Regular baking ingredients can seem pretty daunting to a new baker. I mean, when was the last time you really looked at the variety and ranges on offer in a supermarkets baking aisle? There is so much choice. Now add in the fact that you are a new gluten free baker to this scenario. It’s a daunting place to be. Our guide is here to help you fathom out the ingredients you need and some brand recommendations.
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There are loads of great brands out there but a lot of them are not available from main stream supermarkets. For beginners, I am recommending those you can pick up with your usual weekly shop. Baking should be accessible to all.
Going forward I will be researching and trying out ingredients that I find from local shops and online retailers. Any fabulous finds will be shared with you all, but for now lets stick with accessible ingredients.
In the beginning gluten free baking is complicated enough without you trying to make your own gluten free flour blend from potato starch and maize and other flours so I highly recommend a bag of ready blended gluten free flour. They do vary slightly in their blends. For this reason I prefer to use Dove’s Farm Freee range. I stick to the same blend every time to ensue I get consistent results. Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Asda all sell their own blend which are cheaper but I have not fully tested them yet to be able to advise. This testing is coming very soon.
The other thing to note with gluten free flour is that you can buy Plain, Self raising and Bread. To begin with we will only be using plain or self raising. The only difference is that self raising has raising agents and Xanthan gum already addded to it. Plain is what it says, plain.
Cornflour. Cornflour softens your flour and gives it a more delicate crumb. Any brand will do as they are all the same. It’s found in either in the baking section or with the stock cubes and gravies.
Xanthan Gum. This is the holy grail of gluten free baking. It acts as a binding agent in place of gluten. It’s found in the free from aisle, in a little pot similar to baking powder. Doves Farm is the only brand that is sold. It seems a bit pricy for the small pot, but a little goes a long way and you really can’t bake gluten free without it.
Gluten Free Baking Powder. Everywhere sells baking powder, but not everywhere sells gluten free baking powder. Some baking powders are mixed with wheat starch whilst others are mixed with cornflour. Doves Farm sell pots of gluten free baking powder but you can find much cheaper options. Aldi’s baking powder is gluten free as well as the Dr Oetker one. Both can be found in the baking aisle by the extracts.
Cocoa. Cocoa can get quite complicated but for now, all you need to know is that it needs to be cocoa and not hot chocolate powder. Buy it from the baking aisle as it’s cheaper than what’s on offer in the hot drinks aisle.
Butter. If you want to use butter in your cakes I recommend you use an unsalted one. Any brands will work. I find butter is great for frostings and biscuits but margarine is better for everything else.
Baking Margarine. Stork tub is a great baking margarine, as is Aldi’s. They mix well and don’t have that margarine taste. With the benefit of being cheaper than butter.
Milk. Whole milk should be used in all of your baking. It gives a lovely flavour. If I was wanting to cut the calories in a cake, I would eat a smaller piece rather than use skimmed milk.
Eggs. I always use large eggs. Gluten free flour is more absorbent that regular flour, so the extra moisture from large eggs helps. I always buy free range and I love buying from local farmshops but watch the sizes. Sometimes the farmshops large is smaller than the large you get in the supermarkets.
To begin with you will probably only use granulated sugar, caster sugar, light brown, dark brown sugar and icing sugar. All sugars can be found in all main supermarkets.
Granulated sugar comes in blue bags and is your common household sugar. It gets used is some baking sometimes. Mostly for cakes without a delicate crumb.
Caster Sugar. Caster sugar is a finer version of granulated sugar and is most often used in baking. It’s in the yellowy orange bags.
Light and Dark Brown Sugar. Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added to it. Then the difference between light and dark is the amount of molasses added. The molasses give the sugar that nutty caramel flavour.
Icing Sugar. Icing sugar is a powdered sugar that is used mostly in making icings but is also used in some soft biscuits like Viennese. It is found in a pink box.
Vanilla is the most commonly used flavourings but there is huge ranges out there, even in the supermarkets. Honestly I don’t use many as I prefer to flavour naturally. For example I don’t use lemon extract as I prefer to use lemon zest and juice to flavour the cake. It’s a more natural flavour.
Some flavours can not be done naturally, without the help of a bottle of extract. The extracts I use are Vanilla, Almond and Peppermint. For almond and peppermint I buy the bottle from Aldi where as I am a little fussy with my vanilla.
If vanilla is not the main flavour, like chocolate or banana bread, I use vanilla extract from Aldi or the Dr Oetker. But is vanilla is the main flavour I upgrade to a vanilla paste. You can buy this and the extract in the baking aisle of any supermarket.
One thing I will not ever use is essences. You can buy them in a range of wild and wacky flavours but they are artificial and they taste artificial. Stick with the extracts.
Fired up to start baking? Before you get going I highly recommend you have a read through 10 Gluten Free Baking Basics That People Dismiss. It will help you to build a strong foundation of basic skills. These skills often get skipped by more experienced bakers, but I think they make a difference to the cakes you make and should not be skipped.
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