If baking is an art, then gluten-free baking is like Lego art: it isn’t mainstream, not many people try it, but it can be amazing in its own right if done well. Because it isn’t the most common kind of baking, there are lots of common issues that crop up when people try gluten-free baking for the first time.

Have you ever followed a recipe so carefully your eyes hurt from squinting at the tiny print? From crumbly cookies to gummy cakes, gluten-free baking can seem impossible. Don’t get discouraged, though. There are lots of easy tricks you can try to avoid common baking errors. This kind of experimentation is fun for everyone because you’ll end up with a delicious final product and ideas for improvements.

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1. Baked Goods Crumble and Fall ApartVegan gluten-free Sweet Potato and Sage Corn Muffins topped with sage

Gluten Free Sweet Potato and Sage Muffins/One Green Planet

This is one of the most common beginner mistakes in gluten-free baking. Luckily, the solution is pretty simple. If your muffins or breads keep turning out too crumbly, you’re most likely missing a thickener. Try xantham gum, agar agar, or even chia seeds to add some extra oomph to your baked goods. Be sure to check out this roundup of 7 Awesome Vegan Ingredients to Thicken Your Recipes and give this One-Bowl Almond Butter Banana Bread a whirl.

2. Cookies Spread too MuchVegan Gluten-Free Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies with dairy-free milk

Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies/One Green Planet

Every gluten-free baker has been there: you open the oven and discover that your perfect little drop cookies have become one single monster on the sheet. This isn’t the end of the world since you can easily cut the cookie-cake into pieces, but it is inconvenient. The problem here is that your dough is lacking a binder. The good news is that a lot of thickeners act as binding agents, so a chia egg, flax seeds, or xantham gum can work well here. Try adding some of these agents to Copycat Girl Scout Samoa Cookies, and get a glass of non-dairy milk ready for dunking!

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3. Cakes and Breads Turn Out GummyVegan Gluten-Free Classic Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting and strawberry

Classic Red Velvet Cake/One Green Planet

This can be a complicated issue to deal with because gluten-free baked goods can turn out gummy for many reasons. Sometimes, this is an issue with the starches in the batter. Try a different flour or a combination of flours and see if that makes a difference. Alternatively, this issue can be caused not mixing the batter enough. Unlike gluten-full batters, gluten-free batters really benefit from the extra mixing time.

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4. Yeast Breads Sink After BakingPull-Apart Cinnamon Bread

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Sugar Bread/One Green Planet

If you’ve ever taken a perfect loaf of gluten-free bread out of the oven only to return to it and find the center has caved in, this one’s for you. This can be one of the most deflating feelings – pun intended – because all of your hard work doesn’t seem to pay off.

There’s an easy solution to this problem, though. Keep the bread in the oven slightly longer than the recipe calls for in order to dry it out a bit more. Don’t worry, this won’t make your perfect loaf inedible. This will just help to soak up some of that extra moisture. Get some dough rolling with these Buttery Garlic Twists or these Authentic Bagels.

5. A Recipe Didn’t Turn Out Quite RightVegan, Gluten-Free Chocolate Coconut Oat Bars with goji berries

Chocolate Coconut Oat Bars/One Green Planet

Maybe your baked goods didn’t sink or turn out gummy, and maybe they didn’t spread too much or crumble. For some unrelated reason, they aren’t quite perfect. Let’s do some quick troubleshooting: did you use a substitution, like applesauce or a flax egg? Substitutions are awesome, especially for vegan cooking. Here’s the thing, though – different substitutions can have drastically different impacts on the final product. Check out our breakdown of vegan egg replacements for a primer and stick to the recipe the first time around just to get a feel for what the baked goods are supposed to taste like.

If you didn’t use a substitution, did you change the recipe in any way? Maybe you swapped out almond flour for chickpea flour, or maybe you used agave instead of brown sugar. Neither of these are mistakes, but they can change the outcome of a recipe. Try following a recipe carefully one time through before making your own tweaks. Try some easy-to-follow recipes like these Raw Chocolate Caramel Bars or these 4-Ingredient No-Bake Banana Bread Bars.

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And there you have it – a quick guide to the most common issues with gluten-free baking. If this has inspired you to get back in the kitchen and try baking again, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App. It is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes (with more gluten-free baking recipes than you can dream of), and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

Lead image source: Shutterstock