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How to Build Structure and Strength in Gluten-Free Baked Goods

To recreate the texture, structure, and strength of gluten in gluten-free baked goods, you must use alternative flours to mimic gluten’s strength and elasticity. It is possible to build a nice structure in your baked goods without one speck of gluten.

You also want your baked goods to be delicious, so mimicking the nutty, sweet flavor of wheat is another goal. Gluten plays a part in staling and retaining the freshness of baked goods, but you can achieve these characteristics in gluten-free products as well.

Most gluten-free flour blends use a ratio of about 70 percent high-protein flours to 30 percent lower-protein or high-starch flours. This ratio makes a flour blend that acts pretty much like all-purpose wheat flour in baking recipes.

These are the flour components used to develop structure in baked goods:

  • Protein: High-protein gluten-free flours are useful for making products that need a strong structure, such as popovers, yeast breads, and pizza crusts. Low-protein gluten-free flours work well in more delicate recipes such as cakes and cookies.

  • Starch: When starch is combined with water and heat, it gelatinizes, or forms a web. That’s just what you want! Unfortunately, starch webs are much weaker than protein webs. Starch can do some of the heavy lifting in gluten-free baked goods, but it needs help from protein.

  • Lipids: All flours contain lipids, or fats. In fact, high-fat flours can become rancid when the fat oxidizes, which is why many flours are stored in the fridge or freezer. Lipids add flavor and help keep the flour’s protein structure from overwhelming the product.

For the strongest structure, choose a combination of high-protein gluten-free flours. Most recipes should also include some starch to add a pleasing mouth feel. More delicate recipes can use low-protein flours and more starches. You may have to experiment before you decide which flours work best for your recipes and which flours you prefer for their flavor.

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