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Over the years of following a gluten-free diet, I’ve learned a thing or two that has made my life easier in the kitchen.
Now, mind you, as a celiac, I do miss the convenience of pulling out a white flour from my pantry and whipping up a beautiful cake that costs me little money to make. The days of cheap and fast are long gone now that I have celiac disease.
When I find myself longing for those pre-celiac days, I’m reminded of what a gift celiac disease has been in my life. I’ve been finally awakened to the world of healthy eating, nutrient-dense flours, and exciting gluten-free alternatives.
I’m even proud to say that celiac disease is a gift – in that it has brought me renewed health. It also has forced me to learn how to cook and eat in a way that helps, not harms, me.
9 Gluten-Free Hacks
Today I want to share with you some of the gluten-free hacks I learned now that I’m fully embracing the gluten-free life. These are nine hacks I think every person with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity should know too:
Hack #1: No Pie Crust? No Problem.
Instead of making a gluten-free pie crust, I’m much rather make a crumble or crisp instead. Pie crust can be a lot of work, not to mention, many gluten-free pie crusts don’t taste as good without that elasticity and stickiness gluten offers.
I made this delicious Gluten-Free Peach Crisp in seconds, and I didn’t miss the pie crust one bit.
If you want to make a pie crust, I highly recommend using Bob’s Red Mill’s gluten-free pie crust mix. It’s actually really good, although still a little tricky to make. I used this pie crust mix in my pumpkin pie recipe this year and it got rave reviews!
Hack #2: Why Blend When You Can Buy.
I think blending your own gluten-free flour is so 2010. You have to buy a ton of different flours and starches to create a blend of your own, then you have to figure out how to store all that flour in your pantry. No thanks!
Instead, I highly recommend using one of the awesome cup for cup gluten-free flour blends on the market today. These gluten-free blends can be used cup for cup in any recipe. My favorites include Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour (dairy-free) and Cup4Cup Gluten-Free Baking Flour (contains milk).
Remember, you cannot use rice flour as a swap for wheat flour in recipes. Gluten-free baking requires a combination of flours (rice, brown rice, quinoa, etc.) and starches (corn starch, tapioca starch) in order to mimic the taste and texture of wheat flour. These cup for cup gluten-free flour mixes are perfect for those of us with celiac disease and/or who are following a gluten-free diet.
Hack #3: Quiche Crust Solved.
Need to make a savory quiche crust? No problem. Instead of making a quiche crust and having to figure out, again, how to make a gluten-free pie crust that holds together, instead use hashbrowns or rice as the base.
Hack #4: Don’t Let Noodles Get You Down.
If you miss eating noodles, have no fear, you can make your own gluten-free noodles with a few simple ingredients… or even better, you can make zoodles (zucchini noodles) or enjoy noodles made from black beans, chickpeas and more!
In fact, check out my guide to gluten-free, low carb noodle alternatives and don’t fret. Gluten-free noodles are pretty good (and you get used to them).
Hack #5: Molds are Your Friend.
Gluten-free dough is sticky and doesn’t have the elasticity that dough with gluten in it has. When you made bread, it’s best to use a standing mixer to mix the bread (vs. kneading the bread). In fact, there’s no need for kneading in gluten-free recipes, as kneading is for developing the gluten, which you do not need to do.
Because the dough is so sticky, baking things in specific shapes can be tricky. That’s where molds come in handy. When I make my gluten-free challah recipe, it’s just too darn sticky to braid. Instead, I use this challah mold to shape my dough the way I want it. Looks just like a challah now!
Hack #6: Who Needs Gluten When You Have Gum.
Well, it would be nice to have gluten, which is the “glue” in wheat flour-based recipes. But since we don’t have gluten, the next best thing is xanthan or guar gum.
These gums are binding agents mimic the elastic texture of gluten in baked goods and prevent your cakes from crumbling. When baking gluten-free goodies, be sure to add a teaspoon to your gluten-free flour blend to ensure your baked goods have good structure. Your cookie will literally crumble without it.
Hack #7: Looking for a Moist Cake? Try Almond Flour.
When you go gluten-free, you are suddenly introduced to the world of amazing and exciting alternative flours. Almond flour was one of my favorite gluten-free flour discoveries.
Almond flour is naturally gluten-free, nutrient-dense and has a high fat content. You’ll notice almond flour recipes require less fat (because much of the fat comes from the flour) and instead call for more eggs to help it leaven.
Almond flour batter is very moist, which means your baked goods turn out moist too. I personally recommend Honeyville Almond Flour – it’s worth the effort to order it online. It works so much better than other almond flours – trust me.
Hack #8: Use this Trick to Make Gluten-Free Bread Taste Better.
If you eat gluten-free bread, you’ll notice it’s kinda grainy and dry. Even the best gluten-free breads just don’t taste the same as wheat bread. A great way to get gluten-free bread to have that elastic feeling like normal bread is to heat it up before eating.
The toaster is the best way to add heat, but the microwave or oven will work too. Heat will help soften the bread and make it more chewy and bread-like.
If you don’t have access to a dedicated gluten-free toaster, you can heat your gluten-free bread in a toaster bag. Simply put your gluten-free bread inside the reusable bag, toast it, and eat. The toaster bag will protect your bread from touching the sides of the toaster, which, as you know, have touched gluten. These toaster bags work well when you’re traveling (and want to use the hotel toaster) or at the office.
You also can toast a grill cheese sandwich in your toaster bag and it won’t leave a mess in the toaster. That’s your bonus gluten-free hack for the day – ha!
Hack #9: When All Else Fails, Eat Naturally Gluten Free.
If you’re tasked with bringing a dessert, instead of trying to bake something that you’re not sure others will like, bring a naturally gluten-free dessert instead. Ice cream, sorbet, fruit, chocolate fondue, chocolate truffles, chocolate covered strawberries and even marshmallow rice treats (using gluten-free rice cereal) work well!
There you have it – nine gluten-free hacks that make life with celiac disease a little bit easier. Did I miss a good gluten-free hack? Leave a comment and share your best gluten-free hack.