Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gluten Free Baking Tips / Dairy Free Baking Tips

Baking is not an art; it’s a science.

I recently put together a list of baking tips for someone on a forum who was having some trouble getting started in GF/DF/egg free baking. Since I do all three (although not 100% on the eggs) I was able to provide some good insights and past lessons, so figured I’d share here as well.

Gluten Free / Dairy Free Biscuts
Baking isn't an art; it's a science. The more you deviate from a recipe (subbing out butter, milk, egg, etc) the less likely it will work out without major modifications. Therefore, my primary tip is to seek out recipes that were written to be free of a particular item. These recipes will most likely contain tips and strategies for getting a good result. If you make the substitutions below to other recipes you may not have the best of results and/or you may need to further modify to get things to come out right.

My main bit of advice is this: Keep a sense of humor! I can’t tell you how many cakes I’ve eaten as ‘brownies’ because they flopped, or desserts I’ve had to eat with a spoon when they fell apart. Usually the flavor is still there. Enjoy it, take notes on what went wrong and try again!

I’ve started with some general baking tips in case you are already following an allergen specific recipe and having issues, then moved on to specific Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Egg Free tips.

General Baking Tips:

  • Check the date on your yeast or proof it before adding to confirm it is still good.

  • Check your pans, dark pans require a different temperature than light pans. (You'll have to look this difference up if needed, most recipes are written for light colored pans.)

  • If your recipes aren’t working out, get an oven thermometer to confirm the temperature of your oven.

  • Add ingredients at room temperature unless the recipes notes otherwise (yes this means allowing any refrigerated items (flours, non-dairy milk, etc) to sit out a bit before baking).

Gluten Free Baking Tips:

  • Measure your ingredients carefully and investigate if the recipe’s author has a particular technique (spooning vs. scooping, etc.). This can make a difference in the final product and throw off proportions of flours in a blend. The absolute most accurate method is to weigh your flours but very few recipes are written this way.

  • If you are using rice flour, make sure it is finely ground. I can taste the difference between Bob’s Red Mill and Authentic Foods. Authentic Foods is much less ‘gritty’.

  • Baked goods made primarily of rice flour tend to shrink and harden rapidly. The less rice flour in the recipe the less noticeable this is.

  • Bean flours, soy flour, teff flour, quinoa flour and amaranth flour all have strong flavors and can easily over power a baked good. I use them sparingly or not at all. (Yes, I realize for the most part they are more nutritious.)

  • Garbanzo bean flour (chick pea flour) quickly develops an aftertaste. I find baked goods are ok the first day but each progressive day the leftovers take on a more and more bitter taste. (I live alone and it takes me quite some time to finish a tray of brownies, etc.)

Dairy Free Baking Tips:

  • Use almond, coconut, or help milk rather than rice milk. Dairy milk in a recipe provides both liquid and fat, rice milk doesn't have much fat. You may still need to add extra fat to the recipe depending on what it is.

  • Don’t use soy milk. Unflavored soy milk has a distinctive taste that is very difficult to conceal when baking.

  • Only use butter replacements that are formulated for baking. Butter replacements that aren't specifically for baking generally have too high a water content to work correctly.

Egg free Baking Tips:

There are a number of egg free methods and I’ve listed them below:

  • I only ever tried the flax seed method once and it didn't work for me. If you’d like to try it is recommended to use golden flax as the color will be lighter. Basically, grind up flax seeds (pre-ground will go rancid faster so it is best to grind your own) in a coffee or spice grinder. Combine 3 tbsp of water per tbsp of ground flax seed (hot water will work faster) and set aside. The mixture will eventually (10 minutes or so) take on the texture of a raw egg which you can then use. Note: you will get some flax taste and grittiness from the ground up seeds in your final product. 3 tbsp of this mixture = 1 egg.

  • Ener-G makes an egg replacer powder which I've had very good success with.

  • I’ve used both whipped tofu (tofu run through a blender until smooth) and plain soy yoghurt successfully. 3tbsp = 1 egg. [Obviously these are out for those following a soy free diet.]

  • I’ve heard of people using apple sauce as an egg replacer but I’ve never tried it. I would think this adds more liquid than the recipe calls for and one may need to adjust accordingly.

If you don't want to do your own baking, check out this review of Luce's Gluten Free Bread Mix.  They're gluten free, dairy free, soy free, nut free and egg free.  Best of all, you just add water and bake!  


  1. Excellent Jason. May I add a few pointers that have helped in my own egg, dairy free baking?
    Flax as an egg replacer is something I would use in something heavily spiced or chocolate to cover the flavor. I have also found that when I use such a binder that it doesn't emulate the other thing eggs do which is to help the rise so I add baking powder or baking soda, sometimes both. For a small pan of brownies or a half recipe of cookies 1 to 2 tsp.
    Applesauce works well, like any other fruit puree if you drain it first.
    Non dairy yogurt works as well as soy yogurt in a recipe as does 1 Tbsp of mayo or a tsp or 2 of coconut glucose to add moisture and keep your stuff from drying out.
    My current favorite egg replacer is half flax/half light chia but you can use 1 1/2 tsp chia to 3 Tbsp warm water. You can also use psyllium powder but a little goes a long way.
    Lastly, I recently came across a thing the author is calling "pixie dust" which also replaces the xanthan gum if you are corn allergic.
    So yes, there is a steep learning curve but more than possible. Anyone suffering from all those kinds of multiple allergies might run a search on Gluten Free Vegan Baking to link up to bloggers who specialize in this particular challenge. :-)

    1. Thanks for the pointers! I'm not entirely egg free so I'm a bit less experienced with egg-free baking than dairy free or gluten free.

    2. You did a great job. Egg free is a pain in the rear but you dealt with it nicely. :-)


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