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Key Differences Between Wheat and Gluten-Free Baked Goods

There are some key differences between wheat-based and gluten-free baked goods when you compare flavors, textures, and visual differences. At first, the change to gluten-free baked goods may take some adjustment, but you’ll soon learn to love the taste, texture, and look of gluten-free cakes, cookies, pies, and desserts.

Wheat vs. gluten-free: Flavor differences

Wheat flour is known for its consistency; it’s consistent in the way it behaves in recipes, consistent in its look, and consistent in taste. That’s where gluten-free flours have an advantage: They all have a different taste!

When you transition to a gluten-free diet, the number of alternative flours and starches can seem dizzying. As you bake, you’ll discover the flours and starches you like best.

Some flours are naturally sweet, some are nutty, and others have a strong flavor. When you’re just getting started baking gluten-free, try as many as you can. And keep notes about which flours you like and which you don’t.

The point is to be flexible. No gluten-free recipe ever tastes exactly the same as a wheat flour recipe. But remember that homemade gluten-free baked goods taste better than anything made in a factory, mass-produced, or made in a supermarket bakery.

Wheat vs. gluten-free: Texture differences

Texture is the elephant in the room for gluten-free baked goods. Huge improvements were made when flour combinations and additives were added to the mix. Measuring according to weight instead of volume represented the next step forward. Even with these changes, gluten-free baked goods don’t have quite the same texture as wheat-based products.

To get the best texture from your gluten-free baked products, try these tips:

  • Eat breads and rolls warm. Of course, nothing’s better than eating these products warm from the oven, but you can reheat breads and rolls before serving for better texture.

    Microwave rolls for 8 to 10 seconds apiece on high power. Wrap breads in foil and reheat them in a 350 degree oven for 9 to 12 minutes. But don’t try this more than once! Reheating makes starch go stale faster, so multiple reheating creates a tough and dry bread or roll.

  • Some gluten-free flours have a slightly gritty texture, especially brown rice flour. Sweet rice flour from Asian markets is incredibly fine textured. But corn flour, teff flour, and quinoa flours are all a bit gritty. Use less of these flours or grind them in a food processor for a finer texture.

  • Some gluten-free baked goods can be denser than their wheat cousins, although many of the newer gluten-free recipes are wonderfully light. To adjust to this fact, bake recipes that are naturally denser. A whole-grain bread will always be denser than a white bread. It’s also better for you, with more fiber and vitamins.

  • If your breads aren’t as soft or tender as you’d like, toast them. Nothing’s better than toasted homemade bread spread with a little softened butter or whipped honey.

  • If you’re not completely happy with the texture of your gluten-free baked goods, freeze them. Freezing firms structure and can help keep products moist for a longer period. Some products, such as brownies and soft cookies, taste delectable when frozen and partially thawed.

Wheat vs. gluten-free: Visual differences

Many gluten-free baked goods look a little different from wheat baked goods. The breads may not rise quite as high, and cookies and pastries may be flatter. Browning is a little different, too. But you may be surprised at how appetizing these gluten-free treats look. The crumb of gluten-free breads and cakes is very similar to wheat products. Pie crusts are just as flaky, and cookies can be crackled and golden-brown.

Here are some ways to improve the look of your gluten-free baked goods:

  • You can get a more evenly browned look by brushing doughs and batters with a beaten egg or any kind of milk before you put them into the oven.

  • Use muffin tins or baking rings when making rolls and biscuits to help the softer batters and doughs hold their shape.

  • Use piping bags and ice cream scoops to shape cookies and rolls. A thicker batter or dough produces a puffier product.

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