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Leavening for Gluten-Free Baking

Ialina asks: I am gluten intolerant and wish to bake bread using only baking soda and vinegar as leavening.   How much of each should be used per cup of flour?

Baking S.O.S. says: This is a tricky question, and one I cannot answer from my own experience.

What I do know is that traditional bread (such as “sandwich” breads–white, wheat, rye, etc.) is leavened (rises) with yeast, and quick breads (such as biscuits, scones, muffins, fruit breads, etc.) are leavened with chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder. So if you want to make bread with baking soda and vinegar, you will end up with a quick bread, rather than a traditional bread.

There are standard amounts of baking soda that should be used to leaven regular all-purpose flour, but I do not know whether it works the same with gluten-free flours.  It could depend on the types of flours you mix together to create a gluten-free flour.

I have some gluten-free All Purpose Baking Flour from Bob’s Red Mill.  The package includes directions on how to use the gluten-free all purpose baking flour in place of traditional all-purpose flour. It recommends adding various amounts of xanthax gum, depending on the type of baked good you make. It also says that yeast-raised breads are a little trickier to make using gluten-free flour, but it does not give specific amounts of ingredient substitutes.  It sounds as though making substitutions for gluten-free baking may take some experimenting and practice to achieve the desired results you want.

So I will defer back to the standard advice I always give when baking (regardless of what you want to bake):

Baking is a science. It requires that you follow the recipe exactly in order to achieve the intended results of the recipe.

My standard advice is this: The first time you make any baked good, you should follow the recipe exactly as it is written in order to understand how the recipe is supposed to turn out.  Then, once you have a base point for reference, you can start making adjustments as desired to try to produce the results you are looking for.

In the case of gluten-free baking, I highly recommend that you start by following recipes that have been written and tested by other gluten-free bakers.  Once you gain experience with how gluten-free breads turn out, then you can start making adjustments to use only the ingredients you want to use.  Or better yet, simply find recipes that only use baking soda and vinegar to start with.

To get you started, I would suggest exploring some gluten-free bread recipes such as these on the Bob’s Red Mill website or these on the Gluten-free Goddess blog. Good luck!

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