Our Real Food Fridays highlight healthy eating the natural way. But for some people even healthy foods can have an adverse effect on mood and the gastrointestinal system. This is the case for people who have Celiac disease. People with Celiac have gluten sensitivity. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
As you can imagine, gluten sensitivity can limit your food options and make it more difficult to get the complex carbohydrates your body needs. The good news is there are now gluten-free flours that can be used to bake virtually any traditional dish.
If you want to try out a few gluten-free recipes, use these tips to whip up baked goods, breads, pastas and more.
- Look for Pre-Mixed Gluten-Free Flours
Gluten-free recipes often require that different flours and starches be mixed together to get the right texture and flavor. Companies like Bob’s Red Mill make all-purpose gluten free flours that are already pre-mixed. This making gluten-free cooking much simpler and you’ll have more space in your pantry and fridge.
- Keep the Prep Area Clean
It’s important that gluten-free ingredients don’t become cross-contaminated. The prep area should be cleaned thoroughly and you should always wash your hands to prevent accidental contamination.
- Try Cooking at Lower Temperatures
If you want to get a good brown to your baked goods you may want to lower the temperature of your oven. Some gluten-free bakers have noted that lowering the temperature by 25 degrees and cooking for a little longer helps.
- Understand That the Dough Will Look Different
Gluten free dough isn’t going to look like regular dough. The consistency is closer to pancake batter. This can fool some people into thinking they need to add more flour, which will make the food too dense.
- You May Need to Add Gums to Improve the Structural Integrity
By gum, we don’t mean the type you chew. Gluten is the component that helps flour-based foods hold their shape and gives baked foods their volume. Xanthan gum and guar gum are often added to gluten-free recipes to take the place of gluten and improve the structural integrity of the final product.
However, you have to be careful when you’re adding xanthan or guar gum. Too much of either will make the consistency too sticky. You can also find gluten free flours that already have gums mixed in.
- Use an Electric Mixer
Blending gluten-free mixtures by hand can be difficult. Using an electric mixer makes it much easier to get a smooth consistency that’s free of lumps.
- Add More Leavening Agents
Leavening agents are the substances that cause dough to rise and fluff up. The two most common leavening agents are baking powder and baking soda. In order to make gluten-free dough rise like normal you’ll need to increase the leavening agents by about 25% compared to standard recipes. Just make sure your baking powder is gluten-free.
- Cook Mini Versions
As you may have already gathered from the tips above, foods made with gluten-free flours can crumble easier than those made with standard flour. One way to work around this is to keep the portion size small. For instance, you can make mini muffins or mini cupcakes that are more likely to stick together and not fall apart.
- Understand that Gluten-Free Cooking isn’t as Easy
Any gluten-free baker will tell you that mistakes happen a lot. Gluten-free ingredients don’t have the same physical makeup and characteristics of standard ingredients. After years of cooking with gluten, there’s a serious learning curve when you go gluten-free.
- Add Extra Flavoring
Gluten-free flours have a unique flavor that can overpower other ingredients. You may need to add extra vanilla extract, spices and other flavoring agents to make a recipe taste right.
- Store Your Gluten-Free Flour in the Freezer
Gluten-free flour has a shorter shelf life compared to flours with gluten. Keeping gluten-free flours in the freezer can extend their life. Just remember to sit the gluten-free flour out so it can reach room temperature before baking.
- Add Extra Moisture
Gluten-free baked goods tend to be on the dry side. You may need to include ingredients that add more moisture. Options include yogurt, sour cream, pureed fruit, brown sugar, extra egg, extra oil and honey.