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Gluten-Free Baking in Canadian Living


Phil Vickery's gluten-free baking recipes

Chef Phil Vickery shares his culinary experiences and a few helpful tips to gluten-free baking.

Phil Vickery spent years developing recipes for people living with celiac disease. As one of the world's leading chefs in gluten-free cooking and baking, this British television mainstay, bestselling cookbook author and ambassador for Coeliac UK knows a thing or two about gluten-free diets.

We asked Phil to share some of his secrets to great gluten-free baking – including how to store ingredients, tips for baking with kids, and some of his favourite spices for baked goods.

What was your biggest challenge making gluten-free recipes?
It was getting the balance right for the product you were making. We've tried many combinations (of gluten-free flours). I've found that the high protein content in soy flour seems to help keep the structure in certain yeasted recipes, such as bread, for example.

How did you choose which recipes to include in your book Gluten-Free Baking(Firefly Books, 2011)?
It was a mixture of what I liked, plus what I think the public would want to cook. Some recipes work well with gluten-free flours, but others do not, so it was a real mix.

What do we need to keep in mind when working with xanthan gum (an agent that helps add 'stickiness' to recipes otherwise achieved with gluten)?
Be careful with the quantity you use. Recipes need very small amounts to be successful.

Next, only buy and use small amounts. This will ensure that you do not have the gum hanging around for long periods of time. Finally, be aware that this gum can be a mild laxative.

What about working with glycerin?
Glycerin is a humectant, meaning it attracts moisture and holds it. Again, very small amounts of it are needed. Measure very carefully, as it's too easy to over-measure.

Are there lots of gluten-free flours suitable for baking?
Yes, there are many other flours…by all means, try them. Bear in mind that some starches – such as potato, corn flour and arrowroot – are great at binding together, but tend to collapse easier when cooked, so it's always good to balance [your flour mixes] with protein-packed flours such and almond, chestnut, chickpea and soya. Quinoa flour is also very good.

I’m still experimenting like mad, and am always looking to improve the recipes for people living with celiac.

What are your favourite baking spices?
In the UK, we have a very rich cooking tradition using spices. [Some of them are] from our colonial days, with curry spices such as cumin and coriander, to spices we import from the Caribbean such as allspice, nutmeg, mixed spice and mace.

Cumin works well in biscuits, cakes and savoury dishes. Nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and mace work especially well for celebration fruitcakes, such as Christmas and Simnel cakes, as well as (the always-popular) carrot cake.

Could you recommend recipes for baking with kids?
Tortilla chips and the Indian-style flat breads [from my cookbook] are real winners here. The Tangy Beet and Black Currant Muffins, as well as the Sweet Zucchini & Saffron Butterfly Cakes, are pretty well received – even with vegetables in!

What do we need to freeze baked goods?
Good quality resealable plastic bags, or thick bags with good sealing clips, are essential to stop frost damage [for frozen cakes and pastries].

While testing your gluten-free recipes, what was the experience like?
If I’m being honest, very tough; I have cooked some of these recipes 20 times. But it's essential to get them right, or you can end up looking very foolish indeed!

In hindsight, it's all worthwhile when you get lovely comments.

What misconception do people still have about gluten-free cooking and baking?
This one's easy – they think they can just replace a normal recipe with gluten-free flour, and hey presto! But it doesn’t work that way.

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