There is plenty of reading material on what gluten is and what its function is in baking, so I feel like I have a decent understanding on that topic. However, I am not finding much on the reasoning behind gluten-free baking, as compared to "regular" baking. What are some good references that are detailed and thorough?

NOTE: I am not looking for recipes. For example, the following is more recipe-oriented:

I am looking for a detailed and systematic treatment of questions such as:

  • What ingredients can help replace gluten in gluten-free recipes?
  • When considering alternative flours, why choose one type of flour over another? For example, why choose sorghum flour over rice flour?
  • When compared to baking with gluten, what differences are there in technique (hydration, kneading, warm rise, cold rise, etc), and WHY do these differences exist? For example, should your dough be wetter or more dry? Should you knead for longer or shorter periods of time?
  • What differences are there in heat (temperature, duration), and what is the reason for these differences?
  • The second book you mention won't bring you much, it is an unstructured collection of publications which are connected to the topic, but not necessarily in an applied way. As for the first one, I don't know how you can explain the theory while being "less sciency" - but its problem is that it isn't very exhaustive.
    – rumtscho
    Feb 28, 2012 at 23:16
  • After doing some Googling, I quickly realized that any "theoretical" resource would actually be way too complex. I've retracted that wording, and instead I'm looking for "systematic and practical." I have also deleted the list of books, as they were probably making the question confusing.
    – anon
    Feb 29, 2012 at 14:43
  • I am unsure what you are looking for. Are you just looking for a list of Gluten-Free cook books that have long compendiums of substitutions and science-y explanations in the margins? The only "reasoning" behind "gluten-free baking" is dietary sensitivity; otherwise, all standard logic and systematic resources about baking and gluten applies.
    – mfg
    Mar 1, 2012 at 14:34
  • @mfg - I've edited my question. Basically, I'm looking to understand how working with gluten free ingredients differs from "regular" baking, and how gluten-free baking techniques differ from "regular" baking. Additionally, how do I choose from amongst the different flours?
    – anon
    Mar 1, 2012 at 14:57
  • 2
    @mfg I think you are taking the expression "reasoning behind gluten free" too literally; he seems to actually be asking for the reasoning behind details, for example "why should I use xanthan instead of guar gum in this recipe", not why he should be baking without gluten.
    – rumtscho
    Mar 1, 2012 at 14:58

2 Answers 2


The reason behind "Gluten-Free" as a buzzword? Humans can be allergic to gluten strands. Unless you are using a recipe that is having low gluten or high gluten content related problems (too soft or hard due to gluten bonds), the only reason to reduce gluten is to accommodate someone's food allergy. In which case you need to eliminate gluten altogether. Many people who have severe reactions simply will not eat food unless they know it was prepared correctly. In a very American twist, I have met some of those people who are not allergic to Gluten, have no sensitivity to it, and treat "going Gluten-Free" as if it were something other than a dietary restriction; more like a lifestyle or weight diet than one that keeps your body from attacking itself.

  • I can't offer more actual advice for someone with a gluten-allergy related disorder like Celiac's that go work with a physician and get instruction from a real dietician.
  • For a straightforward approach to learning to bake with gluten-free ingredients, Google has plenty of resources for you to use, like this primur.
  • For an explanation of typical ingredients, their uses, pros and cons, Living Without has a well-rounded article
  • Additional ingredients, techniques, and strategies for serving and preparing are covered in the cookbook Gluten-Free Quick and Easy by Carol Fenster, PhD, who develops products for Bob's Red Mill
  • You would be best served with any further requests for detail on specific ingredients asking about them in particular rather than holding out hope for a vague guide to all Gluten-free ingredients.
    • This is because items like xantham gum, agar and so forth are only Gluten-Free by coincidence, and you will be crowding out other helpful resources (i.e. if you look for tapioca starch uses, but in a Gluten Free article, you may easily crowd out the myriad vegan resources that reference it's use)

Like any restriction, best practices are input control-based: (1) referencing what contains wheat or gluten and (2) making sure you don't buy any by reading the ingredients. In addition to actual gluten-specific sensitivities, the Candida diet requires that adherents avoid grains due to immune reactions to gluten (this is semi-dubious in that this is applied above and beyond the scope of defined allergy). In terms of any guide to gluten-free'ing your foods, it isn't that complicated. Basically you need to develop a back-catalog of substitutions. There is less concept, more trivia.

  • The degree of elasticity in bread is determined by its gluten content. In many problem-solving questions you will see offered that vital wheat gluten or other 'hard flours' can be added to doughs needing more gluten, or that 'soft flours' with low gluten can be added where a dough is coming out too chewy.

    • In replacing gluten-containing ingredients, there are many substitute flours like Amaranth, Brown Rice, and Garbanzo flours that contain no gluten whatsoever.
    • To substitute APF, Grape Seed Flour is one, a combination of rice flour, tapioca flour, and corn/potato starch can also be made to replicate APF.
  • How to substitute; Each of the different flours has a different taste (garbanzo flour is nutty, corn flour tastes like corn) and texture (vital wheat gluten can replicate chicken flesh when cooked as seitan; or consider the difference to the tooth between white, whole wheat, and semolina flours). For gluten containing flours, each also has varying levels of gluten.

    • Assess the taste and texture characteristics of the flour you will be substituting, match them to one with the gluten-content flour you will be using (there are plenty of Google results for any flour). Don't be afraid to make a mix to get what you want.
    • Some flours will require more flour / less hydration to achieve the appropriate dough characteristics. You can research this, but time and trial are eventually going to be your guide so that you can tell by touch and look whether or not it is accurately mixed.
  • In dealing with Gluten in flour; for the purposes of food sensitivity, you can't diminish the gluten content by any technique. If it's there, then it's not going to be viewed by most people on a GF diet, and certainly much less anyone with Celiac's, as palatable. Here are some trouble-shooting points to consider with respect to navigating gluten;

    • Kneading creates the network of gluten strands, this helps the bread stand up on its own (exploratorium has video on this). Also, salt and yeast fermentation help to develop strand development.
    • The purpose of giving your dough a rest after kneading is to allow the strands of gluten (the bonds mentioned earlier, these strands are what hold the dough together) to return to their relaxed shape. If you are experiencing snap back (esp. problematic when shaping a dough for a pizza shell) either the dough needs a rest, the gluten content is too high, or you could use a dough relaxer.
    • Shorter fermenting, higher hydration, high fat (fat inhibits gluten formation), and lower-gluten content make for less elastic doughs. They will break apart rather than stretch. If this is problematic, introduce a flour that has a higher gluten content to the mix.
    • A good example of a dough that should not have a high gluten-strand formation would be pie crust. To inhibit gluten formation, and get a rocking crust, you should use small amounts of water, not knead very much, ice all of your ingredients somewhat, and use shortening; these things all inhibit gluten formation and give you that drift away crumb texture. Additionally, crumbly biscuits using unscalded milk are benefit from an enzyme that inhibits gluten formation (incidentally, scalding the milk inhibits the inhibitor)
  • mfg - I fear that my question was too confusing. I have clarified what it is I'm looking for. I'm looking for reading material (preferably online) that provides thorough coverage of gluten-free ingredients and techniques.
    – anon
    Feb 29, 2012 at 14:25
  • @anon I have revised; in my experience dealing with other peoples dietary restrictions you frequently don't need reading materials as there is less concept needed relative to vigilance. With respect to the science of gluten, I have laid out the overview, but its not that fantastic a structure. Like yeast or anything else, it is only as complicated as you make it. As you have defined the scope of the question, I believe I have responded to the major areas of concern. Let me know if there's anything I left out.
    – mfg
    Feb 29, 2012 at 15:15
  • @anon good luck with your search. I have added a page 1 Google link, to find more just search "an explanation to baking without gluten"; that said, when you have questions about specific ingredients or techniques, remember that added the keyword 'Gluten-Free' can crowd out helpful results from other resources
    – mfg
    Mar 1, 2012 at 17:28
  • Thank you for all your efforts. I'm starting to think that the information I'm looking for either doesn't exist, or is in a book somewhere. I'm wondering if I need to find specific gluten-free forums. If I find anything, I will post it here!
    – anon
    Mar 1, 2012 at 17:36
  • @anon I found one cookbook author who tends to deal with Gluten-Free the way Isa Chandra Moskowitz deals with Veganism, as a series of problems to be solved with a backend of information. I find this way of approaching any given subject more helpful, and I think this is basically what you mean by strategy. I haven't read more than some of the pages, but it might be worth a look on Amazon. My guess is that there is no aggregated resource that non-GF bakers would immediately know to reference, but in terms of disparate articles they are in abundance. Looking forward to any future followups
    – mfg
    Mar 1, 2012 at 17:45

I found a somewhat detailed overview on the Colorado State University site. Their server is down, so here is the Google Cache:

Gluten-Free Baking by F. Watson, M. Stone and M. Bunning

It's a very good starting point that has a good amount of detail on the following:

  • Each flour substitute / additive, with flavor descriptions and uses
  • Tips on how to adjust texture
  • How to adjust baking temperatures and times

(As I find more resources, I'll put them here.)

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