Hey there, sweet reader. I get lots of questions and I do my best to reply to every one, but some days time is short. All of your questions are important to me, and when I see repeat questions, I know it’s time to put them here for everyone to access. I am always adding new questions and answers, and updating previous answers when I find better, more useful information for you. Keep those questions coming!
Feel free to email your questions here.
Gluten-Free Baking Questions
What makes my gluten-free cupcakes stick to the paper liners?
Anne says, “My cupcakes taste great but stick to the cupcake paper. I seem to be cupcake cursed. What am I doing wrong?”
Anne, oh, no, there are no cupcake curses. You are a great baker, I’m sure, but sometimes, we all need a tip or two to work out the kinks. As far as your cupcakes sticking to the paper liners, it could be a number of things, but most likely it is either the paper liners you’re using or over-baking your cupcakes or muffins. Read my Product Comparison on Paper Baking Cups because there really is a difference. Also, be certain you are not over-baking your cupcakes or muffins in paper liners. This can cause the liners to fuse to the baked goods and refuse to let go. You may also want to consider testing your oven temperature to be sure you aren’t baking at too high a heat. Oven thermometers are inexpensive and an invaluable investment!
What makes my cupcakes sink in the center?
Anne also writes, “I tried your vanilla GF cupcake recipe. They came out overflowing and fell in the middle. I’ve had this happen with other cupcake recipes, even non-GF recipes. They tasted great, but what am I doing wrong?”
There are so many reasons you could be having trouble with getting the perfect cupcake, and without being right there with you, it’s difficult to know exactly what is happening, but here are a few tips and suggestions that may help based on the most common causes of a sunken center in a cupcake or muffin:
- Test your oven temperature with an oven thermometer. These are invaluable assets for all bakers and are available in most variety stores and online for a low price.
- Test the amount of batter to use for each cupcake. Overfilling the pan could be the culprit if your cupcakes fall after rising. Follow directions for the recipe you’re working with in terms of filling the pan; however, if you’re still having issues after doing that, bake a test cupcake. Simply fill a single section of your cupcake pan half full, then another 2/3 full. Bake these 2 cupcakes and see what happens. Use the outcome to help you decide how full your pan should be. This helps reduce waste before filling the pan with all the batter.
- Keep the oven door closed during baking. Resist the urge to peek until the minimum baking time has elapsed, then you can test a single cupcake for doneness.
- Check your altitude. If you’re baking at high altitude, you may need some adjustments. King Arthur Flour provides a great guide to high altitude baking.
- Don’t over-mix your batter. You may “deflate” your cupcakes or muffins by doing so. Use a gentle hand and mix until dry ingredients are incorporated into the liquid ingredients unless otherwise directed in the recipe you’re following.
Again, these are only a few of the reasons cupcakes are sinking. Always follow recipes to the letter the first time you make them and refrain from making adjustments, ingredient substitutions, etc., so that you can see exactly how the recipe should turn out. After that, on subsequent bakings, you can alter a single ingredient to see how that effects your outcome. Using this precise approach to altering recipes will help you determine which ingredient causes changes in your trials.
Lower carbohydrate gluten-free flour blend?
Jay writes, “Can you suggest a gluten free flour mix that has less a smaller percentage of starch than the ones you give on your site?”
Jay, I totally understand some readers are seeking to reduce carb intake but still want to enjoy baked goods like bread to enjoy on occasion. In that case, I recommend you delve into the world of grain-free baking. Most recipes use nut meals, to which I am allergic, thus you won’t see recipes using those here on the website. I do; however, share my recommendation for using sunflower seed kernel meal (or flour), which you can make yourself. Here’s my how-to for that. Also, you may be interested in browsing the grain-free recipes here on the site, where you will find my Grain Free Bread Recipe, among others.
Is there a substitute for potato starch?
Nancy asks, “I have a cheese puff recipe that calls for potato starch flour; is there a substitute?”
Hi, Nancy. You can substitute another gluten-free starch for potato starch. I’ve created a detailed resource, Substituting Gluten-Free Flours and Starches, to help you decide which is your best substitute.
Why are my wife’s baked goods so dry and crumbly?
Chuck writes, “My lovely wife baked a rhubarb cake gluten-free. It turned out pretty good, is moist and tastes good, but once cut it falls apart into a pile of crumbs. I have to be gluten-free and she is going nuts over this. What can she do to correct this problem. Her bread is great but she has trouble with cakes and cookies even following gluten-free instructions.”
Chuck, it sounds like I have just the resource to help your wife perfect her gluten-free baked goods! Please share my post, 5 Flour-Related Mistakes that Lead to Dry Gluten-Free Baked Goods. It is sure to help!
What adjustments do I need to make when using Bob’s Red Mill Baking Mix?
Teresa asks, “If I take a recipe and replace the asked for all purpose flour with Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix, do I need to make any adjustments to the baking powder? Would it make a big difference if I make my own baking powder with your recipe for GF baking powder and use that instead?”
Teresa, to be clear, it sounds like you’re referring to BRM gluten-free Biscuit & Baking Mix (not BRM GF all-purpose flour blend). I do not recommend replacing regular all-purpose flour with a baking mix because it leavening, gum and salt. This will alter your recipe significantly. Instead, use an all-purpose type gluten-free blend like my Everyday blend (easy to make and gum-free), King Arthur’s GF Multipurpose Flour, or any other brand you like. Of course, without seeing a specific recipe, it is difficult to say how you might alter it to use the baking mix. It can be done, but with some experimenting. To answer part 2 of your question, making your own baking powder is fine for any recipe. Here’s how I do it.
Can I substitute chia seeds for flax seeds?
Susan asks, “I want to use your new rice free flour blend, but my husband has issues with flaxseed. can I use chia seed instead for the flour blend? ”
Hi, Susan. Yes, that should be fine. I often use chia and flaxseed interchangeably in recipes. Chia for flax can be used “as is”. When substituting the other direction, using flax in place of chia, always remember to grind the flaxseed first, or use flaxseed meal.
What is a good dairy-free butter substitute for baking?
Kat asks, “Do you have a really good suggestion for what to use to replace butter in baked items? ( I am allergic to gluten, casein/dairy, SOY, and shellfish, I also seem to have a slight problem with dates. ) I saw that you aren’t as happy with Earth Balance Soy free as some recipes are now failing. I looked and looked and don’t seem to find what you like to use as a sub other than coconut oil sometimes but not always.”
Kat, Earth Balance changed their recipe a few years ago, only slightly, but it made a difference in some of my cookie recipes, causing them to spread too much. Several options exist, such as a soy-free shortening (Spectrum makes an organic product that is also dairy-free), coconut spread from Earth Balance and pure coconut oil. When it comes to any of these products, I recommend buying the organic version, and with coconut oil, use unrefined. This is the coconut I use. Also, please note some companies may have cross-contamination issues to nuts if they process other oils in their facilities, so read those labels for allergy alerts (for any allergy you may have). You may also be interested in using Nutiva Organic Shortening for baking. You can read my Ingredients Inside write up about it here.
Is there a corn-free vanilla extract?
Gerrie writes, “I want to make your 3-Ingredient Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream. I have a corn allergy, and I know that vanilla extract is not corn-free. Will this recipe still taste good if I eliminate the vanilla? Or is there something else I can substitute for it?”
First off, all vanilla extract does not contain corn. While corn syrup and corn-based alcohols are ingredients in many vanilla extracts, corn-free vanilla extract is available. For example, Wellbee Foods Organic Vanilla Extract is made with alcohol derived from a gluten-free plant. Now, of course, corn is a “gluten-free plant”; however, note that Wellbee Foods are free from grains (that would include corn), gluten and refined sugars. You may also want to try Simply Organic brand or it’s parent brand, Frontier, vanilla flavoring, which contains organic glycerine (at last query, this was not corn-derived and it was GF) and organic vanilla bean extractives In water. And of course, you could always do what I do and keep a stash of homemade pure vanilla extract on hand.
As for the recipe tasting good if you eliminate the vanilla, well, I would never make anything “vanilla” without adding the vanilla. ;) And now, you don’t have to, either!
Gluten-Free Food & Beverage Questions
What beverages are gluten-free?
Wendy asks this question about beverages.
Wendy, many beverages are gluten-free. If the product you are considering has a label, of course you will want to read that, as some smoothie blend beverages and pre-made protein shakes could contain gluten ingredients. Some flavored coffees contain gluten ingredients. You can read more about that in this article and this one. In terms of alcoholic beverages, most wines and distilled spirits are gluten-free and many gluten-free and gluten-removed beers are now available in the market. You can read more about alcoholic beverages on a gluten-free diet here.
Gluten-free flour tortillas?
Marilyn wonders, “Where can I get GF flour tortillas? I live in NJ.”
Marilyn, companies like Rudi’s and Udi’s make gluten-free tortillas. I recommend checking the company website for a “product finder” where you can enter your location and see what is available near you. I have found B Free Foods wraps are very good and fit many special dietary needs in addition to being gluten-free.
Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity & Other “Condition” Questions
Is it gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity, or are they the same thing?
Ingvild says, “Hi! First of all, let me thank you for this amazing website. For more or less the first time, I feel like I’m not missing out on anything (well, except good beer) since I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.
But that kind of leads me to my question. My diagnosis is Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance. Every doctor I’ve met, every person with the same diagnosis as me, and every “normal” person, has agreed with me in this: It’s an intolerance; the diagnosis says “intolerance”. And yet it seems everyone with Celiac disease insists on referring to it as “gluten sensitivity”. I’m kind of wondering why, because to be honest, it’s really starting to annoy me. “Oh, you don’t have an intolerance, you’re just sensitive!”
This seemed a good a place as any to try asking. I guess it’s a good idea to do some research before I make it my life’s mission to make people with CD realize I’m gluten intolerant, not “gluten sensitive”.
Ingvild, I think these days folks are becoming more and more confused by conflicting information, media hype and a variety of terms used to describe one’s “gluten condition”. As you know, there is the autoimmune disease, celiac disease, then there is the condition that is not celiac disease where an individual cannot tolerate gluten protein. That is called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. That is currently the preferred terminology in the medical and research communities. We shorten this to “gluten sensitivity”. This is the same as what you’re calling gluten intolerance, it is just another way of speaking about the same condition. You can read more about celiac disease versus gluten sensitivity, as well as the recent research on whether or not gluten sensitivity is “real” for more clarification.
Health, Wellness, Nutrition & Fitness Questions
Does dairy have an effect on iron deficiency anemia?
On the Facebook page, Jill asked, “Didn’t you share something about dairy and iron deficiency anemia recently? I can’t relocate it, but there’s someone important to me who I’d like to share that info with.”
Hi, Jill. I have shared on this topic in the past and will continue to update that information as new research becomes available. You may want to check my Iron Deficiency Anemia page, and I think the article “What You Need to Know about Dairy Products and Iron Absorption” is the one you’re looking for. You may also have interest in the article, “Why You Should Go Dairy-Free“. Thanks so much for sharing my work with others!
Is chocolate milk a good choice as a recovery beverages after running or training?
Jayne writes, “I have read that drinking chocolate milk after running or training is a great recovery beverage. Since I am dairy free (like you) I am curious if chocolate almond or hazelnut milk work as well. Do you know why chocolate milk works so well and how much to drink? Looking for the scientific answer rather than just taking someone’s word that it’s the thing to do.”
Jayne, chocolate milk is touted as a good choice for recovering post-workout due to several factors, such as the protein in milk (great for muscle rebuilding) and the high carbohydrate count (chocolate milk contains more carbs than regular milk). Proponents of chocolate milk after a workout also mention the calcium content as well as sodium (helps your body retain water and replenish after a workout) and the general hydration factor. Of course, keep in mind, the advice you’re hearing is for an endurance-type athlete (runner, swimmer, cyclist, tri-athlete, etc.) who is workout out to exhaustion and not meant for those who engage in moderate workouts. So, if you’re hitting it hard at the gym, in the water, outdoors by foot or bike, or are doing some of all of the above, you may want to consider the research. In the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, research from Indiana University indicates chocolate milk has the hydrating power of water, plus the other nutritional benefits mentioned above. While this research did yield positive results, keep in mind, it was a small study of only 9 cyclists. If you decide to try your dairy-free alternatives post workout, I recommend doing a nutrient comparison on your almond or hazelnut milks versus dairy milk to be sure you’re getting the same amount of protein and carbohydrates.
How can I give up sugar?
Melissa writes, “I was wondering about giving sugar up and trying to figure out how to do that. Dr. Hyman has a book about it. I love chocolate, ice cream and the list goes on. Can you tell me if you have, if so how, and what foods to avoid.”
Melissa, if you follow me on Facebook you probably saw my posts about Dr. Hyman’s 10-Day Detox Diet from the Blood Sugar Solution Book. I was invited to try it so that I can review and write about it. I think it’s a wonderful book and program, and if you’re considering giving up sugar, you may find it a useful investment. To give up sugar, it is something that is best done in one fell swoop, no weaning off, etc. Just stop eating foods that are high in sugar (even natural sugar). Dr. Hyman does a lovely job in his Detox book explaining the “why” as well as the “how”. To answer your question about myself, I do not have a sweet tooth. I never did, even as a child, so for me, on the rare occasion I do want something sweet, whether it is a natural treat like a date or a banana, or if it is a cookie or piece of birthday cake, I eat it and move on. This is what works for ME, and I do not think it is necessarily what everyone should do; however, I do feel greatly reducing sugar, based on scientific research, is something everyone should consider. I try to offer a good balance of sweet treats and healthier options here on the site for those who are more conscious of reducing sugar intake.