Giving A Lift To Gluten Free Baking – Part 1

Medieval_kitchenOn a couple of occasions we’ve been asked about how to make gluten free baked products lighter (we understand that “door-stop bread loaves” are just not the fashion any more); and how to make your own self-rising flour for use in gluten free cooking. 

As is the case with all kinds of flours, the only difference between the “plain” and the “self-raising” flour, is that the self-raising has had chemical leavening agents (baking powder) added to it that causes it to rise (this process was first invented back in the mid-1800’s B.T.W.).

What You Need To Know About Baking Powder:

Typical quantities of baking powder used in a recipe would be as follows:
100grams of flour,
3 grams
of baking powder
and just a pinch of salt (up to 1 gram).

The basic formulation for baking powder itself, varies, but it commonly contains sodium bicarbonate (an alkali) combined with a starch (to keep it dry) and some form of acid salts such as cream of tartar or certain aluminum salts. (Here is a LINK to ingredients used in common baking powders plus more fascinating info) 

It’s the body’s excessive exposure to aluminum salts that are of BIG concern. These are usually found in what are called “double-acting” baking powders and should be avoided. Studies have presented compelling evidence of aluminum being directly linked with senility and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few. (Other aluminum-containing formulations are found quite commonly in underarm deodorants as well).

Because baking powder has become such a normal part of modern cooking, it is not really thought of much as a “chemical”. Still, a food it is not, so we prefer to minimize, or eliminate its use, entirely. When you do use it though, be selective as to which one you use as there are many different formulations.

You can, however, make your own.
(at least this way you can make an informed choice as to what you put in there).

How Are Gluten Free Products Made Lighter?
To de-mystify the whole process, the basic method of making any cooked dish lighter and fluffier, is by causing little bubbles to form within the mixture that you are going to bake. We can do this ..

or through natural fermentation.

Here, in “Part 1” we are focusing on the chemical method.

Baking Powder

How To Make Your Own Baking Powder:
When we mix together an “acid” substance with a “base” substance we always get some kind of volatile reaction between the two. It is this that creates the desired effect (formation of bubbles). Remember from high school chemistry days?

This chemical reaction can be achieved with many different ingredients (producing mild to explosive results). The acid-alkaline combination, most common to cooking applications, are cream of tartar and baking soda in the ratio of about 2 : 1.  There are other food acids that can be used as well, but we’ll leave that for another time.

What If I Don’t Have Self-Raising Flour?
Of course, if a recipe calls for self-raising flour, and all you have is Plain Flour, remember that you don’t need to go running out to the store to get some. Just make your own.

Follow the recipe instructions as stated, with the one addition of adding your home-made baking powder in the proportions suggested towards the beginning of this article. Alternatively, follow Luci Luck’s formula, as suggested in the short video below:

                         1 tsp of Baking Powder + 1/4 tsp Salt for every 1 Cup of Flour Used.


 The Challenge Lies In Holding The Bubbles:
With gluten-containing flours like wheat, rye and barley, it is the chewing-gum-like gluten which forms during the kneading process that very efficiently traps the bubbles and thus the whole mass begins to expand and rise. It is a whole other story with gluten free flours, however.

Because of the absence of this elastic gluten, in flours such as rice, buckwheat, potato, soy, etc., we have to employ other creative methods to maximize the “bubble carrying capacity” and elasticity of the mixture.

Each flour has its own unique taste and properties when cooked. It is how to blend these to enhance and compliment one another to a specific goal that has been the center of so much attention from manufacturers and home cooks alike. 

Many Advances in Gluten Free Products:
To the delight of celiac and others choosing to eat gluten free, this experimentation has come a long way in the past few years. Companies such as Orgran – Natural Gluten Free Foods for example (now in over 50 countries), have an amazing selection of gluten free, packaged goods and mixes suitable for most applications.

As convenient and handy as any commercial, processed food may be, however, it is still important to keep things in perspective and to continue to find ways to develop ones own cooking skills at home, using whole, natural ingredients. The rewards of continuing to move in this direction return so much more than becoming dependent on the other.

Providing continued support in rising to the challenge of living healthy and gluten free.

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