Some of the guidelines for gluten-free cooking are:
- Focus only on the items in the recipe that need to be adapted. Choose a recipe with very little flour or gluten-containing items. Sometimes the flour can be omitted. (Breading or flouring meats can easily be omitted for most recipes.) Concentrate on the major flavours. Serve simple fruit and vegetables while gaining skills. Think “omit” or “substitute” while reviewing a recipe. Perhaps mark problem ingredients in a recipe.
- Avoid recipes that rely on convenience foods. Go back to the “from scratch” recipes the convenience food replaces. Learn to make the basic sauces and gravies often used in casseroles and soups.
- Look in a gluten-free cookbook for a similar recipe. Compare proportions, they are the key. Flour and other ingredients that act as thickeners are compared to the amount of liquids in the recipe. Keep proportions nearly the same for your recipe. Given the same amount of liquid, it takes less starch to thicken than flour (cornstarch vs. corn flour).
- Use commercial or home-made gluten-free substitutes. For example, gluten-free macaroni, bread and corn tortillas.
- Don’t make anything more complicated than it already is. But do take family health concerns, likes, dislikes and food dollars available into consideration.
- Before you begin baking, read about the unique taste and texture properties of each flour and starch alternatives
- a combination of gluten-free flours and starches makes a better product than single flours. A variety of gluten-free all-purpose baking flour mixes can be substituted for wheat flour and are available from many gluten-free companies.
Wheat flour substitutes
There are so many excellent substitutes for wheat flour that it is hard to know where to start. Try these first:
- For flouring or breading meats: Omit; or try cornmeal, potato flakes, almost any mixture of rice, bean or sorghum flours you normally use; crushed potato chips, crushed riceworks chips, gluten-free cereal or gluten-free bread crumbs. Choose a product similar to what it replaces.
- For gravies and sauces: Sweet rice flour or cornstarch. See product boxes for proportions of liquid or thickener and cooking instructions. Remember starches break down and get thin under high heat or long cooking times.
- For pudding and pie fillings: Cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca or arrowroot. Since starches get watery after a day or so, a mild flavoured gluten-free flour may be used. Look for a gluten-free flour combination with the least “gritty feel” such as sweet rice flour or a general rice flour and starch mixture.