Thank you so much to those of you who have written to say that you made the pizza recipe we posted last week and loved it. Hurray!
And to those of you wrote, confused, as to what chia seeds are or how flaxseeds work in gluten-free baking? This post is for you.
As some of you might have read in this earlier post, I have stopped using xanthan and guar gum in our baked goods. The first reason was directly for me: my body doesn’t seem to tolerate them very well.
The rest of the reasons are for you.
I’ve been hearing from hundreds of people that they don’t tolerate xanthan and guar gum well either. Some have written to say that they continued to have digestive problems after going gluten-free and tried cutting the gums after I wrote about it. I’m thrilled to hear that so many of you say you feel better. That’s what this is about.
But there’s more to it now.
You see, I’m finding over and over again that gluten-free baked goods made without xanthan or guar gum are better than with them. Our friend Kate came over this morning with a delicious berry pie, made with a gluten-free crust. Her face shone as she told me: “I left the xanthan gum out by mistake. It’s so much better! It’s finally pie crust.”
You know how a lot of gluten-free breads, even when they are good, have that texture of cornbread? A little gummy? Well, guess what? It’s the gums that cause that texture.
Here’s a photograph of a multi-grain bread recipe we’re working on over here, almost all whole grains, and no gums.
See the texture of the inside of the bread? It looks like bread.
(We’re going to give you this recipe this week. I’m so happy with it.)
And finally, I find that the folks who can eat gluten, and would like to bake for us, are stopped by one thing: xanthan and guar gum. They are so expensive. If someone wants to bake a batch of brownies for me, he has to go out and buy a $12 package of xanthan gum, which he will probably never use again.
Brownies don’t need any gums. I really believe that when people see gluten-free recipes without those strange ingredients, they are going to feel a lot more comfortable playing.
So far, Danny and I have found that most recipes don’t need any replacements or gums or additives. Cookies, muffins, quick breads, cakes, biscuits, flour for dredging fish or batter for fried chicken? Don’t worry about the gums. Just make sure you are working with the right ratio of flours to fats to eggs to liquid in your batter or dough. So far, everything gluten-free that I have baked uses the same ratio as the gluten recipes.
(Think about how many traditional muffin recipes end with a stern adminition: “Do not overmix!” That’s because the recipe writer doesn’t want you to activate the gluten in the batter. Guess what? We don’t have any gluten in our flours. Mix and combine to your heart’s delight. You can’t make those muffins tough.)
Sometimes, when a baked good needs more structure, when it is something that truly relies on gluten, we are using some flaxseed or chia seeds in slurry form.
When is that? Breads, mostly. The bread you see photographed above is the same recipe from our cookbook, with our multi-grain flour blend instead, and 1 tablespoon combined flax seeds and chia seeds combined with 2 tablespoons of boiling hot water then whisked into a thick slurry.
That’s all it took.
I’m still learning about ground flaxseed and chia seed, so I can’t claim to be an expert on this. However, I am finding that whatever amount of xanthan or guar gum I would have used in a bread recipe, I substitute it with the same amount of flaxseed or chia seeds. Then I combine that with twice as much boiling hot water and stir. That’s it.
One of the parts of this I love most is that flaxseed and chia seed are healthy for us. Both of these ingredients make nutritionists happy when we include them in our diet. It is widely suggested that flaxseed can help to combat heart disease and cancer, along with its good effects from omega 3s and fiber. (By the way, use the golden flaxseed for baking. The brown flaxseed can turn your baked goods green.) Chia seed seems to be everyone’s new favorite healthy ingredient, although it has been around for thousands of years. (It was one of the foods of the Aztecs and Mayans.) Chia seeds are full of fiber and nutrition and are rich in omega 3s as well. They also last much longer in the cupboard than flaxseeds, so you don’t have to refrigerate them or throw them out too early.
(And yes, they are the same as the pets you might have kept in the 1970s: “Chi-chi-chi chia!”)
I like using foods that feel like real foods, something that might actually be good for me, instead of a strange ingredient that puts off people new to living gluten-free.
So that’s what we’re doing.
If you use flaxseed or chia seeds in your baking, I’d love for you to leave a comment here. We can help out the community by sharing our knowledge on this.
I still have so much more to learn.