11 Great Gluten-Free Baking Tips
Gluten-free baking can be a challenge, but with a little bit of knowledge, it can be a lot less intimidating. Following are some of the most helpful gluten-free baking tips that I have found that can help you feel more confident in the kitchen, and create all kinds of gluten-free treats to enjoy and share.
Whether you have celiac disease or are off gluten for other health reasons (like sensitivity, an autoimmune disease, or other 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.
Why We Went 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 those with autism.
We didn't notice 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 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 goods smaller tends to improve their quality and keep them "sticking together" more. Think mini cookies, mini muffins, and mini 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.) I really do love using homemade oat flour in almost all of my gluten-free baking, however, due to the lovely flavor and texture it adds.
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 gut dysbiosis, which is just too much bad bacteria and not enough good.)
Anyway, most gluten-free baking "connoisseurs" recommend 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
- Use sweet (glutinous) rice 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."
Side note - there's been information in the news about arsenic in brown rice. If this is of concern to you, you can buy California rice, which is apparently 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
- Add gums (like guar and xanthan), 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 teaspoon of gum, gelatin, or agar-agar per cup of GF flour used
- Cakes, muffins, quick breads, cookies and bars: Add 1/2 teaspoon gum, gelatin, or agar-agar per cup of gluten-free flour used (source)
6. Gluten-Free Flour List
Safe whole grains for gluten-free baking include:
oat flour, (note that the one linked to is certified to be gluten-free as many oat products are not) and
teff flour (a fairly high-protein grain).
quinoa, have a higher protein value.
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.
Please note, 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 we buy were tested at "gluten-free" levels for years despite not being certified.
For an extensive list of gluten-free flours and their characteristics, check out this post at Beyond Celiac.
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 crumbled toppings. Both can be used for cereals. Just top with milk or Homemade Coconut Milk or Homemade 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. Beat Longer
When baking with gluten-free flours, try beating the batter longer as this should add structure to the dough.
10. Let the Dough Sit
After mixing the batter / dough, let it sit covered for 10-30, or even 60 min before baking. 30, of course, is the happy medium.
In fact, one reader stated that she let her batter (that contained bean flour) sit for 3 hours and that it made all the difference in her results.
This is called "blooming" by some, but this technique gives the flours and starches time to absorb the liquid as well as soften before baking. Batters also become thicker and doughs firm up using this technique.
Of course, you would have to add leavening agents after this step as otherwise most will not work in the recipe and your resulting product will end up being flat.
11. Forget Perfection!
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:
Great Gluten-Free Recipes:
- Buckwheat Wraps / Pancakes - super easy!
- Baked Oatmeal Cake - make ahead and delish
- Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts - super healthy
- Focaccia Flax Bread - another easy and delicious, sure to please recipe
- Easy Drop Biscuits - great for meals or snacks
- Chocolate Chip "Cheesecake"-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes
- Pumpkin Snickerdoodles -not just for fall!
- Soft Pumpkin Cookies - great taste without all the sugar (and gluten)
Do you have any gluten free baking tips to share?
When you add starch, what kind do you use?
Typically arrowroot since it has some kind of nutritional benefit - more than many others.
Ummmmm, as a life-long celiac patient, oat flour has glenten in it. Especially if it's manufactured (grown and ground) in North America. Shocking that you would recommend it.
Hi there. I'm glad you commented. I'm pretty up to speed on gluten-free regulations and in fact spoke with grain mills back when we first started our gluten-free journey. Things have changed since then some but I'm well aware of milling cross contamination, etc. If you get GF oat flour you are fine and as you can see in my post on oat flour you can get truly GF oats and make your own GF oat flour too. Hope that helps. I've just put a link to a truly GF oat flour in that list in the post so you helped me make the post better - thanks for bringing this up, but would have been nice if you were a little more kind about it.
Maybe if you weren't aware of that company now you can actually have oats--hope that is a treat for you :).
I make an gluten-free amazing pound cake, but it overflow’s the Bundt pan every time. A friend makes the exact same cake but with wheat flour and it does not over flow.
It calls for 3 cups of flour, so I put 1 1/2 tsp xantham gum and 2 tbs baking powder for bonding the batter.
What am I doing wrong?
Can you tell me what other leavening agents you have in the cake or is it only the baking powder?
I made the GF sour dough starter, now I am trying to find a recipe to make the sour dough? Any recommendations
Hi there! There are some links to recipes at the bottom of the gluten-free sourdough starter post. Hope that helps!
Responding to: "Adrienne says: February 13, 2022 at 11:31 am, Hi there! There are some links to recipes at the bottom of the gluten-free sourdough starter post. Hope that helps!"
I looked for said links, but did not find them. Could tou please repost them, e.g. in a reply to my message here ? Thanks, Ben
Hi there - I just updated the post with a handy Table of Contents so you should be able to find them easily now :). Hope that helps!
Excellent tips. I would add using a kitchen scale to measure ingredients instead of cups as flours vary from brand to brand and even btch to batch weighing your ingredients ensure you get consist results each time.
Allowing that extra weight time definately helps and temperature of ingredients also important. Also reading up on your ingredients can help. Recognizing which ingredients are acidic and can help activate the leavener such as molasses or honey or where adding a tiny bit of neutral vinegar or lemon juice may help rise.
Also adding extra egg helps structure and bind and whole pysillium husks powder very helpful in structure, binding and elasticity.
I have also read adding proteins like mozzarella, cottage cheese and yogurt can all help with structure and binding. Cream Cheese in small amount can also cover the slight grittyness often found in gf baking.
I would also note that undertanding your flours especially which ones are high in fat and protein and which ones may need more moisture than oters for example cocunut flour, can greatly help in adjusting your recipes and making much more enjoyable results.
Thank you for this post! I am so excited to try your tips and make some GF/DF coffee cake today ??
You are so welcome! I hope it goes well! Have you seen this recipe? It's amazing :). https://wholenewmom.com/low-carb-coffee-cake/
I just experimented my style of banana cake with no milk or butter or oil but the rest of the ingredients sit in the fridge for 3hrs. I think it worked, it was less gritty flour taste...is waiting for it to be cooked. I read the ingredients of the gluten free flour and I read there was several beans flour. It hit me then ...beans need to be soaked for them to soften up. I then decided to make this cake and leaving it for 3 hrs.
I tasted it before I put in the fridge and I tasted after I took it out. I made my son try it both ways like me and agreed it was much better.
Now i have to see how it turns out lol.
Oooh great! Can't wait to hear!
Omg it worked!! It is not gritty at all, and it is moist, thanks to the bananas hehe. I need to add some milk next time maybe that will help with the height. It did not rise but it is very delish. So then 3hrs made the difference, if your flour ingredients have beans!
So glad! So your flours had bean flour in it as well? Not sure what you mean about the flours having beans.
In my gluten free flour, I have ingredients of Garbanzo bean flour and Fava Bean flour.
There is it is. Have yourself a great day!
Got it! I'm soooo glad it turned out well for you. I have to admit that I almost always forget to leave the batter / dough sit! I guess I'm in too much of a hurry!
Since beans need to soak to soften, they might have ground dry beans for the flour but still needs soaking .
The mixture will soak up the bean flour if it sits for a while. 3hrs is just trial. You can try to see if shorter or longer hours would benefit. Have fun trying!!
Yes, I have considered that problem re: the unsoaked beans in baking blends like that. Thanks again for the information!
Sorry for the late reply, You are very welcome ^-^I hope you are able to find success with your recipes with this added info. Take care!
Hi again - have you ever made recipes w/ bean flour before this soaking / letting sit trial?