Throw in gluten-free flours and you may think baking is a thing of the past. Not anymore. Follow these easy tips and your gluten-free baked goods will look and taste like the original -- or better. Sure, getting baked goods right can be confusing at first, unless you're armed with my arsenal of tricks. But, just because you're baking something gluten-free doesn't mean it shouldn't stand up to the three qualities that matter most in any baking: Taste, texture and appearance.
Flavor is everything. Save time by buying a store-bought gluten-free flour blend at your local supermarket. The more successful blends use a variety of gluten-free flours, which results in a better balance of flavor. Also, in your baking, use as little gluten-free flour in a recipe as possible. Instead, swap in ingredients like almond flour, cocoa powder or cornmeal. You can experiment until you get the taste you want or use my general rule of thumb: substitute at least a quarter and up to one-half for the gluten-free flour blend. Doubling the vanilla extract lifts overall flavor, too.
Gluten-free baked goods often get a bad rap for being too crumbly or rubbery, but there's no need to settle for less. First, as with any baking, all ingredients should be at room temperature, especially eggs, which will give your baked goods the lift they need. Aerating helps lighten doughs and batters, too: Whisk together your dry ingredients and if a recipe calls for beating ingredients together, beat for a few extra minutes. For a tender, moist crumb, make sure you use enough liquid in your recipes to hydrate the flours and starches. Also, a little boost in leavening helps. Go ahead and double the amount of baking powder in your recipe.
Gluten-free flours tend to result in pale baked goods. Solution? Use the slow-and-low technique: Bake your sweets longer (up to 30 minutes) at a reduced temperature than usual (about 25 degrees) so the starches and sugars have time to caramelize. Also, choose a dark metal pan over a light one for more browning. When you're making any yeasted baked goods, like bread or cinnamon rolls, set them directly on the stovetop while you preheat the oven. You'll get a nice boost in height.