A muffin only its mama could love and some general GF baking tips

A muffin only its mama could love, originally uploaded by Kate Chan.

I’ve gotten quite a few emails about how I went from not baking any more to exploring the different kinds of wonderful options there are in the gluten-free baking world. I can only say that I have done so with the encouragement of my husband, the necessity to eat better food(s) than what we were paying for (and paying a lot, I must add) and also the road has been well paved by those who have gone before me.

And I don’t say that last part lightly.

I bake because I remember the smells of freshly baked bread from our house or the neighbor’s cabin.

I bake because I remember the delight of making my first chocolate cake without a recipe and my grandma ate every bite with a smile.

I bake because I feel connected and balanced when I do.

I bake because the flavors, textures, and aromas of freshly baked goods at home are the highlights of the evening. (Hey – much better than ink-stained fingers from grading papers.)

The emails I’ve been getting lately have been asking about recipes and what I decide to make etc. I think I am like everyone else – I just make what sounds good, what I have on hand, what is in season or cost effective for me to make.

And then I experiment.

Case in point the muffin above. And yes, it tastes delicious. But no, I’m not ready to post the recipe. It needs a few adjustments before I will be going public with this one. But how to Raspberry Polenta Cakes sound to you?

Mmm…. they taste good too!

Back to answer those general Gluten Free Baking questions though. I thought I’d put together a list for the rest of you who bake like me. That is – who don’t have a food science degree and just generally putz through things in the kitchen. Here are a few pointers for those of you just starting out on the great adventure that is gluten free baking:

  • Normally, I bake a small batch to test out an idea or recipe. Not only is this a good plan because I save on ingredients, but there are only two people in my house. We just don’t need that much food!
  • Take notes… and more notes. Keep track of what you are putting in and testing so you can think about what you may want to alter next time. (Oh yea… and don’t do what I have done a couple times. Don’t forget to title the notes with what you are baking. LOL Yea. That can be a problem when you review a huge notebook of ideas and you find several without titles. LOL)
  • Once you find a baked good that fits your flavor and texture needs, pay attention to the flour to starch ratio. (I use about 1 starch to 2 flours for most breads but this can change.)
  • Pay attention to the amount fat per cup of flour/starch mix. This will help with moisture etc.
  • Determine whether you prefer things made with butter or shortening or oil or alternatives (like cottage cheese, cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, yogurt, nut butters, etc).
  • When you have to exchange or substitute flours, watch the protein content. (You can use Shelly Case’s book as a reference. There are others that list this information as well, but this is my favorite.)
  • Find some taste-testers. I have my love who tries everything and gives ideas. (He’s helping me figure out this tasty muffin I’m making too.) Ask people who are not gluten free to be your taste-tester too. It’s good to get feedback from people who don’t eat gluten-free too. This is especially true for breads etc.
  • Add some fiber in when you can. Most gluten free flours (the basics that everyone starts with) are notorious for the lack of fiber and the high starch content. This is really noticeable for those of you who ate healthy fiber-filled goodies before going GF (like me). You can add flax seed (or meal) or Montina flour, etc. to raise your fiber values.
  • Unlike processed “all purpose” (read gluten-filled) flours, our gluten-FREE flours vary greatly in their need for moisture or how moist they are when you buy them. The finer the grind can force the need to adjust the liquid added to a recipe too. I usually add my liquid little by little until I reach a consistency similar to one from a “proven” recipe.
  • If you are not intolerant of other grains but just haven’t found that you like them much in the beginning, be willing to revisit them in the future. I have had a really awful experience with bean flour when I began the GF diet. While others still swear by it, I’m still a little leery. However, that hasn’t stopped me from trying it out every once in a while since. Thank goodness too, because these “fries” that I made with it are killer!
  • Have fun! Really. Don’t take it too seriously. And DON’T attempt a new recipe for a BIG event if you are a nervous baker or the absolute success/presentation matter. It’s not worth it. There are so many other fabulous, naturally gluten-free foods. Use those for your big impressions and perfect your baking on the side. 🙂

And these tidbits, while certainly not a complete list of the lessons learned while learning to bake again, have made me think of a few other things I can try with my muffins. The second batch is out of the oven and already my brain is percolating with ideas to make them better. I’ll have to post the recipe when it gets to the point where I’m happy sharing it.

In the meantime, maybe you will share your baking tips too?
What would you add to this list for the new gluten-free baker?
Please leave a comment and let me know.


  1. Kate, what a great post! I am a professional pastry chef, but I’ll tell ya, I am really struggling to get baking right! I had a horrible experience the 1st time trying to make cookies with the bob’s red mill AP GF flour, I seriously started crying! Your tips really will help…thanks so much!

  2. Shirley says:

    I know it’s not considered super nutritious, but I have the very best luck baking with a white rice flour and cornstarch mix. I buy Asian white rice flour, which is much more finely ground, and Argo cornstarch. The recipe is 3 parts white rice flour and 2 parts cornstarch. The Asian white rice flour comes in 3-lb packages, so I use one of those and two of the 1-lb boxes of cornstarch. I mix all gently together in a very big bowl and then put it in my canister and other Tupperware containers. I use measure for measure in most of my old recipes, just adding about 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum per cup of GF flour mix. The only things I have not been able to use this mix on are pancakes and pound cake. Those require a little heavier flour mix. Otherwise, all my family and friends love my baked goods. I have tried bean flours and Montina and react as badly to them as if I had gluten. So I add fiber by adding nuts and sunflower seeds. I also like to bake recipes that are naturally gluten free, such as flourless chocolate cakes and flourless PB cookies (that Gluten Free Steve is sharing the recipe for on his site right now, http://glutenfreesteve.wordpress.com/). I don’t miss bread at all, but I know many do and Ginger of Gluten Free in GA (and FL) (http://gfingf.blogspot.com/) has had great success with baking GF bread in the crockpot per Stephanie’s directions from A Year in Crockpotting (http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/). Thanks for all you do for GF and to all the others who are online daily helping us make GF tasty and wonderful!

  3. Kate,
    I recieved the ‘blogging with a purpose’ award and have in turn awarded it to you! Yay! Check out my blog for more details and to copy your award! 🙂

  4. Gorgeous muffin Kate.

    Great list too. I would add: mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl and then all liquids in a different bowl. Then add the two together. It makes sure that all your different flours and binder are thoroughly mixed together. It also helps to keep the stirring to a minimum with batters for quick breads.

    Sheltie Girl @ Gluten a Go Go

  5. HI I AM NEW to cooking gf only a year in ,but need help with bread my husband will not eat it and the cakes get hard after the first day need help katz..

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