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Baking Blog: Gluten-free Baking

Gluten is a protein that gives doughs an elastic texture and is found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. However, there are people who cannot eat gluten due to a condition called Celiac Disease. Studies suggest that there is no non-celiac gluten sensitivity or intolerance. This goes against common believe that non-celiacs can have gluten intolerance. No matter what, even if you cannot eat gluten, you can still enjoy baking.

The main issue in gluten-free baking is the usage of plain flour. If you use wheat flour, there are two proteins called glutenin and gliadin.  When those two proteins are mixed with water, gluten forms and makes the dough stretchy. This means that if you cannot use plain flour you will lose some of the stretching properties of the flour.

The solution is simple to some extent. Instead of baking with plain flour you can use a blend of different flours and starches. Examples include brown, white or sweet rice flour, potato starch and corn flour. There are several recipes online but note that they work with different ratios.

Some gluten-free bakers suggest using xanthan gum alongside a blended flour mix to mimic the stretching properties of gluten. Others use gelatine or agar agar instead. Xanthan gum is a powder which dissolves in water. The downside to it though is that you might need to add more liquid to the dough than what the traditional recipe asks for. You will need to do some experimenting here.

You can find many blogs that specialise on gluten-free baking and give away free recipes. You may want to have a look at those recipes as they have been tested. Baking gluten-free isn’t as simple as substituting plain flour for a gluten-free flour mix. It also affects the consistency of the dough for which xanthan is useful. But the most important advice is to experiment.

Experiment with the amount of liquids, different flour blends and learnt from it.  As starches and gluten-free flours behave differently to plain flour you will need to test whether lowering the oven temperature or changing the baking time will help your bake. You may want to start off with small portions and see how it goes.

Michelle Heinrich

Picture sources:

Picture 1: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-gluten

Picture 2: http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/all-purpose-gluten-free-flour-recipes/

Picture 3: http://www.nahudson.com/gluten-free-baking/




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