Saturday 9 February 2013

Gluten free What???


Lots of people get nervous and panic when told they can't have gluten anymore... what am I going to eat now?

There is still plenty to eat, but you will have to become a good label reader and bake yourself some treats.

What is the difference between baking with and without gluten

When you bake with wheat flour, everything is pretty easy as the grain has all the things it needs to hold together and become beautiful and light when made into a cake or bread etc. When you remove gluten, you need to find a product that will help bind the ingredients together and give them a similar light fluffy texture.
There are a few extra ingredients needed to try to achieve something similar.... Something to bind and hold the flour together, something to help it rise, something to make it fluffy and light, something to stablise it, something for crunch.
Firstly gums are used to do this, the main ones being Xanthan and Guar. They are both unique and serve a very different purpose in a recipe. Many people say they are interchangeable but I have found this not to be the case.
Xanthan gum gives cakes and breads the light fluffy texture we need without the gluten. You need only a tiny amount in most cases. Xanthan gum is made from fermented corn sugar so if you are allergic to corn you can’t use it at all. Often brands are similar with ingredients but for Xanthan I have found one brand to be superior, NuVit. You can usually find it at Coles Supermarkets. If you are not having baking successes with your current brand, give it a go.
Glucona Delta Lactone (GDL) is an alternative to Xanthan and is derived from rice. It helps improve the texture and works in combination with bicarb to rise the baked item beautifully. It will increase stability, improve texture and make baked goods light and fluffy.
Guar gum is a fabulous binder and stabiliser. It is activated by liquid, so you will notice it working as you increase the liquid in your recipes. I also use it in sauces to keep all the ingredients from splitting. It many of my recipes guar also serves as an egg replacer. 
I don’t use gums at all in my biscuits as I have never found it necessary.
One thing to remember when baking with gums, don't go crazy with the liquids... add them slowly. The gums can only absorb so much and if you add too much liquid, they will lose stability and the dough will collapse.
The texture of gluten free baking is a bit unusal and different to what you might be used to when baking with wheat. Bread dough is not soft and stretchy... it will be sticky instead.
Psyllium is also often used to help bind and stablise gluten free dough. I use it in bread... it helps to hold the dough together and support it as it rises. It makes a great egg replacer too.
Extra baking powder helps the doughs and batters rise. You need to keep it in balance with the gums and liquids otherwise you will have a cake/bread that rises beautifully, only to collapse when done. Check your brand is gluten free... Wards is a great brand available at most supermarkets.
Balance between these extra ingredients is really tricky and will take some practise. Follow recipes and learn how these new things interact and behave before you start experimenting.

Crunch is often lacking in gluten free baking. Starch is used to get that texture we are after. You can use tapioca, arrowroot or corn starch. Just a portion of the flour needs to be starch... if you use too much, which is often the case with premix gluten free flours, you get a chalky taste. Potato starch is very difficult to work with as often it produces gummy results.

Please consider when baking gluten free that there will be lots of ingredients... subsituting often doesn't work. It takes a lot of trial and error to get a recipe to be lovely and you need to follow the recipe. If you change something you will not get the same result.... be patient with yourself while you are learning the new textures and ingredients... they will soon become your friend
Happy Baking!