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Tips for gluten-free baking recipes

If you have a gluten intolerance wheat or you're gluten-free by choice, it's likely you already know that making high-quality, gluten-free baked goods poses a particular problem. It's gluten that gives bread its elasticity and cakes their lightness.

Gluten-free flour is now available in most large supermarkets. But these flours are a little more difficult to work with than regular flours. It's just a matter of getting used to cooking with them.

The good news is that you can also use plenty of naturally gluten-free flour alternatives (rice, soy, chestnut, buckwheat, corn, potato and chickpea flour) for cakes, breads and pastries. And there are many recipes to show you how.

Tips for baking gluten-free cakes

  • Make your own blend of flours or ground nuts and flours. Adding sorghum or tapioca flour to a blend increases softness and absorbency which is ideal for lighter cakes and pastries. Gluten-free oats and oat flours add texture which works well in biscuits and breakfast muffins. Ground almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts are ideal in a blend for dense cakes, traybakes and biscuits.
  • Polenta has a grainy texture but is very absorbent and so brings moisture to cakes. It is commonly used in Northern Italian cakes.
  • Adding xanthan gum , to some extent replaces the elastic qualities that gluten-free flours lack. This helps to reduce the risk of your cake crumbling and falling apart. If the flour you are using doesn't already contain xanthan gum, combining quarter of a teaspoon to every 200g/7oz of gluten-free flour will help to improve the crumb structure of your bake. You can also use guar gum or a combination of the two.
  • Adding slightly more gluten-free baking powder than the recipe requires can help make a lighter and fluffier cake.
  • Adding more liquid than stated in the recipe may be necessary in order to gluten-free flour. Add the liquid a tablespoon at a time until the mixture reaches dropping consistency.
  • Baking the cake for an extra 5–10 minutes may be necessary, due to the extra liquid content. You can test if the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the center to see if it comes out clean.
  • Decreasing the temperature slightly and increasing the cooking time could diminish the risk of top as gluten-free bakes may brown quicker.

Watch out for...

  • Gluten-free baking powder is available to buy in supermarkets so don’t forget to buy the gluten-free version.
  • Bicarbonate of soda is naturally gluten-free.
  • Icing sugar is gluten-free in the UK although in other countries it might contain modified starch as a bulking agent – typically cornstarch is used but wheat starch could also be used.
  • Oats don't contain gluten but they are often prepared in an environment where wheat may be present so it's best to check the label and purchase gluten-free oats.

Tips for baking gluten-free breads

  • Make sure your bread is completely cooked before taking it out of the oven. The best way to do this is using a cooking thermometer. The centre of the bread should be between 95–100C . Continue to cook the bread until it reaches this temperature.
  • Gluten-free loaves continue to develop their structure until they are completely cool so open the oven door and leave the loaf inside until it cools to room temperature . This help to avoid the bread sinking.
  • Bake your bread in the middle of the oven . The top of the oven can be hotter causing the top of the loaf to rise and cook far quicker than the rest.