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Changing Wheat-Based Dough Recipes to Gluten-Free

Converting traditional wheat-based recipes to gluten-free recipes isn’t difficult, but you do need knowledge of dough structure, familiarity with alternative flours and starches, and practice with the mechanisms, unique issues, and procedures of gluten-free baking.

When you’re converting a traditional wheat recipe into a gluten-free recipe, be sure to read the traditional recipe carefully. Make note of the types of flour used and any other possible gluten products or ingredients called for, and list alternatives you can use. You can make lots of easy changes to a traditional recipe to convert it to a desired gluten-free treat.

Here are some important points to keep in mind when converting a traditional wheat batter or dough to a gluten-free batter or dough:

  • Always weigh your flours. Remember that a cup of all-purpose flour weighs 125 grams. If a recipe calls for a cup of all-purpose wheat flour, substitute 125 grams of an alternative flour. That means that sometimes you’ll use less than a cup, sometimes more. Weighing is crucial.

  • Always combine alternative flours. Don’t substitute all-brown rice flour for all-purpose wheat flour, for instance. A combination of different flours provides the best results.

  • When substituting flours, use higher-protein flours for bread recipes, pie crusts, and pizza crusts. Use lower-protein flours and more starches for cookies, cakes, dumplings, and soufflés.

  • Use a 70 percent protein flour to 30 percent starch flour ratio. This is a general guide for any gluten-free baked good. The protein provides the structure, and the starch provides tenderness and a fine crumb.

  • Consider your sweeteners. Many recipes taste better with brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. Honey is a good addition to use; replace some of the liquid in the recipe with honey or maple syrup.

  • Add more liquid to the wheat recipe you’re converting. Start out with a couple of tablespoons of extra liquid. Measure the ingredients carefully and write down what you added, along with the quantities.

  • Add a tiny bit of an acidic ingredient such as vitamin C powder, sour cream, or buttermilk. Gluten-free flours aren’t as acidic as wheat flours, so baking soda doesn’t work quite as well. Vitamin C powder is a good choice for those who can’t use cow’s milk in recipes.

  • Be choosey about baking powder. Baking powder can make some gluten-free baked goods taste a little tinny. Look for baking powders made with calcium, not aluminum. And try to find double-acting baking powder, which creates carbon dioxide when mixed with water and also when heated, which means your baked goods get a lift when the batter is mixed and in the oven!

  • Always make sure that your baking powder and baking soda are labeled gluten-free. Consider making your own baking powder by combining equal amounts of gluten-free baking soda and cream of tartar.

  • Consider increasing the leavening. Add a bit more baking powder, baking soda, or yeast to the traditional wheat recipe. Start by adding 25 percent more.

  • Use yogurt or buttermilk to replace some of the liquid in the traditional recipe. Doing so helps make gluten-free baked goods, especially cakes and quick breads, fluffier.

  • Think about using carbonated water in recipes. Doing so helps give the texture an extra boost without adding any more leavening, which can make baked goods bitter or sour.

  • Remember puréed fruits and vegetables. Boost flavor with puréed fruits and vegetables, which also add pectin — a natural substance found in produce that thickens liquid. Like gelatin, pectin increases moisture, too. Substitute these products for some of the liquid in a traditional wheat recipe.

  • Add an extra egg, egg white, or egg replacer. The protein in the egg helps build the structure along with the gluten-free flours. In fact, you can replace some of the liquid in the traditional recipe with egg whites. One egg white is about 2 tablespoons.

  • Increase flavorings. Double the vanilla and add more of any extract called for, and increase the amount of spices slightly. Just don’t go overboard! Increase by 10 percent at first. If you like the results, you can add more the next time.

  • Add flavorful liquids. Improve the taste of gluten-free breads, cakes, and cookies by adding flavor-rich liquids. Use cold coffee, molasses, fruit juice, honey, coconut milk, vanilla soy milk, nut milks, and vegetable juices to replace some or all of the liquid in a wheat recipe.

  • Think about including an additive in your gluten-free doughs and batters. Xanthan or guar gum, gelatin, sweet whey, eggs, raw buckwheat flour, chia slurries, and flaxseed slurries are excellent additions that can give your baked goods more structure and a better, finer crumb.

You may have to try several times before you successfully convert your favorite recipe into a gluten-free treat. Just remember that experimenting in the kitchen is a learning experience and can be fun when you approach it with a light attitude. Think of it as exploring a new world, and you’re in charge. The more you learn, the easier converting recipes is!

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