Monday, July 25, 2011

Two Recipes for Gluten-Free Flour Substitutes

Something the gluten-free diet did for me that I never expected: I suddenly became very interested in the ingredients in my food. Not necessarily in an obsessive way (though sometimes that happens to me too), but it was more that I became curious about where my food came from. I knew all-purpose flour had been made from ground wheat, but I had no idea that things like sorghum, millet, masa harina, and quinoa even existed. I'm sure I had seen the names before when I was reading a book or perusing a dictionary, but I didn't know what they were. I had no idea that they were edible. I was even more surprised to learn that those grains are staples in many other cultures.

The tricky part of gluten free baking is that wheat-based flour weighs more and has more sticking protein than gluten-free flours. Whole wheat flour is very dense and loaded with proteins. White rice flour...not so much. And so, when working with gluten-free flours, it works a lot better if you mix different flour types so that you achieve a weight that is closer to a wheat-based flour. And then, many recipes recommend that you add guar gum or xanthan gum to your flour mixture as a sticking agent (kinda like the gluten in wheat).

When I use xanthan gum, I tend to use 1/2 tsp. of xanthan gum per 1 cup of flour being used.

I don't know the real science behind what makes certain flour mixtures work. I know for many people, they discovered what worked best for them through many frustrating hours of trial and error. Honestly, I lucked out. I had no idea what I was doing and slapped together the flours I had in my cupboard. It has worked for almost everything I've used it in. The millet flour has a bit of a bitter flavor, so if you try this out and notice a bitter flavor you don't like, feel free to substitute something else for the millet. You could always just increase the brown rice flour. The recipes are laid out in "parts." I did this so you can make as much (or little) flour mixture as you need.  When I made my flour mixture today, 1 part was 1/3 cup. That yielded right around 3 cups of flour.

First, assemble all your supplies together.

***Gluten-Free Flour Susbtitute Recipe #1 - works best in baking that uses a lot of flour (more than 2 cups)

3 parts brown rice flour
1 part corn starch
2 parts tapioca starch/flour
1 part masa harina
1 part sorghum flour
1 part millet flour

Mix all the flours together. Instead of sifting, I washed out an old, plastic Folgers coffee can (with a snap-tight lid), and let it completely air dry. I put all the flours in there, snap the lid on and then shake it vigorously (while making sure I have a couple fingers holding the lid in place). If you want to do it a more traditional way, you can sift your flours together. The key is to get the flours so mixed together that it resembles one flour. For every one cup of flour you use, add 1/2 tsp. of xanthan gum to the recipe you are making.

***Gluten-Free Flour Substitute Recipe #2 - works best in recipes that use 2 cups of flour or less

1 part brown rice flour
1 part white rice flour

I worry less about sifting the flours together when I'm only using two. Just make sure you stir them well together before adding your wet ingredients. Again, 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum per 1 cup flour.

These have worked for me in many types of baked goods. I've made muffins, a King Cake for Three Kings Day, cinnamon rolls, and lots of other things. It isn't perfect, but it gets the job done. Feel free to adapt it if you find something that works for you.

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