Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gluten Free Baking Series, Part 1: GF Flour

Yes, you can make delicious and satisfying baked goods without the gluten! There are many different GF flours that will provide your baked goods with a variety of tastes and textures—it all depends on your preferences. For the novice GF-baker, muffins, pancakes, and cookies are the easiest to prepare, but like anything, practice makes perfect.

How to Choose an Adaptable Recipe

To find a recipe to adapt using GF flour(s) without much hassle, look for ones that use a small amount of wheat flour (less than 2 cups), or a combination of wheat with other flours—these will be the easiest to work with. Recipes that call for cake flour are the most easily adaptable with GF flour.

Gluten-Free Flours: Many Choices, Varying Results

Arrowroot Starch: This is ground from the root of a West Indian plant. It works especially well as a thickener, and therefore makes great creams and glazed. It can be exchanged for cornstarch.

Buckwheat Flour: This flour comes from unroasted, ground buckwheat groats (dehulled buckwheat kernels). Buckwheat flour is someone dark in color and has a strong, distinctive flavor. It has a mild flavor and is best used in small amounts with more bland flours to add flavor to the mix.

Corn Flour: Corn flour is milled from maize (corn), and is easily blended with cornmeal for cornbread or corn muffins. It is light in texture, and like buckwheat flour, is best used in combination with other flours.

Garfava Flour: This flour comes from a mix of ground fava (broad) beans and garbanzo beans (chickpeas). When used, it makes baked goods with good volume a sufficient moisture content—two things typically missing with baked goods made from GF flour. This mix was first developed by Authentic Foods (

Garbanzo Flour: Made from ground garbanzo beans, it is high in protein and fiber and can be used with other flours.

Potato Flour: This flour is creamy and heavy in texture, and is coarser than potato starch. Additionally, it absorbs more liquid than potato starch does. Like buckwheat flours, it is best combined in small quantities with other flours. Tapioca and cornstarch make good pairings.

Potato Starch: This flour is a fine, white starch. It can work very well for GF baking if it is sifted several times, and used in recipes that call for eggs. Like arrowroot flour, it works well as a thickener.

Rice Flour: Rice flour is well known to GF bakers. It can be found in different forms such as white, brown, or sweet, and used according to your particular need. White rice flour is fairly bland, brown rice flour is high in fiber (be sure to store it in the fridge because the oils in the bran can quickly become rancid), and sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour) is sticky and helps to bind ingredients when baking. All rice flours are somewhat gritty in texture and are best used in combination with other GF flours, such as potato or corn.

Sorghum Flour: This flour is ground from new food sorghum varieties. It can be a fine substitute for rice flour and can work in GF flour mixes.

Soy Flour: This flour has a nutty taste to it and comes either “regular” or “defatted.” The defatted flour works better for baking and will store longer. Soy flour is high in protein and a good source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and calcium, but it works best when used with other flours, mostly because it has a strong flavor. Be sure to store your soy flour in the fridge.

Tapioca Starch Flour: This flour comes from the cassava root. It works great to thicken soups, puddings, cream, glazes, and fruit pies. It is colorless and tasteless, and can be interchanged with potato starch quite effectively.

Whole Bean Flour: This flour is make from romano (cranberry) beans, and is a great source of protein (in addition to calcium, iron, potassium, folate, riboflavin, thiamin, and dietary fiber). Baked goods made with whole bean flour are generally denser than those made from wheat flour, so less flour needs to be used for the best results.

Notes on bean flours:
• Bean flours have more nutrients that more traditional GF flours (rice, tapioca, potato). Baked goods made with bean flours generally have a better texture and more closely resemble those with wheat flour, but the flavor is different.
• Many companies who produce bean flours mill their flours. To reduce the flatulent effects that sometimes accompany bean flour ingestion, some companies “treat” the beans before grinding them. These treatments vary, but as usually part of the company’s trade secret and are described by names like “precooked,” “processed,” “toasted,” or “micronized.” Celiacs usually tolerate the “treated” flours better than the untreated, but nevertheless, bean flours should be gradually introduced into one’s diet.

Basic GF Flour Mix Recipe

4 cups - White rice flour or a combination of brown and white rice flours
1 1/3 - cups Potato starch
1/3 - cup Tapioca starch

• Combine all ingredients and store in a covered container. For a longer storage, store in the fridge (especially brown rice flour). Let the flours warm up to room temp before using, and stir them before using for even distribution.

Adapted from Bette Hagman, Alas! Not All Bean Flours Are The Same. Gluten Intolerance Group Newsletter, April 2001.