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  • Writer's pictureThe Bendy Baker

Chill, Everyone!

Let's be honest! Gluten and dairy-free baked goods often don't "bring it" when it comes to texture. I think this is one of the biggest challenges when working with gluten-free flours. While tree nut and legume-based flours have reputations for delivering texture advantages, many of us have to avoid them and require other viable options. That's where alternative flours without gluten step in. But often their end-result baked goods lack structure, elasticity, and are typically crumbly or too gummy.

Non-legume or tree nut gluten-free flours used in baking include, but are not limited to:

Teff, brown and white rice, buckwheat, sorghum, arrowroot, oat, corn, coconut, cassava.

Texture and Handling Challenges:

In baking with traditional ingredients, "developing gluten" means the baker works the dough and allows it to rest in order to strengthen the gluten bonds. This makes the dough silkier, stretchier, and more resilient.

The absence of gluten in gluten-free dough means it has very little of those beneficial properties. That means a higher risk of both over-working the doughs and over-heating the fats through friction and body heat, resulting in uncooperative doughs.

Gluten-free doughs can go from "this feels good" to "what happened to my beautiful dough" very quickly. They become flabby, sticky, brittle or susceptible to tears. This is especially concerning when it needs to be shaped, molded or formed.

Embracing the Chill:

When comparing and contrasting, in traditional baking chilling the dough delivers several benefits and can often be overlooked as an essential part of the process; it supports good moisture distribution throughout flour and it brings the temperature of the fat down so that when it hits the heat of the oven it releases steam, resulting in a better "puff".

This is doubly true for gluten-free doughs because of their higher moisture absorption properties and lack of gluten.

Maximizing Gluten-Free Dough Performance:

This is where strategic chilling comes to the rescue as a powerful tool in managing gluten-free doughs for better performance and cooperation.

Chilling the dough at various points throughout the preparation process, meaning before it hits the oven, brings uncooperative doughs in line and makes them noticeably easier to shape and handle. The window of ideal handling varies by many factors. You simply to pay attention to the dough.

As if chilling needs any more selling points - it encourages flavor development.

When To Chill:

  • In order to get my pie crust at the right thickness and width I have been know to roll it to within an inch of its life to get the proper dimensions

  • Getting distracted with a complicated pie filling sometimes means the pie dough shaped in the dish starts to sag a bit - 5 minutes in the freezer brings its structure and strength back

  • When the recipe calls for a special shaping technique but the dough isn't quite ready to roll, or fold, or be formed

Practical Tips for Success:

  • It's debatable, but I think the range is roughly 10 - 30 minutes

  • Use the fridge and freezer wisely, with "flash chill" functions in the freezer

  • There is such a thing as too much chill - if your dough is too cold when you bring it out of the fridge or freezer, give it 5-15 mins to warm just enough to be cooperative - you can tell when it's ready to be worked again

  • Use parchment paper liberally, it helps manage lifts and shifts and prevents sticking

  • Prepare space in your fridge or freezer for the container or pans holding your dough

  • Pay attention to moisture on your hands - too much can increase the stickiness or even cause your hand to freeze on really cold dough

My Closing Argument:

Incorporating these practices into your gluten-free baking routine can elevate your baked goods to new heights, offering textures and flavors that satisfy even non-gluten-sensitive eaters. Remember, the key to successful gluten-free baking lies not just in following a recipe, but in understanding the 'hows and whys' behind each step.

Give chilling a try, and Happy Bendy Baking!


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Apr 03
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Love the research you put into your work! I'm wondering if chilling would offer the same benefits with traditional (wheat) flour.

The Bendy Baker
The Bendy Baker
Apr 03
Replying to

I do enjoy researching and making sure I understand the topic as best I can. Yes, chilling benefits traditional doughs as well.

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