Gluten Free Baking

Cooking for a gluten free diet is not too terribly hard, especially if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. There are decent versions of things like pasta, and you can even eat some grains, such as rice. Potatoes are okay, so it’s not like you’re totally giving up all the good starchy carbs you love.

I know I am missing a big one, and honestly that’s where the whole gluten free thing breaks down. Yep, I’m talking about bread, and other delicious and yummy baked goods that rely on wheat flour for their texture, taste and oh so deliciousness.

Now, if you’ve been doing the gluten free thing since before it became a hot topic in the food world, you know that gluten free baked goods have come a long way. In the early days, manufactures simply substituted rice flour for wheat flour and what you had was what you got. Usually that was a brick instead of a loaf of bread, and if you were lucky enough to find some sweets, well, your sweet tooth was probably cured pretty quick.

Things have gotten significantly better and there are even bakeries and home cooks who swear they can make a loaf of gluten free bread or chocolate chip cookies so good that you can’t tell the difference. There are. I’ve tried them, so it’s possible. But what about those that want to bake homemade goodies themselves? Well there are options, and decent ones at that. Any wheat free grain or bean or plant that can be ground into flour has been ground and used as a substitute for wheat flour.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as simply substituting one flour for wheat and thinking you’ll have delectable results, because you probably won’t. Look up recipes for gluten free baked goods and you’ll notice they usually have several different flours and starches as well as a few other ingredients you’ve never heard of. The reason is because while some flours work well for texture (bean flours, for example), they don’t work so well for taste (bean flours have a strong aftertaste). Others, such as rice flour have a neutral taste, but like the aforementioned early gluten free products, pretty much produce a rock like textured product. And there are million flours in between. So how do you get the taste and texture of a wheat product? By mixing blend after blend of flour and baking and baking until you’ve got a good end result. This might sound like a fun experiment for someone who likes to spend time in the kitchen, until you realize that each of these flours costs a small fortune for a teeny tiny amount. After throwing away a few inedible products, you’ll get tired of that pretty quickly.

So some companies have done that for you. There are decent flour blends on the market, and even some mixes that will give you decent results. There are lots of chefs and companies that have created and tested recipes that will work in a home kitchen, including bread recipes even. Be warned though that getting into gluten free baking is like learning a new skill, especially if you’ve baked a lot of conventional bread. The mixing methods are different, the dough is different, even baking is different, so when you first begin, read everything thoroughly and follow the instructions to the tee, even if you think your experience tells you otherwise. Trust me, it will save you a lot of hassle and headache in the end.

The bottom line? You can still enjoy baked goods and desserts that are gluten free. Although sometimes, it may just be better to let someone else do all the work.

Photo by @joefoodie

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