If you’re new to the world of gluten-free baking, then you’ve come to the right place.
Becky from Gluten Free Cuppa Tea started her blog 4 years ago and hasn't looked back since. She's drawn from her experience to bring you 7 crucial tips that all gluten-free bakers need to know.
"Baking has always been my passion and I refuse to let a little gluten stand in the way of that," Becky told us. "There’s no reason that baking gluten-free can’t be the same, if not better than baking with gluten. Follow these 7 tips and I promise that you’ll be gluten-free star baker in no time!"
1. Gluten-free flour power
Before you rule out flour from all of your future bakes, you might want to head to your local Asda’s Free From aisle. There you’ll find gluten-free plain and self-raising flour. Unlike traditional flour with gluten, these gluten-free flours are blends of lots of different flours and starches.
This blend of different flours and starches is a delicate harmony which help compensate for the lack of gluten and elasticity found in traditional flour. The Asda gluten-free flour is a blend of rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, maize flour and buckwheat flour. A winning combo!
2. Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum (pronounced ‘zanthan’) is every gluten-free baker’s secret ingredient. Without getting all scientific on you, it’s simply used as a substitute for gluten in baking. As you might know, the proteins found in gluten give any bake a welcome elasticity and a slightly chewy texture.
Without gluten, you can be left with a crumbly texture that doesn’t hold together – that’s where Xanthan gum comes in. Adding a very small amount of this comes in handy when you’re baking cakes, but especially with biscuits or other more dense bakes.
3. Always be wary of decorations and sprinkles
When I used to bake with my Mum as a kid, decorating used to be my favourite part (apart from eating them of course). We’d layer on tons of sprinkles, decorations and have great fun doing so. But if you’re baking gluten-free, make sure you always, always read the labels of cake decorations first. Most cake decorations, such as hundreds and thousands (and most sprinkles in general) contain wheat starch.
Why not try using free from chocolate buttons from the free from aisle instead?
4. Use gluten-free cereal where needed
If you’re making my fave rice crispy or corn flake cakes, do make sure you pick up the gluten-free version of those cereals from the free from aisle.
Most traditional cereal brands of cornflakes or rice crispies will contain barley or barley-malt extract. Those are a big no for a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, you can pick up free-from cornflakes and free-from choco snaps which are totally safe and work perfectly in baking.
5. Always use gluten-free oats
If you’re baking flapjacks or anything that calls for oats, make sure you use the gluten-free version too. This can be a little confusing at first as oats don’t actually contain any gluten to start with. People then often ask: why do we even need gluten-free oats to start with?
Well, non-contaminated, pure oats are actually gluten free but the problem comes with cross-contamination. Most commercial oats are processed in facilities which also handle wheat, barley and rye. This cross-contamination means that you’re much better off using gluten-free oats from the free from aisle.
6. Try a pastry mix before you take on gluten-free pastry
Pastry is one of the trickiest tasks when it comes to gluten-free baking. Thanks to the lack of elasticity provided by gluten, gluten-free pastry often struggles to bind together. Of course, a lovely shortcrust pastry is a little crumbly by nature too, so I’m sure you can imagine what it’s like without gluten… a crumbly mess!
That’s why I’d recommend you start off with a free from pastry mix at first, so you know how the dough feels when it works. There’s nothing worse than blaming yourself for a failed bake, when what you should probably blame is a lack of gluten!
Also, if you look at the ingredients of Asda’s free from pastry mix, you’ll see our secret ingredient Xanthan gum in there too.
7. If in doubt, use a baking mix!
If you’re at all worried about gluten-free baking, my best advice would be to start with a gluten-free baking mix. They’re a lifesaver in a pinch and come in many different varieties too like Asda’s gluten-free vanilla sponge or gluten-free brownie mix.
All you need to do is add eggs, margarine, water and you’re already halfway to a great gluten-free bake. You’ll see that our faithful friend Xanthan gum is already in there too, along with everything else you’d need. Job done!