There’s a magic element that makes wheat so ubiquitous in baked goods: gluten, a chewy protein that adds structure and stability to desserts and breads. When I first started baking without gluten, I thought it would be as simple as replacing wheat flour with a gluten-free option. But with every dense, crumbly, and pasty-flavored item that got tossed in the can, I learned that I needed a little magic of my own to mimic gluten’s binding and lightening properties. Once I hit upon a winning formula (see “Alison’s GF Baking Mix”), I again experienced the joy of delicious, perfect-texture desserts.
Although a bowl of fresh fruit with a nut crumble or a splash of maple syrup makes an excellent gluten-free sweet, the holiday season begs for something a bit more enticing. With these tried-and-true recipes, you can look forward to the smells and sensations of seasonal, homemade baked goods—minus the gluten.
Alison’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix
Serves 12. View Recipe.
Almond Apple Pie
Serves 12. Even newbies have an easy time working this crust; as long as it stays cool, it will behave. View Recipe.
Super Fudge Brownies
Serves 16. Crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, these gluten-free goodies hold their own against the real thing. View Recipe.
Carrot Cake with Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 16. Rich and moist, this decadent treat is a hit for birthday parties and autumn potlucks. View Recipe.
Flourless Hazelnut and Pear Torte
Serves 16. So scrumptiously rich, a thin slice satisfies. In summer months, substitute peaches or nectarines. View Recipe.
Oatmeal Pecan Praline Cookies
Makes about 30. The nutty praline adds a touch of sophistication but can be omitted if you want a more traditional cookie. View Recipe.
Alison Anton is chef-instructor at Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colorado. Her seasonal enewsletter, Natural Cooking, is available at wholegourmet.com.
Amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, soy. Not technically grains, these plants’ seeds are ground into flours for baking. These contain all eight essential amino acids—making each a complete protein—plus offer high amounts of fiber, B vitamins, and minerals.
Brown rice, chickpea, cornmeal, nutmeal, sorghum, teff. Although incomplete as proteins, most have a high protein content compared to wheat and contain ample fiber and nutrients.
Gluten-free baking helpers
Arrowroot powder, potato starch (not flour), tapioca flour. These starchy flours mimic gluten’s binding properties. They also lighten the heaviness and distinct flavors of whole-grain GF flours. I use Bob’s Red Mill products, located in the baking section.
Guar gum or xanthan gum. Gums, used in small quantities (generally 1 teaspoon per cup of flour), help hold shape and eliminate crumbliness. Also sold in the baking section.