One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being gluten-free is converting recipes. It’s good fun! Healthy Food Guide give me a recipe each quarter to convert, and I thought it might be of interest to you all to know how I go about doing that!
The first thing I do is make the original recipe. My kids love that part! The reason I do that is so I can get a feel for the texture of the mix – the liquidity and the feel of it as I combine the ingredients. Then I bake them to get an idea of how they should look cooked. I’m lucky enough that because I am only gluten intolerant, I can then have a bite or two to check the cooked texture and taste. I think if you cannot have any gluten at all, perhaps you could ask a friend or family member to be your guinea pig.
To the left, the original recipe. To the right, the first version of the gluten-free bikkies. Ignore the chocolate chip cookies as they weren’t gluten-free at all, the kids just wanted to bake as well!
Look at the recipe and decide what substitutions I can make. Obviously flour for flour is the first thing. The type of flour I choose depends on the type of recipe I am making. If I am trying out bread or scones, I might use a flour better for bread; if I am baking cupcakes or a cake, I may use a lighter blend. I have used store bought gluten-free flour mixes with some success when I am converting recipes, but I find if I can pick the correct flour type, the recipes convert more easily. Brown rice flour seems to bind better than any other single type of flour, but does have a distinctive smell and taste.
There are some tricks I always add – I use xanthan or guar gum as a binder. I often add psyllium to give more sponginess and a more aerated texture.
Oats are a tricky one, because in other countries they are not considered to contain enough gluten to be bad for those of us who can’t tolerate it. So you can use an imported oats like Bob’s Red Mill, or just take the risk and use oats. Good substitutes for oats are quinoa flakes – these have the right texture and good taste, and are very high in fibre and calcium. However, they are also very expensive and sometimes hard to find (our local New World had them, and you can find them at various of the online and organics shops). Another option here is rice flakes, but these have a different texture, and unless you soak them in a little milk or water, are crunchy.
I often consider adding more flavouring. If you are using a good flour mix, this won’t be necessary, but some of the flour mixes have a strong taste to them and a spice is a great way to overcome this. Vanilla and cinnamon often go very well in baking.
Because I am egg yolk intolerant, I will often make the recipe gluten-free first with eggs, then try it again with an egg substitute to see if I can get the texture, taste, lightness or otherwise correct, or I just try using an egg white, which sometimes gives the best results.
For rising, I will normally use a mix of baking powder and baking soda. I find that the gluten-free flours are heavier and this does a good job of lightening the mix a little.
So I jot down all these notes on the recipe and then…
Have a go!I’ve had some utter disasters, but what normally happens is that the first conversion isn’t quite right. So I adjust and try again. Sometimes, it works fine, but I decide I want to try and inject some more fibre by using chia seeds as an egg replacer, rather than the commercial egg replacer or egg white. Or I think more spice is required, or more flavour. Or the texture isn’t quite there.
Sometimes it will take two, three or more goes to get it right, but I’ve managed to convert almost everything I’ve tried. The next step is then to adapt and change, which lead to the ANZAC biscuit recipe becoming an ANZAC slice. Which I must say, we all ate too much of!
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 cup rice flakes OR 1 cup quinoa flakes
- 1 cup gluten-free flour (brown rice flour works well, or a gluten-free flour mix)
- 1 cup coconut
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- 4 tbsp golden syrup
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp LSA (optional)
- 1 tbsp chia seeds or 1 egg or equivalent 1 egg replacer
- ¼ cup milk (cow, rice, soy or almond) or water
- 1/2 cup currants or cranberries
- Turn oven to 160 degrees C. Grease a sponge roll tin and line with greaseproof paper.
- Mix the chia seeds and milk in a small bowl and set aside for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Place all the dry ingredients, EXCEPT the baking soda into a bowl and mix well.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the chia seeds mix, golden syrup, oil and baking soda. Whisk well until thoroughly combined and the mix has a thick and caramel-like consistency.
- Add to the dry ingredients and mix well.
- Press into the tin to the edges.
- Bake until golden coloured all over. Allow to cool in the tin, and ice with lemon icing
Note the difference between using the rice flakes or the quinoa flakes is that the rice flakes make for a crunchier biscuit. The quinoa flakes have a similar consistency to a normal ANZAC biscuit.
You may need to use a little extra flour if the mixture appears too wet, or if you are using rice flakes, which don’t soak up the oil like the quinoa flakes do. No more than half a cup of additional flour should be required.