Ask the Chef: October/November 2017


“My son can’t eat potatoes. What can I substitute for potato flour?”

Q: I’d like to make one of your bread recipes for my son but it calls for potato flour and he can’t eat potatoes. What can I substitute for potato flour?

A: Try replacing potato flour with an equal amount of sweet rice flour, almond flour or a combination. Despite its name, sweet rice flour is not sweet in taste. Made from “sticky” rice, it contains more starch than regular rice flour, much like potatoes.

Note that potato flour is not the same as potato starch. These two baking ingredients are often confused for each other but they have completely different baking characteristics.

For other gluten-free flour substitutions, turn to our Gluten Free Flour Replacements page.

Q: My wife is celiac and we’ve had a terrible time making gluten-free bread. After the loaf comes out of the oven, it always falls in the center. What can we do to solve this?

A:Gluten-free bread defies the baking principles of wheat bread. The structure of gluten-free bread is delicate, requiring a balance of wet-to-dry ingredients that allows the bread to rise—but not too much! From your description, it sounds like your bread rises too much and then collapses, most likely because there’s too much liquid for the amount of flour in the recipe. Next time, hold back about 2 tablespoons of liquid. Then once all your ingredients are mixed, add back a little liquid (a couple of teaspoons at a time) until the dough has a shiny, smooth consistency and is about as thick as mashed potatoes. Let the dough rise and bake as directed. Try this and note the results. Then the next time you make this recipe, vary the liquid accordingly.

kitchen utensils


Q:  I’d love to try your gourmet pizza recipe and use my pizza stone. The video, “Masterful! How to Make the Best Gluten-Free Pizza,” shows you rolling out the dough on a pizza pan and then placing the pan on a hot stone. What technique can I use if I want to bake the pizza directly on a hot pizza stone?

A: You’re talking about one of my all-time favorite recipes. You can make this pizza several ways, including rolling out the dough on a pizza pan and setting the pan on a heated stone. You can also roll the pizza out on lightly oiled parchment paper. Slide a pizza peel (a light-weight wooden paddle) under the parchment so that it’s centered under the pizza crust and then slide the pizza onto the stone, parchment and all. When baked, slide the peel under the parchment and remove the pizza from the oven.

For those who don’t have a pizza pan, a pizza stone or a peel, no worries! Simply use a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. For best results, be sure to bake your pizza on the lowest rack of your oven.

Q: I’d like to make the Lemon Curd Celebration Cake that was featured in your April/May issue. Can I use a regular gluten-free flour blend instead of coconut flour? I can’t find coconut flour anywhere in my small town.

A: I’m all about substitutions but, unfortunately, replacing coconut flour with another gluten-free flour won’t work. The reason is that coconut flour absorbs a lot more liquid than other gluten-free flours.

If there’s no coconut flour available in your town, try ordering it online. You can also make it yourself. Coconut flour is simply finely ground coconut. Buy some unsweetened shredded coconut and pulverize it into a flour using a clean coffee grinder or a food processor.

Q: Your egg-free instructions sometimes call for mixing flax meal with hot applesauce. I don’t tolerate apples and I’m wondering what I can substitute for the applesauce.

gluten free cinnamon sugar donuts

A: Apples contain a lot of pectin, which is a natural stabilizer and gum. Combined with flax meal, applesauce delivers egg-like baking characteristics and makes a terrific egg replacement in certain recipes. Pears and prunes contain pectin and have similar properties. If pears are tolerated, why not try pear puree? The easiest way to access pureed pears is to buy a jar of baby food pears. It’s pure pears with no added sugar.

Q: I was so excited to see your recipe for donuts (my fave!), only to discover it called for potato starch. Then I spotted your recipe for pizza—but there it was again. Oh why potato starch? It’s a killer for me! What else can be used?

A: You can replace potato starch in your recipes with an equal amount of cornstarch, tapioca starch/flour or arrowroot powder. Again, potato starch is not potato flour. They have different baking characteristics. For more about gluten-free starch replacements, turn to the Substitutions page.

Q: Can I use plain yogurt instead of buttermilk in recipes like Irish soda bread, coffee cakes and pancakes that call for buttermilk?

beth hillson

A: Yes. You can replace buttermilk with plain yogurt in the recipes you mention. If you use Greek-style yogurt, however, you may need to thin it first with a tablespoon (or two) of milk or water, depending on your recipe. Try it and note the results. Then vary the amount of liquid accordingly the next time you make the recipe.

Food editor Beth Hillson is a chef and cooking instructor. She is founder of Gluten-Free Pantry, one of the first gluten-free companies in the United States, and author of Gluten-Free Makeovers and The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten Free (Da Capo Lifelong).