This week I discovered an old college friend has suddenly developed an allergy to wheat and to gluten. When his wife tried to bake gluten free using xanthan gum, he hated the after taste he noticed (I personally have never noticed that phenom but it sure could be so!) and guar gum made him break out in a nasty rash. She loves to bake and just was dismayed with a number of recipes she tried. Terrible texture and heavy especially without the gum. Generally disheartening. I decided immediately that I had to help them out. So after some research here are a few of my ideas, resources and general thoughts to help them.
Of course I wanted to help them out; I love a good challenge and to help friends is a true joy. So, I looked in my cookbook collection last night and discovered that my book by Nancy Cain titled “against the grain” is chock full of gluten free recipes that have no xanthan or guar gum in them. I haven’t made many of her recipes but I think they could work well for my friend. Bonus points as she takes a rather natural approach to baking gf and I am all for natural foods.
My second cookbook choice is “The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, Volume 2” by America’s Test Kitchen. This book contains two gf flour blends neither of which has a gum in them. I have made several recipes from it and can say they are tasty and worth making again. Not all the recipes avoid gums but they mostly use a tiny amount; ¼ of a teaspoon. I feel this could be replaced by several choices.
For that I did a search and found this: bakingkneads.com/substitutes-for-xanthan-gum-in-baking/ by Sarah. This is a wonderful post and I highly recommend you visit it. Here is a brief summary: you can use chia seeds softened in water, egg whites, cornstarch, konjac powder, agar -agar and flax seeds mixed with water (the flax seed “egg”). For cornstarch you use the same amount as a gum. For the flax seed or chia “egg” I believe it is a tablespoon of chia and 2 tablespoons of hot water. Let it stand about 5 minutes. You can grind the seeds up if you want a smooth mixture as whole seeds can definitely add texture or pop to your bread. I can’t wait to try a few of these ideas out. I have used the flax seed egg in the past and it works okay in a cake. I think it would work better in a whole grain bread which would more disguise the seedy texture and flavor.
Another cookbook I like is “Gloriously gluten-free cookbook) by Vanessa Maltin. It focuses on three cuisines: Italian, Asian and Mexican. The red velvet mochi cupcakes with ginger buttercream icing recipe looks amazing and no gum. There are dozens of gorgeous sounding ethnic recipes. I am wondering why I haven’t cooked from it lately!
I constantly use Annalise Robert’s book: “Gluten-Free Baking Classics” I feel you could use one of those six substitutes I mention and alter her recipes to make them gum free. She uses a simple flour blend of 3 flours but you can buy it too; it is King Arthur’s Basic Gluten Free Flour. There is no xanthan gum in it. I is comprised of brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. Has a nice “wheaty” taste to the pie crusts she shares. I won’t make any other pie crust. I get a lot of complements on it. A suggestion from fb; add cinnamon to your baked goods to hide the taste of xanthan gum. I actually do that for a number of my recipes; will do it even more now that I am thinking on it.
Two more choices are “Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking” by Kelli and Peter Bronski and “‘The Gluten-Free Table” by Jilly and Jessie Lagasse. Most of the Lagasse sister’s recipes are naturally gf recipes, there is some use of xanthan but now armed with my knowledge of several gum replacements I feel I could make them gum free successfully. Ditto with enthusiasm for the Bronski book. It is chock full of interesting and mouthwatering ideas. Definitely work the look and maybe the buy!
Another suggestion, which I found in my gf support group, but haven’t tried yet is: https://shop.betterbatter.org/products/artisanbakersblend?fbclid=IwAR1iOKMW4jM0C9jUKLk33Tb7RHchdrC4rxXNO-xjmyYL_asnvddUDJUgDMc. The site sells a gf and gum free bread flour. Pretty pricy but definitely an option. This blend’s ingredients are: sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, psyllium husk, and potato flour. I personally make up a Better Batter knock off flour mix and use it a lot; it does have xanthan gum in it. I am betting you could replace that gum with one of the above six replacements for your baking pleasure!
I just discovered there is a gf baking group on fb that uses more psyllium than gums; you could join that group to get advice and learn some new recipes. https://www.facebook.com/groups/354638545553904/?ref=share
I buy a lot of gf items at Aldi’s and sometimes Trader Joe’s or Wegmans. Aldi’s has a bread that is fairly new; it is a multi grain wide pan loaf. I find it life changing. Makes amazing grilled cheese and ham sandwiches. About to try french toast with it. So tasty and the bigger slices are the best!
Other advice to newbies; read my original early posts on switching to being gf. Look at my 2014 posts: for most of 2013 I posted on Patch. I do not thing those posts are still available but I reposted most of them in my first few months on my new blog location. Critical to success: new bread pans at 8.5x 4.5 with taller sides, new cake and pie pans unless you scrub the heck out of them. You need to read up on cross contamination as it is a really serious problem. You should invest in a new toaster for only gf breads and bagels. Your cutting boards and rolling pins must be incredibly free of all old flour; maybe if you are going to still have gluten in your house buy a new bread board and rolling pin for gf use only. You will absolutely need a new colander for gf pasta. Mark it so or get one very different in color so you can easily distinguish it. Ditto for wooden spoons. In fact, you need to run everything you plan to use for gf cooking through the dishwasher several times or hand scrub a LOT. I found it too difficult to keep both gluten-based flour and my new gf flours around. I have a few burger buns and a loaf of white bread in my basement freezer for Joe or Aiden. No more do I keep gluten-based pasta or mixes.
In short, eat clean, eat organic when you can, don’t buy packaged gf foods if you can make it yourself and avoid the processed gf treats full of fats, sugar and preservatives. DIY is always healthier if it avoids excesses of those demons especially hydronated fats and all sugars other than coconut palm sugar which is low on the hypoglycemic index and possibly use honey, maple syrup and agave syrup but in moderation. Being gluten free is a journey, an adventure in experimentation and can be surprisingly delicious. GF foods have gotten a bad rap and often folks eating my cookies, brownies, pies, tarts and cakes are shocked at how delicious they actually are. I am generally very happy to be gf. Rarely, on visiting people I find them being insensitive; like baking gluten filled muffins right in front of me and offering me no substitute or alternative. I think that behavior is obnoxious; you knew I was coming. Couldn’t you put off your wheaty muffins a few days and buy a gf mix treat to make while I was there? My pet peeve…. oh well. I survived it and I love to bake gf and we eat darn well around here!