Thanksgiving is upon us and the winter holidays are coming up fast. Nothing screams “holiday cheer” more than a dessert table filled with amazing, luscious goodies! Here at CGK, you know our treat table is all gluten free. Our GF desserts not only look good, but even better, they taste sinfully delish! So, if you’ve ever been intimidated by the concept of gluten free baking, stick around. Today we’re demystifying the process, so you can wow at your next gathering. After all, what says “I love you” more than a big ol’ hug and a yummy treat?
When the family was diagnosed gluten intolerant 15 years ago, one of the first things I worked on was recreating GF versions of our favorite treats. My goal was to make goodies my girls would actually enjoy AND feel good about sharing with their non-GF friends. All too often, we would hear the snickers of “oh they’re gluten free” with the sigh of “ugh it’s not going to taste very good…” So I made it a personal mission to make my kids proud and surprise every darn skeptic alive. Now I LOVE hearing the shocked “wait THAT was gluten free” that often comes with our desserts. (Mission accomplished.)
Before we get into the nitty gritty, it’s important to know, baking is a science. This is why it can be so challenging and intimidating—regardless of gluten status. Whereas cooking allows you to throw in a little of this or that along the way, baking is a science of precision. Measurements need to be exact to get the correct result in the oven. Excluding gluten further complicates the equation. Gluten is used to bind and give structure to everything from breads and pizzas to cookies and cakes. It’s what gives baked goodies their fluffy, chewy, stretchy texture.
Knowing this, how do we replicate the texture in gluten free baking?
Well, it comes down to the choice of flour. Brands like Simple Mills, Pamela’s, King Arthur, Cup for Cup and Bob’s Red Mill have well-formulated, no-fuss flour blends that are one-for-one replacements for traditional, all-purpose flour. This takes out any stressful guesswork, making paleo, grain free, and gluten free baking a breeze.
Lately, Meg and I have also been loving our bakes with almond meal, tigernut flour, and cassava flour. It’s fun to switch it up from time to time. Plus, we love using less refined flour blends and nut meals like these to give our baked goods added benefit health-wise. The trade-off is they do require a bit more experimentation than the one-for-one versions from the brands listed above. Luckily, I have already done 15 years of experimentation for you!
Whenever I want to add nutritional value to my goodies, I know I can rely on the following tried and true flour blend. It’s my no-so-secret (beneficial) ingredient hack.
If a recipe calls for 2 cups flour:
Start with your favorite one-for-one GF flour replacement. However, instead of using the full 2 cups, reduce the flour to 1 ½ cups. Then add ¼ cup fresh ground flax seeds and ¼ cup of coconut flour to make up the difference. This power combo will add good-for-you fiber that helps slow down the sugar crash that often comes with desserts. (To add more beneficial fats and bit of protein, consider reducing the flour to 1 ¼ cup and replacing an additional ¼ with a nut meal.)
Why do we do this? To combat the dreaded sugar crash.
Let’s take a hot sec to be honest about sugar.
Look, we all know sugar—I’m talking refined, highly processed sugar—is not healthy. Plain and simple. The typical western diet has a huge problem with sugar content, which can even lead people to become addicted to it. On a personal level, I can tell you that sugar is not a friend of healing bodies in particular. If you are not mindful of your intake, it can really slow down the progress of your health journey.
That being said, balance is the key to most things. Restrictive eating and obsessive sugar monitoring can be just as destructive to one’s health physically and mentally. Not ever allowing yourself or your kids to partake in any treats can snowball into bigger issues down the line. It’s tricky, because food is so emotional and so much a part of our culture. So, how do we navigate healthy choices?
Balance and mindfulness.
Balance and mindfulness.
Here’s how I negotiated that balance in my house. While the girls were growing up, I decided desserts before bed, especially on school nights, would not be a smart idea. (The sugar crash could really disrupt their focus at school.) So instead, I shared homemade goodies with them every so often, when they got home from school. And I saved the particularly decadent desserts for the weekend. The goal was to take the power away from sugar. We had treats often enough that they never felt deprived or restricted, without becoming a crutch to rely on or a daily habit. Dessert was (and continues to be) a celebratory occasion to share in delight and make life delicious.
Now as young woman in their late twenties and thirties, my girls have a pretty good relationships with sugar and treats. AND we all love to bake! Ultimately, we know, that dessert has the power to bring smiles to faces and joy to hearts, so we happily incorporate it into our lives—with balance of course. We do this by choosing high-quality ingredients and avoiding the highly refined stuff. You’ve already seen how I modify my flour to add beneficial ingredients, but did you know you can also do this with sugar? Lately, I’ve started subbing in unrefined coconut sugar and monkfruit, whenever a recipe calls for refined, white sugar. This has lightened the sugar load and I’m having good luck using them. Check out this article from the Cleveland Clinic on sugars and which are healthier options to use in baking.
For more dessert inspiration, I got a whole chapter for you in my brand-new cookbook. It’s out now and its loaded with even more GF tips, tricks, hacks, and recipes. CLICK HERE to order your own copy!
But wait! Before you go… if you have any questions or need any recipes for Thanksgiving – get our step-by-step Thanksgiving Guide. It’s got everything you need to make your dinner the most delicious, GF-friendly gathering ever! CLICK THIS LINK.
We feel blessed by you! Thank you for being a part of our CGK family.
With great love and appreciation,