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Gluten-Free Basics & Beyond

All About Gluten-Free Baking:

Keys to Successful GF Baking

Keys to Successful Gluten-Free Baking

Gluten-free cooking is about more than using different ingredients. It involves new techniques as well.

Traditional baking is an exact science with time-honored techniques. When it comes to gluten-free baking, however, many new factors come into play and often key tenets of standard baking no longer apply. Here are some gluten-free cooking facts that you should know in order to turn out baked goods that look and taste great.

Gluten-Free Flours Require Special Measuring Techniques

Most home bakers use the dip-and-sweep method when measuring flour, but this doesn’t work well with gluten-free flours and starches. These flours and starches are finer than wheat flours, making them hard to pack evenly and consistently into a measuring cup. Also, they’re often sold in small bags or boxes, so it’s hard to maneuver a measuring cup inside the package without creating a mess or unevenly packing the cup. The simple solution is to just use a scale and weigh the flours instead of relying on wavering volume measurements. We strongly recommend that you use a scale when baking gluten-free recipes. If you insist on using measuring cups, we found the following method delivers the most uniform results.

  • 1. Place sheet of paper towel on counter and set measuring cup in center.

  • 2. Spoon flour into cup, occasionally shaking cup to settle flour, until flour is mounded over rim. Do not tap cup or pack flour.

  • 3. Using flat edge (like back of butter knife), scrape away excess flour to level.

  • 4. Use paper towel to help funnel excess flour back into bag/container.

Most Reliable Measuring

Equipment Review Digital Scales

No matter what you’re cooking or baking, weighing the ingredients helps guarantee perfect results. But only if your scale is accurate and easy to use.

 

Mixing Batters Longer Provides Structure

While traditional recipes often warn against overmixing to avoid building up excess structure in delicate batters (such as muffins and cakes) so that they don’t turn rubbery, we found the opposite to be true of gluten-free batters. In fact, we often find ourselves trying to get the batters to have more structure so that they have a better rise and a nicer chew, and can support stir-ins, such as blueberries. The Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins below show the difference between an undermixed batter and a well-mixed batter in terms of both overall height and the ability to support berries evenly throughout the muffin.

  • MUFFIN MADE USING TRADITIONAL MIXING METHOD

  • MUFFIN MADE USING LONGER MIXING METHOD

Anytime Muffins

Recipe Gluten-Free Corn Muffins

By using almost equal parts cornmeal and flour blend, we were able to create a moister crumb with a more powerful corn flavor.

 

Resting Batters and Doughs Has Multiple Benefits

You may notice a sandy texture in quick-cooking gluten-free baked goods that you don’t notice in those with longer baking times. We tested lots of theories on how to get rid of this grit (grinding the flours further in a food processor, soaking them in water, heating them up before making the batter), but nothing worked well. Then, almost by accident, we found that letting batters sit, covered, for 30 minutes before baking made all the difference. It simply gave the flours and starches time to absorb the liquid and soften before baking. It also helped batters become thicker and doughs to firm up so that they were less sticky. Just look at the dramatic difference this made in our recipe for Whole-Grain Pancakes.

  • PANCAKES MADE WITHOUT RESTED BATTER

  • PANCAKES MADE WITH RESTED BATTER

Not Your Average Pancakes

Recipe Gluten-Free Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

These gluten-free pancakes stand apart from the classic versions with their light and creamy interior that is almost soufflé-like, and a subtle milky flavor.

 

Visual Cues are Not Reliable; Use an Oven Thermometer and a Timer

Knowing when a cake or bread is perfectly done and ready to come out of the oven can be tricky. This is especially true with gluten-free baking because traditional techniques (like a clean toothpick or pressing on the top of a cake) aren’t always accurate indicators. Even when fully cooked, gluten-free baked goods often look underdone, are slightly wet inside, and feel soft to the touch. Only when they cool do the starches set and firm up. That’s why we often find that timing is a more foolproof way that visual cues to determine doneness. And remember: Baking times are only as accurate as your oven. If your oven runs hot or cold, a recipe’s times will not be accurate, so be sure to use a good oven thermometer.

  • 1. A timer is often the best way to tell when your gluten-free baked goods are done because visual cues can be misleading.

  • 2. A well-calibrated oven is crucial for gluten-free baking. Use a good oven thermometer and place it as close to the center of the oven as possible.

It's About Time

Equipment Review Kitchen Timers

Timing is everything—don’t use just anything.

 

Equipment Review Oven Thermometers

An oven thermometer is the only reliable way to know what’s happening inside your oven—unless you have a model that’s inaccurate or hard to read.

 

Bake, Then Bake Some More

Gluten-free baked goods often benefit from extra liquid to hydrate the flour blends, eliminate grittiness, and achieve a less dense or dry texture. However, it’s very important to drive off this extra moisture during baking, or you’ll wind up with a gummy texture. The best way to do this? Longer baking times. Some of our gluten-free recipes even instruct you to bake beyond the time that a toothpick inserted into the baked good comes out clean. We found that whole-grain coffee cake, below, is such a recipe; if you pull this cake out of the oven too soon, it will have a very mushy texture.

  • COFFEE CAKE BAKED UNTIL TOOTHPICK COMES OUT CLEAN

  • COFFEE CAKE BAKED 20 MINUTES PAST POINT THAT TOOTHPICK COMES OUT CLEAN

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