If you're looking to transition (or improve) your gluten-free baking skills, this podcast and blog post will be a great resource filled with valuable information. Robyn, from Gluten-Free Baking Courses, is here to share her wisdom and knowledge for all things gluten-free baking, especially the six go-to gluten-free baking ingredients to keep stocked in your pantry.
Robyn has been practicing dedicated gluten-free baking without using a pre-made gluten-free baking mix for years and has truly perfected the art.
I'm one of those people who really want to understand the differences in baking ingredients and to know how each individual ingredient affects the end product, which is why I'm glad Robyn is here to help clarify some common misconceptions when it comes to gluten-free baking.
If you're coming from listening to the podcast (episode #334), all of the links and resources are listed below.
My Gluten-Free Journey
If you've been with me for a while, you know I've experimented with gluten-free baking over the years as I've dabbled with various food sensitivities or dietary changes. I've also shared some of my favorite gluten-free recipes including:
- Chocolate Beet Cake (pictured above)
- Jam Roly-Poly
- Traditional Christmas Pudding Recipe
- Grandmother's Date Bread
- Homemade Granola Bars
- Historical Recipes: Honey Date Squares
- Grandma's Easy Oatmeal Macaroons
- Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars
- 13 Gluten-Free Cookie Recipes
As I've recently mentioned in previous podcasts, I had a complete hormone panel done as well as some other tests and got back some surprising results about the number of antigens I'm sensitive to.
Because of this, I'm going to be brushing off my gluten-free baking skills and experimenting a bit more in the kitchen, so the timing of this podcast interview with Robin was a God-send!
Robyn is a baker, performer, and digital content creator living in Toronto Canada. She was born and raised in Nova Scotia and comes from several generations of award-winning bakers (non-gluten-free bakers!).
In 2016 she was devastated to receive a celiac diagnosis which crushed her to not be able to eat all her family's recipes anymore. So she set out to make all her favorites gluten-free without sacrificing taste, texture, or quality.
By 2020, she had learned so much about gluten-free baking that she launched Robyn's Gluten-Free Baking Courses where she shares everything you need to know to successfully transition to a gluten-free lifestyle.
Scroll to the bottom of this post to find out the other places you can find Robyn as well as a special offer from her!
How Gluten Works in the Body
Many people don't realize that the effects of gluten stay active in the body for upwards of 6 to 8 weeks. So if you go “off” gluten for a few days and feel better, it may not actually be gluten that's affecting you.
It might be a combination of things, but it truly takes going off gluten for 6 or more weeks to know just how good your body can feel.
Be aware, though, that if you truly do have a gluten sensitivity, the reaction to gluten when you re-introduce it after those 6-8 weeks could potentially be ten-fold in intensity because your body will no longer be producing a protective mechanism that it's been pumping out each time you eat gluten.
How to Get Started
When starting a gluten-free lifestyle, one may think you just need to start scouring the grocery store for every gluten-free product you can find. Especially those all-purpose 1:1 gluten-free flours we've been talking about for all your baking needs.
But one of Robyn's biggest frustrations is how hard it can be to get started with gluten-free living because simply swapping out products for those that are gluten-free isn't the best choice. Those items are not only way more expensive, but they also don't taste as good (and likely aren't as healthy) as many of the products you can make from scratch at home.
There are so many gluten-free resources out there (blogs, recipes, social media accounts, etc.), but very few are comprehensive enough to explain, in detail, the best steps to take when getting started on your journey.
Robyn is not a fan of the pre-made gluten-free flour blends because they don't let you tailor the individual ingredients and are very rarely a true 1:1 swap for flour.
Robyn teaches about each individual flour and how it works or reacts in a recipe so you can begin to tailor recipes to suit your liking (keep reading, we cover it here!)
The way she uses GF flours and starches for biscuits is different than how she uses them for pizza crust. More times than not, she's still using the same 6 core ingredients, it's just in different ratios or methods.
There is no need to stock dozens of gluten-free ingredients in order to transition to a gluten-free kitchen. Simply having three flours and three starches will do!
Cooking this way will really give you a better understanding of how each of the ingredients works.
Differences in Gluten-Free Flours
I'm a huge data geek and I love learning the in-depth details on why things work.
I know in my own bread baking course, there are a lot of people who don't have a fundamental understanding of what the different flours do. Like how the different proteins or levels of gluten affect the baked goods when we're cooking various recipes from bread to pie crusts and other pastries.
This is especially true when it comes to gluten-free baking. In some recipes, a 1:1 all-purpose gluten-free blend will work great, but in others, it will be an epic fail.
Robyn shares that it's very true depending on the type of recipe you're making. Something like a quick bread, muffin, and some cakes might work better with this pre-made mix.
But recipes vary so much. Some recipes are dealing with short gluten-protein-chains (flakier recipes like pastry, pie crusts, and some cookies) while others have a longer gluten-protein-chain that's quite stretchy and holds together well (like in bread).
Robyn no longer uses a 1:1 gluten-free flour blend because within these blends the flours can differ and she finds it's easier to know just what each flour does and creates her own recipes (remember, she comes from a baking legacy so she's a wealth of information!).
Corn Starch is an ingredient that she finds really helps keep certain recipes nice and delicate, such as pie crusts, pastries, and cookies.
Tapioca Starch and Xantham Gum are two ingredients that really help bread keep its elasticity. For something like a cake, you would use less, for something like a loaf of bread, you would use more.
Must-Have Gluten-Free Ingredients
These are Robyn's must-have flours for gluten-free cooking in her kitchen!
I've found some of these at Costco but use Azure Standard and ThriveMarket <– this link gives you 40% off your first order for new members (this is where I found hazelnut flour as I can't do almond flour).
- Rice Flour – you can go white rice or brown rice flour as they both act very similarly in recipes. Robyn uses white rice flour in recipes like cookies so the taste of the butter and vanilla shine through.
- Almond Flour – or another nut if you can't have almonds (like me!), so she recommends replacing that with another nut flour or even oat flour (I'm testing hazelnut and tigernut flour, I found the tigernut through Thrive Market).
- Oat Flour – if you're grinding your own, be sure you're getting gluten-free oats!
- Tapioca Starch
- Potato Starch – this should be starch, NOT potato flour.
- Corn Starch – I make sure to get organic to avoid GMO corn products.
If you have these six ingredients in your cupboard you can make a whole range of fantastic gluten-free recipes.
In my experience, many gluten-free recipes call for coconut flour. Robyn mentions she doesn't use it because it's so absorbent which makes recipes harder to perfect (or they tend to be too dry). It's also one of the more pricey gluten-free ingredients!
Where to Find Gluten-Free Specialty Flours
For me, because I'm also dealing with other antigens aside from just gluten (like almonds), there are many nuts that I need to avoid right now. I asked Robyn if she knew of any specialty stores or places online where I could order specific flours and she recommended a tip near and dear to my heart which is to grind my own!
I have a home grain mill so I can grind my own oat flour in the mill. (that link gets you 5% off and FREE shipping, no coupon code needed and the discount is applied when you click checkout)
When it comes to nut flours, I'll use my Blendtec blender because of the oils in the nuts. I don't want those oils coating the stones in my grain mill.
Keeping Gluten-Free Recipes from Drying Out
If you've ever tried baking a gluten-free recipe, chances are you've come across one (or more) that turned out dry and crumbly.
And if you're like me, this makes you mad! Especially because most gluten-free ingredients tend to be pricier than their gluten-filled counterparts (especially when you've been grinding your own grain at home for years).
But we at home cooks like to know the why behind our recipes to know how to fix them moving forward, am I right?
So what do we do? Add more oil? More water? Applesauce, yogurt…? What's the secret to keeping our gluten-free recipes edible and delicious?
Robyn says if she encounters a recipe that's turning out dry and crumbly she starts by increasing the amount of high-moisture flours first (another reason she doesn't like the pre-packaged 1:1 mixes because you can't adjust the ratios).
She recommends reducing the amount of all-purpose flour (or the main flour choice in the recipe) by about 1/4 cup and increasing or adding in more oat or almond flour (something with higher moisture and fat content). See how that changes the recipe before adjusting the liquids.
Robyn finds increasing the high-moisture flour tends to help both the moisture and flavor of the end result.
If the recipe is still dry, she would then play with the oil amounts, maybe adding more butter or adding something else like yogurt or sour cream (depending on the recipe).
Add an Extra Egg
I have found, in certain gluten-free recipes (even those that don't call for an egg), that adding an egg, or an extra egg really helps the final product in both consistency and moisture.
Robyn confirms that, if you're someone who doesn't have egg allergies, sometimes, with certain recipes, adding an extra egg can help create a similar protein structure as a regular loaf of bread.
Eggs have an anti-staling effect so your baked goods also won't dry out as quickly.
This isn't a fool-proof method, but it's a good tip to keep in your back pocket.
“No Need to Knead”
Robyn's tip when baking gluten-free bread is that you don't need to knead gluten-free recipes.
Because there is no gluten formation needed, by kneading the batter (which gluten-free bread is more of a batter than a dough), you're actually knocking out all the leavening gasses!
So don't knead your gluten-free bread recipes!
Special Deal From Robyn
I hope you have found this blog post and podcast interview helpful, if you're looking for even more information, or would like to take a course from Robyn, go grab one of her gluten-free baking courses or bundles. She's been kind enough to offer our readers a special coupon code. Just use code “pioneeringtoday” at checkout for 10% off.
I actually took advantage of this discount myself and snagged one of her courses so I could dive even deeper into my own gluten-free baking knowledge as I'll be incorporating much more in the near future!
I'll be sure to share my experiences with you!
Connect with Robyn
- If you want to connect with Robyn or ask her questions to see if her Gluten-Free Baking Courses are a good fit for you, send her an email at [email protected]
- You can also check out her YouTube channel where she shares even more fabulous gluten-free baking tips (among other topics).
- She has a few free lessons for some delicious gluten-free baked goodies you can grab on her website which includes access to the video tutorials and recipes, along with her other gluten-free baking courses.
- You can also check out her blog Gluten-Free Baking here.
Melissa K Norris: Hey, pioneers. Welcome to episode number 334. Today's episode, we are going to be diving into gluten-free baking. Now, hold up, even if you are not someone who needs to be gluten-free. The reality is most of us probably have friends or family members where they are gluten-free and so we would like to be able to bake them food, if it's not for us and our family, immediate family, like in your household, then we have some tools to produce some great gluten-free items for them. In today's episode, I actually have brought in a guest. I have done some gluten-free baking in the past when I was taking a break from wheat and doing some gut healing and then when ... We have done keto in the past, which you guys, if you're a long time listener of the podcast, then you have heard some of those episodes where I've talked about that.
Melissa K Norris: But the very interesting part of today's episode, is I had, had Robyn scheduled on, because I, actually, myself, because I haven't been a dedicated gluten-free baker for an extended period of time. I actually had some questions that I wanted to ask about some of the different gluten-free baking and flour options and binders and adjusting recipes, which we do cover all of that in today's episode, that I wanted to glean from her. Someone who has been doing the gluten-free, dedicated gluten-free baking without gluten-free blends. Now, there's nothing wrong with using a gluten-free blend. However, I really wanted to dive in and dissect the gluten-free baking with an understanding of specific starches and flours and how to use those and what they offer to a recipe, just like I do when I am looking at what consists of a pastry flour.
Melissa K Norris: What are we looking for in flours when we are doing, and I'm talking of regular non gluten-free baking, when we are looking at the difference between bread flour and hard wheat and soft wheat. Ancient grain spelt in einkorn the different properties and how you use them, based upon the end baked product. We actually briefly mention that even though they are not gluten-free in this episode. All of the links and the resources, if you to look at some of those other things, will be in today's blog post that accompanies this episode. You can find that at melissaknorris.com/334 because this is episode number 334. It's just a number 334. Melissaknorris.com/334. What was interesting is I had heard Robyn scheduled to do this interview for, honestly, I think, a couple of months and I just recently got back.
Melissa K Norris: If you're a Pioneering Today Academy member, then you heard me discuss this on our Q&A in some of our live meetings that we do inside for members every month. But I recently had some testing done for a complete hormone panel. I'm 41. A complete hormone panel, because I've had some things that have just not been quite right and that included ... Got microbiome testing, as well as some blood tests to look at any food antibodies that may be impacting inflammation and then therefore, that impacts some of your different hormone structures and how things are playing out. The reason that I share that with you is because I literally had just gotten back my test results and there were 34 foods that I had antigens to. I am entering into ...
Melissa K Norris: Which I'll talk more about it as I go into it. I am so brand new and I've just started that. I don't want to go fully into that into this episode, but just giving you a little bit of preface and where I'm at right now. Interestingly enough, wheat, and bakers, and brewers yeast, and including almond, cashew, and oat along with rye, are all items that right now, I should not be consuming because they are causing inflammation markers for me specifically. I am going to be abstaining for them for three to six months, allowing my body to have a chance to heal, get all the inflammation down, and then we'll reintroduce those and see how it goes. Now, this is all with a licensed, holistic health practitioner, et cetera, and it was very fascinating and eye-opening thus far.
Melissa K Norris: I do need to be gluten-free baking and I wanted to be able to add more than my existing repertoire of gluten-free recipes, and also get a deeper understanding for formulating some of our family favorite so that I'm not doing double baking. Any of you who have ever been on any type of program where you had to cut foods out that were a normal part of it, you know that nobody wants to bake two separate meals. On the same hand, I have a health reason, which is great motivation, but unless the food tastes just as good as our current versions, like my non gluten-free versions, my family is not really going to be on board, bless their hearts, and I understand that because they don't have the motivation for health.
Melissa K Norris: Yes, of course, they want their mom's health, spouse's health, et cetera, to be good. But it's a little bit different when you have a health reason and the rest in your family don't, but I got to tell you, I don't really want to be baking two versions of biscuits if we decide to have biscuits, that type of a thing. I wanted to preface that because you'll hear in the interview with Robyn, I had shared that with her, just briefly before we started recording, that I was really excited for our chance to talk because I just received this diagnosis. We also talk about, in the interview, her health journey and how she actually discovered that she was celiac and the impact that had and what that means, which is fascinating from just a health standpoint. Without further ado, we are going to jump straight in to this episode, but we've got some really exciting things at the end.
Melissa K Norris: You're going to want to make sure that you stay tuned all the way through till the end. Robyn is a baker performer and digital content creator, based in Toronto, Canada. She was born and raised in Nova Scotia and she comes from several generations of award winning bakers. We're talking with no gluten-free baking, right? In 2016, she was devastated to receive a celiac disease diagnosis, making it impossible to enjoy all of her family's prized recipes. This had her set out on a mission to recreate all of the recipes, gluten-free, without compromising on taste or quality. If you've done gluten-free baking before you know that can be a little bit of a rough learning curve. By 2020, she had launched Robyn's Gluten-free Baking Courses, offering online courses to teach people how to bake gluten-free.
Melissa K Norris: In addition to baking, she has worked as a professional actor and musical theater performer for over six years. She puts those performance skills to good use on her YouTube channel, where she offers gluten-free living, of course, fun, informational and relatable videos about celiac disease and living gluten-free. Without further ado, let us get to the episode. Well, I am super excited for today's guest, because this is something that I have had a little bit of experience with in the past at different times in my life, but I've never done this on a dedicated level. As I was sharing with her before we started recording and shared in the intro with you guys, it is a new venture that I am going down again, at least for the next six months. I feel like the Lord always knows the timing and we had this episode scheduled long before I had actually gotten my lab work back. Robyn, welcome to the Pioneering Today podcast.
Robyn Harrison: Hi, Melissa. Thank you so much for having me.
Melissa K Norris: I'm sorry that you had to learn these skills on one hand, but I am very grateful that you have learned these skill, sets and that you can share them with the rest of us. For those who might not be familiar with you, can you give us a little bit of background on how you were diagnosed with celiac disease and then what that has looked like from the diagnosis to where you are now?
Robyn Harrison: Definitely. Yeah, I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2016, I think when I was 22. It's funny because I was always one of those people that was not into the whole gluten-free thing. I saw it as this bad and I just didn't want to be associated with anything gluten-free. I prided myself in being a gluten lover. I come from a family of bakers, specifically pastry, and I love beer and pasta and all of these things. I've always had some stomach issues, nothing like crazy, but I've had low iron since I was 14. I spent probably 10 years ... I would take supplements off and on and it didn't really do anything.
Robyn Harrison: I've been to many, many routine iron checkups and all of that and it's funny because no doctors really questioned it. They just told me to keep taking my iron pills and that was that. When I was 22, I went to a walk-in doctor, randomly, for my routine iron checkup, just to see how it was doing. The doctor said, "Have you ever been tested for celiac disease? Do you know why your iron is so low?" I said, "Sure. Yeah, let's test me." And I was positive. Yeah, I got my diagnosis. Two weeks later, I got my endoscopic, which is actually amazing to get in that quickly and it was confirmed.
Robyn Harrison: I have celiac disease. Because I'm such a big foodie that transition was pretty devastating for me to go from eating these amazing foods to struggling to find really good options. Because I'm a baker, I've tried so many different kinds of recipes, both from blogs and cookbooks and all of that, and I came to the point where I started making my own recipes. That's sort of, in a nutshell, how I came to developing my courses. I had some friends who were telling me, "You should sell your baked goods, your gluten-free baked goods. They're really good." I just figured that I can reach a much bigger audience online and share my baked goods with so many more people by sharing with the recipes online.
Melissa K Norris: Yeah. I have a lot of questions, but let's ... First off, one is, because I'm in this phase I knew things were off, which is why I sort out testing within my own body. Especially if you've gone through anything like ... We know in our ... I'd say in our gut. But I think we know intuitively when things aren't really as they should be, but oftentimes we ignore them until they get super bad or we're actually faced with them. You were actually faced with, "Hey, you actually are celiac. That means now that you know that for a fact, that you need to deal with it."
Melissa K Norris: I'm curious, because you were functioning ... Like you said, there was maybe some things, but it was not where quality of life was so bad. You were like, "My gosh, there has to be something here." It's was more of that. I think that there's a lot more of us walking around where we are functioning and we know maybe we don't feel as good as we should, but we feel like, "Well, I'm pretty normal," and don't really go further down the path with that. The reason that I'm asking all this is because when you actually cut out all of the gluten, did you really notice a difference in your body and how you felt?
Robyn Harrison: Yes. Short answer, yes. Long answer is it took time. When I got diagnosed, the funny thing is that I got the phone call that I was celiac. I was like, "Oh, my gosh, all I've eaten today is toast." That toast was the last gluten that I ever ate on purpose and that's a whole other thing. But typically when you have something like celiac disease that does destroy your gut, it takes a while for your gut to repair. You can still keep having celiac symptoms for several weeks, maybe even several months, maybe even up to a year, while your gut is healing, until you feel totally better.
Robyn Harrison: Probably for about a month after my diagnosis, I didn't really notice that much of a change and it wasn't until, probably about a year, when I felt that everything going on in my gut was a bit more normal. I think the two that's ... I think I had tried eliminating gluten earlier on for maybe a week or two at a time and I didn't see a big difference. I was like, "Well, gluten can't be the problem." But first of all, I wasn't strict about it. I was eating regular non gluten-free oats and that sort of thing and also I didn't give it long enough to heal and see if that was the case.
Robyn Harrison: Just to jump off of that too, it is also important to get tested for celiac disease, whether or not you think you have it or not, just rule it out, because there are about 80% of people who have it that are undiagnosed right now and symptoms can be very obvious or not obvious at all. My whole family actually got tested after I did and it turned out that my dad had it, but he had silent celiac. He had no symptoms, but he also has other autoimmune diseases, which could have been from undiagnosed celiac. It's hard to know. Yes.
Melissa K Norris: Yes. Okay. Yeah. I have read ... I'm going to sound very unscientific because I read it a while ago and my brain will hold on to what it feels like is very important parts and then it drops the rest. I'm sure y'all can relate. But I read somewhere that, like you were saying, that your body, especially if you do actually have antibodies or you are celiac or even gluten sensitive because of leaky gut or different inflammation issues that are going on within the body right now, that it takes at least six weeks of not having any gluten.
Melissa K Norris: Like you said, even the sneaky gluten that we don't realize that we're consuming just because of the way food is produced and that type of thing. Sometimes you don't realize any ingredients in there if it's processed. Cross contamination it might not be on the ingredient label, but all of those different things. But that it takes about six weeks for your body to not be exposed to any gluten, to actually stop producing a certain ... I'm going to call it compound because I don't remember the exact name of it.
Melissa K Norris: But that's the reason that then when someone has truly been off of gluten, that does have issues and has been off of it for six to eight weeks if they do introduce it back in, then their reaction to it, the negative reaction, is tenfold because their body had actually stopped producing this protective mechanism, because it wasn't being introduced. It wasn't getting the stuff it needed to protect you from, so it could actually go into healing mode. But because then you don't have any of those compounds in your body because it didn't ... It's like, "Oh, It hasn't been giving. I don't have to be in protective mode." Your reaction, if you accidentally come into it later is much, much more severe.
Robyn Harrison: Yes.
Melissa K Norris: Have you experienced that at all? I know you said, "Accidentally had gluten since then."
Robyn Harrison: 100%. Yeah, and I think that's why a lot of people get confused and they think like, "Oh, I can't have celiac, because I eat burgers and fries all the time and I don't get severely ill," and that was me, but yeah. It has happened three times that I've eaten a full thing by accident, a whole burger bun or a whole tea sandwich that was just the regular thing and I get very sick now. When it comes to cross contact too, I do feel that, as well, but the reaction is different. But in both cases it is definitely a stronger and more severe reaction than when I was eating it all the time.
Melissa K Norris: Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. I've heard that I haven't tested within my own body, probably long enough, because when I've done keto, I haven't had wheat products, but I haven't made sure everything is completely gluten-free because I was focusing more on the carb count. I wasn't focusing so much on specific ingredients other than avoiding all wheat type flours because they are high in carbs.
Robyn Harrison: Definitely, yeah.
Melissa K Norris: As I go down my own journey, it's going to be really interesting to see the differences in this. But I'm just like, "I'm a data geek." I really love learning about things, and so, thank you so much for sharing this with us. But the gluten-free part, so I have a lot of people who I think don't have a fundamental understanding of what the different flour types do even at talking about regular like hard wheat or what is pastry flour? What is cake flour? How the protein and how the levels of gluten affect the different desires that we have for baked goods?
Melissa K Norris: You want gluten development in normal baking, we're going to get to the gluten-free part, for doing things like bread and sourdough, [inaudible 00:17:50] and loaves of sandwich bread, versus if you're doing a cake or pie crust, then you don't want the gluten development, because it's going to make that pie crust not as tender, not as flaky. I think that we ... Because we've gotten so spoiled with all-purpose flour for most, just modern cooks, you just grab on first thought. It works for all things, right? I understand it. I've used all-purpose flours still to the ... Well, I should say to this day. Do for my family, but not for myself right now. But I think that has really limited a lot of folks' understanding of what roles things play when you are baking.
Melissa K Norris: A lot of people will ask me on recipes, "Well, can I just sub and make this gluten-free?" Even though it's not a recipe that I have formulated for gluten-free, I do have some gluten-free recipes I'll be doing more. I'm like, "Well, yes in some and no in others." Sometimes you can take a pre-formulated gluten-free blend and it will work fine. But I found, especially for bread or rolls, those types of things, I have never been able to successfully just sub in a gluten-free blend one for one, and had those types of things turn out. Can you first talk to that? Because that's something I feel like I get the most questions about that just in general, wanting to just sub in. How do I ... Can I just sub in a blend? Can you talk to that a little bit? When that works and when it doesn't?
Robyn Harrison: Absolutely. Yeah. To your point, it really does matter what type of recipe you're basing it off of compared to regular baking. I find that 1-to-1 blends, even though I don't use them anymore, I find that they work best for things like quick breads, banana bread, muffins, and maybe some cakes, where you're not really dealing with a short crust, the short protein chains, short protein. Sorry, gluten protein chains like in pastry or things like bread where you would want a longer stretchy gluten protein chain. Any of those things is where it's the easiest to use a 1-to-1 flour, although it's still does depend on what kind of 1-to-1 flour you're using, because they're all made with different types of ingredients.
Robyn Harrison: Then there are other techniques that I have found worked when you're trying to make something on either extreme ends of the spectrum, for example, when you're doing something that's like a pie crust, shortbread, where you want that really tender texture using a little bit of something like corn starch. We're talking about taste and that sort of thing rather than on the health side, I think baking gluten-free on the pure health side is a bit different than just trying to replicate to satisfy your soul when you've just been diagnosed-
Melissa K Norris: Yes.
Robyn Harrison: ... with celiac disease. You know what I mean?
Melissa K Norris: I do.
Robyn Harrison: Yeah. Using a little bit of something like corn starch can help to make that thing really tender. Then on the flip side when it comes to breads, there are two main ingredients that I find really help to give that elasticity that you miss from the gluten. One of them is tapioca starch, specifically. There are different types of starch, but using a little bit of tapioca starch, it has the elastic properties. Then the other thing is xanthan gum, which if you've done any gluten-free baking, it might sound like this weird ingredient, but it's in most gluten-free baked goods and it's in there because it acts as a gluten for replacer. For something that is like a cake, you would use less of it, but when you're making a bread, you'd want to add a little bit more because it will add a little bit more of that binding power.
Melissa K Norris: Yeah. That's really interesting because I have used xanthan. Even when I was doing keto, honestly, that would be a thickener I would use instead of corn starch, because corn starch does have carbs in it. This depends on what your goal is, right? But yeah, I've used Xanthan gum actually as a thickener when I'm making gravies or sauces when I was doing keto, but that was because of carb count not because of gluten-free. But I have found that I actually enjoy working with it and I haven't had any issues with it.
Melissa K Norris: When you're looking at doing the breads and like you said, "Where you actually have ..." You want gluten development because of the elasticity, the tapioca which I've also played with and have found that that is helpful. But I found even with using the xanthan gum that often times I feel like I need to add maybe an extra egg and maybe that's because I have my hydration levels a little bit different. When you're looking at a recipe that's not been already formulated, obviously, the best place to start is with recipes that have already been formulated for gluten-free, because then you're not having to make all these adaptations.
Melissa K Norris: But for people who have like, "Oh, these favorite recipes," or want to understand actually how the recipes are developed because of the specific ingredients, can you talk a little bit about needing extra binding when you're not using the regular flour and then with the hydration levels. Do you need to add more liquid? Do you use less liquid? Do you just go by, eventually, you'll develop. I know being able to look at the batter, just like you do with regular bread baking, looking at your dough and you're like, "This is the right consistency as far as moisture level." But did you ... Have you fell across what you feel are some general rules for starting?
Robyn Harrison: Yes. First, let's talk about binding and then we'll get into the moisture bit. Yes, the major thing that I have found that helps is eggs and I know that they can be hard for some people. There are some people who have egg allergies and who are vegan, and I feel like the recipes need to be formulated a little bit differently when you're working without eggs. But if you are someone who can have eggs, yes. Adding an extra egg even to something that you wouldn't normally put an egg in, definitely does help. Part of that has to do with the protein structure of the egg, because I'm also a bit of a nerd.
Robyn Harrison: I read this gluten-free food science book and they did test with gluten-free breads and they found that gluten-free breads made with eggs, the eggs created a very similar protein structure as what you would find in a regular loaf of gluten bread. If you are struggling with making gluten-free bread and you can't have eggs and you're not currently putting eggs in them, that is a great starting point, both for structure and everything like that. Eggs also have an anti-scaling effect, so your baked goods won't dry out. That leads me into the moisture thing, because yes, eggs can help with moisture. It can help them from drying out as quickly. Then as far as adding more liquid and that sort of thing, what I actually like to do first is I play with adding other high moisture flours in first.
Robyn Harrison: For example, if you're someone who does want to bake using a 1-to-1 flour, you don't want to get too much into the nitty-gritty of using individual flours, then what I recommend people do is try reducing the all-purpose amount by maybe a quarter cup or a half a cup and instead using something like almond flour or oat flour. Something that has a higher moisture content, higher fat content and that sort of thing, and I find that that helps to not only add more flavor, but also bring more moisture into the recipe. Then if that doesn't work and it is still dry, then that's usually when I would try adding either a bit more butter, more oil, something like sour cream, depending on what the recipe is, or yogurt.
Melissa K Norris: Okay. Actually more the fat content in a liquid form than just adding extra water or even milk from what ... That's what my takeaway, that I just got from what you said. That's correct?
Robyn Harrison: Yeah. I don't know that I necessarily add more water, maybe for bread recipes. Typically, my bread, it's more of a batter consistency than a typical bread dough so you wouldn't really be able to-
Melissa K Norris: knead it?
Robyn Harrison: ... at least feel like a loaf of bread. Yeah, you wouldn't be able to knead it. Also, side note, you do not need to knead your gluten-free breads. One of my tips is no need to knead because there's no ... The whole point of kneading is to create-
Melissa K Norris: [Crosstalk 00:26:00] development.
Robyn Harrison: ... protein structure.
Melissa K Norris: Yes. Yeah.
Robyn Harrison: But when there is none, you're actually knocking all of the gases out of the bread and you're going to make it more dense. That was a bit of a tangent, but-
Melissa K Norris: I love it. But it's so hard because when you have cooked with flour that has gluten, and especially bread baking, for so long, a lot of those things that we do, until you've went through what you are like, it's just so ingrained in us that you ... I would probably be like, "Oh, do I need to knead this or not, because it's just habit that you would do that." I love that you are sharing that tip. I have to ask, this is just for me because not only am I not supposed to have wheat right now, but oat and almond and cashew and peanut are all off the table for me. I know I'm quite restricted right now. But the reason I ask that is, are there any other high moisture ... I can do potato interestingly. Would a potato starch or a potato flour? What would you recommend as being one of those higher moisture flours? Or is there one that I could sub in?
Robyn Harrison: Yeah, let me just think. Is it all nuts?
Melissa K Norris: No, that's the interesting part. I can do like hazelnut. I can do macadamia nut. I just don't know where to find those flours. That's part of it too, because a lot of this just you go to Costco, I can find coconut and almond flour, but when I get more specialty, I'm not even sure where to look for some of the flours.
Robyn Harrison: Right. Do you have any way of grinding your own flours?
Melissa K Norris: I sure do. I have a flour ... I do. I have a mill.
Robyn Harrison: Yeah. Whether you have a mill or ... I have a Vitamix. I love my Vitamix so much.
Melissa K Norris: Okay, I have a blend set. They're super similar. Yeah, okay.
Robyn Harrison: Yeah. Yeah. There are certain gluten-free flours that you can blend yourself. Something like a rice flour, I don't recommend blending yourself because it'll be gritty. But something like oat flour, just to put it out, yeah you can do that. Almond flour, you can do that. But yeah. Any of those nut flours, you could absolutely grind yourself. Depending on the type of recipe. If you're making a muffin recipe using something like hazelnut flour would probably be really delicious. Another one that I've heard, if you have a nut allergy, I haven't played with it yet, is sunflower seed. If you grind sunflower seed into a flour, it might help to get some of the extra protein and fat and all of that in there too.
Melissa K Norris: Yes, and I can do sunflower. I can't do sesame, but I can do sunflower. I'm [crosstalk 00:28:29]
Robyn Harrison: Yeah, I recommend [crosstalk 00:28:30]
Melissa K Norris: Okay. Okay. I will definitely start to play with those. I guess those were my main questions, but I know as someone who has vast more experienced than me, you probably have things to share that I haven't even thought to ask. I'm handing you the mic. Take it away.
Robyn Harrison: Okay. I think that one of the things that I like to talk about and I feel like I could get a little bit on a rant about is that I have found the way that gluten-free baking has existed in the world to be very frustrating as someone's starting out. The whole point of me making my courses is that I wanted to really simplify the way of doing it. To get a bit more specific into that, is I feel right now there are a whole lot of different brand, specific flours, that all work in a different way. There are a lot of cookbooks that ask you to make your own blend of flours to use for those specific recipes. Within two years of being gluten-free, I just had a full cupboard stocked with numerous brands of flours, plus all the individual flours, so that I could make all these different blends.
Robyn Harrison: If I took the time to make a blend for a recipe and I didn't like the recipe, then that was a waste and I found that process to be really tiring. For my gluten-free recipes and the way that I teach how bake gluten-free, I use the individual flours and I tailor it for each recipe. The combination of flours I use for a biscuit is totally different than what I use for pizza crust and totally different for what I use for my pie crust, but they all use the same core ingredients. Now, I have like, I don't know, maybe six to [inaudible 00:30:27] Me personally, because I'm a bit of a nerd, maybe 10. I have a lot, but if you have three main flours and three main starches, you can make basically anything and you don't have to do any pre-mixing or anything like that and I find you'll get a better result. And also-
Melissa K Norris: You're just playing-
Robyn Harrison: Yeah.
Melissa K Norris: ... with the ratios of those, to the specific recipe, but those are the core base to make all the things. You don't have to stock. You say, "Up to 15 different things, including all these store out blends, you could just take these core starches and gluten-free flours and then based upon what type of the recipe is, you're just adjusting the ratio." Is that?
Robyn Harrison: Yes. Yeah. That's exact exactly it. The other nice thing about doing that is I feel like you get to know how the flours act better than using something that's pre-blended. For example, when I was trying to develop a really solid biscuit recipe, I was playing with the different kinds of starches and I found that when I was using tapioca starch, it was making them almost stretchy, which is like not what you would want from a-
Melissa K Norris: Not a biscuit. Yeah.
Robyn Harrison: ... from a biscuit. Yeah, but because I wasn't using a store bought blend that had preset ingredients, I was like, "Okay. Well, which ingredient is making this stretchy? It's the tapioca starch." I swapped the tapioca for corn starch and then it created the very tender result I was looking for. But if you just use store bought blends, you're not in control of those things. You are not learning about the ingredients in it and so you'll have to try a different brand or just try to work within that. There's more flexibility in that way of baking in my opinion.
Melissa K Norris: Yeah. What I really ... As a home setter and someone trying to take the practices that I use gluten-free from regular, that's why I have hard white wheat berries, because that's what I grind up if I'm doing fresh ground flour, that is obviously not gluten-free, for my bread baking. Because it has the longer protein and it has the gluten, but then I've got spelt and or soft wheat to grind up, and I'll usually mix if I want to make cake flour. I'll do a little bit of spelt with a little bit of corn starch, excuse me, mixed in.
Melissa K Norris: Then that gives great. Basically, it would be taking those principles and then applying them to the gluten-free baking and learning that, rather than just buying a cake mix from the store. Which is the same thing as buying the gluten-free blends, granted, I'm sure they have better ingredients than most of your cake mixes from the store depending on the brand you're buying. But it's those same principles. It's let's really understand how these react in recipes, because it does give you greater freedom.
Melissa K Norris: Usually it's cheaper. I, at least, in my experience to buy these base ingredients in bulk than it is to buy anything where they've done the work for you and pretty blended it up. It's usually more friendly on the pocketbooks. If you don't mind sharing what are ... If you're going to do the three starches and the three flours, that's the base and then we'll definitely be linking. I want to go check out your course and check all of that out for more in depth on how you adjust each certain ratio for the different things, but what are the main that you would recommend people start out with stocking?
Robyn Harrison: Yep. Typically, the main go to base for me is rice flour. I tend to have white rice and brown rice flour on hand, but the thing is that they work the same way. Even if you just have one of those, that's fine. I tend to use white rice flour more for things like cookies where I really want the taste of the butter and the chocolate to shine through. Then almond flour, which I know is one of the ones that you are going to be eliminating. Some flour that has a higher fat content. Typically, I would say replace the almond flour with oat flour, which is also one that you are currently off limits for.
Melissa K Norris: I'm a special bird right now, but yes. For those folks, that would be fine. Yeah. Okay.
Robyn Harrison: Yeah. Then starch wise, tapioca starch, potato starch and corn starch, which you probably already have on hand anyway. Really, you only need to add maybe four kind of base flours and for my essentials course, for example, which is I have bread, cookies, pie, cake, biscuits, and pizza, I just use those plus xanthan gum. You only have to have those, but you can make the whole range of different types of baked goods just with those ingredients, rather than anything to have a specific blend for your bread and your pizza and all of those.
Melissa K Norris: Okay. I love that. I do have a question for you because this is more my limitation right now with what my food choices are on the flours, but coconut flour. Talk to me about coconut flour and it's role, because I haven't heard you mentioned it. I know a lot of people when you think of gluten-free flours, like coconut flours, it's one of easy to buy at Costco. It's easy to purchase a lot of places, but do you not use it very much? Is there anything that, just as far as baking wise to be aware of with using it or? I'm curious because you didn't mention it.
Robyn Harrison: Yeah. Do you know what? I don't use coconut flour. The reason why is because it's crazy absorbent. You need to add more liquid or it could be dry and that's really the main reason I haven't really played with it is just because of that. You definitely need to use it with another kind of flour. Honestly, it's not one of the cheaper ones. At least, for me, I haven't seen it in Costco. I have seen almond flour in Costco, but I do tend to buy my flours in bulk and I haven't seen that one in bulk. Yeah. I don't have anything against coconut flour, but yeah, it's just the absorbency of it.
Melissa K Norris: Yeah. Well, and that's a really good tip to know. But I figured there had to be a reason, because ... I'm like, "She hasn't mentioned it. I want to know why." Because, I like having that info part. Why don't you want to use it? I wasn't trying to call you out like "You do not like coconut flour." Not like that. I was super curious, because it wasn't one that you mentioned. Well, I feel like as I go on this journey, I'm probably going to have a ton more questions.
Melissa K Norris: It's kind of one of those things at first, I'm like, "Okay, this was my first round. Now, I'm going to get into it and start playing with it, but I know with anything like ask after you've been at something for a while, then you tend to develop a new set of questions or a new set of trying to figure it out on another level. I'm so grateful that you came on and definitely, we will have links in the blog post that accompanies this episode so that you guys can check stuff out further. But thank you so much for everything that you shared.
Robyn Harrison: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on, Melissa. Is great chatting with you.
Melissa K Norris: I had a lot of fun, but for those who do want to check out or the best way ... I know, I think you mentioned your YouTube channel. What's the best place, and if there's any parting thing that you want people to know and where they can connect with you. The best place to connect with.
Robyn Harrison: Yeah. You can send me an email directly if you have gluten-free baking questions and you want to know if my courses are a good fit for you. It's just [email protected] My website is gluten-freebakingcourses.com. I also do have a YouTube channel if you are gluten-free and you're going through that journey and you need some fun, relatable, informational videos, you can check on my YouTube channel which is also Robyn's gluten-free living.
Melissa K Norris: Okay, great. I will be checking them out, both. Thank you so much. This was really fun, and I look forward to learning more from you. Thank you.
Robyn Harrison: Yeah. Have a great day, Melissa.
Melissa K Norris: Well, I hope that you enjoyed that episode as much as I did and we have a special treat. Robyn has a 10% off coupon code for Pioneering Today listeners only. That coupon code is pioneeringtoday. All one word, no capitalization, and that will take 10% off any of her individual courses or bundles if you want to go and check them out. I will tell you that I use the coupon code and I purchased the courses right before recording this intro and outro after I had talked to Robyn. I am really excited to dive into them myself and be adding more to my gluten-free baking knowledge. Again, to access those links and to get that coupon code, Melissaknorris.com/334, and I will share more of my journey as it evolves, because I know a lot of you when we were in the Pioneering Today Academy members meeting, there was a lot of questions and requests to share what I'm learning and how I feel and just that whole journey.
Melissa K Norris: I think I am a very curious person. I feel like the wanting to learn and to know more things, I think it's a prerequisite for wanting to be a home setter or self sufficiency. We are just lovers of knowledge and gaining that. As I gain new perspectives and new insights, et cetera, regarding that journey, I will definitely be sharing them with you here on the podcast. For now, it's blessings in Mason jars, and I will be here with you next week with a brand new episode.
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