Gluten free baking isn’t the easiest thing in the world.
Gluten is what makes our bread and cakes soft and spongy and pastries stretchy. But with the right ingredients and a little bit of trial and error, you can make a whole variety of cakes, breads, desserts without it.
The first step when you start cooking gluten free is to make sure your cupboards are stocked with the right ingredients. You might be unfamiliar with some of these, but having a reliable stock will stop you having to run to the shops every time you feel like baking.
Here are the most important things to have.
1. Gluten free flour
The most obvious and probably the most important: having a good gluten free flour will transform your cooking. Go to any health food shop and you will see loads of flours that are gluten free (coconut flour, corn flour, potato starch, the list goes on) and while I keep some of these in my cupboards I rarely use them on their own.
Instead you’re best off finding a flour blend that you like to work with. Some people even like to create their own, but I no longer bother. Instead I use Doves Farm gluten free flour blend. It’s a pre made flour available at nearly all major UK supermarkets. I find it works just as well (if not better) than any blend I’ve made myself.
2. Xanthan Gum
Its strange name might put you off, but chances are you’ve already been eating this without even knowing. Commonly used as a thickening agent in things like salad dressings, this stuff will revolutionise your gluten free cakes. It used to be a little tricky to find, but now most supermarkets will have it in their gluten free section – it only costs a couple of quid. Just mix a small amount into your flour to avoid crumbly cakes.
3. Baking powder
An obvious one, but as gluten free cakes can be a little heavy, I often add a little extra baking powder to my recipes to help them stay light and airy (even when using self raising flour blends). Check the label to make sure your chosen brand is approved gluten free and don’t add too much, or your cakes will fall flat when you take them out of the oven.
4. Ground Almonds
Great for adding a little texture and keeping your cakes moist, these go in most of my cakes (unless I’m baking for someone with a nut allergy). As a general rule of Thumb I I’ll replace 20-30g of flour with ground almonds whenever I’m converting a recipe.
5. Soft sugars
This one might sound a little odd, but swapping out some of the caster sugar for a softer variation results in a moister cake. I like to have a variety available and use lighter sugars for vanilla or fruit cakes and swap to the darker stuff (like muscovado) when working with flours like chocolate or coffee.
Are there any ingredients you dread running out of? Let us know in the comments.