Secret to ?Light? Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Baking

November 4th, 2009 by Jean Duane

Good baked items usually contain oil, sugar and some kind of protein to hold it all together ? usually eggs. Oil is a key ingredient, but it takes a little knowledge about technique to get the best result. In traditional baking, one creams the butter and sugar together. In GFCF, dairy-free baking, we use oils instead. Just dumping the oil in with all of the rest of the ingredients isn?t enough. The oil needs to be emulsified. Emulsifying oil is the chemical change that results when you beat an acid with oil. In this case, the acid is sugar. Combining the egg or egg white, oil and sugar and beating for about 5 minutes will yield a beautiful emulsification.

Emulsified Oil, Sugar and Egg

Emulsified Oil, Sugar and Egg

Here is a photo of oil emulsified with egg and sugar. See how it transformed? This happens to be coconut oil which is highly saturated and emulsifies into a wonderful base for baking. If you are like me and avoid any saturated fats, rest assured, this same chemical change will happen when you beat the oil you choose with sugar and egg or egg whites. It even works using my favorite egg substitutes ? soy protein isolate, or oil mixed with lecithin. (Both are discussed at length in Bake Deliciously! Gluten and Dairy Free Cookbook.)
Why does this happen? Like everything in baking, it is chemistry. The molecular structure changes as the ingredients are beaten. The egg plays a part too. The lecithin in the egg acts as stabilizer. A sign that emulsification has happened is when the mixture turns white, sticks to and climbs the side of the bowl. It takes a lot of beating, depending on the oil you use, but if you have an electric mixer, the task is a breeze. Just turn it on low, let everything mix together, and then turn it up to medium/high and watch it happen.
Baking can be so fun, and educational!
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