I was never much of a baker until I became gluten and dairy free. Since I can no longer just waltz into a bakery and buy any gluten and dairy laden cake, cookie or pie, I had to learn about gluten free flours.
Naive as I was, I thought, “how hard can this be?” That was the understatement of the year. Alas, there is no one substitute for wheat flour. There are as many do it yourself gluten free flour blends as there are stars in the sky. The internet is full of “best” blends. The truth is, there is no magic bullet. There is no true Cup for Cup blend that will substitute cup for cup for wheat flour.
What is comes down to is, what are you making with the gluten free flour? Is it a cake, cookies, piecrust, puff pastry??? Different flours are better for different purposes. Since you are replacing wheat gluten, which give baked goods their texture, you have to think about what weight and texture you are going for in your baked good.
There are myriad gluten free flour blends on the market. My favorite by far is gluten free Bisquick. It is very versatile. I have made cookies, cakes and savory dishes with it. I do not like it for pancakes however. I also did not like it for pizza crust. I found Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix to be excellent.
My next favorite is King Arthur baking mix. I have also made cakes with it.
Pamelas comes in third. This is best for breads and piecrust. I do not care for her cake mixes.
If you don’t want to use a premade mix, here is a rundown of the most commonly used gluten free flours and what they are best for:
Including garbanzo bean flour and romano bean flour, these flours are typically high in protein and have a distinct flavor. They are better suited for heartier recipes, such as bread.
Yes, it has wheat in the title, but this flour is related not to wheat but rhubarb. It has a distinct taste, which makes it best when combined with other, more bland flours. A little goes a long way.
Ground from dried coconut meat, this flour is low in carbs and very high in fiber. It lends a pleasant flavor to baked goods. Since coconut flour absorbs moisture in a big way, it’s suggested for recipes that have at least as much liquid as flour required in a recipe. Because this can be a tricky art, it’s suggested that as a beginner, you use recipes specifically designed for coconut flour.
Choose a nut, choose any nut. Now, grind it into a fine powder. That’s what nut flours are. They cannot be substituted in equal quantities for flour, because they are dense and too high in protein — they would be used more frequently to replace a portion of flour in a recipe. Since they tend to be rather expensive, they tend to be used sparingly.
POTATO STARCH FLOUR:
Made from ground potatoes, this is a fine, white powder of a flour. It is popular for cakes and more delicate baked goods. If you look in old Nordic cookbooks, or talk to a fancy pastry chef, chances are this flour will be part of their repertoire.
It sounds like potato starch flour, but potato flour is very different. This is a thick, dense flour. When used for bread recipes, it can lend a soft, moist texture, but is too dense for delicate cakes.
The coating on the seeds of this grain, from which the flour is milled, is bitter. If possible, look for “debittered” quinoa flour. This flour adds a pleasant density and nuttiness to baked goods, and is well suited for scones and biscuits and pancakes.
Rice flours are a key ingredient in most gluten-free baking. White rice flour is a bland-flavored flour, which will work well with just about any flavor, and its light texture makes it well suited for baking cakes and delicate baked goods.
Variations include brown rice flour, which is ground from unhulled rice kernels, and sweet rice flour, which is made from sticky rice and is used as a thickener (don’t substitute it for white rice flour).
This is just a “taste” of gluten free flours. I am working on a new ebook with more detailed information on gluten free baking. You can find recipes for flour blends all over the internet. You will probably need to experiment. No one said this would be easy!