8 Easy (and Free!) Ways to Improve Your Gluten-free Baking
I love helping people who are new to gluten-free baking get started. Too often, newly diagnosed celiacs start by buying commercial replacements that claim to be “just like” the originals. Some are, some aren’t. Almost all are ridiculously expensive.
Easy, Tasty, Gluten Free is all about baking your own gluten-free treats and loving them.
Almost every week, I hear from new celiacs who love my recipes, and want to become better gluten free bakers themselves. Here are some tips to help. Best of all, they’re free!
(Note: none of the links in this post are affiliate links, and I am not paid or otherwise compensated if you click on them. They are there to make your life easier.)
Preheat the oven
Seems so simple, but it works. Let the oven come to its final temperature before putting your gluten-free creation in the oven and you’ll get more consistent results. Putting your batter into the oven before it’s fully preheated can lead to burnt tops, uneven baking, or excessive cookie spreading. Here’s a cool article from America’s Test Kitchen that describes what happened when they tested this.
Use silicon bakeware
Silicon bakeware is one of my must-haves in the kitchen. I hate it when a gluten-free cake is damaged coming out of the pan. This almost never happens with silicon pans, because they don’t stick. Extra tip: put the silicon pan on a cookie sheet. This prevents sagging and cracking when you take your gluten-free brownies or cake out of the oven. Inexpensive silicon bakeware is available in stores and online – I get mine from Wish.
Taste the batter
Yes, I know Mom said it’s bad to taste batter because of the raw eggs. But frankly, in 50+ years of baking and tasting, I have never been sick. I figure that if you use basic hygiene and reasonably fresh eggs, you’re probably OK. The point of tasting, though, is not to prove that you have a cast-iron stomach. It’s to let you adjust flavors: add a little bit of lemon peel, or some more chocolate chips, or whatever it takes to make the flavor sing to you.
Spice up your chocolate cakes
Have you ever considered how many different flavors go well with chocolate? Look through your spice rack and experiment. From cinnamon to citrus peel to chili powder, adding a spice can put your own special stamp on a recipe. Start with my most-reliable gluten-free brownie recipe, or my easy and heart-warming gluten-free chocolate comfort cake and your favorite spice.
Become a specialist
If you’re not yet confident in your gluten-free baking abilities, choose one recipe and make it several times (on different days, of course!) until you feel completely confident about it. Then add another, and another, repeating each several times. Before you know it, you’ll feel good about baking a range of gluten-free treats, and that will give you confidence to try more. In addition to the brownie and cake recipes above, these clementine cupcakes and my vintage white cake are great confidence builders.
Create different shapes from the same recipe
Don’t be held back by the shape in the photo! Try pouring sheet cake batter into a heart-shaped or bundt pan, or pour brownie batter into individual baking cups. Watch them in the oven for the first few times as the baking time might change with the shape of the pan; the same batter may need more time in a loaf pan than a shallow square. The Food Network also recommends adjusting the temperature, but I haven’t found that necessary with my very forgiving recipes. Just use the toothpick test for doneness.
Write in your cookbooks
Cookbooks are like diaries. They tell a story about each recipe. Mine are filled with comments: the date I first make a recipe, any substitutions, and what I (and any of my guests) thought about the outcome. I make notes about what to do next time.
Many of the recipes in my Easy, Tasty, Gluten Free cookbook wouldn’t be as robust and foolproof as they are without my notes. Set your pens free!
Enjoy your gluten-free baking for what it is, not what you remember
It’s easy, common, and entirely normal to want to recreate exactly what you remember from “before.” I still dream of Entemann’s devil’s crumb fudge donuts. But pining after something you can’t have only makes you miserable. Forget what you think something “should” taste like; do you like it as it is? Is it moist, flavorful, delicious? Then let yourself love it!
All of these tips can give you confidence in the kitchen and a better gluten-free baker. And except for buying some inexpensive silicon bakeware, they really don’t cost a thing.