Can't Eat Wheat? Baking Tips Assure Success

by Carol Fenster, PhD

So ... your doctor says you shouldn't eat wheat. What now? Well, join the millions of Americans who routinely avoid wheat due to food allergies, autism, and other special diet situations—including celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which the gluten protein in wheat prevents the absorption of nutrients.

Living Without Wheat

I've learned that people can live very well without wheat if they use these tips for cooking with wheat substitutes:

1. Beginners should choose a cookbook specially designed for wheat-sensitive persons. This assures early success and builds confidence. You can convert your own recipes to wheat-free later—when you're a pro.

2. Replace wheat flour with a blend of flours, not just one flour. Choose from: rice, bean, soy, sorghum, potato, and tapioca, then combine according to recipe directions. (See sidebar.)

3. Measure flour by loosely spooning it into the measuring cup. Level top with flat side of a knife. Don't "round" unless specified in the directions and never pack the flour down.

4. Use roughly 1/3 to 1/2 more spices, herbs, and flavorings than normal to compensate for the loss of wheat flavor.

5. Use special ingredients, such as xanthan gum (a natural stabilizer or thickener) to compensate for the lack of gluten and improve texture. Without xanthan gum, baked goods crumble and fall apart.

6. Choose baking pans and utensils wisely. Use smaller baking pans instead of a single larger one. Grease generously before using. Bundt cake pans distribute heat more evenly.

7. Take advantage of modern appliances and aids. Invest in a bread machine. Use a food processor or heavy-duty mixer for thorough mixing of dough and heavy batter. Use parchment paper to avoid sticking.