Gluten free flours and how they work together in gluten-free baking
Let’s take a look at the various gluten-free flours, starches, and gums, and how they work together in gluten free baking. AND learn how to make your own all-purpose gluten-free flour mix!
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I find it ironic that in my gluten-free journey I started off by thinking “there’s nothing I can eat!!” Because I then quickly found myself wondering, “which gluten-free flour do I use? There’s so many!”
Apparently I can be a whiner…and maybe a touch dramatic.
But it feels dramatic! Food changes can be a very real, hard thing. Ask anyone who wrestles with weight issues (on either side of the scale). Embarking on a new diet is just that. New.
But as it is with all things new, the newness fades into a very comfortable norm as you get to know it and find a rhythm.
My goal today is to help you simplify your gluten-free flours and know exactly how to make your own gluten-free flour mix.
When you start baking and cooking with gluten-free flours, you quickly find out there are a lot of flours. A lot of starches. But not all “flours” can be used as regular flour would be used.
Regular wheat flour has many components in the wheat itself, including gluten, that act as a one-in-all for baking. Gluten-free cup-for-cup flours mimic that wheat structure by building in starches, grains, and gums.
But the word flour just means something very finely ground. So you can have all kinds of flours, but they do not work like wheat flour on their own.
The best gluten-free all-purpose flours are blends
This means that they contain more than one ingredient.
You need a balance of starches, grains, and gums to act like wheat flour would.
STARCHES YOU CAN USE:
Brown rice flour
White rice flour
GUMS YOU CAN USE:
Psyllium husk (though not an actual gum, it works like one from my research)
Flava water (also not an actual gum, but again, works like one)
NUT FLOURS CAN ALSO BE USED:
AND BEAN FLOURS (not my favorite…I think it tastes “gluten-free” or “gross”):
Garbanzo bean/flava flour
If you love to explore in cooking and try various blends, by all means, buy various flours and ingredients and play around with combos!
A good starting ratio for grains and starches is:
1 part starch, 2 parts grain (a 1:2 ratio)
So if you have 3 cups of starch, you want 6 cups of a grain flour
Then add in your gum (typically only about 1% or less)
If you like percentages more, here’s a good starting point for a cup-for-cup all-purpose flour:
60% grain, 39% starch, >1% gum
Here’s a picture for you visual peeps:
This can be made up of various grains and starches of your choice to equal these percentages.
A bit further down I will share my favorite simple mix, but I want to pause and just share how simple my gluten-free pantry is.
To keep things very simple, I stick to a smaller gluten-free collection of flours (have I mentioned I’m a mom to four kids?). These are the staple ingredients I keep on hand for all of my gluten-free baking:
Side note: Anthony’s brand is quickly stealing my gluten-free heart. They have some of the best ingredients for the best prices. I’m not sponsored by them, but would somebody please tell them I should be?! I love them whole heaps. You can search all of their products on Amazon by going HERE
That’s it. I don’t keep sorghum or millet flours anymore.
After a lot of playing with various flours, I decided on just these for a few reasons.
- They’re versatile in recipes
I can use these in practically any recipe that I like to make.
- They’re easy to find in the grocery store or online
All of these ingredients are so easy to locate! My local grocery store (shout out to WinCo) has all of them in the bulk section. But before they did, I was able to purchase them through Amazon for a very reasonable price.
- They’re cost-effective
I won’t use the word “cheap” since that can mean something different to different people, but these are the flours that also save me the most money. Other flours are often more expensive and/or not as versatile so they don’t get used as quickly.
My favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour blend looks like this:
Rice is the base of most gluten-free flour mixes. And we sure do eat a lot of rice around here!
But to mix things up, I also keep almond and coconut flour on hand. I like them for paleo recipes and to add some grain-free days or meals every so often.
However, almond and coconut flour work very differently than grain flours.
Almond flour is very dense and tends to only work well in recipe with eggs to bind it. Gums aren’t quite strong enough to hold it together for cakes, cookies, or breads, etc.
Coconut flour is tricky to work with as it expands quite a bit, absorbing a lot of moisture. So therefore it can quickly make things dry and crumbly. Coconut flour also needs eggs…and a lot of them…to help it bind well. It often pairs well with almond flour.
Texanerin is one of my favorite gluten-free bloggers. Her recipes are amazing, and she came up with the best coconut flour brownie recipe ever. You can check out her coconut flour brownie recipe here.
I like to make a paleo Dutch Baby Pancake recipe with coconut flour. You can snag that recipe in this 7 Gluten & Dairy Free Breakfasts E-book download (it’s free).
Read next: The Best Fluffy Bread Rolls Recipe
If you’re wanting to use almond and coconut flour in recipes, I highly suggest following solid recipes that specifically utilize these flours. They don’t work well in place of regular flour or even “gluten free flour” in recipes.
- Flour is just something finely ground, but to mimic wheat’s profile you need to incorporate starches, grains (or nuts), and gums.
- A good all-purpose blend included 60% grain flour, 39% starch, and 1% gum
- Almond and coconut flour are excellent flours to use in gluten-free baking, but need tailored recipes to adjust to their properties