Gluten-free bakers have reason to get excited thanks to the rapid expansion of our pantry options. Food producers have become acutely aware of the growing gluten-free market, and are responding with numerous new ingredients. Couple this with curious bakers who have a penchant for making old ingredients new again, and gluten-free baking is being propelled from a struggle to an adventure. Here are a few of the latest and greatest to consider for your next experiments.
Psyllium Husk or Powder:
This soluble fiber is quickly gaining recognition as a gum-replacement in gluten-free baking. It readily absorbs moisture (increasing shelf life) and becomes gelatinous when mixed with water. Psyllium works best in recipes that require higher levels of gluten and can withstand its unrefined flavor, like yeast bread and pizza crust. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons per 1 cup of flour blend.
Also known as modified tapioca starch, Expandex is a branded product that has long been used in commercial mixes, and is now available to consumers. It adds moisture, increases shelf life, and reportedly negates the need to toast or heat leftovers when it’s added to sorghum or bean Hour-based recipes or swapped for a portion of rice flour.
Rising to the peak of popularity, this grain-free neutral flour is tops in fiber, but such status isn’t without consequence. Coconut flour is very dry, and absorbs liquid like a sponge.
When experimenting, start by replacing 1 cup flour with 1/4 cup coconut flour, and let it sit for 20 minutes. If the mixture is too dry, add up to 1/4 cup liquid, or more as needed. If tolerated, eggs can assist in the moisture and binding of coconut flour; add 2 to 3 eggs per 1/2 cup of coconut flour.
Grape Skin Flour:
Many vintners are now developing higher protein flour from ground grape seeds and skins. lt imparts a bold, unique flavor (and often color) to baked goods, is rich in antioxidants, and is best used in small amounts – a little goes a long way.
Hailing from the Andes, Kaniwa is similar to quinoa in origin, taste and protein levels. It adds a slightly earthy flavor, and can be used in place of other protein flours for most gluten-free recipes.
Sweet Potato Flour:
Made from white or yellow sweet potatoes, this fibrous neutral flour adds a slight sweetness and gentle moisture to baked goods. It weighs more than most gluten-free flours, and thus should be used in a ratio of 7/8 cup per 1 cup flour called for in the recipe.
Secrets to Success
Years of experimentation have rewarded me with a sizeable repertoire of essential tips. Following are a few that will help propel your gluten-free baking to tasty new heights.
Ditch the measuring cups and invest in an inexpensive kitchen scale to dramatically improve your results. Beyond balancing fiber and protein, weight is crucial for mimicking wheat flour, which clocks in at 140 grams (5 ounces) per 1 cup. Gluten-free flours and starches tend to vary significantly by weight, but tallying them to achieve 140 grams per cup of replaced wheat flour will help to produce a satisfactory texture and density in your final baked good.
Cider vinegar provides moisture, shelf life, lift (especially for eggless baking), tenderness and flakiness to most baked goods. If it isn’t already in the recipe, use it as a substitute for 1 to 2 tablespoons of the recipe liquid.
Avoid Sticky Situations:
If your budget allows, invest in a heavy-duty stand mixer, It will handle the tacky kneading and sizable girth of gluten-free yeast- based breads; hand mixers quickly burn out. Also, seek out good quality pans (I prefer commercial-grade aluminized steel baking pans) and line with lightly greased parchment paper, a silicone baking mat or cupcake liners for easy release.
Flops are inevitable, but even disasters can triumph when made into bread pudding, used as a crumble topping, layered in a trifle or mixed into ice cream. Embrace mishaps, they might still result in a favorite new gluten-free recipe.
Laurie Sadowski is a gluten-free author and baking expert. Her titles include The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread and The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Cakes and Cookies. Visit her at www.lauriesadowski.com