Friday, July 15, 2011

Tips for Converting Recipes to Gluten Free

Recently, the West Coast Muse got an email from her aunt asking for help on baking for her gluten-free son.

Here is a list of his food allergies:
All Corn & Soy bi-products
All tree nuts & peanuts
Seafood and Fish
Follow a Gluten Free diet - No Wheat, Rye, Barley , Oats & Malt.

I am looking for some new Gluten Free recipes.
I have discovered that baking with Gluten Free Flours have been my greatest challenge.
My common complaint is why are my cookies are flat!
Also, the cookies and cakes have a grainy and/or gritty texture.

OMG! Poor kid! Ok being allergic to gluten would be bad enough - as a pastry chef, I would be devastated if I couldn't eat gluten. However, being allergic to nuts is far worse. When I moved to France, the first thing I did was ask the people I was living with if they owned peanut butter. They did not. So I brought an economy sized feeds-a-family-of-ten-for-a-year jar of JIF with me. I do not know what I would do with myself if I couldn't smear peanut butter on a bagel and coat it in cinnamon sugar. No more Mr. Goodbars. No GORP. Oh how the world is an unfair place!!

Alright enough about that, let's talk about answers to how to make some delicious gluten free things. It is possible. Grainy textures are part of the beast in gluten free baking because gluten is what holds everything together. It's like you're trying to build a brick house without mortar. This is where many people have told me "don't try to convert recipes, just make things that don't have gluten in them in the first macarons." Hogwash, I say, hogwash! I have a good bit of success converting recipes using the following techniques.

Converting Recipes to Gluten Free

I use the all-purpose gluten free baking mix from Shauna James Ahern (aka gluten free girl)

200 grams superfine brown rice flour
150 grams sorghum flour
50 grams potato flour
250 grams sweet rice flour
150 grams potato starch
100 grams arrowroot powder
100 grams cornstarch (you can substitute arrowroot here or add extra potato starch)

Converting recipes is pretty simple

  1. Substitute flour for the all-purpose gluten free baking mix
  2. Add 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum for every cup of flour
  3. Add an extra egg to the recipe
The addition of xanthan gum and egg will help bind the ingredients and make up for the lack of gluten. 

I have had good success with this method. I made Kim Boyce's Olive Oil Cake this way and it was delicious. Give this a try!

Baking Powder

Since he is allergic to corn you probably cannot use normal baking powder because it contains corn starch. Hain Pure Food sells a corn-free baking powder. You can also make your own baking powder by substituting 1/4 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp cream of tartar for each 1 tsp of baking powder. 

Also, as a random addition. This chocolate cake recipe is a-maaazing! I recently used it to make a wedding cake for 300+ people. You couldn't even tell that it was gluten free.

Good luck! There is hope, even sans gluten.

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