Baking can be one of the more challenging aspects of following a gluten-free diet. The reason: Gluten is created during the kneading process and gives breads their distinctive stretchy, elastic quality and structure.
When it comes to gluten-free baking, gluten-free flours lack the elasticity found in traditional flour. Plus, most gluten-free dough is sticky and doesn’t lend itself to kneading by hand. But gluten-free baking has come a deliciously long way as more gluten-free flours and gums, such as xanthan gum and guar gum, have become available. These gums, eggs, egg whites, and leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda will create elasticity and structure and impart moisture to your baked goods. You’ll find a small glossary of some of these products in our Gluten-Free Grains, Flours, and Starches guide.
We also found that gluten-free baking mixes behave differently. Each contains varying amounts of flour and leavening agents, and some are more finely ground than others. These differences naturally create variations in the final baked product. In our gluten-free recipes, we’ve included the name of the brand that yielded the best results. However, if you have a go-to gluten-free baking mix that you prefer, feel free to use that, but know you’ll need to adjust the recipe accordingly—adding more or less liquid to get the proper dough or batter consistency and adjusting baking time as needed.
Gums such as xanthan gum and guar gum are mainstays of successful from-scratch gluten-free baking. These gums prevent crumbling and give the stretch and elastic texture that gluten-containing products usually provide in baked goods. These gums are also used commercially as thickeners and stabilizers in salad dressings and pie fillings. Guar gum is less expensive than xanthan gum, but it’s also higher in fiber and may have a laxative effect.
Storage and Thawing
Gluten-free flours and baked products made with them don’t contain preservatives, which means they are more perishable—the flours can become rancid, and gluten-free baked goods dry out more quickly. Proper storage is essential to preserve them as long as possible. Once opened, they should be stored in an airtight container in a dark, dry place. Refrigeration will prolong their shelf life, but bring them to room temperature before using.
Once baked goods are cooled thoroughly, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and place them in an airtight container or zip-top plastic freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Store them in the freezer until ready to use. Breads may be stored at room temperature for a day after baking, and then stored in the freezer until ready to use. They are easiest to use when they have been sliced and each slice has been separated by wax or parchment paper prior to freezing. Most frozen gluten-free baked goods are best when thawed at room temperature because microwaving can make them tough. Toasting is a great way to reheat baked goods and slices of bread.