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Avoiding gluten doesn’t mean I don’t ever bake or cook with flour. It means I use gluten free flours, and fortunately, there is a wide variety to choose from. They don’t all have the same properties, and most are not interchangeable with wheat flour, one on one. Knowing what flours to use, for which purposes, and how much to use, prevents baking flops and catastrophes. And trust me, I’ve had a few of those.
Check out 8 Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance, to see why some people avoid gluten.
One thing I learned early in my plant based journey is that it’s best to use a combination of gluten free flours, for the best end results.
Below are great gluten free options, and the best ways to use them.
Gluten Free Flours
The flours can be divided into three categories: starches, medium density flours and heavy density flours. It’s best to use a combination of the three, and to experiment occasionally to see which blend suits your baking needs the best.
Arrowroot flour is a very fine flour that is derived from the arrowroot plant. It is also called arrowroot starch or arrowroot powder. The flour resembles corn or potato starch.
Best used as a thickener, in place of corn starch, it can be substituted 1:1 for other starches. Arrowroot flour is helpful when combined with other gluten free flours as it helps the dough and finished product to hold together.
Use up to 25% of arrowroot flour in a mix of gluten free flours.
Different from potato flour, this starch adds wonderful moisture to baked goods.
Best used for all types of baked goods.
Use up to 25% of potato starch in a mix of gluten free flours.
Also known as cassava flour, this product is made from the dried roots of the cassava plant. It is also known as tapioca starch, and should be used in combination with other gluten free flours.
Best used for mixing in gluten free flour blends and thickening soups, sauces and fillings.
Tapioca flour can be substituted for corn or potato starch. Use no more than 25% when combining with other gluten free flours.
Medium Density Gluten Free Flours
This flour is closest in texture and taste to traditional wheat flour. It is high in antioxidants and in many instances, can be used as a 1:1 substitution for regular flour.
Best used for muffins, breads, pancakes, cookies and cakes.
Swap sorghum flour 1:1 for wheat flour or use up to 50% in gluten free mix.
This grain has a nutty flavor. However, as a flour it can be slightly bitter. Use sparingly in a mixture of other gluten free flours, to add protein.
Best used for biscuits, flatbreads, herbed breads or muffins.
Only use 25%, or less, in a mix of gluten free flours.
This flour is made by grinding oats. You can grind your own gluten free oats, in a blender or food processor. Otherwise, make sure the package states that this is a gluten free product. Oats are naturally gluten free, however, they are often cultivated and processed with wheat products, leading to cross contamination.
Best used for breads, muffins, cookies, cakes, crusts, fruit crisps and scones.
Use up to 50% of oat flour in a gluten free mix.
This mild adaptable grain is rich in magnesium and also completely gluten free. Millet flour adds a crumbly texture to breads and muffins.
Best for breads, muffins, cookies, cakes and crusts.
Use up to 25% of millet flour in a gluten free mix.
Beans can be ground into flour, just as grains can. All are naturally rich in protein and fiber. Available varieties include chickpea, or garbanzo, black bean, white bean, lentil and fava. Bean flours have a robust flavor and can leave an aftertaste, so experiment with these. I use garbanzo flour most often, of the bean flours.
Use bean flours in sweet treats such as pancakes, muffins or zucchini bread.
Up to 25% of a gluten free mix can be comprised of bean flours.
Heavy Density Gluten Free Flours
This product is made from raw, blanched almonds that have been ground to a fine flour. Almond flour, and other nut based flours such as hazelnut, walnut or seed flours, add a punch of protein and a slightly nutty taste to baked goods.
Almond flour is best used for cookies, cakes, muffins, pancakes and crumbles.
Use up to 25% almond flour in a mix of gluten free flours.
This flour, made from ground buckwheat, is 100% gluten free, and has a rich nutty flavor.
Best used for muffins, cookies, pancakes, waffles and breads.
Use up to 50% of this flour, in a gluten free mix.
This very dense flour is created from dried coconut. It is the most fibrous of all gluten free flours, which means it soaks up liquids. Plan to use at least 1/4 cup of extra liquid in recipes, when using coconut flour, or use a different flour. My mother had several failed recipes, before figuring out that coconut flour absorbed too much of the liquids, resulting in a dry and crumbly baked good.
Coconut flour is best used for pancakes, cookies, waffles and crusts.
You can use 1/4 cup of coconut flour, in place of 1 cup of other gluten free flours. You’ll still need to add at least ¼ cup of extra liquids.
Brown Rice Flour
This flour is made from rice that still contains the germ and bran from the rice grain. It is an excellent gluten free flour, suitable for a multitude of uses. White rice flour is available as well. It qualifies as a medium density flour.
Best used for all gluten free baking and cooking, thickener for soups, sauces and fillings.
Use up to 50% in gluten free mixes.
Creating a Gluten Free Flour Blend
When creating a blend of gluten free flours, to bake with, use a mix of starches, medium textured flour and heavy textured flours, for great texture and flavor.
I typically use a blend of oat flour, almond or brown rice flour, and arrowroot or tapioca starch. In a recipe that calls for 2 1/2 cups of flour, I use 1 cup of oat flour, 1 cup of almond or brown rice flour, and 1/2 cup of arrowroot or tapioca starch. Some gluten free bakers use a 2:1 mix of flours to starches. For every cup of flour, they mix in 1/2 cup of starch.
Create this blend of gluten free flours, to have on hand, ready for use:
3 cups sorghum flour
3 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups potato starch
1 1/2 cups arrowroot powder
Combine all ingredients well and store in the fridge. Makes 9 cups.
Or try out Bob’s Red Mill packaged flours. They have a 1:1 gluten free flour blend that can be used in place of wheat flour, without having to mix your own. I’ve used Bob’s several times, with excellent results. This company also packages many of the above mentioned flours individually.
Most grocery stores carry gluten free flours. Natural Grocers carries a large assortment of bulk packaged flours under their own brand, plus the Bob’s Red Mill brand.
Creating Healthy Treats
I don’t bake nearly as often as I used to. After eliminating dairy products, eggs, sugar and gluten from my diet, I at first thought baked goods were a thing of the past. Occasionally, however, I prepare a special treat, such as the wild blueberry scones, or wonderful chocolate wacky cupcakes, all prepared without dairy, eggs, refined sugar…I use organic coconut sugar or 100% pure maple syrup…and with gluten free flours.
These goodies are special treats, indeed.
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