Gluten free baking can be a challenge, so GF Pantry has put together a few tips to try and make life just a little bit easier. There are no definitive rules when adapting to gluten free baking, but hopefully these tips will increase your confidence in the kitchen and encourage you to have a go and try a few things.
- Make sure your ingredients are fresh. Gluten free flours have a shelf life just like normal flours. Buy in smaller quantities and store in the freezer or fridge to keep fresh.
- Measure by weight not cups. Gluten free mixes tend to vary considerably in weight and volume. Weighing ingredients will give you a more reliable finish.
- Start with smaller sizes. Gluten provides structure to cakes and breads. When you remove gluten, your structure changes. Start your gluten free baking adventures with smaller sized cakes and breads. The smaller inner to outer ratio often helps products stick together.
- Blend flours. If you only use one type of flour, it dominates your taste profile and texture. Most commercial gluten free flours are blends for this reason. A great plain or all-purpose flour is 1/2 cup of brown rice flour, 1/2 cup of arrowroot flour, 2/3 cup of potato starch, 1/3 cup of tapioca flour and 1tsp xanthan gum. Of course GF Pantry sell plain or all-purpose flours that have already been mixed. See our Gluten free flour blog to check out all the different types of flour available. If you choose to use nut flours, remember they have a high fat content so you may need to adjust your other fats; and for coconut flour which is highly absorbent, you may wish to adjust your liquid accordingly.
- When converting recipes, increase your quantity of raising agents. Bicarbonate of sodas (or baking sodas) and baking powders need to be increased by 25%. You can also dissolve the agents in a liquid prior to adding to the main mix. This can give a better rise, but remember to account elsewhere for the extra liquid you added.
- Gluten gives baking a sticky texture. To reduce crumble and help keep your cake together, use guar or xanthan gums, gelatine or agar agar. These can be added directly to your mixes. For breads/doughs add a tsp of gum, gelatine or agar agar to each cup of flour. For cakes, muffins and cookies add ½ tsp.
- New bakers might try adding extra vanilla and/or spices to recipes. This can work to cover up the unfamiliar flavours of new flours.
- Extra moisture is also important. Recipes that use pureed fruit, sour cream or yogurt are usually moist, but other ways to add moisture are by swapping white sugar for brown, normal sugar for honey or agave, or by adding an extra egg white. If you use the liquid sugar substitute you may need to reduce other liquids slightly.
- Increase your mixing times. Mixing can add structure to dough. Airy products may need to be gently folded, but hardier doughs can benefit from extra beating. Luckily you can’t over beat most gluten free recipes, because it’s the beating of the gluten that gives a tough texture in traditional baking.
- Follow recipes careful. If it says room temperature, don’t grab your eggs straight from the fridge. It's easier to whip air into room temperature eggs. They also disperse and bind more easily; and even distribution is important for a good texture. If a type of spoon is mentioned, use that. A metal spoon has a sharp edge that cuts your batter whilst a wooden spoon is a dull stick good for stirring. Fold does not mean stir. To fold you need to get down into the mix and bring it up through the center. Proven recipes may include these details and should be followed as closely as possible.
- Don’t expect your batter to be the same consistency as traditional. Gluten free batters need more liquid so are often thinner.
- Lower your oven temperature. Gluten free goods can brown quickly. Lowering the temperature by 25 degrees and cooking just slightly longer can mean a better colour on top. Baking times can also vary based on the type of pan you use. Heavy gauge pans hold heat evenly so are always a great choice. Make sure to use the pan specified for your individual recipe.
- Check your oven temperature. Ovens vary enormously, so get to know your oven or purchase an oven thermometer and adjusting cooking accordingly.
- Always place your pans in the center of a pre-heated oven and then keep an eye on it to monitor colour and texture.
- Transfer to a wire rack as soon as possible after baking to ensure cakes cool properly. A hot cake is more likely to fall apart.
- It’s perfect! Tuck in! Gluten free goods tend to have a much shorter shelf life than traditional baked goods, so eat on the same day or next. Freeze whatever isn’t eaten for a later day.
- If it’s not perfect, don't waste your “mistakes.” Most of the time even if it doesn’t look perfect, it will still taste great, and if you can’t use it in the original way, there is a use for all mistakes. Make savoury mistakes into breadcrumbs, and sweet mistakes into a crumble or fruit topping, or a base for a trifle. Combine sweet mistakes with frozen raspberries for a pudding. There are endless ways to use up those mistakes. Just enjoy the journey. Going from gluten free novice to baker extraordinaire might take time, but it might also be a very tasty trip.
Gluten Free Victoria Sponge
For those of you ready to jump right in, here’s my favourite gluten free sponge recipe. Just make sure you follow it correctly and don’t forget to bang the cake tin!
4 room temperature eggs
1/2 cup of caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup of cornflour
1 tbsp custard powder mix
1tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Preheat oven to 170 degree
Put a metal tablespoon in the freezer.
Line 2 round 20 cm cake tins with baking paper and cornflour.
Beat eggs at maximum speed for 5 minutes.
Continue whipping whilst adding sugar slowly, until thick and glossy (about 10 more minutes) adding vanilla near the end.
Sift all dry ingredients together three times and then gently and slowly fold in with the cold metal spoon one third at a time, ensure you are scraping the bottom of the bowl with the spoon.
Let sit for 2 minutes and then give each pan two quick bangs on the side of the benchtop. Pour into prepared pans from a height.
Cook for 20 - 25 minutes. Cake is ready when it’s a lovely caramel colour and springs back slightly when touched.
Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks.
Spread jam over one sponge whilst cooling, so the jam will soak through a little. When both cakes are completely cool add a layer of whipped cream on top of the jam and sandwich the two cakes together. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.