So you’ve entered the world of a gluten free lifestyle. You think your taste buds will suffer and you will never again be able to eat your favourite baked treats. Think again!
While there are some things that are tricky to make I admit, converting your existing baking recipes to gluten free will not be as overwhelming and disheartening as you might think.
The first thing you will need to do is do a pantry cleanout. This is a great thing to do anyway as it gives you an opportunity to clean your shelves, check the best before dates and ensure dry items contain no fillers which are wheat based. You will need to throw out or give away most of your sauces as regular tomato or bbq sauce will contain wheat as will your soy sauce and other Asian sauces with the exception of sesame oil and most fish sauces. But always check your labels are sneaky food producers often will change their recipe to make more money and use cheap fillers without telling you.
An example is a rice biscuit that a well-known company was making for years and it was a great base for slices or tarts once you processed it with butter. I randomly looked at the label years after using it safely to find a non gluten free ingredient had been added and nothing on the pack saying anything! Woe to the coeliac sufferers.
Anyways, we have cleaned out the pantry of all wheat/barley/rye ingredients including pasta, noodles and taco/burrito/naan things, checked spices and sauces, chucked out colour and flavour enhancers as by and large they contain a filler, any stock that has gluten added, malt vinegar and any milk drink powders. Also, check canned goods as they’ve been known to contain gluten.
So what are you left with aside from a squeaky clean and an EMPTY pantry? Time to go shopping a little at a time and refill with safe food.
All the above advice is mainly geared towards the autoimmune sufferers out there and not for those choosing to reduce their gluten when they have no actual allergy. These people can reduce their gluten intake if they like but it’s the coeliacs out there who need to be very careful what they cook with and eat. And for YOU there is a quality substitute for just about everything.
It will take some time to restock and there are great apps from the coeliac association that will help you out if you are unsure. There are also great flour blends and cake/biscuit mixes you can buy. There are now excellent pasta and cereals available and almost everything else you might need.
For myself personally, I do not buy any prepackaged flour mixes as I like to know exactly what goes into my food, so I make it myself. That way I am not adding extra sugar or salt or unnecessary leavening agents such as baking powder.
I make up a big batch of plain flour made up of Australian rice flour from Sunrice and 2 starches. This I keep in a large container and add baking powder/bicarb as needed in recipes for cakes, and yeast for bread. Simple.
Over the years I have received from my supplier rice flour from other countries when the Aussie has been out of stock. These have not worked successfully due to a different variety and grind of their rice. Also, people from overseas who have attended my classes (hyperlink) have struggled to get the right ratio of their country’s rice flour, but with a little change to the quantity, their baked goods have come out right.
What works successfully for me when converting recipes from a book or magazine is, if the recipe calls for up to 1 1/2 cups of flour, I know this will convert well. Any more than this and your chances of a good conversion drop. The other ingredient I need to mention is gum. You will find gum (guar gum or xantham gum) in many recipes as it’s a good binder and will give you the gluten-like spring that non-gluten containing flours don’t possess. It is not a cheap product but you only need a teaspoon or less per recipe so it will last for ages.
The ingredients on their own can be used in recipes as well like rice flour biscuits, sponge cake using potato starch or Brazillian cheese bread using tapioca starch, so it’s best to buy them individually. But for the plain flour mix you will use for bread and most cakes the recipe is as follows:
- fine white rice flour 660g
- tapioca starch 200g
- potato starch 120g
Bakers weigh ingredients for accuracy so please buy yourself a digital scale. You will then have the right ratio for the mix. Cup and also spoon measures differ in other countries. Here in Australia, we use the metric system. This means that a cup equals 250ml and a tablespoon equals 20 ml.
There are so many gluten free flours on the market. Some are very strongly flavoured and some are very expensive. The flour and starches I have chosen make for an inexpensive product that closely resembles regular wheat flour. I chose the rice flour for its affordability, it’s easy to obtain and a great base flour. The tapioca starch has a natural gelatinous quality that gives a certain amount of spring, and the potato starch adds density. Together they make a great all-purpose mix. Add to 1 cup of the flour mix 1-2 teaspoons of gluten free baking powder and you have self-raising flour too. I would add a 1/2 teaspoon of gum to either the plain flour or the self-raising flour blend to add the glutinous bounce and water storage that it the mix would lack otherwise.
I’d make up a batch of the above ingredients multiplied by double or triple so you have a lot on hand before you have to mix another batch. If you don’t have a container big enough then multiply by a lesser amount to suit your container. Once it’s on hand you can bake something straight away without needing to blend the flours each time. The easiest way to mix is to put all the ingredients in a very large bowl and use a large balloon whisk to evenly distribute the components. Store in a cool dry place as you would normally do.
Now you have a great flour blend to start baking with. There are heaps of recipes in the ebooks on my website that will take you all the way from biscuits and cakes to bread and pizza, to international cuisine and pastry. Or you can go through your stack of recipes mags and books and convert to your heart’s content.