Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My first blog ever... An Introduction to Gluten Free Baking and the Basics

Hi Everyone! 
My first ever blog, pretty exciting!  I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog for quite some time now but never did it because, well, blogging looks like a lot of work and I would much rather spend my time in the kitchen.  Recently, an overwhelming number of requests for recipes and help on my facebook page has caused me to reconsider my previous stance on blogging.  It seems like everyone has questions about gluten free these days, so I'm going to do my best to help. 
As a disclaimer, I have no formal culinary training so I will never claim to be an authority on any cooking related matter.  What I do have is a love for food (especially baking) and tons of personal experience in the kitchen.
Like many people, I grew up with a mother who baked regularly and always encouraged my sister and I to help.  To this day, I still cannot make a pie crust that compares to hers and which she claims cannot compare to that of her mother's.  Rather than fruit snacks, Oreos and Wonderbread sandwiches, our lunches were filled with homemade cookies and brown bread.  A labour of love by our mother that I didn't learn to appreciate until much later in life. 
Having made the switch to gluten free only 5 months ago, this is still very new to me so I'm learning as I go.  Through trial and error, I have quickly become comfortable working with the different flours, learning to compensate for their strange textures and you can too!
I'm devoting this, my first blog, to some of the basics of gluten free baking. 
Tip #1: A stocked pantry is the key to success!  You won't be using just one kind of flour anymore.
Here is a list of gluten free flours that I have come up with to get you started:







Chick pea

*Oats/ Oat flour are also considered gluten free as long as they are processed in a wheat-free facility.  Bob's Red Mill sells great GF Oats

You won't need all of these flours to start (or possibly ever) but it's good to know what is, and isn't, gluten free. This will help you when reading labels at the grocery store... something else you will have to get used to.
Right now, in my cupboard, I have Rice flour, Sorghum flour, Millet flour and Chick pea flour and those have been working well.  The only other flour that I have worked with so is Arrowroot and I must say, it was not my favorite.  I was very excited to try Arrowroot flour because of my positive associations with the "Christie" brand Arrowroot cookies that I have loved since I was a kid but in my initial experiences with it I have been let down (see below).  

Tip #2: Foreign ingredients like Xanthan Gum are your friend and become an everyday staple.
Xanthan Gum is a fine white powder used as a food thickening agent and helps create that chewy, sticky texture that real flour has. Xanthan is quite expensive but a little goes a long way so if you can find it in a bulk store you can start with just a little. When I first started using it, I looked up what it was made of and stopped when I saw "derived from the bacterial coat"  in the first sentence.  Let’s just say, it comes from a leaf so it's natural and it stops your cookies from crumbling and not worry about it.

Tip #3: You can fake “all purpose” flour to sub into your current recipes.  It will never have the same texture as what your are used to but it will get you close.
Each recipe varies but the "all purpose" flour mixture that I have been using pretty consistently is:
1/2 cup White Rice flour
1/4 cup Millet flour
1/4 cup Sorghum flour
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
*makes one cup, multiply as needed
My first ever gluten free baking attempt was:
                                                     Chocolate Oat Chews
                                                    *recipe coming soon

This is a great example because with my favorite "all purpose" mix, these cookies are chewy, oaty and flavourful but when the Millet flour in the mix  was substituted for Arrowroot, they tasted like metallic chemicals.  I am in the process of testing Arrowroot flour with other recipes to see if it was specific to this recipe or if, in general, I don't care for Arrowroot. The lesson here is that all of these alternative flours are different and you have to experiment with them to get it right. That is what this blog is all about, trial and error. Hopefully more delicious successes than metallic failures.
Tip #4: You cannot use just one kind of flour.
From all of the research I have done, the one thing that remains consistent in GF baking is that you cannot use just one flour.  For example, if you were to just use rice flour, your dough would come out something like paste and just Sorghum would be very grainy. When combined however, the textures of each flour come together to compensate for each other and round out the mix, making it as close to the texture of traditional flour as one could hope for.
Tip #5: Where to buy
I am very fortunate to live near the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto where there is a great variety of ingredients at my disposal.  One stall in particular at the market sells only flour, every kind you could ever think of, cheap and in bulk.  Health food stores and bulk stored often have many of these ingredients available and I’ve even had some luck finding rice flour in the bulk section at the grocery store.  When shopping, bulk is almost always more cost effective. 
I hope you have found this information helpful, now go out and stock that pantry so we can start baking!
Coming soon on Gluten Free Kitchen Adventures- Recipe and Tutorial for my “Chocolate Oat Chews”


  1. Great Blog! Can't wait to read about the Chocolate Oat Chews :)

  2. I'm excited to try your recipes! I'm so glad you've started this!

  3. I am excited to see the recipe for the Chocolate Oat Chews!