Baking hints and tips
Although regular breads and cakes are not included in a gluten free diet, there are many creative ways in which people with coeliac disease can have their cake and eat it!
Gluten gives bread, cakes and pastry the right texture. Without gluten, bread is less chewy and cakes and pastry drier and more crumbly. However, there are many specialty gluten free flours on the market that work well in your favourite recipes. Our online shop has many cookbooks dedicated to gluten free baking.
Xanthan gum, pronounced zanthan gum, is a type of starch produced by fermentation (the same process used to make yoghurt, cheese and wine). It is widely used in food and household goods such as toothpaste, sauces and mayonnaise, and may appear in ingredients lists as xanthan gum or E415.
It’s a completely natural, vegetarian product with no known health problems when used in the recommended amounts.
It’s a useful ingredient for baking with gluten free mixes as it improves the texture and shelf life of your baked products. It works very much like gluten by binding ingredients during the baking process to give a conventional texture. When added to gluten free flour mixes, it replaces the gluten 'stretch factor'.
Xanthan gum comes in a powder form which dissolves easily in water. Mix it with the gluten free mix before adding any liquid. You may need to use a bit more liquid as the xanthan gum thickens the mixture quite a lot. It does not need heat to thicken like flour does, but it is not affected by oven temperatures either, making it quite versatile.
The amount you use depends on whether the gluten free mix you are using already has some form of gum (usually guar gum). The basic principle for a gluten free mix that already contains a gum is as follows:
- bread: 5 ml (1 teaspoon) for every 450g (1lb) gluten free mix
- pastry: 1.5ml (¼ teaspoon) for every 225g (8oz) gluten free mix
- sponge cakes: not absolutely necessary, a matter of preference
- rich fruit cakes: 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) for every 225g (8oz) gluten free mix
- light fruit cakes: 1/8 teaspoon for every 175g (6oz) gluten free mix.
You can find xanthan gum in the Free From aisle in some of the major supermarkets. A lot of health food stores and organic shops stock it and it is also available by mail order (see our Food and Drink Directory for available brands). Xanthan gum is also available on prescription.
Guar gum comes from the seeds of guar beans (Cyamopsis Tetragonolobus). It acts as a thickener and bulks out food.
We do not recommend a particular breadmaker. There are a variety on the market that are able to produce good gluten free loaves. We advise visiting one of the large electrical stores where you can look at the range of breadmakers available and choose one that suits your price range. Many breadmakers come with a recipe book, often including a recipe for a gluten free loaf.
We suggest that you contact suppliers of your favourite gluten free flour and bread mixes as they may be able to supply you with information on using their mix in a breadmaker.
As with all gluten free cooking, cleaning and hygiene precautions must be taken with breadmakers regarding cross contamination if the equipment has been, or is also used, for food which contains gluten. Additional pans can be bought for some models of breadmakers if you want to have a separate one for gluten free baking.
Our Local Groups regularly hold cookery demonstrations and can pass on tips on using breadmakers and opinions on particular models.