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An Introduction To Gluten-Free Baking (VIDEOS)

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For anyone who suffers from celiac disease, finding baked goods that are gluten-free can be one of the biggest challenges. Finding ones that taste good and have a familiar texture is even more challenging. But don't get frustrated, because all is not lost. Baking gluten-free at home is achievable -- it's not as difficult as you think. We've got a simple guide to help you stock your pantry with the essentials.

Celiac disease is becoming more and more prevalent every day -- it affects about 1 in 113 people. Those with the disease cannot tolerate wheat products, which include baked goods like bread, cakes, cookies and more. The only way to combat the disease is by excluding all wheat-based products from your diet. Not only does that mean baked goods, but also many other store-bought products that include wheat, such as beer, soy sauce, yogurt, etc. Being a vigilant reader of ingredient labels is key for being a smart shopper. (For more information on celiac, visit the Celiac Disease Foundation website.)

Gluten-free baking is an entirely different ballgame than baking regular breads, cakes and cookies, and many store-bought gluten-free baked goods just don't get it right -- they're gluey, crumbly, dry and often stale. Wheat products are just naturally moist, tender and springy -- and that's what gluten-free baking tries to replicate. With the correct gluten-free ingredients you can achieve good taste and texture -- and you might not even be able tell the difference (like with these sugar cookies).

To begin baking gluten-free, you'll need to gather some ingredients. For beginning bakers, it's a good idea to start with pre-boxed gluten-free flour mixes that already have a blend of different flours -- in the supermarket you'll find boxes for all-purpose baking, cake baking, brownie baking and even pizza dough. The recipes on the bag or box are great to start with. Once you have those down pat, you can expand your repertoire by making your own custom blend to include different flours that you can experiment with to achieve the specific results you're looking for. Here are some gluten-free flours you will want to look for.

Stocking Your Pantry

Garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour: You'll sometimes find garbanzo bean flour blended with fava flour. It's great at achieving bread-like results. Try replacing 1 cup of wheat flour with 7/8 cup garbanzo bean flour in a standard recipe.

Quinoa flour: This flour is high in protein. It's great for breakfast goods, such as muffins, pancakes and waffles. But it does have a distinct flavor.

Sorghum flour: This flour has a neutral flavor, so it's great in baked goods. It's best to blend it with other flours, because on its own it produces a crumbly texture.

Buckwheat flour: This flour produces a relatively dense result, making it better blended with other flours or used for baked goods that would benefit from a dense texture, like brownies.

Amaranth flour: This flour is best combined with other flours. It helps create a crispy crust, so think of recipes like cookies or pizza dough. It's also typically blended with other flours.

Brown Rice flour: Flour made from rice has a very fine texture -- on its own it can create baked goods with a gluey texture, so it's best to blend it with other flours. Try using brown rice flour instead of white rice flour -- it's higher in whole grains and has a better texture.

Potato starch: Not the same as potato flour, potato starch is used (in addition to the flours mentioned above) to add moistness and fine texture to baked goods.

Xanthan gum: You'll find this corn-based product called for by the teaspoonful in many gluten-free recipes -- it works as a thickener. Note that a little bit goes a long way, so don't add more than a recipe indicates.

Recommended Books

BabyCakes
BabyCakes Covers The Classics
Gluten-Free Baking Classics
Living Gluten-Free For Dummies

Recommended Sources

For your gluten-free baking needs, we highly recommend gluten-free products from Bob's Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills. If you'd like a quick start to gluten-free baking, order this bundled package of products you'll need.

Watch the videos below to learn some great recipes for gluten-free baked goods.

Around the Web

Gluten-Free Recipes and Tips at Epicurious.com