Millions of Americans are affected by sensitivity or intolerance to gluten. Still more are choosing to eat a gluten-free diet anyway. But what is it? And what does it mean for your baking and cooking?
In simple terms, gluten is the substance that is responsible for the elasticity of dough.
Gluten intolerance can often be self-diagnosed; symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, tiredness, skin rashes, heartburn, nausea, flatulence and/or pain in the abdomen or joints.
But a more serious form of gluten intolerance, celiac disease, creates antibodies that attack and damage the small intestine. The only relief for a sufferer is to cut all gluten out of the diet: forever.
This is no small task for bakers; gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye, including breads, baked goods, pasta, cereals, malted barley flour, malted milk and milkshakes, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring, malt vinegar, pumpernickel, rye beer, food coloring, and even soups, sauces, and salad dressings.
How to bake gluten-free
Cutting out gluten may seem difficult, and make baking downright impossible, but there are many ways to toss gluten to the wayside and still share cakes and cupcakes with your friends and family. Although your cake won’t probably won’t taste like one made with gluten (it’s just one of those things) it will help to satisfy your cake craving.
Gluten-free All Purpose flour
A good place to start is by using pre-packaged flours that consist of a blend of gluten-free flours including whole grain, white/starch, nut, and bean flours (you can also make your own blend) and substitute into your usual recipe.
We can thank Katie at Butterlustblog.com for these sparkly creations (made with a prepackaged all-purpose flour mix):
Gluten-free Vanilla Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tsp vanilla
For the cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the sugar. Mix on low until well combined.
- Add in butter, a few cubes at a time, until the mixture is well blended and resembles course sand.
- Add in eggs one at a time.
- Add buttermilk and vanilla and mix on medium high for 2 minutes or until batter is smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula as needed.
- Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave until cool.
(Frosting recipe available on Butterlustblog)
Naturally gluten-free flour
Naturally Gluten-free flours are chocked full of goodness and include coconut (high in fiber and healthy fats), sprouted (great for cornbread), oat, rice, tapioca, chickpea, sorghum, and cassava flours. Each flour has a very specific flavor and is suited to different recipes (chickpea makes for an amazing chickpea omelette). These can’t necessarily be substituted 1:1 in place of all-purpose flour so look out for recipes that specifically call for one of these gluten-free flours.
Katja from Savory Lotus posted this simple and delicious Coconut Flour Cake
(recipe makes one 9 inch round cake)
What you need:
- ½ cup coconut flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp unrefined sea salt
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup of coconut oil (melted)
- ¼ cup full fat coconut milk
- ⅓ cup real maple syrup or honey
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 egg whites
- Extra oil (coconut oil or ghee works great) for oiling pan
- Unbleached parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 350’F. Oil a 9″ round cake pan and line bottom of pan with unbleached parchment paper (cut to fit the bottom of the pan).
- In a large bowl, sift together coconut flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In another bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, fat of choice, coconut milk, maple syrup/honey, and vanilla until foamy.
- Add wet to dry and mix well to combine.
- In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until thick soft peaks form. Fold very gently into cake batter.
- Bake for 28-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cake is golden.
Alternatives to flour
Who needs flour to bake a cake, anyway? Ok, well maybe a little. There are a lot of varieties of vanilla bean cake but this one from Nina at ninamanolson.com, is seriously delicious, and kids just cannot get enough (pssst…but don’t tell them it really IS made of beans…that would spoil all the fun!).
Vanilla Bean Cake:
- 2 cups cooked white beans (find out more about stainless steel cookware for your kitchen here) Bean should be at room temperature so they don’t cook the eggs or congeal the coconut oil (or use straight from the can and drained)
- 6 eggs
- 3/4 tsp Vanilla liquid Stevia
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, liquified
- 1/3 cup coconut flour, sifted
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- Pour into pan lined with unbleached parchment paper on the bottom, and greased all around.
- Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. To check if cake is done, insert a toothpick in the middle; if it’s comes out mostly clean, your cake is ready (may take longer depending on your oven).