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Gluten-free cooking and baking hints


When I was diagnosed as a coeliac/celiac and started experimenting with gluten-free baking, I had a lot of questions to which I needed quick answers. This page aims to help people in a similar situation.

Any additions would be most welcome.


General advice

Here are some ways to approach a gluten-free diet, folowed by some excellent hints from helpful coeliacs:

Buy commercially made, gluten-free biscuits (cookies), cakes, bread and pasta from a health food shop. Where I live, these tend to be expensive, sometimes nice, sometimes awful.

Try to convert all your old favourite recipes into gluten-free recipes. This can be a lot of fun, but it can also be frustrating and disappointing. Some recipes will work well, some won't.

Make recipes from gluten-free recipe books, such as those by Bette Hagman. There's a big list of books in the Celiac List Archives. Your nearest library ought to have gluten-free recipe books. But beware: some information in gluten-free recipe books is out-of-date and wrong. Study the latest info first. My What it's like having coeliac/celiac disease page includes links to excellent web sites.

Be adventurous. The Western world may survive on flour, but in large parts of the globe people know how to cook well without it. Try Thai and Mexican food, for example. You may find that being a coeliac/celiac opens up a whole new delightful world for you.

Flour substitutions

When substituting wheat flour with gluten-free flour, you'll usually get best results with recipes which have only a small percentage of flour in them. Your health food shop -- or perhaps even your supermarket -- will sell gluten-free flour.

Gluten-free self-raising flour

   2 tablespoons potato flour
   enough white rice flour to make it up to 1 cup
   1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
   1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
   1 teaspoon xanthan gum OR guar gum OR pre-gel starch

(If your health food shop or supermarket can't help you with these ingredients, your coeliac/celiac support group will be able to.) Have you a better version of self-raising flour? Please let me know.)

Gluten-free baking powder

   1/4 cup bicarbonate soda (baking soda)
   1/2 cup cream of tartar

Mix well and keep in an airtight container.

Flour combinations

The following combinations of flours work well together:

2 cups rice flour, 2/3 cup potato flour, 1/3 cup tapioca flour.
1/2 soya flour and 1/2 maize cornflour (cornstarch).
1/2 soya flour and 1/2 potato flour.
1/2 soya flour and 1/2 rice flour.
1/2 soya flour, 1/4 potato flour, 1/4 rice flour.

Note: When buying soya flour, look for debittered soya flour. It has a milder flavour. I reckon plain soya flour has too strong a flavour.

Gluten-free pastry

This is good for sweet pies, tarts and cheesecakes.
   60g (2oz) maize cornflour (cornstarch)
   3/4 cup milk powder
   1 1/2 cups coconut
   120g (4oz) melted butter
Simply mix and press into a dish. This isn't exactly pastry, so don't roll it.

Note: What Australia and New Zealand (and the UK?) describe as maize cornflour, Americans call cornstarch.

You'll need to replace the gluten

If you simply take gluten out of your baking, you're likely to have disappointing results. Gluten is sticky stuff which helps prevent your baked goodies from crumbling. It also traps pockets of air, improving the texture of your bread, cakes or biscuits.

You can replace it with:

Xanthum gum, guar gum, or pre-gel starch

In Australia, xanthum gum is available from: The Coeliac Society of South Australia, The Coeliac Centre, 106A Hampstead Rd, Broadview SA 5083. Phone (08) 266 3899.

It costs $5.50 for a 100g bag.

Pre-gel starch, from the same source, seems to work OK and is cheaper at $3 for 200g. It also reduces crumbling in baked goods.

Guar gum, is an excellent substitute. In Australia, it is available from Future Environmental Services (FES), phone 03 9569 2329. Fax: 03 9571 2730. Mobile: 0414 630 269. P.O. Box 153, Gardenvale via Brighton, Victoria 3186. "Coeliacs can contact me at any time," says Mervyn Cohen of FES. (Guar gum has a high fibre content which sometimes has a laxative effect on people with sensitive digestive systems.)

Outside Australia: See The Celiac List Archives for lists of suppliers.

Pizza, hamburgers, muffins

Dear Allan,

Pizza: The best way I've found to make pizza is to use Country Harvest G/F Bread Mix (from Woolies). I mix the "flour" and yeast and store it in a jar till needed. I then take about a cup or so add 1-2 dessertspoons oil and enough warm water to make a sloppy dough but not too runny. I then spread it onto greased non-stick trays and let it rise for an hour or two and add the usual toppings remembering that most hams have flour added so I use cooked bacon instead and bake at 180 degrees Celsius.

Hamburgers: I also use it to make hamburgers by mixing the dough as above and then placing in large circles on a very low heat in a greased non-stick frypan with the lid on for 20-30 mins. This steams them very slowly and turn it when it goes light brown on the bottom and the top has set. I then slice it in two and add hamburger meat, etc. (For the hamburgers I use a Swedish Meatball recipe from Tess Mallos' Meat Cookbook and substitute breadcrumbs with rice flour - white or brown. I also make the Swedish Meatballs from this recipe - delicious).

Muffins: I also use the Country Harvest to make fruit muffins by mixing it as above and adding some mixed spice and mixed fruit and bake in greased muffin pans after "proofing" (leaving to rise) for 30 mins. Country Harvest Bread Mix is now hard to find as the major supermarkets i.e. Woolies and Coles do not seem to be stocking it. October, 2001.– Marilyn.

Baking mix

Dear Allan,
I have struggled to make cakes etc. gluten-free and have found Country Harvest all purpose baking mix to be the best. I add extra baking powder to cakes and when making pancakes, add an extra egg as well. Other family members find them quite acceptable. The best thing about finding your recipes on site was the wonderful recipe for brownies! . . . They are truly wonderful and the most authentic American taste outside America.

For cakes I use an old-fashioned recipe for Victoria Sandwich and use it to make upside-down desserts also. The recipe is equal quantities of gluten-free flour, sugar and butter plus one egg for every 2 ounces (60gm) – Beryl Cunningham.

Reducing oil in baking

Allan,
I have been using unsweetened apple sauce instead of oil in many of our common recipes. It makes a nice moist waffle and pancake. Also cakes are a bit heavier but they are very good. – Linda Jane McIlwee.

Glutinous rice flour

Allan,
I have been experimenting with "Glutinous Rice Flour" distributed by Erawan Marketing Co. Ltd. I found this product on the shelves at Coles Malvern, Vic. in the cooking flour section. Ingredients, glutinous riceflour, water.

I have had this only for a few days and what a big difference this has made. It has put the stickiness back into the food and you can regulate this by the quantity used.

At this stage my mix is 1 cup soya, 1 cup potato, 1/4 cup rice flour, 1/4 cup glutinous rice flour. This mix is my general purpose mix, but I sometimes use other combinations for other purposes usually cutting down on soya. I have noted the more glutinous rice flour used the heavier the product becomes. – Simon Hirth.

Disclaimer

I'm not a chef. I'm a journalist/coeliac with a keen interest in gluten-free food. I've been as careful as I can with this page, but no one's perfect. If you see any mistakes I'd be grateful if you let me know.

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Allan Gardyne, Golden Beach, Queensland, Australia.
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