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Monday, September 20, 2010

Substituting Gluten-Free Flour for Wheat Flour in Baked Goods

Gluten gives important properties to regular dough, so if you simply eliminate it without compensating for it in some way, you'll have disappointing results. Here are tips for successful baking with gluten-free flours. Chef Richard Coppedge, professor in Baking and Pastry Arts at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, was gracious enough to review these with me.

1. Buy or make a gluten-free flour mix. 
If you just need to coat something in flour before you saute it, you can get away with a single-grain gluten-free flour. But for baking, gluten-free flours work better when used in combination. (For thickening sauces and gravies, use cornstarch or potato starch rather than gluten-free flour.) Start with a gluten-free flour mix that can be substituted one-for-one for wheat flour in recipes. Many commercial ones are available, or you can buy the individual flours (you might need to order them by mail) and make your own mix. (Note: If you have a favorite gluten-free flour blend, please scroll down to the bottom of this page and share your opinion.)
2. Bake breads and rolls in containers with walls. 
Without gluten, bread loafs and rolls don't hold their shape. Bake bread in loaf pans or Bundt pans, and use muffin tins for rolls.
3. Add gums to your gluten-free flour. 
The sticky effect created by gluten can be simulated to a certain extent by adding gums, for instance, guar gum or xantham gum. These gums are only added to recipes in small amounts (such as 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour) and are already included in some of the commercial gluten-free flour mixes.
4. Add some protein when you use gluten-free flour. 
Chef Coppedge explains that because gluten is a protein, it can help to add some protein to baking recipes when you're substituting gluten-free flours for wheat flour. For instance, he suggests, try replacing half a cup of water in your recipe with egg or liquid egg whites.
5. Read gluten-free cookbooks and blogs for new ideas. 
Many great gluten-free cookbooks are available. Four classic ones with lots of recipes for baked goods are:
               The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well Without Wheat, by Bette Hagman
               The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread, by Bette Hagman
               Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Dessert Cookbook, by Connie Sarros

 6. Try some old favorites. 
Don't be afraid to experiment with your favorite old recipes. (If you have trouble, try asking for help in our forum.)
7. Remember to protect against cross-contamination with gluten. For example, don’t prepare gluten-free foods on the same surface used to prepare foods with gluten unless it's been thoroughly cleaned. Make sure your utensils have been thoroughly cleaned after preparing gluten-containing foods. Even better, have separate sets of utensils for gluten-free food preparation. Always use different sifters for gluten-free and regular flours. For more information, see our article on how to avoid cross-contamination.
8. Store gluten-free flour in the refrigerator or freezer. 
This advice is particularly important if you buy your flours in bulk. If you store your flours in the freezer, let them come to room temperature before you use them.

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