How to Work with Gluten-Free Doughs

Several methods of making doughs and batters are used in gluten-free baking, and you usually need to corral the gluten-free doughs and batters in some way so they turn out like you want them to. Gluten-free doughs are much softer and stickier than wheat doughs, and they need a little help to form. Supermarkets have all the supplies you need to handle your doughs and batters with ease.

Mixing methods for gluten-free doughs

Making gluten-free dough — or any dough — involves three basic methods. The method you use depends on the type of baked good you want to make. Remember to follow the recipe carefully and use the mixing method that the recipe calls for.

  • Straight dough: In this method, sometimes called the one-bowl method, you thoroughly mix together the dry ingredients — flour, yeast or baking powder, salt, and dry additives — in one bowl. You mix together the wet ingredients — eggs, milk or water, and usually sugar — in another bowl, and then you combine the two mixtures. This is the method used for most gluten-free doughs, and it's also the easiest method.

  • Creaming method: You begin the creaming method by beating together butter and sugar. This forms small air holes in the fat that become the crumb of the baked good. You add eggs, and then you add flour and liquid alternately. This is the old-fashioned method of making doughs and batters and was discarded in favor of the straight dough method for most baked goods when bakers discovered the straight dough method produces almost the same result.

  • Cold foam method: Angel food cakes, soufflés, and sponge cakes are made with the cold foam method, which depends on an egg white foam for its structure. You beat egg whites until they’re stiff and form a foam with lots of air. Then you add starches and flours for strength. This method is unique; you can’t replicate the texture of these foods using the other two methods.

Handling gluten-free doughs

Here are some tips for handling gluten-free doughs:

  • Chill cookie doughs before baking. The rest time helps the dough firm up so it’s easier to shape and holds its shape in the oven. And it gives the flour more time to hydrate so the cookie is more tender.

  • Grease pans or cookie sheets well and flour them with a tiny bit of gluten-free flour or starch. Or you can use parchment paper or Silpat liners to line cookie sheets and baking pans. Gluten-free doughs are stickier than wheat doughs so they can use the extra help.

  • Piping bags can be your best friend in the kitchen. Because gluten-free doughs are much softer and stickier than wheat-based doughs, using a piping bag can help you form breadsticks, cookies, and rolls with ease.

  • Ice cream scoops are another wonderful appliance to help you handle gluten-free doughs.

  • Plastic wrap and parchment paper are also your friends in the gluten-free kitchen. You use these products to shape doughs and wrap them for chilling in the fridge.

  • Have a variety of baking pans on hand. Because they’re about the consistency of thick cake batter, you need to place gluten-free doughs and batters into pans and forms before you bake them. The pans give the dough structure and help hold it in the correct form while the structure sets. Have fun with your gluten-free recipes by choosing pans with unusual or fun shapes.

  • Use a smaller pan than the one called for in the traditional recipe. Make two breads in 5-x-3-inch pans rather than one large loaf in a 9-x-5-inch pan. Make sure that you fill the pan with the same proportion of batter or dough as called for in the original recipe.

  • Don’t use dark-colored metal or dark, non-stick pans. These types of pans hold more heat than shiny, light-colored metal or glass baking pans. Dark-colored pans cause the bottoms and sides to cook faster than the center, so your beautiful creations may burn before the inside is done.

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