June 13, 2016
Does it blow your mind to think that you could know 80% of everything about gluten free baking by learning 5 recipes. It’s not! And I’m going to tell you all about it in today’s post.
First of all though, I just want to tell you how excited I am about all of the questions and comments that have been pouring in on the previous posts/videos in this series. If you haven’t had a chance to watch or read them, you may want to start there (some of my comments today will allude to things that I’ve already explained in more detail in previous posts):
And when you do watch them, please do post more questions and comments! I love to hear from you!
The 3 Things That Stand Between You And Good Gluten Free Baking
This series of posts started when I asked my email readers a couple of questions: “ If I came over to your kitchen, what would you want to bake together?” and “Assuming I was a genie who knew everything about GF baking, what would you ask me?” After pouring through hundreds of responses, I decided to just start filming videos and writing posts and answering all of those questions.
It is absolutely possible for each of you to finally put a stop to the cardboard-like gluten free bread, dry cakes, gummy brownies and all of the other things that are keeping you from enjoying being gluten free.
There are only three thing between you and and a future where you enjoy everything that you bake, where no one believes you when you tell them it’s gluten free, and where they even compliment you and say, “This is the best _____ I’ve ever eaten”.
That’s it! Based on my experience with hundreds of students you can easily learn all 3 of these things and have fun while doing so.
Before we get to how learning 5 recipes can teach you 80% of everything about gluten free baking, I wanted to answer a few questions that have come in.
Question: Gluten free baking is expensive. I’m afraid to try it in case I make a total mess! Even if it doesn’t come out perfectly, do you think that it will be at least edible?
Answer: It depends. Most people’s first attempts, and even second and third attempts do not turn out well, and may even be so dense and hard that you risk breaking a tooth. The reason are two-fold.
First, most recipes don’t give you weight measurements and don’t tell you enough information to replicate the recipe exactly. They assume you know things that you don’t (actually the writer of the recipe may not know them either and just got lucky) .
Second, the consistency of gluten free doughs and batters is often very different from wheat-based recipes. Consistency is very hard to describe in words and pictures, and so people often end up adding too much water or too much flour trying to attain the consistency that they’re imagining in their heads. If they are experienced bakers they have the added difficulty of knowing what the dough “should” feel like when made with wheat flour and they try to adjust towards that consistency, even when they know it’s the wrong consistency. (It’s a weird phenomenon – almost like a mental tractor beam that they can’t escape!)
Obviously you don’t want to have failure after failure. The best way to learn to bake gluten free while minimizing failures is to get someone to teach you in a way that allows you to see the dough. You also want to learn from someone who knows what they’re doing. The way that I pick those people out is to see whether they recommend using weight measurements rather than volume measurements and whether they can give a some-what scientific answer to how a specific recipe works – preferably the one that you want to learn about. If they can do that, they’ll know enough to get you off to a good start.
Question: Does gluten free baking really have to be so complicated? I use recipes from ______ cookbook and they always turn out well and I’ve never had any problems.
Answer: You, my friend, are one in a million. Keep doing whatever is working for you! Yes, there are great gluten-free cookbooks available. The challenge is finding the ones that are great and that work for a given family’s mix of food allergies/intolerances and immune issues. It is rare in the gluten free community that someone is able to use all of the recipes in a cookbook without making ingredient substitutions. We, as a community, need to understand how gluten free recipes work and how the individual ingredients work, so that we can make substitutions. In addition, at some point, everyone runs into recipes that don’t work. It’s frustrating, and figuring it out can be expensive. The additional techniques and procedures that I recommend are simple, quick, and inexpensive and are used as a matter-of-course by professional bakers to ensure consistent results.
Question: Is there a gluten free recipe that tastes as good as regular home made bread?
Answer: Yes! In fact there are gluten free recipes for pretty much everything that you could want to bake and they all taste as good as or better than the regular home made version!
The key to the actual taste of the bread is finding a mix of flours that you like and the right ratio of flours to starches. Different people taste things differently so that part of it came take some trial and error. The primary thing, however, is to learn how to make sure the bread rises and sets properly, because without that the bread is is not going to turn out well. Don’t give up hope! You can make this happen!
Now let’s talk about the big picture of gluten free baking. How can you quickly get to the point where you can make whatever you want with gluten free flours and have it taste great? To do this we’re going to focus on the Pareto Principle, with which I’m sure that you’re already familiar. 80% of the results come from 20% of the work. We can put that rule to work for us with gluten free baking by learning master formulas.
What are master formulas? They are the essential ingredeints in a particular kind of recipe. For example, the master formula for bread is flour and water. In regular baking using only what your, the master formula for bread is 5 parts flour to 3 parts water. With gluten free baking, the actual ratio of ingredients can vary greatly depending on the flours that you’re using, but a bread recipe is still, at it’s core, just flour and water. And that’s really helpful information. For one thing, if you’re allergic to dairy or eggs, you can quickly see that it’s possible for you to have bread because it doesn’t depend on the ingredients you can’t have. It also tells us that most of our structural problems with bread are going to be about flour and water.
This holds true for the other major categories of recipes. Everything that you bake falls into 5 broad categories: bread, pastries, cakes, cookies, and “things that go poof” (I’m still working on a good name for those, but if it depends on air and steam it goes in this category – think eclairs and funnel cakes). By learning one basic recipe in each category, studying the master formulas and learning a few basict techniques you can quickly develop a deep understanding of what makes all of the recipes in a given category work. When you have that depth of understanding, pretty much everything that comes out of your kitchen will be amazing.
In their most basic form, the Master Recipes are as follows:
Breads are flour and water.
Pastries are flour and water and fat.
Cookies however are flour, fat and sugar.
Cakes are flour, fat, sugar and eggs.
Puffs are flour, fat, eggs, and water.
Do you see how each one is just one ingredient different from the one before it? The difference between a pie crust and a pizza crust is very small, just one ingredient The addition of fat, and the way technique with which it is incorporated into the recipe makes a world of difference!
When you start looking at recipes for what they really are, and you understand how those few ingredients work together to become what they are supposed to become, your baking changes forever. And it’s not a hard change. It’s a interesting one!
Your Own Custom Plan For Learning To Bake Gluten Free
First, learn how bake a loaf of sandwich bread. In learning to do that, you’ll be learning almost everything that you need to learn to make pizza, bagels, doughnuts, and any other sort of bread you want. They are all just variations on a them.
After bread, learn how to make a pie crust or a flaky biscuit. Now the entire world of pastries is your oyster.
The third recipe to learn is a classic cookie. I prefer chocolate chip cookies because they serve as a great base recipe for experimentation. But, learning any one cookie recipe will make all cookies possible for you because you now understand cookies.
Next on the list it to learn how to make a great chocolate cake. It’s one of those things that most everyone wants to be able to make and once you an make cake, you’ll know what you need to know to make gluten free cupcakes, muffins and quick breads. They are all in the same family.
And then finally, you top it off with the most fun thing – puffs. Learning this is not essential. It’s just for fun and amazing desserts! The master recipe for this category is pate choux. When you can make that you can also make beignets and eclairs and funnel cakes, just to name a few.
Once once you’ve learned these 5 recipes, you will know 80% of everything you need to know about gluten free baking.
Actually, while I was writing this up, I realized that learning these 5 recipes in just a few weeks would be a lot of fun and would lend itself very well to a group class. But before I say anything about it, I need to check my calendar and see if it’s possible. If it is, there will most probably be a super-awesome bonus that I’ve not done in a couple of years and that I know some of you have been waiting for. If it all works out and I can make the dates work, the sign-up period for this class will be very short, because pulling off the bonus is rather time intensive for me and has to happen in a very short time frame so that you can get the bonus before class starts.
That means that if you think you may be interested, you need to keep a very close eye out for emails from me later this week. I only do this special bonus for email readers, so there won’t be any information on the blog or FB page; you have to have the email!
Alright, now, back to what we talked about today – master recipes. Which of the master recipes would you most like to learn how to make? go down below this video and let me know in the comments.