Gluten free baking frustrations!

Image: Simon Howden
Although the holiday season is already upon us, I wanted to share my frustration with everyone in the gluten free community. In my pre-celiac days I was an avid baker. I never really cared for cooking, but I always really enjoyed baking. The humorous part of that is that I have type 1 diabetes (it's been 20 yrs already), which did not always allow me to indulge in the sweets and treats I baked as much as I had wished I could.

"Everything in moderation". That used to be my saying when it came to sampling my own baking. I would truly sample and not indulge, even though believe me it was surely tempting. However now that I am gluten free, my old adage of "everything in moderation" has been forever altered. I don't even know what the new version is exactly, but I know that I cannot and will not eat gluten, even in moderation. I know that even a small amount or a "sample" of something filled with gluten would be more dangerous than pleasant and hence it is not something I would do, even in moderation.  Yeah yeah my one year wedding anniversary was an exception to this rule but your one year wedding anniversary only comes around once, so I did what I did and now that's done with.

Back to business...I still enjoy baking, but I have been increasingly frustrated with failed attempts at gluten free variations of once loved "normal" (aka non-gluten free) baking. Don't get me wrong, the pre-packaged stuff always turns out awesome, but I prefer to make things from scratch when I can. One example, who doesn't love a good sugar cookie, at the holidays or anytime for that matter? Well, when I pulled out the old recipe and simply switched the regular flour for my handy dandy gluten free flour....ick! The consistency was completely off and it was a big mess to say the least. And yes I did follow the instructions on the gluten free flour blend and I added in the requisite amount of xantham gum for cookies.

What did I do wrong? Why did the gluten free cookies look, smell and bake like garbage? Honestly the first recipe I made, once baked the texture was like cake, not cookies and not good cake either. It smelled funny and it just wasn't good. The only one who enjoyed them was the dog (ironically his name is Cookie) and he'll eat almost anything. The second recipe I tried (cream cheese cut out cookies) was sticky and messy and at the time I am writing this post, I haven't even baked them yet...I am fearful that they'll be a disaster just like the others were and I would end up being further frustrated and upset by another failed attempt at baking, something I once considered fun, relaxing and enjoyable.

I know that in searching online for gluten free cookie recipes there are loads. I have found many that sound appealing, but I admit I am almost instantly turned off when I am told to mix a variety of different types of flour. The reason I find this so discouraging is because I do not have those various flour types just sitting around waiting to be mixed. I guess maybe it's time for me to suck it up and just spend the money and buy the different types of flour and make my own mix, well based on recipes I've found online.

Maybe I'm being silly, but I find myself frustrated at times when gluten free variations of once loved foods are just not as good as the real thing. I will not give up, I will persevere and I will find a recipe for gluten free cookies that works and tastes great. I will!

Gluten Free Edmonton - A Celiac guide and resource for gluten free information in Edmonton, Alberta


  1. Hi Amanda, this is our first year being Gluten Free, and I was really worried that the kids would be without any yummy baking they can eat. I was SO lucky tho, the 2 first recipes I tried turned out AMAZING!

    Roll out Cookies

    400 degrees
    6-7 minutes

    1 cup butter
    1 cup sugar
    1 egg
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 tsp baking powder
    2 1/2 cups rice flour
    1-1/8 tsp xanthan gum
    1/2 tsp salt

    Cream butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla. combine all other dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add dry to wet, one cup at a time. dough should be stiff. No need to chill. On a floured surface roll out dough 1/4 inch thick bake on ungreased cookie sheet.

    *Add 2 tsp cocoa for a chocolate flavor.

    Chewy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

    350 degrees
    10 mins

    1 1/4 butter
    2 cups sugar
    2 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 cups rice flour
    1 tsp xanthan gum
    3/4 cup cocoa powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 cup chocolate chips

    cream butter and sugar, add in eggs and vanilla. mix dry in separate bowl. mix dry to wet stir in chocolate chips drop by spoon full onto ungreased cookie sheet. do not over bake.Cookies will puff up in oven and flatten when cooling. Cool completely on baking sheet before removing. makes 3 dozen good size cookies.

  2. I urge you to go ahead and buy the flours. I have 17 GF flours in my pantry & fridge. Sometimes I just substitute a mix, like Bob's All-Purpose, and sometimes I mix my own flours based on a GF recipe.

    I've also started converting some of my standard recipes by finding GF recipes for the same thing, looking at the ratio of flours in other people's recommended mixes for the item (like gluten free girl recently gave out her recipe to be used for cookies), and then testing it out. I also followed instructions I found online on how to convert recipes.

    Keep track of what you use and what the result was so you can tweak it later. And I found out the hard way, don't double a recipe until you find out whether the flour mix you're using is good in it.

    Gluten-free baking isn't a project I needed or had time for, but we have to deal with what we have. It can definitely be frustrating, but I'm not going to celebrate the holidays without having favorite foods that my daughter and I (both diagnosed with celiac disease this year) can eat.

  3. I've found lots of great recipes online. Sometimes it takes longer to get all the different flours measured, but there are very few recipes I would consider as flops. There are even some recipes my friends/family who can eat gluten would like to have. If you want some examples, I can send them.

  4. Amanda says thank you all for your suggestions. Amanda finally baked the cookies after the dough sat in the fridge over night and they turned out great.

    Amanda thinks the problem was that the dough was too warm for being rolled out beside the pre-heated oven.

  5. For future reference, I've found Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose GF Flour and King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour to be very helpful for those who don't always have time to prepare a batch of GF flour. Also, the magazine LIVING WITHOUT always has a variety of GF flour blends in the back of the magazine, including substitutions you can tailor to your dietary needs: Good luck, Merry Christmas, and A Happy Gluten-Free New Year!

  6. I use Better Batter GF Flour, it is an awesome 1:1 substitute for all purpose flour and it already has the xanthan gum. It makes GF baking SO much easier!! Good luck!

  7. I know I'm a little late to this conversation - but you should buy the flours. When you have the right mix for the right situation - the results are very worth it.
    The only suggestion I do want to add is that some of those flours spoil very quickly (wheat flour also goes bad over time too). I keep all my flours in the freezer for this reason. Brown rice flour is one that quickly goes rancid. As well, I use so little of guar gum and xanthum gum that it would definetly go bad before I could use it. (and with the price of all of these not being cheap - I want to make sure I am not throwing anything out).
    It does take up a lot of room in my freezer, but I think the baking I get out of it is worth the space!

  8. It's been a while since I shopped in Edmonton, but I know that the bulk food store here in Kelowna is a blessing. All the flours and starches I need for gluten-free baking are here, and I can buy as much or as little as I need.
    I like the baking recipes in Washburn and Butt's 125 Best Gluten-free recipes book. I found it at Winners for $5.95! Maybe you could find some new favorites in there.
    John Downes


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