Lately I have been reading a lot about flaxseed meal and chia seeds in gluten free baking. Mostly because I have been using flaxseed meal as a replacement for eggs in my baked goodies in an attempt to incorporate a heart healthy diet for me, with a completely gluten free diet for Shawn, my adorable gluten free spouse.
I must say that I was completely skeptical at first. I mean ground seeds replacing eggs? Who wouldn't approach with a bit of skepticism?
Flaxseed meal has become my best friend. I just adore the results I get when replacing eggs in my brownies, cakes, and breads with flaxseed meal. The results are fabulous! The health benefits are even more fabulous!
Flaxseed meal and water
Flaxseed meal is power packed with fiber, lignans (a powerful antioxidant), and alpha-linolenic acids (plant versions of Omega-3 fatty acids). Just 2 tablespoons of Flaxseed meal contain 4 grams of fiber (as much as 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal), more lignans than 30 cups of fresh broccoli, and 2400 milligrams of Omega-3. Wow! That is definitely what I would call power packed with nutrition.
Recently, I got letters from more than one reader asking about using flaxseed meal as a replacement for guar gum or xanthan gum in gluten free baking. They sent me links to one of Shauna's new blog posts "Chia seeds and Flax seeds" over at The Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef. She seems to have shown some great promise in eliminating the Gums. It is worth a trip over to her blog for a read. (and a few follow up visits to get some of the newer gum free recipes). I had just read that post, that morning when I had seen it on Bob's Red Mill facebook.
One reader of mine in particular sent me a photograph of her in progress attempt at making my cinnamon roll recipe using Shauna's suggestions and flaxseed meal. This reader had tried to replace the 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of Xanthan gum in that recipe with a slurry made of 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of flaxseed meal and 5 teaspoons of boiling water. The dough came out extremely wet and unmanageable. 5 teaspoons of water may not seem like much, but I recommended that She offset that amount of liquid from the recipe.
But then I thought, Is that enough to simply offset the liquid?
I wanted to test for myself what removing the gums do to an existing recipe. I was getting ready to make my Gluten Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free brownies anyway, so I chose to leave out the 1 teaspoon of Guar gum and since the recipe already had 3 tablespoons of flaxseed meal as an egg replacement, I did not add anymore to replace the absent Guar gum.
To begin with the batter was a lot runnier than it was with the Guar gum in it, and I mean a lot runnier. They baked more like a cake and sank in the center towards the end as if they lost air in the last few minutes of baking.
With the Guar gum in the recipe, the batter is stiff, almost too stiff and it bakes at a uniform height without sinking in the middle, consistently.
Without the Guar, the brownies cracked and one broke when transferring them to the drying racks.
With the Guar, this never happens. They remain flexible, and I kind of like that.
I do agree that when I use flaxseed meal as an egg replacement in my gluten free breads I get a more
bread-like texture than without it.
I don't think it can be readily substituted into other recipes in place of the gums without taking into account the "gumminess" and thickening quality of the gums and altering the recipes liquid to flour ratio to make up for the lack of that "gumminess" and the addition of the liquid in the flaxseed meal slurry. Do not underestimate how much thickening and cohesiveness a teaspoon of guar gum can bring to a batter or dough.
I wholeheartedly agree that eliminating the gums in favor of a flaxseed slurry is a good idea. I will attempt to create a few working recipes that use this concept and post them here for you. If I have great success with this, I will post some conversions of my older recipes also.
I guess so far in my gluten free baking experiments, I have concluded that, when used together, both flaxseed meal and Guar gum give me the best results. Xanthan gum has fallen out of favor with me. All have their uses and their distinguishable textures.
I will experiment more, and as always post my best and proven results here for you all to share.
Keep the questions and suggestions coming. I really enjoy them.