Gluten Free Flours: AKA Baking 101

Baking is difficult even without dietary restrictions, so I’d like to spend a bit of time helping you understand different flour blends and why they work (or don’t) for baking gluten-free. I’m going to answer some questions, fill in some blanks, and even science at you for a bit.

Why should I know about flour?

If you’re going to bake anything, from cookies and brownies to loaves of bread, you need to know about flour. Not all flours are created equal and for those who can’t have wheat (gluten) flour is especially hard to come by.

There is a plethora of flour substitutes in the world, nut based, rice based, coconut, garbanzo bean… The list is never ending. In order to make something delicious, it is important to know what flour works best for which recipe.

Can’t I just get a “Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour”?

In short: No.

In long: not unless you want everything to either be savory, sweet, or stuck to itself.

You see, each type of flour comes with drawbacks:

  • Garbanzo: Everything tastes pasty and sticks together.
  • Coconut: Coconut flour leaves a faint hint of coconut flavor in everything. I never use it because I’m allergic, but I hear it’s good for sweet recipes.
  • Almond Flour: This is one of the most expensive, and usually very grainy.
  • Rice Flours: These are my favorite, but they do have a bit of graininess to them if you’re not careful.

Mixes of “All Purpose” or “1 to 1 substitution” are risky. Sometimes they’re magnificent (Pillsbury’s  is great for a basic flour) and sometimes they make you cry into your dumplings.

So which flour should I get?

As stated above, Pillsbury has an amazing generic flour blend. It’s white and brown rice, tapioca startch and xanthan gum. You can sometimes use it as a straight 1-1 conversion flour, but sometimes it’s good to add a bit of butter or an extra egg to counteract the grainy taste.

It is also the cheapest. At $5 for 2lbs, it’s an excellent bargain.

For some things, like dumplings and biscuits, I actually prefer Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Crust blend. It’s a little more expensive, but when you’re only using it for a couple recipes it lasts a long time. They add millet and flax which give a nice savory taste. The texture is good for dumplings and bread-type foods.

As for waffles and pancakes, well… That could be a post of it’s own. But my current favorite is Hungry Jack even though it has sprinkles in it. The taste is perfect. Just the right blend of cake and biscuit flavoring.

You could always blend your own flour, but that gets expensive and bulky. In order to make that worth while, you have to buy single flours in bulk and then store them in a freezer. If you have room, go for it! The best one I’ve found is by America’s Test Kitchen. It’s similar to the Pillsbury all-purpose, but it doesn’t have the xanthan gum added, so you can add that on an “as needed” basis per recipe.

What do I do with it once I buy it?

Make food, clearly.

But seriously, here are some tips:

  1. If you don’t plan to use it for a while, store it in the freezer. Gluten Free flour can go bad. So make sure to use it or freeze it if you buy it.
  2. Use weight to measure if you can. It helps with the consistency of your dough.
  3. Use some baking mixes to start.

That last one is key. I discovered the Pillsbury flour because I used their cookie baking mixes excessively. No one should ever feel ashamed of using box mixes for baking. It’s easy, and it’s a great place to learn what you like as far as flour textures go.

If you find a brand that makes a baking mix you like then see if they sell their flour. Chances are they do, because they want you to spend money with them instead of someone else.

Do you have any recipes that use flour?

Lots! I love baking. There will be an entire category for flour-based things. Like donuts, onion rings, and christmas cookies. They’re just in progress at the moment, so check back for more soon!

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