Gluten Free Cheat Sheet

by Jenn on May 8, 2015

in Gluten Free

Yeah, umm… if you didn’t figure it out by now this blog is done. C’est fini. Just one last thing to add, a summary of the past few years of blogging. What did I gain from it? Well, some awesome friends, for one. Some fun adventures, and a community of other like-minded people that like talking about food. I also found it a great venue to explore and develop my photography and writing. I also have a digital cookbook of sorts (nothing formal, just a folder of pdfs) of my recipes, the things I liked to make, and how they work (not to mention some pretty pictures hanging on my walls). Would I do it all over again? For sure. What knowledge do I take away from this awesome experience I had? Well I’ll summarize below – my gluten free “cheat sheet”:

Do all conversions by weight. GF ingredients have different densities and are milled to different degrees of fine/coarseness. The only way to be sure you have the same amount of “stuff” in your baked good is to go by weight. It’s as close to “moles” (converting to the same # of atoms) as you are going to get in cooking, which is important since it’s chemical reactions that do all the transformation.

This is all just based on my personal experience, from having a food blog for 6+ years, being part of a gluten (and more) free family for 8+ years, being a scientist with expertise in both physical and organic chemistry, a writer/recipe developer for a national and awesome gluten free magazine for 2 years, and having a determined personality that is too stubborn to give up on a goal until I figure it out.

note my definitions of “grain” and “whole-grain” likely have nothing to do with any dietary definitions, they are just how I tend to group certain ingredients.

How to make an all-purpose gluten free flour mix:

  • 1/3 “grain” (millet, sorghum, fine almond, chickpea, corn, certified GF oat flour)
  • 1/3 rice (white or brown rice flour)
  • 1/3 starch (potato, tapioca, arrowroot, mochiko/sweet rice flour)
  • **gum (guar, xanthan, guar/xanthan, or psyllium husk), 1 T per every 2 cups mix

**optional (for homemade pasta, bread, rolls, pizza, anything that needs to be rolled out and stretched, or trap air – NOT necessary for cake, pancakes, waffles, cookies, brownies, muffins, quick breads or pie dough. combining gums creates synergistic effect with more gelling properties than either gum by itself. so could be useful to try say, 1/2 T of guar and 1/2 T of xanthan instead)

How to make a more “whole grain” AP gluten free flour mix:

  • 1/6 “whole grain” (teff, buckwheat, chestnut, quinoa)
  • 1/6 “nut” meal (almond, hazelnut, coconut)
  • 1/3 “grain” (millet, sorghum, chickpea, corn, certified GF oat flour)
  • 1/3 starch (potato, tapioca, arrowroot, mochiko/sweet rice flour)
    **gum (see above)

Sorry I have little experience with completely paleo mixes to feel comfortable making a recommendation.

My favorite “out of the box” mixes/recipes:
•King Arthur AP GF flour – I get this at the grocery store when I’m too lazy to make my own mix, or don’t have time to do recipe development. Because 9 times out of 10, it just works.
•Namaste GF flour – can buy big 2lb bag at Sams for like $13. organic even. have yet to come across a better deal.
•Bisquick GF mix – makes some really great savory southern-style biscuits. Add in some herbs and cheese or else a bit flavorless. But texture is perfect.

What to use as thickeners:
•Gravies/Roux – 1:1 replacement of all purpose GF flour mix of choice, not plain rice flour, nor starch by itself.
•Clear sauces – 1:1 replacement of arrowroot starch/cornstarch or simply reduction technique
•Chili/marinara – Reduction technique, or add in some tomato paste

Tips for working with GF dough/batter:
•Measure by weight, not volume, especially when determining equivalent amounts of new ingredients.
•Wet your fingers before handling dough. Often a bit wet/stickier than conventional recipe.
•Let dough rest ≥30 min in the fridge before handling.
•Keep moist, often dries out easily – cover dough not working with right away with damp paper towel, etc. I usually break off ball of dough I am working with, wrap rest up with plastic wrap, and store in the fridge until use.
•Roll out between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap, taking care to flip over frequently. When finished, peel off one side, then flip into dish and peel off other side. Helps to avoid tearing issues with GF dough or sticking to counter. Keeps rolling pin fairly clean!

Tips for recipe development:
•Start with 1:1 replacement of GF ingredients by weight. THEN tweak. You may not need to tweak at all from there. See Ratio – Michael Ruhlman.
•Does the recipe actually utilize gluten’s chemical or physical properties? If not, then don’t need to do anything special. If yes, then think about what properties of gluten you need to replace – stretch, air trapping, etc? will help guide adjustments to ingredients and ingredient choice.
•Some GF ingredients absorb water really well/don’t absorb water well. It may be necessary to alter liquid:dry ingredient ratio. If possible, wait ≥30 min to check consistency of batter/dough before making these decisions. Fridge all dough before rolling it out.
•Some ingredients add more moisture than you think – if you decrease butter content, don’t be surprised to see a drier dough as well due to the moisture the butter contributes.
•Incorporations of some nut flours can alter fat ratios of ingredients. Add minimally or adjust accordingly. If working exclusively with almond flour – see Elana’s Pantry blog.
•Write down your trials. Note what did and didn’t work about each trial. I keep a “kitchen lab book”.
• Learn some organic chemistry to understand what controls the types of reactions that occur in the kitchen, and what is responsible for the flavors and properties of foods. At least some general chemistry about mole balancing, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, and acids/bases. It really does help. Chemistry is part of life skills, just like basic algebra is needed in figuring out how much tip to leave at a restaurant or how to cross-check your online bank statements.

{ 1 comment }

Betsy May 9, 2015 at 2:31 am

Nice surprise in my inbox. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts and recipes.

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