Baking without Gluten and Casein

Gluten is a protein that makes up much of the content of a grain of wheat. In the process of rising, yeast in the bread gives off carbon dioxide, which creates bubbles. Because gluten is stretchy it captures these bubbles which allows things with flour in them (like bread) to rise. Thus, bread without gluten tends to not rise as well, and is not as chewy, which is a quality many bread-lovers enjoy. There are many ways to avoid wheat and products containing gluten when baking.

The following can all be made into flour which can be used in baking: almonds, amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, cornmeal, lentils, pecans, potatoes, quinoa, rice, sorghum, and tapioca. Oats and millet are also grains that are naturally gluten-free, but because these are often processed or stored with gluten-containing grains they are often cross-contaminated. Thus, if you choose to use oats and millet, make sure they come from facilities that are certified as free from cross-contamination.

Because each of these flours has a different quality, it is usually best to mix different types of flours to get a combination that makes a nice, tasty loaf of bread with a good texture. It is important to note that it is likely that none of these flours will give you the same texture, taste and appearance as regular wheat flour. Making the switch from wheat to a non-gluten combination of grains will take getting used to. This change will be more noticeable in foods that require a lot of flour, such as breads.

Finding combinations of flours that work well for your needs by trial and error can be difficult. There is a good list of combinations of wheat flour substitutes at the website http://gfcf-diet.tacanow.org. This is an excellent resource for ideas on combinations of flours to combine as well as commentary on the quality of each type of flour substitute.

Casein is a protein found in milk and is also a known allergen. In fact, about half the number of people allergic to gluten also possess casein allergies which is why gluten and casein are usually lumped together with respect to elimination diets. Fortunately, there are also milk substitutes that do not contain casein including almond, hemp, potato, soy and rice milks. Most often these milks can replace the dairy milk in any recipe on a one to one basis. Some of these milks are sweeter than others, and depending on how large a component the milk is in the recipe you are making (for instance, a pudding contains more milk than does a chocolate cake) these are entirely interchangeable.

Other products that contain dairy milk also need to be eliminated from a casein-free diet. Butter can be replaced with oils such as olive and canola. Cheese products made for vegans can be used in place of dairy cheese. These cheeses are usually soy or rice based. Otherwise, cheese toppings can be eliminated or be replaced with something like guacamole. If you like to make frozen desserts, fruit ices and non-dairy ice cream are good options.

Adopting a gluten- and casein-free diet can seem daunting at first. It takes time and patience learning which products can be effectively replaced with safer options in your baking. Once you have spent a little time familiarizing yourself with the substitutions that work best for you and your family, the job of creating a gluten- and casein-free menu becomes second nature.