emulsifier if you’re willing to give up a little structure. A good example of this is pancakes. I have made gum free pancakes just by doubling up on the eggs. However, the pancakes are quite delicate and tear easily.
Fruit Puree: You could use a combination of pureed fruit such as bananas and applesauce along with additional eggs in a recipe and omit the gum. If you use just a little, you’ll have somewhat of a delicate baked good. If you add a lot of pureed fruit, it can easily weigh the baked good down too much. In this case, you’d need to add additional leavening agents such as baking powder, baking soda, or yeast. Using fruit puree and eggs are a matter of experimentation.
While I am not a nutritionist or medical professional, I do know that the gluten free diet brings about changes to the standard nutritional content of baked goods. Traditional gluten free baked goods contain much more carbohydrates and less protein than their gluten counterparts.
Carbohydrates: In today’s world, we all know that carbohydrates cause us to gain weight. You can view some of the most commonly used flours’ carbohydrate content on the Carbohydrate Database page of the website. Use this database to gain, lose, or maintain weight.
Protein: A way to increase nutrients in gluten free baked goods is to increase protein. Check out the different protein levels in the most commonly used gluten free flours in the article entitled, High Protein Gluten Free Flour.
Many gluten baked goods like commercially made bread are boosted with vitamins and minerals. Not all commercially made gluten-free baked goods are fortified with nutrients. So, be mindful of the possibility of vitamin deficiencies on a gluten free diet. In addition, please do not take additional vitamins just to be on the cautious side. Some vitamins such as A, B6, D, and Iron can be toxic if taken in large doses.1
Always consult a physician or nutritionist before beginning a gluten free diet. You may need to reduce or omit something besides gluten. In the many years that I have been gluten free, I have run into people who are gluten intolerant that also need to avoid dairy and/or oats. Others have various intolerances or food allergies from nightshades to tapioca flour.
Create or mix up a batch of gluten free flour blend based on what you have learned in this lesson. You can use an existing flour blend recipe or create your own. You may wish to add some additional protein to one of the existing blends by replacing some of the superfine rice flour with a flour higher in protein.
Remember, you can just read the lesson, but you’ll get much more out of it by doing the assignment at the bottom of the text. Should you chose to do the assignment, please email me your flour recipe and photo by replying to this email. If you can’t figure out how to do this, please text me the photo along and the recipe to (559) 676-5031. When texting, please include the lesson number and your name. When you complete all of the assignments you will earn a completion certificate.
- Amy Burkhart, M.D., R.D., Four Vitamin Toxicities on a Gluten-Free Diet (Accessed November 12, 2018).
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