The Ultimate Guide to Converting Any Recipe to Be Gluten Free (And Choosing The Elusive Perfect Gluten Free Flour)

7:12 PM

Disclaimer: I am cook and not a baker. I rarely measure exactly. I am in awe of pastry chefs who can quickly calculate the perfect ratio of ingredients to yield the ideal fluffiness, but that person isn't me.

The words "gluten free baking" can strike fear into the hearts of many as they envision specialized and complex recipes with pea + chickpea flours combined with millet or they fear never being able to simply bake that favorite and quick batch of chocolate chip cookies again. After eighteen years of gluten free living I am hear to tell you there is no need to be afraid and no need to miss out on that awesome blueberry scone recipe you found from the Kitchn.

For me there are two critical elements to converting any recipe to an easy gluten free delight (no need for ratio calculations or weighing out ingredients):
1) Flour
2) Binder (Eggs, oil, bananas, etc. - anything that helps to keep it all together)

Lets tackle the biggest one first...Flour
When I was first diagnosed with Celiac you couldn't find gluten free flour in most stores, cup-for-cup flour blends didn't exist, and the many elements needed to make useable GF flour had to be mail ordered. Surprisingly, I find shopping for GF flour almost more confusing now!

There is a plethora of amazing GF food options available and you can go to almost any grocery store, farmer's market, or bottega and find food suitable for the Celiac among us. This has also resulted in tons of flour options being available and hundreds of cookbooks featuring their own cup-for-cup substitution blends. With a full work schedule, travel, and life in general I don't have time to create special flour blends or "sift" (get it?) through all the different flour options at the market. So over the years I have developed a few rules for buying cup-for-cup replacement GF flour.
  • Avoid pea protein and chickpea unless you really like these flavors in your sweets. While this might be good for a savory like an herbed bread, it does not lend itself to creating that same flavor of Grandma's orange cookies you remember from childhood. Even for breads, etc. I refuse to use anything that contains either of these ingredients because I personally can't stand the flavor that takes over whatever you are baking.
  • Buy a flour blend, but not a baking mix. The reason is that baking mixes often contain baking soda and powder already. Using this will really throw your recipe out of balance. 
  • You may have to try a few flour brands before you hit on just the right one. 
For me that flour blend used to be Glutino All Purpose Flour, but they recently change their formula and the result was that all of my baked goods had an after taste of baby food peas. My current preference is Pamela's All Purpose Artisanal Blend. The reason is that it doesn't contain any of the flavor changing elements like pea protein and has a light fluffy consistency. It is also available in a 5lb bag and isn't over the top costly.

Once you have your flour established you can use it in the exact same amount as gluten filled flour. This makes whipping up that batch of cupcakes before school tomorrow or making those favorite banana nut muffins a breeze. 

Lets not forget about the binder
If your recipe calls for eggs, a fair amount of oil, mushed up fruit or veggies (like bananas or canned pumpkin) you are pretty much all set. You can proceed with the recipe as normal because these will help ensure everything stays together without the binding element of gluten. 

If you are making something without a binder such as biscuit or scones, you may want to think about either adding additional corn starch or mixing in an egg. While it may change the consistency slightly, it will ensure everything holds together. 

As one final tip, if your recipe requires you to knead or roll anything out, wrap it in plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge or freezer for a bit first. Then always keep a piece of plastic wrap between your hands, the rolling pin, etc. and the dough to prevent sticking.

Happy baking!

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