20 Delicious Gluten-Free Baking Ideas

Gluten Free

Until the year 2017, I didn’t know a thing about gluten-free living. No one in my family – immediate or extended – suffers from celiac disease or any gluten sensitivities, nor do they choose the gluten-free lifestyle.

My husband and I hosted dinner parties for our friends and family, and everyone could eat everything. There weren’t dietary considerations to make. Life was good.

Enter 2017: Both our oldest and middle daughters made new best friends at school that year. They bonded immediately with a pair of sisters who moved to our little coastal Florida community to be closer to their own families, and we had new besties in fourth and first grades. Fun fact: I don’t like people.

I don’t like to meet people, and I really don’t care much to speak with them. But I liked the mom immediately. My husband and I liked the dad immediately, too. Flash forward almost six years and we are great friends, our extended families are great friends, and they fit seamlessly into our lives.

She’s gluten-sensitive, and so is her cousin-in-law, who is also a great friend of ours. Now, anytime we host parties, we’re doubling up on the baking and cooking because they both have so many issues with gluten that they can’t consume it. It was intimidating at first, but we’ve gotten the hang of cooking for our gluten-free (we joke that they are high-maintenance) friends. Is it fun?

Absolutely not. Would they choose the gluten-free lifestyle if they didn’t have adverse health effects from consuming it? Double absolutely not. But we all manage, and I make sure I complain loudly and regularly any time I bake or cook for any event they’re attending…and they still love me.

Why Do Some People Avoid Gluten?

Some people, according to our gluten-free friends, are just crazy and choose not to eat it for their own personal reasons despite not having any health reason to make that choice (they’re both quite adamant the gluten-free lifestyle is the worst and they hate it and miss gluten-filled foods).

Other people cannot have it because they live with celiac disease. Some people, like our friends, have intense gluten sensitivities that make it impossible for them to consume gluten without becoming violently ill. It’s a thing, I promise (and neither of them are the same kind of gluten sick, either, when they accidentally have it).

My point is that sometimes we have to learn to do things we don’t want to do. Sometimes, we have to learn to cook for our high-maintenance friends and family, and we have to give them a difficult time about it with sarcastic comments and a lot of love.

If you or someone you love suffers with a gluten-free diet (I’ve eaten some of their gluten-free food and ‘suffers’ is an entirely accurate description of the food they eat), learning to bake and having a few go-to recipes that are gluten-free is going to change your life. As is knowing how to do it, what to expect, and understanding the fact that it is frustrating beyond belief.

Baking with Gluten-Free Ingredients Is Not Always Like Baking with Regular Ingredients

The key to learning how to bake with gluten-free items is learning that you have to adapt. There is no one for one way to do this. In fact, it’s going to be a frustrating learning process, but it will get better. The more you make a recipe and tweak it – you do learn from your mistakes the more you make things – the easier it gets.

For example, when my husband and I became friends with our favorite Gluten-Free friends (they call themselves Glue Tarts and laugh hysterically about it), they wanted to try my famous chocolate chip cookies. If I may say so, my chocolate chip cookies are the best. Everyone loves them. There are times when someone has said to me, “I’ve heard about your cookies and cannot wait to try them,” and I’m like…whoa.

But I digress. When we became friends with these two, we had to learn quickly how to adapt to a gluten-free way of baking and cooking when they are over. They get exceptionally sick if they have gluten, so we are careful. I made my cookies with gluten-free flour…and they sucked. The consistency was all wrong. The flavor was all wrong. I’m still tweaking it a bit, but I’ve learned that my recipe needs more of the gluten-free flour than the regular flower, less granulated sugar, more vanilla extract, and more baking soda. I’ll get it just right one day…with practice.

The point is that you’ll require a learning period. It will be frustrating. It won’t be easy. However, you will learn each time, and it will get better. Before much longer, you’ll be a gluten-free baking expert.

Make Smaller Items

This won’t work with every gluten-free recipe you try, but it will work with some. Gluten-free items are more likely to crumble, which means making smaller items – we’ll continue with my cookie example – is a good way to prevent this. Cookies are easy, but it’s also easier to go with small muffins and even mini-loaves if you’re baking bread.

Gums Help with the Stickiness of Your Final Product

One word you’re sure to come across as you move into the gluten-free baking world is ‘gum,’ and you’re also going to learn this does not mean chewing gum. Gluten is, to put it simply, a sticky agent. It’s why your gluten food sticks together so well. If you use ‘gums,’ in your gluten-free baking, you’re going to help with the stickiness issue.

Gums consist of things such as guar and xanthan. You can also add items such as agar-agar and gelatin to your mix. The consistency might be easier to work with if you do. You’ll want to add a little more (around a teaspoon) to breads. Half of that is perfect for other baked goods such as cookies and muffins.

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

We talked about it earlier, but we’re adding to it now. Experimentation is good when it comes to gluten-free baking. Whether you are new to it or think you’re a seasoned pro, experimenting with different brands and items is necessary. Think of it like this: You have a favorite brand of eggs, don’t you? Well, why wouldn’t you have a favorite brand of gluten-free flour, too? Try them all, and see which one you like the best. You may prefer one flavor to another, or the consistency of one to another. It’s all in your personal preferences.

You Can Purchase Many Gluten-Free Items

If you’re new to the gluten-free life, you probably never paid attention enough to know you can buy almost anything without gluten. You are certainly not resigned to hand-making every single item your gluten-free person needs. There are gluten-free oreos and cookies and bagels and English muffins. Once you know where to find them in your local supermarket, you’ll never miss them again.

There are gluten-free items on most menus in most restaurants, and even some bakeries that make gluten-free items for you loved ones. It’s a good thing to know because no one wants to spend the rest of their life in the kitchen baking for their glue-tarts. You’re welcome.

Here are Some of My Favorite Gluten-Free Baked Goods

Baking is highly personal, so don’t assume you’ll like them all. If you’re not gluten-free, you might not like any of them. But your gluten-free friends might decide they’re big fans – and you’re basically helping them feel okay, so you’re the real hero here.

1. Flourless Fudge Brownies
2. Chocolate Chip Cookies
3. Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
4. Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
5. Cinnamon Rolls
6. Shortbread
7. Blondies
8. Cannoli
9. Sugar Cookies
10. Cupcakes

Breads and Other Non-Desserts

Ah, carbs. I’ll tell you something about myself right now. I work out a lot. I’m turning 40 in the New Year, and I like carbs. I work out hard, and I work out a lot. And it is all because I love bread as much as I love being thin and fit. Some call me crazy, but I call it balance. So, dessert is good, yes. But if I have to pick between dessert and carbs, I’m always choosing the carbs and I’d give up desserts forever. Sweet is fine, but carbs are my favorite. That’s why these are the best recipes on the entire list.

11. Pretzel Bites
12. Cinnamon Bites
13. Soft Bread
14. Brioche Bread
15. French Bread
16. Cinnamon Swirl Bread
17. Sourdough Bread
18. Hawaiian Rolls
19. Focaccia
20. Bagels

Overmixing Does Not Hurt Your Gluten-Free Batters

I’m guilty of this when I take on too many things at once in the kitchen. Ironically, this is why I am such a terrible cook but a delightful baker. Baking traditionally requires one step at a time. You mix it all together, you bake it, and that’s it. Cooking is this dish and that dish and multiple dishes all with different time frames, and it’s a lot.

On occasion, though, I’m working on baking and doing other things in the kitchen. Holiday baking sometimes causes this problem, and I let my Kitchen Aid mixer do all the work. Sometimes, I let it do too much work. I’ll forget to turn it off when I’m mixing cake batter while also washing dishes.

When you let a mixer do too much mixing, you activate the gluten in your recipe. This makes it unusually hard and difficult to work with. This changes the consistency of your dish, and it can almost ruin many dishes. When you’re working with gluten-free options, however, you cannot overmix it since there’s no gluten to overmix. In fact, overmixing something without gluten might make it a little easier to work with…and tastier. Tastier is always better when you’re dealing with a gluten-free diet.

Treat Your Gluten-Free Dough Like You Don’t Treat Yourself

As in, let it rest. Gluten-free dough requires at least 30 minutes of rest time before you bake. This is to eliminate the grit in your baking. Let me explain.

Gluten-free baking often tastes like you’re baking with sand. Literally – like you added sand to the dough and baked it. It’s gritty and it is not delightful. However, letting the mix rest prior to baking gives your dry gluten-free flour time to hydrate with the help of your moist ingredients. Do yourself the good deed of allowing your dough to rest, and you’ll find more flavor in your final product.

Do NOT Knead Your Breads

Kneading is unnecessary when you’re baking with gluten-free flour. Actually, now is a great time for a small baking lesson. Do you know why you knead breads and cinnamon rolls and other doughs? I didn’t until I began making gluten-free recipes for friends. Kneading is an activator.

It activates the gluten in the regular flour you’re using, and it allows it to become stickier. When you don’t have gluten in your dough, you don’t need to knead. So, while it might take your baked goods longer to make because you must let them rest for a half hour, you save time by not kneading your dough. It’s a give and take situation.

Add Time to Baked Batters

If you haven’t picked up on the fact that gluten-free batter requires more liquid ingredients than traditional batters, you’re not paying close enough attention (guilty). When you’re baking with gluten-free batter, add more time to the bake time. This is easy enough when you’re making a recipe that’s listed out step-by-step for you, but it’s not always easy to understand when you’re baking recipes you have memorized. Check the time, and keep checking until you find the sweet spot.

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