Ask the ChefsFeb/Mar 2012 Issue

In the Kitchen: Yeast Allergies, Xanthan Gum, Flax Allergy & More!

Beth Hillson answers your questions about special-diet baking.



I have a yeast allergy and I also can’t tolerate sulfites. My understanding is cream of tartar contains sulfites, which means I can’t have baking powder. I have yet to find a bread recipe that I can eat. Any suggestions?

Cream of tartar is made from the residue of the grape fermentation process and can contain sulfites. For yeast-free bread, try one of our Irish Soda Bread recipes, available at In place of the baking powder, substitute 2 to 3 teaspoons of baking soda—use no more than a total of 3 teaspoons in the recipe. For additional leavening, stir 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar (not wine vinegar) into the buttermilk or the milk of choice.

Can guar gum be substituted for xanthan gum? I’ve found that guar gum doesn’t always perform well.

I use xanthan gum and guar gum interchangeably with good results, replacing one for the other in equal amounts. But some bakers use a bit more guar than xanthan. If you’re concerned, use an additional ½ teaspoon guar gum when substituting guar for xanthan.

Can sprouted wheat seeds and oat seeds (like alfalfa seeds used in salads and sandwiches) be safely eaten by people who have celiac disease?

I would never recommend that those with celiac disease ingest sprouted wheat seeds. The protein is different in a sprouted grain so it might technically be considered gluten free but you’re putting yourself at risk for cross contamination—so why chance it? Oat seeds sprouted from gluten-free oats (although difficult to find) would be safe for those who can tolerate oats.

When a recipe calls for dredging the meat in flour, is it okay to use a gluten-free flour?

Yes. I use rice flour and corn flour for dredging meat and fish with great results. Usually I use rice flour for meat and corn flour for fish.

I’m allergic to flax. Can ground salba seeds be substituted for flax meal in baking recipes? If so, is it a one-for-one swap?

Yes. You can replace flax meal in recipes with an equal amount of salba seeds or chia seeds. The same goes for making flax gel, an egg replacement. (See page 60 for instructions.) As you may know, flax seeds must be ground into flax meal in order to be digestible. The good news about salba and chia seeds is that there’s no need to grind them before using them in recipes.

I made your Quinoa Sesame Wonder Bread in a convection oven and both times there was a gummy strip on the bottom of the loaf. If I could just remedy this, I’d have the perfect loaf.

Sometimes that occurs from under-baking but I suspect the temperature was too high in your convection oven. When the oven is overly hot, the crust browns early and the loaf can’t expand to its maximum volume. This interferes with the inner texture of the bread. My suggestion is to lower the oven temperature by 10 degrees. You may need to bake the loaf longer but this should take care of the gummy strip on the bottom. You might also try putting the loaf pan in the bottom third of the oven for the final 20 minutes of baking. To double-check for doneness, stick a long wooden skewer all the way through the bread. If it comes out gummy, return the bread to the oven and re-check in five minutes.

I’m a subscriber and would like to know if there’s a way to access your recipe archives. In particular, I’m searching for gluten-free tortillas to make in my VillaWare tortilla press.

I assume you’re looking for flour tortillas. If that’s the case, try Nicole Hunn’s recipe at Follow the recipe instructions but then place the dough in your machine where it can be pressed and cooked.

To access Living Without’s recipe archives, log into and put a key word in the search box to find the recipe you want. Subscribers can also access the past two years of the magazine by scrolling down the home page to “Resources” and clicking on “Back Issue Archive.”


Comments (3)

I'd love to find a substitute for margarine, since some form of margarine is needed for most baked goods. I can't have soy, palm, dairy, or olive. Any suggestions?

Posted by: Deborah M | January 27, 2013 12:24 PM    Report this comment

Thank you, Beth & Living Without Magazine for help making allergy-free recipes and ideas available to all of us allergy sufferers. This has helped me tremendously.

Posted by: Carollyn Will | June 26, 2012 6:31 PM    Report this comment

I am looking for a rice flour alternative to use in the baking mix featured on this web site. Any suggestions? My daughter has a bean, rice gluten and corn allergy.
Thank you,

Posted by: Babbs | April 1, 2012 12:59 PM    Report this comment

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