So GoodApr/May 2009 Issue

Ask the Chef - Allergy Friendly Baking

Food editor Beth Hillson answers your questions about allergy-friendly baking.

True Grit
Q I have a sugar cookie recipe that calls for super-fine brown rice flour. All I have is brown rice flour. Will that work?
A Super-fine flour is important because it keeps the cookies from becoming gritty. You can turn regular brown rice flour into super-fine by processing it in a blender, a food processor or a clean coffee grinder. Another way to ensure the cookies have a delicate texture is to blend 3 parts white rice flour with 1 part brown rice flour. Use this blend as a direct substitute for the super-fine brown rice flour in your recipe.  

Nix the Mix?
Q Why do your recipes call for so many different flours? I’d have to be in the grocery business to stock them all. There must be an easier way.
A Gluten-free flours must be combined in order to provide the baking properties of wheat flour. No single flour does the trick. If you want to keep it simple, stock just three: rice flour, tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) and cornstarch. If you’re allergic to corn, use potato starch. For proportion amounts, turn to Substitution Solutions, page 62, and check out our all-purpose flour blend. Ready-mixed flour blends can be purchased from Namaste (, Pamela’s ( or Glutino (

Wondering about Gum
Q I’m trying to do my own baking rather than relying on packaged products but I’m confused. Why isn’t xanthan gum part of your flour blends in Substitution Solutions (page 62)?
A For most gluten-free baking, either xanthan or guar gum is essential to replace properties found in wheat flour. Gum binds and provides elasticity to gluten-free baked goods. We did not include it in our all-purpose, high-fiber or high-protein blends because the amount can vary depending on the texture desired. For instance, yeast bread requires much more gum than cookies. That’s why most gluten-free recipes list gum as a separate ingredient.

Gum Replacement
Q I get sick from eating bread that contains xanthan gum. Can I replace xanthan with guar gum?
A Yes. Some cooks add a little more guar gum than xanthan but you can use them interchangeably with excellent results.

Allergy-Friendly Pizza
Q Where can I find a pizza mix that doesn’t contain gluten, dairy and yeast?
A Orgran ( offers a pizza crust mix that’s free of gluten and yeast. Mix it with water instead of milk. Top your pizza with nondairy cheese, such as Lisanatti’s 3-Cheese Blend Shreds (

In a Pickle
Q Are pickles allowed on the gluten-free diet? I wasn’t sure about the vinegar.
A The word on vinegar is that all but malt vinegar are considered gluten free. Gluten molecules are too large to pass through the vinegar distillation process. Check out “How about Alcohol?” in our Gluten-Free Quick Start Guide, page 57. If you have doubts about a particular product, contact the manufacturer directly.

Food editor Beth Hillson is a chef, cooking instructor and founder of the Gluten-Free Pantry. LW

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Send your questions to: Ask the Chef, Living Without magazine, PO Box 1998, Sun Valley, Idaho 83353 or Include your full name, address and daytime phone number. Letters become the property of Belvoir Media Group, LLC and may be published in other media. Submissions chosen for publication may be edited for clarity and length.

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