The Accidental Scientist: Science of Cooking
Candy Bread Eggs Pickles Meat Seasoning
Ask the Inquisitive Cooks    

"Do you have any ideas for gluten-free recipes?"

Dear Anne and Sue,

I was exploring the Web site and was struck by the great demo of how gluten is formed. My daughter has gluten intolerance (also called celiac disease or celiac sprue), which means any gluten particles she eats act as toxins on the villi in her intestines.

The only treatment for this disease is eating foods completely free of gluten, which is pretty difficult in a society full of modified food starch and caramel color (two big problems). We have learned to use flours such as Asian rice flour, garfava bean flour, almond flour, and sorghum flour. And we always use xanthan gum in baked goods. My daughter was ecstatic the first time we actually made halfway decent cookies! We haven’t had as much success with bread, though.

We’re always looking for more input and ideas. Do you have any?

Janice and Bethany Bunker
(Getting the gluten-free word out....)

(To read Janice and Bethany’s complete letter, see "Alternative Flours" in the Food Talk section of the Food Forum.)


Still have more questions? You'll find more answers in our archived monthly feature articles by the Inquisitive Cooks.

(Meet the Inquisitive Cooks)

Dear Janice and Bethany,

You’ve drawn attention to an important issue. Those who bake without gluten face the huge challenge of creating structure without one of baking’s greatest allies.

Not all recipes are easy to adapt to gluten-free versions. Many end up as discouraging failures; others are dry and lack volume.

Here are some tips we’ve found useful in altering favorite baking recipes to gluten-free versions:
1. When substituting gluten-free flour for all-purpose flour, we usually use 2 tablespoons less flour per cup. So, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of all-purpose flour, substitute 7/8 cup of gluten-free flour.

2. In addition to the flours you mention, others that can be used in gluten-free baking include chestnut flour, tapioca flour, buckwheat flour (which is from the rhubarb family and is not wheat), potato starch, corn flour, and cornmeal.

3. Choose recipes that contain "moisture-retaining" ingredients such as dried apricots, raisins, cranberries, molasses, pumpkin, and chopped apples. Recipes for foods such as pumpkin muffins, peanut butter cookies, and banana bread are good choices.

4. If your baking seems dry, substitute honey for a small portion of the sugar. Honey is more hygroscopisc (that is, it takes up and retains water more readily) than sugar. Instead of using 1 cup of sugar, substitute 2 tablespoons of honey and use 7/8 cup of sugar.

5. Try cake recipes where the egg yolks and whites are separated and the whites are beaten to a foam. In these recipes, the beaten egg whites rather than the flour are the primary structure builders. Some desserts, such as meringues, or tortes based on ground nuts and beaten egg whites, don’t call for flour at all. Others, for instance chiffon and angel food cakes, call for a small amount of flour, and while the end result won’t be identical, gluten-free flours can be substituted.

Thanks for your letter, Janice and Bethany. Readers, we welcome your ideas. Please add your suggestions to Janice and Bethany’s letter in "Food Talk" in the Forum. Or if you would like to contribute a gluten-free recipe, please add it to the Recipes section.


- - - Science of Cooking - - - Webcasts - - - Ask The Inquisitive Cooks - - - Share & Discuss - - -


© Exploratorium | Use Policy | Privacy Policy