I think one of the hardest adjustments with going gluten free is learning how to bake with gluten free flour. They just don’t work the same as wheat and it’s really frustrating in the beginning not only wasting your time, but also wasting expensive ingredients. I always recommend if you have a fail, that you attempt to recycle it into something else to avoid the waste. I have many times turned my failed cakes into cake pops, or biscuits into a base for a slice. Of course I’ve also had many attempts that just needed to go into the bin!
One of the best tips I’ve had for gluten free baking is to weigh the flour, rather than measure it in cups. It’s much more accurate and you’ll get better results.
Below is a gluten free flours list with a brief description for each. There are many other flours available that I haven’t listed because these are the main ones I use. I've divided them into starches, medium flours and heavy flours because I recommend that you mix at least three flours in a gluten free flour blend - a starch, a medium flour and a heavy flour. Some medium flours may be used alone, but usually starches and heavy flours cannot be successfully used alone.
My preferred starches for baking are arrowroot and potato starch. I use potato starch if I’m baking cakes or muffins. For everything else I use arrowroot.
Great for baking and thickening sauces. It can make your gravy a bit gooey though
Excellent for binding and thickening. I use organic corn starch when I make gravy
Not the same as arrowroot, but can be used in the same way. Tapioca is made from ground cassava roots
Fantastic in cakes and gives a lighter result. This is not the same as potato flour that is heavy and used to thicken sauces and gravies
Green Banana Flour
The new kid on the block and excellent for paleo and grain free baking. It has an earthy flavour and may be used on its own
Tip:Find recipes at www.naturalevolutionfoods.com.au
Besan Flour (Chickpea or Garbanzo)
Lots of people rave about besan flour but it’s not my favourite. It has a pretty strong flavour. I do find it okay in savoury recipes and I sometimes use in small quantities if a recipe calls for it
Oat Flour (NOT gluten free - see note below on oats)
A great flour for those who can tolerate it due to its mild flavour. It’s high in fibre and can be used alone. Just grind up rolled oats in your food processor if you don't have oat flour
Has a slightly nutty flavour and can be fairly strong. I don’t use it a lot but will occasionally to mix things up a bit. It does have a nice golden colour as well
A favourite in my kitchen. It has a fairly mild flavour and works well in all baking
Another flour I don’t use much due to its very strong and distinctive flavour. I do use it on occasion in small quantities for extra nutrition
White Rice Flour
Popular for baking because it has a mild flavour and the results are great, however it can be a bit gritty. Choose a finely ground white rice flour
You can purchase almond meal (with or without the skin) or simply grind your own up fresh. I like to make my own and store the almonds in the freezer because I find they grind better
Tip: I grind almonds up in my Thermomix with the other dry ingredients so that they don’t turn into almond butter, and the dry ingredients are then well combined. This will work just as well in a regular food processor
Has a unique flavour and I have used this flour on occasion. It's great in pancakes and cakes
Brown Rice Flour
Popular for baking due to the great texture and flavour. As with white rice flour, choose a finely ground brown rice flour
Not at all related to wheat. It has a strong earthy flavour and again is best blended with other flours
A very thirsty flour created by drying and grinding the left over pulp after making coconut milk or cream. It’s not interchangeable with other flours. It works best with a lot of eggs and is excellent in grain free baking
Tip: I would not recommend using coconut flour to convert your favourite recipes if you are a beginner gluten free baker. If you want to try coconut flour, follow a recipe created by someone reputable that you know will work so you get the hang of it! (I still haven't ;-) )
Desiccated Coconut – NOT Coconut Flour
I often used desiccated coconut that I grind into 'flour' in my recipes, especially if it would normally call for a nut flour that I can’t send to school
Tip: Grind the coconut with your other dry ingredients for approximately 30 seconds so it’s fine like flour in a Thermomix or food processor
A great dense flour and yummy in cakes if tolerated. Buy pre-ground or make your own as described above for almond meal
Nutty and sweet flavour, with best results if used with other flours in small quantities
A question I get asked a lot is are oats gluten free? Here in Australia the answer is no! Read here to get all the information you need on it by Coeliac Australia. Oats sold as gluten free oats here in Australia are technically not gluten free because they have a protein in them called Avenin which is similar to the protein found in wheat, rye and barley. They are however free of contamination of wheat, rye and barley which often happens with normal oats. That means if you have a wheat sensitivity or allergy you may still choose to use contamination free oats.
When making your own gluten free flour mix, it’s really important that you combine a starch with heavier flour. In my opinion, you’ll get a better result of you blend three flours (or more if you want) so that no one flour takes over the taste. I like to use mild tasting flours when I bake like almond, sorghum and oats.
You can easily make your own gluten free flour mix to use in recipes that call for a blend. Choose a combination of flours that are safe for your family and they like the taste of. It might take some experimenting to get it right and you may even choose a different gluten free flour blend for different recipes. I keep mine simple and usually only blend three flours but there are heaps of gluten free flour recipes if you do a Google search, or you can get creative and make up your own! I like to use ground almonds in my flour blend that I can use at home and I also often choose oats as well because my son is fine with oats. For baking that goes to school I never use almonds.
I recommend that for each cup of flour in the recipe you add ½ tsp of xanthan gum or guar gum for cakes, muffins or biscuits and 1 tsp per cup for breads and pizza bases. If you’d prefer not to use gums then try adding the same quantity of either psyllium husks, ground chia or ground flaxseed. The xanthan gum (or one of the other options) will help hold your baking together and stop it being so crumbly.
1 cup sorghum
1 cup ground blanched almonds (or ground desiccated coconut)
1 cup arrowroot starch (or potato starch for a cake)
I just reduce down the quantities if I need less in the same ratio.
You can make your flour up in bulk buy mixing your flours together very well so you have it pre-mixed and ready to go. I always just make mine as I go because if I’m in a hurry I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour.
If you’d like to make gluten free self raising flour, you’ll also need to add some baking powder - make sure it's gluten and aluminium free. I’d recommend 1½ tsps per cup of flour. You may also need to add some bi-carb soda for a bit of extra lift if you’re using cacao, buttermilk or yoghurt in your recipe. Add ¼ tsp per cup of flour.
So, now you're all set and even if you're a beginner gluten free baker you'll be able to bake like a pro. I would have found all of this information really handy when I first started with new ingredients for Alex!
Please pop some pics of your baking on our Facebook page at any time - success OR fail!! I love to see them all, and so does everyone else :-)