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Jul
20
2010

21 Ways to Avoid Gluten-Free Baking Disasters!

How to Avoid Gluten-Free Baking Disasters - 21 Tips from www.cookitallergyfree.com

Today is all about the tips I wish I had known when I first started out on my gluten-free and allergy-free baking adventures.  

My family wishes I had known these tips too…

I had so many disasters in the kitchen when I first started out – falling cakes, undercooked breads, dried out muffins -my family started envisioning a lifetime of cake-less birthdays…

But as time went on, I started learning the tricks of the trade… much to the relief of two little sweet-toothed boys.

Pretty soon, I figured out how to keep those cakes up, my breads cooked all the way through, and those muffins nice and moist!

And here’s the deal…by following some, or all, of these methods below, you can become an amazing Allergy-Friendly Chef yourself!

21 Ways to Avoid Gluten-Free and Allergy-Free Baking Disasters!

1. Make sure ALL of your ingredients are at room temperature, ESPECIALLY your eggs and your flours! Keeping them on the counter for about 30-45 minutes prior to using will do the trick, or, for eggs, if short on time, stick them in a bowl of warm water for 15 minutes and you are good to go.

2. Make sure that your baking powder and baking soda are fresh. Discard them if they are expired, as this will affect rise in your baked goods. To tell if baking powder is still good:   combine 1 teaspoon baking powder with 1/3 cup hot water. If it bubbles, it is still good. If not, replace it.  To test if your baking soda is still good, add a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to 4 tablespoons of white vinegar.  This should fizz up.  If not discard it.

3.  Spoon Gluten Free flours into a measuring cup instead of using measuring cup to scoop out your flour from the container. Important because if you scoop your flour out, you will cause the flours to compact, causing more dry goods by volume than necessary.  This will dramatically affect the baked good because gluten free baking is truly a science, and disrupting the balance of dry to wet ingredients can greatly alter your results.

4. Always sift your gluten free flours and all dry ingredients together (either with a sifter or with two spoons) to give your product a lighter, airier result. This is especially important because often you will blend three or four different flours together to create a recipe – this blends them all thoroughly together.

5. Here is a big one:  Check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer to confirm that when you set your oven to a specific temperature, it really is working at that temperature. A ten degree temperature difference in either direction can make a big difference.  If you know, for instance that your oven always is actually 10 degrees hotter than what you set it at, then when a recipe calls for something to be cooked at 350 degrees, you can actually set it at 340 degrees to get accurate 350 degree results.

6. When using glass pans, it is often wise to reduce the temperature by about 25 degrees so that the top can brown before the bottom burns. The thought behind this is that with metal, the heat radiates through the pan and then warms the food.  With glass, the radiated heat passes through the food more quickly.  When making Gluten Free quick breads and rising yeast breads, a heavy metal pan will actually yield better results than a glass pan.

7. Do not overfill your baking pans. Only fill 2/3 of the way full.  If a baked good reaches the top of a pan during cooking and still needs to rise more, it will collapse in the center.  It needs something to grip on to the sides in order to keep going up in the middle!

8. Do not overmix your batters - stir until ingredients are just incorporated and then gently fold in any nuts, dried fruits, or any other ad-ins. Gluten-Free and Allergy-Free baked goods do not rise as much as it is, so over-mixing can deflate your batter and ruin your rise.

9. On the note of rising: if you are using eggs (and are not Egg-Free), beating your eggs until they are foamy (or even separating the whites and the yolks and then beating the whites until slightly stiff and gently folding them in to the rest of the mixed batter) will often help to give more rise to a baked good.

10. Bake all of your batters as soon as the ingredients are all assembled. This will help prevent deflated baked goods.

11. When measuring Coconut Oil, make sure that you measure it in it’s liquid, not solid, state, unless a recipe states otherwise (Volumes are different).

12. When measuring Organic Palm Shortening, make sure that you measure it in it’s solid, not liquid, state, unless a recipe states otherwise (Volumes are different).

13. A good trick when making cakes and bread loaves is to cut  a piece of parchment paper to the exact size of the bottom of the pan that you are using (without letting it go up the sides). And a tip from Tia, of Glugle Gluten Free, is that when using parchment paper for the bottom of your cake pan, place the pan on top of the parchment paper and draw around the outside with a pencil or pen. Cut the circle, and it is the perfect size for the bottom of your pan without going up the sides. Grease the pan as usual, taking care not to grease the sides much.  This will allow the batter to cling to the sides and rise in the center, and then helps you to remove it from the pan without sticking to the bottom.

14. Remember that a steam crack down the center of a loaf of bread is actually a sign of a great cooked loaf - the crack is caused by the steam during the baking process.

15. Make sure that the center of your Gluten Free quick breads or rising yeast breads are at least 208 degrees (using an oven safe thermometer) to ensure they are fully cooked. Under-cooked Gluten-Free baked goods will often sink in the middle.

16. Make sure that the size of the pan that you are using corresponds to the size of the pan called for in your recipe. For instance, in recipes calling for a large loaf pan, it typically means to use a 9 x 5 x 3 inch pan (usually will hold 8 cups of your batter).  When calling for a medium loaf pan, it typically means to use a 8 1/2  x 41/2 x 2 1/2 inch pan(or about 6 cups of batter).  A small loaf pan usually means to use a 8 x 4 x 2 1/2 pan (or about 4 cups of batter).  Using the wrong size will affect the cook time dramatically.  If you know you do not have the right size pan, adjust your baking times up or down to compensate and watch your goods carefully.  This was another thing I was guilty of – I would just use whatever loaf pan was on hand and then wonder why it was dried out or still gooey in the center.  Volume and pan size reference: Joy Of Baking

17. Another tip that I learned from a chef, is that when breads are done cooking, turn the oven off and open the door (leaving the loaf in the oven) so that the bread can cool slowly. Remove the loaf after five minutes. Taking the bread out of a hot oven and then placing it on a cold counter can make it sink too.

18. And on the note of cooling loaves, Shirley, of gfe-gluten free easily, reminded me of two more useful tips: only cool cakes in pan for about 10 minutes and then remove; otherwise, you might have a crumbled mess.  Tube/Bundt cakes also cool great by sitting on the neck of a full wine bottle for those 10 minutes.

19. And when it comes to prepared doughs, Jenn, of Jenn’s Cuisine, pointed out another important tip: always let GF dough rest for at least 45 minutes before handling. This is especially true if making something like pasta by hand…wrapping up dough in plastic wrap and letting it just hang out on the counter for a while (or in the fridge for a pie crust)  seems to help a bit.  By the way, in case you have not seen it yet, Jenn is doing a new weekly series all about Gluten Free Substitutions right now – you can get to all of the parts of the series from this post.  As of this posting, she is on   Part III of the series, involving one ingredient substitutions for your favorite meals.

20. Remember that substituting ingredients is also about trial-and-error. A replacement that may work in one recipe, may not work well in another.  Keep notes on what works for each recipe.  Some may give a close-to-perfect match when made with substitutions.  Others may give a very different look and feel to what you predicted for the recipe.  Figuring out how much of a role your allergen plays in the recipe is also a good idea.

21. And Most Importantly: READ LABELS!! An allergen can be hiding in the ingredient list of a product.  And always remember that “Wheat Free” is NOT the same as “Gluten Free”.

 

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50 Comments
  1. On July 20, 2010 gluten free easily said

    Great tips, Kim! I admit I still often cook with my cold eggs and cold flours (yea for the sifter on the latter!). ;-) But, all of these could make a big difference to someone. Stirring the flour and then spooning into the measuring cup has worked very well for me. So many of the others have, too, and like you said they are common sense ones. Some I’ve been doing for years. But great reminders for all! One tip I’d add is only cool cakes in pan for about 10 minutes and then remove; otherwise, you might have a crumbled mess. ;-) Tube/Bundt cakes cool great by sitting on the neck of a full wine bottle for those 10 minutes. :-)

    xoxo,
    Shirley

    • On July 20, 2010 Kim said

      Ooh! Good point, Shirley about only cooling for 10 minutes. I have gotten distracted one too many times and then have had all sorts of problems to deal with! ;0) I also love the idea of cooling tube and bundt pans on the wine bottle. I always remember my Mom doing that! I will add both of those tips, via you!

  2. On July 21, 2010 Erin Elberson said

    Awesome tips! Did my cooking fail inspire you? ;)
    I never sift-the lazy cook thing again-but I do use a fork to mix and kind of fluff all the dry ingredients together. Do you think this is adequate or should I stop being so lazy and get a darn sifter?
    Thanks for compiling these! I’m sure I will be referring back often :)

    • On July 21, 2010 Kim said

      Erin, it only reminded me of all the times that things have gone wrong in my own attempts! :0)
      There is something about sifting the ingredients that I fine weirdly therapeutic! LOL I usually have to take turns with my 5 year old because he loves it too. I am sure a fork will do the same thing. Although, it does seem like when you use a sifter the flour seems really light and airy! And I notice my gf baked goods do not taste as dense.
      Thanks so much for the kind words!

  3. On July 21, 2010 kathy said

    If I bake alergy-free stuff (i.e. nuts, wheat-free, etc.), I know to use different utensils, baking pans, etc., but is it ok to use the same oven? Exactly what else besides utensils and baking pans should I use to ensure no cross-contamination?

    • On July 21, 2010 Kim said

      Hi Kathy! As long as what you are cooking in your oven is in a clean pan, you do not have to worry about any cross-contamination coming from your oven.
      When it comes to cross-contamination, if there are any allergens that are normally prepared in your kitchen, then there is always the chance of contamination. Making sure that you do not share mustard jars, mayo jars, condiment jars, jelly jars, etc with knives that have been used on gluten containing or other allergen containing breads is a big thing to remember. Dips are another big source of contamination. You can try to keep a dedicated area in your kitchen to allergen free cooking as well.

  4. On July 21, 2010 gluten free easily said

    I thought I’d add this info for Kathy. If one is also baking using gluten flour in one’s kitchen, flour stays airborne for up to 72 hours. Therefore, ideally, any gluten-free baking should be done several days later and after a good cleaning/wipedown of everything.

    Shirley

    • On July 21, 2010 Kim said

      Ah! Excellent point, Shirley! We went to a birthday party at a cooking school recently (with Conner, my Celiac). The kids were making their own pizzas (including the dough). I had brought our own dough and had him at a table with two other boys with gluten issues – but the cross-contamination with all that flour flying around literally gave me a panic attack. I wanted to grab him and run. We did not stay long at the party. The next day he just was not himself. Not a severe reaction, but I could definitely tell that something was up with him and that the flour in the air had gotten to him.
      So yes, as Shirley says….Beware of flying flour!!!
      Oh, and also DO NOT use toaster ovens that regular gluten-filled bread has been in!

  5. On July 22, 2010 Linda said

    Great tips! I didn’t know about measuring coconut oil or letting the loaf cool in the oven a few minutes. I often use cold eggs in my quick breads. For some reason I just don’t remember to warm them for those recipes. I should try it and see if it makes a difference. For yeast breads I warm the eggs by putting them in a bowl with hot water. It doesn’t take long to warm them up to room temperature.

    • On July 22, 2010 Kim said

      I know, Linda! So many of them were things my Mom used to be shocked at that I did not do. She would always stop me mid-cooking and point things out. Over the years, I have been shocked at what a difference some of these tips can make!

  6. On July 25, 2010 Sarah Schatz said

    These are great tips for baking gluten-free – thanks for putting this together.

    • On July 25, 2010 Kim said

      Thanks so much, Sarah! I just wanted to give people a resource that may help them overcome some of the challenges in baking gluten and allergy-free.

  7. On July 25, 2010 Jenn said

    Great post! A tip I have discovered is to always let GF dough rest for at least 45 minutes before handling. This is especially true if I am making something like pasta by hand…I usually wrap up my dough in plastic wrap and let it just hang out on the counter for a while (or in the fridge if I am doing a pie crust) and I don’t know why, but it seems to help a bit.

    • On July 25, 2010 Kim said

      Ooh! Good point, Jenn! I will go add that to the list, via you! I recently got the pasta attachment for my KitchenAid, so I will definitely remember this as I try it out. I have never made pasta by hand before. Do you have a gluten free recipe on your blog? I will go peruse and check now!! :0)

      • On July 25, 2010 Jenn said

        Thanks! I do have a recipe that has worked fairly well the few times I’ve done it – this is one I made last Thanksgiving but you could always switch out the filling to be something a little more fitting for the Summer…
        http://jenncuisine.com/2009/11/pumpkin-chestnut-tortellini-gluten-free/

        I have used a hand-crank pasta roller but have not tried using any mixer attachments, I will be curious how your efforts come out! I have always had to be a bit more careful handling gluten free pasta dough, but then it’s pretty true with most GF doughs…

        • On July 25, 2010 Kim said

          Jenn, that recipe looks amazing! I am thinking that maybe some type of fresh lobster meat filling (since we will be at the beach this week) in your tortellini with your delicious looking cream sauce would be a great summer version. I will let you know how it works with the attachments. It was a gift, so if i am not successful, I won’t feel so bad buying a hand-crank. I have been wanting to make my own pasta for soo long now. I think I will also be trying this recipe in the Winter version you posted during the holidays when I can easily get the pumpkin puree. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. On July 28, 2010 Libby said

    Thanks for sharing your tips, since baking allergen free doesn’t leave any wiggle room for mistakes.

    My tip is on using the dishwasher. I have dedicated allergen free items, such as my cast iron skillet, that cannot go in the dishwasher, but will use items that can go in it for things like coffee with creamer in it. I also put sponges through the dishwasher, so that I don’t end up smearing an allergen all over my kitchen.

    (Note: I don’t allow food that my son is severely allergic to, such as peanuts/shellfish, in my home, but his milk allergy is, um, less life-threatening, so I do keep a few dairy items around. You might want check with an allergist as to whether this is a sufficient precaution for you.)

    • On July 28, 2010 Kim said

      Hi Libby! Thanks so much for your tip! I have been reading your blog and give you such credit and adoration for handling your son’s allergies so well. The story about him trying on Halloween costumes and ending up with a blister is nothing short of horrifying! You are an amazing woman! And yes, food allergies are NOT any fun! And in my house, we do not have life-threatening ones. Ours are more GI related.
      I love your tip about the dishwasher and running your sponges through it as well. I, too, have dedicated pans/pots/colanders etc that are ONLY used for allergen free items. We have a beach condo that we rent out to guests and i keep an entire arsenal of pots, pans, toasters, and the like in a locked closet for when we are staying there. I also do not use any food items that previous guests may have left. Cross-contam risk is TOO high even if i know it is a supposedly safe item for us. One dip of a knife with gluten-containing crumbs into a jar of jelly that I then use for our family would make both my husband and son sick for days!
      Thanks again for your reply!

  9. On August 4, 2010 Tia said

    Wow! These are great. I am, so, bookmarking this page. Especially since I am finally really getting into cooking/baking things other than my 5-6 regular recipes. I do have one addition to one of your tips. Can’t believe I have one. But it comes from my mom before she got divorced and stopped baking. Those are her words, not mine. Anyway, when using parchment paper for the bottom of your cake pan, place the pan on top of the parchment paper and draw around the outside with a pencil or pen. Cut the circle, and it is the perfect size for the bottom of your pan without going up the sides. I wouldn’t have thought of it if you hadn’t written the rest, though.

    xoxo,
    Tia :P

    • On August 4, 2010 Kim said

      Hey Tia! i totally forgot about that! That is how my mom did it too! I will add that for sure, courtesy of you, my dear! Thanks so much for adding this one! ;0)

  10. On August 23, 2010 Diana said

    This post is such a gift!

    I don’t bake often, but when I do, it’s gluten-free. Definitely bookmarking your post with plans to return back often :)

  11. On August 23, 2010 Cook It Allergy Free said

    Hi Diana,
    I really appreciate your kind words!
    I try to stay pretty grain-free for the most part, but I bake for the hubby and the kiddos. I do tend to use a lot of almond flours and coconut flours in my recipes though.
    Thanks so much!
    Kim

  12. On August 25, 2010 entertainer said

    The article is a very good one. It would be very handy for individuals who are just beginning to bake stuff.

  13. On February 18, 2012 Pat @ Elegantly GF said

    These are some great helps for baking. It’s amazing how a few little adjustments can make such big differences in the outcome. Even though I use a scale to weigh the flours when I can, I still see a difference in the finished product if I combine the dry ingredients so they’re light and mixed thoroughly.

    • On February 27, 2012 Kim-Cook It Allergy Free said

      I agree totally, Pat. When it comes to gf baking, just a small change can totally change the recipe outcome! And I also notice a huge difference in sifting my dry ingredients too! :)

  14. On June 6, 2012 Christina said

    Thank You! These tips are great, some of which I already was using and a few I hadn’t thought of. With GF Baking I find that even the smallest changes can often make a big difference for better or worse.

    • On June 6, 2012 Kim-Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks, Christina!! A small tweak here or there can make the complete difference in the out come of a recipe. It is amazing! ;)

  15. On October 24, 2012 Toi Pease said

    OMG, thanks so much for all of this. Please do not ever take for granted that some of these things are common sense. None of it was common knowlege to me and I am considered a person of above- average intelligence (in most cases! :) ). I am the mother of a child that was recently diagnosed food allerfies and need sooooo much help. I tried making waffles and ended up wanting to throw my waffle iron out the back door and crying. I find allergy- free cooking sooo hard. However, i am determined to have my child happy to come to the table. Thanks alot!

    • On October 31, 2012 Kim-Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks so much for your kind comment, Toi! Do not give up on your allergy-free boo boos in the kitchen. We have all “been there” before. It is all about trial and error. With each mistake you will learn something and you will getter better and better. Soon, you will be amazing yourself! And if you ever have any questions, feel free to ask me anytime! Good luck!! oh… and don’t forget to have fun! :D

  16. On April 8, 2013 Scott said

    Hi Kim. Great tips for more succesful GF baking. I recently changed brands on my all purpose mflour mix from Bob’s Red Mill to Bay Milling. This wasn’t a mistake, but a catastrophe none the less. Bob’s is a garbanzo base, Bay is brown and white rice based. Needless to say, I did not get the same results with my product. I’m a commercial gf baker, so consistency is important. Yet, now I have an abundance of Bay Milling flour to use. My main problem was in adequate rising. So, to get more air in my bread, I replace half the liquid ingredients with a carbonated beverage ( I use Woodchuck Hard Apple Cider). Also, I add a TBS of mayonaise or sour cream to increase moisture. Thanks for a great blog!

    • On April 8, 2013 Kim-Cook It Allergy Free said

      Hi Scott! I love the idea of using the Hard Apple Cider. I have used some other carbonated beverages in the past but have not tried the hard ciders. Will definitely have to try this in some of my baking now! ;) And I always love to add a touch of mayo for the moisture – works great. And I have had similar issues when trying out different blends of flours. The starch and protein content/ratio makes all of the difference in the results for sure!

  17. On October 30, 2013 Gina said

    I’d tried 5 attempts on GF quick bread. The 4th and 5th times are almost there. My first 2 attempts failed because my bread wasn’t rising, and I only found that out from testing out the baking powder that I was using. It doesn’t bubble up when I mix with hot water. Third attempt, my bread was as hard as rock, maybe using brown rice and millet own ground flour isn’t a good mixture. 4th attempt just testing out using Doves farm white bread blend, and instead of recipe called for yeast, I used baking powder 4tsp. Finally it rise up well and didn’t sink even the next day, but taste very grainy. 5th attempt only using rice flour, egg white, xanthum gum, baking powder, salt, salted butter, milk and maple syrup…….the batter rise up well, taste so so but acceptable……only thing is the top looks like earthquake, the side that rise above the pan cracks too, and when I cool it for a while and cut it using a bread knife, it crumbles and I can’t slice it really thin. I can fold the bread like our usual wheat bread. I wonder what went wrong.

    Please help……I’m a very desperate Mom trying hard and learning Gluten Free baking in a country where everyone doesn’t know what Gluten Free is :(

    Sincerely,
    Gina

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