Going gluten-free? Here are 7 basic bits of knowledge for you as you start:
- Gluten is what strengthens and binds dough in baking. It’s what makes cakes and cookies hold together and what makes crusts and breads rise and become chewy, elastic goodness.
- Flour is made by grinding wheat, beans, grains, seeds and nuts into fine powders. Flours made by grinding things other than wheat, barley or rye are gluten-free.
- All flours are not created equal. One cup of wheat flour will act differently than one cup of bean flour, tapioca flour, rice flour, etc. (for reasons stated in #1).
- Although single gluten-free flours can work great when cooking, mixing together various gluten-free flours produces the best results in baking. (An exception can be high-protein flours such as almond flour.)
- Adding a “gum” to the gluten-free flour mix, such as xanthan gum, helps it bind together.
- Although there is not an ideal gluten-free flour mix that makes a perfect wheat flour replacement in all recipes, some experts have developed mixes that come pretty close. You can buy mixes pre-packaged or make your own. (My pre-packaged recommendations are here.)
- Gluten-free diets are not “healthier diets” for everyone. If you have Celiac disease, then being gluten-free is a necessity. If you are gluten or wheat intolerant, then it’s a tremendous help to your health. Many have even found it useful for reducing the effects of ADD and autism. But if you are thinking gluten-free will help you lose weight, it alone will not. If you buy gluten-free mixes and pastas and eat as much “white” or processed foods as you normally do (just gluten-free ones), what you will do is simply replace the wheat in your diet for rice or other grains. For some people, this makes a huge difference in their health, but for others it makes no difference.
You can do it! If you know a gluten-free diet is best for you or someone you love, then put your mind to it, learn all you can and get to cooking! Some days it will be really hard. Other days it will be really fun!