Gluten is a protein found in wheat, spelt, rye, triticale, and barley.
Those with celiac disease (which causes a severe autoimmune reaction to gluten) must avoid gluten completely.
Some people also avoid gluten due to allergies or sensitivities.
Many people believe that avoiding gluten means avoiding all grains, but there are gluten-free whole grains.
These include amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, rice, sorghum, and teff. Flours made from nuts, beans, peas, and arrowroot are also gluten free. Oats are technically gluten free, but they are often contaminated with wheat at some point while growing or during processing. However, there are companies that offer uncontaminated oat products.
Those who cannot tolerate gluten can adapt recipes using gluten-free grains or other ingredients such as potatoes, beans, nuts, peas, arrowroot, or soy, all of which can be made into flours.
However, gluten-free baked goods require special care to ensure a good shape and texture. Pulse Canada offers the following tips for gluten-free baking:
Use guar gum or xanthan gum in gluten-free baked goods to make them less crumbly (add the exact amounts specified by recipes, as incorporating slightly too much or too little can create overly chewy or crumbly baked goods respectively).
Take gluten-free baked goods out of their pans shortly after removing from the oven and cool them on cooling racks – leaving them in the pan for too long can cause their bottom crusts to become soggy.
If baking breads or rolls, use pans that have sides rather than placing the dough on flat baking sheets. Gluten helps breads keep their shape, which means that gluten-free breads can go flat without external support during the cooking process.
Gluten-free baked goods tend to dry out more quickly than those made with gluten flours, so it’s best to only bake as much as you and your friends or family can eat while they are still relatively fresh.
Pulse Canada, Pulses and the Gluten Free Diet: Cooking With Beans, Peas, Lentils and Chickpeas, n.d.
Whole Grains Council, “Gluten Free Whole Grains,” 2012.
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