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Converting Recipes to be Gluten-Free and Allergen Free

Posted Apr 05 2012 10:36am

This topic is one that I get a fair amount of questions on so I thought I'd do a public post in an effort to help those of you who are looking to convert family recipes to be gluten-free and/or allergen free. Before you begin you should make sure you have a good dose of faith, tenacity and patience. How hard or easy it will be to convert a recipe to be gluten-free or allergen free depends on the nature of the recipe. I should say that the only recipes that I convert as a hard rule are family recipes - recipes that have been in my family for decades. I do not take recipes from other cookbooks or the internet and convert them because that is an issue of integrity for me and of copyright. I'll use an example of a recipe that I recently converted as a way to further the instructions here.

The recipe I converted a few months ago was on I have had for more than 20 years, which was a toll house caramel bar recipe. This was not the easiest to convert because to my knowledge there is no caramel sauce made that does not contain milk. Therefore my first obstacle was making a milk-free and allergen free caramel sauce. I'll spare you the gory details, but let's just say that my first attempt was a failure probably because I did not have a recipe to start with. You who are not concerned about copyright infringement could start with an internet caramel sauce and make modifications to that. But that would not work for me legally. Suffice to say that I eventually got a caramel sauce recipe made. It has not been tested by my testers yet, but it at least worked for me and for the caramel toll house bars.

I didn't think that converting the crust would be all that difficult, but it actually took three tries before we had an edible crust that mirrored the original. For this recipe converting the flours to be gluten-free and adding xanthan gum was the easiest part. The original recipe contained rolled oats in the crust and since I do not consider oats to be gluten-free (yes, that would be a whole separate post), I had to find a substitute for the rolled oats. I started with puffed millet but the crust fell apart because the puffed millet is round little balls and the flour mix did not adhere well to the round balls. Next I tried using more gluten-free flours to replace the oats. This was not the right solution either. We ate them, but I knew immediately that this was not the right solution either.

The third attempt was a charm and in place of the rolled oats I used crushed gluten-free cereal. It was a bit surprising to me that this worked, but it did! The perfection of the caramel toll house bars took a total of three attempts for the crust and three for the caramel sauce. That's actually not bad! Some recipes require little effort to convert. Some recipes require a lot of effort, so you should be prepared when you embark on this type of project! Creating recipes from scratch with no basis for the recipe is an entirely different animal! That, too, would be a topic for another post! Good luck with converting your recipes to be gluten-free and allergen free! Let me know if you have any questions! Happy Baking!


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