Understanding the role gluten plays is often the key to finding ways of overcoming it's absence. For example in a cookie- the role of gluten is to keep the cookie from falling apart, but it also adds texture. Those crispy edges in a chocolate chip cookie and the snap in a ginger snap, come from gluten. You can replace the gluten with other ingredients like ground nuts for example, to improve the texture and taste.
In bread, gluten is pivotal. Gluten is what gives a loaf of bread its crispy crust, it's light crumb, it's defined shape and its taste. A French Baguette without gluten has little in common with a French Baguette. It is possible to make great tasting gluten free bread, but there are compromises and discoveries to be made along the way. Improving the texture, the curmb, the flavour and most importantly the taste means you must abandon your preconceptions of how traditional bread is made. There will be no requirement for kneading, and you will need to think about using a variety of different gluten free flours to enhance the texture and taste of your loaf. Using steam, proofing times, and even the size of tin you select, will determine how successful yor loaf will be.
Cakes are possibly the least troublesome of baked goods to recreate without gluten. Adding a combination of ground almonds and gluten free flour, in varying proportions can usually yield a decent gluten free cake. Using a repertoire of traditional cake making techniques will see your results improve dramatically.
And then there is pasty, which can be the undoing of most sane and civilised people. Certain pastries, like shortcrust and choux can be as good if not better then their gluten containing cousins. They are lighter and have a more delicate texture. The trick here is to select the right binding and rising agent that will give you lift, In the case of choux. With shortcrust we need the gluten to keep the pastry cohesive and pliable whilst rolling it out. Other pastrires like puff and filo fall into the category of nearly impossible. The reason being is that the lack of gluten completely hinders the elasticity. You can’t have a non elastic filo dough. Even large doses of xanthan gum, will not give you the elasticity required to make filo. With puff pastry, the gluten makes the pastry stretchy enough to keep layers of butter encased in thin layers of flour. I’ve seen gluten free puff pastry made on you tube. It looks possible, (although I have not tasted the results) but the amount of time required would make this not an option for most sane people.
The jury is still out on hot water crust pastry, the kind you use to make meat pies. I am not sure whether or not a gluten free alternative is possible. I attempted the real thing with the aid of my neighbour, an expert in the pie making field a few weeks ago. This pie looked seriously impressive and my expectations were high. Unfortunately the pastry proved problematic and although the filling inside the pie was successful, a pie without pastry is alas, not a pie. I’m blaming the size of the tin and not my neighbor, and it is back to the drawing board on this one.