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Gluten Free Baking

A growing number of people are choosing to limit or avoid foods containing gluten. Some do so in response to an allergy, while others just believe they feel slightly better when they remove gluten from their diet.

Whatever the reason, we should all make sure we understand what gluten is and why we’re not feeling well, if that’s the case. And if we are baking gluten-free, there’s plenty things we can do to help the finished products turn out just like the original wheat versions!

What is gluten intolerance?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat and other cereal grains that are milled for flour. They are the proteins responsible for making dough stick and stretch, giving baked goods that beautiful texture we all know and love – think fluffy pancakes and crisp pizza bases.

Gluten intolerance refers to when the body is unable to digest these proteins and has an adverse reaction when gluten-containing products like wheaten bread, pasta or cake are eaten.

At the extreme end of the gluten intolerance scale are individuals who have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that leads to acute symptoms like chronic diarrhea when any gluten is ingested. There is no cure to Coeliac Disease, so people with the condition (‘Coeliacs’) must adhere to a life-long, strictly gluten-free diet. Around 1-2% of the population have Coeliac Disease or a similar wheat allergy.

In the past, it’s been accepted that the only reason to switch to a gluten-free diet is to combat Coeliac Disease, but in recent times, more and more of us have been cutting out wheat products, whether we have been diagnosed with an intolerance to them or not.

A recent study by the CSIRO found that around 10% of Australian adults are avoiding wheat-based foods – a whole lot more than the 1-2% who are Coeliacs. The most common reason for avoiding gluten is to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms like, but not as severe as, those reported by Coeliacs. They include bloating, wind and abdominal cramps.

Those of us who seem to feel a bit better when we’re avoiding wheat, but have been ruled out of having an allergy, are now being described as having a ‘Non-coeliac Gluten Sensitivity’.

However, the issue with just removing gluten to reduce our symptoms if we aren’t Coeliac, is that we’re not investigating whether there is another underlying health condition causing our digestive problems. We should always talk to our GP and have some further tests done if we are having digestive issues and haven’t been able to determine the specific cause.

One possibility worth considering is whether our issues are being caused by FODMAPs, which are short-chain carbohydrates found in wheat that can be hard to digest. Recently, experts have suggested FODMAPs may often be the true cause of stomach upset that is mistaken for a gluten sensitivity. Further research is required, and again, it’s best to discuss it with a GP.

Baking Gluten Free

Thankfully, whether we’re Coeliac or not, removing gluten from our diet doesn’t mean we have to forget about our favourite foods. Pizzas, cakes, breads and biscuits that are usually prepared with wheat flour can be re-created with gluten-free flours and mixes that produce great results.

And if you’ve ever had a gluten-free treat and found it to be too dry, crumbly or dense – don’t give up just yet! With high-quality flour and a little bit more attention to detail (see our tips & tricks below), you can whip up gluten-free creations that are just as satisfying as the originals.

A great product to start with is Laucke’s Easy Bakers Special Gluten Free White Mix, which includes a variety of gluten free flours for added texture, nutrition and taste. It can be swapped in to many of our recipes that include wheat flour premix. Or you can find our range of gluten free specific recipes here

Before you get started, have a read of our Test Kitchen’s top tips and techniques to help you get the most out of your gluten-free creations.

Tips & Tricks

  • Beat your dough for longer
    Beating your dough adds air, and air adds structure to the finished product. It’s best to use an electric mixer if you’re baking gluten free, because the dough will need to be beaten for longer than usual for best results, more than most of us are capable of by hand.
  • Let your dough sit
    Once your dough is mixed and ready, let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Any leavening agents will then need to be added afterwards.
  • Make smaller versions
    Gluten is what helps cakes and breads stick together, so gluten-free versions can tend to crumble and fall apart a bit easier. The smaller your loaves, the better they’ll stay together.
  • Lower the temperature
    Gluten free products can brown a bit quicker than normal, so lowering the temperature ever so slightly (around 5 degrees) can be a good idea.
  • Chill your cookie dough
    If you’re whipping up a batch of biscuits, put the dough in the refrigerator to bring the temperature down before measuring them out on to the tray. It will help hold the dough together, as will lining the tray with baking paper.
  • Drizzle your pizza pan
    To give yourself the best chance of producing a pizza base that’s crispy as well as gluten free, drizzle the pan with a bit of extra olive oil. Start with a tablespoon, see how it turns out and go from there.