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gluten free baking

Upon being asked to make gluten free cookies, I set out to find the perfect gluten free flour substitute. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley and therefore, in flour – one of the most important ingredients in baked goods (hey at least is has nothing to do with the sugar…). Flour acts as an aerator for cakes and cookies – coating the fats and trapping the air – causing the gluten to stretch and therefore giving it it’s spongy, airy consistency. There are flours with high gluten content which are important for breads, and then you have low gluten flours which are used for cakes, cookies, and other pastries where you want less air and a more dense consistency. In a nut shell, the flour determines the viscosity of the baked good.

So what do you do if you have a gluten allergy and can’t eat flour? Find another protein that will do the same, but isn’t derived from wheat, rye or barley! Usually, starches are substituted. You can create your own flour mixture, or buy one. In search of the perfect flour substitute, I started with Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Baking Flour.

Pros: It worked just like flour – the cookie kept it’s shape. It also had a very very fine, smooth texture – not grainy.

Cons: It contained arbanzo bean flour – a garbanzo bean and some butter and sugar doesn’t sound like a great combo. It smelled kind of funny. When I tasted the dough, I had to spit it out.  I’ve read in other reviews that strong flavors like vanilla and butter help mask it, but nooooo thannkkkkkk yooouuu. The baked cookie just tasted a little off and left a funny coating in my mouth.

After looking at all of the ingredient suggestions for homemade GF flour substitute (rice flour, corn starch, potato starch, tapioca flour and either xanthan gum or guar gum), I figured there had to be some other commercial GF product I could use WITHOUT this garbanzo bean flour as an ingredient. Whole Foods did have a flour substitute, but it was in the upwards of $11 per bag and I, being one to try to figure out a cheaper alternative, glanced at the back of Bob’s GF pancake mix. starches? check! flours? check! a gum? check. And it even contained baking soda and powder – two common ingredients in cookies!

Pros: tastes and smells like a real sugar cookie!

Cons: Cut out cookies don’t hold their shape very well… the proportion of baking soda was probably a bit more than what was needed so that could be why (I’ll spare you the chemistry lesson) but who cares if it tastes good!

So there you have it! Until my gluten free client base increases dramatically, I think I’ll stick to this mix. I have yet to try it in anything but sugar cookies – but Bob’s does offer cake mixes!

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One Comment

  1. Rach wrote:

    You should try some vegan baking too! I would love to be able to share cakes and cookies with my brother =)

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink

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