Celiac disease affects about 1% of Americans. That’s about 3 million consumers who must eliminate all gluten from their diet. But many more have stopped consuming gluten or reduced their intake because it makes them feel better.

Going gluten-free requires the elimination of all forms of wheat, the predominant grain in most baked foods, as well as other popular grains, including barley and rye. Common gluten-free flours include rice and tapioca, both of which have a neutral flavor and color.

Corn flours are also inherently gluten-free. Corn has a short texture, which produces a crumbly finished product and makes it suitable for only certain applications.

“Corn’s naturally sweet taste offers formulators an easy-to-work-with foundation for their gluten-free sweet treats,” says Keith Smith, regional technical service lead, Cargill. “As an added benefit, corn flour has a lower cost-in-use than other alternatives commonly used in gluten-free products.”

Oats are naturally gluten-free, yet traditional production practices risk cross-contamination. This has hindered their use in gluten-free products, much to the dismay of bakers, as oats carry heart-healthy benefits.

“Oats are often grown in regions where gluten-containing grains are grown,” says Colleen Zammer, senior director of research and development, Bay State Milling Co. “They are also often transported in vessels shared with these grains, causing inadvertent gluten contamination. Improvements have been made to separate oats from these gluten-containing grains using tools such as optical sorting; however, this is often not precise enough to remove all traces of gluten to achieve a gluten level that is safe and satisfactory to celiac disease sufferers.”

Several oat suppliers, including Bay State Milling, have adopted the rigorous supply chain practice of Purity Protocol for oats. This practice separates oats from gluten-containing grains from field to factory and requires substantial testing along the way.

“Our oats are a unique variety of hull-less oats that deliver approximately 30% more protein than traditional oats and, therefore, can be used to boost the protein quantity and quality of oat-based foods,” Zammer says. “Because they are hull-less, they require less processing and produce less waste than traditional oats, resulting in a more sustainable supply chain with a measurably lower carbon footprint.”

Bakers will use ancient grain flours, such as those from amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff, when they want to add more whole grains for nutrition enhancement. These flours, however, tend to have strong tastes so they are not compatible with some applications. Teff, for example, tends to have a caramelized sugar profile, while amaranth is peppery.

Tubers and pulses like dry beans, dry peas and lentils also are inherently gluten-free. They are milled into flours and used just like white flour.

All tree nuts are gluten free. Almond flour, in particular, is quite useful in gluten-free formulations because of its neutral flavor and pale color.

“Almond flour is an ideal replacement for traditional flour in many gluten-free recipes,” says Jeff Smith, director of marketing, Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients Division. “Though baking with almond flour is easy, substituting traditional flour with almond flour cannot be done cup for cup. Every recipe will be different, but the best way to start is by adding the same amount of almond flour called for in the recipe, then slowly adding more until your batter reaches the desired thickness. Generally, batters and doughs should be on the thick side for the best baking results.”

When working with nut and seed flours, adjustments may be necessary in other added ingredients because of composition. Bake times also may need to be adjusted. Products made with a substantial amount of almond flour, for example, may require more time in the oven because of the almond’s inherent moisture content.

“Fats and oils should also be reduced by approximately 25% when baking with almond flour, as the flour itself has a higher fat content compared to traditional flour,” Smith says. “Sugar may also be reduced by about 25% in baked goods because almonds have a sweet flavor on their own.”

Almond protein powder is a new ingredient from Blue Diamond that allows for a boost in plant-based protein content. In baked foods it may be included as part of an almond flour or gluten-free blend.

This article is an excerpt from the November 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on gluten-free ingredients, click here.