In today's post Kira Mcmullan explains how to make and bake with gluten free flour, she also shares a Bakery Style Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. Kira is a professionally trained pastry chef, has her own blog Kira in the Kitchen where she shares 100% gluten free and delicious recipes.
Gluten-free baking can seem overwhelming and like you need a degree in food science to fully understand it. It’s a lot! But as complex as it is, you can start baking delicious gluten-free desserts right away just by following a few basic principles. Let’s get started!
The first thing we need to know is “what is gluten?” If you are new to gluten-free baking, you may not know what gluten is and that’s okay. We all need to start somewhere, and I will happily guide you through this exciting new baking adventure.
Gluten is made up of two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, which are found in grains such as barley, wheat, rye, spelt, and kamu. If you are Celiac or suffer from a wheat or gluten allergy/sensitivity, then this unassuming protein can cause dangerous health problems and numerous physical ailments.
Now that we have that covered, let’s talk about what makes gluten-free baking so different from traditional baking. Traditional baking relies heavily on gluten’s structure and elasticity to hold everything together and to achieve a very distinct texture. When you remove gluten from your recipe, you not only lose this much needed structure and elasticity, but it suddenly changes how the other ingredients in your recipe react to each other as well. An example of this is the need to add additional liquid for a gluten-free recipe as we need to compensate for the higher absorption rate in gluten-free flours and starches. This is turn means that we need to increase the baking time to allow the extra moisture time to evaporate.
This leads us to our first gluten-free baking principle.
Follow a gluten-free recipe. Exactly. It can be so tempting to tweak a recipe as you’re going along or attempt to make a well-loved family recipe gluten-free by only substituting the wheat flour for gluten-free flour, but I would heavily discourage this, at least in the beginning. If traditional baking is a science, then gluten-free baking is the science that created science. Following a gluten-free specific recipe will be a real game changer because somebody else has already considered all the variables that come into play when we no longer have gluten to rely on. This is great news for us because it means we have a higher chance of baking those gluten-free cookies to perfection on the first try.
Not to worry though! There will be plenty of time for experimentation and exploration once you are further on in your gluten-free baking journey.
Your Secret Weapon: Gluten-Free Flour Blends
One of the kindest things you can do for yourself when you are new to gluten-free baking, is to use a pre-made gluten-free flour blend. The reason I recommend this is because I don’t want you to overcomplicate your baking experience at this point. Instead, let’s focus on having fun first and turn out some incredible pastries before diving into the world of flour, starch and gum ratios.
There are plenty of great options on the market these days. The first thing to understand about commercially produced gluten-free flour blends is that they are all different and will yield different results with the same recipe. Each one will have a different variety of flours, starches and gums to create their unique texture and flavour.
Listed below are the more widely used flours and starches in commercially produced gluten-free flour blends:
- Rice Flour: Both white and brown rice flour tend to be the base for most gluten-free flour blends and can be used interchangeably. White rice flour is especially useful for baking as it has a neutral, clean flavour.
- Sweet Rice Flour: Also called ‘glutinous’ rice flour has a mild flavour that adds a chewiness to baked goods. This flour needs to be used in moderation as it creates a very sticky texture.
- Tapioca Flour: Also called tapioca starch, comes from the cassava root and has a slightly sweet flavour. It functions like a starch and is a great thickener.
- Corn Starch: Is nearly flavourless and helps to create a smooth texture in batters and doughs.
- Potato Starch: Not to be confused with potato flour, a different product, potato starch has a neutral flavour and aids in creating a tender texture.
- Sorghum: Is a cereal grain and has a slightly nutty, sweet vanilla flavor.
Quick note on Xanthan Gum. Usually the gum of choice for gluten-free flour blends. It is a powder derived from sugar and used in gluten-free baking to replace the elasticity and texture that would normally come from gluten. This is a great product when used sparingly as too much will make your pastry and dough gummy.
*If you are feeling up to the challenge or for whatever reason you can’t find a nice pre-made gluten-free flour blend then I would recommend checking out Gluten-free on a Shoestring. This is a great resource for homemade gluten-free flour blends.
The Cookie Experiment
To help illustrate the differences between gluten-free flour blends, I conducted a little baking experiment which shows you how different gluten-free flour blends affect the taste, texture and appearance of a recipe. Below I used a Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and tested it with three of the most popular gluten-free flour blends in North America alongside a wheat flour. The brands I used are:
- Robin Hood Wheat Flour
- Cup4Cup Flour Blend
- Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Flour Blend
- Robin Hood gluten-free AP Flour Blend
As you can see, the end results show you how all four cookies were made using the same recipe, yet each cookie turned out differently. Let’s break down each cookie.
Wheat Flour: Granted, I can only comment on the appearance and visible texture of this cookie due to my wheat allergy. The cookie held together well and looked slightly denser than the other cookies.
Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1: Was the thickest cookie and created a more cake-like texture
Robin Hood gluten-free AP: Has a nice spread and mild flavour, but the texture was slightly grainy.
Cup4Cup: This was my personal preference as the spread was nice and the flavour of the cookie was best. The texture was slightly chewy which I like in a chocolate chip cookie.
I encourage you to experiment yourself! Just remember, find a gluten-free specific recipe, follow it exactly and find a flour blend you like. You’ll be baking up delicious gluten-free cookies and cakes before you know it.
Bakery Style Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 172g (1-1/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, Melted
- 80g Light Brown Sugar
- 60g White Sugar
- 1 Large Whole Egg + 1 yolk
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 230g gluten-free Flour Blend *I recommend Cup4Cup for this recipe
- ½ tsp Baking Powder
- ¼ tsp Baking Soda
- ½ tsp Kosher Salt
- 200g Chocolate Chips
- Additional 100g Chocolate Chips for topping (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 165°C/325°F degrees. Prep a large sheet pan with parchment paper or a silpat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together gluten-free flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- Using a whisk, mix the melted butter, sugars, whole egg and yolk, and vanilla until well combined. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold in the dry mixture, just until a smooth dough forms and you can’t see any streaks of flour. Mix in 200g of the chocolate chips chocolate.
- Cover dough with cling film or transfer to a Tupperware container and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
- *This allows the flour time to absorb the liquids, creating a chewier texture, and will be much easier to handle once it is firmed up.
- Using a kitchen scale, separate the dough into eight 100g balls. If you don’t have a scale and are shaping them by eye, they will roughly the size of a tennis ball. They are big cookies!
- Next, take each dough ball and place it firmly down on the remaining chocolate chips until the top of each dough ball is covered in chocolate chips.
- Place 3-4 dough balls onto the prepared sheet pan, about 2-3 inches apart. You will need to bake these in two batches.
- Bake for approx 14-16 minutes, rotating the pan after 46-7 minutes and bake until the edges of cookies are golden, and the centre is still soft. Cool for 5-10 minutes on the sheet pan before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days. refrigerated dough will keep for 2-4 days.
Beginners Guide to Gluten Free article is written by Kira McMullan. Kira shares her amazing gluten free recipes on her website: Kira in the Kitchen. Follow Kira on Instagram.