Back to School Again
Welcome to Baking Class. This month is all about Gluten-Free.
May is National Celiac Awareness Month. In our family we have several members who suffer from celiac and therefore need gluten-free products. If any of you have ever tried something gluten-free you may have found that, depending on the company, the product runs the gamut of taste between drywall and playground sand. Not pretty. Not tasty. And definitely NOT acceptable.
We can do better.
But first, we should probably learn about the basics of gluten and how to bake without it.
We’ll start with the basics: Wheat flour, the most common ingredient in everything you bake.
The 4-1-1 on Wheat Flour
Wheat flour comes from wheat berries. These are made up of starches, proteins, and fats. The two main types of proteins are glutenin and gliadin. Glutenin provides most of the strength and gives you the elasticity in dough. If you have ever made bread or pizza dough you are aware of the “bounce” after the dough has been worked. Gliadin provides the “stretch” that you find in dough.
What Is Gluten?
Wheat flour has two types of protein strands, glutenin and gliadin. These proteins are wrapped around starch granules. When you combine flour with water, the protein strands unwind and then link together in order to form a membrane which is called gluten. The membrane takes over the swollen starch granules and gas bubbles (created by a leavening agent), stretches as the dough rises and then bakes. This gives the finished product its structure or chewiness.
Factors that influence gluten development:
Bread Flour comes from a high-protein wheat. This means that it is able to develop MORE gluten or structure.
Cake Flour is made from a soft wheat with a very low protein. This means that cake flour produces less gluten and is perfect for tender cakes.
- Amount of Water
The more water in the dough, the more elastic the gluten strands. So what? Why does this matter? Well, if the gluten strands are strong, then they can swell and produce an airier product.
- Mixing Time
Have you ever read a recipe that told you to only “mix until combined” or “fold in by hand” a certain ingredient? Well, more stirring means more gluten. More gluten means more structure and chew. This is the reason why you knead and knead and knead bread dough and conversely in a cake you mix by hand or until just combined.
Flour Builds Structure
When baking, the flour is the main ingredient because it is absolutely essential! The ability of the proteins in the flour to expand and trap gas is THE KEY to baking. Compared to wheat flour, gluten free flours have very low protein so they do not do a very good job of expanding and trapping gas. Also, they’re less elastic than gluten. In order to replace wheat flour with gluten free flour, you MUST boost the effectiveness of the gluten free proteins. How do you do this? Xanthan gum and emulsifiers. Xanthan gum acts like glue (and you use very little when baking) and helps to cement the protein in gluten free flour. Emulsifiers help make gluten free flour more compatible with fat. Which basically means that this helps make your baked good not greasy and makes it moist.
Are you confused? Overwhelmed? Don’t be. We are here for you. For the month of May, we are going to bake three gluten-free goods: Sandwich Bread, Cupcakes, and Pie Crust. If you can master these basic recipes, the gluten-free sky is your limit!!! We’ll start from the very beginning. Here is the ULTIMATE gluten-free flour blend. We have been working with this blend for years and it mimics the properties of non gluten-free goods PERFECTLY!
Gluten Free Flour Blend
Makes about 9 1/2 cups
4 1/2 cups + 1/3 cup white rice flour
1 2/3 cups brown rice flour
1 1/3 potato flour (NOT Potato Starch)
3/4 cup tapioca starch (this is the same as tapioca flour)
3 tbsp nonfat milk powder
Whisk all the ingredients together in a VERY large bowl and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator (this is very important) for up to 3 months.
Breathe. This is going to be fun, dear readers! And after these lessons in gluten-free baking, you can astound your friends, family, and neighbors with your amazing skills. See if they can even tell that it’s gluten-free….Betcha they won’t know the difference.
Ciao for now,
V & K
- Posted in: Gluten Free