Gluten-Free Focaccia Bread


25 Aug Gluten-Free Focaccia Bread

I love wheat. I love chewy cookies, moist cake and bread with great big air bubbles in it. And let’s not forget flaky pastry, decadent squares and booze soaked trifle. With the exception of carob loaf, I don’t think I’ve met a baked good I didn’t like. And I’m fortunate. The only side effect I get from indulging in wheat is bigger sides. A friend isn’t so lucky. He has Celiac Disease, so gluten-loaded food can be painful. While he’s happy with his main courses, he misses baking. So I thought I’d help him out.

But finding good recipes isn’t that simple. More than once I’ve politely choked down chalky gluten-free brownies and struggled to produce enough saliva to swallow dry-as-dust gluten-free breads. So, I experimented with Wendy Turnbull’s approach to gluten-free baking. Having spent 30 plus years with Celiac Disease, she’s figured out a way to deliver light, moist baking without the gluten. The key? Her special GEMS flour. You can’t buy it in stores. You make it yourself from a blend of various flours, each selected for what it brings to the dish — versatility, lightness, texture, tenderness and moisture. Yes, it takes a trip to the health food store. But I figure, if you’re on a gluten-free diet, you’re likely going there anyway for your pre-baked gluten bread fix. And this is a less expensive, more versatile option. Turnbull even provides a formula that allows you to turn your favourite wheat-based recipes into gluten-free ones.

Although I was initially intimidated, there was no need. Here’s what I found:

  • Guar gum isn’t as scary as it sounds. It’s not a sticky gum at all, but a white powder used as a binding agent.  Available at bulk and health food stores, it’s easy to find and relatively inexpensive. It will make a difference to your recipes. Don’t skip it.
  • Gluten-free batters won’t look like wheat-based ones going into the pan. Don’t panic. They will emerge from the oven looking and tasting remarkably like their wheat-based counterparts.
  • Having tried various breads and cookies, I assure you that if you don’t tell anyone the dishes are gluten-free, they won’t know. Keep your mouth shut while they open theirs.

Since Cheryl of Backseat Gourmet was the only one to answer yesterday’s question, I’m sharing the focaccia recipe at her request. How was it? While the final texture wasn’t exactly like classic focaccia, it was so fragrant that when my sister smelled it baking she wondered if it was lasagna.

Do you have gluten-free resources / websites / tips to share? If so, leave a note or link in the comment section. Shameless self-promotion is encouraged. So is paying it forward.

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  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 09:35h, 25 August Reply

    Sounds and looks good. Having just had my first gluten free baking experience with Lauren from Celiac Teen I am impressed. The chemistry behind gluten free baking is something we wheat eaters easily take for granted. And Lauren, she is 17 and figuring this all out. And doing really well at it – pyrohy, pastry and more!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:17h, 25 August Reply

      @Cheryl Arkison, thanks for sharing this link. Good on Lauren for taking charge of her health. And at such a young age! I’m so impressed.

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 10:08h, 25 August Reply

    Aw, Charmian, what a good friend you are! I’ve always been intimidated by gluten-free baking – both for the unusual ingredients and because it seems like too much work. This recipe, however, makes it sounds completely do-able. And I love the sun-dried tomato addition.

    As for gluten-free resources, I have two. The first is

    I met her briefly at BlogHer Food ’09, and even sampled one of her signature chocolate chip cookies … which was outstanding, by the way!

    The other is my friend Shirley’s site:

    We met over lunch at BlogHer Food and became fast friends. She’s lovely!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:25h, 25 August Reply

      @The Diva on a Diet, Oh good grief. The spam filter caught your comment. I’ve fixed your typo and clicked “approved”. Sheesh. You’d think the filter would know you by now.

      Sorry for the confusion. And I repeat. Somedays the Internet is out to get us.

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 10:10h, 25 August Reply

    Someday, someone will invent a way to edit comments – specifically designed for me. Until then, change that “too” to “two” in the above. Good grief!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:19h, 25 August Reply

      @The Diva on a Diet, oh, I think you edited all right :-) I see no previous comment from you, so I’m guessing you hit delete? There are days when the Internet is out to get us.

  • fooddreamer
    Posted at 10:23h, 25 August Reply

    That looks amazing for GF foccacia! I make a lot of GF foods, simply because a lot of low carb ingredients end up being GF. I couldn’t do the various flours in your recipe, because they’d spike my blood sugars, but perhaps I could find a way to modify this for diabetics and other low-carbers!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:30h, 25 August Reply

      @fooddreamer, interesting point. Gluten-free isn’t necessarily low-carb. Have you heard of The Grain-Free Gourmet by Jodi Bager and Jenny Lass? They use a lot of almond flour, which is suitable for low-carb diets.

      Here’s a link to the wheat-free pizza I made a while ago. It’s suitable for both gluten-free and low-carb diets.

  • Lisa MacColl
    Posted at 10:47h, 25 August Reply

    My father-in-law and brother-in-law are both severe celiac. I’ve been GF cooking for years.
    For example, ground up rice krispies can be substituted measure for measure with graham cracker crumbs. When you add the butter, sugar, and cocoa is you like, it makes a perfect base for cheesecake. Tapioca or arrowroot starch are measure for measure subs for corn starch.

    El Peto products in Kitchener make some of the best GF products around (their lemon tarts are decadent) and ship all over North America. They also have an outlet store if you live southwestern Ontario/Golden Triangle

    The Gluten Free Gourmet series of cookbooks by Bette Hageman are my go-to. She also has a flour blend that turns out really well.

    And for sources for food allergies, including celiac, peanut, dairy etc, check out

    My daughter has been having some issues lately, and I’m pondering if it’s food related, so I’m dusting off my cookbooks.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:06h, 25 August Reply

      @Lisa MacColl, thanks for the links, tips and product suggestions. Very useful.

      I love the idea of ground up Rice Krispies in lieu of graham crumbs. Some recipes I have are ALMOST gluten-free and this simple switch can make them TOTALLY gluten-free.

      • Marnie Jutzi
        Posted at 13:01h, 25 August Reply

        @Charmian Christie,

        Rice Krispies have always been on my list of no-no’s, because they have malt I believe, which is something celiacs aren’t supposed to eat. But you can get GF Rice Krispies imitations.

        • Charmian Christie
          Posted at 13:22h, 25 August Reply

          @Marnie Jutzi, what would I do without you? Good to know this. Thanks for taking the time to post a heads up.

  • Sophie
    Posted at 06:05h, 26 August Reply

    Your GF foccacio bread looks fantastic , amazing & mighty tasty!!

    I only eat GF since the beginning of June & I am loving it!

    MMMMMMMMM,..I will make this tomorrow!

    Kisses from Brussels!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:17h, 26 August Reply

      @Sophie, glad you like the look of the focaccia. I had no idea so many people were eating GF. Do you have any tips or links you’d like to share?

  • Kristi Rimkus
    Posted at 23:51h, 06 February Reply

    You are a good friend. I’m passing this along to my daughter-in-law who eats GF too. Wonderful recipe.

  • Gluten Free Diet Weight Loss
    Posted at 15:28h, 02 November Reply

    Excellent article. I will be dealing with a few of these issues as well.

  • Lynne
    Posted at 21:53h, 25 November Reply

    I have just stolen this off another Australian website, what it is like i dont know because I havent tried it. Interested in people with defiencies in their diet I have been playing around with gluten free lactoase free muffins with a low fructose which i will share in the next couple of days

    [Recipe removed by Charmian due to copyright infringement.]

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:02h, 26 November Reply

      Thanks for your enthusiasm, Lynne. Unfortunately, I can’t have copyrighted material posted on my website without permission from the author/publisher. Links to the recipe, on the other hand, are perfectly acceptable. You are welcome to post the link or send me it to me and I can post it for you within your comment. This way people will have access to the recipe, and the website where it is posted will get the traffic. Thanks for understanding.

      All the best with your quest for gluten-free, lactose-free and low-sugar muffins.

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