Want to bake your own gluten-free desserts for the holidays? It’s not as simple as substituting one type of flour for another, but it’s not as hard as you might think!
In a Care2 exclusive, Nicole Hunn, author of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread: Biscuits, Bagels, Buns, and more, generously shares her secrets for homemade gluten-free desserts for the holidays.
1. Use a gluten-free recipe.
Even though these days there is no shortage of gluten-free flour blends that call themselves a “cup for cup” replacement for all purpose wheat flour, great gluten-free baking still requires gluten-free recipes.
The ingredient balance (especially to control moisture) must be different, as gluten-free flour blends simply behave a bit differently than conventional all purpose flour. There’s nothing wrong with that!
Especially when you are baking for a crowd, you don’t want to start experimenting with your old recipes. Find a trusted source of gluten-free recipes and begin there. Early baking success means you’ll want to keep baking!
2. Start with drop cookies.
Many people come to eating gluten-free never having baked much of anything before. All of a sudden, they not only feel the need to bake, but they have to do it with unfamiliar flours. It can be very overwhelming!
Whenever someone asks me what sort of baking recipe to select first, I always recommend a simple drop cookie, like gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. As long as there’s butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla, they’re going to be delicious and you’ll feel like a rock star. And the winter holidays are all about cookies, so you’re right on time.
3. It‘s all about ingredient temperature…
All baking success, gluten-free or otherwise, hinges on temperature. Did you know that your baking ingredients should be at room temperature (except for certain pastries, which require cold ingredients)?
The main goal of mixing baking ingredients together is to incorporate them into one another so they create a consistent dough or batter. Have you ever tried to whip cold butter until it’s “light and fluffy,” as so many baking recipes direct? You can’t! Or how about trying to beat a cold egg into otherwise room temperature cookie dough? Everything clumps. So let your eggs and butter come to room temperature before baking with them.
If you forget, and have to begin with cold eggs, float them in warm (not hot) water for 15 minutes and they will be ready to go. Butter can be zapped in a microwave for a few moments, but you’ll have to let it cool before you attempt to bake with it as microwave ovens create hot spots.
4. …except when it‘s about oven temperature.
Most ovens are improperly calibrated, and are off by more than just a few degrees. My own oven has always run hot by about 50 degrees F. That’s a lot!
Rather than having it properly calibrated, only to have it drift off center again, I ignore the dial on the oven and focus instead on my oven thermometer. A simple analog oven thermometer, which should cost less than $10, has proven time and again to be the most important kitchen tool I own. It’s impossible to follow a recipe successfully when you don’t know the actual temperature in your oven. And it’s an easy fix!
Nicole Hunn’s unique timesaving recipes take advantage of readily available gluten-free ingredients and kitchen shortcuts. Created with the busy family in mind, Hunn shares her secrets to getting a complete meal, including bread, on the table in no time flat—all without breaking the bank. For more information and recipes, please visit her popular blog: www.glutenfreeonashoestring.com
Main post photo: photographer/collection-Ingram Publishing | Thinkstock