The gluten in wheat is elastic and expands when baked, allowing the baked goods to maintain their shape without collapsing or crumbling. But since the flours we use in gluten-free baking don’t contain gluten, something has to be added to create these same elastic qualities and help baked goods hold their shape. If you don’t add a binder to most of your gluten-free baked goods, they will more than likely end up as a pile of crumbs!
There are quite a few choices out there including konjac glucomannan powder, psyllium husk powder (not husks), Xantham Gum and Guar Gum (. I like to use a combination of them all depending on what I am baking. Many people have different reasons for their preferences. Reasons like, intolerance, taste, texture, function and so on. There are also others such as chia seeds, flax and agar agar, but I’m not going to talk about those today.
General Tips for Gluten-Free Cooking
- Bread and pizza dough recipes: Add 1 tsp. xanthan gum or guar gum powder per cup of gluten-free flour used in bread and pizza dough recipes.
- Cake, muffin and quick bread recipes: Add 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum or guar gum per one cup of gluten-free flour used
- Biscuit and bar recipes: Add 1/2 tsp. (or less) xanthan gum or guar gum per one cup gluten-free flour used.
- For konjac glucomannan or psyllium husk powder, 1/2 tsp – 3/4 tsp per cup of flour usually works as a substitute. Sometimes you may need 1/4tsp. extra konjac or psyllium husk powder than xanthan (if a recipe calls for xantham).
- Bread Recipes: Use 1 tsp. of konjac or psyllium husk powder per cup of flour with not more than 1 Tbsp. in any one recipe. Same was true with the the psyllium husk powder.
- For best results, simply follow the recipes recommendations or experiment!
- Apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are often used in gluten-free baking recipes alongside baking soda. I prefer ACV, but white vinegar is fine.
- As the 2 react with each other, they start the chemical reaction needed to produce carbon dioxide (bubbles!) and give the batter a lift as they bake.
What is the difference between Guar Gum and Xantham Gum?
Both ingredients are frequently called for in gluten free recipes and they both serve the same general purpose – they help keep your mixes mixed. They keep oil droplets from sticking together and separating, and solid particles from settling to the bottom. You can use just one or the other; or sometimes for the best results, you can use them in combination together.
Konjac powder and pysillum husk powder are also great substitutes if you prefer something that is highly unlikely to cause any of the side effects that the gums can sometimes cause.
Guar gum has a distinct earthy smell. It is a beigy colour and has a thicker powdery texture than xanthan gum. Guar gum is made from guar beans, which are seeds of the guar plant, mainly gown in Indai, Pakista, USA, Australia and Africa.The seeds are dehusked, milled and screened to obtain the ground endosperm (native guar gum). (1)
- Guar gum provides binding, elasticity, and structure for baked goods that do not contain gluten.
- Guar gum is less expensive than Xanthan gum.
- Because guar gum is a type of soluble fiber, it offers the benefits and side effects associated with fiber. Some people don’t tolerate guar gum well so proceed with caution until you know how it affects you. Consuming too much fiber causes gastrointestinal problems, especially if you’re not used to eating fiber. You may experience abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea, reports Drugs.com. (2) Healthy bacteria living in the large intestine ferment guar gum, which produces excess gas. Problems with too much gas should go away as you continue to use guar gum.
- It can be substituted (in most cases) one-for-one for Xanthan gum with reliable results.
- On the positive side, it helps lower (bad) cholesterol and prevents spikes in blood sugar after you eat. It has been used as a treatment for constipation, IBS, diarrhoea, and obesity.
- According to Bob’s Red Mill, “Guar Gum has eight times the thickening power as cornstarch.” So measure carefully when using it in gluten-free recipes or you may end up with heavy, stringy baked goods. Sometimes guar gum can make the end product seem more crumbly.
“Xanthan gum is a largely indigestible polysaccharide that is produced by bacteria called Xanthomonas Camestris. (3) Xantham gum is made by fermenting corn sugar (and sometimes wheat, or soy) with the bacteria, Xanthomonas campestris. This is the same bacteria that creates black spots on broccoli, cauliflower and other leafy vegetables. this becomes a slimy paste that is then dried up and ground into a fine white powder. The fact that the process is quite elaborate is probably why xantham gum is more expensive.
- In gluten-free baking, it is helpful in binding and thickening, which makes for a more gluten-like baked good
- People with allergies or sensitivity to corn, soy, dairy, or wheat may be advised by their doctor to avoid xanthan gum. It can cause adverse reactions in some people such as bloating, gas, nausea, migraines, throat irritation, skin itchiness, blocked noses etc.
- There are no studies suggesting that ingesting xantham gum will cause any harm to adults, however one study suggests that it can be dangerous for babies under 12 months old. (4)
- Many companies choose NOT to disclose which sugar-containing medium is used in the fermentation process. Quite often, that ‘medium’ is a potentially allergenic substance such as corn, soy, dairy, or wheat. I use Bob’s Red Mill as they are one of the only companies to disclose the ingredient they ferment – it looks like it used to be soy or corn, but now they use glucose derived from wheat starch. (5)
- There are no known health benefits from consuming xantham gum that I have uncovered.
- Xanthan is man-made so the taste has been controlled as it was produced
- If you use too much xanthan gum in a recipe you may notice a heavy, gummy or even slimy texture in your baked goods, so measure carefully when using xanthan gum. It can make the end product seem a bit wet, even when cooked properly.
Here is a post from Bob’s Red Mill that is worth a read: https://www.bobsredmill.com/blog/recipes/guar-gum-vs-xanthan-gum/
Psyllium Husk Fiber/Powder
Psyllium Fiber Powder is made from the outer husks of the seed of the psyllium plant that have been ground to a super-fine texture.
- It can be used in baked goods as a substitute for xanthan gum, guar gum or eggs.
- It is a great source of dietary fiber, and provides a remarkable amount of soluble fiber.
- Because of this fiber, they are highly hygroscopic, meaning they love to absorb moisture.In gluten-free baking this is important, as it allows for the binding of moisture, which creates a less crumbly end product.
- It is less likely to cause unwanted symptoms like gas and bloating.
- Has been shown to lower cholesterol levels
- It can help control the blood sugar response after a mea
- As it swells when exposed to fluids, it can change the texture of cooked foods.
- Some people may be sensitive to psyllium, so introduce it slowly and see how you go.
Konjac Glucommanan Powder/Flour (konjac root fibre)
Konjac glucommanan powder is derived from the root of a starchy tuber plant, known as the amorphophallus konjac plant, which belongs to the Araceae genus family grown in China and Japan, where it has been harvested and consumed for centuries. It is sometimes called glucommanan, which is actually the polysaccharide extracted from the konjac plant’s corm or tuber
While its main use in the kitchen for baking is as a thickening agent, konjac flour can also be mixed directly with flour when baking for an improved product. The inclusion of konjac helps to create soft, light and tender baked products and is commonly used in commercial bakeries for this exact reason.
- Measure carefully as too much can cause excess hardening or thickening of the end product.
- Konjac is gluten-free, and because it is mostly fibre contains hardly any carbohydrates (or calories)
- Konjac powder lowers the glycemic index of the foods you eat.
- Konjac fibre promotes feelings of fullness, making it effective at controlling appetite and helping with weight-loss.
- Konjac powder is one of the most powerful thickeners (it absorbs about 10x its weight in water!) It can be used as a thickener for smooth gravies, sauces, glazes, soups, stews and casseroles. It is also a thickener in pies, puddings, custards and cake fillings.