Gluten Free Baking: The Flours

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You were probably starting to wonder what I was going to have you do with all those gluten free flours I told you to get for your pantry back in Section 5.

Since many of these flours, starches, and gums are probably foreign to the majority of the people reading this, I will go over the ones you are likely to use on a fairly regular basis.

Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour

In our household, we use Silvana’s gluten free all-purpose flour recipe as our blend of choice. Here is the recipe:

  • 6 cups white rice flour
  • 3 cups tapioca flour
  • 1.5 cups potato starch
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons xanthan gum

Of course, you could just purchase the ready-to-go gluten free all-purpose flour mixes at your local grocery store, but I find those don’t work quite as well as Silvana’s. Plus, it’s more fun making your own!

White Rice Flour

Since we just used white rice flour in the gluten free flour blend from Silvana, it seemed like a suitable next flour on the list. It is known to add “lightness” and “texture” to gluten free goods.

White rice flour can be used by gluten free bakers in cakes, cookies, and dumplings. It is also a good choice as a thickening agent in sauces and puddings. A variety of Asian noodles use white rice flour in their preparation.

White rice flour is not a suitable substitute (by itself) for wheat flour in yeasty goods, such as bread. It tends to absorb a bit more water than wheat flour.

Brown Rice Flour

Brown rice flour adds fiber and nutrients to gluten free goods. Like its cousin white rice flour, brown rice flour is best when used in a combination with other gluten free flours.

Brown rice flour can be used as a straight wheat flour replacement in dishes like roux and other sauce thickeners. As part of a combination with other gluten free flours, it can be used to make bread, cookies, and pastries.

Brown Rice Flour from Bob's Red Mill

Brown Rice Flour from Bob’s Red Mill

Brown rice flour can have a distinct nutty flavor if used in large quantities, so it’s important to mix with other flours to avoid this overpowering taste.

It can also go rancid quickly, so store in an airtight container in the refrigerator to lengthen its lifespan.

Buckwheat Flour

Buckwheat flour has a rich, nutty flavor and can be used in gluten free cooking for such dishes as pancakes and muffins. It is often used in the gluten free pancake mixes you will find in your local grocery store.

Buckwheat has a great nutritional profile: high in fiber, protein, magnesium, iron, potassium, and other minerals. It is also a rich source of antioxidants.

Buckwheat flour is sometimes produced in the same facilities as wheat, so be cautious with the brand you buy and perform your due diligence so cross contamination won’t be an issue for you.

You will sometimes find buckwheat pancakes as a gluten free alternative to traditional pancakes at diners across America.

Quinoa Flour

Quinoa flour is made from quinoa, one of the oldest and most nutritious grains on the planet. Quinoa is high in protein, iron, and calcium. Just 1/4 cup of quinoa flour has around 4 grams of protein, making it a great addition to gluten free recipes for vegetarians.

quinoaflour

In gluten free baking, you can use half gluten free all purpose flour and half quinoa flour as a replacement for wheat flour in many recipes. Quinoa flour is a bit pricey, but it can be a great weapon in your gluten free baking arsenal.

Amaranth Flour

Amaranth flour is, like buckwheat flour, quite healthy and high in protein.

Like all the flours on this list, amaranth flour is best when combined with other gluten free flours. Amaranth flour can be used in breads, biscuits, crackers, pancakes, and cookies.

Even though you will usually be combining it with other flours, it IS possible to use amaranth flour all by itself in recipes that don’t require gluten to rise like biscuits, pancakes, and pastas.

Millet Flour

Millet flour is made from the millet grain, which was an ancient food source. It might be the least common flour on this list, but it has steadily been gaining in popularity.

Millet flour can be found in gluten free recipes like pancakes, tortillas, and bread and requires a binding agent like xanthan gum.

Fun, useless fact: The Vietnamese use millet flour to make a fermented alcoholic beverage called bacha.

Sorghum Flour

Sorghum flour is used in many of the gluten free flour mixes you see on the grocery store shelves. If used alone, sorghum will produce a dry, gritty finished product which means – you guessed it! – you need to use it in combination with other flours.

Sorghum is an incomplete protein and can be more difficult to digest than many other grains.

Many of my favorite gluten free baked goods use sorghum flour as a part of the recipe, so there’s a good chance you are going to be cooking with it frequently!

Some Chocolate Pecan Brownies (with sorghum flour) from the Gluten Free Goddess, anyone?

Garbanzo Bean Flour

I wasn’t sure if I should even include Garbanzo Bean Flour in the list, but since I have used it a few times, I figured others would be using it at some point on their gluten free journey.

Also known as chickpea flour, garbanzo bean flour is made from grinding dried chickpeas into a fine flour. The nutritional profile is very good, as you might expect from flour made from chickpeas: high in protein, dietary fiber and iron, and low in fat.

It can be used to thicken soups, sauces, and gravies.

Tapioca Starch

Tapioca starch (also commonly referred to as tapioca flour) is actually a refined starchy white flour made from the South American cassava root.

Tapioca starch adds crisp texture and structure to muffins, cookies, and bread. It is extremely smooth, so it can be a good choice as a thickener in pies, soups, stews, and sauces. Like xanthan gum, tapioca starch helps bind gluten free products.

Tapioca starch can be used as a substitute for arrowroot starch and cornstarch.

Potato Starch

Potato starch is made from the extract of potatoes. It has a very neutral, almost non-existent, taste. It is used in gluten free cooking to add moistness to baked goods.

Like most of the others on the list, potato starch can be used as a thickener for sauces, soups, gravies and stews. It is able to tolerate even higher temperatures than cornstarch when used as a thickener. If you celebrate Passover, potato starch CAN still be used during this time, unlike cornstarch and some others.

potatostarch

Potato flour is different from potato starch, and some brands of potato flour may contain gluten.

Xanthan Gum

If you were shaking your head at the price of xanthan gum for what seems like a small bag, know this – a tiny bit of xanthan gum can go a long way! Most gluten free recipes only call for 1/2 teaspoon or less of xanthan gum.

Xanthan gum is important in gluten free cooking for a number of reasons. It works as an emulsifier, which means it encourages liquids that don’t normally mix well to actually do just that. It is always flavorless and colorless.

In gluten free baking, xanthan gum plays the role of gluten by giving dough the stickiness it needs . It adds volume and viscosity to bread and other baked goods. One time, right after I went gluten free, I was cooking gluten free banana bread and realized I didn’t have one of the ingredients — xanthan gum. “Oh, only a 1/2 teaspoon of that xanthan gum stuff? Can’t be that important, I’ll just leave it out!”. Needless to say, the banana bread did not turn out well. It was crumbly and fell apart just from picking it up. Lesson learned = xanthan gum is an integral part of the recipe, don’t leave it out!

Guar Gum

Guar gum is very similar to xanthan in that small amounts are able to go a long way. Guar gum is also a thickener, volume enhancer, and binder.

Guar gum is said to be easier to mix in liquid solutions than xanthan gum, so be sure to try it in smoothies or popsicles.

Whew, those descriptions were a little long, but hopefully you were able to learn a little bit about all these new flours, starches, and gums.

If you are dying to start cooking, move ahead to Section 11 for ALL the tasty gluten free recipes you have been patiently waiting for. Many will allow you to use your new gluten free flours and show your family and friends that, hey, gluten free food CAN taste great!

Move to Section 8: Eating Out