What is gluten?
Healthline has a fantastic article tackling this question and states:
'Gluten is a family of storage proteins that are naturally found in certain cereal grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye.
Gluten offers a variety of functional culinary benefits and is responsible for the soft, chewy texture that is characteristic of many gluten-containing, grain-based foods. When heated, gluten proteins form an elastic network that can stretch and trap gas, allowing for optimal leavening or rising and maintenance of moisture in breads, pasta, and other similar products.
Because of these unique physical properties, gluten is also frequently used as an additive to improve texture and promote moisture retention in a variety of processed foods.'
Why is there a demand for gluten free baked products?
The demand for gluten free products has been rapidly growing over recent years, this is evident by the increased visibility of labelling and products available in cafes, restaurants, markets and super markets.
The global gluten-free products market size is estimated at USD 5.6 billion in 2020 and projected to grow at a CAGR of 8.1% to reach USD 8.3 billion by 2025.
In October 2020 PR Newswire published the market data quoted above and explained: 'The global gluten-free products market is driven by the increased diagnosis of celiac disease and other food allergies. Also, health benefits and adoption of special dietary lifestyles and free-from foods from a majority population across the globe is expected to further drive the growth. Relatively high cost of gluten-free products as compared to the conventional gluten-containing products along with the fact that gluten-free products lack an adequate amount of dietary fibers, resulting in constipation and other ailments of the digestive system is expected to restrict the growth of the gluten-free products market in the long run.'
What are the effects of gluten-free flour on baking?
As gluten gives bread and baked goods their elasticity and lightness it is not a surprise that removing it can make baking a little trickier.
Without gluten, cakes can be drier, crumbly and have a shorter shelf life but there are a number of ways you can use to try and counter this.
Gluten free flour is increasingly available and there is a wide range to choose from including rice, soy, chestnut, buckwheat, corn, potato and chickpea flour. When baking with gluten-free flours, unless it is a pre-blended mix, you will need to combine three or more flours to achieve structure, lightness and good flavour.
BBC Foods have published a fantastically helpful article with Tips for Gluten-Free Baking and discuss cakes, breads and Pastry, take a look here.
Where can I buy gluten-free flour?
There are many gluten-free flours to select from and Beyond Celiac has published a very clear breakd