• Nicki

Gluten Free Fiesta

Updated: May 18, 2021

Making your own gluten free flour mixes can be unbelievably satisfying and can be developed to suit your own preferences and tastes. Depending on which country you live in, the options for ready bought GF flours will vary immensely, although more varieties are increasingly available all over and you can now buy flours for specific baking tasks i.e there is a difference between bread and cake flours. One of the problems associated with most commercial brands is that they use the cheaper flours, such as rice flour that are available, so many of them can taste quite bland. Some of the commercially available flours also contain long list of additives, which is something I do try to avoid.

Although many of the alternative flours available are more expensive than ordinary flours, they are organic, so avoid any of the chemicals such as glycophosphates that are increasingly being linked to gluten intolerance (Samsel, 2013). Although studies such as this have been criticised for being deductive without being backed with sufficient data, the rapid increase in people suffering gluten intolerance suggests that the number of chemicals used in large scale agricultural production should be considered as a factor.

I’ve found many recipes for making GF flour mixes online and when we first became a GF kitchen, I would not stray from the ones I had found, until I came across this amazing article on flours by Gluten Free Alchemist which went into detail on a massive range of GF alternatives. This article really got me fired up and I researched more about the flours and began experimenting with different combinations. Learning more about the flavours, properties and textures of these flours was an absolute revelation and has really opened up our GF world for breads, baking, pasta madre and more.

If you are just starting out, its best to use combinations that have worked for other people so you can begin to get a feel for how the doughs/bakes turn out. Once you gain confidence and get a feel for how the flavours and textures can change, then get going with experimentation. You may have a couple of early disasters, but don’t let that faze you in the slightest: see it as an opportunity for growth.

As with wheat flour baking, heavier bakes such as breads will respond to a higher proportion of protein flours and lighter bakes such as biscuits and pastries will need more starchy flours as a proportion of the total. Whether you are baking GF or normal baking, there is no single mix that will suit all types of baking. I have also found that the agents, such as xanthan gum, arrowroot or psyllium husk used to bind the baking mix depends on what type of bake you are looking for.

I initially mix my flours without adding the binding agents as this allows a lot more flexibility when making individual products. (I just have to remember to put them in later!!)

For bread baking, making up a large batch of flour and having it in the fridge saves a huge amount of time and mess in the long run. A safe bread mix consists of 5 cups of wholegrain/ bean flours to 6 cups of starch flours. With a large container, you can make up more than double quantity which I prefer to do, as the flours keep well when stored in the fridge.

A fabulous combination of flours for cakes is 3 cups of starch flours to 1 cup of wholegrain flour. My favourite starch flours to use are tapioca starch; tapioca flour and potato starch. You can use white rice flour if you prefer or mix the tapioca flour and rice flour half/half. Too much rice flour will result in a bit of a gritty flavour. The wholegrain flour will depend on the type of bake you are making. Use flours like quinoa or brown rice if the mix is something like a chocolate cake, but use millet flour for biscuits and paler cakes. However, these flours will depend on your personal taste, so have a go and experiment with different flours. Oat flour of you can tolerate it is amazing in muffins. For a great and easy blueberry muffin follow the link.

For making pastry, use corn starch or tapioca flour and some almond flour in the mixture as this helps provide a good level of crispiness. Have a go at making a traditional style shortbread cake using the rubbing in method.

When you make up your baking mixtures, you are almost guaranteed to require more moisture than you would if you were using wheat-based flours as many of the gluten free flours absorb more liquid. Additions such as psyllium husk or xanthan gum also absorb a significant quantity of water; so, if you make up a recipe, it may be quite soft and sticky initially, but it will firm up quite rapidly as the husk or gum absorbs the water. If you aren’t careful, you may end up with a very dry batter/dough.

Dough mixtures work best when they are initially quite wet as this allows the rising mixture the flexibility it needs to expand as much as possible. Additional flour will be incorporated when you undertake the second kneading, so don’t worry of it looks a bit soggy to start with; just make sure you have a well-floured surface and hands when you start the second knead.

The secret is to add a bit at a time until you get the desired consistency. It’s always easier to add more than try and other ingredients because a mixture is too wet. Baking tends to require a greater accuracy of measured ingredients than other forms of cooking, so if your mixture is too wet, it is difficult to get the proportions right afterwards.

Outlined below is a table containing some basic information about a wide range of gluten free flours and their uses in baking and cooking.

Using starchy flour or bean flours is a good method of producing a vegan and gluten-free roux style sauce. Some of the starchy flours collapse when the starch granules explode so avoid these as you will simply end up with a runny mess. The best flours are soya, chickpea, sweet rice or arrowroot.

It is also possible to make a number of biscuits and pastries that use ground nuts and seeds rather than flours for people who wish to reduce their carbohydrate intake. More detail is available in the article about the use of nuts in vegan and gluten free cooking.

One of the loveliest methods to make GF breads is to use a pasta madre (sourdough starter). This is created by using the wild yeasts that are available in the home. The GF flours are used to provide the necessary sugars to feed this awesome fermented food. There is an article dedicated to making, storing and using a pasta madre to find out more about this little wonder. Any GF recipes using pasta madre usually call for the addition of baking powder or a little bit of yeast to get the dough to rise, but I have found that by putting my dough into an oven at about 30°C and making a very wet dough (which is quite difficult to handle), it rises beautifully without the addition of further raising agents.

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