Gluten-free baking has become a necessity, these days. With the ever-growing list of food allergies and intolerance and the abundance of over-processed, chemical laden, "allergen-free" options in stores, baking at home has never been more important.
GRAIN-FREE baking has become an even BIGGER necessity. With many families cutting it entirely from their diets, it is a constant struggle to find options that help fill the void of some of their most favorite baked goods. Sure, there is never going to be a perfect grain-free replica of that cinnamon roll you used to eat at brunch on Sundays, but we can get pretty damn close.
Coconut flour and Almond Flour are among the most popular options for grain-free baking and while they can deliver some absolutely delicious bakes, they aren't the friendliest flours to work with. For us, organic almond flour is our go-to. In most cases, its an easy 1:1 substitute for most all-purpose flour recipes, but even then, there are some hiccups. Below are a few tips and tricks to make the baking process a bit easier.
Tip 1: While almond flour is a great 1:1 substitute for all-purpose flour, keep in mind that the lack of gluten will mean that the almond flour requires more of a binding agent. This can be achieved by altering the egg count ( flax egg substitute recipe to follow), and altering the moisture via coconut oil, butter, ghee etc.
Tip 2: Flour consistency is KEY. As if grain-free baking wasn't already a hurdle, ensuring that almond and coconut flour have just the right amount of moisture is something else to keep in mind. To help maintain consistency in your flours, make sure to store them properly in air-tight containers. If you're using almond meal ( which is not the EXACT same as almond flour) allow the flour to sit after adding wet ingredients in order to give the flour more time to absorb that moisture and allow and even bake. Flour that is too dry with lead to patchy, crumbly bakes and flours that are too moist will simply end up looking under cooked and will fall apart.
Tip 3: If using honey or maple syrup as substitute sweeteners, know that both, if using a 1:1 ration can leave the bake feeling extra sweet and so I recommend cutting the honey or maple syrup in half at first.
Tip 4: Substituting honey or maple syrup for sugar also means that you need to alter an additional wet ingredients in order to avoid bakes that are overly dense or gummy. As a default, I recommend cutting wet ingredients down to 1/4 Cup for every 1 Cup of honey or maple syrup.
Tip 5: While you can use almond meal and almond flour as a substitute for all-purpose, keep in mind that there is a difference in texture and that certain baked goods may fair better with the finer, less course, almond flour. Furthermore, remembering to sift your flour before use can help tremendously in provides a smoother more appealing bake.
Tip 6: Coconut flour IS NOT a 1:1 substitute for almond OR all-purpose flour and should not be used as such. While it is a great grain-free option, it's ability to absorb high levels of moisture means that, unless blended with an additional flour such as almond, it is going to require the recipe to be largely altered. As a basic rule, you'll want to sub 1/3 Cup of coconut flour for every 1 Cup of all-purpose flour. Additional binding agents such as eggs and even bananas will have to be added due to the high absorbency of coconut flour.
QUICK AND EASY INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTES
Milk Substitutes- Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Oat Milk
Sugar Substitutes- Raw Honey, Maple Syrup, Banana ( there are plenty of options, but we favor these the most.
Egg Substitutes: Flax egg ( 1 Tbsp seeds to 3 Tbsp water and allow to sit for 15 minutes to set. This can also be repeated with Chia seeds. 1:1 for eggs), Vinegar and baking soda (I prefer apple cider vinegar) and in some cases, banana can be used.
Butter Substitutes: Coconut Oil and Ghee are my preferred go-to's. Both can handle exposure to high heat without compromising nutrients or the oil/butter itself.
Baking in silicone, glass, stone, or cast iron is best when trying to achieve quality bakes with little to no altered flavor.
If using aluminum bake-ware ( I hope you're not, but we'll address that another time) make sure to line the aluminum with quality, unbleached parchment paper.
Remember that grain-free baking is about trial and error and finding your groove. Don't feel bummed if it doesn't work perfectly the 1st or the 3rd time, but instead embrace the learning curve, don't be afraid to switch it up and you'll soon be falling in love with tasty, home-made, grain-free baked goodies that you needn't have missed out on.