Gluten-Free Baking Tips

 Baking with Gluten-Free Flours can be tough. These 9 Gluten Free Baking Tips make it easier for your gluten-free baking to turn out right!

Whether you have celiac disease, or are off gluten for other health reasons, you’ve likely figured out that baking with gluten-free flours can be a bit of a challenge.

From figuring out what flours to use, to wondering about gums, leavening and starches, gluten-free baking does require some know-how.

Today I’m sharing some of the most helpful tips I’ve found for baking gluten-free.

My family went gluten-free about 5 years ago when my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Asperger’s is a form of autism and there’s a lot of evidence that a gluten and casein-free diet can help and even heal those with autism.

We didn’t notice an immediate healing, but we did notice improvement in our son’s symptoms upon removing gluten from his diet.  (He had been casein-free since infancy due to a life-threatening allergy to dairy.)

Going gluten free was a big deal for me.

I was a whole grain baking “maven”, with a whole wheat bread in my repertoire that a baker’s daughter told me I could easily sell.

We loved it.  And loved wheat, kamut, and spelt.  A lot.

But you can still make tasty whole grain gluten-free treats for yourself and your family.

These tips can help you do that with a little more ease.

gluten free cookies

Gluten Free Baking Tips 

1.  Increase Leavening Agents

When adapting a recipe to make it gluten free, increase the amount of baking powder and baking soda by 25%.  (The quick way to do that on your calculator is to take the amount called for and multiply it by 1.25.)

2.  Smaller is better! 

Since gluten-free baked goods tend to crumble easily, making all baked good smaller tends to improve their quality and keep them “sticking together” more.   Think mini cookies, mini muffins, and small loaves of bread.

3.  Blend Different Flours Together

Just as with alternative sweeteners, it is best to use more than one flour when making gluten-free baked goods.  It helps prevent just one flavor or texture from dominating the final product and also helps with texture.  I tend to use about 1/2 sweet brown rice and then make up the rest with whatever flours I have on hand (typically that’s buckwheat, brown rice, amaranth, and millet.)

4.  Add Starch to the Mix

This is one tip I share with hesitancy.  I personally almost never use starches in my baking since we deal with digestive issues (including dysbiosis, which is just too much bad bacteria and not enough good.)

Anyway, most gluten free baking “connoisseurs” recommending using a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of starch to whole grain when baking to give the baked goods a fluffy texture reminiscent of baking with all purpose flour.

For me, our intestinal health is more important than having the perfect baked good around so I prefer to bake only using whole grains.

The only exception is when I am baking cupcakes or cakes, particularly when making them for others and the “sagging in the middle” thing is a concern.  Then I will go “light” on the starch and maybe use a 1:3 ratio of whole grain to starch.

5.  Some Sticky Help

Gluten is the part of wheat that gives it its “stickiness”.  So when you bake gluten free, by definition, you are going to have a “less sticky” final result.

There are some things you can do to make up for some of that, however.

Use sweet rice (glutinous) flour  as part of your baking mix.

I use brown sweet rice flour for about half of my gluten-free baking mix, with the rest being a mix of whatever I have on hand.  Sweet rice is called glutinous rice (it’s the kind used in Japan) and it doesn’t have gluten but is a little “sticky.”

There’s been quite a bit of information in the news recently about arsenic in brown rice.  For now, we’re not switching off rice or to white rice (because of digestive concerns.)  We are also buying California rice, which is less of a concern than rice from the southern part of the U.S.  I plan to write more about this in the future, but for now, you can check out this link.

-  Add gums, gelatin or agar-agar to your dough.

I tend not to use the gums as they can cause digestive upset.  There’s even a new study apparently linking infant deaths to xanthan gum.  I haven’t looked into this enough yet to know what I think.

However, I really like using gelatin for its health qualities, and I recommend Great Lakes Brand.

Here is a general usage guide for these ingredients:

  • Breads and pizza doughs: Add 1 tsp of gum, gelatin, or agar per cup of GF flour used
  • Cakes, muffins, quick breads, cookies and bars: Add 1/2 teaspoon gum, gelatin, or agar per cup of gluten-free flour used (source)

6.  Gluten-Free Flour List

Safe whole grains for gluten-free baking include brown rice flour, sorghum flour, millet, amaranth, and teff (a fairly high-protein grain).  The grain-seeds, buckwheat and quinoa, have a higher protein value.

White rice flour is safe but I prefer not to use it due to our being a whole grain family.

Bean Flours can be used, but I highly recommend using de-gassed beans and then dehydrating and grinding your own–or you might not be (ahem) happy with the results.

Oat flour can be used, but there are a lot of cautions regarding oats.  Some gluten-free folks can’t tolerate oats.  Others are fine with gluten-free varieties like Bob’s Red Mill.  The oats from our co-op were testing at “gluten-free” levels for years despite their not being certified.

For an extensive list of gluten free flours and their characteristics, check out this post at Whole Intentions.

7.  Don’t waste your “mistakes”

There is a use for botched kitchen experiments.

You can use savory baked good mistakes for breadcrumbs (just put in a food processor, run it for a bit and store the crumbs in the freezer), and sweet baked mistakes can be crumble toppings.  Both can be used for cereals.  Just top with milk or Homemade Coconut Milk or Almond Milk and enjoy!

8.  Lower Baking Temperature
I haven’t used this tip much, but perhaps I should.  A reader shared that GF baked goods tend to brown more easily so lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees is a good idea.

9.  Put Perfectionism to Rest

I gave up trying to be the perfect gluten-free baker a long time ago.  Well, I still feel bad sometimes about my failings, but for the most part I’ve accepted that I am aiming for health–not perfect replication of fake-food goodies.

Case in point:

The other day, I made gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.  Not sure what went wrong with these.  They were kind of gritty (I’m now wondering if my Blendtec didn’t really get the flour so fine after all :-(.) and they fell completely apart after baking.

The ones I let cool longer in the pan held together better, but still–we’re talking crumb city.

Anyway, I’d made them for a charity dinner function we were going to so the “men” in my family ate them up regardless of the fact that they were crumbs (I was a little embarrassed as they ate crumbs at our table.  It was a casual event–but still :-).)

The Homemade “Almond Joy” Bars I made the next day are disappearing faster than the “crumble cookies” but they’ll be eaten at some point.

They weren’t the greatest, but that’s OK ;-).

Ready to use your new Gluten-Free Baking Techniques to make some Gluten-Free Goodies?  How about trying:

Recipes Featured in the Top Photo:

- Easy Drop Biscuits
- Chocolate Chip “Cheesecake”-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes
- Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
- Soft Pumpkin Cookies

 

Other Great Gluten-Free Recipes:

 

- Buckwheat Wraps / Pancakes
-  Baked Oatmeal Cake (Two Ways)
- Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts
- Focaccia Flax Bread 

Do you have any gluten free baking tips to share?

This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclaimer.
Shared at Real Food Forager, Rattlebridge Farm, The Shabby Nest, Cybele Pascal, and Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.

Comments

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  1. Can you offer specific recipes and ways to use the Great Lakes Gelatin? I am very new to it.

    Thanks, again, for the BlendTec giveaway. I already entered! It’s God’s will!

  2. Adrienne,

    when you were talking about starch, you said you use 1:3 ratio. Is 1 in your example starch or grains?
    Another question is about gelatin. I am a vegetarian. Is the gelatin you suggested animal parts free? Thank you!!!

    • The one is the grain. I will go back and make sure that the wording is clear – thanks! If you are a strict vegetarian then you should use the gums or the agar. :). I don’t know what you mean by animal parts – the gelatin I mentioned is made from bones.

      • Thank you! yes, I meant bones :) I don’t want that, but I thought there would be a gelatin without it. Thank you for the advice, regarding the gums and agar.

    • Oops – I think I typed too fast. I wrote 1:1 starch to grain so the first # is the starch and the 2nd is the grain. :).

  3. Number one was fascinating to me, as I often find the opposite. I suppose it depends on how heavy the flours are that you are using, if using eggs, etc.

    For this one: “Cakes, muffins, quick breads, cookies and bars: Add 1/2 teaspoon per cup of gluten-free flour used” – is that gelatin? I hadn’t heard of using gelatin in delicate baked goods. Does it work well?

    • Interesting, Alisa. I read that eons ago and never looked back. Is that from your experience or from a resource. You can use any of the gums or gelatin that way. I do recall reading that the xanthan and guar are not substitutable 1:1 but in putting together the post I found otherwise so I guess the sources conflict sometimes. I’ll go back and make that more clear. I have used gelatin in cookies and cupcakes but again, I am not a real purist about these things. And a “delicate baked good” likely means different things to different folks. I don’t make too many ultra delicate things since for now I am avoiding the starches but I am doing a little research into arrowroot to see if I feel differently about that one :).

      • It is from my own experiences. If the flours are heavier (like say chickpea, but not necessarily buckwheat) then perhaps a little more leavener, but for the most part I find they work best with the same amount or less, particularly in more delicate baked goods. I tend to use the minimum amount of “binder” required though. I don’t like the flavor or texture with many recipes that use a high level of gf binder.

        I’m more of a hearty girl myself, but do sometimes use starch with brown rice flour to make “husband-friendly” goodies. He likes “white flour” treats once in a while. I guess by delicate I meant cookies, muffins, etc. – I’d only used gelatin in pizza crust thus far (really adds a nice chew!). Good to know – thank you!

        • I’ll have to try the baking soda and powder the other way around then–and see what happens. Thanks! I love the delicate stuff but I am being pretty hard line on it for my family. Too many health issues that are related to the gut.

  4. Hi Adrienne,

    Thank you for the tips. I was a whole grain girl, grinding everything in my Nutrimill for many years and loved baking. Now, even after researching, I am finding it a challenge with the gluten free baking because I am finding it counter intuitive, and also conflicting thought of what is needed to bake. Many of my attempts for sweets have actually been inedible such as the cake that was gluey even after baking for 80 minutes. I went to gluten free goddess’ website and found out I created the perfect storm.:) We’ve laughed about that, but I still have not had much success. I’m not giving up, and will print this off and give it a good try.

    Joanne

    • What was your perfect storm? Very curious! :).

      • I had a batter that had too much liquid, and my oven was too low. To me the batter seemed quite thick, and I was using honey and adjusted 25 degrees lower to what would normally be a good temperature using whole wheat pastry flour using honey. Originally, the cake appeared to be rising and just would not bake properly based on the amount of liquid and the temperature.

        I will try again, and I am considering make cakes using ground nuts more. Even before we had to go gluten free, I have had good success using ground nuts.

  5. Thank you for the baking tips.

    We have gone wheat free and I am constantly looking for baking recipes that include no wheat but don’t want all the GF grains. We found out that if we stay away from grains in baked goods, my DH blood sugar stays normal. We still eat rice and potatoes but not in baked goods just as side dishes. I think because they are refined they spike his blood sugar when in baked goods.

    I got a couple of wheat free recipes that I have modified from other bloggers that work really well for us. One is brownie bites and the other is sweet pumpkin waffles that we use as bread in sandwiches too. :)

  6. Kim Walters says:

    Our older son with Asperger’s has been gluten free for over 15 years, and the rest of our family, including a second teen son more severely affected by autism, has been on board the GF train for several years, as well. I was the Reigning Queen of Awesome Organic Wheat Bread at one point, so I do understand where you’re coming from :). When converting to GF, I initially tried to replicate family favorites — such as pizza, muffins, tacos, pasta — with varying degrees of success. Muffins were easiest as I’d already been experimenting with GF flours for a friend who couldn’t eat wheat. Currently I make some pretty wonderful GF pizza, muffins, cookies and so on though for some reason GF bread seems intimidating. I grind our own GF grains; the favorite right now is a combo of rice/millet/milo sorghum in roughly equal amounts. I’ve been grinding tapioca separately and using it sparingly with the GF combo flour when it seems necessary for the aforementioned lightness factor. GF is second nature to us now but not so in 1997 when we would buy expensive GF crackers…….and the BOX itself was tastier than the crackers inside it! Here’s my tip: GF baked goods tend to brown faster so lower the oven temp about 25 degrees to avoid burning.

  7. I love your posts Adrienne, you are such a blessing to us all. I’ve also struggled to replicate my old favorite textures and flavors in my new gluten free baked goods, but I feel like I’m getting closer and it’s so fun when it works! I really want to stop using xanthan gum too and have tried substituting it with psyllium husks and flax seed with good and bad results. I’m excited to try my new biscuits with the gelatin tip and we’ll see if they keep their rise and hold together. Thanks and hugs! Ali

  8. Wow, we are still on the same research-train! I’ve been devouring GF blogs for the past few weeks since my 21yod diagnosed herself gluten-intolerant. I had at the same time discovered the Wheat Belly Blog and learned that our wheat has been adulterated and is causing no end of health issues (like stomach pains, which I’ve been having for years). So we both went wheat free and are feeling so much better!

    May I list a couple of the resources I found? Angie Halten at GlutenFreeClub.com has a membership site full of articles and recipes. Mary Frances has “finally awesome GF sandwich bread” at GlutenFreeCookingSchool.com. Shauna James Ahern has wonderful testimonials and all kinds of “alternative” GF info at GlutenFreeGirl.com. I just found and am loving her site! A couple things she taught me: 1) you don’t HAVE to use the gums; you can use psyllium, chia, or flaxseed slurry instead; 2) you can mix/match any whole grain flours and starches you have or can make in any combo you like as long as you use 70% whole grains and 30% starch and you WEIGH the ingredients. There’s a list of the grains and info about them on her site.

    I’m updating my own website and should have the refreshed version online sometime next week (of course, I keep saying that…). YOUR site and these GF sites are going to be listed on there, so this post is right on time (’cause I’m adding a GF section in the Health=Wealth links page).

    Blessings,

  9. I’m a gluten free beginner baker. These tips are super helpful as I start to convert some of our favorites. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

  10. I have a similar article that I wrote for The Diabetes Experience online mag! We hit a lot of the same points, but I will give one of my own tips…gluten is a protein so adding in some extra protein like whey or hemp can help make the baked good rise and retain its structure. Try it sometime, it really helps me! :)

  11. Love the tipsmy family and I have switched to gluten free because of my sensitivity. I have been useing organic buckwheat and spelt. I haven’t had any problems digesting either one of these. I can’t use rice flour or anyother type of whole wheat. Spelt takes longer to rize than other flours when making bread, but it is worth it. I use the both for pancakes, waffles sweets. we only eat homemade spelt pizza now too.

  12. My family and I are able to eat gluten, but I am trying to reduce the amount of gluten we eat. Your tips are really helpful, especially for someone who is just starting to explore gluten free baking.

  13. Hi Adrienne. Thanks for all the baking tips! I occasionally bake gluten free goods for a friend and found that I have had trouble with crumbly baked goods in the past too. I haven’t been able to master it. I will try to make smaller batches as you suggested. Do you think adding more oil/fat to the recipe would help?

  14. Blanca Iris says:

    Yes Adrienne, I am aware of that. Spelt is an acient grain, it is what wheat is derived from . Wheat as we know it today is the first GMO food. spelt contains all of the protiens and nutrients needed for the body to Naturally process gluten without any problems. Wheat was introduced to solve the problem expense of growing and processing. Spelt like corn has a protective covering, wheat does not, and it is what makes all the diference in digestion. You should check out, for all the scientific information.www.naturhttp://www.natureslegacyforlife.com/faqs/what-is-spelt/

  15. Good suggestions.

  16. I grind my own flours when I can (I buy sorghum flour), and find that it grinds up so fine, I don’t need starches in my baking mix. My personal blend, which nearly always works in a 1:1 ratio for white flour in quick-raised goodies (not yeast-raised), is 2 parts brown rice flour, 1 part sorghum flour, and 1 part quinoa or millet or other flour, depending on the taste you want. 1 use 1 teas. xanthan gum per 2 cups of flour, but I’m sure that could be tinkered with if xanthan is an issue for someone. I don’t know if it’s my grinder (a Whispermill) or just the fact that I don’t expect Wonder-bread consistency, but this blend really works for me. Non-GF people rave about how soft my cookies are and how “you could never tell these are gluten-free!”

    Another idea for goodies that turn out gummy; slice thin and toast on a dry fry pan. Even the crumbles can be toasted. They’ll be less gummy that way, and being in a pan it won’t matter how much they fall apart.

  17. Marie Jensen says:

    I just wanted to add some information regarding GF flours and starches that I have seen in my own baking but haven’t seen anything noted online.

    I used a flour blend that included potato flour and potato starch from a very nice professional-looking website. I didn’t have very good luck with any of the recipes that had beautiful pictures. Any time I have used this blend, the mixture turns to a mushy glue. Anyone who has boiled potatoes and turned them off and let them cool too much knows what I am talking about, mashed potato glue. And no amount of liquid with fix it.

    If you use potato flour and potato starch in your GF flour blend, make sure all liquids/oils are room temperature or warmer. This includes milk, water, eggs, margarine, butter, oil. Myself, I’m going back to my flour blends I used previously that didn’t have any potato in them at all. I had a lot better luck with everything I made.
    Thanks for your time.

  18. I wish to make gluten free cookies & bread with a blend of Sorghum, White rice, Finger Millet, Soy, Corn Starch & Chickpea flours as these are very easily available in Indian market. Kindly suggest best ratio of the flours for baking cookies and bread.

    Regards

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