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The Bon Appétit Guide to Gluten-Free Baking

Photograph by Isa Zapata, food styling by Kaitlin Wayne, prop styling by Christina Allen

We’re living in the golden age of gluten-free baking. There are entire aisles in grocery stores dedicated to alternative flours. Xanthan gum isn’t some mysterious, hard-to-find lab ingredient—it’s proudly shelved along with the rest of the baking supplies. And dollars to (mochi) doughnuts, some of the best pastries at the coffee shop won’t contain a spoonful of wheat flour. Whether you’re following doctor’s orders for celiac disease, in a “gluten-lite” phase, or wooing a new lover who simply can’t do wheat, gluten-free no longer feels like a four-letter word—or a life sentence of brick-heavy bread and gluey cake. Rather, it’s an opportunity to try something new and to push the boundaries of baking. These recipes, from a celebratory cake to an herb-topped focaccia, go way beyond good enough. Each one is carefully calibrated to be the sort of reliable classic you turn to again and again. Wheat flour is weeping.

Pantry Staples for Gluten-Free Baking

At its most basic, the gluten-free pantry can be broken down into three categories: flours, starches, and binders. Most recipes will feature a combination of ingredients from each category.

A mix of starches and the smart addition of milk powder make it our go-to.

1-1 gluten-free flour blends: These mixes are built to swap evenly with all-purpose wheat flour. Our preferred brand is Cup4Cup, which contains rice flours for their neutral taste and milk powder for deep, even browning.

Buckwheat flour: Buckwheat (despite its name) is actually a robust and toasty seed. It pairs particularly well with nuts and chocolate. Look for light (not dark) buckwheat flour made from hulled seeds—this yields fluffier, better baked goods. Our favorite is Arrowhead Mills.

Almond flour: Made from ground blanched almonds, pale yellow almond flour (not meal or natural almond flour!) is mild and buttery tasting, lending a fudgy, nubby texture to brownies and cakes. Sift it first, to remove clumps.

Oat flour: With its mild, neutral flavor and soft, starchy nature, oat flour is a great team player. Higher in fat than other gluten-free flours, it is susceptible to going rancid and is best stored in the fridge to preserve its freshness.

Here's how to make your own, and how to put it to good use.

Starches: Cornstarch, potato starch, and tapioca starch keep things tender, soft, and chewy. In baked goods, either can be used with similar results, but in desserts like puddings, tapioca may contribute a more viscous mouthfeel than you’d like.

Xanthan gum: Xanthan gum is a powerful binder, providing essential adhesion and tackiness to gluten-free batters, which helps create light and airy textures. Without it, these baked goods would be dense and crumbly.

Psyllium husk: This plant-derived fiber forms a sticky, stretchy gel when mixed with liquid. It mimics the elasticity of gluten, creating enough structure to trap gas bubbles as the yeast expands. The end result is bread that is airy and chewy.

This humble ingredient utterly transforms wheat-less recipes, especially bread.

Of course you don’t need to buy all of these at once. Start by stocking a few ingredients from each of the sections above. That’ll have you well set up to create a number of tasty treats. Or take your pick of one (or more!) of the gluten-free baking recipes below and let the ingredient list lead the way.

Baking Tips for Gluten-Free Recipes

Use a scale. I always advise this anyway—but for gluten-free baking it’s imperative. With gluten-free ingredients, there is a lot of variation in grind sizes. For instance, with rice flour, depending on the brand, the weight/volume may vary by as much as 50% depending on grind size. Using measuring cups is a gamble, while using a scale means you’ll have your cake and eat it too.

Mix vigorously. In a departure from traditional baking advice against overmixing, it is actually advisable to vigorously stir gluten-free batters (like this oatmeal cookie dough). Doing so builds better structure and, if your mixture contains xanthan gum, ensures the ultrafine powder is dispersed evenly.

Bake longer. Gluten-free baked goods often take longer to bake than their wheat-based cousins. This is because they have more moisture. Gluten-free flours are typically thirstier and need more hydration. So when you see our gluten-free focaccia bakes for 50–60 minutes—compared to 20–30 for our gluten-y focaccia—don’t be alarmed. It’s all on purpose.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

In most recipes, oatmeal cookies depend on all-purpose flour to provide enough structure to hold the dough together. Here, a portion of the oats is blended into a fine flour that does the job while also adding an additional layer of nutty flavor. They’re chewy, chunky, and full of mix-ins: warm cinnamon, dark chocolate, toasted pecans, and dried cherries.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Shilpa Uskokovic

Gluten-Free Walnut-Buckwheat Toffee Cakes

Inspired by sticky toffee pudding, these little cakes are rich and dense. A small cloud of egg whites provide just enough lift to prevent them from being stodgy, while brown butter and walnuts harmonize with the cool, earthy aromas of buckwheat. You could serve them one to a plate at the end of a dinner party. Or go wild: Pile all the cupcakes on a platter with scoops of ice cream, drown it all in sauce, and let everyone go to town.

Walnut-Buckwheat Toffee Cakes

Shilpa Uskokovic

Gluten-Free Focaccia

Bread, even flatbread, hinges on gluten, which traps carbon dioxide as the dough rises. The trick to reproducing this in gluten-free baking is to create a dough that’s sticky and thick enough to do the same. Psyllium husk is a game changer for gluten-free bread baking, so powerfully absorbent it turns what was once a thin batter into a workable dough. This bread recipe bakes up with an olive-oil-crisp crust and a gloriously open crumb. Turn it into an overstuffed sandwich or tear off in chunks and dunk into soups.

Gluten-Free Focaccia With Rosemary and Onion

Shilpa Uskokovic

Gluten-Free Chocolate Fudge Cake

With two fluffy layers and swooshes of fudgy frosting, this cake recipe delivers. High-protein oat flour provides structure, starchy sweet rice flour makes it tender, and xanthan gum holds it all together. Dissolving the cocoa powder in hot water unlocks more of its flavor while negating the need to sift. Tangy buttermilk (or a baker-approved buttermilk substitute) brings out the chocolate’s fruitiness. To everyone looking for a party-worthy cake without gluten: Happy birthday, cheers, and congratulations! You found it.

Store-bought oat flour is ideal for this cake (I like Bob’s Red Mill), as it will have a finer texture than homemade and absorb moisture more evenly, translating to a softer, fluffier cake. If you do make your own, use old-fashioned, not quick-cooking oats, and sift through a fine-mesh sieve after grinding.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

Shilpa Uskokovic

More Gluten-Free Baked Goods

If you look hard enough you’ll find so many sweets that are (perhaps unintentionally) gluten-free. From tahini-swirled brownies to butter mochi cake to strawberry pavlova, these desserts have zero wheat flour and no shortage of confidence. Try gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, rose water shortbread, cream-cheese-frosted carrot cake, Flourless Chocolate Meringue Cake, and more.

Gluten-Free Baking Books

If you could buy just one book on gluten-free baking, my pick would be Baked to Perfection by Katarina Cermelj. It is that good. Want even more? Look no further than these books filled with gluten-free recipes, both savory and sweet. I’ve got my eyes on burger buns, soft pretzels, walnut rugelach, peanut butter and jelly cake, and then some.

I’ve baked my way through dozens of gluten-free cookbooks. These are the best of the best.

And! Gluten-Free Gifts

For that upcoming birthday, or just because. This wishlist—with cult-favorite cookies, utterly chic granola, and luxe cake mixes—is sure to please the gluten-free person in your life.

Because the holiday season can still be fun even if you’re not eating gluten.

Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit


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