Baking cakes, biscuits or bread for your gluten-free friends and family can be a lovely and thoughtful gift.
But, if you’re not used to gluten-free baking (whether you’re just starting out on your gluten-free journey, or you’re baking free-from as a one-off experiment), you might be worried about getting it ‘wrong’.
Its relatively easy to make your gluten-free bakes delicious – moist and flavourful and moreish. The biggest thing you should be worrying about is the risk of accidentally making someone ill.
Just a quick FYI: My intentions with this blog are to help people who eat vegan & gluten-free. This is not diet, health or nutrition advice. Go and see a qualified medical professional for that sh*t, take care of yourself, & see my full liability policy here.
For people with coeliac disease, a severe form of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) or a severe allergy, even a microscopic piece of gluten can cause a reaction, potentially making them very ill.
This is properly called cross-contamination, but you’ll often hear people say they’ve been ‘glutened’ – a cutesy name for a really unpleasant range of reactions.
Never fear though! There are definitely some precautions you can take to reduce the risk to cross-contamination in your own kitchen.
In this post, I’m going to outline a few steps you can take that will vastly reduce the risk of cross-contaminating the goods (and accidentally glutening a celiac, or someone with a severe gluten allergy/sensitivity).
Avoiding cross-contamination: Make sure your free-from baking really is gluten-free
Thoroughly clean all surfaces
A thorough wipe of all your kitchen worktops and surfaces should be sufficient to remove any traces of gluten. Remember to wipe behind and underneath any pots or equipment that stands on your worktop, to catch any gluten-containing flour or breadcrumbs that could have fallen underneath.
Wash all your equipment and utensils
I mean it sounds obvious, right? Bowls, spoons and baking pans should all be washed thoroughly with soapy water and rinsed right before starting to bake. If you are baking gluten-free goods in a gluten-consuming household often, then investing in separate equipment for gluten-free-only use has an even lower risk of cross-contamination. This is especially true for things like the sieve you use to sift flour
Use a fresh pack of butter and other shared ingredients
One baking ingredient that is highly likely to be at risk of cross-contamination is your butter (or margarine). If household butter is used on gluten-containing toast and sandwiches, there’s a big chance that you’ll find pesky gluten crumbs in there. It is probably best to use a new pack of butter for gluten-free baking and to keep a separate gluten-containing butter and gluten-free butter if you live in a mixed household.
Store gluten-free flours separately from gluten-containing flours
We’ve all seen the white puff of flour when you put down a heavy paper bag. It is so easy for flours to spill or puff out as you move them in and out of a cupboard. By storing gluten-containing flours in a separate cupboard to gluten-free flours (or at least storing gluten-free flours on the shelf above gluten-containing flours) you can minimise the likelihood of cross-contamination in the cupboard.
Line your baking tins and trays
You’ll likely line any baking tins and trays anyway, but be especially sure to line any that are also used for gluten-containing baking. By lining trays with baking paper, you can eliminate the possibility of contaminating your gluten-free cakes and biscuits with the crumbs or residue left over from the last bake.
Don’t use wooden equipment
Wooden equipment (like spoons and chopping boards) are far more likely to absorb residual gluten. Opt instead for metal, plastic or silicon, if you use baking equipment/utensils for both gluten-containing and gluten-free food.
Double-check all your ingredients
Particularly gluten-free flours (and other floury ingredients like xanthan gum and baking powder). Though they are commonly used in gluten-free baking, not all brands of these products are 100% free from cross-contamination, (which can occur during processing). The best way to be sure that these products are gluten-free is to look out for the crossed-grain symbol, certifying that products “are gluten-free and suitable for people with coeliac disease.“.
Following these steps can reduce the risk of cross-contamination with gluten-containing foods and ingredients, but really the only way to gurrantee zero cross-contamination is by removing gluten completely from your environment. Coeliac UK sums it up succinctly: “Even tiny amounts of gluten may cause people with coeliac disease to have symptoms in the short term and gut damage in the longer term“.
If you’re baking gluten-free treats for someone else, ask them about their tolerance level, and don’t be offended if someone is scared or worried to eat gluten-free goods than have come from a gluten-containing kitchen. For some people with coeliac disease or with a severe form of non-celiac gluten sensitivity or allergy, cross-contamination could mean running the risk of serious illness.