May is Celiac Awareness Month, so I thought I would post a few gluten-free baking tips and some of my favourite go to recipes that are gluten or grain free and kid approved!
According to the Canadian Celiac Association, celiac disease is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and wheat like products such as spelt, KAMUT® khorasan wheat, rye and barley, which holds food together. This damage to the small intestine results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health. It is estimated that 1 in 133 persons in Canada are affected by celiac disease.
There are also many individuals that are sensitive to gluten or are unable to digest gluten, so avoid it. Symptoms may be vague and difficult to pinpoint but often include gas, bloating, abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue and brain fog. Testing to rule out celiac disease followed by a period of removing gluten from your diet, may help determine if you do have an intolerance to gluten.
When I initially switched my family to a gluten-free diet, or rather a gluten reduced diet, I found we were consuming products that were not only processed, but loaded with unwanted fat, sugar, salt and additional additives. As a result, I began experimenting with different gluten-free grains and baking techniques to come up with some of my own baked treats that were easy to make and tasted good too. As a family, we also decided to focus on foods that were whole and naturally gluten-free, with the most obvious foods of course being vegetables, fruits, dairy, meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes and fish. We also began consuming more grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, corn and millet, and relied less on whole-wheat bread and pasta. This was our new normal which seemed to work for us.
Currently, my family and I consume a variety of grains, both with and without gluten. In general, I try to switch things up to maintain variety in our diet. When I bake treats for our family, I try to consider what I am making and if it can be made gluten-free. For example, many loaves will hold together nicely with brown rice or quinoa flour. I have also learned to bake with almond flour, which works well too, especially with cookies. Often mixing grains results in a better texture and taste. My favourite flours to bake with are brown rice and oat flour. Please note, that although oats are considered safe to eat for children and adults with a gluten sensitivity, The Canadian Celiac Association recommends they be avoided mainly due to cross contamination of oats with wheat.
I must say it definitely took some experimenting in the kitchen to find something that not only worked, but tasted good too. Fortunately, there are several gluten-free recipes that are available on-line for you to try. Like I mentioned above, it does take some experimenting to find ones that work. For now, I will leave you with some tips and recipes you can try for the next time you need a gluten-free treat.
Here are a few baking tips I have learned along the way.
- I use a combination of flours such as brown rice/quinoa and oat flour, or brown rice and buckwheat. This seems to work best to minimize some of the stronger flavours that may dominate (quinoa/buckwheat).
- Always add about 2 tablespoons of a starch, such as tapioca, to cut down the grittiness of gluten-free flours.
- Although rice flours do taste most like wheat flour, oat flour is my favourite in baking. It can be used as a wheat substitute in a 1:1 ratio and seems to act a lot like wheat when baked. Look for certified gluten-free oats and make your own flour.
- I love adding ground flax to by baking mixes for texture and extra fibre.
- Ground almonds are great in cookies for an added chewy texture. (Do not use if there is a nut allergy in the family)
- Xanthium gum is not a favourite of mine. Many gluten-free baking mixes call for the addition of xanthium gum for it’s sticky texture, which helps hold cookies and cakes together. I find that it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste, so I avoid it at all costs.
- Many gluten-free baking mixes are readily available at your local grocery store or bulk food store, with Bob’s Red Mill being a popular choice. Check the ingredients and decide what blend works best for you. Alternatively, pick up various grain flours from your local health food or bulk store and make your own gluten-free baking mix.
Gluten Free Brownies – Adapted from Fine Cooking
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup coconut sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup lukewarm milk (non-dairy works too)
- 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
- ½ cup brown rice flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter an 8 inch square pan and line the bottom with parchment.
In a medium bowl, cream butter using an electric mixer. Beat in sugar and cream until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time and continue mixing. Add the vanilla and milk (almond, coconut or dairy) and beat until well mixed. The batter may appear broken, which is fine. Whisk in melted and slightly cooled chocolate. Beat until the batter becomes smooth and thick.
In a small bowl, mix flour with baking powder and salt. Stir dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture and stir until well combined.
Scrape into a prepared pan and bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Flourless Chocolate Cake – Adapted from Epicurious
- 4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 3/4 coconut sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.
Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of lightly simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in the middle of your oven for about 25 minutes, or until the top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.
Dust cake with additional cocoa powder and serve with sorbet if desired. (Cake keeps, after being cooled completely, in an airtight container, 1 week.)
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
This recipe is one of our favourites for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, that my daughter found on-line and we made with oat flour rather than wheat. It is suitable for anyone that is able to tolerate oats and oat flour. For gluten-free options, purchase certified gluten-free oats and make your own flour by processing the oats in a food processor until you have flour.
- 2 cups oat flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 3/4 cup melted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325F
In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, mix sugar, melted butter, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.
Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well. Add chocolate chips and mix until well incorporated.
Cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Remove from fridge and place a spoonful of batter on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before eating.
Also check out some of my other recipes such as banana buckwheat muffins and pumpkin spice muffins which can be adjusted and made gluten-free by using brown rice or oat flour instead.
For additional information visit Eating Well’s article Gluten Free Food List at http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/gluten-free/foods/list/gluten_free_foods_list
http://www.cannellevanille.com/recipes/ – delicious gluten-free recipes and treats
www.glutenfreegarage.ca – which hosts a yearly pop-up market for all things gluten-free.
If you or anyone you know needs assistance or guidance moving toward a gluten-free diet, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Linda @ The Wholesome Kitchen