One of the biggest concerns of newly diagnosed folks with celiac disease is that they can’t eat their favorite foods. It’s true, you won’t be able to eat many of your favorites in their original form– but you may be able to make a substitution that satisfies your craving, and with any luck, tastes just the same as it did before.

Substitutions for Gluten Free Food

Some of the most creative I have seen involve finding ways to forgo crust on traditionally “crusted” foods.  I have two examples.

GF Lemon Angel Pie; Meringue is the Crust!

This weekend I was in Duluth.  My mom pulls out this Lemon Meringue pie.  She says it’s gluten free, and there’s no crust.  This isn’t actually a crustless pie.  The company who makes it (in Minnesota) actually makes the meringue as the crust!  It is baked first and then the rest of the ingredients are  added.

I am not a baker, I wouldn’t know how to explain what you need to do to make the pie complete, but I thought having the meringue as the crust was so creative!  And it tasted good too.  It was firm enough to keep the pie pieces together too!  The pie is actually called “Lemon Angel Pie” made by the Rustic Inn Cafe and Gifts in Two Harbors, Minnesota (up the North Shore of Lake Superior).  I am sure you can purchase the pies there ( I hear there’s a raspberry version too), or you can also get them at the Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth, Minnesota.

I, on the other hand, have made egg bake with hash browns as the crust.  It is perfectly yummy and works ideal for making a breakfast dish when you’re away from home because the ingredients are so easy to find.  See the egg bake recipe here.

Other substitution ideas

A regular recipe that’s being transformed into gluten free may need more flour (to give it more substance), or an extra egg (to make it more moist), or some ground flax seed (to pump up nutritional value).

The basic tip I would give is that when changing a regular recipe for a baked good (bread, cookies, cake etc) to a gluten free recipe, you will need xanthan gum.  It is the binder that keeps it all together.  You will need about 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum per 1 cup of flour in your recipe.  You will only need this if the gluten free flour you have does not already have the xanthan gum in it.  Please look in your gluten free baking flour’s ingredients to find out.

The aforementioned Lemon Angel pie doesn’t use any xanthan gum because its crust isn’t a pastry (like most pies have), but rather meringue.

I have been experimenting with different kinds of flours as well, sorghum and brown rice are my favorites.  I think they add a good texture to baked goods making them more “gluten-like” in my book.  Plus, the flours are more nutritious.

While you’re cooking or baking this fall, keep in mind that you should keep practicing (and taking notes) until you get your favorite recipe just right. It may take some time and potentially a lot of ingredients (as it does me– I never get it the way I want it the first time).

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3 Responses to “Creative Substitutions for Making a Dish Gluten Free”

  1. Hi Amy,

    Having a GF teenage son, I do a lot of GF baking using my own mix of flours, and have been very happy to find that I can still use almost all of my old favorite recipes with only some minor tweaks. (Yeast breads being the big, fat, ugly exception to that rule, of course.)

    I, too, have noticed that I need to up the flour amount just a little to get the textures of things right. And I also love to use a variety of whole flours and a lot less starch than most GF recipes call for. Seems to work fine in most cookies, bars, muffins, and quick breads.

    I do, however, find that I need a lot less xanthan gum than 1 tsp. per cup of flour for general baking. Because, really, gluten never was your friend when it comes to non-yeasted baked goods. The advice for quick breads with regular flour is always to minimize the effects of the gluten in the flour by being careful not to over mix. Cake flour is a low-gluten flour for the same reason. Too much gluten development makes cookies and quick breads tough.

    Too much xanthan gum won’t do that, but it can make your baked goods gummy, and it gives a deceptive thickness to batters, making them look good and thick when they actually have too little flour to support the structure of the final product. For example, when I have made pancakes with too much xanthan gum, the batter would be so thick I could hardly get it to spread on the griddle, but those nice, thick pancakes would collapse before they were done cooking.

    So I don’t add xanthan gum at all, anymore, to cookies, bars, brownies, or pancakes, and I only use about 1/4 tsp. per cup of flour for things like coffeecakes and quick breads that might otherwise be too crumbly to serve. Hope you don’t mind my rude contradiction!

    For pies, I almost always do cookie crusts these days. GF cookies are usually pretty easy to find, and all I have to do is toss them in the food processor with a little melted butter and press into the pie plate. GF ginger snaps make a great crust for pumpkin pie. 🙂

    And amen to taking notes! I’ve had some major successes that I couldn’t easily replicate later because I hadn’t taken notes. Argh!

  2. My neighbor brought me this same exact pie that she hand baked herself – old family recipe that she knew I could eat – and it was delicious!!! I was skeptical at first but ate the whole thing 🙂 I’m not a baker myself but this is a very creative way to eat GF without sacfricing taste! I”ll have to tell her that some else is profiting off her recipe 😉

  3. At Thanksgiving I make a pumpkin cheesecake and the crust is made of pecans, butter and sugar. No one complains about the missing gramcracker crust when they get pecans!

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