When one of my friends contacted me and asked if I make gluten-free cakes, it dawned upon me that I should definitely try my hands on it. In my “Basics of Baking” section, I have written about gluten and its bearing on cake and bread baking. But, when I started making gluten-free breads and cakes, I realized that it is altogether a different territory. You are playing with totally different ingredients and you are experiencing a totally different taste and texture.
What is gluten?
The term ‘Gluten’ has been taken from the Latin language which means Glue. It is a protein found in the endosperm part of the cereals like wheat, barley or rye. This protein comprises of 75-85% of protein in the wheat. Gluten has a viscoelastic and adhesive properties, which gives the kneaded dough its elasticity and chewy texture. It also helps the kneaded dough to rise in volume and maintain its shape.
The more you knead the dough, the more gluten is formed. And the more gluten is formed, the dough and the resulting bread becomes structured. The gluten in the dough creates a spider web like structure which traps and seals and air bubbles. This hardened web like structure is the reason why gluten gives hard shape to the breads which remain as it is.
What is Gluten Intolerance/Gluten Allergy/Celiac?
We all have heard the terms “Gluten Intolerance”, “Gluten Allergy”, and “being Celiac”. These body reactions or disorders are related to the Gluten protein found in the wheat, barley, or rye flour.
Gluten intolerance is connected with your digestive system. When a gluten-intolerant person consumes gluten, he/she might experience problems related to your digestive system like bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, etc.
Gluten allergy any food allergy is connected with your immune system. When a gluten-allergic person consumes gluten, he/she might experience immune disorders like difficulty in breathing, nausea, vomiting, hives and rash, nasal congestion, or eye irritation, etc.
Being Celiac is connected to autoimmune disorder. In this condition, gluten affects the small intestine which is responsible for absorbing the food nutrients. If you are celiac and you consume gluten accidently, you may experience fatigue, anemia, osteoporosis, joint pains, etc. People with celiac condition often experience delay in regular growth and development of the body.
Main Ingredients of Gluten-Free Baking
The main ingredients of gluten-free baking are almond flour, corn flour, tapioca flour, rice flour, and potato or coconut flour. Corn flour, tapioca flour, and rice flour are the main ingredients of gluten-free flour for breads. They are added in the ratio of 1:1:2 and xanthan gum is used for binding consistency. The texture of corn flour, tapioca flour, and rice flour are similar. These flours are extremely light and powdery and tasteless and without any smell. When rubbed between the fingers, they give the squeaky sound. When dissolved in liquid, they do not form a gooey sticky paste but a thick chalky mixture.
Almond flour is quite dense in texture and rich in taste and smell. Almond flour is often used alone to make cakes, muffins, or cupcakes or in combination with flaxseed powder to make breads.
In the end, you need not be gluten-intolerant or allergic to enjoy the taste of gluten-free cakes and breads. If you are watching your carb-intake and are concerned about bloating, you may try out these cakes and breads with less or zero carbs.