Going Gluten-FreeDecember 3, 2014

Substitution Tips from the Allergy Free Cook

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Posted by Erica Dermer


I recently had a chance to listen to Laurie Sadowski, better known as The Allergy Free Cook, talk about making baking substitutions for those with food allergies and sensitivities. As a self-proclaimed terrible baker, I make substitutions left and right for practically every recipe I find – so it was great to hear her inside tips and tricks for what I’ve been pulling out of nowhere this whole time (perhaps why most of my recipes have failed). I hope you find a new tip and trick for substitutions in your own recipes below!

  • Here’s a pro-tip for your holiday gravy. Laurie claims that gluten-free sweet rice flour makes the smoothest gravy. Usually with a starch-based flour, you have to mix it into a slurry first, but you can just whisk sweet rice flour right in! This flour is also very inexpensive and lasts forever.
  • Outside of gravies, Laurie doesn’t use rice flours. She, like others in the room, state that it has a very distinct, and very rice-y flavor to her. The texture of rice flour is also sandy and crumbly – especially when the dense weight of the flour isn’t taken into consideration while baking (more on this later).
  • So if rice flour is out, what’s Laurie’s go-to gluten-free flour? Her favorite is sorghum flour because of its smooth taste and slight molasses undertones (don’t worry – she said it’s not quite “gingerbread-y”). Sorghum flour is also very high in nutrients, which is great even if you're doing desserts – and want to justify having another serving. Molecularly, it’s similar to wheat flour, so it produces great texture results.
  • Other favorites are quinoa flour and teff flour, as they are higher in protein. However, she never uses more than 25% of total baking with these flours. These high-protein flours add structure to the item, for when you don't want it to break apart – just pull apart. Quinoa and teff provide enough structure and a little chewiness. Pro tip: Teff has a bit of cocoa undertone, so it’s good for any sort of chocolate creation.
  • Millet flour is really underrated in Laurie’s opinion. It’s perfect for cake with a tight crumb that's not too spongy. Millet is slightly sweet, so take that into consideration of your recipe. You can use a little more of millet flour your baking and it is less expensive than other gluten-free flours.
  • Now that you’ve got your favorite flour, you have to take care of it. You should always store your flour in fridge or freezer. Higher protein (like nut flour, quinoa and teff) and fat-based items can go rancid quicker, that's why they are stored in the cold. Starches, however, don't have to be kept cold. When ready for baking, you’ve got to bring everything down to room temp before you create with the flour. Pro tip: The same rule goes with flax and chia seeds – always keep these in the fridge.
  • To better understand the substitutions of flour, you’ve got to know how the pros do it – which is using a kitchen scale and measuring! You might have guessed this because many cookbooks include weight measurements – grams alongside of cups and tablespoons. Every gluten-free flour that you might substitute for wheat flour has a different weight. If you’re going off of a wheat-based recipe, you should take into consideration the weight of the flour you plan on using. As an example to show the stark differences in weight, sweet white rice flour is 51 grams per 1/4 cup, and wheat flour is only 33 grams per 1/4 cup. If you use a cup-for-cup sub of sweet rice flour instead of wheat flour, you'll wonder why you have a dry crumbling mess at the end! But, if you used a mix of 25% sorghum flour, 25% teff flour and 25% tapicoa flour, you'll be much closer to the whole wheat flour weight.
  • I’ll admit that I pack my flour into the measuring cup before I throw it haphazardly into the mixing bowl. But you should learn from me – don’t do that! Fluff up the flour first! After it's settled, then take your measuring cup, spoon flour into measuring cup, then level it. If you use this method, you’ll avoid using too much flour in your mixtures!
  • Non-dairy milk with a high fat content gives you a better tenderness to your baked goods. A lower-fat milk like rice milk doesn't work as well because the texture of that milk is much like water.
  • You can also make a vegan (non-dairy) buttermilk with the addition of an acid, like apple cider vinegar. Put 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a cup and add enough non-dairy milk to get it to equal one cup. The apple cider vinegar will react with the non-dairy milk and start to cause a physical reaction!
  • For a non-dairy sour cream (for baking purposes only – not like on a baked potato), choose a fattier milk. You’ll use the buttermilk recipe (above), take a sieve over a bowl, place a coffee filter over it, and catch the curds of fat that comes out of the buttermilk.
  • Real whipped “cream” is possible again! You can make whipped cream out of coconut milk. You have to buy the full-fat version in order to make this magic happen. Purchase two cans of coconut milk, and put them in the fridge overnight. When you pull out the can and open it in the morning, 2/3rdof the top will be a butter-like hard consistency. You want to scrape that out and put it directly in a cold stand mixer bowl. To enhance the flavor, mix in some confectioners sugar and a couple dashes of vanilla extract. Once you beat it, you’ll see that it whips just like whipped cream! This mixture can also stay in fridge for days, and will be just as great if you give it a little pre-whip before you serve it again – but it probably won’t last that long because it’s delicious!
  • So you want to sub oil for butter in a recipe? Laurie’s rule of thumb is that for every 1 cup of butter, you use 3/4 cup of oil. Her personal favorites (as well as mine, if we’re playing favorites) are olive oil and coconut oil. Laurie even found a butter-flavored dairy-free olive oil that was really good for recreating that butter flavor.

I can’t thank Laurie enough for her great tips! Did you learn anything new? Is there anything you’d like to share about baking free-from allergens?

Comments (1)

Awesome I've been looking for this information! Thank you so much!

Posted by: The Kidd | December 5, 2014 8:44 AM    Report this comment

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