Gluten is the protein in flour which gives the dough elasticity and strength.
Learning to bake gluten free can be a challenge but once you know which flours
work well you will be able to adapt your own recipes and make new ones that
will tempt and please your palate as well as your family and guests.
It’s important to remember that when you are omitting gluten in your
baking, your breads and cakes may not have the same look as when you were baking
with wheat flour. Flours such as chickpea, arrowroot, tapioca, potato, brown
rice, teff, quinoa, amaranth, millet, sorghum, coconut, chestnut and buckwheat
all work well in place of wheat flour, so no need to think you are going to
never have banana bread or a brownie again.
A good trick that I use is a combination of chickpea flour and brown rice
flour. I use 1/2 and 1/2 of each. Or I combine chickpea flour, brown rice flour,
tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, and potato starch with some baking soda. This
is in descending order, in other words, higher amounts of chickpea and brown
rice flour than the others. This usually works well.
Finding these flours is a lot easier than you think. Many local health food
stores or bulk stores now offer a variety of gluten free flours along with a
wide selection of gluten free crackers, pasta, cereals and other snack items.
Rainbow Foods located at 1487 Richmond Road has a great gluten-free section
available and if you have the time, ask to speak to Dorothy who is a wealth
of information. The Natural Food Pantry which has a few locations in the city
is another great health food store that features gluten free products. Try Lindberg’s
gluten-free Rice Chips, they are really tasty and make a great lunch with a
hummus or a homemade bean dip. The Bulk Barn is another store which is starting
to feature gluten-free flours and crackers and because you can purchase your
flour in bulk you can buy only a small amount to try in your baking to see if
you like the consistency or the taste. Loblaws Organics section is also featuring
gluten-free pastas, flours and cereals. Try Perky’s Nutty Rice or Nutty
Flax cereal as a breakfast cereal or in recipes.
Some recipes can even be adapted to omit the flour and by using a substitution
of beans or lentils, a wonderfully moist and tasty brownie can be created. Another
important tip if you are omitting eggs in your baking is pay special attention
to your liquid amounts. You may need to add some extra fluid to the recipe or
you may want to consider using an egg substitute such as boiled flaxseed.
Remember that in any baking recipe you can replace the milk requirements with
equal amounts of nut milk, rice milk, soy milk or also with coconut milk which
adds a lovely flavour to any baked good. Also, applesauce or apple butter is
a wonderful low calorie and healthy oil replacement.
These are just a few tips that I use when planning menus for people who need
to avoid certain foods due to allergies, intolerances and other diet related
illnesses like celiac disease, heart or kidney disease. I consider not only
the individual’s dietary restrictions but also their food likes and dislikes,
cooking ability and, most important, their lifestyle.