Saturday, October 11, 2008

Converting Bread and Pastry Recipes to Gluten Free

I'd love to be able to say that all you have to do in converting your favorite cookie or banana bread recipe is to exchange GF (gluten free) flours for the wheat flour. However, it's not quite that simple.

The gluten in wheat is what gives your bread that light, fluffy texture. GF yeast breads are very heavy and dense. First off, you need to be very careful about making GF yeast bread in your bread machine. You can easily break it in just a few uses if you don't buy just the right machine. The dough is just way too thick.

In fact, I've given up on making GF yeast bread. I just buy the bread at the store. Many of the everyday grocery stores are carrying gluten-free products now. The problem is that they're very expensive and so I keep my purchases to a minimum and buy only very few premade items. (With the economy slipping away under us I think I'll give baking our own GF yeast breads another try.) A bag of GF pretzels will run you around $8!

The good news is that other breads and treats can be made gluten free and still turn out way yummy! The sweet breads are great and don't taste any different.

First you need to find a good recipe. You can check out some gluten free cookbooks from the library or search the Internet for GF recipes. Or you can convert your own recipes.

First, I keep a jar with GF flour on my counter that is a mix of 2/3 rice flour and 1/3 tampioca flour. When converting recipes, I substitute one cup of the wheat flour with one cup of the GF flour.

I'll also add one teaspoon of xanthan gum or guar gum (both found at the health food store -- just buy the cheapest) for every cup of flour. You could also use arrowroot powder. These things act as a binding agent. However, if you don't happen to have any on hand and you are really craving some GF banana bread, you can skip it. It'll still come out good.

Sometimes I'll add an extra egg or baking powder to the recipe to give it some extra umpf (is that even a word?).

Making drop cookies isn't something I've mastered. The GF recipes tend to flatten out. You could roll up the cookies, put them into the freezer, and then bake them. Or, just do what I do, make cookie bars. They come out great and it's easier than drop cookies. Just spread your dough on a pizza pan or rectangular pan, bake, and slice.

I gave up on making GF cakes a long time ago, but that is another area I'd like to revisit. I recently had the most delicious cake and the chef told me that trick is to sift the flour seven times. Seven times is a lot! But it would be worth to provide my son with a cake on his birthday.

Here's a free GF cookbook at Google Books: You Won't Believe It's Gluten Free.

Coming up soon will be converting other recipes and naturally GF recipes.

Oh, one more thing, here is a list of alternative flours that are gluten free:
Rice (white, brown, or sweet)
Nuts (almond or hazelnut)

Stay away from:


Nerina said...

Bette Hagman was a lifesaver for us when we first got the diagnosis of celiac disease. We found hospital dieticians to be completely ignorant on the subject (but I suspect that has changed in the last 15 years).

Spice cakes and quick breads adapt to the GF flours pretty well. As do chocolate based cakes. However, I still have yet to find a yellow/white cake recipe or mix that cuts the mustard. I've started using "My Favorite Sandwich Bread" by the Gluten-free Pantry for my son's sandwiches. My other kids actually ask for a piece and it is especially good right out of the oven.

I have the same problem with drop cookies. Again, spice cookies do better (one of our favorites is pumpkin cookies). And you're right, pan cookies is the way to go.

I have a pretty good cake recipe that we use for birthday cakes (it's chocolate), but it is a bit tempermental. Let me know if you want the recipe. My son asks for it every year. I also made a really yummy pumpkin cake (again with the spice) and cream cheese frosting.

And if you like pie, GF flour is very forgiving and the crust never gets tough since there is no gluten to toughen up (that's why needing bread dough makes it stretchy). I have a great Never-Fail pie crust recipe (from one of BH's early books).

Finally, pizza. I have an excellent recipe that I first saw in Bette's first book that I've tweaked over the years. My gluten kids love it and actually prefer the crust to gluten. Go figure!

Maureen said...

Nerina, I'd love to have your recipes. You can post them here and then I'll post them to the blog for others to use. I've got a bunch of apples and GF pie crust mix. We're going to give it a try in the next few days. Lately, we've just been using corn tortillas on a skillet for Sparky's pizza crust. He loves it and it's so easy. But that could change tomorrow :-).