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Ask the ChefsApril/May 2010 Issue

In the Kitchen: Egg Replacer, Gluten-Free Flours, and More!

Beth Hillson answers your questions about special-diet baking.

I made a bread recipe that I got off the Internet and replaced the eggs with egg replacer. The bread was very heavy and fell apart. Did I do something wrong?

Egg replacer can cause breads and pastries to become crumbly and dry. If using egg replacer, I suggest adding ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce to your recipe. For better results, try using flax gel rather than egg replacer. To make flax gel, stir 1 tablespoon flax meal into 3 tablespoons warm water; let mixture sit for ten minutes or so until thickened. This makes enough to replace 1 egg. (You can also use salba seed and water in the same ratio.)

 

Whenever I make a bread that’s egg free, I like to increase its nutritional profile by adding a high-protein flour, such as chickpea, quinoa or soy, in place of some of the rice flour in the recipe. You can replace up to ¾ cup of your flour blend with one of these high-protein flours.

Should gluten-free flours be stored in the refrigerator?

It depends on the flour. The so-called “white” flours (rice, cornstarch, tapioca starch and potato starch) will keep indefinitely in an airtight container in your cupboard. The shelf life for high-protein flours, such as bean, sorghum, teff, millet, Montina, quinoa and buckwheat, can be extended for many months if stored in the refrigerator. However, I store items like almond meal, nut flours and flax meal in the freezer as they tend to become rancid in a short amount of time.

Is there an easy way to convert a family recipe to make it gluten-free?

Nearly every recipe can be converted using a one-for-one conversion of gluten-free flour blend for regular wheat flour. There are exceptions, however: Puff pastry, Danish sweet rolls and yeast breads are examples of recipes that need tweaking to convert successfully.

For your favorite pancake, cookie, cake or muffin recipes, simply replace the quantity of flour or flours called for with an equal amount of gluten-free flour blend. Try the all-purpose blend on page 58 or use a gluten-free commercial blend of your choice.

If your recipe calls for cake flour, make your own gluten-free cake flour by mixing 1¾ cups of your favorite gluten-free all-purpose flour blend with ¼ cup cornstarch or ¼ cup tapioca starch/flour.

If your recipe calls for self-rising flour, make your own using the formula on page 58.

I want to make one of your recipes but I can’t find potato starch in any of the local health food stores. Where do you buy this ingredient or what can I use as a replacement?

Potato starch, available from Bob’s Red Mill (bobsredmill.com), is sold in the kosher food and baking sections of most supermarkets. It adds lift and bulk to baked goods. It should not be confused with potato flour, a highly absorbent ingredient with different baking properties. (Potato flour adds texture to baked goods and keeps them from becoming crumbly.)

In a pinch, you can replace potato starch with an equal amount of tapioca starch/flour or cornstarch.

Is temperature really important in gluten-free baking?

Absolutely! There are four temperatures that are critical in any baking, especially gluten-free baking: (1) Room temperature. Bring ingredients to room temperature (above 70 degrees) before starting your recipe. (2) Oven temperature. An inexpensive oven thermometer tells you if your oven temperature is off and also if temperatures vary in different sections of the oven. (3) Dissolving yeast. The temperature of the warm liquid used to dissolve yeast should be between 105 and 115 degrees. It’s easy to overheat the liquid and kill the yeast. (4) Internal temperature. Gluten-free bread is done baking based on its internal temperature (it should register 200 degrees), not just its color.

Do you have any suggestions for a good bread machine for making gluten-free breads?

Several manufacturers, such as Bready North America (new to the market), Breadman, Cuisinart and Zojirushi, now offer machines that come with gluten-free bread cycles. We’ve heard success stories from people who have used many of these brands. LW

Food editor Beth Hillson is a chef and cooking instructor. She is founder of Gluten-Free Pantry, one of the first gluten-free companies in the United States, and creator of Gluten-Free Pantry’s gourmet baking mixes.

Send your questions to Ask the Chef, Living Without magazine, 800 Connecticut Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854-1631 or editor@LivingWithout.com. Include your full name, address and daytime phone number. Letters become the property of Belvoir Media Group, LLC and may be published in other media. Submissions chosen for publication may be edited for clarity and length.

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