What’s the deal with Gluten, anyways?
Well, the science is "easy," it’s a protein that gives a deliciously chewy texture to the bread. But it’s also used to make soy sauce and salad dressings. I’ve even found it in cans of tomato soup. The fact of the matter is gluten can be found in almost anything. "Delicious chewy texture," makes gluten sound pretty yummy. Bread is yummy, but some people are gluten intolerant. That means every time they eat gluten, it causes their digestive systems to panic, it's not saying, that was yummy let's eat more even if their minds are.
All of this gluten-free talk may be starting to creep up on you. You're hearing about how food allergies have been flying under the radar for years being passed off as just a sensitive stomach. Proteins that can set off a whole day of bathroom usage, and all of these buzzwords, like "gluten-free", leave you to ask: should I be avoiding Gluten?
Short of going to the doctor, there aren’t a whole lot of ways to know if you should cut gluten from your diet. The easiest way is to eliminate it from your fridge for some time and see how you feel afterward.
But Wait, How Do You Know if You Should Even Go as Far as Gluten Elimination?
Glad you asked, if you’re experiencing migraines, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, fatigue, or strangely enough joint pain, It won’t hurt to try eliminating gluten. Take note of how you feel every day. Keep a food diary or body feels journal. Check-in after a month or two: Do you feel better after you eat? Are you going to the bathroom regularly? These are similar to the questions my doctor stated I need to ask myself. When she suggested I go on a Low FODMAP Diet, for my Irritable Bowel Syndrome I was discouraged but it worked.
'If you don’t see a big change, you probably don’t need to eliminate gluten, next you could try dairy elimination...the process goes on.
But if you are feeling better without bread in your life, maybe you want to make it a 'sustainable' lifestyle choice: you want to know more about going gluten-free. Well if you have a food allergy, Celiac Disease, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I bet you're already aware of gluten, so you can skip to our recipes below!
But if you've been experiencing constant gut discomfort you might not be 100% sure if gluten is the culprit, but you tried eliminating it for a few days and it seems to be going well. You seem to be feeling better. Why not try to make this a forever thing?
If this is something you want to try maintaining for many more years to come, I know it can seem daunting. It's a commitment that the rest of the world hasn't made. Maybe you think it's going to be hard to maintain a gluten-free lifestyle with Papa John's right around the corner. (Actually, Papa John's added a Gluten-Free crust to their menu, made of sorghum, teff, amaranth, and quinoa.)
Going gluten-free means reading the labels of almost everything you buy. But honestly, you get used to it. It’s not a big deal to flip a box over and read labels in the middle of a busy grocery store aisle. People move around you. And once you get into it, you'll be too excited that you found something is sans gluten, that you won't notice the people around you.
For me, I look at going gluten-free as not only a way to help my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) but to challenge my pre-packaged food upbringing. I think as an American, I should be more knowledgeable about what I’m eating. So much of our nation relies on pre-packed meals: goods that are over-processed and full of unpronounceable ingredients.
Living a Gluten-free life isn't too complicated. There’s rice and cauliflower pizza crust, gluten-free bread brands, corn tortillas shells, rice wraps, a myriad of gluten-free sweets, and dressings. Well, at least there are a lot of these options if you live in a diverse, populated area. If you don’t, your gluten-free section at the local grocery store may just be Life cereal, and that’s okay because today we’re going to talk about gluten-free baking.
8 Gluten-Free Flour Alternatives And Their Uses
Learning to bake is a step further away from even pre-packed gluten-free foods. For most recipes, you can easily switch out wheat-based, all-purpose flours for gluten-free options. So you don’t need to stop baking all those sweet treats, ever. Here's a quick cheat sheet you can take to the grocery store with you next time:
- Oat Flour (Banana Bread, Oatmeal Banana Pancakes, and you can replace all of the wheat flour with oat flour in whatever recipe you’re using. Bob's Red Mill recommends always using a binder, like a xanthan gum, when doing gluten-free baking.)
- Brown Rice Flour (Depending on the brand this flour has a notoriety for being gritty. Bob's Red Mill, a popular grocery store brand says theirs is finer. I'll leave that to you to determine. They recommend using Brown Rice Flour for hand-breading fish, chicken, or other meats or meat alternatives. It has a nuttier flavor and can be used to make homemade noodles. You can use this flour to make Blini’s or brownies.)
- Garbanzo Bean Flour (Crackers, pizza crust, thicken soups, or try some Middle Eastern and Indian dishes like socca, farinata, pakoras, falafel, and hummus.)
- Teff Flour "Ethiopian households have been using teff flour in their baking for ages. A favorite teff dish eaten at almost every Ethiopian meal is a flat, crepe-like bread called Injera.” -bobsredmill.com
- Sorghum Flour (A sweet flour alternative that’s good for making: Pancakes, beer, flatbreads, porridges, and more. If you want to use this as a true wheat substitute you may have to use a binder like a xanthan gum to make bread (Irish Soda Bread is my favorite.)
- Almond Flour (Use this for light and airy doughs: like tart crusts, macrons, quick loaves of bread, and cookies. Healthline.com recommends baking with an extra egg if you use Almond flour.)
- Arrowroot Flour (Use this with pancakes, pie fillings, gravies, thicken soups, and custards.)
- Coconut Flour (This flour made from the meat of the coconut is going to absorb more water, than regular wheat flour or almond flour, while baking- so keep that in mind for your recipes. Coconut flour is good for blending with other nut flours for tasty baked goods.)
Baking with Gluten Free Flour Alternatives Has Nutrient Rich Benefits
There are so many more gluten-free alternatives out there the possibilities are endless. There are opportunities to introduce even more nutrient-rich foods into your diet by using these gluten-free flour alternatives.
- Chickpea flour (garbanzo beans) is high in magnesium, protein, fiber, and potassium.
- Coconut flour doesn’t cause your blood sugar to spike, which helps keep it low when eating baked goods.
- Cassava flour, which can be swapped for white flour, is full of resistant starch, which is said to help improve insulin sensitivity.
- Arrowroot flour is full of iron, potassium, and B-Vitamins.
- Teff flour is high in protein, calcium, and fiber. Sorghum flour, also has protein, antioxidants, fiber, and iron.
The list goes on, if you’re missing some of these nutrients in your diet you could beef up your pantry’s flour staples.
Eat Cake: Gluten-Free Baking RecipesYou can go Gluten-free and still eat cake. Literally, eat all the delicious cakes you want and don't worry about an upset stomach or constipation. I find this super exciting, getting to eat yummy foods at no cost to my stomach comfort. Going Gluten-Free also means you get to experiment with different flours, challenging the idea of what a cake should taste and look like. Sometimes it’s even better than a traditional cake.
Photo Via bobsredmill.com
- 4 tsp Instant yeast, 1 cup Portland Cider Company Kinda Dry, heated to 110°F (240 mL), 1 ½ cups Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour (222 g), 2 Tbsp Sugar, 1 tsp Baking Powder, ¼ tsp Salt, ¼ cup Egg Whites or 1 Egg or 1 Tbsp Flaxseed Meal mixed with 3 Tbsp Hot Water, 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp Butter or Dairy Free Butter, melted (28 g), 1 cup Maple Sea Salt Pan-Baked Granola (120 g), 1 ½ cups chopped Apple (193 g)
- 1 cup Powdered Sugar (120 g), 1 tsp Vanilla Extract, 2–3 Tbsp Maple Syrup (40–60 mL)
- Lightly grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan or a 9–10-inch cast iron skillet.
- Dissolve yeast in warm cider; allow to rest for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Next, add cider mixture, egg and apple cider vinegar. Mix well until a smooth dough forms. Pour into the prepared pan and let rest for 15 minutes.
- While dough rests, mix melted butter and granola in a small bowl. Pour mixture evenly on top of rested dough and sprinkle with chopped apple. Press topping into the dough, and allow to rest for an additional 15 minutes.
- Place the pan into a cold oven, then set oven temperature to 350°F.
- Bake for 30–35 minutes, until bread is lightly browned at the edges and the center of the bread springs back when lightly pressed. Allow to cool for at least 15–30 minutes.
- Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and maple syrup. Pour icing over the bread and serve warm. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave.
Photo Via https://tefftribe.com.au/
- 2 cups Sliced Almonds, 1/2 tsp Baking Soda, 1-1/2 cups Evaporated Cane Sugar, 1 cup Milk, 1-1/2 cups Chocolate Icing, 2-1/4 cups Teff Flour, 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon, 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, 1 tsp Vanilla Extract, 3/4 cup Raspberry Jam, 2 tsp Baking Powder, 1/2 tsp Salt, 2 Eggs slightly beaten, 2 oz Chocolate melted and cooled
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sift together flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and salt.
- In a separate bowl, cream sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add the melted and cool chocolate to the butter mixture and blend until fully combined.
- Blend the eggs, milk and vanilla into this mixture. Gently stir into dry ingredients.
- Pour into 2 oiled and floured 8-inch round cake pans. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool on racks for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool until all heat is gone.
- Place the cake layer on a plate. Spread with raspberry jam. Position other layer, top side up, on the jam-covered layer. Spread with chocolate icing. Press almond slices into sides of cakes. Makes 24 servings.
Photo via Darebeefitness.com
Not a cake but it’s important to find a good cracker substitute if you’re going gluten-free and this one is super easy with only 20kcals per cracker.
2 cups ground flaxseeds, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, ½ cup water
- Grind flax seeds and chia seeds together. If you are using ground flaxseeds simply combine the two. Add salt and spices.
- Add water to the mill and mix well.
- Place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray, transfer the mix on top and cover it with another sheet of baking paper. Use a rolling pin to flatten and roll the “dough”. Roll it until it’s thin enough for a cracker. Use a knife to trim it and to precut the crackers. It’ll make it easier to break them off when they are ready.
- Bake in the middle of the oven at 356°F (180°C) for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on your crackers so they don’t burn. Once ready, allow them to cool a bit, break the crackers off and let cool completely before storing. Store in a dry and cool place for up to 2 weeks.
Photo via Darebeefitness.com
Pancakes count as cake right, I mean “cake” is literally in their name...so we think so. I actually made these with honey and cinnamon and oat milk. I love this recipe. I kept the remainder of the mix in a jar and had pancakes for three days in a row, talk about living the life.
1 cup (3oz / 90g) quick oats, 1 cup (8oz / 240ml) milk, 1 ripe banana, 1 teaspoon baking powder, oil for frying [cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and honey to taste]
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan, mash the banana and mix well. Cook at low heat until the oats are cooked through and soft enough for the mixture to easily bind. Alternatively, soak them overnight instead. Keep refrigerated until needed.
- Lightly oil a frying pan. Add baking powder to the batter and mix well. Add enough batter to form a medium size pancake, add as many as you can fit on the pan, and fry them over medium heat. Flip them over with a spatula halfway through once you see that the bottom begins to crust. Finish frying the pancakes on the other side until golden brown. You may need to do this in batches. Serve with sliced banana, strawberries and/or maple syrup.
- There are three ways of making them to make sure they hold together: blend, soak or cook the batter before frying. If you have a food processor or a hand blender simply blend all three ingredients until smooth and add baking powder before frying.
- If you don’t have a food processor you can either soak the oats in milk in the fridge overnight or pre-cook them in a saucepan to make them bind better. You don’t want crunchy oats in your pancakes!
- For an oil-free method, bake them in the oven on a baking tray lined with baking paper just like you would cookies. Bake at 392°F (200°C) for 10 minutes.
Gluten-Free Hazelnut Cheesecake With Salted Caramel Glaze, by NYT Cooking Contributor: Catherine Saint Louis
½ cup finely ground hazelnuts, 1 cup gluten-free flour, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
16 ounces cream cheese, softened, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup milk, 1 cup crème fraîche, ⅛ cup gluten-free flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar, ¼ cup water, ½ cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, 1 tablespoon sea salt
- Heat the oven to 325. Make the crust: Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until mixture looks like coarse pea-size crumbs, about 10 to 15 seconds.
- Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes; set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for the filling in the bowl of the food processor and purée until smooth. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust and bake for 1 hour, or until set in the center, up to 15 minutes longer. Let cool and then chill until fully set, preferably overnight.
- Make the glaze: put the sugar and the water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and allow the sugar to caramelize. When the mixture is a medium-amber color, about 8 minutes, pull the pot off the heat and add the heavy cream. When the bubbles subside, add the butter. Continue stirring until all the butter has been incorporated; add salt to season and let cool.
- Remove the cake from the refrigerator and release from the pan. Pour the warm glaze over it to serve.
See, you really can have your cake and eat it too with Gluten-Free Baking.
~Bon appétit! BCRX Content Writer, Klarrisa Arafa