Converting Recipes To Gluten Free + Gluten Free Baking Help and FAQs

Baking gluten free can sometimes be challenging, but when not when you have help! Scroll down to find the topic where you need tips, and maybe some where you didn’t know you could be baking better! Gluten Free Baking Help is at your fingertips, starting with converting recipes to gluten free. Read on …

Converting recipes to gluten free cookie, cake and bread help and tips to make it easy!

Converting Recipes to Gluten Free

Converting recipes using gluten free flour isn’t hard, but your success will depend almost entirely on the gluten free flours you choose. Unlike your wheat flour baking days, not all gluten free flours are created even remotely equally, and the right mixture of several gluten free flours is the best way to ensure the best results. Although you cannot simply take one gluten free flour and use it in place of wheat flour and expect successful results, you came to the right place because the art and a science to replacing wheat flour has already been done for you!

gluten free flour cannisters

These were among the many flour containers I had in my cabinet when I first started baking gluten free. Luckily there’s no need to have so many flours on hand anymore, saving time, money, space and aggravation!

One of the questions I get most is “How do I convert my grandma’s (fill-in-the-blank) recipe to gluten free?” The second most popular question: “How do I convert a gluten free recipe calling for (fill-in-the-blank) number of different gluten free flours so that I can use just one all-purpose gluten free flour?”

While the questions seem quite different, their answers are really the same. There are several crucial facts about gluten free baking you must understand in order to have success, and most revolve around the gluten free flours you use.

The world of gluten free baking can seem quite mysterious and certainly frustrating. It’s the reason that I didn’t bake at all for a year after my diagnosis with celiac disease. Everything was too hard, to cumbersome and too terrible-tasting to share.

gfJules Gluten Free Flour BagWhen I finally created (after two years of work!) a truly All Purpose gluten free flour that I could use just like I had my all purpose wheat flour before, I was back to baking delicious foods again, for everyone!  I was so excited to share delicious treats with friends and family — and to lick the bowl — that I ultimately started sharing my “Jules Flour” with tens of thousands of others living gluten free because it was too good to keep just for myself! Using my flour blend is the easiest way to convert recipes to gluten free, but there are some other tips you should know.

How To Convert a Wheat Flour Recipe to Gluten Free:

  • When you want to convert a favorite family recipe, or a gluten free recipe calling for several different kinds of flour, all you need to do is to use a really good and truly all purpose gluten free flour like my gfJules™ All Purpose Gluten Free Flour. Simply total up the amount of flour called for in the recipe and use that amount of the all purpose gluten free flour instead. Do NOT add more xanthan gum or guar gum if a recipe calls for it and you’re using my Jules Flour — it’s already in the flour and adding more will just make the recipe gummy.
  • I do not suggest using a WHOLE WHEAT or Stone Ground Wheat recipe and trying to convert it to gluten free — the baking properties are so different that the recipe structure will be thrown off. Stick to converting recipes calling for “all purpose flour” instead for better results.

Gluten Free Cake Flour Substitution:

  • Wheat based cake flour is a low protein, high starch flour that helps cakes and confections bake up light and airy. If you are trying to convert a recipe to gluten free that calls for using wheat based cake flour, either use my gfJules™ All Purpose Gluten Free Flour, which already has a protein and starch structure similar to cake flour, or follow the recipe below:
  • Homemade gluten free cake flour: use a gluten free flour blend that is higher in starches and doesn’t contain any heavy or strong flavored flours like bean flours. For every 1 cup of flour you need in the recipe, remove 2 tablespoons of the gluten free blend and substitute with 2 tablespoons gluten free cornstarch.

Gluten Free Self Rising Flour

If a recipe calls for self rising flour, you can easily make your own gluten free version. Simply whisk together my gfJules Gluten Free Flour plus a leavening agent (baking powder) and a touch of salt. Here are the proportions to use:

Choosing the Right Gluten Free Flours:

  • If you decide to make your own gluten free flour blend or you are choosing another pre-mixed blend, please do yourself a favor and don’t use any bean flours! They smell funny, they leave an odd aftertaste, and using them in your recipes means you’ll often need to add more sugar to mask those unpleasant characteristics!
  • Choose clean flours that don’t have any taste and the flavors of your recipes will shine through! My recommendation is to always stay away from flours that have a funky aftertaste (bean flours) or are gritty (contain lots of rice flour), and make sure that the flour blend has enough starches in it (corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, arrowroot powder …) to keep the end product light (the opposite of those “bricks” we all know, posing as gluten free bread!). See “More on Gluten Free Flours” at the end of this article.

Extra Leavening:baking soda and powder

  • Sometimes you may find that adding a bit more baking powder will help, when converting a recipe to gluten free. So, if a muffin recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking powder, for example, I’d go ahead and add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon extra. Take good notes so you know what did when you go to make the recipe again!

What if my baked goods aren’t rising?

  • Check the dates on the bottom of your baking powder and baking soda containers. Use before those dates pass, but if they have been opened and have clumps, they may have absorbed moisture and will be less effective in helping your baked goods rise. I don’t keep my baking powder longer than 6 months without replacing it. These ingredients are inexpensive, so also I err on the side of replacing them if there are lots of clumps. Don’t store them in the refrigerator, either; they will absorb moisture and other smells that could affect your baking.
  • To test your baking soda and baking powder to determine if they’re still active, spoon 1/2 teaspoon of either one into a bowl and pour 1/4 cup of boiling water over it. If it doesn’t start to bubble lots, toss it; repeat with the other product.

What are Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum and Why Do You Need Them in Gluten Free Baking?

  • If the recipe calls for xanthan gum or guar gum (binding agents used to replace the sticky qualities of gluten) check if your flour blend already includes one of them (my Jules Flour does). If so, don’t rush out and buy or add more. (Using too much of these gums in your baking will make your baked goods rubbery – more on this in another post!)
  • However, if the all-purpose flour for some reason does not already include gums, you will need to add that ingredient on your own. For more on baking with gums, hop to my article here!

Gluten Free Cookie Baking Help:Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Cookie recipes can be persnickety when you’re baking gluten free. If you find that your gluten free cookies aren’t turning out just how you like them, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Bake on parchment-lined cookie sheets … always!
  • Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet before removing
  • Refrigerate the dough before baking (make the dough the night before, cover well and refrigerate, when possible)
  • Add an extra 1/8-1/4 cup of gluten free flour if your dough is spreading too much in the oven
  • If the dough is too cakey, add an extra 2 – 4 Tbs. of your favorite milk to the dough and/or press the dough balls down gently to flatten before baking
  • Check your oven temperature to be sure it’s not baking too hot if your cookies are spreading more than you like
  • Don’t add too many chips and nuts etc. to the dough — there needs to be enough dough in between all your add-ins to hold the cookies together

For my Top 11 Gluten Free Cookie Baking Tips, hop to my everything-you-need-to-know-about-gluten-free-cookies article!

 gluten free white cake on plate gfJules

Gluten Free Cake Baking Help:

Baking gluten free cakes and quick breads is sometimes super easy, and sometimes super disappointing. There are lots of places you could go wrong in these baking applications. Rubbery bottoms? Undercooked centers? Take a look at these tips to help get you to better gluten free cakes and quick breads:

  • Make sure eggs and butter are at or near room temperature, otherwise they won’t integrate as well into the batter and may leave lumps or areas where ingredients are not dispersed evenly.
  • Don’t overbeat the batter; in recipes that require “creaming” fats and sugars, beat the sugar and butter (or other fat) together well, then add eggs one at a time. Fold the whisked dry ingredients into the wet only just until combined at medium blender speed. Over-mixing can beat too much air into the batter and cause it to collapse.
  • If making fruit or puree quick breads (like banana or pumpkin), follow the recipe exactly as to the amount to add; including extra banana in a banana bread recipe, for example, is just going to make the bread dense and undercooked in the middles.
  • Allow batter to rest in the cake pan for 15 minutes before baking.
  • Bake 3-4 minutes longer after it springs back when touched lightly in the center and the cake tester or toothpick comes out clean (internal temp should be 210°F for cakes)
  • If you have an oven thermometer and you’re certain the oven temperature is accurate, lower by 25 degrees and bake longer if you’re experiencing rubbery bottoms or dense middles to your cakes.
  • If you still get a too-dense cake or one which sinks or has a rubbery layer at the bottom, adjust the flour or liquid in your recipe so you have slightly less liquid or slightly more flour.
  • If you have a very high crown in the center of your cake as it’s baking but then it sinks afterwards, reduce the baking powder used in the recipe, and be sure not to over-beat the batter!
  • If your cake is crumbly or not as moist as you’d like, add an egg to the batter next time.
  • If the outside layer of the cake is crispy or thick, reduce the sugar in the recipe next time.
  • Let cooked cake or bread cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting and removing gently from the pan. Allow to fully cool at least 20 minutes before slicing. Slicing too early can smash the structure of the bread or cake and cause it to become dense.

Gluten Free Yeast Bread Baking Help:

gluten free beer bread loaf

Baking bread with carbonated beverages like sparking water, ginger ale or gluten free beer, helps keep the bread light and airy.

  • One caveat when converting recipes from wheat to gluten free: while the transition can be seamless in many types of recipes, the directions for yeast breads are quite different.
  • For example, gluten-y yeast breads require extensive kneading, a rise, a punch down and another rise before shaping and baking. Not so, for gluten free yeast breads! In fact, if you do all those things to gluten free yeast bread, you’ll punch the life (and rise) right out of it!
  • For gluten free yeast doughs, you 1) mix 2) shape 3) rise and 4) bake. That’s it. That’s also why there is a gluten free setting on many bread machines — the steps are very different for gluten free yeast bread. (For more Bread Machine Tips – check out my article)
  • So my recommendation is to either stick with gluten free yeast bread recipes rather than trying to convert from wheat recipes, or at least to start out with gluten free yeast bread recipes until you get the hang of it and know what to expect the dough consistency to be like and how it should behave. I have many yeast bread recipes here on my site, so search for anything from hamburger buns to pumpernickel, baguettes to sandwich bread, bread sticks to beer bread … you’ll find those recipes here, tried and tested! (use the search bar at the top of every page)
  • If you cannot tolerate yeast, I have yeast-free bread recipes and also versions of pizza and sandwich bread that are yeast-free in my recipe section. Simply search the recipe tab for “no yeast” or “yeast free.”

Making a Recipe for All Purpose Gluten Free Flour:

free for all book cover

I offer several allergy-friendly variations on a homemade all purpose GF flour blend in my book, Free for All Cooking.

Recipes for all purpose flours are easy to find, and there are several pre-mixed blends available as well (my gfJules™ Flour is the one I recommend for my recipes on this site). If you try one that doesn’t work for you, try another — they are all created differently! Here’s a link to mine.

Don’t get discouraged or feel too overwhelmed to bake now that you’ve gone gluten free. It can be quite easy and delicious when you have the right ingredients to take the guess-work out of it for you!

More on Picking Gluten Free Flours:

Did you know that there are more gluten free flours than there are flours which contain gluten? While that opens up so many more possibilities for us gluten free eaters, it also means that recipes calling for certain gluten-free flours may not be successful if other gluten free flours are used in their place.

Some fall into the category we call “whole grain” and pseudo-grain flours that tend to be rather heavy and dense, both in resulting texture and in nutrition (good and bad, right?). These include gluten free flours like brown rice, teff, amaranth, quinoa, corn, buckwheat (yes, buckwheat is gluten free! It’s actually a cousin to rhubarb, not wheat) as well as non-grains which can include seeds, beans and nuts. Almond flour, chickpea flour, garbanzo bean flour, gar-fava bean flour, navy bean flour, hazelnut flour, soy flour, flaxseed meal, chia seeds, salba, coconut flour, chestnut flour and more, are generally counted in this group.

Another category includes lighter gluten free starches, like potato starch, corn starch, tapioca starch, arrowroot, sweet rice flour, and even white rice flour.

Still another category is a mid-range type of gluten free flour that is neither particularly heavy nor light, and offers some nutritional benefits; sorghum, millet, and certified gluten free oat flour are part of this mix.

gluten free cabernet flour

Gluten free flours made during wine-making.

In addition, flours like cabernet, merlot and chardonnay are made as a by-product of wine-making, and mesquite flour is made from the dried pods of the mesquite tree.

When a recipe calls for one or more of these individual flours, you need to either use the exact flours contemplated, or choose substitutes from the same group: whole grain to whole grain; starch to starch. When a recipe calls for an all purpose wheat flour or even an all purpose gluten free flour, the best bet is to use an all purpose gluten free flour containing a gum like xanthan gum or guar gum, so that a good balance is achieved in the blend, and structure is also maintained.

If you are experimenting and find that your baked goods are too heavy or dense, re-examine what flours you are using. Perhaps you need more starches to lighten the end result. If your breads are collapsing, you might not have enough whole grain or pseudo-grains to give the cell structure the support it needs (there could be other reasons for the problem, but this is one to consider — for more on this issue, see my article 18 Tips for Gluten Free Bread Baking).

Also, certain flours like whole grain potato flour (not potato starch) and coconut flour suck the moisture right out of a recipe, so additional liquids are needed to make those recipes work. When rice flours are the predominant ingredient, often a dry and gritty result is inevitable. If bean flours are used, there may be a strange aroma and aftertaste that could be eliminated just by changing the gluten-free flours you are using.

vegan apple butter cake - gfJules

Gluten Free cake made without dairy or eggs — yes, it’s possible!

Need Help with Other Dietary Restrictions?

If you have other dietary restrictions (corn allergy? can’t tolerate potato? …) check out my article on gluten free flours. I give recipes and ratios to make your own gluten free flour blend so you can still use all my yummy recipes!

If you’re avoiding dairy, take heart! All of my recipes can be made without dairy with substitutions given. Here are some of my favorite dairy-free ingredients I bake with myself. If you need to be egg-free, check my recommendations for baking without eggs. If you have other dietary restrictions or food allergies, and are looking for more ingredients, products and recipe substitutions for nearly every other conceivable food allergen,I highly recommend you take a look at my cookbook, Free for All Cooking: 150 Easy Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly Recipes the Whole Family Can Enjoy.

gluten free cupcake runneth over

This gluten free cupcake mistake turned into yummy lava cakes!

Help for Gluten Free Baking Mistakes

Don’t give up on a recipe if it doesn’t work the first time, either. Some of the most creative results I’ve had come from what seems like at first blush was a mistake. Check out what became a lava cupcake recipe (although it wasn’t intended!)

See more ways to retrofit baking rejects in my article, Making the Yummy Best of Gluten Free Mistakes! The next time you try the recipe, change up the gluten free flours and see if that doesn’t make a huge difference. Remember, you have so many gluten free flours to choose from!

So, dust off that recipe box and find your apron! Your family favorites are back on the menu!

For even more FAQs, hop to this page