by Women's Health Updated 09/2021
There’s no doubt that gluten-free eating can be challenging. Whether you suffer from celiac disease or you’re simply trying to avoid gluten in your diet, giving up gluten can mean giving up a lot of things—most notably, baked goods.
But, don’t fret. If you love to bake, there are many delicious gluten-free options. A wide array of gluten-free flours is taking gluten-free baking to new levels. With a little patience and adjustment, you can find your gluten-free baking groove.
Eliminating gluten is not as simple as eliminating gluten. In other words, gluten actually serves a purpose, so when we eliminate it we need to find a proper substitution. Gluten helps molecules bond and it makes things “doughy.” Furthermore, gluten is a protein. For this reason, if you simply substitute gluten-free flour for regular flour, you’ll likely have disappointing results. Instead, it’s important to compensate for the protein and for the “doughiness.”
If you’re going to substitute gluten-free flour for regular flour, you may need to do one or both of the following:
Add gum: Adding guar gum or xantham gum to your recipe can help simulate the “sticky factor” provided by gluten.
Add protein: Gluten is a protein, so if you eliminate gluten from your baking you may need to add protein. For example, you could use egg whites or milk in place of water.
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Choosing Gluten-Free Flours
There are several gluten-free flours on the market and they all behave a little differently in baking. For cooking, you may be able to use a single flour; however, for baking, gluten-free flours actually work best when used in combination. There are several pre-made gluten-free flour mixes on the market, or you can make your own.
A few of the more common gluten-free baking flours are:
Garbanzo flour: Garbanzo flour is also sometimes referred to as chickpea flour. It has a complex flavor that tastes kind of like beans and it is loaded with protein and fiber. Garbanzo flour is commonly used in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking. It works well in breads and crackers and also as a binder in savory recipes such as meatloaf, pot pies, and falafel. You can also use garbanzo flour in place of regular flour when you need a thickener for gravies, soups, and sauces.
Quinoa flour: Quinoa flour has a slightly nutty flavor. It is loaded with protein, magnesium, fiber, zinc, and folate. It is one of the more easily digestible flours. Quinoa flour works well in biscotti, shortcakes, banana bread and pizza crust. You can also use it to coat fish or meat prior to cooking.
Teff flour: Teff is the world’s tiniest grain. It comes from Ethiopia and has a sweet, malty flavor when milled into flour. Teff flour is high in calcium and iron. It works well in batters for pancakes and waffles.
There are countless gluten-free cookbooks and blogs that provide easy, step-by-step instructions for gluten-free baking. Experiment with gluten-free flours and you may find that you’re not missing anything at all.