Below are common actions that affect the success of your baking. Please read through this list and if you made any of the missteps listed, try the recipe again before contacting me with questions. I will update this section periodically.
Did you leave out the xanthan gum?
I get a fair amount of questions about recipes that folks try that end up crumbly or otherwise structurally deficient. After questioning, it turns out that they left out the xanthan gum. Please note: gluten-free baked items need some sort of “gluten-replacer” in order to behave well. I like to use xanthan gum. (for more on this, see my Gluten-Replacers post.) If you don’t like or don’t want to use xanthan gum, you need to find another gluten-replacer that works for you.
Did you follow the exact recipe and the exact ingredients?
If you do not follow the recipe exactly, and you use different-than-called-for ingredients, then I can’t guarantee that the recipes will work for you. I can’t tell you how many times I have spent a lot of time troubleshooting problems with someone only to find out eventually that they used pancake mix instead of a flour mix or they used an egg substitute in a recipe that calls for eggs, or they used an alternative sweetener in the recipes, or they didn’t use xanthan gum, etc.
Did you substitute other flours for the flours in my mix?
If so, these flours may behave differently in my recipes. Also, if you just substituted another flour for one of the flours in my mix (say, sorghum flour for brown rice flour) please note that you need to substitute the equivalent cup measure–not the equivalent weight. Each flour has its own density. So, if you are substituting for a cup of brown rice flour and you want to measure by weight, you need to find out the weight of a cup of the alternate flour and then use that. PLEASE DO NOT EMAIL ME OR COMMENT ABOUT PROBLEMS WITH ONE OF MY RECIPES UNTIL YOU USE MY MIX IN IT.
Did you beat the butter and sugar or the eggs and sugar at all/very well?
Not following the directions is a huge reason many recipes fail. And not adequately beating the ingredients as called for in the recipe is a big no-no–it can affect the rise of your baking. The leavening agents (baking powder, baking soda, yeast, steam) only work on pre-made air pockets, they don’t create air-pockets on their own. And I have found that gluten-free baking benefits so much from beating the fat and sugar or fat and eggs very well before adding the other ingredients. This will create a flatter than expected result.
Have you checked the actual temperature in your oven (vs. what your oven dial says)? Do you have an oven thermometer in your oven?
If not, get yourself an oven thermometer (they are pretty cheap and I got mine at the local drugstore) and determine how your oven is heating. See my oven thermometer post to learn more. This will affect almost any aspect of your baking. Also, most ovens–even new and super-expensive ones–don’t heat to the temperature we think they heat to. PLEASE DO NOT EMAIL ME WITH QUESTIONS UNTIL YOU’VE CHECKED THIS.
Did you use the exact size pan called for? Did you use a pan made out of metal or glass?
Using the proper-sized baking pan is very important. If you use a Bundt pan when a loaf pan is called for, or an 8″x8″ pan when a 9″x9″ pan is called for, then you will probably get different results than you would using the correct pan. Among other things, the baking time will be different. Also, if you use a baking pan that is made out of a non-standard material (like plastic or paper), you will get different results. Often this is a gummy or uncooked center or, alternately, burning.
Stoneware often works well, but there are brands that seem to work better than others. If you are using stoneware and your baking is not turning out right, I would suggest that you switch to metal and try again. I can’t really help you out on this one: I don’t use stoneware for my baking except for ceramic pie pans for pies.
Is your yeast/baking powder/xanthan gum expired?
If you use expired yeast, baking powder, or xanthan gum, you are using a product that may no longer be good to bake with. It won’t perform its designated function. For example, yeast is a living organism. If you use an expired yeast, there is a good chance that all or many of the yeasties have died, meaning that they will not eat the flour and then expel gas to help your bread or cake rise. This will cause your item not to rise and it will be flat.
Did you double (or triple or halve or whatever) the recipe?
Unless you are an experienced baker and know what to look for in a doubled recipe, please don’t multiply or halve recipes. It’s best to make the recipe once and then again for the second batch. This ensures a good result. If you did multiply the recipe, please make it again as the single, exact recipe before contacting me.
Did your yeasted baked thing rise high and then deflate?
This often happens when yeasted items are allowed to rise too high before baking–the structure of the baked thing doesn’t have the power to uphold the height. If this has happened to you with a yeasted item, I would recommend trying again, and let the item rise less high (or even not at all if you are baking at high altitude) before baking.
Did your yeasted thing crack at the top?
This is normal for bread. Loaf breads (like my Soft Sandwich Bread) or my Multigrain Bread usually don’t do this, but they may. Usually I tell you to slash the tops of breads that crack for me. The crack means that the yeast pushed the outer layer so much that it needed to crack in order to allow for the rising. This is why many bread (usually artisan breads and baguettes) have slashes at the top. If your load bread is regularly cracking at the top, I would recommend slashing it with a sharp knife a couple of times before placing it in the oven.
Are you surprised at the amount of or presence of certain ingredients in a recipe?
Please trust that I know what I am doing. For example: the yeast in breads. I have found that I need more yeast than normal (at sea level) to get my bread to rise. So 2 tablespoons is not unusual. Remember: gluten-free baking is a bit different from wheat baking. Please check the comments to see if the recipe is working for other people before you start doubting it. And please actually bake the thing it to see how it works before you comment or email me with your doubts that it won’t work.
Are you expecting something to behave like your old wheat recipes and it doesn’t?
Keep in mind, this is gluten-free baking. It is somewhat different from wheat baking. Therefore, you need to be open to some differences. For example: bread dough. Bread dough in my recipes (maybe versus some other site’s recipes) is more like a thick batter than a dough. It is not kneadable. That said, there is no need to knead (heh) gf bread because there is no gluten to develop. So, please trust the recipes and see how they work before you comment about or email me doubts about them.
Are you baking at high altitude?
I bake at sea level, so the recipes are tailored to sea level conditions. If you are baking at high altitude (i.e., higher than sea level) then your baked items may react differently. The higher the altitude, the less pressure there is on the baked items. This means that your baked items will probably rise higher and faster than the recipes indicate, you may have to reduce the amount of leaveners (especially baking powder), and you may need to reduce baking time and/or reduce the baking temperature. You may also find that your baked items rise high and then deflate after you take them out of the oven. If this is happening to you, you will need to adjust the leaveners, carefully monitor the rising time on your baked items, and experiment with less baking time or a lower baking temperature.