Converting Recipes to Gluten Free
One of the questions I get most is “How do I convert my grandma’s (fill-in-the-blank) recipe to gluten-free?” The second most popular question: “How do I convert a gluten-free recipe calling for (fill-in-the-blank) number of different GF flours so that I can use just one all purpose gluten-free flour?”
While the questions seem quite different, their answers are really the same.
The world of gluten-free baking can seem quite mysterious and certainly frustrating. It’s the reason that I didn’t bake at all for a year after my diagnosis with celiac disease. Everything was too hard, to cumbersome and too terrible-tasting to share.
When I finally created (albeit after two years of work!) an All Purpose gluten-free flour that I could use just like I had my all purpose wheat flour before, I was back baking delicious foods again, for everyone! I was so excited to share delicious treats with friends and family — and to lick the bowl — that I ultimately started sharing my Jules Gluten Free™ All Purpose Flour with tens of thousands of others living gluten-free because it was too good to keep just for myself!
When you want to convert a favorite family recipe, or a gluten-free recipe calling for several different kinds of flour, all you need to do is to use a really good and truly all purpose gluten-free flour. Simply total up the amount of flour called for in the recipe and use that amount of the all purpose gluten-free flour instead.
Sometimes you may find that adding a bit more baking powder will help, when converting a recipe to gluten-free. So, if a muffin recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking powder, for example, I’d go ahead and add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon extra. Take good notes so you know what did when you go to make the recipe again!
If the recipe calls for xanthan gum or guar gum (binding agents used to replace the sticky qualities of gluten), the all purpose GF flour should already include the gum, so don’t rush out and buy or add more. (Using too much of these gums in your baking will make your baked goods rubbery – more on this in another post!) However, if the all purpose flour for some reason does not already include gums, you will need to add that ingredient on your own.
My recommendation is to always stay away from flours that have a funky aftertaste (bean flours) or are gritty (contain lots of rice flour), and make sure that the flour blend has enough starches in it (corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, arrowroot powder …) to keep the end product light (the opposite of those “bricks” we all know, posing as gluten-free bread!).
One caveat when converting recipes from wheat to gluten-free: while the transition can be seamless in many types of recipes, the directions for yeast breads are quite different. For example, gluteny yeast breads require extensive kneading, a rise, a punch down and another rise before shaping and baking. Not so, for gluten-free yeast breads! In fact, if you do all those things to gluten-free yeast breads, you’ll punch the life (and rise) right out of it! For gluten-free yeast doughs, you mix, shape, rise and bake. That’s it. That’s also why there is a gluten-free setting on many bread machines — the steps are very different for gluten-free yeast bread.
So my recommendation is to either stick with gluten-free yeast bread recipes rather than trying to convert from wheat recipes, or at least to start out with gluten-free yeast bread recipes until you get the hang of it and know what to expect the dough consistency to be like and how it should behave. I have many yeast bread recipes here on my site, so search for anything from hamburger buns to sandwich bread, bread sticks to beer bread … you’ll find those recipes here, tried and tested!
I offer several allergy-friendly variations on a homemade all purpose GF flour blend in my book, Free for All Cooking.
Recipes for all purpose flours are easy to find, and there are several pre-mixed blends available as well. If you try one that doesn’t work for you, try another — they are all created differently! Don’t get discouraged or feel too overwhelmed to bake now that you’ve gone gluten free. It can be quite easy and delicious when you have the right ingredients to take the guess-work out of it for you!
So, dust off that recipe box and find your apron! Your family favorites are back on the menu!