We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gluten-Free Baking Primer: From Alcohols and Vinegars To Flours and Starches

by Michelle

"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose." ~Zora Neale Hurston

   I am a person that likes to conduct research. For hours upon hours. I can whittle away an entire Saturday trying to get to the heart of whatever matter I am investigating. And what better informational rabbit hole is there to slip down than the internet? My first inclination when undertaking any new project is to read like mad. I know that many brave souls have gone before me down the gluten-free path, so why should I toil in the land of trial and error when I can benefit from the knowledge of others who are openly and joyfully sharing what they have learned along the way. Thank you to all who are sharing their secrets, successes and their failures, too. I am grateful.
   Of course, I am reading in depth with the goal of converting the recipes that I treasure into gluten-free gems. Because I have limited time to bake, I generally want things to work the first time. I know I'm expecting a lot, but that is who I am. My first gluten-free waffle attempt was a failure and it made me crabby. After additional research, I narrowed in on overnight yeasted waffles, and I had success on my second try. I can live with that. Nice crispy waffles on the outside and soft on the inside. Perfect with butter, maple syrup and chicken breakfast sausages. Now I'm off in the woods. So, let's get back on track.
   My first step was to buy an off-the-shelf gluten-free all purpose mix because I had no idea what I was doing, and I wanted to speed my progress. I purchased mixes offered by two reliable companies that offer high quality products: Bob's Red Mill and King Arthur. I have used King Arthur with great success. I haven't tried Bob's Red Mill yet because after all my research, I'm not so sure about Garbanzo Bean Flour as the primary flour in the mix. Following is the ingredients list for the two brands:

King Arthur's Multi-Purpose Flour is comprised of: Rice Flour, Tapioca Starch, Potato Starch and Whole Grain Brown Rice Flour.

Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour is comprised of: Garbanzo Bean Flour, Potato Starch, Tapioca Flour, White Sorghum Flour, and Fava Bean Flour.

   Due to the expense of both brands, I quickly determined that I would need to blend my own. I turned to cookbooks and to the internet to research blogs and to read comments left by readers who also want to share their experiences and wisdom. What I read is extremely interesting and I unearthed a bunch of information that will speed me along my gluten-free journey. I hope this information helps you, too!

    From my research on the internet, I stumbled upon more than a few blogs that I really like and are quite enjoyable reading. The following flour mixes I have been incorporating into my cooking and baking with success:

Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
Blog: The Art of Gluten Free Baking
   I highly recommend that you read this very informative post on how Jeanne developed her mix. The Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix can be used as a cup-for-cup replacement in most recipes that call for All-Purpose Flour. One cup of this mix equals 140g. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients in a large container, and store in the refrigerator for best results. Tapioca flour can spoil quickly. Jeanne booted potato starch from her mix due to a friend that had an intolerance for nightshades.

Makes 4-1/2 cups:
1-1/4 cups (170 g) brown rice flour
1-1/4 cups (205 g) white rice flour
1 cup (120 g) tapioca flour (Tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same thing)
1 cup (165 g) sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour or under the brand name, Mochiko)
2 scant tsps xanthan gum (I omit this ingredient, preferring to use whatever binding ingredient needed for each recipe I make)
Cooking for Isaiah
Silvana Nardone
Blog: Silvana's Kitchen

Silvana's Mix: Makes 10-1/2 cups (about 4 pounds):
6 cups white rice flour (preferably Bob's Red Mill)
3 cups tapioca flour (preferably Shiloh Farms)
1-1/2 cups potato starch, (preferably Bob's Red Mill)
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsps xanthum gum, (preferably Bob's Red Mill)

Thoroughly mix all the ingredients in a large container, and store in the refrigerator for best results. Tapioca flour (also goes by the alias Tapica Starch) can spoil quickly.
The Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef
Blog: The Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef
Flour Mixes, both Gluten-Free All-Purpose and Whole Grain Mix
   Shauna, also know as the Gluten-Free Girl, wrote a very interesting post (found here) that makes a case against using xanthum gum or guar gum in flour mixes. She claims if the porportions are correct, gums aren't needed for successfully baking gluten-free.

Gluten-Free All Purpose Mix: 40% (400g) whole grain flours and 60% (600g) starches
Gluten-Free Whole Grain Mix: 70%  (700g) whole grain flours and 30% (300g) starches
   Whole grain flours include: Almond, Brown Rice, Buckwheat, Corn, Millet, Gluten-Free Oat, Quinoa, Sorghum, Sweet Brown Rice and Teff
    Starches for this mix, include one flour: Arrowroot, Cornstarch, Potato Starch, Tapioca flour and White Rice Flour
   Again, 1 cup of regular All-Purpose Flour weighs 140 grams of the Gluten-Free Mix

Tara's Gluten-Free Pastry Flour Mix
Blog: A Baking Life
Check-out Tara's blog post on how to make a buttery, flakey gluten-free pie crust. Tara posits that adding cream cheese to the ingredients list helps make a tender and flakey crust.

2 parts white rice flour, as finely-milled as you can get (preferably Bob's Red Mill)
2/3 part potato starch
1/3 part tapioca starch
   To formulate your own all-purpose flour mix, experts agree that you will need to combine both starches and gluten-free flours for best results based upon the guidelines provided above. Following is more information on the flours and starches as well as information on other baking ingredients. I have also detailed helpful tips and tricks that I incorporate into my own baking.
Alcohol and Vinegars
   I love to cook and bake, both savory and sweet recipes, using a variety of alcohols and liqueurs. Yep, my liquor cabinet overfloweth. Although all distilled alcohols are considered safe and gluten-free, folks with sensitivites do report problems with alcohol distilled from grains, such as barley, rye and/or wheat. Experts seem to agree that distilled products, such as alcohol and vinegars do not contain gluten, however there is the chance that gluten could be introduced after distillation, particularly in flavored alcohols such as liqueurs. Check labels for ingredients and feel free to contact the manufacturer via the comments section on their website. Anything distilled or fermented from grapes is fine - praise be. There is some question as to whether caramel coloring is gluten-free. Some of the darker liqueurs may contain caramel coloring.
  • Armagnac - French brandy made from grapes.
  • Amaretto - Disaronno® is gluten-free.
  • Beer - Redbridge®, New Grist® and Bard's Tale Dragon's Gold® are both made from sorghum, and Green's made from Millet, Rice, Buckwheat and sorghum.
  • Bourbon: Maker's Mark, to date, is the only Gluten-Free Bourbon available, which is distilled from a corn mash.
  • Brandy - All brandy is made from distilling wine.
  • Calvaldos - a French brandy that is traditionally made from apples, but can also be distilled from pears.
  • Cider - Spire brand is gluten-free.
  • Champagne - Yes, indeed.
  • Cognac - A type of bandy, and it is made from beautiful grapes.
  • Elderflower Liqueur - Distilled from elderflower blossoms.
  • Eau de Vie - Brandy that is distilled from fruit.
  • Frangelico - From the website: Frangelico is made from, "Hazelnuts, Cocoa, Vanilla, Alcohol, Sugar, and various other herbs and natural extracts. All ingredients are natural; there are no artificial additives. Frangelico is yeast and gluten free. There are no artificial colourings or preservatives in Frangelico; it contains caramel. And, just in case you are wondering, it is kosher.
  • Gin - Made from Juniper berries, or apples by Williams Chase, or potatoes. 
  • Grand Marnier® - Certified gluten-free. Yes! My Cranberry Sauce recipe will survive the change intact.
  • Kahlúa® - Well, the company won't confirm that it is certified gluten-free, and states that Kahlúa original, "mainly contains Sugar, Cane Spirit, Coffee Extract (Cane Spirit, Sugar, Caramel), and Water. If you have any specific allergies please contact us for more details." On an interesting note, I read on the website that Kahlúa has a shelf life of about four years before the flavor begins to diminish into a slow decline.
  • Kirsch also knows as Kirschwasser - A fruit brandy distilled from morello cherries. It is not sweet and packs a punch. If you are looking for a sweeter cherry concoction try Maraschino Liqueur.
  • Madeira - Brands from Portugal are gluten-free due to government regulation.
  • Ouzo - Made from grapes and anise (not anus - inside family joke).
  • Rum - Rum is made from sugar cane (particularly molasses) and is gluten-free. Spiced rums, especially inexpensive offerings typically are darken in color due to caramel coloring, which can have gluten in it, so beware, matey.
  • Triple Sec - We sisters prefer Bols®. Try our margarita recipe.
  • Vodka - This is an alcohol that can clearly be problematic for some folks, so vodka distilled from grain should be avoided. Tito's Vodka is distilled in the USA from corn or choose a vodka distilled from potatoes, such as Luksosowa from Poland. Say that three times fast.
  • Tequila - 'Tis fine if the bottle you choose is 100% agave. You don't want blended tequila anyway. So there!
  • Vermouth - Made from grapes, so it is a-okay. I like mine for medicinal purposes (snicker).
  • Wine - Red and White, Marsala, Port and Sherry are all gluten-free. Hallelujah!
  • Whiskey, American - According to the website, "Jack Daniel's Black Label Tennessee Whiskey has no carbohydrates (sugar or starch), gluten, fats, or cholesterol, as these are removed in the distilling process. One fluid ounce of Jack Daniel's contains approximately 65 calories." I love you, Jack. Will you marry me?
  • Whisky, Canadian - The primary mash ingredient in Canadian whisky is corn, but the use of mutliple grains is approved, including rye. All Whisky's depending upon if mash goes back after distillation for added flavor, gluten can be reintroduced post production. Crown Royal® is a mystery. Thre is no information on the bottle or the company's website on how the whisky is distilled or from what ingredients. Nobody talks about fight club.
  • Whisky, Irish - From the website, "Yes, Jameson is gluten-free. This is because the distillation removes any residual cereal protein. In any event we do not use any gluten containing cereal (e.g. wheat) in our mash." It's good fricken' fantastic to be Irish.
  • Whisky, Scotch - Primarily distilled from wheat and rye. Sob.
   Many vinegars are distilled and although experts claim that all vinegars are fine to ingest, complaints left on the comments section of blogs lead me to think otherwise. Universally, the following vinegars are considered gluten-free and receive few complaints:
  • Apple Cider - Bragg® is we sisters favorite brand because it is raw and unfiltered.
  • Balsamic - Inexpensive balsamic can be boiled to a syrupy consistency and used as a terrific glaze on vegetables and drizzled over a cheese plate. The syrup has many wonderful uses.
  • Champagne - I often will use champagne vinegar in lieu of white wine.
  • Raw Coconut - Interestingly coconut vinegar does not have a coconutty flavor.
  • Red Wine - I can't think of anything particularly interesting to say about red wine vinegar. Sorry.
  • Rice - Marakun® is my favorite brand for both seasoned and unseasoned rice vinegars.
  • Sherry - The favorite vinegar of Spain. I like it, too.
  • White Wine - Dido the comments from Red Wine Vinegar. I love wine vinegars. Let's just not talk about it.
Eggs and Egg Replacers:
   Eggs help give structure to gluten-free baked goods. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that you add 1 egg for every 1 cup of flour in your recipe. Also, it is very important to introduce air into the butter and the eggs by beating very well, which, thankfully, will produce lighter and more tender baked goods. I follow Ina Garten's advice, the famous cook known as the Barefoot Contessa, and use only extra-large eggs for baking.
   Many recipes benefit from separating the yolks and whites, and beating whites to soft peaks and then folding into the batter. Cold eggs are easier to separate, and room temperature egg whites when whipped will produce more volume. It is best to whip eggs in a hammered copper bowl or alternatively in a stainless steel bowl. The bowls need to be squeeky clean with no residue of fat so the egg whites can whip properly. Do not use glass or plastic to whip egg whites. It is not necessary to add cream of tartar to eggs whipped in a copper bowl, but do add to eggs whipped in a stainless steel bowl to help stabilize and increase the volume of the egg whites.
   As an egg replacement, chia seeds are a great alternative. The equivalent of one egg is to combine 1 tablespoon ground white or black chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water. Mix thoroughly and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes until a stirable gel forms. Proceed with your recipe. 
Dairy Powders and Carbonated Liquids:
   Dried milk powders are used to add protein and moisture to baked goods. I have noticed that many milk powders are used in conjuction with carbonated fluids: seltzer or club soda or gluten-free beer to create a lighter batter or dough.
  • Buttermilk - Typically rehydrated in gluten-free recipes with carbonated water or gluten-free beer (see alcohol section).
  • Milk - Look for brands preferably produced without antibiotics, synthetic hormons or pesticides.
  • Carbonated Water (Seltzer, Club Soda) - Consider using carbonated water in recipes in place of alcohol, flat water, or gluten-free beer.
  • Gluten-Free Beer - Yep, I even make my "beer butt chicken" with GF beer. 
   I personally avoid using any kind of canola or vegetable oil. If you want to know more, ask Linda. She'll tell ya. Here's what I use:
  • Almond Oil - An alternative to butter in cake recipes that call for oil in lieu of butter.
  • Avocado Oil - I use it along with olive oil to make Paleo mayonnaise.
  • Butter - My go-to fat along with my favorite olive oil.
  • Coconut Oil - Solidifies at room temperature, may need to heat before using in a baked goods recipe.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - The lighter the better for baking, ya know.
  • Ghee - We Americans call it clarified butter, but I like to call it by its Indian name giving it an air of mystery and international intrigue. The benefit of ghee is that it is ideal for high-heat cooking because the milk solids have been removed from the butter making it perfect for cooking, baking, and sautéing. I brown meat in it as well. Hailing from India, it is perfect for curries. Of course, you can prepare clarified butter in your kitchen, it is not particularly difficult. You can also be lazy like me and buy ghee from Whole Foods or your local health food store.
  • Lard - Poor much maligned lard. It's making a comeback, but beware the varying levels of quality.
  • Palm Oil - Store in the refrigerator as it goes rancid quickly.
  • Walnut Oil - It is expensive, but delicious.
   Over the years I have rode the trendy waves of low-fat baking, in particular I remember when prune purée was all the rage. For best results, you can replace up to half the fat in a recipe with a fruit or vegetable purée.
  • Applesauce - preferably unsweetened
  • Flax Seed - Not really a vegetable purée, but this is a good place to remind folks that if someone in your circle is allergic to eggs, there is a possible substitution. To replace one egg: Mix 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds - the more finely ground the better - with 3 tablespoons of hot water. Let sit for 10 minutes to thicken before using.
  • Chia Seed - Chia seed acts as a dough conditioner in our Absolutely Delicious All Butter Pie Crust.
  • Pumpkin Purée
  • Prune Purée
  • Sweet Potato Purée
Flour Listing:
   Bean flours, such as Fava, Garbanzo, Quinoa and Sorghum can lend nice textures in baked goods, but the taste can be off-putting for a lot of folks. Bakers tend to like to use these to add some healthy qualities to baked goods, but because the taste can be offensive to some, use in small quantities and combine with other flours. Nut flours, such as almond, chestnut and hazelnut can add protein to a recipe that is typically absent in most gluten-free flours. Naturally, recipes that use little flour, such as Angel Food Cake are the easiest to convert to a gluten-free version with delicious results. Remember that you need to combine a mix of flours and starches to mimic and replace All-Purpose Flour and Whole Wheat Flour in your gluten-free recipes.
  • Almond Flour also known as Almond Meal - Although not technically a flour, it is blanched almonds ground to a fine powder, it is resoundingly a favorite flour to cook with across the blogosphere for both taste and texture.
  • Amaranth Flour - With its granular texture and high protein content, this flour can somewhat replicate the taste of whole wheat flour in recipes when used in small measurements, say about 1/4 cup per recipe. The flour has 30% more protein than wheat.
  • Brown Rice Flour - It's a staple, but I tend to opt for White Rice Flour.
  • Buckwheat - In most baking, a little goes a long way.
  • Chestnut - You guessed it, Chestnut Flour is made from ground chestnuts. It has an assertive nutty flavor.
  • Coconut Flour - Absorbs water like a sponge, so it can be difficult to work with in recipes. Use with caution and compensate with extra liquid and potentially eggs.
  • Garbanzo - The flour has a strong odor that works well in savory baking like flat breads, but perhaps not so well in sweet treats. This bean flour can work well in recipes where you are possibly trying to replicate the denser flavor of whole wheat.
  • Glutinous Rice Flour - Used extensively in recipes due to its light texture and lack of odor. Don't let the tricky name concern you, Glutinous Rice Flour does not contain gluten. Not one little bit.
  • Hazelnut - A delicious flour ground from, you guessed it: Hazelnuts. Bring up hazelnuts and I automatically want to eat Nutella. What's up with that?
  • Masa Harina - Use it to make homemade corn tortillas. Jump into my tummy.
  • Millet - A high-protein flour that can go bad quickly, which can result in a bitter aftertaste. Refrigerate the flour for best results.
  • Oat (Look for Certified Gluten-Free Oat Flour) - You can grind gluten-free oats into a fine flour in a food processor or in the dry mix container of a Vitamix.
  • Potato Flour (do not confuse with Potato Starch) - According to King Arthur Flour, Potato Flour is excellent at holding onto the moisture in bread. No dry bread, thank you.
  • Quinoa - Made from the seeds of the quinoa plant, the flour is quite strong in flavor.
  • Sorghum also known as Sweet White Sorghum Flour - High protein, high fiber and low carbohydrates. 'Nuf said.
  •  Sweet Rice Flour also known as Mochiko (do not confuse with White Rice Flour) - Used in small amounts, sweet rice flour improves the texture of baked goods. It can also be used to thicken sauces and to dust baking pans to avoid sticking. Add sweet rice flour in small amouts to improve the texture and ‘chew’ of gluten free baked goods, and as a thickener in sauce recipes.
  • Teff - Strong tasting (like the sound of its name). Use in conjuction with other flours to boost protein.
  • Tapioca Flour and Tapioca Starch (are one and the same) - Scroll to the starch section for details. Of particular note, use tapioca flour to roll-out pie dough.
  • White Rice Flour - I saved the best for last. White Rice Flour has a neutral flavor (I'll refrain from inserting Flavor Flav jokes here) and is used in many gluten-free all-purpose flour mixes. If you need an exceptionally smooth final product, seek out a brand hailing from Thailand. Cookbook author Laura B. Russell recommends Erawan brand. To help reduce a grainy texture, try mixing the liquid called for in the recipe with the white rice flour and bring to a boil and cool before proceding with your recipe.

Gums and Gelatins:  
   Gums act like gluten in gluten-free recipes. Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum can be used interchangeably and some bloggers like to use both in a recipe in a ratio of 50/50. Recipes can call for anywhere between 1/8 tsp to 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of gluten-free flour. Simply use twice the amount of gelatin as the xanthum gum measurement. Gelatin and Agar Agar can substitute for each other in recipes.
   If you cannot tolerate gums, or prefer not to use them in your baking, consider using ground chia seeds as a 1 to 1 replacement for xanthan gum or guar gum in your recipe. 
   Many pre-packaged flour mixes include xanthan gum. If it is not included, you can add xanthan gum or guar gum to your recipe. However, after you read Karen Morgan's blog post, you may exclusively choose guar gum. Bob's Red Mill's packing provides the following guidelines for adding gums to your recipe. Use the quantities below in ratio to 1 cup of flour. For example, if you are using 2 cups of flour for cookies, you would add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (or guar gum):

1/4 tsp for cookies
1/2 tsp for cakes
3/4 tsp for muffins and quick breads
1 to 1-1/2 tsps for breads
2 tsps for pizza crusts

Following is additional information for your consideration:
  • Agar Agar - A plant-based ingredient that works like gelatin in recipes, but is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. It also has the advantage of being able to set foods at room temperature, where gelatin requires refrigeration to set.
  • Gelatin - Gelatin is not used as widely as Guar Gum or Xanthan Gum, but it can also be used as a gluten replacer in batters and doughs to bind and thicken and to increase moisture. Gelatin is often used in pizza crust to make the dough easier to shape.
  • Guar Gum - A natural product made from the ground seeds of the guar bean. Because it is a water-soluable fiber, ingesting too much guar gum can induce diarrhea. Explosive diarrhea. Therefore, do not use more than 1 teaspoon of guar gum per cup of flour in any recipe.
  • Xanthan Gum - This gum is used widely as a thickener, and it also lends structure to baked goods. Because it is often produced as a byproduct of corn, it cannot be consumed by people with allergies to corn. Some folks complain that xanthan gum has a strong odor and prefer to use guar gum instead.
   When converting your favorite recipes to gluten-free, you may get better results increasing the baking soda called for in the recipe. It may also help to add baking powder in addition to the baking soda called for in the recipe.
  • Baking Powder - Gluten-free breads and cakes do not rise as easily as their traditional counterparts. When converting a recipe, if it only calls for baking soda, go ahead and add baking powder too for an extra power boost. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking soda, try adding 1 teaspoon of baking powder. For best results, check the "use by date" on the container. If it is out of date, pitch it and replace it with a new container. If you would like to make your own baking powder, combine two parts cream of tartar with one part baking soda.
  • Baking Soda also known as Bicarbonate of Soda - You cannot substitute baking soda for baking powder. Baking soda, when used in conjuction with an acid, such as buttermilk, will make a baked good rise. For any recipe that calls for buttermilk, make sure you add baking soda as well. For better rise, dissolve baking powder in liquid, such as vanilla extract, before adding to batter or dough.
  • Cream of Tartar - If baking soda and buttermilk are used to leaven, add 1-1/8 teaspoons cream of tartar for each 1/2 teaspoon baking soda used to neutralize acid. Mainly used as a stabilizer when added to whipped cream, it can also increase volume while beating egg whites. Cream of Tartar is a key ingredient in baking powder.

   There are a lot of fun salts on the market, if salt can be referred to as fun. Welcome to my world. There are a range of salts to enjoy from pink to black, from smoked to truffled. 
  • Kosher Salt - Cookbook Author Barbara Tropp, of China Moon fame, perhaps said it best when writing about the ingredients for her Roasted Szechwan Pepper-Salt, "The only salt in my opinion, that gives the requisite flavor is kosher salt. And the only brand, again in my opinion, that has the mild and clean flavor of "real" kosher salt is Diamond® kosher salt. Table salt makes a hideous blend, even when you halve the amount." I find that I use Diamond® kosher salt in many recipes, although harvested sea salt is my overarching favorite.
  • MSG - I am not advocating the use of MSG. I don't use it. However, you can replicate umami flavor in savory recipes by adding: anchovies (filets or paste), Worcestershire sauce (made from anchovies), porcini mushroom powder (buy it or grind your own), or fish sauce.
  • Sea Salt - I can't believe I am quoting Gwenyth Paltrow, but here goes, "Maldon sea salt, olive oil, and lemon can make anything taste great. That last pinch of salt or squeeze of lemon... can be the most important step." (Bon Appétit Magazine, June 2011). Yeah, what she said.
  • Soy Sauce and Tamari - Soy is salty and delicious. Both Soy Sauce and Tamari are made from fermented soybeans. Both soy sauce and tamari contain wheat, so make sure you select a brand that is gluten-free. Tamari is a little thicker, and it is what I tend to use with excellent results in my kitchen. 
  • Coconut Aminos - The Paleo alternative to soy sauce and Tamari. Use as a 1:1 replacement.
   For best results, to bake light and fine-textured gluten-free baked goods, flours and starches are combined together whereby the sum of the "mix" is greater than the individual parts. It is best to keep starches and flours refrigerated, but bring to room temperature before using. Universally, it seems, that everyone agrees that flours and starches should be sifted together to combine and add air for lighter baking. This work can be done quickly and efficiently in a food processor.
  • Potato Starch (do not confuse Potato Starch with Potato Flour) - Do not use potato starch if you, or anyone you are baking for, has an allergy to nighshades.
  • Tapioca Starch and Tapioca Flour (are one and the same) - I have noticed that a lot of people leave unfavorable comments on blogs about Tapioca Starch/Flour. It can leave an off flavor in baked goods and some folks just can't stand the taste. Silvana Nardone, Editor-in-Chief of Every Day with Rachael Ray, tested many brands and she recommends Shiloh Farms for its mild flavor and lack of scent. Tapioca is a thickener and can also be used as a coating to fry foods. According to author Karen Morgan of the Blackbird Bakery Cookbook, tapioca becomes very strong when used in conjunction with chocolate. Also, use tapioca flour to roll-out pie dough.
  • Arrowroot - Can be used interchangeably with cornstarch in recipes. Be careful though, arrowroot can spoil quickly and is best stored in the refrigerator.
  • Cornstarch - Used as a thickener and a binder. "It lends chewiness when combined with other flours in doughs and batters", according to author Laura B. Russell of "The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen. For those with allergies to corn, exchange arrowroot for cornstarch in equal porportions.

   Sorry to say, but at some point it must be conceded that sugar is toxic. White flour and refined sugar are significant contributors to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. This is not speculation. It is very well documented. Facts are facts whether we like them or not. Paula Deen did not develop diabetes from eating butter, as widely reported by the ill informed media (drives me nuts). It was her mass consumption of white flour and sugar, people. That being said, I am sad to report that I still have not made the leap to omitting refined sugars from my baking, although I do try to limit the amount of sweets that I consume (put in the old pie hole, as I more commonly like to say - just trying to keep my manners for the general public and I can't even manage to do that). With that being said, I am expirementing with natural sweeteners, such as Xylitol. I have also switched from agave syrup to Truvia in my morning coffee. I avoid like the plague all artificial sweeteners (except for the two or three times a year I have Diet Coke and Rum). Other than that, nada.
  • Agave Syrup - From Wikipedia: "Agave nectar (also called agave syrup) is a sweetner commercially produced from several species of agave. Agave nectar is sweeter than honey, though less viscous. Agave nectar is 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar. Agave nectar is often substituted for sugar or honey in recipes. Agave is commonly used as a Vegan alternative to honey in cooking. Because it dissolves quickly, it can be used as a sweetener for cold beverages such as iced tea." I like to add a little to the dressing for coleslaw.
  • Coconut Sugar - An unrefined sugar that is produced from the flower buds of the coconut palm. It is classifed as a low glycemic index food. Coconut sugar can be used as one-for-one substitute for white sugar.
  • Corn Syrup - If you want to take a holistic view of corn syrup, I highly recommend that you rent the documentary, King Corn. It is everything I like in a documentary: interesting and humorous. After watching King Corn my teenager voluntarily reduced her soda intake, significantly. I cannot say that I have rid my kitchen entirely of corn syrup, there are certain recipes where corn syrup really helps, for example when making fudge. I use it judiciously.
  • Erythritol - From Wikipedia: "Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that has been approved for use as a food additive in the United States and throughout much of the world. It occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods. Because 90% of erythritol is absorbed before it enters the large intestine, it does not normally cause laxative effects, as are often experienced after consumption of other sugar alcohols such as Xylitol."
  • Honey - This sweetner made by bees is sweeter than granulated sugar, so do not substitute in equal measure. Following in the example of U2, I will take this moment to advocate on behalf of bees. Remember, if the bees go, humans go, too. I have a special fondness for bees, and we should all be concerned over their welfare. From All Recipes: "Use ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon honey in place of 1 cup sugar, and reduce the other liquid ingredients by 2 tablespoons. Unless the recipe includes sour cream or buttermilk, add a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the acidity."
  • Maple Syrup - Quebec, Canada produces the most maple syrup, about 75% of the world's output. Impressive. Grade B has a stronger flavor and is less expensive than Grade A so it is more commonly used in baking. From All Recipes: "Although maple syrup is only 60% as sweet as sugar, use ¾ cup for every cup of white sugar and decrease the amount of liquid by 3 tablespoons to compensate for its liquid state."
  • Molasses - From Wikipedia: "Molasses is a viscous by-product of the processing of sugar cane, grapes or sugar beets into sugar. Sweet sorghum syrup is known in some parts of the United States as molasses, though it is not true molasses."  Once again, from All Recipes: "When substituting molasses for sugar, use 1 1/3 cups molasses for 1 cup sugar, and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 5 tablespoons. Molasses is also more acidic than sugar; add ½ teaspoon baking soda for each cup of molasses used. Replace no more than half the sugar called for in a recipe with molasses."
  • Palm Sugar - Sugar that is produced from the sap of the Palmyra tree. From Wikipedia: "For cooking purposes, it has a very low melt temperature and an extremely high burn temperature. This makes it a suitable sweetener for confectioners."
  • Stevia - It can be tricky to work with because of its licorice-y aftertaste. I use it more to sweeten beverages than I do in baking.
  • Sucanat - Simply stated, Sucanat is an unrefined sugar that is dried sugar cane juice. The sugar is small crystals that dissolve in liquids and can be suitable in some baking, such as pies, or heated fillings. It's is also great in coffee.
  • Sugar, Brown and White - The most prevalent sugars of all. Brown sugar is brown because it has molasses added to it. Brown sugar can add more moisture to gluten-free baked goods, so you may choose to replace all or some of the white sugar in your recipe with brown sugar.
  • Truvia® - From the Truvia packaging, "Dried stevia leaves are steeped in water, similar to making tea. This unlocks the best tasting part of the leaf, which is then purified to provide a calorie-free sweet taste." Truvia powder is packaged in packets and each packet has the same sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar. It does have a hint of an aftertaste but it is not displeasing to me. I carry Truvia packets in my purse for those times I stop by Starbucks. I add the contents of one package to my extra-hot venti latté.
  • Xylitol also known as Birch Sugar - From Wikipedia: "Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetener used as a naturally occuring sugar substitute." You can have too much of a good thing. Xylitol can cause intestinal discomfort (i.e. diarrhea) if too much is consumed. Cookbook author Karen Morgan of Blackbird Bakery advises that Xylitol can be substituted for sugar in cookie and cake recipes, but she doesn't recommend it for use in custards and puddings.

   Finally, gluten-free batters and doughs (because of their lack of gluten) need support while they bake. To make hamburger buns, use muffin top pans or hamburger bun pans (yes, there is such a mold - seemed silly at first). Muffin pans give double duty by supporting the baking of dinner rolls. To make a French bread, use a traditional baguette pan lined with parchment. Foccacia can be baked in a round or square cake pan. Have fun - look at containers in new ways to bake in new shapes. As my sister, Juliette can attest, thrift stores can be the best places to find unique molds at rock bottom prices.

"There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after." ~J.R.R. Tolkien
"Mischief managed." ~Harry Potter


  1. A nice compilation of information and I thank the Salvation Sisters for sharing. Regarding starches and substitutions, I will share my personal experience from a recipe substitution failure, and leave a hyperlink to a publication that helped me to understand that when it comes to baking bread, the starches have different behaviors that require special care when making substitutions. My general rule of thumb is that starches can be divided into two groups. Above ground sources such as rice or corn, and below ground sources--roots or tubers. The key is in the size of the starch granule. Larger granule starches come from plant structures found below ground. Thus arrowroot starch will make a much better substitute for tapioca starch than a cereal starch--cornstarch. Part of what led me to this information can be found here, http://chestofbooks.com/food/science/Experimental-Cookery/Starch-Part-3.html So if you find one type of starch, for example tapioca starch, is not agreeable with your digestion or taste bud, then substitute arrowroot starch. I made the initial mistake of jumping to cornstarch in a gluten free bread recipe that ended in much disappointment.

  2. Replies
    1. I love this list, too! Michelle does impeccable research. She literally spent weeks in researching and writing this post. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  3. I've been using raw coconut nectar, it's great and nutritious. It's worth trying.

  4. Linda is particularly fond of Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water. I'll look for the nectar at my local Whole Foods Market.

  5. This list is awesome. Thanks for such great research!

  6. Fabulous resource! I have already forwarded your GF flour blend to a cater friend of mine who was scrambling to make GF cookies for the first time for a client. She says yours is the only GF flour substitute that works! Yea! I will forward this to her too. I really appreciate all the time it takes to make such a detailed and cogent resource. Thanks! Christina

  7. Michelle, sorry to tell you, you've got a broken link above. The one about Karen Morgan's post on Xanthan gum... looks like she does not do a blog anymore? Her's is a very impersonal corporate-type site now. Sad, huh? Perhaps you could paraphrase what used to be there for those of us who are interested. Christina

  8. Hi Christina... thanks for letting me know about the link. I will miss Karen's blog, however I can highly recommend Karen Morgan's Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free cookbook. I'll especially miss being able to access additional recipes on her former blog, but hey, I guess a girl's got to make a living. I can't begrudge her that. I hope she's successful with her new line-up of ready flour mixes. I did find another blogger who reprinted the article. I will exchange the links, and I will also copy and paste a little information here. The link above will take you to the complete article posted at yum.yum.cupcake!

    Per Karen Morgan, "...Could xanthan gum really be safe if it took ten years to get approval from the USDA? I wanted proof.

    Most recently, a 2011 study by Jennifer Beal of the Center for Applied Nutrition quickly put my wondering to rest. Her experiment revealed that premature babies that ingested test tube nutrition that contained xanthan gum, immediately developed necrotizing entercolitis, or intestinal tissue death. Premature infants, as we all know, have compromised immune systems, making them far more susceptible to toxins; isn’t it logical to assume that people with compromised immunity, because of auto-immune disorders, would be equally susceptible to the dangers of xanthan gum? Couldn’t it very well inhibit or prolong the healing process of celiac patients?

    Wendy Cohan, a registered nurse who writes often for Celiac.com says yes. Adverse reactions to xanthan gum are very real and these reactions can “lead people who live the gluten-free lifestyle, to believe that they have been exposed to gluten because their symptoms are so similar.”

    Guar gum is a legume and therefore unsuitable to people with legume allergies, but aside from that, I couldn’t find a single study that documented toxic reactions in humans. On the contrary, guar gum was consistently prized for it’s ability to lower the glycemic index in diabetics, decreasing the chances of people developing colon cancer, and increasing the efficacy of prescription drugs. Granted, I did not have access to all the medical libraries since I am not a medical doctor, but the information I was able to uncover was proof enough for me. One is a synthetic that has caused tissue death in humans, while the other has multiple healing properties."


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