Whether you’re eating gluten-free because you have to or you’re just trying to eat healthier, chances are you’ve been suckered into trying a gluten-free pastry or dessert that promises to be delicious, but just… isn’t. It can be tricky to get your food sans wheat to taste yummy, but it can be done. No one knows this better than Kristine Kidd, author of Gluten-Free Baking. Kidd is known for her crowd-pleasing gluten-free desserts, and instead of keeping her baking secrets all to herself, she’s sharing them with the masses. She shares some of her best tips with us here.
How she got into gluten-free baking
Kidd tells us she’s always enjoyed baking and landed a dream job whipping up cookie and biscotti recipes for Bon Appetite magazine. Then, she was diagnosed with celiac disease. “When I had to change my diet, I was determined to eat as well as I always had, and that meant fresh, delicious food. I formulated the goal to create recipes that anyone would love, whether they eat gluten or not,” she tells us. Her new book is full of her favorite breakfast pastries, cakes, artisanal-style breads and seasonal desserts. And they all have great flavor and texture.
Her go-to substitutes
If you like to bake and are trying to stay gluten-free, the key is to have the right ingredients around that allow you to experiment while trying to convert a gluten recipe to a gluten-free one. “For truly delicious results, I rely on great-tasting, naturally gluten-free ingredients: bittersweet chocolate and chocolate chips, ground spices, lots of fresh fruit, butter and olive oil and an old favorite, crystalized ginger,” Kidd tells us.
The secret to finding the perfect gluten-free flour blend
Many grocery stores now have a gluten-free aisle, but the flour blends you’ll find can be hit or miss. “They’re mostly from nutritionally empty white starches like tapioca starch, potato starch, cornstarch and white rice flour,” Kidd says. Her advice is to opt for whole grains, which have more flavor and nutrients. Try sorghum flour, buckwheat flour, crunchy cornmeal, oats and nutty quinoa instead.
Another pitfall of many gluten-free treats is that they lack moisture. Kidd’s tip to avoid it: Don’t overbake. “Many gluten-free items won’t brown as deeply as conventional recipes, so use other tests to see if what you’re making is done,” she says. If you fear your food is going to be a little on the dry side, add one of these moisture-giving ingredients: butter, oil, buttermilk or yogurt.
The recipe Kidd is most proud of
Like any experimental cooking, there was a lot of trial and error involved in perfecting the recipes in Gluten-Free Baking, but Kidd says there’s one that took her many, many different tries to get absolutely perfect: the apple crumble pie. “I was determined to create a great pie crust using whole grains, and I did,” she says. “It’s a mixture of brown rice flour and sorghum flour with a little tapioca starch.”
What gluten-free baking taught Kidd about mindful eating
Kidd says some people are really bummed out when they’re diagnosed with celiac disease, but she took it in stride, seeing it as a new challenge. “There are lots of excellent cookbooks with great gluten-free recipes, so grab one and dive in,” she says. Can’t wait to get started? Try Kidd’s recipe for whole-grain walnut bread:
Whole-Grain Walnut Bread
— 1 cup sorghum flour
— 3⁄4 cup plus 3 tablespoons low-fat milk, whole milk or soy milk
— 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
— 1 large egg
— 1⁄4 cup buckwheat flour
— 1⁄4 cup quinoa flour
— 1⁄4 cup potato starch
— 1⁄4 cup tapioca flour
— 2 tablespoons firmly packed dark or golden brown sugar
— 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
— 1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
— 1 teaspoon baking soda
— 1 teaspoon kosher salt
— 1⁄4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
— 1⁄3 cup flaxseed meal
— 1⁄3 cup chopped walnuts
— 1 1⁄2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds or untoasted chia seeds (optional)
Makes one loaf
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8-to-9-inch round cake pan and dust with sorghum flour. In a glass measuring cup, combine three-fourths cup plus three tablespoons of milk and one tablespoon of vinegar. Let stand until thickened, about five minutes.
Add an egg and whisk with a fork until blended. In the bowl of a food processor, combine one cup sorghum flour, one-fourth cup buckwheat flour, one-fourth cup quinoa flour, one-fourth cup potato starch, one-fourth cup tapioca flour, two tablespoons brown sugar, two teaspoons xanthan gum, one and a half teaspoons baking powder, one teaspoon baking soda and one teaspoon of salt and process until blended. Add one-fourth cup butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a fine meal. Add one-third cup flaxseed meal and pulse once to mix in.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in one-third cup walnuts. Add the liquid ingredients and, using a rubber spatula, mix until a sticky batter forms. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Dip the spatula into room temperature water and use to form a smooth round loaf. Flatten slightly. Using a sharp knife, score a cross on the top of the loaf that extends to the edges. Sprinkle the loaf with sesame seeds.
Bake until the loaf is slightly browned, sounds hollow when tapped and a bamboo skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for five minutes, then turn out onto the rack and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store wrapped airtight at room temperature for up to three days or refrigerate for up to five days. Try flavoring the bread with two teaspoons fennel seeds and/or replace walnuts with pecans or hazelnuts.
What’s your go-to gluten-free baking tip? Share it in the comments, and don’t forget to check out Gluten-Free Baking.