Readers, you are about to learn the secrets to successful low-FODMAP baking from a real master. I’d like to introduce Lisa Rothstein, co-author of IBS-Free Recipes for the Whole Family. She has really poured her heart into this post, which reflects her 25 years of experience as a gluten-free baker. That experience came in handy when she began developing low-FODMAP recipes, since most gluten-free flours are also low in FODMAPs. She is the author of this post, and well as next week’s post, which will be a continuation of this one.
Low-FODMAP, Gluten-Free Baking Tips and Tricks
by Lisa Rothstein
Baking with traditional flours, such as wheat (and hybrids spelt, kamut, emmer, etc.) and rye, is a snap. Mix the ingredients, throw it in the oven, don’t burn it, and everything comes out great. Because these flours are high in fructans (a FODMAP) you may have decided to venture into the wild world of baking with low FODMAP, wheat-free flours. Perhaps you ended up with hockey puck pastries or gritty baked goods that crumble into sand on the first bite. You might be wondering why it is worth it to bake at all. Please don’t give up. These flours can be tricky to work with because they also happen to be gluten-free. Gluten provides the stretchiness and chewiness to baked goods, holds them together, keeps them moist and slows down molding. Once you understand the low FODMAP flours and their properties you won’t be at the mercy of the many commercially baked wheat-free/gluten-free goods that are high in sugar, carbs, fat and low nutrient flours. In addition, even though these commercial baked goods are gluten-free/wheat-free does not mean they are low in FODMAPs. Many companies want the “high fiber” label on their gluten-free products because they use low fiber flours, so they add inulin or chicory root fiber which can wreak havoc with your GI system. In addition to added fibers, some brands claim “natural sweeteners” and replace sugar with fructose, honey, molasses, agave, concentrated apple, pear or other fruit juices, all high FODMAP foods. Other high FODMAP additives may be milk powder and/or whey which (both contain lactose), or high FODMAP flours like, chickpea, lupine, soy or amaranth.
Before you leap into this baking world you need to learn some tricks so you can turn out baked goods that you will enjoy and are happy to share with others. In fact, many of my friends don’t believe me when I tell them that the desserts I bring to parties don’t contain wheat flour. They look, taste and smell nearly identical to wheat-free baked goods. Furthermore, if you bake you can tailor your baking to your taste, health preferences and availability of ingredients.
You can certainly go out and buy a wheat-free/gluten-free baking mix. Like commercially baked gluten-free products, check the ingredients for high FODMAP foods that you are sensitive to. While these commercial mixes can simplify your life, the downside is that some just don’t turn out good products, they are expensive, and the majority with a few exceptions, are made of low fiber, high carb, low nutrient flours.
Before making your own baking mixes you need the lowdown on some wheat-free baking secrets. Just like in the wheat world, the wheat-free, low FODMAP flours fall into two categories: “whole grain” flours (similar to whole wheat flour) and “starchy flours” (similar to white flour). Both types of flour are important in making a good flour mixture that will work as a wheat flour replacement because of their different taste profiles, protein, fiber and starch content. This is why you always see a blend of several different flours in commercially prepared mixes. If you use just one flour type, no matter how healthy the flour may be, I can guarantee you will get poor results.
Wheat-free, “whole grain” flours provide the underlying flavor and structure of baked goods due to their higher fiber and protein content. The tested low FODMAP, whole grain flours are; brown rice, sorghum, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, oat, cornmeal and teff. Since each of these flours has a wide variation in flavor and baking properties I have provided a bit of information on each one to help you decide what to use.
The starchy, low nutrient flours have a neutral flavor and taste somewhat similar to each other. They contribute to the softness, airiness and chewiness of baked goods. The tested low FODMAP starchy flours are; white rice, sweet rice (a.k.a. glutinous rice or Mochiko rice flour, which does not contain gluten), tapioca starch, potato starch and cornstarch.
One of the most important tricks in wheat-free baking is the addition of ingredients to simulate the texture and stickiness that gluten provides in wheat flours. Binders are the key ingredients and include; xanthan gum, chia seeds, flaxseed meal or a combination of these binders.
1. Xanthan gum is the most popular. While expensive, a little goes a long way. It has a very long shelf life if kept dry, is easy to use and it dramatically improves the texture of baked goods. It also prevents cookies from spreading and decreases crumbling in any baked goods.
Recommended Amounts of Xanthan gum per 1 cup of flour
- Cookies; ¼ teaspoon
- Cakes, bars/brownies, quick breads, muffins, pancakes; ¼-½ teaspoon
- Bread; 1 – 1½ teaspoons
- Pizza crust; 2 teaspoons
Some people are bothered by xanthan gum (even though it is not a FODMAP) and therefore prefer to use more natural substitutes which work well, but give somewhat different results from xanthan gum.
2. Chia seeds (white or black) work very well, add moisture, and are tasteless and high in fiber. Use 1-1½ tablespoons per cup of flour either as whole seeds or ground into a powder (in a coffee grinder or spice mill) where they will virtually disappear if you don’t like the slight crunch of the seeds.
3. Flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed) has a stronger taste than chia and is also high in fiber, but unlike chia seeds it needs to be ground to work properly in baked goods. Grind as needed; ground flaxseed loses nutrition and spoils more rapidly after grinding. If you bake a lot grind a larger amount and keep leftovers in the freezer. The FODMAP status of flaxseed meal isn’t clear at this point, but it should be fine for most as the amount used in a recipe is small enough that a serving is not very large. Use 1-3 tablespoons per cup of flour and reduce flour by the same amount. Flaxseed will make baked goods brown more quickly so less baking time may be needed.
Both chia and flaxseed meal should be added to the liquid portion of the recipe. Let it sit for a few minutes to hydrate. Use of either seed may require additional liquid in the recipe. Another great feature of using chia and flaxseed is that they allow you to cut down the amount of fat needed in a recipe.
A couple other binder options work OK in a pinch, but not as well as previous options: plain Knox gelatin powder (½ teaspoon per cup flour) or potato flour (it is not potato starch but ground up potatoes made into flour). Use 1-2 teaspoons per cup flour.
Other important additions that dramatically improve the texture of low FODMAP, wheat free baked goods are proteins, fats and leavening agents.
Protein - Lactose free dairy products like milk, yogurt, cottage cheese (puree before using to help it blend in) add protein and fat and improve texture immensely. Aged cheeses (ex: cheddar, parmesan, Romano, Swiss etc.) add protein and fat and improve texture as well but not to the same extent as the previously mentioned dairy products. Eggs are another very important texture builder, not just from their protein and fat, but because they provide lift like a leavener. This is why you see so many wheat-free recipes that have at least one egg, when a similar wheat based recipe might have none. Each protein source will change the recipe slightly so experimentation is key.
Fat in the form of oil or butter improves the texture of baked goods but when using a lot of fat is not a great option from a health perspective, choose heart-healthy oils like canola, olive oil, etc. If using a combo of chia or flaxseed, high protein flours, dairy and eggs, you won’t need as much oil in a recipe. Many commercially baked wheat/gluten-free products add a lot of fat to give their baked products better texture.
Leavening agents are another important addition. Wheat-free baked goods don’t bake up as tall as wheat containing products because of lack of gluten so they need a lot of help rising. As mentioned above, eggs are commonly used to provide leavening. Baking powder is another important leavener. Use about 50% more than called for in a recipe with wheat flour. If a wheat flour recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking powder, add 1½ teaspoons for wheat-free baking. Since wheat-free recipes need a lot of baking powder, use an aluminum-free baking powder (it will say so on the label) because the larger amounts of aluminum-containing baking powder can result in a metallic taste.
Watch for my next blog post where you will learn the specific properties of each low-FODMAP, wheat-free flour type and how to design your own baking mixtures. Since baked goods lacking gluten stale quickly I will also cover how to store and serve your low FODMAP baked creations so that you can enjoy that just-baked taste every time.