By Linda Melone | Edited by Elena Doxey
This year, don’t let your gluten intolerance keep you from savoring the sweets of the holiday season. Whether you’re celebrating at home or spending the holidays away with family, you can join in the festivities while still enjoying your favorite treats. But there’s more to baking gluten-free then just the ingredients. Hidden pitfalls can be lurking in your kitchen, which can wreak havoc – both on your system and on your baking efforts. Knowing what to look for before you begin is the first step of the recipe.
So, grab your apron and learn the best ways to indulge (while keeping to a safe and healthy diet).
Baking gluten-free cookies is a good recipe to try if you’re just starting out. Find a simple sugar or chocolate chip cookie recipe and try jazzing it up with a drizzle of extra chocolate or gluten-free sprinkles. It’s a great way to test your baking skills. Once you’ve mastered the basics, try baking more complex cookies.
If your holidays take you on the road this year, take the time beforehand to bake gluten-free goodies. Keep them conveniently packed and placed in the car so they are within reach – whether you end up at a restaurant, at someone’s house, or just need a little pick-me-up.
It’s also a good idea to pack an on-the-go gluten-free travel pantry. Keeping all your necessities at your fingertips is an easy and stress-free way to have what you need for holiday cooking while spending time away from home.
Consider packing a bag with gluten-free bread, peanut butter, miniature jars of gluten-free jelly (for emergency PB&J sandwiches), canned fruit and mayonnaise, as well as gluten-free substitutes for foods that are likely found at family functions, such as baking mixes. That way, if Grandma is making her favorite casserole, you’ll have gluten-free cream of mushroom soup to make a smaller version of the same casserole – without the gluten.
Tried and True Flour Options
Knowing the properties of various gluten-free flours can help you decide which ones to use. Caroline Shannon-Karasik, author of “Gluten-Free for the Holidays” (Skyhorse), offers the following options as her favorites for baking:
- Brown and white rice flour: These can be used interchangeably in recipes. White rice flour typically costs less than brown rice flour, although the whole grain of the latter may be preferable.
- Almond flour/meal: This flour adds moisture to baked goods, along with protein and fiber. Made by grinding blanched almonds, it requires balancing with a starch or whole-grain flour, such as brown rice. Too much almond flour can cause baked goods to fall flat.
- Tapioca starch/flour: Made from the root of the tropical cassava plant, tapioca flour works well in a blend that also contains whole-grain flours.
- Potato starch: While other gluten-free flours use the terms “flour” and “starch” interchangeably, potato starch and potato flour are not the same. The starch adds moisture to baked goods and works well as a thickener.
- Arrowroot starch: Pricier than other starches, arrowroot’s mild flavor makes it a favorite.
- Coconut flour: Although it adds moisture to baked goods, coconut flour requires trial and error. The general rule: for every 1/4 cup of coconut flour, you’ll need to add one egg to the mix. So, if your traditional recipe calls for a cup of flour, and you’re substituting 1/4 cup of flour with an equal amount of coconut flour, you’ll need to increase the eggs in the recipe by one, Karasik points out.
- Quinoa flour: High in protein and with a nutty taste, quinoa flour can become too noticeable – unless you balance it out with something else, like brown rice flour or almond meal.
Whether your baked treats will be eaten at home or you are bringing them to a party, you can enjoy them with confidence knowing they are healthy and safe to eat. Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season!