Lazy Gluten Free: Tips for Successful Gluten Free Baking

Tips for Successful Gluten Free Baking

A nice domed loaf...that sunk later. The joys of GF baking!
Over the past several years, I have learned a lot about baking gluten free. It is definitely a science, which the 'just throw stuff in a pan' part of me struggles with. I am not an expert at baking gluten free, but I have learned several things that can help lead to a successful end-product. This is not an all-inclusive list, but hopefully it will help you regardless of whether you are new to the GF baking scene, or have been around it for awhile. Feel free to comment with any tips or suggestions that I didn't list (or may not know). I'll try to update this list periodically.

These scones were actually a non-GF recipe that I successfully converted.
That doesn't always happen.

Tips for Successful Gluten Free Baking

When following a recipe, measure everything EXACTLY
Gluten free baking is a science, which means you must follow a recipe exactly if you want the same results. For example, instead of scooping your flour with the measuring cup, use a spoon to fill it. Otherwise the flour will compress causing there to be more flour than actually needed. 

Don't expect the same result if you substitute ingredients. 
This one is a biggie. For example, if you use an egg-substitute instead of actual eggs, your end result will likely be more dense, as eggs provide the 'fluffiness'. Artificial sweetener behaves differently than sugar, especially if it's a liquid like agave. Due to food allergies or dietary needs you may have to make substitutions, but just don't expect your end-product to turn out just like the original. This is especially true if you are converting a non-gluten free recipe to be gluten free. GF flours are very different.

I followed a non-GF recipe here.
They turned out good, but were kind of crumbly.

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. 
This includes eggs, butter, milk, applesauce, etc. Having all ingredients at room temp is especially important when baking with yeast since it needs warmth to rise. If your ingredients are cold, that will reduce the warmth and your dough may not achieve the rise it needs. Conversely, make sure that your mix isn't too warm/hot either. Yeast likes it to be warm and cozy. I use a food thermometer to make sure my water/milk isn't too hot.

Proof your yeast.
I have found that gluten free baking with yeast is quite challenging. Everything has to be perfect to have success; that said, it's definitely possible. To proof your yeast, mix just the yeast and the liquid called for (water, milk, etc.) in a separate bowl and let set for a few minutes. If it starts bubbling and smelling yeasty, then you're good to go. If not, throw it out and get new yeast. If your yeast isn't good from the start, then your bread has already failed before you've even baked it. And we all know how cheap gluten free flour is...

Don't over-mix, knead, or beat your dough. 
Seriously, this is very important. The reason that gluten-containing dough needs to be kneaded and punched down is to get the gluten working. Our dough does not contain gluten, so if you try over-mixing and/or punching down your dough, don't expect it to rise as high as it needs to, if at all. Put your dough in the pan you intend to bake it in while it rises and shape any rolls prior to baking. Since you only need to rise once and then bake, you will want to shape your dough prior to rising.

See how it's sunk a little at the top? I probably over-mixed it or it cooled too fast.

Make sure the dough has a nice warm place to rise.
I usually preheat my oven since my kitchen is cool, and I've actually set stuff in front of my gas fireplace since it emits some heat even when off (I don't turn it on as that would be too warm). Another option is preheating your oven to 200F, turning it off once the temp is reached, and then letting the dough rise (covered with an oiled parchment paper) in the warmed oven with a pan of water at the bottom. It's good to give your dough a lot of time to rise as the more it rises, the lighter and fluffier your end-product will be. Try to let bread dough rise to the top of the pan before baking.

Verify your oven's temperature.
Not all ovens are created equal, so just because you set it to 350F doesn't mean that is the same 350F as the oven used in the original recipe. Get an in-oven thermometer so that you can make sure that your oven is at the exact temp it needs to be. Also be sure to adjust your oven racks so your bread is in the middle. Baking it too high or too low can cause different results.

Glass and metal pans are not the same.
Bread will bake differently in glass than in a metal pan. Most seasoned gluten-free bakers recommend using metal pans as they will allow the bread to cook more evenly. If it looks like your bread is getting done too fast in a glass pan, cover it loosely with foil and keep baking. It is recommended that the internal temperature of a completely baked loaf should be around 205-210F.

You can prevent a sinking loaf, somewhat.
It's very common for gluten free baked goods to sink in the middle and sometimes it's even gummy or looks like it isn't fully cooked. Here's some ways to help avoid that:
-Don't over-mix your dough. Mix it until everything is just incorporated and be done.
-You may have had too much moisture in the mix. Reduce the liquid by 1-2 tablespoons or add 1-2 tablespoons of flour next time.
-You may have added too much xanthan or guar gum. Reduce it somewhat next time.
-Let the bread or other baked good rest in the oven before removing it. Just turn the oven off, open the door a bit, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before taking it out.
-Altitude can a big player in how yeast breads behave. Make sure to adjust accordingly.
-Try using soda or other carbonated beverage in place of the required liquid, just make sure it's room temperature.

These biscuits called for 7-Up and were delish!

Read labels. Every single time.
This is more of a friendly reminder to make sure you're reading labels on everything you buy, even your baking powder. You just never know where gluten might be hiding out!

Have another suggestion or idea? I would love to hear it! Feel free to share in the comments below.

Happy [Gluten Free] Baking! 

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